I was born in the late 1960s and as such was a daughter of America’s feminism movement of the 1970s. Probably not literally, though. Like Lindley, I don’t think I have ever actually had a conversation with my mom about her self-identification — or not — as a feminist. Regardless, I was definitely surrounded by feminist ideals as I came of age in the 1980s. As I went off to college at a university that made Berkeley look conservative, I took with me my self-attached FEMINIST label and convictions to be strong, self-directed, self-determinate, independent, and successful in any profession I chose. I had grown up being told — by my parents and society — that the world should be open to me regardless of my gender. I believed it and I was going to take full advantage of it.
Interesting, though, the choice thing. While it was clear I was “allowed” to choose any profession I wanted, society was also telling me that that was the only decision I had to make. The rest…well, I could have it all! It was the era of the Super Mom, where women brought home the bacon, fried it up in a pan, colored their hair because they were worth it, and baked their kids cupcakes and lead Girl Scout troops after work. There was so much excitement and empowerment and cheering from the feminists blazing the trail ahead of me. No longer was I just expected to be a housewife. Now I could have a career AND a family! YAY ME! YAY US!
Behind the fanfare, though, I saw something else. While it was awesome that women now had a choice, instead of choosing, most women seemed to be adding. Very counter to everything that surrounded me, I distinctly remember deciding before I left my teens that I would do things differently. I was going to choose. Career or family but not both, not at the same time. I did not want to have it all because, frankly, it looked exhausting. Feminism was about having choices, right? So making a choice still allowed me to call myself a feminist, right?
It became clear to me pretty quickly that my decision to either have a career OR a family was not an acceptable one. Well, at least not a feminist one. Somehow I was still being oppressed by choosing one over the other? So I learned to keep my family plans to myself. A number of working moms, trail blazers a couple decades my senior, got huffy when I suggested I would stop working if I ever had kids. I got the distinct impression that that was NOT what all their hard work had been for. Suddenly I was ungrateful and selfish. And definitely not a feminist. So I dropped their banner and haven’t picked it up since.
Sadly, the times I grew up in have resulted in “feminist” having a less than desirable connation for me. I am as eager to call myself a feminist as I am to own being a Christian. But the truth is, at their core, their foundation, I am both. But both terms can drag along such baggage and so quickly sort me into an assumed category of beliefs that may or may not be true about me. And so today, at 44, married, and having chosen career instead of children, I am simply, happily, Toni.
Toni is a dear friend of mine and an avid blogger. Check out her blog Woodhaven Ramblings.