Walking home, I witnessed an interesting exchange (interesting in one respect that it’s not at all out of the ordinary): Two teenage boys (I'm guessing around 14) walked past two teenage girls, one tall and blond. The boys ogled, catcalled, and one of the young gentlemen said a few aggressive words ending in “bitch.” The other responded with, “Dude, don’t call her a bitch,” at which point my hope for mankind rose markedly, but only for a fraction of a moment before he continued, “That girl was hot! It’s when they get out of line that they’re bitches.”
This completely commonplace event led me to examine a few realizations for the rest of my walk:
1) Somewhere along the line I became a bonafide, self-respecting feminist who doesn’t tolerate/ignore stupid crap anymore.
2) I’m the mother of a bound-to-be-tall, blond girl and I hope and pray that she becomes a lesbian. And I say this only partially in jest, as her father is tribute to the fact that good men do exist, but I’d say better safe than sorry.
3) I’m grateful my single child is a girl because I’m not equipped to deal with young males without having the urge to kick them in the balls (not that I haven’t wanted to punch a few ovaries here and there).
I am a feminist
Up until a couple years ago, I never would have self-described as a feminist. I’ve never disagreed with any tenet of the movement (How are these not inarguably no-shit issues and why does there still need to be discussion instead of action?). Still, claiming the title now almost feels like posturing. Growing up, I had no strong female role models, was often crippled by shyness and reclusion, and was callous, apathetic and aloof. Self-respecting wasn’t high on my list of priorities during my teens, and was equally low on that list in an entirely different way in my early twenties. But I’m all grown up now, and I am a feminist.
I am a mother
If feminism and it’s struggles and goals weren’t at the forefront of my mind before, they were certainly pushed there as a little human female was pushed out of me. First, I experienced firsthand the awe-inspiring feats of which a woman’s body is capable, and I’m still reeling in amazement; it’s not possible to ignore the sheer power of the female body and mind when you have a kid. And second, it resulted in my making a girl, whom I’m responsible for raising into a woman. I’m now someone who cares about how I’m treated, perceived and compensated, but more importantly, I’m someone who would fight fiercely to win equal rights for my daughter’s future. It was easy to ignore myself, but it’s impossible to ignore my girl. If certain things that essentially unfazed me happened to my daughter, my wrath would rain down.
I’m learning to love my body
Absurd, terribly dangerous body image issues have begun to scare me. It seems extreme insecurities and unreasonable expectations are shared among almost every woman I’ve ever known, myself included. I’ve never been effeminate. I’ve never applied makeup, but I’m not nor have I ever been making a statement about the power of my natural beauty. I just never cared. Like, at all. This had to do with apathy, not confidence. I’ve probably worn just as many men’s clothes and women’s over the years. I cut my own hair; it works, or it doesn’t and I don’t care. Even still, I’ve been guilty of implementing horrible habits based on an out-of-whack body image, specifically having to do with weight obsession and food guilt.
Until recently, I was unable to quash this mode of behavior and thinking (and I admit I’m still working on it). I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to be comfortable with my body, both mentally and physically. I have to stop myself from feeling anxiety about eating, but I do stop myself, and I’m having to do so less and less often. At the peak of my crazy, I would weigh myself 3 or more times a day; now, I’ll get weighed only when visiting the doctor’s office. That number, whatever it even is right now, is mattering less to me with every day that passes. I’ve banned scales in the house, and I’ve requested that I be reprimanded every time I ask if I’m fat.
Physically, pregnancy, labor and postpartum had a lot to do with this decision. The whole experience, the unimaginable rollercoaster of physical transformations, broke my unhealthy clutch on my strict expectations. It’s like my body said, “HA, you think you can control me!? You fool. Look what I can do!” Then it exploded me. Mentally, my daughter had most to do with it. If she ever refuses food when she’s hungry, or cares if someone makes fun of her hair or calls her ugly, or worries about what people would think if she wore a suit and tie, I’ll have failed. I’m not going to let that happen. Whether she gets equal pay is up to society; how she views herself is up to me (until it’s up to her).
So there it is
I’m not writing this to come off as aggressive or alienating, or to belittle the struggles of males (or those that aren’t anatomically related at all). Mostly, I’m just trying to verbalize my stance to sort my own thoughts so that I can move forward in improving myself as a woman and a mother. I love my husband, my dad, my brothers, and my male friends. In fact, some of the boys I’ve known are better feminists than a lot of the women (and some aren’t, but I love those pigs too anyway). I’m just trying to get to the point, as I’m sure most people are, where everyone can start being good to each other, and to themselves.