After a long rough day (don’t ask), I find myself meditating on the nature and meaning of Independence Day. Every Fourth of July, a great deal of the country celebrates with barbecues and parties, apple pies and fireworks. Some people focus on their patriotism, and celebrate their pride as Americans; others lament how they feel our forefathers would sigh in shame at the current state of our nation. These are the practical themse I have learned throughout life, NOT a new development at recent politics.
I could write tonight about those areas in which I feel America succeeds and those where I feel it fails, but instead, I’m thinking about independence. And about feminism.
Once upon a time, there was a female baby born to a feminist family in the most liberal place on earth. She was raised to be the Queen of the Universe™, and taught that she could do or be anything she wanted. She worked hard in school, knowing that a college education was a “must,” and graduated both high school and university in the tops of her classes. She was set to succeed in any high-powered, male-dominated career her heart desired.
Rule number one: never let anyone else tell you what to do; YOU are the boss.
So who did that girl become? If you didn’t guess the tale was autobiographical, you’re a bit slow, but I’ll forgive you as long as you’re still reading.
I live now as a housewife. A mother to two toddlers. A business owner, yes, but most look at my life and see something pretty in-keeping with your standard fifties housewife. The LAST thing a feminist could ever tolerate, right? Not surprisingly, I have found many people surprised, disappointed, or judgemental of my life choices. There are more than a few who have asked how I could “settle” for this life; how I could “let” this happen to me.
And here’s the answer.
The term “feminist” (and “feminism”) was born of a very specific series of campaigns targeted at women’s suffrage and political equality, rights to education, reproductive rights, gender roles and marriage/divorce rights, maternity leave, equality in the workplace and pay and rights to maternity leave, domestic and sexual violence and harrassment. While the “glass ceiling” has yet to truly be broken, and reproductive rights are always at risk, the polictical/legal campains set forth as the goals of feminism have all been accomplished.
And yet we still identify as feminists.
“Feminist” has become an identity embraced by people who believe that men and women are equal and should be treated as such, some of whom are even willing to lobby/fight for the cause (just because someone calls themself a “feminist” doesn’t mean they’re actually an activist). And perhaps at some point I will address the fact that males and females aren’t the same (which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have equal rights), but not tonight.
Back to me: I believe that I have every bit as much a right as any male to choose to walk the path in life that speaks mostly deeply to me. I have the right to follow my passion, my joy, my truth and my authenticity. And I am most authentically me when embracing those traits that offend people as so stereotypically “feminine”.
I was born to be a mother. I love to nurture my Partner and our children. I take pride in kitchen creation and in building meals for my family made of REAL food. I get cranky and resentful and downright bitchy about it when work and other commitments interrupt my ability to do the special “extra” things, or create art in the kitchen, or teach my babies to love and trust and play and LIVE. These things DO interrupt, on a nearly constant basis, and my Husband could testify to the fact that too little “domestic bliss” makes me snappy and irritable and damages the relationships in my life.
I am a Certified Massage Therapist because my hands were meant to heal (wow, that sounds super new-agey, huh?), not because I wanted to do it for a living. I would love nothing more than to go to culinary school, but I cannot justify (or afford) that level of expense for something I want to do for mere enrichment. I sculpt and paint and sew and embroider within the context of our medieval re-enactment activities because I need that art in my life, and I just as deeply need the justification (usefulness) of spending my time in that way.
I’m a type A who could be scaling the corporate ladder at a ridiculous pace, but that life made me miserable.
And so who is anyone else to decide that I am oppressed because I chose to live the life that calls to me most deeply? I am a strong and independent woman who made a choice. I believe we all should have that choice. The choice of autonomy. It is not for someone else to pity me or be offended because I gain some level of fulfillment from serving up my Husband’s plate at a potluck. I am not to be scorned or saved because I’m stuck at home with the kids all day or because I grocery shop and cook and can and freeze and dehydrate and do dishes and laundry and sweep and mop.
Besides, it’s not like I iron, for goodness sakes.
But if ironing were my bliss? Then it’s my stinkin right as a feminist to choose to iron for any person I meet. And if all those people total more males than females (because they wear more button down shirts, for instance), it doesn’t make me any less of a feminist.
Independence…. My Husband often says, “Freedom is a tricky thing. You fight for freedom based upon principle; what you feel is morally or ethically correct. But people never use their freedom the way you would use it, and sometimes it’s really hard to let go of how you want them to use the freedom you fought for.”
The importance of freedom–of independence–is not diminished because it’s not your ideal. And so I use the rights my mother and grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought so hard to gain, to live authentically as me. A woman who will fight for your rights to autonomy and equality. A feminist farmwife.
I will fight for your right to be a corporate mogul. Will you fight for mine to be a housewife and mother? I believe in a woman’s right to choose.