I was never going to be a feminist.
I was never going to be a feminist.
Feminism was a bad word that stood for people you don’t want to be.
It is easy to ignore feminism when you have no reason to embrace it. I grew up with four brothers, and was never, ever treated as less for being a woman. We split household chores equally and to be honest, being the only female in my family gave me a certain level of privelege.
The toilets need to be cleaned? The Boys should have to do it because I am a girl, and if you ask me, you’re being sexist. Someone has to help in the kitchen? Well The Boys should have to learn (nevermind that I just didn’t like cooking because I was all teenage angst by the age of 8 and didn’t want to do anything for my mother). And to this day I have never mowed the lawn because there was always a boy around to do it. Lucky for me, two of my brother’s turned out to be rockstars in the kitchen and I now live in a city where you’re priveleged to have a windowledge to hang out on, let alone a patch of grass.
I was never going to be a feminist because if I kept my world the size of our family home I would never have to be. Not doing something because I was the female gender didn’t apply in our household. I attempted to master everything my brothers did; from frontflips, to snowboarding, to cliffjumping, to peeing standing up (if you grew up with me, you will know ALL about that one). We were kind of an outdoors family, and I never noticed that being a girl was different, except that everyone got upset if I didn’t wear a shirt.
I didn’t even really like women as much as men growing up because I was so much more comfortable around the male gender.
But the transition to feminism did happen when my world got bigger and I realised there were a lot of people out there who did not hold the same logic as me. There were people who genuinely thought less of me for being a female.
It happened after months of confusion when I finally put to words the way my boss at the time was making me feel, and I said, “I think you will never respect me, because I am young, and because I am a woman.” And he agreed. Funny thing is, he thought quite highly of himself as a generous advocate for women. I thought he was a jerk.
It happened when the parents of my then boyfriend would always expect me to play hostess, but never put that expectation on their sons, despite the fact that I am a terrible homemaker. And when his dad asked a female guest to get him a drink presumably because she was the only female in the room, I almost lost it.
It happened while living in South Africa, where I consistently met white women who were fragile because they had to be, and black women who were as tough as nails because they had to be, and neither could find balance because the men in their lives wouldn’t allow them to be in-between.
It happened everytime I encountered a crying mother of any colour who was distraught because her husband would get away with not lifting a finger on her behalf because a man doesn’t do women’s work.
It happened the time I offended someone for asking a man where the cooking pot was in the kitchen and he stared at me bewildered, and they pulled me aside to say that it was rude for me to ask him, because men never enter the kitchen.
It happened when I learned that a girl growing up in South Africa is more likely to get raped then learn to read. It happened when I read the statistics on sexual abuse, and violence, and trafficking. It happened as I watched the dear, beautiful hearts of women get shut down by those in their lives who ruled with an iron fist, and were threatened by their success.
It happened when I realised that despite my gifts, some people in the church would still ask me to keep quiet because of my gender. Just like it happened when my little brother told me that feminism is thrown around at his Bible school like a curse word–a label for the kind of woman you don’t want to be with.
I was never going to be a feminist, but then my world got bigger, my theology got deeper, and my love for people grew. I knew as long as these situations were realities in our world, I was going to have to be some-kind-of-feminist.
After I moved from South Africa to the Netherlands, I went from one cultural extreme to another. I learned I wasn’t truly a feminist, every time I didn’t reach for my wallet at the end of a date (until the awkward pause was long enough that I finally clued in), everytime I was surprised that men didn’t hold the door for me, or felt timid when they didn’t walk me down the stairs to say good-bye.
I remember laughing out loud when I found myself hefting a huge piece of plywood through a hardware store while in high heels and the men around just observed my struggle instead of offering a hand. I am pretty sure I gave them all a dirty look and said, “This would never happen in Canada.”
I was so thankful that I wasn’t a feminist in the sense of the word as I had always understood it when I was stranded at a train station in the middle of the night, and a guy let me hop on the back of a bike and cycled me all the way home. He kind-of rescued me, but I didn’t feel patronised, I just felt safe.
I think what we are all learning is that, like every other important issue, feminism itself covers a large spectrum of extremes. I don’t fit all the stereotypes or viewpoints. I am still lazy in the kitchen, I still get super worked up over the gender stereotypes and the role of women in the church, I secretly hope that a guy who takes me out on a date will buy my beer (but don’t hold it against him if he doesn’t), I expect my boss to respect me, I love it when someone holds the door for me, I respect the men in my life who speak to me like an equal, and I will continue to advocate, talk about, and fight for the rights of individuals in the sex industry and those exploited through prostitution, human trafficking and pornography… because it is an injustice against women, and it is an injustice against men.
I was never going to be a feminist, because I never thought I would need to be. Then my world got bigger, and I saw that there are people in every part of society who need to know they they are equal and worthy, deserving of respect and opportunity. I was never going to be a feminist, but then I met so many women I started to love them as much as I loved men and wanted to see them treated as equal image bearers of Creator God.
I was never going to be a feminist, but it happened, and I am okay with it now because I’ve realised it is part of my bigger identity of loving God and loving people.
This post is a link-up to a three-day synchroblog devoted to exploring feminism and its importance. You can read more and join the link-up here:
Feminism and Me: On Tuesday, February 26, link up at J.R. Goudeau’s blog, loveiswhatyoudo.com, and write about these questions: What is your experience with feminism? What’s a story or a memory or a person that you associate with that word? Why does it have negative or positive connotations for you? How do you define the term, either academically or personally? What writers have you read whose definitions you want to bring out? Or, if you don’t have a definition, what are some big questions you have?
Why It Matters: On Wednesday, February 27, link up at Danielle Vermeer’s blog, fromtwotoone.com, and write about these questions: What is at stake in this discussion? Why is feminism important to you? Are you thinking about your children or your sisters or the people that have come before you? Or, why do you not like the term? What are you concerned we’re not focusing on or we’re losing sight of when we talk about feminism? Why do you feel passionately about this topic?
What You Learned: On Thursday, February 28, link up at Preston Yancey’s blog, seeprestonblog.om, and write about these questions: What surprised you this week? What did you take away from the discussion? What blog posts did you find particularly helpful? What questions do you still have?