I have never really considered myself to be a feminist.
For a very long time, I wasn’t even sure what being a feminist entailed. For the most part, I had always assumed that the benchmarks of a tried and true feminist were total independence, a successful career, a comfortable income and a desire to improve conditions for all women. I never bought much into the ideas that feminism meant hating men or burning bras.
But the other day, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” I was completely floored. Although a blissfully simple and sarcastic statement, it made me realize that some people don’t see women as people at all.
Upon that realization, I began to wonder whether or not I could actually call myself a feminist.
Growing up, my older brother and I were given the same opportunities, regardless of the fact that we were different sexes; we both played every sport imaginable, we both took music lessons. My parents made sure that I knew how to both bake cookies and fix things around the house. They also made sure I always knew that I could do whatever I wanted when I grew up. All my female family members were (and still are) strong women and positive role models.
So, was I raised to be a feminist just because I believed that I could be independent and self-sufficient? I’m sure if you asked my parents, they probably wouldn’t say so.
I’m comfortable with the idea of not being completely independent for the rest of my life. I’m not opposed to being married. My ideas of success are not just career and money-related. Does this mean that I can’t be a feminist?
Could it be that I am a feminist just because I believe that men and women should be equal? Is it also enough for me to recognize that women as a group have come very far in this country, although not yet far enough?
In order for a woman to be completely liberated from a world of men, does she have to be entirely independent and self-sufficient? My answer is no.
This year Hillary Clinton was a major player in the presidential race. If she had received the Democratic Party nomination instead of Barack Obama, would it have been as historic? I think so. It has to mean something that a woman running for president of the United States could go so far in her campaign.
Not to mention that Clinton is both a wife and mother, along with being a woman with a successful career in politics. By doing this, Clinton has fulfilled both traditional and non-traditional roles for women.
Let me say that I was never a supporter of Clinton. I was more interested in the idea that this presidential election actually felt more fair and more Democratic to me, because, at least earlier in the race, a woman was a strong contender.
The fact is, I am now at ease with calling myself a feminist, by my standards, at least. I support the rights of all women, and I support us being equal to men.
Granted, I don’t usually go around spouting what little I know and understand about feminist ideals. You will find no feminist bumper stickers on my car or buttons on my backpack. And I am not going out burning my bras. But, I know that if I ever have a daughter, she will grow up just as I did, believing in herself and her right to equality.