You thought I meant the four letter one, huh? Or the three letter one? Nope! I mean the word FEMINIST.
Most of the time, I love being a woman. In high school, my best friend and I would pore over the book Making Faces, spending hours crafting various looks from tubes of concealer and blushes and eyeshadows. We delighted in the feminine pursuit of shopping and finding clothes that flattered our bodies, made us feel confident, and brought a swing to our step. Even dating was in some ways an exercise in self-acceptance, as we quickly grew to realize what boys really did appreciate the fact that we loved aggressive girl-punk-rock, and which ones actually thought we were just silly girls.
I’ve always had a feminist edge, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m a feminist. I’m still shocked by something that happened to me in college: I was working on my Bachelor’s degree in 2008 at Cal State Northridge, and we had a “women and men in the media” class. My teacher asked everyone in the class who was a feminist to raise their hands. Out of 32 students, one person raised their hand. That person was me. I couldn’t quite understand why being a feminist was seen as such a bad thing. In fact, one of my first boyfriends dumped me because I was a “feminazi” because I told him that females could be DJs just like men, and he felt that DJs should only be male. My definition of feminist is somebody who values, respects, and appreciates that women should have the exact same rights as men. I’m not standing on street corners burning my bra or refusing to shave my legs (though quite frankly, if women want to do that, go for it. (And shaving your legs totally sucks, so I can see the appeal in that,). I once saw a quote that said that all people born from women should be feminists… and I agree.
As I near the end of my pregnancy, I’ve had some time to reflect on body image and beauty standards for women. When other people see you are pregnant, they feel they have a free pass to comment on your appearance as it now pertains to two people: you and a baby. I’m used to rude comments on my appearance as a woman of size, and thankfully while I don’t experience it often (apparently I “carry it well”, another thing I hear a lot), I’ve noticed that as I have just under 4.5 weeks to go, the comments about the size of my body, appearance, and bump are picking up. I also heard comments about my food choices in my early pregnancy, but anyone who dares comment on my dietary choices now might receive a swift kick to the head. I don’t want my daughter to be walking through the mall hearing teenage boys make “oink” sounds behind her back. If she chooses to become pregnant one day, I also don’t want her to have to hear “Wow, you still have four weeks to go? You look ready now!”. I don’t want her to hear about the size of her breasts, how she has such a pretty face, or how things would be better “if only” she lost a little weight. However, I’ve accepted the sad reality that because she is female, she will hear these things. In Amy’s Schumer’s movie, Train Wreck, the main character’s sister shares that she found out her unborn baby is a girl. Amy shares her excitement and says something to the extent of “That’s wonderful!”. Her sister immediately says “No, it’s not! She’s totally screwed!” and Amy says, “Yeah, you’re right, she’s screwed.” The actual dialogue in the movie is much more succinct, but basically the gist of the scene is, yeah, she’s a female, she’s already got a few challenges stacked against her just because of her gender. While I am thrilled to be having a baby girl, I admit I have some of the same hesitations. I’ve lived an amazing life thus far, but have I experienced sexism or problems because I’m female? You betcha. We all have… and I’m sure even men have experienced things that suck because they’re guys.
Jennifer Weiner wrote this letter to her daughters, and it made me sniffle because it sums up so eloquently what I want my daughter to know. As we’re just weeks away from meeting her, I want her to know it’s ok to be a girl. It’s ok to love the color pink, and it’s also okay to hate wearing a bra. It’s ok to be a feminist. It’s ok to question the status quo, to be angry that she may be reduced to her appearance rather than the sum of her parts. I haven’t even seen her yet and I know that she is beautiful, not because of what she looks like, but because of who she is. She will be courageous, and strong, and intelligent. She will be creative in her own ways, independent in her own ways, opinionated in her own ways. And she will grow up with a mom and dad that encourage her to be herself, and to raise her hand when a teacher asks if she is a feminist. And with any luck, hopefully she won’t be the only person in the room to raise her hand.