What is feminism? Why does it matter? Sometimes I find it hard to think of myself as a feminist. I’m never sure that the definition fits me. In fact, media portrayal of feminism makes me cringe. Of course, I am on the side of women. Gender, hair color, skin color, or any other adjective should define a person’s opportunity set. I completely relate to something Maya Angelou once said about being a feminist because she’s been female all her life, and it would be stupid not to be on your own side. I understand the need for a social construct in which we define people based on a set of criteria because it helps to better identify a person in a crowd. For instance, if I needed for a person to find me in a crowd, I might tell them to look for the ginger girl with purple hair dressed in black. I don’t think, however, that the work I do in this world needs to be defined by those terms.
My day as a feminist goes something like this. I wake up in my house that I worked hard to buy and have breakfast with my family. Some days I make breakfast for my husband. That’s not a very feminist thing to do, but I do it anyway because I am nice. Then, I get ready to start my day, which probably begins with laundry and teaching the children. Both of my children are homeschooled, so I am also in charge of their education. Over the past three years, they have learned to take charge of their own education as well. I think they are better prepared for the expectations of college than most college students (they are currently in 7th and 5th grades). Cooking, laundry, and homeschooling children sound so 18th century, doesn’t it? Welcome to my world of new feminism. It’s not about rejecting roles and responsibilities that are historically female. The new world order of feminism is not being defined by those roles. I don’t do those things because they are female roles, and the fact that I do them at all should not define me as feminine.
Later in the day, I will leave my children to the care of my husband and head to my office. At this point, I should mention that I have a Ph.D. in finance along with three other college degrees. I am a tenured, associate professor of finance at a large state university. I am the only female in my department. It is still rare to find a female finance professor, but there are several in other areas of business schools. I teach classes, work on research, and take a few minutes to check on the status of reviews for an academic journal where I am the editor. I am also the first female editor of a real estate academic journal. Looking around my office I see reminders of other accomplishments such as a picture at my undergraduate graduation with the rest of my class (all boys), a picture getting my teaching certificate in Brazilian Jiujitsu, my rainbow of TaeKwonDo belts leading to my second-degree black belt, and a variety of other awards. You are more likely to find me in my office wearing funky sneakers and a weird T-shirt than a suit. This year, I also have purple hair.
Perhaps this is closer to your vision of a feminist. I do life in my own way. Yet, here’s why I have trouble labeling myself as a feminist. Both of those scenarios that I shared can represent a feminist. Feminism doesn’t have to be about filling male-dominated fields and positions with women. Feminism should just be creating the opportunity for choice. Just as someone’s prejudice against me for being a soulless ginger should not define my opportunity set, neither should the fact that I am a female ginger without a soul. So, in my day as a feminist I’m not going to think an awful lot about my feminism. I’m just going to be who I want to be, do what I want to do, and create an adventure wherever I go.