I was raised by two feminists. Of course, neither my mom nor my aunt ever considered themselves as such, but the fact remains. They both were strong, independent women, and didn’t follow the rules society imposed on them if it didn’t suit them. They didn’t do what was expected from them, while at the same time, they made decisions about their lives based on what was beneficial for them. They never acted led solely by their principles, ignoring common sense.
“There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world,” claims Kathleen Hanna, and I agree with her. When I see a quote about feminism, I usually cannot relate to it. There is aggression and spite in those quotes. I do understand that women who express themselves on the subject, often have suffered from some kind of mistreatment based on their sex. I was lucky enough not to go through any such experience, and probably that’s why I can stick to a calmer outlook on these issues.
It doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen any discrimination or haven’t been an object for uncalled for remarks from men. I could list several situations when men made their judgement about me based solely on the fact that I am a woman. And those weren’t pleasant situations. But I can’t say that these things had a traumatising effect on me or influenced me in any harmful way. I’ve learnt, and if to be precise, life has taught me that there are different people in this world, and you can’t avoid meeting those who see the world differently than you. It’s your choice either to ignore them or try to let everyone know that you disagree with them. The latter is a noble path, but it’s not for everyone. It’s one of the biggest freedoms to allow yourself to be who you truly are.
“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” Margaret Thatcher’s words define who my mom and my aunt were. They were doers. They never complained, their lives were hard and made them go through unimaginable obstacles. While many men only talked and didn’t do anything to solve arising problems.
My mom was a perfect example of a self-made career woman. In the times when such a concept didn’t exist, she had successfully implemented it in practice. When she was seventeen, she left her home and came thousands of kilometres to a place she hadn’t known anything about. She got her university diploma, started working, and despite being someone without any connections she rose very high. She could do it because she was hard-working, honest, and smart. She met my father, fell in love with him, but it didn’t occur to her that they had to marry. Although in the 70s it wasn’t a common thing not to. She didn’t argue when her boss hinted that she didn’t set a good example to her subordinates by “living in sin”. I guess from a feministic point of view she had to rebel against such intrusion into her personal life. But she had a life to live and a job to do. Besides, she loved the man. Many years – decades – later, after my father was long in his grave, mom confessed that he was the only man she’d ever met whom she would have married. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t jumped into marriage right away. It didn’t mean that her love wasn’t genuine. She simply didn’t give such things a single thought. She simply lived her life as she thought fit and didn’t pay attention to artificial rules and norms.
My mom’s life experience coincides with the words of Joan Davidson, the Chairman of New York State Council on the Arts: “I think that a feminist would believe that a good life for women still has to do with companionship, love, childbirth, seeing one’s children grow … the elemental experiences of the human race … she would also seek to secure for women other possibilities, work that has dignity and joy and usefulness, and a social and cultural environment in which single people can feel at ease.”
My aunt also wasn’t a radical. She was successful in her career as a nurse, and she ran her farmstead with incredible dedication and energy. The man she married wasn’t a good husband. To be honest, he was a pretty crappy one. Of course, she hadn’t left him right after she found out that he wasn’t the man she thought he was, but when he overstepped the line, she divorced him. How many other women suffer until the end? She wasn’t one of them. And when I say that she left only when she realised that he was trying to kill her and make it look like an accident, I’m not trying to be overly melodramatic.
“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together,” is the advice from Liz Taylor. I’d rephrase it to suit every woman’s needs, changing the first two parts – eat your favourite cake, even if it’s a calorie bomb, put on a short/red/revealing dress irrespective of your age, sing while you walk along the seaside, smile at strangers, go to the cinema alone, the list is endless – but the most important is to keep in mind the last part. Pull yourself together. And move on with your life. That’s, in my opinion, is a true meaning of being a feminist.
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