I have always considered myself a feminist. In school a lot of my friends didn’t – they regarded feminism as sort of passe, a relic of another time. I believed that everyone should have the same opportunities and freedoms, regardless of gender. And I thought that believing that made me a feminist. I still do think that believing that makes me a feminist, actually.
I’m not sure that much of my life has been dictated by my feminism. I haven’t marched or published a feminist zine or anything like that. But in my own way, I have expressed my desire to make a world that is more equitable for everyone. I have exercised my choices in the way that best worked for me, and done my best to support other women who were doing the same thing. And I recognize that many other women before me fought so that I could have the choices that I do.
My feminism became much less complacent when I had children. Suddenly, gender issues played a much bigger role in my daily life. My decisions became much harder and more complex, and my time and resources became much more limited. I had to choose where I invested my time more carefully and deliberately. I had to consider the impact of my decisions on my children. And other people suddenly had a whole lot more opinions about what I did.
If I worked, I was a bad mother, and even still my job commitment was viewed as suspect. If I didn’t work, then I was setting back the cause and wasting my education. If I took on too many obligations, I was failing myself and not setting appropriate boundaries. So I decided that there was really only one thing to do – please myself. I am not willing to live in a way that doesn’t work for me in order to please others or fulfill an externally-assigned role. I do consider the impact of my choices, and the statement they make. But I place equal weight on my own needs, and the needs of my family.
Having children didn’t make me less of a feminist. In fact, it made me more equality-minded and more concerned about the legacy I am leaving. But that legacy is now much more personal to me. It is no longer about hand-waving arguments and intellectual discourse. Instead, it is about the way that my daughter and son look at me, and at each other, based on the life that I lead. It is about what my grandchildren (should I have them) will think of me and learn from me, good and bad. It is about making it that far with my sanity intact.
Feminism is very much about choice. It is about protecting our rights to make up our own minds, it is about making up our own minds, and it about honouring the choices that others make. As long as our choices do not intrude on others’ lives, or step on someone else’s rights, they remain ours alone to make. If I decide to stay at home, or work at home, or work outside the home, or participate in an off-the-grid cashless community, these are my choices to make. They are also your choices to make, and we can make different ones and that’s totally cool. We can also change our mind and switch up our choices. Still cool.
In the world I live in, there are not a whole lot of great, affordable childcare options. In the world I live in, women don’t always have access to much maternity leave, and when they receive it, they may not be able to afford to take it. In the world I live in, sometimes your current career isn’t working and you need a change. In the world I live in, people get laid off or fall ill or have to move across the country. Life happens, and we have to deal with it. Working to create better support systems is a feminist thing to do, and it is a necessary response to the difficulties we face. But until the day those support systems are in place, making compromises and structuring your world as best you can is also a feminist thing to do.
I am a feminist and I am a mother. I believe that I can be both. And I believe I have the right to choose to be both in the best way I can, right now. I hope that, one day, the world does a better job of affording this right to all mothers.