I didn’t like how my mom jumped up to get my dad a cup of coffee. He never returned the favour. I didn’t have the articulation for feminist in elementary school. When I did understand more fully what it meant, I held on to it. I never quite believed those that said feminism was a bad thing, that feminists were evil or wrong somehow. Equal rights for everyone seemed like a simple, common-sense notion.
I understood feminism before I understood gender roles. I was a tomboy. I thought I could do anything just as well as the boys. I was right. Not everyone agreed with me, though. I started feeling that something was wrong with me by junior high. I didn’t act like other girls; I didn’t care about my hair or wear makeup. I liked climbing trees and playing in the puddles. It wasn’t just boys who made me feel bad about the way I was – it was the girls too. It was also the teachers. A male gym teacher actually requested that I SMILE. I refused. You can imagine the b-word that floated around about me. I was outside of easy definitions and simple assumptions.
Everyone is complex. People are hard to understand. Instead of taking the time to comprehend, we do the easiest thing: we dismiss them. Women don’t need equal pay – they have husbands at home to support them. Women don’t need childcare – they stay home to raise the children, right? It’s okay to take sexual advantage of a woman because if she didn’t want it, she wouldn’t have put herself in a position where it could happen. When we start drawing our own conclusions about people, we can end up pretty far away from reality.
The best course of action is to give people the opportunity to express their reality. Engage, ask questions, and listen. There seems to be permission, these days, to just be a blatant misogynist (among other things). We’ve spent decades trying to build an inclusive society. It has been hard work and some may question if it’s brought us any benefits at all. I don’t know if you can quantify, on a societal level, the benefits of equality. On a personal level, I can wear pants, climb trees, and repudiate makeup. I have greater options through which I can more fully develop as a human being. Why would we limit that for anyone?
Keri lives in Boyle Street where she supports feminism and equal rights for all.