I am not a feminist. I have never identified with the concept or the movement. In fact I have always believed the statement “Feminism, good idea … poorly executed!” My children have never heard a good word out of my mouth about Gloria Steinem. The only thing I think I have in common with Betty Friedan is our disdain for Gloria Steinem.
Maybe it’s semantics but I believe in human rights. Understandably times have changed for women and often the feminist movement is praised as a result. With the good comes the bad. Today we tell girls they can have it all. But is it true? Do they even realize that sacrifices sometimes have to be made? Yes the time has come where more Doctors graduating from medical school are women. That is wonderful news to the feminists. Tell me this though. What is given up to attain that position? Time. First an undergrad degree. Then med school. The residency. Fast track keeners can maybe do it in 10 years. To be a GP. Then what percentage of men and women go on to specialize? My GP was a woman but my Urologist is a man, Gynaecologist is a man, eye surgeon is a man. Why? Because it takes time. Which is the most precious thing we have. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Women can have children for a limited time. Men can be fathers into their 90’s. Time. I had children young. I was a grandmother at a young age. I retired young. I have been told I am lucky. Was I lucky to have a child at 19 while everyone else partied and travelled for another 10 years? Was I lucky to have $40 thousand in student loans after finishing school? I didn’t need feminists to tell me I needed an education. That is common sense. And my parents perhaps influenced that “common sense”. Having children was a choice. And heartbreaking. A miscarriage, 2 ectopic pregnancies which required surgery and the baby that died as I held him. The 3 children I was blessed to raise were a choice. Retiring young was a choice. Made in my 20’s. When we decided to save a percentage of our income no matter what the sacrifice. And there were sacrifices.
The major flaw of feminism is this. You can’t have it all. By telling our daughters only half of the truth we are doing them a disservice. Because if they spend their lives thinking they deserve… they will never understand sacrifice. Making things easier for girls can sometimes cause ramifications for our boys. Rights should never be about gender. In fact, the word has a harsh and negative feel. My Rights! We live in a world where we believe our girls should have the same rights as boys. But by what virtue do we deserve? Opportunity is a great word. Our children have opportunities. We are not all given the same opportunities. But they are all around us. Available. You see, there is no such thing as a missed opportunity. If you don’t take it when you see it, it doesn’t disappear. The next person takes it. So while opportunities have been opened for both sexes we must ask the question… does feminism pave the way for all. Or is it still a closed group. And while the women of the world band together in the “Me too” movement do you think of the silent victims. The men who are silent who suffer sexual and physical abuse at the hand of women. Or a man. What do they sacrifice to come forward. It’s not the same in their world. Does feminism somehow help these people? The bottom line is that men and women need each other. We all need each other on this planet. And we are all equally important in the eyes of God. I am not blind to the plight of people who are kept down or held back. But my belief is that their right to achieve has nothing to do with their sex or colour or race or religion. It is their human right.
Some years back I noticed trend of sorts. When I would load supplies into my truck at Home Depot, olfer men seldom stopped to offer assistance. But what was very surprising was how many young men would stop to help me. Keep in mind I renovated a lot of propertie so I am hauling lumber, drywall, ceramic tile, toilets, vanities or any number of other things. Heavy and somewhat awkward supplies. Then I began to notice who opened doors for me. Teenaged boys. Young men. Twenties and thirties. Some older guys as well. More often than not the 40 to 65 year old group were less than frthcoming. Before you get all twisted about the ages they are just guestimates. Anyways, I was talking to Sam about this. He had a very unique outlook on my musings. You see the young men were born long after the start of the feminist movement. They were still taught respect for women and basic common decency, but they had something more. Most had mothers who went out to work. It was the norm. More importantly though younger men were more likely to have a female boss. So there wasnèt really anything odd abou it. Again, the norm. I truly believe the feminist movement has had a hand in raising quite a lovely generation of young men. The older men were from a different time and lived through the changes. A little harder perhaps. I deal with things in my usual manner. If a man gets on an elevator before me I just say I’ll just wait for the next one as he must be in a big hurry. If a man lets a door slam in my face I step back with feigned surprise , shrug my shoulders and comment how things have changed. If a group of men walk towards me on a sidewalk and don’t slide into single file formation, I just stand still until they do that sideways shuffle which is common in a group of alpha males these days. But let me tell you. When a group of fourteen year old boys was coming into a McDonalds on day as I was walking out and each one stopped and let me pass by as one of them held the door for me… I thought my heart would explode. Because this next generation of young men are truly showing that the world is going to be okay.
