A few days ago, my feminism was shaken out of the closet.
I didn’t realize that she had locked herself in there…and to be honest, I’m not sure when it was that she retreated.
Somehow, over the course of the past several years, she had crammed herself in there, fire, power, intelligence and all.
Sure, she rumbled, from time to time and if I listened carefully, I could hear the doorknob rattle.
The wind, I thought.
It’s just the wind and so I continued, moving through life.
At some point, as my life began to move down a path that I hadn’t expected, she must have settled…it may have been around the time the word “feminism” disappeared from our everyday language.
Instead, the mantra became: we are one. You and I are no different from one another—and we are all one.
I do believe this; I believe that we are all connected and intertwined and that our very existence depends on one another.
But, I can believe this and still allow my feminism to dance around the room, kicking up her heels, so relieved to be free of that f*cking closet.
An old box of saved art and English projects from grade school tells me that my feminism has been a part of me since the beginning of time.
She started to exercise her voice through school projects, writing about rape and a woman’s right to choose; humanism was woven into her backbone, an essential part of her strength and so she also spoke about People Who Made A Difference, like Martin Luther King and Rose Parks.
As I grew older, I would sing along, passionately, to Ani di Franco, while secretly wishing that I had been alive back when civil rights and women’s rights and human rights were all the rage and people were angry and alive and doing everything that they possibly could to change the world.
A time when we were all connected in our desire to make the world a better place and where peace and love were an essential part of our toolbox (the long hair and bell-bottoms added to this enchanted dream.)
Throughout university, I worked a crisis line for a rape crisis centre, listening and offering love and compassion to the scared and troubled women that would call in, late at night.
Women were my cause and I was a believer in the power of everything feminist.
“Feminism: I myself have never to be able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat…”
~ Rebecca West
My mother, certainly, was one of my strongest role models.
Both she and my grandmother were independent and creative—the kind of women that would do, rather than just talk about doing.
My parents divorced when I was five and my brother was two and although we remained close with my father, visiting him every other weekend, splitting up the holidays and for a few weeks in the summer, my mother was it; she was the boss. Although later in life, she and my father would reconcile (that is a story for another time), while we were growing up, she was the leader of our pack.
My mother worked full time, as a flight attendant, which to me, was magical.
I can remember sitting in the bathroom, watching her transform from my mother (dressed in her favorite Levi’s blue jeans—always men’s, because her legs were so long) into a beautiful Flight Attendant, dressed sharply, precisely, with each hair in place.
It was truly remarkable and if I close my eyes, I can just barely imagine the faint smell of her perfume.
She was a single mother who worked full time, traveling the world…and she still found time to cook and bake and redecorate our rooms to surprise us and make heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day. She always found the time to hold us and love us and tell us that the world was ours, we had only to find the courage to dream our dreams and go after them.
The relationship that she and I shared differed hugely from the one she had with my brother—in the sweetest way, he was a mamma’s boy and I, a daddy’s girl —yet our bond, a bond only a mother and daughter can share, was as strong as iron.
From a young age, she both inspired and terrified me—she pushed me, harder than my brother, to get better grades, to do better at school, so that I would have more choices in my life…so that I would own my own life.
She spoke to me, constantly, of the importance of being independent, of working that much harder because I was woman and of making my own money—and that, even when I fell in love, I should keep a part of myself that was just for me.
(To get lost, so completely in someone else, had caused her a heartbreak I can never understand and I think that she was trying to prepare me for my eventual heartaches and love loss.)
I come from a long line of strong, independent, beautiful, smart, funny, loyal and fiercely loving women.
Although none of them are around anymore, I carry their flame within my heart; I am every part of them as much as they are every part of me.
And somehow, at some point, I lay my sword labeled, ‘I am a feminist down’ and walked silently away.
But now, she is out of the closet.
And boy, is she angry.
Although in the country that I live in our politicians haven’t (yet) decided to claim women’s bodies and choices as their own, making a woman’s right to choose a thing of the past and a large part of a twisted political strategy, I am infuriated to witness this elsewhere in the world.
We must get angry.
We must get so angry that we are speaking up and speaking out.
We must allow that tickle in our throats—our voices!— to bellow, full throttle into the world. And we must do this, as one.
As human beings…all of us.
Because, as I realized later in life, it wasn’t only my mother that was a feminist.
My father, too, from the day I was born, stood in my corner, championing my causes (and still does, to this day).
He, to my surprise, is a feminist too.
*The article was adapted from the original, on elephant journal.