I had a student try to walk out of my class about three weeks ago when he found out I consider myself a feminist. He came back simply for the fact that he knew it would not go well for him. I was mad at first, I only started teaching at this school recently, and he knew very little about me, but after I thought about it for a bit, I realized I knew nothing about him. What did he consider the definition of feminism, why did the term upset him so much, does he know anyone else that associates with the term?
After a while I started to think about why his outburst upset me so much. I am used to students having differing opinions than me, I actually encourage students to form their own opinions, even if I do not agree with them, as long as they can back up why they think that way, I accept it.
So why did this reaction upset me so much? It is too common for people to associate feminism with a negative concept. My mom has always been one of the most amazing people I know (I don’t tell her this enough), but at no point would anyone think she is not able to do something one of her brothers could do. I have seen her beat up each one of her brothers at some point. My mom has always been someone who works, either owning her own business or working two jobs to make sure my siblings and I had everything we wanted. She could never teach me how to braid my hair, or walk in heels, or how to put on make-up. She has no patience to paint nails, and cannot stand gossip. My mom is amazing, she made me understand that having a career does not mean you cannot have a family. My mom is an inspiration and my rock, but she is not the reason I consider myself a feminist.
I grew up in a family where the women are independent. My great-grandma used to refer to the women in our family a strong-willed, because the men in our family have always outnumbered us so we have to be twice as loud, rough, and crazy to fit in. I have a huge extended family, and not a single one of them have ever said that I (or any female in my family) is not equally capable of doing something that they can do. But very few of them would consider themselves feminists. My family pushes me everyday, they make me proud of who I am. Even so, they are not the reason I consider myself a feminist.
My sister, who is a daily testament that women only get stronger every time they are pushed down, is one of the most important people in my life. When we were younger we hated each other, we couldn’t even talk to each other without fighting. As we got older, we became closer (it is easier to like someone when they live two provinces away and no longer steal your clothes, socks, movies, etc.). I have seen her struggle, and I have seen her get back up and try over, and over again until she was happy with the results. My sister does not accept the minimum, she only accepts the best. This includes people in her life, if they won’t give her 100%, she will leave them. She knows she deserves the best, and nothing will stop in her way. Her passion will make a difference, and it will lead her in place that others would be scared of. She moves fast because she knows those who matter will be there when she finally slows down. Her life will take her on adventures that will push boundaries; personal, family, gender, and career boundaries. I am scared for the people who stand in her way, cause she will blow past them before they realize it. My sister is incredible, but she is not what makes me consider myself to be a feminist.
I have female friends who one day will change the world, like actually change it. They will fight everyday until it is a better world. They inspire me as a teacher to make sure the students I am teaching will leave my classroom with the goal to also make the world a better place. My friends don’t always realize how great they are, how amazing they can be, and how inspirational they are to those that know them. Even though I love my friends, and they are part of my identity, they are not what makes me a feminist.
I have female mentors and role models who are amazing women. Women who have educated, guided, and inspire me. Women who I can talk to when I feel like I am not doing enough, who I can be weak around, and who celebrate my strengths. They encourage me to be a better me, and accept me when I am a mess (let’s be honest, since most of these women met me during university they have all seen me at my worst). These women, many of which do consider themselves feminists, are not what makes me consider myself a feminist.
So if it is not the females in my life that inspire me to consider myself to be a feminist then who is it?
My dad, since as young as I can remember has always believed in me. He also has never thought that my mom, my sister, or myself have ever needed to be protected. He believes that we can be whatever we want to be, and if that means sitting through hours of dance competition (really, really horrible dance competitions), learning how to help us with our hair, learning how to tie figure skates, teaching us to drive (both my sister and I may actually be worse than our mom when it comes to driving…don’t let us drive), and to this day is still my favorite person to go shopping with. He watch my sister and I fail hundreds of times. Not once did he feel like he needed to pick us up, protect us, or defend us. He knew that we could do this on our own. My dad makes me a feminist because I know that a dad can make just as an amazing parent as a mom can, and no matter how many times he was the only dad in the area, or the fact that he was often the one listening to my friends and I sing while he drove us around the city shopping he never wanted my siblings and I to feel like mom working was a disadvantage to us.
