Before I took this course, I think I probably only encountered one true feminist in my life. Yah, plenty of my friends’ mothers worked but they barely saw their kids. Besides, I don’t think the simple act of having a job qualifies one to be feminist.
No, the first feminist I knew and the only one I was sure I’d known for a long time was my mother.
If we define feminism in the extremely broad way of “bringing social, political, and economic equality to women”, then perhaps nearly all of us believe in feminism. But to be a feminist, one needs to actively seek out ways to bring that about for not only herself but for others as well.
My mother began her career as a law librarian in the late 1970s and quickly rose through the ranks to the top. As she still likes to remind my father (who worked in the computer science world at the time and now finally approaches his own retirement at the social security age) “I used to make more than you”. But she gave it up, and retired after about a decade on the job. Why? To start a family and be there for her children as much as possible.
I wasn’t the best child, I remember complaining quite a bit. I remember being bored an awful lot; my mom loved to frequent consignment shops, buy an old piece of furniture, fix it up, and then sell it back. It sounds like fun now, but what the heck was a 6 year old supposed to enjoy about it. Luckily though, I had my twin brother to keep me company and the two of us certainly caused some trouble. Thankfully, my mother was not afraid to scold us. It was a hard lesson to learn then, but I’m very appreciative that she did what she did.
The one listen my mother made sure to instill in me more than anything else was to respect the girls in my class. Don’t pull their hair, don’t tease them, and so on. Now I’m sure all mother’s teach their boys this, but mine was one of the few that picked me up from and drove me to school, took me to swimming lessons, went to play baseball games with me, to the batting cages, food shopping…. Whether it was convenient for her or not, she took every opportunity to spend time with me and turned it into a learning experience. Her lessons stuck with me more than the ones I heard in class.
Now don’t get me wrong, this came to an abrupt end when I hit 5th grade and started going in earlier and staying later and realizing that hanging with mom wasn’t as cool as it may have once been. But the real world lessons she taught me have stayed with me long since our relationship became a little more normal for a mother and son.
But the thing I appreciate the most about her, above all, is that she was there for me. And I don’t mean emotionally, I mean literally; physically there for me when I needed her. I’m well aware of the money she could be making now if she had stayed at her job and hired a nanny to raise me and my brother. That weekend home in Connecticut with the Jaguar in the driveway that she’s wanted would probably have easily been purchased years ago. She gave all that up, so she could raise a family. What an honorable and powerful thing to do.
Many simpletons out there think that feminism is all about putting women in the workforce. They’re wrong, it is about allowing a woman to choose her role in the world, whether that be in a job, as a mother, or as a homemaker. My mom chose to be a mother, a wife, and a homemaker. My mom made me a feminist. I couldn’t be more thankful for anything else in the world.