Maria, of Mommy Melee, posed a really interesting question on Facebook the other day: what does feminism mean to you? Upon reading the question, I was struck by two sorta obvious things: 1. The word feminism itself still carries negative connotations. 2. Identifying as a feminist is very personal.
My feminism lives in that overlapping space between being a career-driven woman and a super committed mom. The feminist movements of the last 43 years have offered me, as an educated, white, middle class woman, a great deal of choice. Today, I can be a woman in the white collar workforce. Joan and Peggy from Mad Men are no longer anomalies. (Though we still aren’t present at the executive level as much as we should be.) I work. I’m successful. I’m a woman, and I have a team of people working under me as direct reports. I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve made in my field.
I also HAVE to work. Gone are the days when the men made enough money to sustain a family of four on their salaries alone. In 2013, I’m lucky to have the option of entering a workforce that was previously closed off to me BUT economically, it’s less of an option and more of a survival tactic. Which begs the question, “how the fuck am I expected to work AND take care of my children?” (Clearly not all women are mothers, so please understand that I’m speaking to my own experience here.)
My particular brand of feminism is about juggling a career with being the primary caregiver at home. This is not a “work-life balance” issue. That’s a misnomer. It’s about the struggle to prove myself in two spheres concurrently. It’s about being ok with degrees of failure in both. And it’s about constantly re-examining what it means to be a successful woman.
I surround myself with successful women. My female colleagues, my good friends, my sister, and my mother have all rushed the glass ceiling like a crowd at a riot grrl show. We may have different takes on what it means to be a feminist but we are all fed by girl power.
My feminism has informed my decision to send my kids to daycare as opposed to hiring a nanny. It informed my decision to be a stay at home mom for a year and then smoothly slide back into the workforce, one day a week at a time. And it continues to inform decisions I make everyday, like trying to schedule meetings that start slightly later in the morning so I can deliver my kids directly to their teachers, as opposed to dropping them in the early bird holding cell every day.
These are the choices I make to stay true to my feminism. And my humanism. This dance is hard. Other women make other decisions and that’s fine. (Though there’s no doubt that nationalizing childcare would make the dance easier for everyone.)
But I must say that the most important choice I made in regards to my feminism was to marry a man who is as much of a feminist as I am.
What is feminism to you?