I think we can all blame Disney for our hang-ups about our hair. Since our wee years, we are taught that all of the beautiful princesses have long, voluminous tresses. Cascading hair is mythically, historically, and symbolically associated with youth and fertility. Look up any society in history and you’ll see… the themes are the same. Even in Native American societies, warriors wanted the horses with the longest, thickest manes to ride into battle because they looked more menacing and majestic, more desirable. (How impressive it must have been to see a battle horse in the throes of war, or in the heat of a hunt, its long hair flowing out behind it.)
My whole life, I’ve bought into this crap too and here I am in my forties still fighting to have the kind of hair that whips beautifully when the wind blows through it, the kind of hair that butterflies and birds tuck flowers into, and the kind of hair that people want to run their fingers through, because for some stupid reason it makes me feel younger and prettier, more like a woman. I don’t have that kind of hair, though. In fact, in complete submission to this realization, I finally just cut it all off recently. But now I have a whole new host of problems! Namely, I feel kind of like a man with short hair and I do not like anything about feeling like a man.
No, I do not believe men and women should exist in a genderless society.
Recently, one of my students – a young man with rather Neanderthal-ish beliefs about the roles of men and women – asked me what I thought personally about the Equal Rights Amendment and why it should or should not have passed during the Civil Rights Movement. I think he was fishing for a heated debate with me and he literally laughed out loud in astonishment, and admitted his shock, when I revealed that I was, in fact, quite traditional. I stunned him when I told him I believe that in a great many situations men and women shouldn’t exist in total equality. Then when I asked him why he was so surprised to hear this, he said, “Because I thought for sure you were a feminist.”
Stereotypes. Ahhhh, of course. Then he admitted this in front of everyone: he thinks that because I’m all ‘girl-power’ all the time, because I’m not married and because I practically threw a party on the day we learned about women’s suffrage, I must be a Feminist, with a capital F. I wonder what else he thinks. Oh, boy. Wait until he finds out I cut all my hair off.
I tried to explain to him what a real Feminist is. It’s a person who believes that men and women should, in all instances, be treated equally. These are the people who, for example, want college campuses to get rid of men’s and women’s bathrooms! (Um, NO THANK YOU!) That is not me. I was brought up in a home where the man leads the family, and where the wife defers to the husband when big decisions need to be made (but sometimes even my mother went rogue, and she remains very opinionated to this day). I think, personally, people should be married if they have babies together and I think that marriage is a natural step when you choose someone you want to be with. See? I am very old-fashioned. That does not make me a bad person, or a stupid person. It just makes me different.
Contrary to Title IX, I think it’s strange when girls want to play football, but it does not offend me when they do. I also question the research on parenting that says little boys shouldn’t be discouraged from painting their fingernails or wearing make-up, but I applied my opinions only in raising my own boy. I tried not to ask too many questions about the boys who wanted Easy Bake Ovens for Christmas, but it was odd to me, I won’t lie. Still, I let people be who they want to be, and raise their kids the way they want, because their life is none of my business. To each his own, live and let live, let people raise their own children. I think it should be okay for us to say, sometimes, that things often happen that we need a little time to adjust to. The roles of boys and girls in society is one of those movements that is evolving within me personally as I get older. Let people who are not quite there yet get there in their own way.
Think you’ve got me figured out by now? You don’t.
I also don’t want to be told whether I can or cannot have an abortion, and I think that the introduction of birth control and the bikini are perhaps two of the greatest inventions in human history. I recognize that there are grave inequalities being committed in Hollywood, and female CEOS are in shorter supply than they should be. I know all of that, I assure you. But in my experience, throughout my entire life, I have never felt un-equal, and that is a great blessing. I don’t have a sexual harassment story to share, but I believe in the movement to end sexual harassment in the workplace. I am all Republican, but pretty damn progressive at the same time. I think it’s okay to be both. In fact, I know it is. It’s who I am.
There’s a young woman I know who passed right through my classroom and then entered the US Naval Academy. Be assured, I have never, ever had a student in fifteen years of teaching who made me more proud than this girl did, because of the simple fact that she did something most people don’t have the strength, commitment, courage, the guts and endurance to do. That’s girlpower if I ever saw it, and I preach about that shiz every day to the girls in my classes. As tough as I am, I could never, ever do what she did.
Then there was another young lady who sat in my classroom once, a brilliant girl who told me a long time ago as a dreamy tenth-grader that she wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic Magazine and yet now she is the mother of four children, happily married to a US serviceman and living overseas. She has sacrificed her own dreams in order to do something honorable and biblically traditional, and there is something I admire so incredibly much about her, too. She makes me proud as well because she protects the practices and beliefs that I think preserve our society’s families (while the other one will spend her life protecting our country from the terrorist freaks who often hate women.)
Single mothers are another class of badasses, and if you ask me, they sit at the right hand of God, make no mistake. Childless women with accomplished careers are also worthy of admiration, and they advance women as a whole more than any piece of legislation ever could. Women who have children, especially those who are married and who also work…all super human, because they are filling the traditional roles of both male and female heads of a family.
I wish being a Feminist simply meant that you are proud of being a woman, because I certainly am.
Stereotypes are sometimes true, unfortunately, but I hope to change perspectives on this one misconception: I want people to expand their world views a little on what it means to be a Feminist. I will continue to try to do this in my classroom, where I encourage girls to be whomever they want to be, without labels. I wish being a Feminist simply meant that you are proud of being a woman because I certainly am.
I love being female. I love expensive shoes and the color pink and vanilla candles and OH. MY. GOODNESS. when a man buys me flowers and orders my dinner for me, I swoon! But if you are a woman who doesn’t love those things, or one who loves to get dirty… or if you love shooting guns or wearing Under Armor …and whether or not you are a woman who supports same-sex marriage or you believe marriage is between a man and a woman (or BOTH, like me)… well then, I want you to be proud of that, too. I want you to advocate for it with your whole heart, because it’s your right to be happy without someone else telling you it’s right or wrong. If you believe women should have the freedom to pursue happiness, whether it be at the right hand of a man or not, regardless of if you believe that a woman does, or doesn’t, need a man to be happy… you should be considered a Feminist, simply because being a strong-minded woman who leads with her own head and her own heart is incredible and cool all by itself.
I wish being a Feminist didn’t just mean that you march through streets in protest with no bra on, that your only contribution is swearing and yelling obscenities, using the p-word with fervor, brandishing your armpit hair and cavorting with the dudettes who abhor words like ‘ho.’ I am not them, but those people don’t offend me, and I respect their movement. I am all woman, though, in a super-girly, Ladyboss kind of way. That’s my kind of Feminism.
With or without a husband.
With short hair, or long hair, or purple hair.
Even with children, or with no desire to have children at all.
Even if it means living the kind of life that doesn’t fit into a box, according to a list of descriptions, or a set agenda. No rules, no stereotypes. Mix it up, girl. It keeps people guessing.
Just be you. Be happy. Be a WOMAN with all your might. Rock on, ladies.