I have never called myself a feminist. I have never, ever used that term to define myself. I have never felt aligned with feminists. But perhaps, I was wrong?
I suppose that by definition, I am a feminist because a feminist is a person who believes in feminism.
I always equated feminism with political activism, and that was never my thing. However, feminism at its heart is the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. This is something I was fortunate enough to have had as my norm growing up, which is probably why I never felt the need to be a “feminist.”
I lived with my grandparents in a pretty traditional household. My grandfather worked in the aerospace industry and my grandmother raised their family and later, when it was just me at home, volunteered in St. Mary’s schools.
Between my home life and my school life at St. Mary’s, I suppose I was lucky that I didn’t feel less than my male counterparts. I was encouraged to do whatever I worked hard for and was treated as an equal to the boys at school. My grandmother was a strong woman whom my grandfather always treated as an equal partner. I did see examples of the opposite, but I thought it was the unusual, not the typical. I was raised to be independent and resilient and to believe in myself.
Only once in my life – I am thrilled to write – did I ever feel I was treated unfairly simply for being a woman. It was early-ish in my journalism career and a male reporter was hired after me and given a significantly higher hourly wage. Being me, I made a formal complaint through our union. I honestly do not remember if I ever received a raise to equal his pay though, because his reporting was not up to par and he was let go.
I am trying to raise my daughter to be independent. To know she is not less – and not more – than any other human. That she can have the same opportunities as anyone else but that she must work hard to achieve success. That she and her brother are equals. That all people are equal.
I guess we are doing a good job because when I was watching the inauguration last week, she came down from her class zoom for lunch and I asked if she wanted to watch with me as the first female vice president was sworn-in, and she just shrugged. At first I was a little upset. I wanted her to sit next to me and watch history being made. I wondered why she didn’t “get” it. But as she ate lunch and ran off to FaceTime a friend before lunch was over, I realized something – for her, it wasn’t a big deal. Not because she doesn’t care, but because in her 10 years, she has always known women are equal to men. She has seen prominent women on television, read about them in books and never questioned that she could do anything she wants in life. And while I was a bit sad she didn’t sit with me, I was also happy, in some way, that having a female as the nation’s second in command wasn’t extraordinary to her.
As for me — the non-feminist feminist – I was taken aback when I realized I was tearing up. I did not expect to be emotional, but there was something truly special about seeing such an amazing moment in history unfold before my eyes and it had zero to do with political affiliation.
I had also been watching “Anne with an E” on Netflix, the latest film adaptation of the “Anne of Green Gables” books. Those books were always a favorite of mine and I loved the original television series. Maybe because of the current, historical events, I really honed-in on how Anne was a feminist, but didn’t quite know it. She believed in herself, stood up for herself and others, fought for what was right and never doubted that she could do anything a man could do and more.
Two women in history – one fictional and one real – made me think a lot about my own equality and independence this week, and I hope that my daughter’s generation and those to come have her attitude that this is just the way it’s supposed to be. No big deal.