One hot sticky summer night, two old-timers and a young guy from a nearby factory came into my grocery store line, where I worked as a teenager, and started to complain about the “damn women-libbers” who were trying to take their jobs.
They had only a few items and I worked quickly to get them through my line, but I couldn’t help but take notice of their conversation. The three went on-and-on about how two new female workers were trying to take their jobs and how they, the men, were being mistreated.
I had never seen the guys before and would have forgotten about them completely, but I left work that night thinking that if they put as much energy into keeping their jobs as they did complaining they would have nothing to fear.
I walked away reflecting on how fortunate I was to be born with both the X and Y chromosomes and had a bright future in front of me. I certainly didn’t come from money and would have to work to make my dreams come true, but I also didn’t have to worry about anyone tearing down my dreams or paying me less because of the nature of my sex.
Fair is fair . . . for everyone
For whatever reason, the scene has stayed with me for more than three decades. I’ve always believed in hard work. My father and my mother long ago taught me the value of giving an honest day’s labor for a day’s pay.
As a teenager walking off my shift that day, I would have never described myself as a feminist. The word feminist was someone who burned their bras and protested on Capitol Hill. I couldn’t really relate, but I’ve long believed in equal opportunity for everyone — no matter the gender. Yes, body type comes into play, but if a women works hard and can do the job, then why should she be prevented from laying bricks, hauling trash, or even serving in the military?
The same goes for so-called traditional male roles in finance, technology, medicine etc., etc. Why shouldn’t there be equal footing? What role exactly does gender play in determining whether or not you’re a great finance director or doctor or lawyer? I’ve never found a reason.
Becoming a father, becoming a feminist
While I never would have described myself as a feminist, I’ve found that life has a way of shaping you, of changing you, whether you want it to or not. I still don’t know that I understand everything that being a feminist means. I definitely tend more to the conservative side of issues, but if being a feminist means that my daughter or any daughter has the right to be whatever she wants, than sign me up.
I want my daughter to believe, deep in her heart, that she is capable of achieving anything she puts her mind to. Since she was a little girl, I’ve long lectured her on having big dreams. Will that mean hard work? Yes. Will that take commitment? Oh definitely. Will that mean failure along the way? Of course.
But I want the best for her. I want her to have big, exciting and challenging dreams. And as a father, I don’t want the government or anyone for that matter to be in control or telling her how and what she should do with her life. And when she reaches those dreams, she should be paid equally to everyone else in that role.
And you know what? I want the exact same thing for my sons. I want them to shoot for the moon. If that makes me a feminist, then so be it.
Frankly, I’m not sure why everyone wouldn’t want the same thing.