i wear skirts.

(okay, yes, this is from a school assignment)

I take a lot for granted. I tend to forget that. (Then again, I suppose it wouldn’t be taken for granted if I didn’t.) I have a lot to thank my parents for, though like most children, I’m hardly good at demonstrating it. In spite of less-than-perfect circumstances and difficult personalities among family members, I don’t worry about a lot of things. I didn’t think many other educated women in their mid-twenties did either. There is always room to be corrected. Even though I’ve grown up in church, attended a small Baptist college, I guess it’s rather fortunate that I have been educated in feminist theories and other forms of emancipatory thought. I take it for granted that women are unique but not inferior; that we are specially gifted, yet equally able—that our ‘mere’ anatomy makes us powerful in ways that distinguish us from men, but surely no one really believes that a vagina is just cause for discrimination and diminutive social status?

I showed up Friday prepared for a class discussion on sexism I anticipated being rather banal and predictable. I walked away from our classroom shocked and thankful. Most of the conversation was quite good—and reached across the broad spectrum of gender and sexuality—and was sparked with laughter, candidness, and thoughtfulness. Then came the F-word. Feminist. And then I felt as if I had been transported several decades prior. Only a minority—maybe half—of the class eager to self-identify as feminists. And only three bodies present were males—with hands up immediately. The reluctance was overwhelmingly on the part of my fellow females, and, I noticed, especially the younger ones. We don’t want to be viewed as angry. As bitter. As man-haters. Maybe all this focus on what others think is what has injured us in the first place. Who cares if someone wants to paint me as irrationally angry, over-reactive, too assertive, and virulently independent. Perhaps that is more a reflection of insecurity when presented with reality—or at least another perspective of what is real. And maybe they’re right—maybe there really is something to be angry about. Being angry with the status quo has its price; besides cheap and easy is rarely the best route anyway. (And I’d rather be angry than a tramp.)

It’s frustrating that we still have to approach feminism as though we need to evaluate the grounds upon which women have been standing for nearly a century (if we want to trace out lot all the way to the suffragists). Why is the debate still couched in terms of women’s ability and validity. Why do we still doubt that women are capable—that women have an equal and just place in all outlets of work, play, and self-expression? Why are we not allowed to be angry that in more venues than not women have to work twice as hard to prove their worth. Still.

I take for granted my strength as a person (and have rarely questioned that as a female). And I thank my parents that I have never fought with myself over who I am supposed to be—at least in terms of gender. They did not bring me up to be a gender; rather they taught me to be a person and a woman; to be strong and decisive, reflecting who I am and who I am called to be. I am thankful that I have parents and a family who have supported my decision—to pursue education, to discover myself as an independent, yet nurturing, assertive yet warm person. I am thankful that I have examples of strong women—on both sides of my family—that do not play the apology game for working, for being mothers, for standing up for what they want, and pursuing their goals. I do not have to question what it means to be a woman and work, pursue a career. I take for granted my equality and my uniqueness—I am thankful for a family in which I can be confident in my decisions—my independence and my interdependence. I am thankful that I did not grow up in a home that was distinctly gendered or artificially androgynous. I am thankful that I grew up learning to be a person, a daughter, a sister, a student, a worker, not just a piece of anatomy.

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