Everyday freedom & feminism
I’ve always been a feminist. A unwavering, unapologetic, opinionated feminist even as a young person and as a teen.
Then reality hit, as it does for miiiiillllliiiioooooooonnnnnnnnsssssss of women around the world. I got married and had a baby, and all of sudden I did not have the luxury of uncompromised principles. I had responsibilities and duties and a love for this tiny human that overshadowed everything else. And to be honest I forgot to care. I found myself in a world of babies, and breastfeeding and parenting and I quite liked it. I found a strength, embracing the total-woman package. It was actually liberating for me – I'd found a version of femininity that fit, as I’ve never connected to other stereotypical associations of being female. Even in hindsight, my world was full of amazing women, living the lives they wanted, with supportive loving partners – empowering women to be in charge of their bodies, their worlds and their health. Many feminists in this world chose alternative lifestyles that challenged the patriarchal world we live in – one of empathy and active non-violence, of equality in families and shared responsibilities.
My time in the mummyhood 'industry' has been prolonged by the birth of two baby boys 14 years ago… giving me male offspring to practise my version of feminism on. It had been relatively easy for me to see how to parent girls into independent women, but it’s very easy to slip into the trap of seeing feminism as a ‘womens' problem. Boys felt like unknown territory - in a feminist sense. But it became increasingly apparent that boys needed equally conscientious guidance to become partners or allies of equality – strong in themselves, able to recognise and be loved, with stable egos so as to hold their privilege gently and welcome others into their power-sphere. Another variable in this little experiment are our partners - it’s not like we given our potential husbands (in my case) a questionnaire prior to partnering to see how they feel about equality, and how to raise kids. And who even knows until they get there.
Now that my boys are 14 years old, I am pleased to report evidence of two open minded young men – who aren’t phased by differences in sexuality, or diverse expressions of gender, are empathetic to suffering, and maybe most importantly – they have not been sold the lie that women are mystical creatures (something that holds many men back) and you have to guess what they are thinking. With a loving and strong mother, many involved aunties and female cousins, (not to mention an affectionate and present father) and two older loving and strong sisters, the other sex(es) should not be an unknown territory to them. Communication is key and direct and open communication has been encouraged from day one. If you want to know what a woman wants – ask her. It is actually that simple.
Their wider environment matters too. In the 14 years they have been alive, the world has changed. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter have altered their social reality from generations past. In many ways it’s still a social experiment as we don’t really know (although many guess) how humans will evolve in this constantly connected world. Another thing One thing I have noticed is that my boys have had so many young adult movies with female leads that it’s not even really a talking point… movies such as The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, the latest Star Wars episodes all have complex female leads. Marvel / DC Comics have always had kick-ass women, even if they are still presented as fantasy-driven buxom beauties – in fact I’m ok with this in some ways, I don’t pretend to understand male sexuality but I know its a drive - boys are (usually) attracted to girls – at least the male and female comic characters are more than two dimensional. Even Disney has diversified its Disney Princesses with characters such as Pocahontas, Merinda from Brave and Moana (although I know these also have their critics, let’s not delve too deeply). I think if we broached the topics of sexist roles on screen they may look at me sideways and wonder what planet I was on – as in their world, there are awesome, block busting movies that are female-lead driven. They do not expect to see only boys as the heros in the story.
My feminism comes from a place of mutual respect. I have respect for men, I quite like them, AND I have respect for myself. I am equal. My feminism is about being the best you can be, unhampered by societal expectations. I have a limitless attitude to life - love generously, give generously. Be brave and courageous and strong. Expect more from others and yourself. Don’t let the world tell you that something is not what boys do – like caring for babies, or dancing or being a nurse or hairdresser. Nor let the world limit your options as a women – be strong, be courageous, be your own hero, or be gentle and connected, or what girls do. Don’t let feminism restrict you ether and tell you that loving your children will reduce you. Be the best you can be. Sometimes you will have to be brave in the face of others who don’t understand. Don’t let others expectations lead you to hate or resentment or bitterness. Be courageous, and strong – and above all else be courageously kind.