As we head into 2012, I am thinking about where the “F” word stands in society. Were it not for my time living in Central Texas, I may have a very different perception of what the “F” word – feminism – means to people in the 21st Century.
Living six months in Central Texas is about as much of a culture shock as a liberal California girl can ask for. As a self-proclaimed feminist, or rather an equalist, I found myself surrounded at times by folks with a completely separate understanding of women’s roles. I struggled to level with friends, strangers, and coworkers who have extremely different perspectives from mine. At times, the way I see the world is so singular that I fail to comprehend how others can disagree. And I’m not typically one to hold my tongue.
A recent conversation with one of my close friends revolved around how Southern ideals of femininity and women’s roles affect those same women’s life choices. I was surprised to hear my smart, funny, out-spoken friend talk about her conception of how women should act within relationships and family.
I struggled to reconcile the words coming out of her mouth, my perception of her previous to this conversation, and my own views. My experiences have taught me that people will never fail to surprise you, and to expect the unexpected. In the aftermath of this conversation, I tried to find an appreciation for my friend’s perspective, while still honoring my personal feelings otherwise.
In these moments, I had to learn to calm my frustrations to avoid offending the people around me, whom I love and respect. These awkward interactions gave me a new understanding of what feminism means today.
To me, feminism is the struggle for equality of opportunity. However, socialization determines to a large extent whether women will pursue those opportunities or not. And my time in Texas has taught me that this is okay.
I cannot force anyone to live a lifestyle they do not want, and I would expect the same courtesy to be extended to me in return. At times, I have to remind myself that as much as I may not understand someone else’s choices, he or she may feel the same way about mine. Personally, I have realized that being a feminist means advocating for all people to have the same opportunities and allowing each individual the right to pursue whichever path will bring her or him enduring happiness. What is your relationship to the “F” word? And where do you think feminism stands in 2012?