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The F-Word MAG
When I was young, it seemed like my mother was never around. I would secretly envy the other kids whose moms were always there to pick them up from soccer practice or to watch. My mother was always working. She was never there when I came home from kindergarten, waiting with a snack. It was always a babysitter. I was a little bitter toward her sometimes for missing my recitals, but all these lost moments made me cherish the times we spent together even more.
Some of my fondest memories of my mother were long car trips when she would tell me stories about growing up in the ’70s during the second wave of the women’s rights movement, the age of the Equal Rights Amendment and Gloria Steinem.
Unlike my grandmother, my mom decided to forgo being a homemaker for a career. She worked her way through college by getting a job in the nearby snack-cake factory. It was there that she met my dad, and they married. They moved to California where my mom enrolled in medical school. She was one of 30 women in her class, one of the first classes to exceed the quota of women the school admitted.
My mom didn’t burn bras. She didn’t participate in women’s rights rallies. She actually came from a conservative family, but she worked. She worked for her entire adult life.
Today, I’m proud of my mom’s dedication to her profession. Even though I missed a lot of moments with her because of unexpected calls from the hospital, I’ve come to realize what she did for me in her absence. She taught me to be a strong woman, and made me realize that while having a family is important, dreams must not be ignored.
So naturally, I was drawn into the world of women’s rights. I’ve become the notorious f-word, a feminist. And as a feminist, seeing my own generation’s attitudes toward women’s rights, I’m pretty concerned. In a recent CosmoGirl poll, only about a quarter of young women said they considered themselves feminists. Only a quarter!
We have come a long way, but feminism is far from dead, despite what you might hear. Even today, women only earn 75 cents for every dollar a man makes. And still, young women are constantly being told that their value comes from how many guys think they’re cute. They are bombarded with these messages beginning with their Disney princess days, into the teenage years with chick flicks and young adult books. What are these stories about, charging after dreams or trying to find the perfect man? There’s nothing wrong with a little romance, but why are young women constantly being told that Mr. Right should be our number-one priority, and why are we listening?
I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is for a woman to have a career and raise a family, but my mother and many others worked their whole lives in order to ensure their daughters had this opportunity. They are practically handing me my rights on a silver platter. Why should I throw it back in their faces? Why should I work my butt off to get into and pay for college just to spend the rest of my life cleaning and baking cookies?
I have a theory: I think all us women are secretly afraid of being called the b-word. You know which one I’m talking about. No guy will want a girlfriend who wears the pants in the relationship, right? Wrong. Realistically, there will always be some jerks out there who preach about women and the three C’s: cooking, cleaning, and caring for the kids, but there are more guys who think it’s sexy if a woman has her own dreams.
Recently, more men are becoming feminists. Feminism isn’t just for women; it’s also about the expectations placed on men. Think how much pressure there is for boys to be masculine and tough. It’s as bad as the pressure put on girls to be feminine. Guys are just as afraid of being called “sissy” as women are afraid of the b-word. And if men are made the sole breadwinners of society, won’t that put a lot of financial strain on them?
So, yes, I am proud to call myself a teenage feminist, and in my opinion, all teenagers should do the same. I know what you’re thinking: Feminism doesn’t concern me. But feminism is really about everyone. As teenagers, we are on the brink of financial independence, and we are realizing what defines us as individuals.
Besides being involved in politics and a lot of other stuff, feminism, for both genders, allows us to shuck away all these expectations of what it means to be men or women. It’s about finding our own strengths and independence. It’s about freedom from gender roles, the choice to live as you want, and charging after whatever dream you have. To me, there is nothing more important than protecting my choices and independence. That’s why I’m a feminist. I’m the f-word, and I’m not afraid to declare it to the world.