Author’s Note: I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, and since today is International Women’s Day, I decided to go ahead and post my thoughts on feminism and how I interpret my place in the world as a woman. Be warned, however, that I am not now and never have been a feminist in the sense the word is used today, and my opinions may be offensive to some. That being said, I’m in no way apologizing for my views; I’m merely giving my readers a heads-up in case they want to turn away. God forbid, diversity of thought could actually be embraced, especially on a day like today, but I digress. Without any further ado, here’s my hot take on a touchy topic.
Not too long ago, I was wandering around Barnes and Noble, when I came across a photo essay book called Strong Is The New Beautiful, by Kate T. Parker. While I wholeheartedly agree with its basic premise, that gorgeous strong women come in all shapes, sizes, colors and from all backgrounds, I found myself bristling at the title and its “either/or” implication. My initial reaction was, “why does it have to be one or the other? If you’re pretty, you’re not strong?” If that’s the case, it certainly flies in the face of many women I know who are beautiful and strong inside and out, and when confronted with such a strong statement, I began to think about how I define being a woman. I don’t believe a woman should ever feel inferior because she isn’t the size 0 concentration camp victim the fashion world idolizes, nor should she feel pressured to be anything but her best self, whatever that best self is. I’ve always been reluctant to label myself as a feminist, and I feel like the marchers of today would look down on me as a tragic example of the patriarchy’s iron fisted rule over women throughout time. You see, I have been happily married for almost 19 years and my marriage is my greatest pride and joy– mind you, I never felt I needed a man to define myself as a woman, but the right one came along and I am very proud of being Mrs. Bill Sisler. I love doing the little things to show Bill he’s loved, whether it’s giving him a foot rub at the end of a long day, fixing him his favorite meal, or dressing up for him when we go out on a date night. I am hardly the Donna Reed vacuuming in pearls type (as the clutter in the apartment will readily attest to), and I’ve never felt pressured by my husband – or anyone else – to conform to typical gender roles. Instead, I choose to make them part of my life. It’s for this reason that I feel like society looks down on me because I’m a traditionalist, and this is where I quickly part ways with the current feminist, me too movement. Just because I love to wear high heels and perfume and changed my name when I got married doesn’t mean I don’t understand where other women are coming from — hell I’ve been there before myself. I was told by a teacher that I’d never get into JMU because the admissions process was harder on women, I’ve been harangued by an emotionally abusive boss and I’ve been groped multiple times by a pervy nonagenarian football booster who has absolutely no sense of personal space and appropriate behavior whatsoever, but you’ll never see me marching with a fake vagina on my head. I will never vote for a woman simply because she’s got boobs and estrogen. You’ll never see me blame every man on earth for the things I’ve been through and you certainly will never hear me use the word “victim” to describe myself. I can take –and tell — dirty jokes and I would be extremely flattered to hear a random man tell me he thinks I look nice. I won’t believe every college aged male is a rapist waiting to strike, and I will never emasculate the men in my life simply because there are boorish jerks out there who need to learn respect. Men aren’t the enemy and I refuse to treat them as such. What I will do is be proud of myself and my accomplishments and I will support the women around the world who are striving for the rights I take so thoroughly for granted. When I was growing up, my grandmother had a saying: beauty is as beauty does. What’s in a woman’s heart is more important than her body shape or what’s on her face, but we don’t have to discount beauty as if it’s a liability or something the patriarchy has imposed on us. Honestly, I’ve always felt like I relate to men better than women, and I count only four women I’ve ever known as my best friends (Diane, Alicia, Ann and Brenda — stay strong and fierce, ladies! Love you all!) Bottom line, no woman should be marginalized by other women. It’s tough enough to stand up to the men who try to keep us down, we shouldn’t keep each other from being the strongest and best examples of what it means to be a woman. Strong AND beautiful is possible, as long as we respect diversity of opinion when it comes to traditional gender roles. We have room for improvement, but if improvement means tearing apart others who hold traditional, conservative opinions on femininity, count me out. Let me know when the METOO witch hunt is over. For now, I’ll embrace my identity as a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, godmother and best friend and continue to support those speaking out for women’s rights around the world. That will be what defines me as woman who is both strong and beautiful.