I have never identified as a feminist, until recently. In my mind, being a feminist meant taking part in man bashing; I’m not that woman. I couldn’t wrap my head around other people’s ideals, didn’t care to act the way people seemed to think a feminist acts. I had a lot of notions in my head about who feminists were and who I was.
I was confused, however, since I certainly wanted equality for myself and other woman. I definitely wanted to be respected in my workplace, and I knew I was just as capable as anyone else. So, was I a feminist? I still didn’t think so. I wasn’t raised a feminist… or was I?
I grew up in a house where my mom worked, but I would hardly say my father pulled his share around the house. I was told that I could do/be anything I wanted to be, but witnessed my mother biting her tongue on more than one occasion. Although, I am certain her silent treatment spoke louder than any words could have.
My parents were born in the 30’s, my mother’s only option for schooling was for secretary work. My father was raised in a time when a man was a man was man, and he brought 3 daughter’s (and a son) into the world where bras were being burned. It can’t have been an easy transition for him.
I knew he was really trying when, one day, he leaned in to me and he said “If anyone ever hits you, hit them back.”
Maybe that was more the fear of having to let a daughter go out into the world, I’m not sure, and as strange as that advice may sound, it stuck with me.
I am perplexed by this feminism thing. I grew up with many male friends, and I always felt their equal. When I was very small, my closest friends were David, David, David and Trent. In elementary school, I was the fastest runner in the school, with the exception of Trent. I was also taller than everyone in my class, with the exception of… you guessed it, Trent (I may have had a small crush on Trent.) I was the only girl on a boys soccer team. I was competitive, and I remember one of my girlfriend’s moms telling her that she should be careful of me because of that. I tried not to be so competitive after that.
I was a tomboy. Is that even acceptable to say anymore? Either way, I was. By 15 I could bench press 125 lbs, I was just as good as any boy on the soccer field, and I had D cup boobs, so the boys weren’t interested in playing soccer with me any more.
I started to think about quitting soccer because my legs were always bruised, and that wasn’t pretty. Could the two, pretty AND strong, co-exist? I wasn’t so sure.
In high school, my first brush with feminism came when I learned that a group of feminists wanted to change the word manhole to personhole. I scoffed. Did they not have something more important to think about?
Feminists wanted equality, so did I, but as someone who was just starting to date, I also enjoyed chivalry, so long as they realized I was just as capable at opening my door as they were.
Do you see? It’s a fine line.
When I graduated from college, I went straight to working in sports television. Almost everyone I worked with was male, and I didn’t mind. I had found, over the years, that I got along better with men than woman… or so I thought. When other women were bashing men, I was defending them. I wanted to be their friends. I liked men.
Working in sports television should make any woman into a feminist, since I can’t tell you how often my knowledge was doubted simply because I was a woman. That said, I climbed the ladder and became the only female senior technical operator at our station. I had made it all this way, stood shoulder to shoulder with men the entire way, and never doubted that I could. Maybe I was raised a feminist, and I didn’t even know it.
In my 30’s I gave birth to 2 little girls, and I became the step mom to another little girl and a son. I could see my own parents’ fears growing inside me. Would these young girls see their strengths? Would they be given the opportunities they deserve? How can I teach them that they are more than a pretty face, they are so much more than the size of their jeans, or the next fashion trend. I guess that is when I knew I was a feminist.
I hadn’t worried for myself. I had never thought that I wasn’t capable or that I might not get something because I was a girl. I had certainly judged myself, been hard on myself for not being pretty enough or skinny enough or popular enough. There is no worse critic than that voice in your head.
So now my concern is how do I talk to that voice in my little girl’s head and tell it that Mama won’t be happy if it tells my daughter she is not good enough? How do I raise her up?
I worry that I don’t know how.
So I thought I would start at home. I thought I would start by raising myself up.
I am taking part in a project called #365FeministSelfie – I’m taking a selfie everyday for a year to show the good, the bad, and the beautiful parts of me.
When I posted this selfie on Facebook the other day with a note that said “My first day back in the office since before the holidays.” Someone asked “What is a feminist selfie?”
And that was the spark for this blog post. Here is the response I gave:
“Good question. I suppose it is a selfie taken as a statement. There are many people who claim selfies are taken because you are vain. I take selfies because I am usually the one behind the camera and I want there to be pictures of me for my children to look at and for me to look back at. You can take your own picture and not be completely frivolous and self-centred. That is what it means to me. This project has also made me look at myself in a different light, I take pictures when I don’t look my best to show that, even without my make up, when I am feeling sick, when I feel overwhelmed and under pressure, I am still beautiful, I am still picture worthy.
This photo actually helped me to realize that despite the fact that I have had a shitty couple of weeks, I need to look at the fact that I was able to be at home with my kids when they were sick, I was able to stay home when I was sick, and I was able to be in the hospital with my daughter when she needed me. I have an amazing boss and great co-workers, and I need to adjust my attitude because, despite the fact that I had a few rough weeks, it could have been worse.”
So, for those of you who were wondering, THAT is what a feminist selfie is.
Over time, I have come to realize that I don’t have to hate men to be a feminist, and I don’t have to agree with every feminist’s idea of what the word means, I just have to have my own standards. I made the word fit me, rather than the other way around.