I’m a feminist.
There. I’ve said it. I know these last few months have brought about a lot of feelings regarding this word from all sides. While this post could go in many different directions, I will try to reel it in and focus it on how feminism plays a role in my own marriage and day-to-day life.
In some ways, I’ve always been a bit of a feminist. From an early age, my mother encouraged me to participate in sports and challenging classes, because it was something she wished for and worked so hard to be a part of when she was younger. In her high school gym class, the girls literally twirled pom-pom balls attached by string to batons in front of the school, while the boys played basketball on game night. I’m not making this up. In addition to this humiliating division of the sexes, before Title IX was passed, she and another schoolmate became the first girls in her high school to take calculus. She had to set up a meeting with the teacher and principal to ask permission to take the class. Not because she wasn’t on the particular math level track to take it, but because she was a girl. Girls just “didn’t need to take” calculus. In the principal’s words, there were plenty of other “useful classes for girls, like typing or sewing.” While the younger me was mostly aghast at the fact my mother wanted to take calculus, the older me is angered at the principal for assuming girls didn’t want to, or couldn’t do just as much as the boys could. The wiser me is proud of how bold and empowered my mother was (and is). She fought for equal rights in her school.
Those seemingly small battles our not-so-distant foremothers waged are what paved the way for us today.
When I attended college, my eyes really opened to the world of feminism. I joined my Campus Feminist Alliance, and tried to discover what being a feminist meant to me. To me, being a feminist is not hating men, or thinking that women need special privileges, or being angry at everyone who doesn’t agree with my way of thinking.
To me, a feminist believes all people deserve to have fair opportunities, and a voice to be heard and valued. It’s as simple as that.
My husband and I discussed this, and he said “that’s just being a human – why do we need to put a special word to it? Why do we need to say ‘feminist’?” That’s a great question – but I think when you get down to it, there are a lot of women, and other groups for that matter, who still feel disenfranchised. As a white man, sometimes it’s hard to see beyond his privilege.
And I will agree that women have come a long way from where we started.
Ok, reel it in, Kate. Fast forward to us here in the present. By us, I mean me, my husband, and our baby – our family unit. My husband and I have been married for almost 10 years. We supported each other through graduate schools, layoffs, moves, and all the other life happenings in between. Before we had our child, we both worked, and more or less shared all of the cooking/cleaning/shopping/organizational odds and ends of our day-to-day lives. After we had our child, it was a big discussion as to what was going to work best for our family.
That’s right – a discussion. We BOTH made the decision for me to stay home. We looked at it from all angles. We discussed our financial responsibilities, our emotional health, what was going to be best for our family vision/values, and all of the “what if’s?” that may arise. We ultimately decided that I would quit work and stay home with our child.
Staying home wasn’t expected of me – it was a choice.
Now remember, I said I was a feminist! I’ll admit I had a little fear that settling into the more traditional life of the husband being the bread winner and the wife staying home to cook, clean, and raise the children was scary. Am I eschewing my feminist identity? Was all of that schooling and hardworking for nothing? Am I set to be subordinate to my husband? Would I feel guilty “spending my husband’s money?” The answer is: NO.
I am still a feminist. My education wasn’t for nothing. I am just as important to this family as my husband. We are a partnership. While I may not contribute financially to my family, I am just as important as that money. I earned it just as much as my husband does.
In my own marriage, I do most of the cooking, cleaning, shopping, organizing, etc. that was more equally divided pre-baby. Am I resentful? Not really. I think a lot of those extra tasks comes with my new job description. I get a little jealous of the lighter workload my husband has now outside of the office, but I know he’s jealous I get to spend the day with our kid. I know if the roles were reversed, he would do the extra chores, just as I do currently. Would my husband do more now if I asked? You bet. We know to communicate our needs and support each other.
Will I always be content in this role? Maybe not. I am confident my family will support my decisions, value my opinion and voice, and trust I want us all to be the best we can be.
While I may be more domesticated than I ever though I would, I still feel that sense of pride rooted deep within me as a feminist. I feel fortunate to have a supportive partner, family, and friend base. Feminism isn’t so scary – it can take so many different forms.