Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Feminism a generational thing?

Feminism, women's rights, and working women have moved front and center in this election, and months of debating have made me realize something: I think I'm a feminist by default. Not because of my gender, but because of my generation.

I am Gen X through and through. Born in the early ’70s, came of age in the ’80s, started my career in ’90s, started a family of my own in the ’00s.

Growing up, I never, ever heard that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. Because I was too young? Sure. Because power tools are dangerous if you don’t know how to use them? Absolutely. But because I was female? Never.

Does that make me a feminist by default?

Now, granted, I also never tried out for the football team, joined the armed services, or wanted to be a Freemason. And I will admit that I am probably speaking from a place of privilege — I was a prep-school kid in a college town who missed out on grunge because it was against my school’s dress code. But still, my greater point is this: I’ve never felt like I had to prove I was “as good as a guy” because I was an adult before I was even aware that my gender could be an issue.

I think this is why I don’t really relate to the whole “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” school of politics; I think that getting the best candidate for the job into the White House is more important than having a woman in (or a heartbeat away from) the Oval Office. I also think that being a stay-at-home mom is a career choice, not a moral imperative, and that just because a woman can do anything that a man can do doesn’t mean she should.

I think that my children are even more removed from the feminism question than I am. Two of our three daughters have played on football teams; the third doesn’t because she’s in preschool and only wants to know why footballs get thrown (”Why don’t they only get footed? I mean kicked?”). They may learn about a time when women weren’t considered equal to men, but, thankfully, they have never experienced it.

I hope they become feminists by default, too.

My mother's generation had to fight much harder for the rights my generation takes for granted; that glass ceiling was much closer to them than it is to me, and so, for some women, shattering it is something that must be done at all costs, whereas for others -- especially women of my generation and younger -- shattering it isn't as important as electing the most-qualified candidate into office.

How do you define feminism? Has your definition changed over the years?

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