It’s not that I don’t believe in the equality of women, or that I don’t think the world is riddled with gender inequity. The word “feminist” has certain connotations, and is often uttered with a sneer by those who stand on the other side of a given issue. I edged away from the word because I didn’t want to be branded, or to have people write off my opinions because I formally took a side.
But why not? Here’s what Feminism means to me:
• Women are of equal value to men.
• Women deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as men.
• Women have the same responsibilities as men.
We’ve let the conversation about feminism be shaped by those who are against us. You don’t have to be bitter or angry to be a feminist. You don’t have to hate men, eschew cute shoes, makeup or Spanx. But you know what? You can if you want. And that’s the entire point.
I kept my last name when I married. I’m a work-at-home mother of a wonderful little girl. And – cliché or not – woe betide anyone who tells her she can’t pursue any career she damn well pleases, or who softly discourages her from being bold and opinionated. I have agonized over making the best choices for me and my family – including when and whether to produce a family at all. And that is how it should be.
And, while we’re at it, it would be okay with me if I never read another article about how some female CEO manages to juggle family and a demanding career.
I’m grateful to the women who fought the hard fights in the past. They forged the way for women like me to have dominion over our lives – to work and earn professional respect, to choose to keep our given names when we marry, if we choose to marry. They also made it easy for us to enjoy this progress while stepping back from the firebrand identity and its repercussions.
Let me refresh your memory: forced transvaginal ultrasounds, “legitimate rape,” personhood amendments, binders full of women, Malala, threats to defund Planned Parenthood, the ongoing battle against contraception coverage, the fight against equal pay laws.
There is a rising tide of legislation being pushed around the country to limit reproductive freedom and choice – whether through curtailing abortion rights or access to contraception. See this nifty little chart from RH Reality Check of the number of state abortion restrictions, by year enacted.
It’s epidemic. And it’s taking us all backwards in time. Does misogyny fatigue make it more likely that we’ll just give some of it a pass? I’m afraid it will. And also that this is the goal.
I still see men paid more and promoted more easily than women. I see double standards in the media and in the workplace, and I see people rolling their eyes when it’s brought up. I also see smart, brave, ambitious women totally sabotage themselves for the sake of keeping men in their lives who are toxic to them because somehow they seem to think that being partnered is a measure of their worth.
Now’s the time to make feminism mainstream. It’s normal and unremarkable to know that women are equal to men in rights and responsibilities. Why is it so hard to say so?
I’m adding “feminist” to my online bios and profiles to do my small part to unpack the baggage of the word, own it, and wear the label. I believe that women are equal and that this is neither controversial nor newsworthy enough to edit it out for fear of overshadowing or diluting my other work. I deserve the same respect that I afford others.
So what am I, some kind of feminist? Yes, of course I am. Do you have a problem with that?
Thea Joselow is a digital media consultant, writer and online editor based in Bethesda, Maryland. She has worked for such illustrious institutions as National Public Radio, Smithsonian Magazine, and at a strategic communications firm in Washington, DC. By far her favorite professional qualification was that for a brief time she wrote the online quiz for the Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me program. She is somebody’s mother, a feminist, and likes to think she has a good sense of humor. Follow Thea on Twitter at @tjoselow and at her own blog, Nutgraf.
Image via Wikipedia.org