Feminism: My Paradoxical Struggle

I had a recent conversation with a friend, which turned into me being forced into self-identifying as a walking contradiction. Let me first say that I was born during the end of the second-wave of feminism, and was raised during its third waive.  I bopped my head and twisted my neck as I sang U-N-I-T-Y along with Queen Latifah.  I constantly struggle to seamlessly adhere to society’s characteristics of me as a woman, and my feminist beliefs.  I’m not sure when being a feminist carried with it a negative connotation, but it only takes me saying a few female-empowering statements before I am given looks of fear and disappointment.  This is primarily because feminism has been redefined by extremists.

My definition of feminism is similar to Webster’s version—the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  However, in some aspects of my life, I adhere to a less literal meaning of the term “equal”.  I guess this paradox makes me a quasi-feminist? My conversation with my friend left me with three puzzling questions: (1) what does it meant to be a quasi-feminist; (2) are my contradictions a bad thing; and (3) when it comes to classifying someone as a feminist, does it have to be all or nothing?

For the purpose of this piece, I  define quasi-feminist as someone who believes men and women should be treated equally in most, but not all, aspects of their lives.  As a quasi-feminist, I find it difficult at times to reconcile my feminist views with my desire to fit into society’s social norms of what my role should be as a woman and a future wife and mother.

Are my contradictions a bad thing as it relates to my role as a woman?  As feminism has evolved over decades, so have my sentiments as to what it is to be defined as a woman. I oftentimes say that chivalry is dead, and receive the response that feminism killed it.  But why can’t chivalry and feminism co-exist?  There are many things that are distinct about a man and a woman that should not be lost on feminism.  Yes, I know how to open a door for myself (and for a man), but it is the sweetest gesture when a gentleman does it for me.  Yes, I could learn to change a flat tire, but if a man offers to do it, even better!  I’m not the only person struggling with this notion.  There have been many recent discussions on whether Beyoncé should classify herself as a feminist as she prances around on stage and in videos in her underwear.

My inconsistencies become more prominent when the conversation changes to the role of men and women in the household.  I become a complete feminist with the expectation that my partner will equally share almost all of the household and child rearing duties.  Like feminism, the roles of men and women in relationships are evolving and the manner in which my partner and I redefine these roles should not cause the feminism gatekeepers to shun or exalt me.  For example, I prefer that my partner take out the garbage, mow the lawn and do more of the backbreaking chores around our home.  But in return, that does not mean he should expect me to cook and clean daily without any assistance.  I am on the fence about whether I would be comfortable with him being a stay-at-home-father even if it made economic sense for our household. Something about me being the sole breadwinner makes me uncomfortable.  And when he wakes up with our child at night he will not be awarded an extra badge of honor for doing so. I can see the jaws dropping as you read those seemingly selfish words.  Will I cook him dinner and wash his clothes?  Yes.  But not because society says it’s my duty as a woman, but because that week, I happen to have more free time than he did.  Would I take out the garbage or mow the lawn? If necessary.  The point is, in my household, no expectation will fall on either my partner or me as it relates to societal mores.  If our primary goal is to keep each other happy, then we will have to nix then it will take a team effort.

Finally, is it all or nothing when it comes to being a part of the feminist movement? Is it possible for a feminist to co-exist in a world where a man’s use of the term b*tch insults her, yet use it loosely amongst her girlfriends? Can she ask for chivalry to stay alive while being unwilling to define her role as a woman in a relationship? Can she ask for equality in her household yet prefer for her partner to take the garbage out and mow the lawn?  Yes she can.  The key to making any relationship work is communication and compromise.  Will I struggle at times in feeling like it is my duty as a mother to rock my child to sleep instead of her father while I’m still in the office? Will it pain me to conclude that my husband knows our children’s favorite foods better than I do?  Yes, because my innate nature and societal influences whisper to me that as a wife and a mother, it is my job and not his to know and do these things.  But despite those feelings, I will not concede to societal beliefs that I have fallen short as a wife and a mother if my partner takes the lead.

Does this make a walking contradiction?  Perhaps.  I am simply a woman with the paradoxical struggle of finding her place in the new wave of feminism—simultaneously trying to sing along to Beyonce’s “Cater 2 U” and “Run the World (Girls)”.