The males in my family are some of my biggest supporters. They do not support because they think I need their help, or because they think I cannot do it without them. They do it because they believe I am great, that I will do great things. They are able to be strong males who have de-tangled necklaces, played dress-up, played Barbies, and have spent countless nights reading me bedtime stories. My uncles, many of who have daughters never think of the females in my family as anything less than amazing (if you ever meet my uncles, you would know it takes amazingly strong women to be associated with them in public). The men in my family do the cooking, cleaning, and child raising as much as the females do. I am a feminist because I believe young girls should be able to look up to their uncles and see how males in their lives can be just as much roles models as the females.
My brother will one day make some girl very happy. Having two older sisters has resulted in him becoming very comfortable with his feminine side, understanding that masculinity and femininity are connected. He as no concerns about painting his nails, and will scream from the roof tops that his favorite colour is pink. He can cook and clean (when he wants to, he is also the youngest and is lazy at times), and he is not ashamed to show is emotions. He is also strong, and will stand up for anyone who needs him. He is a loyal friend to a fault, and is someone who can truly be just friends with a girl, and does not care what others think of him. My brother is a rockstar, and will one day accomplish some great things. I am a feminist because my brother shows me how important it is not not let others define you and that gender stereotypes go both ways.
I have some beautiful male friends. They give me strength when I think I have nothing left, push me when I believe I have hit my limits and never think of me as weak even when I see myself as weak. I have friends who stand behind women rather than stand up for them, because they know women can stand up for themselves and that being supportive carries more weight than doing it for them. I have friends who I can take shopping, because sometimes I need their advice, or because sometimes I just miss them. I have friends who don’t bother lying to me, or trying to protect me, or are worried about how I dress because at the end of the day I know I can be friends with a guy and it means nothing but friendship. The males friends I have allow others to see their own vulnerabilities and weaknesses because they understand being male does not mean they are emotionless. I consider myself a feminist because I can have male friends who are just as great as my females ones and no one thinks it is weird.
I have male mentors and role models who give me perspectives and insights like no one else. They celebrate successes and failures, encourage when needed. It is too common for males to be considered emotionless, to be considered all logic and no heart, and to be considered the listener not the talker. The male mentors and role models remind me that I need to be open-minded, that I need to listen, that I need to take time to enjoy life. They support, consider, and demonstrate passion. These are educators, a career that commonly is thought of as being female based, these are men who I have seen cry as they watch their former students succeed in life. Men who understand that life is not always fair, and while feminism is about women getting equal rights, it is just as much about men being equally accepted. These are men who never aim to overshadow their female counterparts, and instead take a backseat to listen the ideas that they have. I am a feminist because I believe that the male educators should have just as much pride in their students, mentees, and colleagues as a female does, and should be able to show this in the same way.
I am a feminist because I believe in my lifetime women and men will be treated equally. This does not mean that women are just equal to the males, but that the males are equal to the women. That there should be no surprise when a dad is taking his daughter to a dance competition, or that a mom is the breadwinner of the family. That males can openly cry, and women can make their own decisions about their bodies. That dads can make just as great parents as moms, and moms can have a career while still doing an awesome parenting job. That people will be hired/promoted based on scholar and ability, not on their gender, and that no one will ever say “they only got the position because they are male/female, but know they got the position because they worked hard and earned it. That a chance of a women getting/not getting a promotion is not based on the fact that she is un/likelihood of taking a maternity leave in the future. That men will be fully accepted for taking time off work to raise a family. That great uncles can be role models to their nieces and nephews, just as much as great aunts can be. That grandpa’s playing dress-up with their grandkids is the norm because grandma is relaxing with family. That all people grow up knowing that they can do whatever they want in the future because it is possible to be anything regardless of gender. That both people in a relationship have equal say in child raising, housework, finances, careers, and they are able to make decisions based on their wants and not their gender norms. That gender norms will be forgotten and people will all have a voice, a vote, an education, and equal rights.
I am a feminist because I never want my children to say #metoo, to fight for their rights, to feel like they are defined by their gender, or to feel like their are not normal because they believe in true equality.
I am a feminist because the strong women in my life taught me it is possible, and the men in my life are strong enough to let me be.
I am a feminist….
and I am proud of it.