Thursday, June 17, 2010

Change From the Ground Up

What is feminisim?

Better. What is feminism to you?
What is feminism beyond the definition, beyond your official beliefs. What is feminism in the real world?
What is my feminism? And where does it fit into my life.

Lately, I've been asking myself... where doesn't it fit?

Because it seems to me that feminism is not a shirt you can pull on, show the world (you know the ones I'm talking about - 'This is what a feminist looks like') and then take off, throw in the wash and forget about. Feminism is a belief, is a way of living my life, is something inside me.

Okay, so I know what you're thinking. Total cheese, right?

But the thing is, I am feminist because I not only believe that all people, regardless of their gender identity deserve and require equal rights, but I also believe that my actions - not just as an activist, but in my daily life- do in fact impact and support or detract from this belief. I think that in order to inspire real change, we have to stop separating our beliefs from our interactions in the "real world." I guess maybe I'm talking about myself here. When I first began this journey towards understanding the patriarcical society we live in, towards understanding the true meaning of equality (or something some like it, because really, who has come up with that definition?) it was a real struggle for me to take the knowledge I was gaining and to apply it to my life. That sounds simple, really. Right? I mean, just do it. Right?

The reality is that I was fighting against 20 years of subtle social programming, while living in a university setting where the student population is 60 percent male, 40 percent female, mainly white, middle class. I was caught between wanting to fight for my reble cause (no, today I would not call femisim a rebellion, but more a way of living) and a sort of constant shock and awe state of "how can it be this bad?"

My Dad rainsed me, telling me I was a strong, smart, capable girl, and I could be President, if I felt like lowering my standards to do so. He didn't qualify me as an individual with the words beautiful, pretty. His highest graces were always surrounding my ability to be a critical thinker, to learn and to want to learn. My parents shared finances and financial responsibility. My Mom stayed home to raise us when my brother and I were little, but then she went back to work because she wanted to, and my father supported that choice. Later in life, my Mom became the bread winner, and my Dad switched roles. They were not religious, they talked to us about politics, they told me to form my own opinions (even if that meant supporitng a Republican) and then to share those opinions. My half siblings are black and speak Swedish, as well as English, have lived in another country the majority of their lives. I have lived in other states, I have traveled with my family and on my own, I have experienced financial seccurity and inseccurity. My background has been diversity. My experience has been acceptance.

But outside my micro-family, I still grew up in social system where men walk with greater privilidge than women. My parents may have been wonderful as they raised me to be a strong, independant thinker, but I still grew up playing with Barbie dolls, knowing that karate was something my brother did and was something I did not do, knowing that my brother could run around in the backyard topless when it was sweltering,m but for some reason, I couldn't. I am certainly not attacking the way my parents raised me, nor am I attacking dolls - if little girls want to play with dolls, by all means, let them. The point in all of this, is that for the first time in 20 years, I was really consciously digging into the facts here. I was finally seeing the holes in the floorboards. I had the language and the knowledge to understand my own background in a way I never had before, and to understand why I am the person I am.

Yeah, it's been a journey to just where I am today as a feminist and as a woman. It's been an amazing journey of self discovery. Feminism gave me a way to understand my childhood, my youth, who I am and who I want to be. And that is the real world.

I realize that this has been a rambling, but hopefully somewhat interesting blog. What should someone take away from all this? My feminism is not your feminism, just as much as my life is not your life. But we are all similar, and our journeys sometimes link. So perhaps in our parallels, where they exist, can link this way of life, this feminism, to a movement that is greater than our individual selves. And that is the landing space for my thoughts today. Linking our individual feminisms.