I never dealt with inequality due to my gender. If I was unequal to someone, I equated it to needing to learn more or work harder.
I never was sexually harassed. Or maybe I was, but I never took it as a threat.
I never feared about workplace equality or a glass ceiling either. I knew that if I wanted to burst through it, I would or I’d move on to the next building.
I never worried I wouldn’t get a promotion because some guy would get it before me, or he would make a better salary. If I was ready for the job, I would get it.
I was raised by a stay-at-home Mom and an officer. You would think, “Hello 1950’s Gender Roles”! But no. My parents always told me that the only obstacle to me accomplishing what I set out to do was myself. Because of that, I always felt I was the furthest thing from a feminist. I didn’t need to fight for women’s rights because I believed that we were each responsible for our own fates. If you want something bad enough, don’t stop working for it until you get it. And then keep going.
The picture I had of a feminist was was fed to me by male run media, it was someone who complained about the status of women, victimized us and placed the blame for our collective situation on others rather than promote the message that our futures are in our own hands. Someone that said that if you were caught smiling in a kitchen, that that smile hid a whole slew of dissatisfaction. Someone who said to hell with bras and heels.
I now know that this is my privileged North American view of feminism – this is My World. I might feel differently if I was born and raised in India, where gang rapes are making the headlines. I might feel differently if I lived in Rwanda where rape is used as a weapon of war. I might feel differently if I lived in Afghanistan where my access to education was made difficult due to my genitalia. Then again, I might feel differently if I lived in Steubenville…
But here, in Montreal, in Canada, in North America, no one should be held responsible for my position or status in life. Or so I thought until I gave birth to a girl.
When I walk into stores, turn on the television, talk with friends or read blog posts and news articles, it stings me like a slap in the face. The media wants my girl to be a bimbo bombshell who runs a corporation while breastfeeding her child and eating organic foods while doing cures and fasts, rocking high heels and spandex, with perma makeup on her face and totally open about her sexuality. She has to be sweet and submissive in the bedroom, but a shark in the boardroom, of course all without being a bitch or emotional. She has to be totally hot in a bikini, and just a little flirtatious in those 200$ jeans and sweater. Her legos and t-shirts are pink, her tool belt is pink, her sneakers have heels. What. The. Hell.
I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a media analyst or an anthropologist but I know that the message the media (and as an advertiser in my career, I include myself) is not making our jobs as parents easier. So I think I will take a page from my own parent’s book and raise my daughter to take her own future in her hands. I can only control the media so much. But I can talk with my daughter from as early an age as possible. It’s my job now as a mother to make sure she knows that being a woman doesn’t make her better or worse than a boy. That being a girl is NOT a reason to not run a country or a company, or to become a cook or a firefighter, a lawyer or a pianist. She can be part of a great generation that works hard to make the planet better by being an environmentalist or a chemist. She can wear as much or as little makeup as she wants, she can rock Converse or ballet slippers, Timberlands or Louboutins. As long as she doesn’t place the expectation of her success on her peers, but solely on herself. She can be a wife, a girlfriend, an employee AND a parent. She can run a business or a farm and a family at the same time if she wants, but not because she has to. And most importantly, she’s the boss of her vagina; there is no man on this planet that can take that away from her. And if he tries, her father and I will take care of it. *cracks knuckles*
And in the end, it’s not about “having it all”, it’s about having what you want, what makes you feel complete. It’s about making choices. And it’s my job to teach her that.
Because in the end, that’s what a feminist really is. It’s not bitching, it’s teaching.