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Feminism isn't about hating men but loving oneself

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

My daughter is the most inquisitive child I have ever met and her questions can rarely be satisfied by simple answers. While I feel inspired by her desire to learn all there is to know about the world, answering her questions can often be met with a myriad of challenges. From generating age appropriate answers to fumbling through questions that I simply don’t know the answers to, I try to be as honest and forthcoming with her as possible because I know the world is a tough place and arming her with knowledge will take her far in life. Recently she looked up at me with her sparkling deep brown eyes and said, “Mommy, why did women have to fight for the right to vote?”

A lot of people talk about feminism with a negative connotation and I suppose it means different things to different people. However, one fact remains, this has always been and continues to be a man’s world. Women are still fighting for equal pay and for the right to make medical decisions about our bodies and societal expectations of women only continue to increase. The women of yesteryear were expected to be wives and mothers. The women of today are expected to be wives, mothers, career women and everything in between.

Our government makes it consistently clear that they place little value on women. The United States’ laughable policies on maternity leave should be proof enough that women are devalued in this country. Iceland mandates that new mothers receive three months of paid maternity leave. Finnish women are guaranteed 54 days of paid maternity leave while the Portuguese government requires 20 days. Even the tiny poverty stricken nation of Singapore requires a week of paid maternity leave. The United States, however, requires absolutely no paid maternity leave. Yet, our government officials smile easily in front of television cameras as they tout the importance of promoting American family values.

American women are expected to be well spoken, educated, chaste, and obedient. We’re expected to bring home the bacon and cook it and above all, we should always look flawless as we do it. And to top it all off, everyone seems to think they have the right to an opinion about our choices. That mentality has been so deeply etched into the female psyche, many women have a difficult time voicing their true opinions and feelings for fear of judgment. Unfortunately, their fears are not unfounded.

I have several female friends that are single and have chosen to remain childless. They’re often met with inappropriate inquiries such as, “When are you going to get married and have babies?” My single friends are all strong women that work hard to support themselves and have made conscious decisions to live their lives the way they choose. The audacity! I don’t know of a single man alive that has to answer to his lifestyle choices on a daily basis. Keep in mind that statement doesn’t include gay men who are frequently blamed for everything from ruining marriage to the occurrence of natural disasters.
So, my sweet, kind, lovely, beautiful and intelligent daughter – the answer to your question is “Women have had to fight for everything because the hierarchy was set up in the beginning of time and we’re still trying to break away from it in modern day. But don’t be discouraged, little one. For you and your generation bring hope for the future.”

I will continue to raise my daughter to believe that she can be anything she wants to be regardless of the constraints society places upon her. I will teach her to never apologize for being who she wants to be and to never be afraid of saying “No,” because she’s been conditioned by society to always be agreeable. I will make sure that she knows her body is beautiful just the way it is and that she should always respect it. I will teach her that feminism is not about hating men but about loving herself and as a result demanding equality in every facet of life.

Stay strong, my sisters, and accept nothing less than discovering your full potential. Command respect and give it in return. If we all band together and choose to demand unwavering respect and equality there isn’t a force alive that could stop us.