We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby…

but not far enough.

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to recognize the strides women in some parts of the world have made in gaining some semblance of equality and to make everyone aware of how far we have to go. If you don’t believe me look at what the Taliban has done to the women of Afghanistan. Look at the bustling sex slave industry in Asia. Look at the exploitation of female workers in most third world countries. Freedom is definitely relative to where you live.

Just focusing on the first world, we suffer increasingly from a lot of spurious, unscholarly press about the Mommy wars, about women dropping out of the workforce to attend to their families, about women ‘giving it all up’ and tossing those professional degrees to stay at home and get back to traditional family values or on the flip side, stories about how 2 income couples are mercenary and how that second income costs more money than it generates and about the terrible stress working women put on themselves and their families. The numbers behind those stories don’t hold up but that doesn’t stop anyone from publishing them because those stories have real value in the stands – they sell. We want to pin the ills of our culture on women working for a living. Never mind the steady diet of violence coming out of th entertainment industry. Never mind study after study that shows that kids who have full time working parents (both or just the only one they have) do just as well as kids with stay at home Moms. Never mind the growing trend toward stay at home Dads. It’s so much easier and more comfortable to spew a lot of garbage about how the traditional family model is the only way to go and about how women who work are giving their children up to someone else to raise and destroying the very fabric of life.

Don’t you believe it. I had to work full time for almost the entirety of my life as a full time Mom. I was fortunate in that I worked mostly from home but I had full time baby sitters and I expected the sitters to keep the kids away from me while I was working and they did. The kids were mildly annoyed by that but we worked it out. I now find myself intimately attached to 3 of the most stable, loving, fun people in the world – and they call me Mom or Mama.

I am very, very proud to be a feminist and to have raised a flock of feminists. My son has taken the longest to come around. He openly admits that he would prefer to just enjoy his white male privilege but he isn’t that guy. He’s an egalitarian at heart. My youngest is feminist right out loud which is a risky proposition on today’s college campuses where many girls start sentences with “I’m not a feminist but… [I think I deserve equal pay for equal work…I don’t like men staring at my boobs….. I don’t like being portrayed as stupid just because I’m female]”

My Humbly Anne is getting married in a few weeks and you can’t get much more traditional than that and yet she is doing it on her own terms. She will not have her Dad walk her down the aisle and ‘give her away’ because she doesn’t ‘belong’ to him and she won’t ‘belong’ to her husband. She isn’t getting married so that she can be taken care of by a man but she loves the way he takes care of her and she loves to take care of him. She isn’t getting married so she can have kids but having children is clearly on the horizon. She’s planning on getting pregnant fairly early in life, probably while she’s in graduate school and she is planning on having a career. If she changes her mind about that and can afford not to work then that’s what she’ll do. She’ll do what she does because that is what she wants and what is best for her family, not because someone says that’s the way it is supposed to be. She won’t get married in white because she has been living with her guy for a couple of years and she isn’t about to pass from virgin to non-virgin, from daughter to wife. She is creating a partnership with a man she loves and it is all about happiness and love and family and not at all about ownership, duty and subordination. She is a feminist.

To those of you who think ‘feminist’ and then think ‘ugly woman in overalls who can’t get a man’ please join the 21st Century and recognize that feminist means ‘woman who is master of her destiny, who is open to the life style choices of others and who wants to be respected for who she is, not what she looks like or how well she can cook and sew”. Feminism is what allows your sister, wife, daughter, niece, neighbor and friend to fully engage in life on her own terms. Feminism is responsible for the fact that women have choices and that they can make a living either because they want to or because they are forced to due to circumstances (widowed, abandoned, abused). Feminism both sets us free and allows us to participate. Feminsim is good stuff.

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