Growing up it was instilled in me that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. My dad did also inform me that men generally don’t like a woman that is more educated than they are, but that this shouldn’t impact my choices in life. My dad supported me in majoring in psychology and even in getting my masters in counseling despite his dislike for both fields. I recall my parents telling me that I wasn’t allowed to get, “a ring on my finger until I had a degree in my hand.” I figured that was no problem, I loved school and what better place to find a guy than college? I would kill too birds with on stone: find a husband and have a college degree that ideally I wouldn’t need, because I would get married right out of college and then have kids. I was becoming the opposite of a feminist. What I aspired to be was in fact a stay at home mom. I must not be a feminist. A feminist is a woman who wants a career, who is pro-abortion and who thinks the housewife is archaic. I took a women’s studies class in college and found myself quite in conflict with much of what the class promoted, reinforcing my feelings on the topic. It’s not like I was anti-women, I believe in equal pay for equal work (but is it really equal work?) and I believe a woman should be able to be anything she wants to be, but feminist I was definitely not.
Then I had children. Now, becoming a parent impacts a great deal of things. I recall my son playing t-ball at five and the boys in the dugout making fun of him. I actually wanted to jump in there and handle those little bullies myself. It was a mix of heartbreak and rage. During soccer season my husband was preparing to teach our son to punch another bully on the team and I found myself agreeing. My son was 6. It was the last time he played a sport for many years. Actually none of our kids played sports because it was such a negative experience, but I digress. We live in a gender segregated society, which honestly is probably more damaging for men than woman. If a little girl plays with toy cars she is a tom boy and is generally left alone, but a little boy dressing up in princess outfits and playing with dolls is stopped. (We actually let it play out in our boys for that exact reason.) We refer to our girls with nice soft words and our boys with rough a tumble kind of words. We generally sign our girls up for dance and our boys up for karate. (certainly not exclusively) Job ambitions are impacted by gender. Interested in medicine? Boys are told to be doctors and girls nurses.
So what has made me start to think of myself as a feminist? Well, part of it was how frustrated I became at the little things. It was the helpless princess in every story. It was the unrealistically proportioned Barbie doll and dolls completly imodest clothing. It was the pushing of those same sexually implied clothes on a 2 year old. But it was also me. I found myself saying things to my daugher that pigeon-holed her in certain ways. I tried to be more carefult about what I said to them, how I related differently to them because of their gender and being all the more intentional to realize their natural inclinations and skills to help them realilze and develop them. Last fall I signed my kids up for rugby, well flag rugby. My daughter is the only girl on the team. She fell in love with the sport and is currently planning to make it a career. I don’t know how long this passion will last, but it has made me all the more determined to not crush that dream. A few weeks ago she told me that a boy on the team wouldn’t throw her the ball beacues she was a girl. (He said this.) The coach, whom I love, intervened on my daughter’s behalf. It turns out that it didn’t stop the problem, but at 11 she is dealing with her first blatant case of sexism. It made me, as a mother, very sad. Not so much angry as I felt with my son, but sad. She shouldn’t have had to deal with that, but she is strong and determined and I know she will prevail. And it’s rugby, so I also know when it goes to tackle that little boy should be afraid…very afraid if he’s going to keep this up.
As a parent I have come to terms with my feminist side more over the past few years, but it goes beyond that. I have begun reading a great deal on the issues of slavery in the world and the horrors of sex trafficking. I have read about the unfair treatment of women and children: honor killings and bride burnings and all sorts of things I was seriously unaware of. (I recommend the book Half the Sky, even though I didn’t agree with the authors on several topics). We live in America where our “persecution” and “oppression” are mostly limited to name calling or reduced pay. Yet women in many countries are denied education, health care, employment, voting rights, freedom of choice in marriage and child bearing, and even the freedom to travel alone. It is a far cry from our world, but how can we sit back and allow it to go on? As a woman, I am appalled. As a mother of a little girl, I am fearful. As a Christian, I am called to action. How can we allow such inequality to occur for half the population of the world? I am a feminist: a pro-life, conservative, stay-at-home feminist.