The Feminist's Daughter

4 years ago

My mother was a pioneering feminist.  She belonged to NOW and NARAL. She subscribed to Ms. Magazine.

She worshiped the goddesses Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and  Gloria Steinem.

When she became a feminist, it changed my life.

The dresses and the white tights seemed to suddenly disappear.

My hair grew long and it was messy (she didn't tame it) and we learned how to tie dye our t-shirts.

That part was okay with me.

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What I didn't really like, was the whole change in toys that she tried to impose on me and my brother.

I wasn't interested in playing with his trucks and I didn't like having to share my Easy Bake Oven (and the cakes) with him.

I didn't want to play football or baseball, or any ball.  (I just wanted to read.)

So naturally, because I didn't want to be my mother, (I wanted to be my own person), I never wanted to be called a "feminist".

Like many others, I didn't want to be one of "those feminists", because they seemed so angry and I don't like to see myself as angry.

I wanted to be more of a "humanist" - or a "person-ist."

There's a great discussion about the reluctance women have to define themselves as feminists at Jezebel and there is this equally great diagram to determine if you are a feminist at Huffington Post.  (If you think that men and women should have equal opportunities, turns out, you are a "feminist".)

This feminist daughter think's she's ready to come out as a feminist.

Because the demeaning of all things "feminine" has to stop, it hurts everyone.

Soraya Chemaly did a great article on "The Real Boy Crisis: 5 Ways America Tells Boys Not to be Girly" at Salon.  She writes:

The stereotypes that plague our lives teach that the characteristics of empathetic understanding are feminine: listening, sensitivity, quiet consideration and gentleness.  Empathy is feminized and boys learn quickly that what is feminized is, in a man, the source of disgust. While parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents and others whose ideas shape children aren’t sitting around telling boys, “Don’t be empathetic!” they are saying, in daily micro-aggressive ways, “Don’t be like girls!”  The process of “becoming a man” still often means rejecting almost any activity or preference that smacks of cross-gender expression or sympathy.

Expression and empathy are closely related for children. When boys are taught that they can’t “be like girls” it has the threefold effect. First, it alienates them from core aspects of themselves. Second, it portrays what is feminine as undesirable and inferior. Third, it forces boys into a “man box” from which emotions and empathy are excluded.

We all need to be able to be ourselves - fully, that's why we need to embrace feminism - and put aside the baggage that comes along with that word.

Image Credit: Amy Wilbanks via Flickr

I blog at shewalksandtalks.com

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