One of my daughter's favorite shirts is a pink t-shirt with "Feminist Like Mom" printed on the front. I always want to empower her, I always want her to feel she has an equal chance. She came to me in tears one day, when an extended family member told her the shirt is stupid... My first thought was to say, "Oh honey, that just means she likes to be bossed around by a man." That was totally reactive and didn't give my daughter any facts about feminism.
I wanted to explain to my child what it means to be a feminist, I just wasn't quite sure where to begin.
Growing up, I hated the word "feminist." In my opinion women needed to just suck it up, put on their big girl panties, and like they say in the UK, just get on with it. Later I learned it wasn't quite that simple. I didn't really feel I experienced gender inequality when I was younger, or maybe I had and I just didn't notice. I figured as long as I have the right to vote, can work outside the home and a man doesn't tell me what to do, I am good.
Or so I thought. Then I entered my mid-thirties and had a daughter...
At work I began experiencing men getting higher titles and pay for the same work I was doing. Actually, I had more work and more responsibility. I remember gifting Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In to a senior leader at the company in hopes to nudge his perception. It didn't.
In relationships I saw men become jealous and insecure when I started making more money than them, even though all of them said hypothetically they would be totally content becoming a homemaker while I assumed the breadwinner responsibility.
At home I saw the caregiving, cooking and cleaning responsibilities unfairly divided with most tasks falling on me.
I put up with this inequality until I broke down and thought about my daughter's future. I cried and I was angry. I didn't want her to experience the things I had. I didn't want her to face the same challenges and inequality. I decided it was time to take a stance, to become an advocate for equality. I wasn't going to go out and burn my bra on the steps of the capitol - although underwear is certainly optional in my book. Instead, I decided to come up with my own definition of modern feminism, I would:
Teach my daughter the power of believing she is limitless
Advocate for myself and other women, even if it ruffled feathers
Teach my daughter the physical, biological and emotional differences between a boy and a girl - because they are real
Champion other women and their successes - no drama, no jealousy
Support women and girl organizations
Stand up for women and girls who need to be heard
Walk away from a relationship where I wasn't my partner's equal
I am full of gratitude for the brave and courageous women who paved the way to the feminist movement. They embody the definition of feminism, which is to advocate for women's rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. As I celebrate the International Day of the Girl on October 11th, I am reminded that it is the next generations that will benefit from our actions today. We should all look forward to the day when our daughters face gender equality in a pure sense. In the mean time, I will practice my own feminism and be vocal for the empowerment of all girls.
What is your definition of feminism? Drop me a comment, I'd love to hear from you.