Thursday, November 25, 2010

Unassuming Feminism

I never thought I'd one day call myself a feminist. When I was a kid, "feminist" was a dirty word, but not the way you may think.

When I was growing up, as far as I knew the world seemed to be split into two kinds of people: the normal people who believed that women were equal to men in every way and should be treated as such, and the scary uber-militant-man-hating-"feminazis". (I apologize if the term offends anyone; I'm trying to illustrate a childhood view, and that is the term I heard used for these women when I was young.) Feminists were the women who went around trying to convince us that "All intercourse is rape!" and "All men are potential rapists!" and "Marriage is nothing but slavery!" and "Down with men! Women shall rule the world!" You know the type.

Given that this was the image that was called a feminist in my childhood, it's no wonder I grew up never realizing that I was surrounded by a wonderful class of feminists: the ones who just never question that men and women are equals, that women should be treated the same as men, paid as much as men, taught the same classes and skills and encouraged to go into the same fields as men. I grew up surrounded by unassuming feminists of all genders, and I have reaped the benefits of this wonderful formative environment.

I never questioned that I could love science and math (and trounce all the boys in my school at those subjects).
I never questioned that I could prefer to build and launch model rockets instead of playing with dolls.
I never questioned that I preferred sci-fi novels to "the babysitter's club" and other "little girl" books.
I never questioned that I would be able to get a PhD in any science I chose, or an MD, or any degree I decided to go for.
I never questioned that I would keep my career when and if I got married.
I never questioned that someday, I might be the breadwinner of my family.

Some time in the past few years, I discovered that the whole world isn't like that. (Naive, I know.) I discovered that not everyone just knows, deep down, that we're equal. I discovered the horrible truth that there are people in my own community who believe I should set aside my career plans so that I can have children. (Because everyone knows that women must have babies, and you can't be a good mother if you're a busy doctor) Somehow I discovered that what I call "normal," the rest of the world calls...


And you know what? I kind of like the sound of that.

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