Thursday, April 11, 2013

Accepting Feminism

Lately I have been thinking a lot about feminism. I have always been a feminist although I have at times been hesitant and even resistant about embracing the title. When I was a child my favorite shirt said, "Anything boys can do girls can do better." I looked for it every time the laundry was clean and wore it immediately. I do not know why I loved it so much. I do not remember ever thinking that I was less than boys. I was not into sports so it is not like I was excluded from activities in which I wanted to participate. Part of me loved the shirt because my mom liked it. Part of me liked it because my older sister did not show much of a preference for it. On a level I did not yet understand part of me maybe understood that if it needed to be said than it was important.
I was in fourth grade when I got my hair cut short. My gymnastics instructor had a short haircut and I loved it. It was the time of Demi Moore in Ghost and that is the style I requested. The next day at school in rural Pennsylvania was field day and I was teased and called a boy. It was painful but soon my friends got over the shock of me doing something out of the ordinary and everything went back to normal. I was changed though. That haircut changed me. One time when my family went camping I went into the bathroom and a woman told me that the boys was on the other side. I did not know what to say and I do not remember what my mom said to her but I was heartbroken. I look back at pictures of myself at that time and first of all, I did not look like a boy, and second I was certainly old enough to read.
When I was entering sixth grade we could join the band and in order to do so we had to go try different instruments to see what we wanted to play. I did not know what I wanted to play, but when we got there the man showing kids how to try the low brass instruments kept saying things to my mom and me to try to deter me away from them. He told me how boys play these heavy instruments. He asked if my brother ever made sounds like an airplane because that's what you had to do to play these instruments. I left signing up to play the trombone. I played that trombone because that man made me feel like I shouldn't. I was the only girl who played trombone in middle school but in high school there was one other in my grade and by the time I quit band my junior year there were a few more.
After high school I went to college but I did not engage in my education. I realize that every decision in life has lead me to where I am now and I would not have it any other way, but having the opportunity to go to college and be 100% engaged and wasting it is a regret I will always have. I learned a lot in those years, I made some great friends, and I had a lot of fun, but I did not get an education.
There was a long time where I thought I was being true to myself when I was not. That is a story I am not ready to tell. I am going to fast forward to where I started to come back to where I started, embracing feminism.
I am now raising my daughter and son, and helping to raise my boyfriend's daughter and son. Trying to raise daughters makes me very aware of everything. Everything I do is an example to them and every word I say may be something they remember forever. The same for the boys. I have become very aware of the word "bitch." It is not something I say often but it slips out and I am working on it. Once I started noticing one word I started noticing several others. Words I would never want them to use or to be called.
I think I was so hesitant to calling myself a feminist because there are so many different ways people define it. For me it is just a reminder to not feminize things to make them negative and to teach my kids that they should treat each other like equals. To let my kids know they can do what they want with their lives. The boys or girls can have kids or not, they can be stay-at-home-moms or dads, they can go to college or join the peace corp. I read the other day that feminism is a conversation. I love that. I don't need a strict definition, I need a dialogue.

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