Though That Might Not Have Been What He Was Going For
I grew up in rural Nebraska where, we farm, we hunt, we eat steak and by God, we vote Republican.
We’re also in my case — feminists.
The word “feminist” isn’t actually seen as a good thing where I’m from, by and large. In much of rural Nebraska, we’re still clinging hard to our pioneer roots. We believe in hard work, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and keeping ourselves to ourselves.
(We’re also big on folksy idioms.)
But in general, most of the Nebraskans I encountered growing up were not big on anything they saw as “entitled” or “whiny.” These were seen as practically mortal sins. They ran counter to idea that good people earned everything they got through hard work — ideally, hard work done with their hands and not their voice or their pen.
For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, for some rural Nebraskans I know, the whole idea of feminism seems to be both whiny and entitled.
After the 2017 Women’s March, my Facebook wall was flooded with comments from people from my hometown. These were people I loved and respected who helped make me the person I am today — a feminist. And damn near everyone of them was not championing the march or the marchers, like I had anticipated.
No. They were condemning it — quite vocally in fact. And those doing the most active and angry condemning were women. Women who were saying that feminists were ugly and just jealous they weren’t as pretty. Women saying feminists were wimps who were just whining because they didn’t get it their way. Women who were saying that feminists were entitled and lazy and dumb…
And I just didn’t get it.
I’ve never understood this kind of this women-on-women hate. Sure, I get disagreeing with other women, that’s healthy and normal and everyone is entitled to disagree on things.
But these personal attacks on women’s looks just because you have a different opinion? Why? What do you gain from it? And why would calling someone ugly make that person any less right, any less intelligent, any less worthy?
Reading those comments was very disappointing to me. But more than that, it was just plain confusing.
Because growing up, I’d always been told I was smart, brave and that it was my job to stand up for myself and for those who weren’t capable of standing up for themselves.
And that’s what the march looked like to me. It looked like women saying “No, this is not right. This is not how I want my president to talk about women and girls and our bodies. We deserve better than this. We will fight for better than this, for ourselves and for our daughters.”
They didn’t look like whiners to me. They didn’t look entitled.
They looked like they were working hard to make things better.
To me they looked like fighters.
My dad had always told me to be a fighter, a leader. He also, in not so many words, always told me to stick up to the man, to be independent and to not let anyone tell me what I could or could not do.
And that’s what feminism is to me. Feminism is sticking up to the man (aka the patriarchy). It’s about not letting my gender define my goals, my capabilities, my rights. It’s about standing up and speaking out when myself or others are treated poorly.
It’s about working hard and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and saying “Some things aren’t working and we’re going to work together to fix them.”
Just about the only Nebraskan value that feminism seems to butt up against is the idea that we should keep ourselves to ourselves. That we shouldn’t rock the boat. That we should just suck it up and deal.
That’s what I heard most from women in the aftermath of the Women’s March and surrounding any talk of feminism: “I put up with all this stuff for years. Why is this generation of women making such a fuss about it? Why can’t they just deal with it like I did?”
But why should we? And more importantly, why would you want us to? Aren’t you supposed to want better for other people than what you got?
Do you want your granddaughter to be harassed in the workplace? Do you want your great-granddaughter to never see a woman president? Do you want all the little girls you know to dream of a future that is a little less bright than what the boys get?
Or do you want girls to have everything they want — everything they deserve- if they’re willing to work hard for it?
That’s what I want and that’s why I’m a feminist.
I’m a feminist because I believe your gender has no bearing on your intellect, your abilities and capacity for compassion.
I’m a feminist because I believe traditional gender roles harm both genders by narrowly defining what it means to be male and what it means to be female.
I’m a feminist because I believe we should all be able to walk freely through this world without being harassed, demeaned or belittled because of our gender.
I’m a feminist because I don’t like anyone telling me what to do — least of all “the man.”
I’m a feminist because my dad taught me to be a fighter.
(P.S. I am, however, no longer a Republican. So, though my dad got a fighter, he just got one fighting for the other team.)
(P.S.S. I still think Dad’s pretty great though. Even if we disagree a little, or sometimes, a lot.)