South Africa Adventures Awaits

20131228-211515.jpg Mom (aka Ace) and I made it to the airport with sufficient time to shop in duty free. Surprisingly, she purchased no items. She believes that duty-free does not offer a real discount. I’d like to think that lugging her heavy carry-ons made her rethink adding any additional items to her load. Because I’ve made this trip twice before, I knew I had to adequately prepare. The next stop was to pick up a few snacks and stop at Chipotle for the long flight ahead of us. Ace didn’t want anything from Chipotle; a decision she (and I) would later regret.

imageFilled with excitement, we boarded the plane for our South African adventures!  One seat ahead of us on our flight was a college friend who lives in South Africa–small world! Shortly after take-off Ace began complaining that she was hungry. Oh here we go. We were first served a beverage. In addition to our non-alcoholic drink, we both asked for two Amarulas (an alcoholic beverage made in South Africa that is similar to Bailey’s Irish Cream).Without hesitation, Ace (who is not a drinker) downed one of her Amarulas because, as she stated, “I need to open up my palate.”  Yeah, okay.  imageDinner followed shortly thereafter. Ace opted for the chicken, and I asked for the beef entree. As Ace opened up her chicken meal, she dabbled her fork around the plate and looked at me in disgust. I turned my head away from her because I knew what she was going to ask next–let’s swap meals. After 3 minutes of feeling bad for her looking at her meal in disgust, I opted to give her my burrito bowl–there goes my late night/early morning snack. After enjoying her second bottle of Amarula, Ace fell asleep and I decided to read.

imageSixteen hours later, well-rested and still happy, we arrived in Johannesburg! we had 1.5 hours before our connecting flight to Cape Town.  The line was painstakingly long. We cleared customs an hour later and had 30 minutes to make it to our gate. We made it with a few minutes to spare.image

On our flight to Cape Town we sat next to the most adorable 12-year-old boy, Aubin (pronounced Awe-bane, with a French accent). We spoke the entire flight as he practiced his English (he speaks 5 languages–time to step my game up). He was traveling with his father, brothers and sister to Cape Town to visit the beach.  He was on holiday in a South Africa, but he lives in Burundi.  At one point, while we were served dinner, he tapped me and said, “I’m afraid of your mother, eh. I think she’s going to say you mist eat those vegetables.” To be on the safe side, he ate all the vegetables without my mom having to say anything.  Mom made a great observation when I later told her what Aubin said.  She said, “it’s evident in his culture they believe it takes a village to raise a child. If he were in the United States, his parents may be offended that an adult stranger was telling their child what to do.”

Two hours later and 20 hours after embarking on our travels, we made it to Cape Town!  We hired (Americans say rented) a car that is standard size for South Africa, but we (really, Ace) we’re traveling with more bags than the average South African.  Miraculously, the attendant was able to fit all 5 of our bags in the trunk. Although mom knows how to drive a manual car on the left hand side of the road, I became the designated driver for our trip (her job was to enter the information into the navigation system, but that also quickly became my job).  After a few missed turns, we arrived at our flat safely.  Our arrival to Cape Town was finally complete!

image

Keep Calm, I’m Back!

So it’s been a loooong time.  When I start to pen a blog post, I try to make it thought provoking, eloquent and contemporary.  But most of all, I have to be feeling it.  No matter what I write about, I know that it exposes a bit of my inner thoughts and feelings.  Over the past year, I’ve had a roller coaster of emotions, never landing on one emotion long enough to express it writing.  Then I received an e-mail with four simple words…”i miss your blog”.  It made me think how much I missed my blog as well. So I’m back!

Lots on my mind….stay tuned!

My Year in Review

I was digging through the archives and saw that I penned this but never posted. Better late than never I suppose. Since a new year is almost over I thought it would be good to remember what last year was like as I prepare to reflect on the upcoming new one:

Ten days until the end of the first decade of the new millennia, and what a year it has been! I celebrated as new life entered the world, and mourned as others departed. I had highs, lows, laughter, joy and pain. I acquired a deeper appreciation for my family and the important role they play in my life. I forged new friendships, and strengthened the bonds with old friends while offering advice, hugs and a shoulder and getting the same in return. I made my way back to Africa and visited the Bahamas and Jamaica (twice), and celebrated embraced my entry into the thirty and over club. I learned why I love being an attorney (even though I publicly bemoan it) and what the joy of same-sex marriage and the repeal of DADT means to the people that matter to me most. At times I thought I was living a fabulous dream and needed someone to pinch me, while other times, I wanted to wake up from what seemed like a terrible nightmare. I cleaned out the closet and chucked up my deuces. This blog was born. In the end, I have so much to be thankful for and proud of, on my journey to self-improvement.

As I reflect on the year and my accomplishments (or lack thereof), I recognized that I am truly truly BLESSED! Here’s to an even better 2011!

Happy Holidays!

Calling All Women–Time to Raise the Bar!

