The “F” Word

Oh yes, kids. The “F” word. The big one.

Feminism.

You can’t spit these days without hitting the debate over women’s rights. As for me, well, I’m a woman who wants to make her own choices. I’m a feminist. I’m also a Catholic, a liberal, a dancer, a writer, and one of those people who wheezes embarrassingly when I laugh. 

I am any number of things, and up until recently it never seemed important to me to state that I am a feminist. I mean … I’m a modern woman. Doesn’t that speak for itself? It always seemed to me that believing in equal rights and free choices was a given. 

It frightens me how much I see today that runs contrary to that. Conversations I watch women have on “Mad Men”, only to turn around and find myself talking to my friends about the same situations. The choice between a man and a career. How in the hell does that choice even still have to be made? So often I see my female friends compromising their wants and needs for the people they love – but compromise is nothing but sacrifice if the yoke isn’t equally born. And sooner or later, a life of constant sacrifice leads to complete loss of yourself. 

Even as I sit here writing this, the fact that I am doing so seems somehow absurd to me. Haven’t we already been over this? Haven’t we already conquered this? On some levels, certainly. At least the surface level. A woman has the right to do whatever fulfills her most – be that a professional career or the career of a full-time wife and mother. But we still call women who sleep around sluts, while the most widely-used term I can think of for a man who sleeps around is a “player”. Women still have to watch themselves when they go out, in case they end up in a situation with a man who doesn’t take no for an answer. A single mother still gets eyed up in the grocery store, silently judged. 

Those are the things that aren’t so easily fixed by passing a law or equalizing pay. You can’t change the way people think by passing a law – you can only change the way they’re “supposed” to behave. And that’s not much of anything, really, because passing a law doesn’t mean the law is respected, and respect is sort of the root of the problem, isn’t it?

Because if you respect someone, you would never deign to tell them that they cannot make their own choices. You would never deign to tell them where they do and do not belong in societal roles. And on some levels, yes, respect is something that should be earned and not given. But in a general sense? Every human being deserves respect. The right to be trusted to make their own decisions.

And you certainly cannot be in the right to show flagrant disrespect for half of this world’s population. 

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