After a class during graduate school I sent an email to a female classmate with the subject line “Recipes, and feminism.”
Did you notice that the guy in class basically assumed that the computer wasn’t working because it was two “girls” trying to make it work rather than the fact that the computer wasn’t working? He only decided it actually wasn’t working when he’d checked it out himself. He couldn’t trust two “girls” to know anything about technology. Guys like that don’t win points with me.
Some of the things I’ve cooked: …
When she replied that she loved how the email went from a rant about a sexist idiot to recipes, I told her, “That’s just the kind of feminist I am. :)”
But what kind is that? What type of feminist am I? While I self-identify as a feminist, a great many people I know do not consider me to be one. In a world full of round holes, I appear to be the square peg.
All of us are more than a single story. Feminism is more than a single story. It is the thousands of stories of women who stood up in their own ways in the past. It is the stories of the thousands of women standing now. And it is the stories of the thousands of our daughters, and sons, who will stand in the future. Trying to make all feminism fit a single story, a single shaped hole for all the different pegs, will never tell the whole story.
What story of feminism do I tell? Where do I fit? What type of feminist am I?
I’m the type of feminist who has never burned a bra (not many feminists have actually) and doesn’t hate men (why do so many people I know think feminists hate men?). I didn’t put off marriage and children while I established my career. In fact I thoroughly enjoyed being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen while getting the food ready for the graduation party when I completed my PhD. And then I gladly chose the life of a scholar (unemployed smart person) to be with my child full time. Yet I refuse to accept the label SAHM because I prefer acronyms that are words.
I’m the type of feminist who believes that just as teachers who claim to be “color blind” to the ethnic differences of their students are actually more racist in their behavior than teachers who openly acknowledge their students come from different backgrounds; people who claim to be “gender blind” are actually more sexist than those who acknowledge and celebrate the differences between us, our unique strengths, our individuality. I am a woman. That makes me different than men in innumerable ways. It does not make me worse than men. It does not make me better. I have value as a human. I do not need to be a man, or even be like men, to have value.
I’m the type of feminist who is a conservative leaning, pro-life Mormon who believes in the divinity of my feminine nature. I’m the type who wants people to look at our marriage and not know who “wears the pants” in our house because my husband and I equally lead out in our marriage, playing to our strengths, complementing each other, walking side-by-side. But I also wait in the car for him to get the door for me because his father taught him to respect women (and all people) and that’s one way he shows it.
I’m the type of feminist who lettered in computer science in high school (I’m also that much of a nerd) and had to explain to a male friend back then how offensive his comment was that I was “pretty good for a girl” (especially considering I was chosen for the competitive team and not him). I’m the type who learned to knit from my dad, who learned to knit from his mom. I’m the type who likes to quilt because it is pretty math and never really liked cooking until there was someone else to cook with/for. I’m the type who’s worked chains at high school football games the past two seasons with my husband (a life list item of mine) and stands on the sidelines breastfeeding this season.
I’m the type of feminist who learned from my mom that boys who were intimidated by me weren’t worth my time. She never dated anyone who couldn’t handle being beaten by her, a girl, at chess. I won’t dumb myself down for anyone.
I’m the type of feminist who believes research on women’s health issues should be done on women. That idea that pregnant women need to keep their heart rate under 140 bpm? Based on research done on men (um, hello? no uterus) and cows (only a few steps above sloths on the activity level scale). And why did it take so long to get knee replacements that have the correct angle to them?
I’m the type of feminist who hopes my daughter grows up admiring Amelia Earhart for wearing pants when girls weren’t supposed to, Helen Keller for her love of life, Marie Curie for her curiosity and drive that meant she had to work at a place where the nearest women’s bathroom was blocks away, and Christa McAuliffe for her bravery.
I’m the type of feminist who hopes my daughter recognizes the sacrifices I make for her, the ones my mom made for me, the ones my grandmas made. I hope she appreciates our sacrifices but does not feel burdened or constrained by them. I hope she finds her own place to stand, her own sacrifices worth making. I hope she grows up secure in who she is as a woman, as an individual, and lives all of her untold stories to the fullest, never letting the world peg her into stifling holes.
I am a feminist. It is one of my stories. I tell it my way. What story will you tell?
Photo from Lisa’s personal collection