What would happen if we all raised the bar?  When I say we, I’m referring to women.  More and more I have conversations, read articles, and listen to women discuss issues that illustrate the manners in which they are selling themselves short of true happiness.  In the workplace, in the home, in our relationships with our friends, you name it we have an innate tendency to demand less than our male counterparts.  I won’t get into the various historical theories and events as to why that is (i.e., pre-women’s suffrage, the mammies, etc.); rather, I want to focus on what could should be.

I’m a strong proponent of equal opportunity and at times I happily accept the title as feminist.  However, why have women stopped expecting a man to open the door for them?  Why do some women rationalize away the expectations they have of the man they date or marry?  Some may say the answer to these questions is this is a man’s world (in my James Brown voice) therefore, as women we have to be happy with what we get.

As Evelyn Cunningham once said, “Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors.”  I think it is time to start a new revolution–I call it women raising the bar.  Instead of complaining about what we aren’t receiving from others in our lives, or lowering our standard of what we think we deserve, as women, we need to raise the bar.  Don’t pay for a man’s meal when we really hope that he would pay for it.  Don’t pick up the phone and call him because you know if you don’t he won’t.  Don’t allow him to disrespect you and tell yourself, I know he doesn’t mean it.  Don’t stay at home with the kids because you think it’s your motherly/wifely duty when your real desire is to be leading board room meetings.  Don’t accept the job working for the male project manager when you know you can lead the group better than he can.  Raise the bar!

I know there are a few women out there who will send me an e-mail saying that this blog post does not apply to them because they have always maintained a high standard for themselves–they are the alpha women of the world.  Maybe these women have been lucky and maybe they have beaten the odds.  However, women could effect change for all women around the world if we all decided to raise the bar and not settle for less–because settling for less not only harms themselves, but also limits the opportunities for other women of the world, and their daughters and granddaughters to come.  If men change the manner in which they treat women and recognize that dimming our light and disrespecting us is never an option, imagine how different the world would be.  Some changes can’t occur without changes in the laws however, this revolution could occur if all women of the world decide to take a stand and RAISE THE BAR starting now!

“Women really do rule the world.  They just haven’t figured it out yet.  When they do, and they will, we’re all in big big trouble.”

In honor of March’s Women’s History Month

‘Tis the Season…Merry Christmas!

Christmas day is the day Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.  At least, that’s the history behind the holiday.  As in most other holidays, Christmas has turned into a hallmark day where parents try to find the most expensive presents for their kids who have probably been naughty.  The malls are filled with last minute shoppers (myself included) trying to find the perfect present that will bring a smile to the faces of their loved ones.  As I walked through the mall on Christmas eve anxious about what I would buy for my family, I realized how far we’ve strayed from the true meaning of Christmas.

I won’t make this a religious post, but I will say that if you are a Christian, take a moment today to reflect on what Christmas is really about.  Cherish the family and friends you have and reach out to those who have no one to celebrate this awesome holiday with.  Once the presents have been opended and the excitement of the gifts have subsided, reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  ‘Tis the season to thank Christ for his many blessings and for imparting His love onto us. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Things I Learned By 30

Happy Birthday to me!!!  A week ago, I turned the big 3-0.  I woke up on the day of my birthday and checked to see whether any gray hairs began sprouting—thankfully I saw none.  I got out of the bed and did a couple stretches—nothing cracked or broke.  Then, for good measure, I put on a pair of jeans I purchased six years ago, and I had to suck my tummy in they still fit like a glove—check!  Realized this turning 30 thing might  be a great thing not that bad after all.  I am not sure why 30 has become such a milestone.  It seems like the only age one looks forward to (or dreads) after turning 21.  What happened to the nine years in between, do they go by unnoticed?

One might say that those nine years are times of tremendous growth (or lack thereof).  Someone told me that my 30’s would be the best years of my life.  I think that’s also what I was told when I turned 20.  Nevertheless, as I sat down thinking about the culmination of embarking on a new decade, I came up with the following list:

 10 Things I Know at 30:

  1. Better to have a few friends and many acquaintances.
  2. There’s so much that I don’t know and will continue to learn.
  3. I’m not perfect, and will never be—and that’s okay.
  4. You won’t be liked by all, and that’s okay too.
  5. It’s not what you know or who you know, it’s how you use (network) what you know and who you know.
  6. Sleep does a body good (and so does regular exercise).
  7. Don’t burn bridges, because you may need to cross one someday.
  8. Your reputation is your most valuable asset.
  9. Failure (and heartbreak) will occur (more than once) and with the right attitude, you’ll bounce back.
  10. We all make mistakes, the lesson is in learning to make things right.

For all of you who are official members of the 30+ club, feel free to add to the list.

Here’s to turning 30!  Hoping it will be a fabulous decade!!

%d bloggers like this: