There have been a lot of marches lately with celebrity speakers and organizers that are saying that they are concerned about feminism and the gains made in our country for the rights of women and children. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of these women have been marching. Many knitted pink hats and wore them to show their solidarity and more than a few actually wore hats that were replicas of a woman’s vagina. They marched, they spoke, and then they went back to their lives. I realize that there are many different theories and styles of feminism but I wanted a view of feminism in its simplest form so I looked it up in the dictionary.
Definition of feminism, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism
1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests
Based on this definition any person that is politically active, such as voting or holding office or helping draft legislation etc. and are working toward the rights of women and children is a feminist. Any person that gives money or property to aid in the financing of such political endeavors is a feminist. Of course each woman has her own reasons for marching in the parades and there is a plethora of websites on social media to tell you some of those reasons. As you may well have guessed I did not march in any parade, although my young son and I did take a walk around the park that day as it was such a beautiful day here in Nebraska. I hadn’t been out of the house in weeks except to take my son to and from school as I still have quite a cough hanging on my chest. I doubt anyone would describe our walk as a march though.
I am sixty-one years old and was a young girl when the “women’s movement” was quite active throughout the fifties, sixties, and seventies. I remember women burning their bras to get the attention of the news media. I remember women screaming anti-war slogans and anti-police slogans and anti-establishment slogans. I remember life before Planned Parenthood was in every state and before they offered the service of abortions. I also remember life before child support payments and before alimony was so common. I remember when no-fault divorces were not common in most states. I lived through those years. Based on the simplest definition of a feminist I could consider myself one. I have always applauded women in government and voted to help some get elected to public office. I have always agreed that a woman should have the right to have a career or to work for pay and should receive equal pay with men if the job she is doing is equal in all ways and vice-versa. I worked before I got married and for a while after I was married. When the children began to arrive in our family I decided not to work outside the home as I always felt that there would be time enough for full-time motherhood and a career after the children were in school. You see I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom because my Mom worked all my growing up years and I hated her for that! My life was quite miserable at times because she was not there in my home doing all the things that most Moms were doing back then. She preferred working to get away from sibling fights and baking cookies and I felt cheated out of being with my Mom.
You might say that she was a feminist but honestly I don’t think she ever burned a bra. She did work hard to help put my sister through college. She did work hard to pay my medical expenses from being ill as a teen. She didn’t, however, have a career as such rather she worked at various jobs. She also became a foster Mom after I got married. In fact for nearly ten years she and my Dad fostered several families of children. It was hard work and the pay certainly wasn’t enough to cover the expenses of taking care of the children. She understood much about hyperactivity and abandonment issues and attachment disorders long before they were buzz words in mental health. She and my Dad opened a full-time daycare after Dad retired for those working Moms who needed good and safe and decent childcare. She never charged much money and to be honest I imagine that some parents never paid her. Truth be told she and my Dad were more like grandparents than babysitters and their daycare was open seventeen years until my Dad passed away at the age of eighty-two. Yes, I guess one could say that my Mom was a type of feminist.
During a recent conversation I was told that I should be thanking the women’s movement because of all the legal changes that have taken place in the past fifty years. Laws that make the parent that walks away from their children pay child support and alimony as well as banking laws that have changed so that I can have my own account and can own a home and own a car. While I may enjoy some of the changes I certainly wouldn’t say that I should go out and march with a pink hat on my head to say thanks! No, the kind of feminism I admire, my type of feminism, is much more mundane and more about being in the background than those who like attention and obviously get a lot of media coverage. I believe that every person, man or woman, should do all that they can to make the world a better place for all to live. I believe that every generation has challenges to meet and to overcome. I believe that reproductive rights have been my generations challenge. I am all in favor of birth control but the taking of a life, even an unborn life is wrong. Life, all life, is sacred and should be honored. I believe that the aging population should have equal access to medical treatment and not be rationed as it often is under universal health plans. I believe that there is no right to die because life is precious and must be protected. I believe that people who are ill must be cared for and given good health care. But all of my beliefs just don’t make me a modern feminist so here are some examples of the kind of women I admire, women I would call true feminists who are making a difference in the world around them.
I admire the woman who takes good care of her children, who faithfully changes their diapers and feeds them and washes their clothes and kisses their boo-boos and rocks them to sleep and reads to them and encourages them to be who God created them to be. She doesn’t get paid for her work but her hours are long and exhausting. She puts her life on hold for a while because she knows the importance that a Mom can be in a child’s life. I admire her wit and her charm and her input to the next generation. I admire the foster mom who is hanging in there both day and night trying to help children who have had their lives torn apart. Many times it is not pleasant work, many times it is working with children who have life-long scars and yet foster moms hope for better for the children in her care. Every time one is ripped from her arms that she has loved and cared for she loses just a little bit of herself. The children often don’t remember her goodness, toil, sweat, tears, or pain and neither does most of society. And I admire the woman who chooses to have her child be adopted rather than aborted, now that is true self-sacrifice.
I admire the woman who volunteers in her community. She does much unpaid work. She reads to the elderly, mentors a parentless child, checks on the elderly relatives and neighbors and makes sure they are doing well. She doesn’t get paid for the homeless people she feeds or for the countless quilts she makes for them. She doesn’t get paid for all the knitting and crocheting of hats for babies both here in the States and in faraway countries where babies die because their homes are unheated and they catch cold which leads to pneumonia. She didn’t knit a pink hat to wear in a woman’s march but a pink hat for a precious little girl in Zambia or Haiti, or Romania that needs the hat to stay warm and healthy. She does other volunteer work too, she directs a choir or maybe she is a participant of the choir and helps her community have something inspiring to come and listen to. She is a woman of many talents but gets paid nothing except thanks from grateful hearts.
I admire the woman who helps her husband on the farm or ranch. She is out there in all kinds of weather helping to check on the cattle making sure that they are fed enough and have enough water to drink so that the rest of the world can enjoy a hamburger. Or she may be found in a tractor helping to harvest the wheat crop so that the world has bread to eat. She works hard, as hard as the men in her family do and still has a smile on her face and a softness about her that makes you want to be her friend. I admire her because she is strong but few see or appreciate her strength. I admire the woman who owns her own business and works to fill a need in her community. I admire the women who are doctors and nurses and physician assistants and mental health counselors who are making a real impact in people’s lives. I admire the woman who help run their husband’s business and still finds time to be a friend to the friendless.
I admire the teacher of my children. She has children of her own but she still has time for my child. She is a natural encourager and a mentor and she deals with the messes that life brings to the children in her classroom with comfort and grace and strength. She knows about the parents fight last night and she calms the fears of their child the next day. She knows who is on drugs and tries to help their child cope with the messy lives of the parents. She does this year in and year out and gets paid very little in comparison to the giant responsibilities on her shoulders. Or perhaps she is a college professor that is trying to broaden your young adult’s mind and helping them to see the potential they have to make a difference in this world. She then goes home to her own family exhausted and yet expected to meet the needs there as well. I admire her grace.
Are some of the women that have been marching in women’s marches doing some of the things I admire? Maybe or maybe not. Feminism in its simplest form is enhancing equality of the sexes and participating in positive changes to make the lives of others better and the women I have described are doing exactly that. This is the kind of feminist I admire and I aspire to be each and every day. Most of us are too busy to march wearing a pink hat of solidarity. We all want equality and we work for that every day. The right to live, the right to have clean water, the right to be healthy, the right to help our sisters in other countries as well as in our own neighborhood, that is the equality I fight for and it can be achieved. One thing I have realized as I put my thoughts down is that for each and every woman who marched with her pink knitted hat there was a woman who gave birth to her. She knew it was her body and her choice and yet she still chose to let her daughter be born. Movements come and movements go but the woman who hangs in there and does the things she can to improve the lives of those in her world is my ideal of a feminist.