A fun fact I learned as a big fan of the Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast, “feminism” was coined by a man.
A dudely philosopher, Charles Fourier, who observed how poorly women were valued in the 19th century. Not that he did anything other than make the observation . . . .
So, what’s the big deal about feminism? And what does it mean to be a feminist? Join me on my soap box with some coffee.
At its core, the feminist movement began as a fight against unequal gender roles. You know, equal pay for equal work, equal property rights, not being considered a husband’s property, and eventually the right to vote. (This is generalizing, I know. Don’t get me started on Second and Third Wave Feminism.) For the sake of this post, let’s stick with this, ok?
I didn’t fully comprehend how much of a feminist I was until I heard Bey’s Run the World (Girls).
Amanda, what are you rambling about?
My mom raised me as a feminist! My accessory-loving, red-lipstick-wearing, hair-in-place-always mother raised me to be treated as an equal while she was also trying to teach me to wear dresses and accessorize.
Here’s some of the wisdom she imparted on me as an adult that sticks with me to this day:
- You don’t need anyone to pay your bills. Work smart and save for fun later.
- The world places value on beauty, but don’t forget to value your intelligence.
- Ask for the raise or promotion. Know your value and ask for compensation.
- Do not let ANY man treat you as LESS THAN him. Find a partner.
The first time that I can remember “maleness” having greater value was in middle school. I wanted to be in the band and play the drums. During band orientation, we filled out little slips of paper with our instrument preferences, and walked over to speak with the band director.
“You can’t play the drums,” he said, without even engaging me in a conversation about why. “You get the saxophone.” Why didn’t I question him? Burns me to this day.
In college, “Women don’t do well studying genetics. You should just drop this class and switch your major.” From my academic advisor, the geneticist. To me, the girl with the science scholarship.
My second job out of college, I worked for a troll of a man at an internet start-up. He bullied and yelled at almost everyone. I think 80% of the staff was female, come to think of it. One particularly lovely incident involved him screaming something or other at the office manager. This woman was like another mother to me, so I probably reached the end of my patience rope and marched into his office and gave him a piece of my mind. I didn’t get fired, the conditions didn’t improve, but I had such a great sense of satisfaction saying “Hell, no,” when I quit and he asked if a raise would keep me there.
Are we unknowingly taught to not question things? I feel like as a Latina female, this is much of how we were brought up, not to question adults and ESPECIALLY not to question a man. (This has changed much in the last forty years, and is definitely not the case in our household.)
I have a few acquaintances, both male and female, who are uncomfortable with the idea that women and girls should speak up for what they want.
- “Why do you have to be such a B****?”
- “Your kids won’t find husbands acting like that.”
- “Why don’t you wear more makeup and heels? You’re so pretty when you do.”
Let me be clear about this:
- A female dog will fight to the death to protect her family. Also, I’m not going to NOT do something to make you feel less uncomfortable about me being ME. You can call me Ms. B**** all day.
- We aren’t raising the girls to need anyone to take care of them. We are raising them to find a loving partner, if they so choose to have one.
- Bless your little heart for the unsolicited advice! I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.
How is this affecting the kids? During my first pregnancy, my friends and family would make comments about expecting a girl, and how I would have to embrace all the pink. They would lovingly roll their eyes at me when I said the plan was to keep it neutral, and let it play out on it’s own. Olive embraces pink now, along with all the colors, all the patterns. All the superheroes, all the fairies. I want them both to know they don’t have to stick to any specific thing just because of their identity.
We’re also trying to embrace body positivity, which is no small task when I’m still struggling with some postpartum fluff. The definition of “beauty” is changing, and we no longer have to live up to the ideals of products and advertisements.
(OK. I totally sound like I’m shouting from the top of my soapbox now.)
Let’s not forget consent. CONSENT. Hot topic in the parenting circles. It’s not just about s-e-x, but about all the things. Don’t want to hug someone? Don’t. Something making you uncomfortable? Let’s talk about so we can find a way to deal with it. Here are some things heard in my house regularly, “Please give me space,” “I said No,” and “Mama, I need to talk about my feelings.”
Also, teaching the girls about the proper names for anatomy has been a real doozy. I want them to be able to speak up about what’s not appropriate, what is, and how this affects their body. Having to tell their teachers that they will likely use these words = PRICELESS.
There are so many opinions about what feminism means, who a feminist is, what a feminist does. What matters is how we are all treated, and how we treat others. That’s how I’ll start teaching the girls about the f-word.
P.S. I’ve owned the other F-word for a really, really long time now. Also the B-word, the C-word, and a bunch of other words we’ll talk about another day.