Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sarah's question

<Sally thinks hard

Sarah tagged me, but it's no silly question...She asked what 5 things feminism has done for me. I've had to think about this a lot, because I consider myself a feminist and thought and studied about gender issues as part of my education. However, I hadn't thought about it least, not recently. So, Sally and I thought hard, and here's what I came up with:

1. Feminism has given me a voice. By this, I mean I can speak out if something upsets me or makes me happy. I can vote. I can write on important issues and be seen as a valid contributor, regardless of my gender. I can be an activist for the things I care about.

2. Equality under law... As a woman in the U.S.A., I am entitled to be judged by the same laws as a man...and be treated equally.

3. Equal pay. Equal pay is an ideal for me...the concept of equal pay for equal work is something that feminism introduced to us as a reasonable possibility. Unfortunately, it still isn't reality for many, if not most, women. The latest statistics I've found here indicate that as of 2004, women still earn 76 cents to the dollar earned by men. Theoretically, if a woman is educated, works hard, etc. and doesn't take any time off for childrearing, she should be able to earn what a man in the same position earns. I'm educated, haven't managed to have children, and I think I work hard. For me, this equal pay notion is still an ideal--since I chose to get married (thus limiting my job opportunities by chosing to live with my spouse and not near the best jobs) I have earned consistently less than when I was single. I dream one day of having children, of staying married, and earning a decent wage while working full time at something that I enjoy. It hasn't happened yet.

4. Feminism has given me a "room of my own." Yes, I'm referring to Virginia Woolf's book's premise and beyond, to her book, Three Guineas. In order to create, to contribute productively to society, one needs education, professional opportunities, money, and even quiet--that space and room in which to blossom as a thinker. I feel lucky that, unlike Jane Austen, who had to write in the midst of her family's parlor and hide her work on occasion, I have been given a great education and literally, a whole room of my own. It's messy, it's full, and it's the place where I do most of my creative work. Without feminism and its great thinker,Virginia Woolf, neither I nor my partner could dream that I needed this special space to work.

5. Feminism has given me my own name. I'm allowed to be a Ms. I don't have to be Dr. first name husband, last name husband. I never have to be identified as Married Woman. (Mrs.) husband's name. I published writing with the name I was given at birth...and didn't have to lose that when I married because of a name change. I've never been obligated to change that name, and for that, I'm grateful. For many women, they don't see this as a sign of identity, or they don't feel the loss of that identity through the name change, but for me, my name is very much a sign of my identity, my family background, and I'm glad I didn't have to drop it for someone else's. Just because I love my partner doesn't mean I should have to lose my identity, in any way, to his.

While this doesn't fit exactly into the biggest issues, I'm also grateful that I'm a feminist at a time when I can do things seen as traditionally "women's work" and be seen as a professional. My hope is that by doing my best professional work as a knitwear designer, a writer and as an educator, I can make this work important--not because it is "female" work, but because, regardless of gender, it's good work. It's a goal to work for.

Here's a photo of those Latvian mittens, created for the NATO summit, that I mentioned before. This is a great example of the "raising up" of traditional women's work to celebrate ethnicity, tradition, and an important world's a feminist statement...and an inspiration.


Blogger sarah said...

I like your number one: it seems like such a small thing, but it's integral to our identity. I hadn't thought of all the women who had to publish under assumed male identities in order to be published at all (but then gender studies mean something completely different to zoologists). I lose out on number four; our house is too small. My office/room is also our spare bedroom, so if/when we have visitors I have in the past had to move the scanner, printer and cutting boards from the bed into the closet, force the drawing board into a crevice in the stacks of paper and card under the bed... I'm almost ready to demand that in future we put visitors up at a local bed & breakfast :-)

October 20, 2006 at 7:40 AM  

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