I think God has a sense of humor.I knew where I was going when I was younger. The feminist movement was well-established by the time I was growing up. Instead of Carol Brady, I was raised on Wonder Woman and Claire Huxtable. I watched films with strong female characters that were well-employed and independent. I wanted to go to grad school and see the world. And on a date I always, always paid my own way.
I was a feminist. I didn’t hate men, though I confess I didn’t respect them either. When one opened a door for me, I always said “I got two hands; I can take care of myself.” When my family said that if I got a PhD no man would have me, I shrugged and said that if they didn’t want me then they didn’t matter. I simply imagined that I would tell my own daughter differently. I would teach her that she didn’t need a relationship to be complete. I would teach her to fight the oppression and inequality in the workplace. I would teach her to open her own doors.
But I didn’t have a daughter; I had a son. On the day he was born, I stared at his tiny face for hours. A boy. What on earth was I going to do with a boy? I think on that day God was laughing.
After he was born, I realized that I needed to rethink my attitudes towards the sexes. This baby boy was innocent. He never told me I couldn’t do something because I was a woman or not to worry my “pretty little head” about a problem. He’d never ordered for me at a restaurant without even asking what kind of food I liked. If there was one male in the world who did not treat me as if I was less, then maybe there were more. It was then that I believe that I became a real feminist. My son taught me how.
It is a stereotype to imagine a feminist as a man hater. Whether you are female or male, if you believe that women should have the same opportunities as a man, then you are a feminist. Like the other social movements of the last century, the Women’s Movement was and is about the belief that all humans are created equal. It’s about, ladies, respecting yourself.
There is a Greek aphorism that essentially translates as “Know thyself.” In any relationship-romantic, familial, work-knowing and respecting yourself comes first. In practice what this means is deciding, completely and honestly, who you are at the core of your being and what your values are. Instead of thinking about what kind of relationship you want, it means thinking about who you are whether you are in a relationship or not. Do you have career goals? Do you have hobbies and friends? Being a feminist in a relationship means, being yourself-a complete self-first. In short, it means getting a life and then living it. When and if a relationship comes along, you will be a complete human being with something to offer your partner and the world.
The boys outnumber me in my household now. My son is a teenager and I’ve raised him to always offer to pay on a date. And I’ve raised him to be a feminist and to respect his partner’s ideas and dreams. I will still see the world; I just will do it with my partner. I am still a feminist because I believe that all humans are equal, male and female. I am a woman and I still roar.
Dr. Mica Gould is an English professor at Grambling State University.