With the thought of today being International Women’s Day, I pulled my old NOW shirt out of the bottom of a dresser drawer last night. It’s wrinkled and worn. In my teens and early twenties feminism was a big part of my life and my identity. As I looked at the old tee from those days, I began to think “is all this feminism and activism still necessary?”
Then there was my answer: My 10-month-old daughter crawled into the room, babbling low and deep as if to say, yes, Mama, it’s all still necessary.
I am fortunate to be married to a great guy who believes in feminism, is dedicated to equal parenting and household duties, and nurtures every hope and dream of our young daughters because he truly believes men and women are equal. I am also fortunate to work with a group of strong and intelligent women as well as men who respect that strength and intelligence.
Still, sexism drifts into my life, usually in the form of comments.
“You might want to think it over a little more. I mean, you just got back from maternity leave.” –A male (former) coworker in response to a business decision I made.
“You’re so lucky your husband will babysit for you.” –A female acquaintance.
“I won’t set foot in that church because women shouldn’t be pastors.” –A male community member.
Occasional sexist comments, while inappropriate and frustrating, are nothing compared to the vicious sexism and misogyny taking place in many places around our world. According to the United Nations, globally, more than 200 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone some form of genital mutilation. Worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
Here at home and throughout the world, we owe it to our daughters to keep gender equality at the forefront. Feminism has a place in our daily lives, even when our NOW shirts are yellowed, tattered, and shoved in a drawer. Feminism isn’t a shirt, or a placard, or a loud angry mob with megaphones.
We can choose to stand up against inappropriate behavior targeting people of all shapes, colors, genders, and beliefs. We can choose to support one another instead of tearing one another down. We can choose to raise strong, confident girls, and fair, respectful boys. That’s feminism, my friends, and we still need it.