For years, like many people, the word feminist has conjured up a certain image for me. In the past it was spectres of aggressive hairy-legged women with bushy armpits and wimpy pony-tailed, bearded men marching in the streets demanding not equality for women, but special considerations. I thought of radical people pushing political correctness which makes me forgo the use of language that indicates gender, instead saying things like firefighter or letter carrier. That has always been particularly galling to me; when it comes to language, I’m a very no-nonsense fellow and some of the terms I’m supposed to use sometimes seem a bit silly. Imagine my surprise this morning when I realized I am feminist.
Feminism isn’t just a bunch of wild-eyed radicals protesting in the streets and taking offense at every perceived slight. To understand that, let’s look at the definition of feminism. Merriam-Webster says it’s “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”. In other words, it’s the radical idea that women are people just like men. I can get behind that. How could I do otherwise knowing the women I have in my life?
I’ve known women that stood up under trials that would break most men. I’ve seen them suffer terrible losses and come through the other side, not unscathed, but stronger and wiser. I’ve seen them work like dogs outside the home and then do the same taking care of their family. I’ve seen women work like dogs inside the home, taking care of children and running the household like a good sergeant runs a platoon in the army. I’ve seen women come into situations they were supposedly incapable of handling and not only handle them, but excel in them. Through all this, they’ve been treated as second class citizens, their contributions minimized and told not worry their pretty heads about it, to let the menfolk handle the hard stuff. Women are most definitely people and sometimes, they’re the best people of all of us.
Before you get the idea that I’m all enlightened, I’m not. I thought I was, but recently found out that wasn’t the case. In talking a friend, I asked what she thought of my writing and she said she liked my ideas, but found them hard to read because I used masculine language referring to God really put her off. I’d always thought that using words like “Father” to describe God wasn’t a big deal. And, to me, it isn’t. To someone who’s been marginalized their whole life, it can be major. And, I realized that every time I used that language, I was reinforcing that marginalization. So, I’ve stopped. The “less-than-enlightened” part of this story is that I hate writing this way. Having to use the word “God” all the time instead of pronoun is clunky. But, if giving up a little ease on my end makes things better for someone else, I can learn to live with it.
While I may not be out in the streets protesting, I am evolving. I’m a feminist. And, I’m proud of that.