That’s baffling to me because I learned what I know about feminism from my mom and from my grandmother, both strong, courageous women. Plus, how could a woman be against feminism? Was it the 70s and Gloria Steinem who created this negative stereotype? Is it purely the term “feminism” that is the problem?
Wikipedia tells me that Feminism (in part) is seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. Um, yes please!
I have never been a community activist or marched in an equal rights for women parade, but I’m thankful there were women who did. I wasn’t around when women did not have the right to vote, get an education, own property or hold office, but I’m grateful for those bold women who blazed that trail.
I’m blown away with stories I’ve heard from my grandmother and mother about their careers as young female teachers. And, I’m glad they shared these stories with me so I can remember that this wasn’t THAT long ago, that this was happening to women in the workplace.
- My grandmother, Armena Rumberger, who was born in 1901 and graduated from the University of Kansas in 1922. She was editor of The Kansan (the college newspaper) and lead in the senior play at KU. She was hired in a small town in Kansas for her first position as a full time teacher. As with any first job, she interviewed for the job in person and then returned several months later to start her first “real” job. That was the Roaring Twenties and at that time a popular haircut, “the flapper bob” had hit the country. My grandmother cut her long hair and when she returned to start her new teaching position, the principal and school board were not happy with her progressive new hairstyle.
- My mom, Diane Gard Mullikin, taught junior high in the Kansas City area for 15+ years, and loved teaching. During her first couple of years, she was pregnant with my sisters, but pregnant teachers weren’t allowed to teach school. The principal told the teachers at the annual back-to-school teacher’s meeting – predominantly women – that they weren’t allowed to be or get pregnant during the school year, and if they did, they’d lose their job because they couldn’t be seen by the children in this “disgusting condition.”
- When hired, my mom was shown her starting salary on a pay scale sheet that started with first year teachers’ salary, second year teacher’s and so on. Her principal pointed on the sheet what her salary would be. She made an inquiry about a second column – a list of higher salaries. She was told those were for the first-year male teachers.
And there’s so much more. None of these stories made mom or grandma angry. This was just how life was. I guess we’re all glad some politically-minded women activist came along and helped change some things for future generations.
I’m in an industry that is predominately women and I enjoy the notion of supporting each other in our own journeys. I had a conversation with my sister recently who’s 12 years older than I am. She insisted that she never liked working for a female boss. I argued that I preferred it. I thought there were opportunities to learn from a strong female mentor who could lead by example, demonstrate her strengths and ultimately show support to another woman’s confidence and even take pride in it. Looking back, I wonder if it has to do with our difference in generations, and that she felt more comfortable with a man leader and a more traditional role.
My daughter, Natalie, is 13 and has been asking questions about female roles: Can girls play football, she asked? (not in the NFL was my answer, sorry true feminists, but I just don’t think so!)
Without getting into the 2016 election details, Natalie was shocked (and who wasn’t!) by some of the things that were said. I want to raise her knowing she can have any career she wants, and I’m proud her opportunities were opened by women like my grandmother and mother who may have been appalled by the term feminist, but they were trailblazers all the same.