Some days you’re Martha Stewart; other days, a feminist icon
Someone recently asked me, “where do you see yourself being when you’re 30?” The first thing that came to my mind and my response was “I think I’ll be a mom.” He then went on to ask if I had any other goals, such as plans to travel, and I began to feel a bit guilty. Here I am at Carnegie Mellon spending countless hours, and dollars, to get a degree and my first thought for what I’ll end up doing in ten years is pushing a baby around in a stroller. So many women before me have paved the way for me to even be here earning a degree and it seems a disgrace to not use it to the fullest.
But what if for me, using it to the fullest just means working a normal job and eventually going down the path of the classic “American dream” of being a mom and wife living in a white picket fence home? Does this make me a bad feminist? Is it not a bit hypocritical to not exercise the same freedoms that I fight for everyone to have? It can feel a bit burdensome to be the one feminist at the rally that’s thinking, maybe being a stay-at-home mom isn’t so bad.
With feminism, it seems that unless you want the whole kit and caboodle it’s not enough and any nonfeminist tendencies you have are just a result of internalized misogyny. This is completely true in a lot of cases — for example, the woman who slut-shames — but I hardly think that my motherhood goals are because I was told I had to. I grew up in a generation where single mothers, including my own, did it all. My mother had a lot of support from my other family members including my amazing father, but much of the day-to-day parenting was done by her and I think my fascination with motherhood comes from wanting to give another human being even just a tiny fraction of all that my mother has given me.
In today’s society, these -isms can feel a bit constricting and binding. Someone either is a feminist or isn't; one doesn’t just have feminist views. This extremism can be isolating to several different people. With white feminists having the loudest voice, it can be hard to hear the rest of us. I’ll be honest, there are some feminist issues that I don’t care about at all, one of them being female body hair. I completely understand that it is just used as another tool to police women, but it can be hard for me to support the movement of something so trivial when black women are still miles behind white women in society. White women have attained a certain level of equality that allows them to focus on the smaller issues whereas black women are still 12 cents behind white women in the wage gap. We’re not really all fighting the same fight, and overlooking these differences to unite us for one movement can be destructive in the effort to eliminate them.
Feminism isn’t the only movement that can feel isolating if your views are a bit wavering. Take capitalism for example. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said: “I hate capitalism.” I’ve tweeted this from my Apple iPhone, I’ve said it while buying coffee at Starbucks, and I’ve said it in the checkout line in Walmart. We’re all enrolled in a four-year university with hopes of getting good-paying jobs on the promise that Carnegie Mellon students earn more than students from other colleges upon graduation. It can be hard to fight a system that’s so easy to support as a student enrolled in a private university, so do I even have the right to oppose it or have I already cemented myself as a cog in the larger capitalist machine?
I don’t want to sell out to the man, but I recognize that I am doing exactly what society told me to do. By just existing, I’m unintentionally further perpetuating the idea that you have to graduate high school, go to college, and get a job to be a contributing member of society. So how do I reconcile what I believe with what I’ve done? I’ve already given stores like Walmart countless dollars and no matter how long my short stints of “I’m not shopping at Walmart” last, I always crack either out of convenience or financial reasons. I like to think that once I’m in a financial position to be able to choose to not shop at Walmart that I will, but there’s still an element of convenience provided by capitalism.
But, I think that what we choose to fight for can combat what we choose to do. I don’t think that everyone has to live life the same way as I did and I’ll continue to fight for others' rights to live life as differently as they want to. I may be just a part of the system, but I hope to use my position as a private university graduate to advocate for those that aren’t. The bonus should be on those who have the means to do more than those who do not. While it might not be our place to be the face of the movement, that doesn’t mean we cannot be the forces behind it.
I hope that my goals don’t embarrass women, but I shouldn’t have to sacrifice what I want to still be considered feminist. I know I’m not the avid anti-capitalist that I think I am, but I also know that it would be more dangerous to ignore this movement and pretend it doesn’t exist. We shouldn’t let these movements polarize us so much that we think it’s not worth the fight if we aren’t all in. We might not be leading the wars but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our part to fight the battles.