It's hard to argue with a female auto mechanic. Even from the standpoint of 50 or 60 years, that's a huge stride right there. She never reported any kind of harassment, nor did she really experience any nay-sayers in her training. I'm sure she fully recognizes that feminism is what allowed her to get her education and job with relative ease, but it seems like her appreciation stops there. She doesn't understand why I think that activism based on feminism is still necessary; I don't understand why she doesn't. We usually agree to disagree.
But today I was scrolling through some of the blogs I aggregate and I noticed the large number have recent posts about body image, beauty ideals, and the like.
Globally, sexism and oppression rooted in gender is a huge problem still. I work on this actively through my human rights efforts with Amnesty International, and by calling it where I see it. But where I think it makes a tangible difference to me on a personal level is being able to look at myself in the mirror and not hate myself.
If I were to believe current portrayals of beauty, I have virtually nothing to offer from an aesthetic standpoint. I have large thighs and a bit of a gut. My nose has a pronounced bump, the skin under my chin is a bit loose, and one eye is bigger than the other. My butt sags and I have cellulite anywhere you care to go looking for it.
But I don't hate myself. And it's because I take to heart the messages about everyone being different. Usually. Often when I see skinny models in magazines or actresses on TV, I see how skinny and unhealthy they look. I can only imagine what some of them had to go through to get where they are, and it makes me sad.
And I believe that feminism can change that. Not only do I see the change when I look at the students I teach and how they react to images in popular media, but I also look at my group of friends and see how vastly diverse and inspiring their beauty is. They aren't boxed in. They might have their moments of insecurity, but they still have the confidence to be themselves through it all.
Feminism can do that. It can tear down hurtful ideals, and open up new ways of thinking, as can any discussion of differing viewpoints.
But for me, feminism give me something rooted in history on which to base my feelings. The triumphs (birth control, women in the workforce, equitable divorce and property laws) are reasons to have pride. I, in turn, can have pride in my accomplishments; in who I am; in how I live.
Feminism allows me to be happy with myself. It's the kind of belief I wish more people could feel, because it makes me happier, with no real effort. Just knowing is enough. It's my choice to fight for it and be vocal about it, but anyone can enjoy it. Women can enjoy being who they are, loving who they want, and working at what makes them happy. How wouldn't that make you feel better?