When did I become a feminist?
Today I sent off the final version of my thesis. For the past six months (and the semester before if you count developing the idea), it has had me up to my eyeballs in gender roles.
Somewhere along the way, I’ve been forced to come to the realization that I’m kind of a feminist. That’s something I never expected and something I certainly didn’t set out to be.
The thing about it is there’s a negative connotation to the term “feminist.” Most people think of bra-burning (something that never actually happened) and man-hating when the think of feminists, and I’m certainly not that.
Here are some facts:
I’m very traditional when it comes to dating and marriage. I want him to ask me out, and I would never even consider proposing myself.
I want a husband and children.
I like to cook, and I want to have my own garden.
I like to watch men’s sports — not women’s.
I like shopping and the color pink and jewelry.
On the flipside:
My friends have repeated told me that, yes, in fact, I am kind of a career woman.
I don’t want to change my last name if and when I get married.
I don’t want to stop my career if and when I have children.
I might at some point make as much or more than my husband, and I won’t have a problem with that (he better not, either).
I want to always have my own life and interests outside of my husband and kids.
I also don’t think there’s anything women can’t do as well as men — but at the same time, I think men can do pretty much everything as well as women.
If I am a feminist, I am a third-wave feminist — the wave that hasn’t been well communicated or clarified to anyone outside gender studies.
That’s because it’s pretty open-ended. Third-wave feminism is all about choice — women should get to choose how they live their lives, and every option should be available to them when they make choices. That means if you don’t want kids, don’t have them. If you do want kids and you want to stay home to raise them, do so. Either way, neither patriarchal nor feminist forces should make you feel obligated one way or the other.
For instance, one of my good friends wants to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s just what she wants to do. And in many cases she’s made to feel like that’s not ok. But a true third-wave feminist would fully support her because that’s what will fulfill her.
And that I can get behind. It’s very live-and-let-live, which, really, is my philosophy on many things in life.
In my case, I had an amazing stay-at-home mom for 17 years, and I am very much aware of what a wonderful thing that was for my three siblings and me. Because of everything she did, I have the utmost respect for women who choose that route, and I will forever appreciate my mom’s decision.
But the fact of the matter is I couldn’t do it. I have my own ambitions and goals, and I want to pursue those. I would not feel fulfilled without doing so. Which is why I also have incredible respect for working moms, for their efforts and balancing acts and also for the examples they set for their daughters.
And that’s where my feminism comes in. I want to do both — and I think I can. Regardless of societal or media messages, I’m not going to let anything or anyone deter me from my plan to have a successful career and be there for my children.
How on earth will I accomplish that?
He will help.
“He” being my husband and my children’s father. I think of the variant of feminism that I subscribe to as “egalitarian feminism.” In my mind, the success of the feminist movement would not be women dominating men in society or men replacing women in the home. It would be women and men functioning as complete equals, in society, at work and at home.
This applies to my life when I say that I want a team effort for a marriage. I want an equal partner in both earning an income and raising a family. In my ideal world, my future husband and I will have a nearly 50-50 division of responsibility and labor as breadwinners, as parents and as homemakers.
Might said future husband be a hard one to find? Yes. I’m aware of that.
But I also think this is where my generation is going to go. Because the vast majority of young women I know are driven and ambitious with regard to their careers, but they also want lives and marriages and children.
So we just need to find the men who appreciate that and want it as well. That’s all.