Elsewhere, I wrote about being a 40-year-old feminist. At first this was a really tough essay to write. I hadn’t thought about what it meant for me to be a feminist for quite a while. It’s not that any of my convictions had changed or that I thought, perhaps, the equality had finally shifted to the center and that we didn’t need to think about it anymore–it just wasn’t, at this point in my life, an all-consuming issue.
But then when I heard that one of our contributors who, if you connected the dots of her ideology is most certainly a feminist, claimed she didn’t identify with the movement, didn’t want to be called that F word. That got me thinking about my own beliefs and how they formed.
My feminist beliefs were, most certainly, formed first and foremost by my mother although, to be honest, I don’t know if she’d use the F word to describe herself that way either. My mom is a mix of old-school ladylike and modern toughness which meant that even as she advised me not to bite my nails so that my hands would “feel nice as you hold a boy’s hand” she also pushed me to think beyond any society-imposed gender boundaries when it came to thinking about a career.
I wasn’t allowed to call boys but I also wasn’t allowed to take shit from boys.
I couldn’t dress provocatively or wear too much make-up but she thought the school was absolutely ridiculous for sending me home for wearing knee-length shorts.
I could watch “Charlies Angels” but she subtly encouraged me to like the Kate Jackson character best of all because she was smart and resourceful.
I’d better not sleep around but if I did I had options, I had choice.
I don’t know if I ever heard her use the word “feminist” and I know she never participated in a single protest, rally or group but, to this day, she is insanely independent, smart and resourceful and I admire her and aspire to live my life as such.
So, maybe it’s not a big deal that young women don’t want to use the F word – maybe it’s outdated, maybe its connotations don’t resonate, maybe there’s another word that better defines what it is we are and what we do.
That’s not to say I won’t still call myself a feminist — I am one, I always will be one, even when I don’t think about it all the time. That said, I won’t get freaked out when some woman 20 years (or younger) my junior speak a different cultural language of change (maybe it’s similar to how I cringe at the word “lady” or “ma’am” in certain contexts) at least not as long as she’s actually out there living the life.