I was raised by a feminist. Not a rip-snorting, bra-burning, man-hating feminist. But a woman far beyond her time who instilled feminist ideas and ideals upon my younger brother and me. This meant that, from day one, we both were certain in knowing that girls and boys were born with the same amount of rights and privileges. At least under our roof.
And, for the most part, the feminist belief system (which was never called that in our home – feminism was just how life was lived on regards to others) always seemed pretty fair to me.
But, as there always is in life, I saw inconsistencies in our beliefs every time I went outside, or turned on the TV, or flipped the radio on to my favourite stations. There was always something bubbling just below the surface though. The knowledge that, for some strange reason I hadn’t yet figured out, girls could usually only claim the rights and privileges of equality if they worked a lot harder than their male counterparts. And in climbing any ladder in life, they’d probably be labeled as bossy, pushy, bitchy (or worse). While their make counterparts would be heralded as strong leaders, dudes that don’t take any bullshit.
This more frayed element of my belief system around the truth of the promise of an elusive, perfect feminism let me down many times (and still does). But it prepared me, early on, to notice the inaccuracies in girl vs boy interactions. And it’s made me who I am today. As a mother of a young girl, I tell her daily that can be anything she wants to be. I praise her when she works hard. And, I don’t tell her there’s a caveat that means she can do what she wants, as long as she works harder than the men around her. She will find that out in time on her own, just like I did.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a woman who loves men. They are half of the world’s population – and they are funny, kind, loving, loyal, silly and beyond. I grew up with boys and girls as my best friends. Birthday parties included both sexes. Boys and girls laughed and made memories as equals in the California sunshine in the late 80’s and early 90’s in my house. I typically enjoyed the time with the boys for the simple fact that it got me outdoors and running (typically we played sports and had competitions to see who could burp the loudest on command – I usually won which meant burping and bragging rights). Plus, I was much closer with GI Joe than I ever was with Barbie and her dream house – finding a Ken and buying a big house and convertible was never my dream.
Even now, as an adult, my closest friends are both male and female – I choose adult friendships based on personality, not what does or doesn’t dangle. I married a gorgeous man who treats me as his equal. That said, no matter how hard I’ve worked over the years, or how many times I’ve moved up the ladder in my field – there’s always a man at the top.
This drives home that idea of feminism I grew up with even further. With an eye out for societal standards, I get that we women bear children and feel both the physical and emotional pull to be with them. But, it always blows my mind at how much work a working mother can do in three or for full days vs male counterparts who work full time but enjoy leisurely lunches and feel little or no guilt at missing out on a feeling of balance between home and work life to push ahead. Fair is fair…it is also often unfair. And that’s life for you.
Or maybe it’s not anymore. Yesterday, pop icon Beyoncé, faced the world in a blaze of bright lights, on a stage with almost endless reach. Behind her, the word FEMINIST was proudly displayed. Not one for MTV and the self adulation of celebrities and their peers, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the stir she’d caused online, in social media, and in print. And yes, I nodded in solidarity with Queen Bey yesterday.
The cynical out there will snigger at her and the idea she is asserting – but not me. Here’s the biggest star on the planet, a woman, letting the world know she is proud of her success. A woman in a man’s world – and, boy oh boy, she shines.
Her display yesterday is also significant because, in itself, it implies her husband (a powerful music man) is complicit in her beliefs. And, if Jay and Bey can both be proud feminists… Why can’t we all? I mean, this woman wants to end calling little girls “bossy”, I’m firmly on side with her now.
I know many men who struggle with the idea of feminism. The word makes them react with an emotion akin disgust and an air of dismissal. Their beliefs and ideals obviously born of patriarchal societies of years past – and thus still breeding the ideas of women as less equal because of our biology.
My daughter, for one, is growing up in an equal home. While the word “feminist” doesn’t crop up much due to the historical negative connotation that surrounds it, she knows her worth isn’t related to the body she was given, to her emotions, or to the future fact that she may choose to be like her mother and have a family and a career. If the boys grow up knowing they can have their cake and eat it, too, then so should the girls. I for one, will follow Beyoncé’s lead to reclaim my pride in being a feminist. I’ll use the word more with my daughter so that she’s comfortable with it.