I’m not big on labels.
I prefer to take people at their word and at face value, while understanding we’re complex and deep people with lots of things going on under the surface.
I also understand this about myself, so do my best not to apply labels all over myself, subconsciously or out loud. When asked to define myself, I often wonder what words to use.
“A geeky nature-girl.”
“A book-loving, knitting, gardening, cooking mum of 4.”
Nothing seems to quite sum up the totality of who I am.
It turns out I am a feminist
Which is probably why I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist. And then I had kids. Daughters.
Emma came to me at age 6, already growing out of her fairytale princess pretty pink phase. She was in it long enough to put makeup on Berry and get her obsessed with girlishness at age 2 and then, baton passed, ran screaming and never looked back.
And then there’s Berry. The girl I swore would never wear pink. Not because there’s anything wrong with pink. I loved pink. For a year. When I was 12.
But I didn’t want Berry to be defined by her gender. I wasn’t going to dress her in pink frilly things simply because she was a girl. She didn’t get a color assigned to her with her genitals. She came home from the hospital in a lovely onesie covered in cute green frogs.
Berry, however, had other ideas. She didn’t WANT to wear red. Black, brown and grey were ugly colors. She was Princess Sparkle. Preferably with makeup.
Which is fine. Really. I didn’t let her go out of the house like that. But she got to play dress up and make over studio, twirling around in flowing dresses, at home. Before bath. Or with the babysitter — who then had to leave our house post-makeover and hope no one saw her in the dash to the car.
“I want a boy to protect me.”
It didn’t hit home for me how strong my feminist ideals are until a conversation in the car one day.
Berry: If anything scary ever happens at school, I’ll go to the boys and have them protect me.
Me: You’ll what? Why? What are you talking about? (I’m smooth and calm like that.)
Berry: If there’s a robber or something, I’ll run over to one of the boys in my class, or maybe one of the older boys, and they’ll protect me.
Me: Why wouldn’t you go to one of the older girls? If you were with Emma, she’d kick some serious butt. Why the boys?
Berry couldn’t really explain. But she knew that boys were stronger than girls, braver and more able to defend themselves. And her.
Clearly we had some reprogramming to do.
So when we picked Emma up from school a few days later and she was clutching Not One Damsel In Distress, I put her on the case.
Emma made her points. And they all patiently listened to my tirade about how awesome and strong and brave and fierce girls can be.
“Wow!” I thought. “I clearly have some strong feelings about this. I sound like a flippin’ feminist.”
And then Duncan quietly piped up.
Duncan: But it sounds like you’re saying that boys aren’t as good as girls.
Me: No! That’s not what I mean. I just mean that girls are as good as boys. Boys aren’t better. But they’re not worse. We just don’t need men to protect and look after us. We can do that ourselves.
I think Duncan’s feelings were still a bit hurt.
Feminism still has a bad rap
I was reminded of this conversation earlier today when a FaceBook friend posted that he’d been kicked out of an otherwise all-female group. He seemed to feel that feminists were man-haters. Or at least down on men. That they/we didn’t see that some men just want to be included and it felt like he was being excluded because of his gender. It was the pendulum swinging too far the other way.
It reminded me of Duncan. Of my sweet boy wanting to know that he, surrounded by fierce females, was still worthy and had a place. That we weren’t putting the males down.
Equality is hard
So here’s the thing for me. I’ve been told, to my face, that the work I was doing wasn’t appropriate for a woman. I was a journalist at the time for a small, rural, Southern community.
Of course, I had to do my work dressed in a skirt, hose and heels. Climbing up fire towers to interview the fire watcher, climbing up embankments to take photos of car wrecks, climbing over piles of llama poop to report on wacky pets people had.
It wasn’t women’s work. Too dangerous. Not appropriate. But I did it. And well.
And thought, well, you can take your appropriateness and shove it up your….
It’s hard not to have that reaction. To not get fierce. To not yell, “I’m as worthy as the rest of you! You try pushing a 9+ lb baby out your hoohah!”
I am woman, hear me roar
But I get it. I don’t need to roar. I simply need to be, undefined, who I am, as I am.
Hearing my son ask why I didn’t think boys were as good as girls made me realize that.
So, while I admit to posting on FaceBook about my triumph over the tire chains today (which I finished putting on just as Adam pulled in the driveway), it wasn’t so much because I was doing “man’s work” but that I was doing my work.
Pulling my weight. And taking care of my kids.
Keeping us safe. Against whatever.
And then, today, in the car, Emma was relating a tale about something which none of us can now remember. And Berry said, “Yes, because we’re women and we’re strong!”
And I smiled.