There are “bad” people in the world. There always have been and there always will be. Men as a group aren’t trying to control us. They aren’t the enemy. In fact I think quite a few of them quite adore us women. They certainly make fools of themselves to get our attention sometimes. You kind of have to look at our history. Our biology. Men are now and always have been protectors. Its in their DNA I think. Thousands of years of being the stronger sex have created a certain role for them. Get a woman. Create offspring to secure your future. Protect them. The fact that men want to get lots of women also goes back thousands of years. Then a mans chance of lots of offspring increases. The tribe increases and security increases as well. With strength in numbers. Modern “civilized” society created a gender role stereotype and it developed over time. Feminism has started to change the rules. Perhaps. We need to keep in mind though that anger and bullying are not the way to create the changes. We need to deal with people on an individual level. Men and women. In a country like Canada we can cause change through actions. All because we live in an incredible place where we protect each other and anyone who wants to succeed, can. Through hard work and determination. We need to stop making blanket statements and expect the men of the world to drop everything to make our wishes come true. If you are a woman who thinks we need more female Doctors, go to medical school. Or help a woman you know financially to get through medical school. Perhaps have a daughter and encourage her to become a physician. Don’t…sit and whine or make off cuff statements. It doesn’t help.
Mohandas Ghandi was an early defender of civil rights and is known for his passive and non violent approach to resistance, protests and ultimately to change. He said it best. “All the tendencies in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” People incorrectly attribute a shortened and condensed quote to the Mahatma. “Be the change you wish o see in the world.”
Regardless of the legitimacy of either quote, the words bear heeding on our part. We can change the world for good. We can be a part of the movement by choosing to change ourselves. Our thoughts, biases. antiquated prejudices, follow the leader mindlessness. All contribute to a wearing down of values and ethics. We need not police others based on our own accepted prejudices rather we need to police our own thoughts, words and actions. I read a quote not long ago and I am sad to say I do not know the source. Its authorship is debated and attributed to any number of sources. It is incredibly powerful. It reads “When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” In essence while we all feel we are inclusive and caring and want equality we need to do more than pay lip service. Could you give up all you have worked for to help others? Do you feel you deserve all that you have? Do you attribute any small part of your own success to others? I was married young. Had kids young. Got an education. Had a lucrative career. Retired young. Financially comfortable in my middle class life. How did I do this? Hard work and frugality. What helped me do this? I am smart. I was born that way. I am white. I was born that way. I live in Canada. I was born here because my parents chose to come here for a better life. Pretty much all of the opportunities I was given were completely out of my control. If I was born as a black woman in a poor African nation hard work and frugality wouldn’t have given me the same life. I am blessed. Truly blessed. Any yet I don’t know if I could give up all my worldly goods to make the lives of others better. My daughter always says I am nice but nothing could be farther from the truth. I am generous. Unfortunately it doesn’t always come from the right spot. More so I feel some guilt that my life is as good as it is. I have faced adversity but nothing that compares to so many in the world. I have never been in danger of living on the street. I have been with out food or clothing. I have suffered loss as have so many. What I have learned is that money isn’t important in the big scheme of things. I’m not ready to give it all away but I will try to fight for others as much as I am able. Just not as a feminist. As a person. Starting from the inside out.