Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
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My daughters turned fourteen this year, and part of becoming a teenager is that process of exploration, self-definition. They no longer want to be who they were told they were. Instead, they want to discover it for themselves. And, of course, part of that process for my three daughters is the process of becoming a woman.
Now, I understand the process, but I don’t remember needing to label myself when I became a woman, but my three daughters do. They like just to pull out labels—gender labels, social labels, racial labels. They like attaching all these labels to themselves. They don’t understand that a label is just a label. While it does define to a certain degree who you are at this age, labels come and go. And they don’t understand that. They become really attached to these things.
One of the labels that I didn’t expect them to shoot for was the feminist label. Because let’s face it, it’s not very popular in society today to label yourself a feminist. But the other day, my daughter Emmi came to me, and she wanted to sit next to me on the couch, and I thought cuddle time! Because the older they get, the less cuddle you get, so I was very happy about this. But instead, she looked at me, and she asked,
“Mom, are you a feminist?”
I was like, “Huh?”
I’ve always been a weird person, a rare bird. I don’t place much importance on labels, not just because they’re transitory, but because I never felt a particular need to attach myself to a specific group. But my daughters are not like that. Now, it could be just the age, as I said. So, I had to pause, and I had to think about it. As I was thinking, I remember one of my friends told me, “Your daughters are such feminists.”
I remember looking at my friend at that time, thinking, “What? What are you talking about? They’re just girls.”
Of course, my daughter is asking the question, was I a feminist? I had to actually think about it. I had to think and consider what kind of an impact my beliefs had on my children. So, I suppose that to answer the question; first, I had to define what I believe feminism is. Now I know that there are many different types of feminism or feminist theory out there. Still, I prefer the broader definition, meaning I believe the women and men should have equal rights and equal opportunity. I believe that women have a right to political, economic, social equality. And I firmly believe that women have a right to advocate for equality among the sexes.
Now when I was teaching sociology seven years ago, women were earning 77 cents to the dollar. All things being equal, meaning women have the same education and experience as men in the same position. Women were earning 77 cents to the dollar, meaning men were earning 23 cents more. And no, I never thought that was right. Now, people always mention things to me, such as, “Women are making a lot of progress. Look, we have a woman vice-president.”
Hooray for her! Right? That’s nice. I always care more about our economic independence. And right now, women are making 80 cents to the dollar when they hold the same positions as men with the same level of education and experience. So, we might have a female vice-president, but economically, we’ve only advanced 3 cents per dollar in the last seven years.
So, what is feminism? Well, feminism at its core is about the equality of men and women—equality, not sameness. We’re not the same. And what do I mean by we’re not the same? Our bodies are different. They function differently, and they face different challenges at different stages in their lives. I mean, I don’t know about you, but one of the things I hate about my husband is that he’ll stop eating ice cream and drop twelve pounds! I stop eating ice cream? I gain a pound! And then, as I get older, it’s easier for me to gain weight and keep weight, while for him, it’s just as easy as it used to be before. So, biologically, our bodies are different.
Our approaches to life tend to be different as well. Now that has a lot to do with how men and women are socialized. Socialization has been changing through time. When I was growing up, my mother was scandalized that I had an interest in forensic science. One of my daughters is now interested in forensic science, and I’m not scandalized by it. I think there’s a wealth of opportunity out there, and she should pursue it. One of my daughters wants to be an entrepreneur. I don’t even give it a second thought, but I know for a fact that my mother would be distraught at the idea that one of her children might want to be an entrepreneur. So, times have changed, and they will continue to change.
Do I think that it’s wrong that women and men have different approaches to life? No. I don’t think it’s wrong. I think it’s good. But I don’t think of a different approach as being strictly a difference between men women. The different approach comes from having different social, economic backgrounds, cultures, and ways of looking at the world, from having a brain more interested in science versus a brain that’s more in the humanities. I think it’s the compilation of these differences that help us create a more interesting, more advanced, more hopeful society—a celebration of difference.
I am firmly against the idea that differences should lead to unequal opportunity or unequal rights. And for me, once again, this just doesn’t apply to men and women. This applies to differences or perceived differences in race, perceived differences in social, economic factors, or very real differences. The bottom line is, whatever our diverse background, we should have equal opportunity. I don’t believe equal opportunity means we all get the same thing without working for it. I can’t help it. I’m a daughter of an immigrant. I believe in working hard to get what you want out of life, and it is a belief that has served me well.
