Get your mind out of the gutter. The F word I am talking about is feminism. My mother is a feminist, but I am not sure she knows it. She will after she reads this article. And my father, well, the same goes for him: feminist. My father might be most shocked to learn that not only is he a feminist, but he also raised me to be one.
Heck, I didn’t know I was a feminist until a few years ago. It won’t be hard to imagine the shock at my claim. My father is the last person who might come to mind when the word “feminist” is spoken. I remember him responding to the topic of feminism when I was younger with gems like “if women want equal rights, then they can open their own damn doors.” Awesome.
Resurgence of feminism
From the recent NYT article, The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In, to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In mania, to outrage at women breadwinners, to entire HBR’s dedicated to the phenomenon of women in power (honestly, I could go on and on), the resurgence of feminism seems to be everywhere.
I have had far too many arguments with people about what being a feminist is or is not. I don’t want to have another one. So, let me set the record straight with this nice narrative from the author of Wonder Woman, Debora Spar:
“Feminism wasn’t supposed to make us miserable. It was supposed to make us free; the challenge lies in recognizing that having choices carries the responsibility to make them wisely, striving not for perfection or the ephemeral all, but for lives and loves that matter.”
Freedom + opportunity = feminism
My father is a veteran. He retired after 25 years, serving in most branches of the US Military. My sisters and I never took our country’s freedom for granted. My father taught me that freedom is gained from hard fought wars. Freedom is earned, often with bloodshed, and should never be taken for granted.
My mother was raised by immigrant parents. Her father ruled the roost. Men held the power and women followed the rules. Men were free. Women were not. My mother didn’t agree with that mentality. She went to business school and trained to be a bookkeeper.
My mother was a working mother before working mothers were a phenomenon. I remember hearing one of my aunts say that my mother worked because she had to work. Even at a young age I knew that wasn’t true. My mother worked because she wanted to work. Working outside of her home gave her access and freedom.
How the F word manifests in my life
Being a feminist does not mean that I don’t want my husband to open the occasional door for me. And, at work, it doesn’t mean that I would advocate hiring a less-qualified woman over a more qualified man. The implication of feminism is freedom through equal access to opportunities. Not more freedom or more access. Not better freedom or better access. Equal freedom and equal access.
Simply put, feminism is freedom through equal access to opportunities.
Whether they realized it or not, my parents showed me that freedom is something that I need to fight for and cherish. Freedom gives me choices. And access gives me the ability to make choices that make a difference. With my parents as my examples and my earliest personal champions, I learned how to fight for and earn equal freedom for myself and now for others.
I want my daughters to know the F word
I learned 10 life lessons from watching and listening to my parents. These are the lessons that have made me the feminist I am today. All 10 combined have leveled the playing field for me to make great choices; choices that have given me the freedom and access I need to pursue my dreams. These are the lessons I hope to intentionally pass onto my daughters, who take their own feminism for granted.
1. Get a good education inside and outside of the classroom.
2. Always have the ability to earn your own money.
3. Always have a bank account in your own name.
4. You will only get out of something what you put into it.
5. Never ever quit.
6. Ask questions even when others do not.
7. Question people in authority.
8. Do not look to others to define you.
9. Accept who you are and what makes you tick.
10. Expect and demand a lot from your life.
I want my daughters to know the road my mother and I travelled on our own paths to feminism.
But, mostly, my wish for them is to live feminism through their freedom to make choices based on the equal access they have to opportunities.
Got a comment on this article? Connect with Patti Fletcher at @pkfletcher.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Patti Fletcher is Co-Founder and CEO of PSDNetwork, LLC. PSDNetwork, LLC is committed to being the first place women turn to make startup, leadership and management decisions. Patti has 15 years experience in applications, big data, and technology with global corporations and helps people and organizations transform “what’s next” into reality.