How did I become a feminist without knowing it?

Answer: I was raised by my grandmother.

I started thinking about this after reading a post that The Rotund has up on her LiveJournal*, dealing with a blatantly sexist comment.

Here’s the part of my comment that really got me thinking:

But then, I was raised to believe that I was just as good as any man. I didn’t learn about feminism, as such, but a lot of the standards by which my grandmother raised me were, in fact, feminist. We just didn’t call it that.

See, my grandmother came of age in the 50’s.  You know the stereotypical image of a 50’s housewife?  That was her.  She would bake cookies and was on the PTA and all that shit.

But she had another side to her.  Once her children were old enough to be left on their own (or to be left in charge of their older siblings), she went to work.  Not on a permanent, full-time basis, but when they needed the extra money, she would work.  (My grandfather was a carpenter, which meant money would get extremely tight in the winters, or when the housing market was slow.)  And when she went to work?  The family helped.  She didn’t go to work all day and then come home and do all the housework.  My father and aunts and uncles had jobs, and they did them.  She did every job you could think of – including working in a bomb factory during the Korean War.  Seriously.  If you ever piss this woman off, she could literally blow your ass up.

And she raised her children, even then, to believe that they could do or be anything they wanted, regardless of their gender.  In fact, when my aunt B became pregnant at 16, the biggest problem my grandmother had with the whole situation was that it would prevent aunt B from getting an education (meaning beyond high school) and being able to “make something” of her life.  She had the same problem with me when I became pregnant with Number One Daughter at 18.

She taught all of us girls – my 2 aunts and me – that we didn’t need a man for anything.  Despite the fact that she was married, she was a very independent person, always.  (Of course, the fact that my grandfather seemed to think that his role in the family was simply to go to work and then come home and sit in a chair might have something to do with that; my grandmother had to learn to do a lot of things herself, simply because my grandfather refused to do them.)  But she didn’t teach us to hate men.  While she seemed to give up on men after the one and only relationship she had after divorcing my grandfather, I don’t remember her speaking hatefully about men in general.  Specific men, maybe – but if that was the case, then believe me, they deserved it.

My grandparents divorced in the early 80’s.  Shortly after that is when I went to live with her full-time.  And I think, being raising me (in a single-parent setting; by that time all my aunts and uncles had left home so it was just her and I) after having gone through all of that may have had an effect on the WAY she raised me.

The first time I remember hearing the word “feminist” was in high school.  I studied Sociology and Current Affairs and the word kept coming up.  Thankfully for me, my sociology teacher was a great woman that did a whole section on Feminism.  At the time, I was more concerned with learning and getting good grades than really thinking about what I was learning, but now that I look back on it, I realize why I agreed with everything she taught us.

Because that’s how my grandmother raised me.

I don’t think – even now – that my grandmother would have ever called herself a feminist.  But that’s exactly what she was and is.  She has never let the fact that she is a woman stop her from anything.  And I’ve always admired her for that.

And I would never stoop to call myself an expert on feminism, nor a perfect feminist, but it’s struck me repeatedly the surprise I’ve felt when I learn more and realize that the beliefs I’ve always had were right in line with feminism.

Why the hell should I be surprised?  I was raised by a strong, independent woman.

* – The Rotund has mentioned her LiveJournal before, but as she has it friends-locked, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to link to it.  Normally I would have, but I don’t think that would be right in this case.

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Sexism sells. Are YOU buying it?

I am so mind-blowingly horrified right now that I’m having a hard time stringing together a coherent sentence.  So bear with me, please.

As an American woman living in the UK, I will be the first one to admit that I’m way out of touch with the American media.  I see snippets of it here and there, but not enough to get a real feel of what’s going on.  What I’ve seen in that video horrifies and sickens me.  How could they – in 2008 – say those types of things and still think it’s okay?  How could they possibly think that talking about Hillary Clinton on television and equating her with the stereotype of the “nagging, bitchy wife” would be acceptable?  And I don’t say this just because it’s Hillary Clinton.  Take her out of the picture and substitute ANY woman – you, your mother, your sister, your friend, your spouse – and the result would be the same.  Narcissistic, misogynistic men completely ignoring the woman as a person and simply bringing out every stereotype in their arsenal and equating said woman with that.  It’s disgusting to think that it would even happen in the modern age.

But obviously, it does.

It sickens me.  It sickens me to think that the women close to me that still live in the U.S. have been subject to this kind of indirect abuse from the media.  Because it doesn’t matter which woman they happen to be talking about at a particular time – when they say things like that, it affects all women.

I guess I’ve been spoiled.  The British media aren’t nearly as bad.  That’s not to say that sexism has been completely eradicated from the British media, but it isn’t nearly as rampant as what the above video shows.  More often than not, when talking about women – and especially women politicians – the media treats them just the same as they would treat a man.  I don’t ever remember a woman politician here (at least in the last five years) being criticized on what makeup she’s wearing.  Maybe it’s because Britain has already had one woman leader.  Whatever the reason, it just seems to me that the American media could learn something from that.

Because I live here in the UK, I don’t know that there’s much of anything I can do to make a difference.  But I thought that spreading the word – even if it’s just a few paragraphs on my personal blog – would be better than sitting here, furious and horrified, doing absolutely nothing.

Found via Shakesville, and pointed to The Women’s Media Center and their blog.