I do believe that if I work hard, the door should be open to me. I should be able to get through that door. If I continue to work hard, I should be successful at whatever opportunity I’m seeking. No, no. It doesn’t mean that if I sing, I should have the same success as Adele. But let’s face it, for many opportunities, it has very little to do with talent and more with education, willingness to learn, re-learn, unlearn, and learn again. And of course, to work hard.
Now, one of the things that my friend said to me, the one that said, “You have fairy feminist daughters,” was that she was concerned that my daughters would become strong, forceful, angry women!
Yeah, possibly. I don’t think so. My husband and I have worked very hard to give our children many opportunities and expose them to many different cultures and social-economic backgrounds. They’ve traveled. They’ve been exposed to sciences. They’ve been exposed to the performing arts. They have a broad worldview. But so what? If they become strong, forceful, and angry women? There’s a lot of strong, forceful, angry men! No one gets upset that they’re strong, forceful, or angry. So, what difference does it make if my girls decided to become strong, forceful, angry feminists? I don’t think that that’s a big deal. Frankly, I think society’s hypocritical if strong, forceful, angry women get treated differently than strong, forceful, angry men. And we know that that still does happen.
I know that many people fear that feminism will mean that men will eventually lose control. They will lose power. They will lose influence. They will lose their ability to make such a strong impact on society, authority, control, and, of course, bottom line, economic opportunities. And what I have to say to that is, good! It’s time for them to share power with women. It’s time for men to compromise with women. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with men having to share the lead with the women. I don’t share many of Kamila Harris’s political opinions, but I think it’s great that she’s vice-president. I believe that women are still the last untapped social resource. I think it’s wonderful that we see more women in positions of authority. It shows our girls that success is possible for women and influences those young women’s paths.
Now my friend falls into the category of the people who believe that feminists want to control the world and put men down. I know this because we had a lot of discussions about it. I suppose that there are feminists that want to control the world and put men down. There are also men out there who want to control the world and put women down. As I said earlier, I believe that men and women should be equal. We should work together for the benefit of our families, of our society, of our world. I believe that.
Of course, my friend is most afraid of the feminist ideals because she believes that they will overturn time-honored traditions, like religious beliefs and established gender roles, and that feels really scary. And honestly, it doesn’t scare me, although it does confuse me sometimes. I still can’t get used to calling someone they or them instead of he or she. To me, they or them is plural. But I respect that some people want to be non-binary or gender-neutral. I’m trying really hard to use the correct pronouns even though it’s hard to learn new ways of doing things. It is. But I’m trying.
The reality is that society is constantly changing. And as a result, we need to change. And I understand, trust me. I’m turning 55 this year. I know that the older we get, the less we want to change. The more we feel like, “I’ve changed a lot. I’ve been through a lot. Can’t I be done?”
And you can. You can be done. I know people who have chosen that route. I would like to continue to be an active social contributing member of our society. It’s important to me because I still have young children and want them to learn by example. So, I accept that there are going to be social shifts. I accept that I’m going to be uncomfortable with those shifts. I accept that some shifts will take me longer to understand or accept than others. And I do understand and accept that those changes are going to be traumatic some of the time. But when we’re uncomfortable, it means that we are learning, and learning is always good. And when we’re learning, we’re making social progress. And isn’t that a positive thing?
So, am I a feminist? After thinking about it, I had to respond in the affirmative. I am a feminist. I have been an independent woman. I traveled. I’ve been a professional woman. I’ve also become a wife and a mother. And currently and unbelievably, I’m a stay-at-home mom. That’s something I would’ve never consider when I was younger. But I’ve explored many phases of what it means to be a woman. It’s my right to do so. It’s just it is my right to choose whatever path fits me at whatever given time of my life I’m in. Now it is true that I never set out to create feminist daughters. I didn’t set out to create weak daughters. I never declared myself a feminist. But you know, as the old saying goes, “Children do not imitate what you say but what you do.”
And even though I never label myself one way or another up until my daughter asked me to do so. I did bring up my children, all four of them, to be analytical, critical thinkers with independent thought and action. So, I think I’ve used my feminist force for good if my daughters and my son are either on the path of becoming strong, independent women or can work equally with and love strong, independent women.
So, if you’ve enjoyed this little exploration of mine, please download and subscribe to our podcast or subscribe to our YouTube channel or the blog, so we can continue to stay in touch! If you’re new to the show, check out some of the older episodes. There’s something interesting stuff out there!
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