I spent a lot of time wearing aprons in my Grandmother’s kitchen. I still wear a few of them decades later. Pink hair, and tattoos with a ruffled apron fit my split personality pretty damn well. In so many ways I take pride in being a traditional woman of the 1950’s. A rule follower who will defer, put her career on hold for her children, have a grapefruit for breakfast and try not to cuss in certain company. But, I also happen to look like a circus freak of the early 1900’s minus the beard. I generally act like one of the guys, and I am proud of that too. But…
As a mom and a wife I have roles to fill. Sometimes, I have to sit quietly and smile while the guys talk shop. Fine. I probably shouldn’t drink my whiskey straight. I do, with a small ice cube, thanks. I iron my husband’s shirts just right. I don’t always get to go out with the boys for the cigar and instead put on some gloves and do the dishes. I will put on heels and entertain guests in a house I spent all day cleaning. I will sew the buttons, make the favorite meal. I will be mommy, I will be sweet, pretty and doting. Because I am a woman, wife and a mom that’s my job. June Cleaver. Love it.
Then there’s me, out in my jeans, oxblood docs and a super hero shirt riding the Harley. I pretty much look like the poster child for feminism, the spokesman for the cause.
Wrong. I’m not your feminist.
Denouncing feminism has brought more anger at me than any other area of my life. Actual anger. Women can be such bitches to each other, and the ire I have encountered has been from women. What?
My defection from feminism started in college. Irony, really as that’s when it should have blossomed. I had been married for a while, with one kiddo already, and yet I wouldn’t be old enough to buy a beer for a few more years. I felt like a strong woman, a feminist. Then, a professor in a poli sci class on justice assigned a paper to defend how the institution of marriage ruined women. I was annoyed. She, by default implied I was ruining myself being married. What?? I truly believe that a partnership like marriage (with whoever the hell you want) is one of our true gifts while we’re on this world. I wrote a great paper defending the institution of marriage, that it wasn’t a death sentence to women. My paper came back with her comments: My paper was well researched, well written, a solid paper…but I was wrong so I got a C-.
Cool. What I learned there, was that if I want a good grade I have to not speak up, to agree with something that I don’t. That is the antithesis of feminism to me.
I was raised by my single mom, who had the support of a truly eclectic group of people shaping my world and guiding me to believe that a person can do whatever they set their mind to. I felt I had been raised in a “feminist” environment. I spent summers with my Grandparents who held quintessential traditional roles. Balance. I was raised to know my worth as a person, even if I forget at times. I believed that feminism was about being the best you, whatever that might look like. I believed that channeling June Cleaver was perfectly wonderful for many, many people including myself? Why was that an affront to feminism?
A few years later I tried to embrace “feminism” again, I took a women’s study class. I hoped it would be an inclusive, welcoming and dare I say, empowering environment. I was wrong. Again, I was criticized and belittled for believing in any traditional values. June Cleaver stay out, not welcomed here. You can’t be a feminist and believe in traditional roles? After that, I no longer identified as a feminist. Feminism had shown me to be a community of women fighting for equality and empowerment while eviscerating anyone who disagreed. Not cool, not empowering, not me.
There are women in the world with real struggle. Female genital mutilation, walking hours for water, menstruation huts and no access to education are all real damn issues. We here in “first world” don’t have them. Women here bitch about things much of the world only dreams of. Remember that. I don’t want to hear women with privileges not afforded to women in the majority of the world complain about their personal oppression. Stop. It.
Now, I see rants about body shaming. I read complaints about gender gap in pay. I see women protesting to keep rights we have. I read about qualifications for jobs that have to be changed to meet different standards for men and women. Bullshit. If you can’t do the job, then you can’t. Suck it up buttercup. Be a better you, be a better friend, be better at work, be a better mom, a better doctor, run for office, whatever…. Women, be more than good enough. Be better, and help others get better too.
I will channel June Cleaver because it makes me happy. I will be arm candy at a work function. I will have dinner ready if company comes over. I will proudly be the doting wife because it makes him look awesome and that makes me happy. I will make cookies, knit, wrench on my moto and cuss too much. I will embrace balance and work on being better for me and those around me.
Women are powerful. We have the right to do whatever the fuck we want to do, and we should. I know I will, and will make damn sure I encourage others to do so too.
Wear an apron and bake some damn cookies if you want, or smoke a cigar with your whiskey, ride the bike. Be strong, be ballsy and be you, but don’t be awful to people who disagree… that doesn’t help anyone. Advocate for all of us with kindness, integrity and intensity. Until then, I’m not your feminist.