The bravest person I know is my mother.
This knowledge has shaped one of the deepest aspects of my current ideology.
I am a feminist.
Feminism isn’t the movement against men—rather, it is the movement that declares that women are equal to men under any criteria.
Before I go any further, let’s start from the beginning (probably the best place to start).
My parents, like my grandparents and my great-grandparents before them, married young.
Guatemalan higher-education isn’t “liberal arts,” so you start and finish pre-med and med school within six years. My dad had just recently graduated as a doctor and my mum was heading that direction.
My brother’s birth around a year later had my parents decide whether or not my mum would continue her schooling and consign us to a daycare or a babysitter or family member.
In the end, while it was a joint decision, my mum decided to put education on hiatus to raise my brother, and three years later, me. Four years after I came around, my sister joined the ranks, firmly cementing mum in her role as a stay-at-home mother.
I cannot drive this point home enough: I am eternally indebted to that and other decisions my mum has made in order to pass the opportunities that were rightfully hers to my siblings and I.
Over the course of the next few years, I saw mum nanny snot-faced kids from church, learn a new language sans classes, take on a night job at an assisted living center and then become one of my school’s lunch ladies. I won’t say she didn’t complain every once in a while, but I still never hear her regret any of it.
I agree that a strong, independent woman needs no man and should seek every chance to put herself first. Still, something must be said of the strength and independence of a woman who chooses others—even drooling toddlers—before herself.
I am a feminist. We should all be feminists.
Feminism isn’t about man-hating or sexual disappointment or even dressing in decidedly non-girly clothes to prove a point.
Feminism is about equality and acceptance. It’s part of the process we agreed peace was.
It really angers me that a woman does not get paid equally for equal work.
It angers me when a woman is barred from holding a position she is more than qualified to do—all because of “cultural differences.”
It really angers me when someone that doesn’t wear lip gloss or high heels is relegated as the label “militant feminist” instead of the human being she has chosen to be.
It really angers me that we have ruined the word feminist and laced it with with the same disgust we attach to four-letter Anglo-Saxon expressions.
My mum’s choice does not make her inferior from my father, an “educated” man. An educated woman is not a threat to an uneducated man.
I cannot remember a time where my dad talked down, raised a hand or even his voice at my mother. That fact has been seared into my mind.
I want to go beyond listing why women are qualified to hold any position they choose. There is enough evidence of this fact. If you’re still on the fence on that issue, I suggest you get off it.
Once again, it bothers me that the staunchest deniers of gender equality also promote their God and religion to the corners of the earth. Why would God want me to look down on anyone?
I have heard the “culture” argument before. Chimamanda Adichie says, “Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”
Chew on that for a bit.
I’m going to operate under an assumption (gasp) and hope it doesn’t come back to bite me later.
I’m going to assume we all agree that women are equally as qualified. Based on this assumption, I will set forth a proposition:
Let’s be a feminist movement. This doesn’t mean we stop caring about each other—it is only through mutual respect that we can care for each other. Last week, I quoted Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. I’m going to take artistic license and reword her quote slightly: “Seeing gender is not the problem. Refusing to care for the human that I do see is the problem.”
Let us all work toward raising the standards of life for women and girls around the world because, after all, four hands are better than two.
Let us raise our boys to deny the millennia of negative reinforcement we have and respect women’s equality. Let’s embrace the idea that men can advance the good news of women who are ready to work, nurse, raise, manage, and live to their fullest.
Let us raise our girls to understand the negative baggage and the knowledge that they don’t have to ascribe to it, with an equal education and opportunities at home, school, and in the workplace. Let’s empower them to stand up for her rights and unlock their full potential. I want that future.
My mum’s decisions were made by her, not in spite of her because of the circumstances. Throughout the time I’ve been privileged to call myself her son, her strength and constant love to me, a decidedly ungrateful son at times, continues to awe me.
I am a feminist because of my mother’s strength and my father’s respect to her.
You should be a feminist, too.
Whether you are religious or not, there is work to be done and we cannot do it on our own. We need a community, diverse and equal, to take on the task we call life.
We should all be feminist. The word feminist doesn’t mean men don’t matter, it just means that, in the spectrum of human rights and human dignity, women matter, too.