Sunday, December 16, 2012

Our Right to Choose

I used to think I was a super feminist. My little brother used to have all sorts of names for me, teasing me about my need to push my agenda and the ideas of leaders in the women's rights movement. "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." I had that hanging on my wall. My mom would laugh under her breath, never taking it too seriously, knowing it was a phase.
At work, I am part of a leadership team that is about 50% women. I spent many years thinking these women were my competitors and feeling a need to be superior to them. There were personality clashes and some really ugly talking behind backs and other junior high behavior. It felt like a race for attention, accolades, and promotions. A few years ago, one of the women I had butted heads with for so long told me she respected and admired me, and it blew my mind. I secretly had always been jealous of her success and saw her as a great example in so many things, and yet felt pitted against her and would not admit my need to have her on my side. When she took that step to talk to me and express those things, my perception of being a woman in the workplace changed dramatically. I wanted to be like her, openly. And I told myself I would find a way to take up the gauntlet-I would be a leader of women, I would not keep competing with coworkers based on nothing more than our gender.
Having a daughter has reinforced my need to be a feminist and yet to redefine what that means to me. I want Clara to have every choice in the world when it comes to career and love and life. And I want her to know that getting married and becoming a mom can be choices she makes along with or in lieu of a career. My choice to work full time as a mom is right for me and for my family. She'll build her family her way.
I saw something online today that really bugged me. A woman was making jokes about another woman with a lot of children, making snide remarks about making sure she had birth control. My blood boiled for a few minutes. It is what prompted this post.
I am sad when I see women not supporting and celebrating each other's choices. I want Clara to have the right to have 7 screaming kids if she wants them. I want her to have the right to have no kids if she wants. And I want her to be able to make all those choices with the support of her sisters-the women she makes friends with and the women who know nothing about her and see her in a store.
When we joined the heart world, we joined a sorority of heart sisters who have brought such joy and knowledge and support to each other. I often feel so very socially awkward and have a hard time putting myself in new situations without a safety net of friends or family. But I have grown to see that there are people who, through a shared sense of unexpected identity, think nothing of what I look like, what I have accomplished or what I believe. They welcomed Clara and my family immediately and offered support with no judgment. And when I think about what it means to be a mom and the first example Clara will absorb of being a woman....I am just glad to have gone through those phases and come out stronger and hopefully wiser.
Clara will know that she is a divine gift, and that being a woman is special and important. That she deserves respect and love. She will be taught to be strong in her own choices and stronger still in not putting down the choices of others.
As a feminist, it is my right to be bald like a boy.
And super cute anyway.