I know that feminism is a complicated term. There are all kinds of feminism – some of them of are old, some of them are new, some of them you need to study for two semesters in college. While I’m not schooled in the academic nuances of feminism, I am interested in exploring what it means to be a woman, and all the ways we can make it suck less. The funny thing I realized was that when I start thinking about issues that affect women, I always think back to when I was a kid. What would 5-year-old Becky want?
I think that’s because, in a sense, the world changes your view on your sexuality in all kinds of strange ways over time. You learn to like magazines that recommend products you can apply for the frizz problem they insist you have. You learn to like letting your gossipy friend put blue mascara on your eyelashes. You learn to identify with men because it’s “cool,” and you find yourself getting rabidly agreed with when you say things like, “I don’t really like female authors.” You even, in a very Freudian way, go out of your way to identify with the same mindsets that victimize women, because they are exotic and living vicariously through them is the strangest exercise in empathy. We listen to rap thinking, “So this is what it might feel like to tell a bitch to ‘s’ your ‘d.'” But we can never truly know how it feels, because we are all too familiar with being on the receiving end of that kind of fun talk.
But when I was a kid, I hadn’t gone through any of that stuff. I just knew that I had very specific plans for what I wanted to do with my life, and how I wanted to deal with this womanhood thing.
I wanted to be a teacher because teachers got their own classroom of kids to tell what’s real and what’s not. I wanted to be an orthodontist so I could make lots of money while, from what I perceived, making all the dental hygienists do the real work. But what I really wanted to do was become a lawyer, because it seemed like the most challenging and powerful job of all. (And also I was watching a lot of Ally McBeal with my parents.) Regardless of what I ended up doing, I always knew that I wanted my life to be guided by a career that would make me stay late at the office and blow off steam at the bar before going home to a place I paid for with my own money that I made myself.
The idea of weddings made me deeply uncomfortable as a kid, although I tried to go along with what I was supposed to do and plan “my dream wedding” in my mind. (I got as far as knowing that I wanted a tube-top dress with a poofy white skirt and to have it be as not-boring as possible.) It wasn’t the idea of marrying someone you love that bothered me (at the time, I was happily planning to marry my mom), but the idea that from day one, an invisible force in the universe shouts “Go!” and you madly run around for 20 years psychologically manipulating men by withholding sex in order to get them to “buy the cow” and support you your whole life.
Clearly, I figured, I would be very rich someday and would not need to partake in any of that nonsense.
I think it’s child Becky that has helped me stay on track with what I really want out of my life. I grew up and learned that weddings can be a lot of drunk fun and that staying late at work isn’t really that glamorous after the first or second time. But it’s my inner child I think back to when I insist never to get married unless it’s for all the right reasons, or that working overtime is what I want to do with my life. With all this craziness in the public dialogue around women’s rights and women’s health, it’s startled me that we may live in a world that could take the simple privilege of being single and self-supported away from women. We need to make sure that the next generation’s girls can make this their dream from day 1, or else they won’t have a feminist inner child to guide them.