Thursday, October 19, 2006

Five things feminism has done for me

Woman in Comfy Shoes tagged all of us at Galloping Beaver for this meme. I confess that my first reaction was…what? Only five???? The list is endless. To give a little background, I’m a 49 year old woman, which means that I have traversed the entire spectrum of pre and post feminism. As a child, I lived in the “Leave it to Beaver” style of life with a mother who had no choices other than motherhood and wifehood. By the time I hit my adolescence, Women’s Liberation had hit full force and I was more than a little influenced by it…in fact, I embraced it with gleeful jubilation, readily seeing the benefits to myself. I spent my adult years painfully acknowledging that Women’s Lib had merely cracked opened a door that many were anxious to slam shut. And now that I’m approaching 50 years old, a stage of my life that I expected, after 40 years, would have fully incorporated and accepted feminism, I watch North America desperately scramble to turn the clock back. I am filled with rage, disappointment, despair, and at times, a heart so heavy I wonder if I will ever again feel that sense of freedom that the 13 year-old me exulted in when society told me that I, as a girl, was no longer lesser than boys. So, on with the list, an intensely personal list.

1. Because of feminism, I don’t have children. Don’t misinterpret this to mean that feminism prevented me from having kids. It’s quite the opposite. It allowed me to: a) acknowledge that I really, really don’t want kids and b) gave me the courage to stick to my convictions and not cave in every time a man said that he wouldn’t consider a long term relationship unless it carried with it the “possibility” of having kids. Note how the men assumed that they had control over the decision? They wanted to be able to say “kids” or “no kids” and they assumed that I would follow whatever decision they chose. Feminism allowed me the guts to say SCREW IT to them and tell them I’m NOT having children, regardless of what they wanted. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted. To this day, I know that I made the right choice for myself, even though it went (and still goes) against everything society says about women and motherhood.

2. Feminism killed the “bride gene” in me. (although, I don’t recall it ever existing in me). Due to my decision to be childless, I felt little need or desire to get married, or to even find myself a man. It just wasn’t that important to me. I developed a network of friends that became my family and support system, and men were something that were nice…under the right circumstances…but not necessary. (I guess that made me every fundie’s nightmare!). As a result, I never felt tempted to settle for second best. I was 44 years old when I married Dave – he was the only man I ever met that never asked or expected me to compromise my principles, lifestyle, or choices for him. Without feminism, I would not have held out long enough to have eventually found the man that I joyfully look forward to spending the rest of my life with.

3. In yet another fundie nightmare, feminism gave me an “attitude”. There’s not much about me that is not “in your face”. And believe me, I took the crap that goes along with that. I guess what feminism really did, in this department, was give me the confidence to have an attitude…to be able to tell people who thought I was too aggressive or not “feminine” enough to go shove it. Once again, I felt no need to justify or explain myself. I guess what it really did was give me the ability to be who I am without having to put on a false face. I could take rejection without being devastated by it.

4. In terms of my job, the accounting field, feminism insisted that I settle for nothing less than the best. I love what I do for a living, and I fully expect to earn a damn decent wage at it. And I do. I work hard for my money, I sacrifice an enormous amount of time and home life during the busy seasons, and I want to be compensated fully for it – not at “women’s” wages, but at acceptable, normal wages. I still remember one male employee at an accounting firm I worked at who, when he got married, demanded a raise simply because he now had a wife to support. We won’t talk about the fact that his wife had a full time job. He just automatically expected extra money for simply being a husband. Well, guess what, I expect the same money as him, regardless of my or his marital status. Pay me what I’m worth, not what you think my gender is worth. (that’s why I went into business for myself – if I work well and work hard, I get paid accordingly).

5. Feminism means I don't have to sleep with my husband everytime I want new drapes. Last, but most certainly not least, believe it or not, feminism gave me the ability to love a man to the best of my ability. Without feminism, my fear of being taken advantage of, my fear of losing myself as someone’s wife, my fear of disappearing from the face of the earth as Cheryl, would have overwhelmed me and put up brick walls that no man could have overcome. Being able to negotiate with Dave what our relationship would be, being able to lean on him during the tough times and knowing I won’t be taken to task for it, being able express myself freely (even when he’s not that thrilled over it..LOL), has given me the courage to not hold back. I can give 100% of my affection, support and loyalty, knowing that I am not in a position of weakness as a result. If nothing else, feminism allowed me to be vulnerable, but with the knowledge that I can survive the worst the world has to offer. Vulnerable is not so scary anymore.

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