I am halfway through reading "How to be a Woman." by Caitlin Moran for my next book club get-together (aka, evening of wine and no kids or husbands).
Now, a) I am not in the habit of writing about a book before I have even finished it, and b) I do NOT like being told how to be or do anything, most of all anything at all about how to be a woman, but I have identified with so much of this book already, that I really have to write down some of my thoughts before I forget everything.
Add to that the things I am learning about and for myself in my counselling sessions and it is adding up to a lot of things jumbling around in my head and well, if you know me at all, you know that I have to PURGE it all out here, to clear some space up there.
First of all and for Caitlin, I must say this:
I AM A STRIDENT FEMINIST! (And I am wearing proper, cover all my bits underwear.)
It has taken me a long lifetime to say those words and be proud of that fact. Feminist is one of those words that almost has the status as the other F-word these days. For some people, it is a whispered thing, or it is denied altogether (Hello Taylor Swift--I am talking to you!). In her book, Caitlin has a quick test that you can administer to see if you too are a feminist and all you have to do is answer the following questions.
1. Do you have a vagina?
2. Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you answered yes to these questions, you guessed it, YOU are a feminist!
Personally, my evolution as a feminist happened rather organically. I have not read the "required reading" book list for "Capital F " feminism. No Virginia Woolf, no Simone De Beauvoir, no Germaine Greer. I HAVE read one of Elizabeth Badinter's books (The Conflict) and was decidedly put off by it and her.
I don't feel like I identify with any particular WAVE of feminism, and while I do like waves and the ocean, I think that this kind of rhetoric and need to qualify what kind of feminist one is, is somewhat backwards in its thinking. I am a feminist for the reasons stated above. Vagina. CHECK. In charge of it. CHECK.
It is through motherhood that I have truly uncovered the feminist part of myself. She was always there peaking out from behind my business suits and at big meetings and in relationships, but never seemed to be quite brave enough to reveal herself fully. You may find this ironic given that at that point in my life, I was doing all the "right" feminist-y things; having a career, climbing the corporate ladder, providing for myself and not relying on a man for anything. No, it wasn't until I held my first child in my arms that I truly understood two things. My power as a woman and my great responsibility to my child(ren).
And with those two realizations in mind, I forged ahead. I started a business, I started to write, I started to advocate for women (and children) and each and every day I learned so much. About myself, about my child, about the world around us and what I wanted in it for his (and then his sister's) future.
It's a big list, but here are some of the highlights...
I want a world in which colours are colours. Everyone has a favourite one and it can be whatever you choose.
I want a world in which words like "throwing like a girl" means having a damn scary curve ball!
I want a world where I don't have to teach my daughter the rules of "how not to get raped".
I want a world where my son has the choice to be the stay-at-home parent and no one thinks any less of him for it.
And most of all I want a world where we can all look at each other and instead of seeing the differences and judging them immediately, we look towards ourselves first and discover what it is in us that is out of order for us to think that different or 'not what I would do' somehow equals wrong.
My friend Alex wrote a post this week about this phenomenon in the mommy world. And while yes, like her, I too want to wave the white flag and say "Enough is enough!" on this front, I also wanted to add something.
I think that a mother (and possibly a father's) greatest fear in raising our next generation is that somehow we are going to royally fuck up our children. It is why we sweat ALL the stuff so much as parents, BIG and small. I mean, look at us! We are all kind of messed up ourselves and the things we are fighting about are DIAPERS! Really folks??!
The thing is, that no matter how much you vow to do things differently for your kids, part of them is gonna end up a bit messed up. You know, that part that is HUMAN. All we can do is try really hard to teach them empathy and respect for their fellow messed up human beings. And the best way to teach this is to model that behaviour for them.
Kids grow up and as they get older, they also get smarter. They see what we do and they emulate us. And NOTHING is a better wake up call to how we behave towards others than seeing the same kind of behaviour in our children. Do you laugh or make fun of overweight people? Do you say things like "OMG, that is SOOO gay!"? Do you tell people to "man up" or "stop acting like a little girl"? Do you not listen to a person (no matter who) asking you to stop tickling/poking/touching them? Because kids see this, and if they see that you think these kinds of behaviours are OK, then they will think they are OK too.
So, what else do I want in this world for my children? I want grown-ups willing to admit that they need to change THEIR behaviours, to understand their role in the culture that we have around us and around our kids and BE BETTER HUMANS.
My goal (and my homework this week) is to catch myself when I am feeling judge-y or feeling judged and find out why I am feeling this way. What is it about myself that I need to reconcile to calm the waves of my righteousness or my indignation? What am I feeling insecure about and how can I change this behaviour?
I want to be a better human for my kids and for my world. That is what being a feminist means to me. Treating all humanity as equal and deserving of love, respect and a voice that is heard.
Now who wants to join me and my 'strident-feminist-and-human-who-is-somewhat-messed-up' self in this brave new world?