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Now More Than Ever, We All Still Need Feminism

Cassie McClure on

My first boyfriend asked me to join him for church services. He asked if I could wear a dress. I didn't own a dress, but back in my closet, I had a denim skirt that reached down to the ankles, and I'm not sure why it was there. It might have been part of a costume. It might have been part of denim's hold in the '90s. It would have to do.

At the end of the services, where I didn't know there'd be strange snacks and itty-bitty cups of grape juice I'd awkwardly eat and drink because my family wasn't at all religious, the crowd separated automatically. I drifted over to my boyfriend, who told me I needed to go with the women. I asked him not to leave me, but he shrugged and told me there was no other option.

I don't blame him now; he was only a teenager like me. But the feeling stung in that there wasn't a way that he could stand up for me and my discomfort. It modeled a separation between men and women that hadn't been modeled for me before. It highlighted a divide between what generations before us have deemed acceptable and traditional without investigating whether those truths are beneficial, or even useful, to us now.

It's like the discussion of "usefulness" of feminism has been happening in online spaces more and more in the last 10 years, and I've been rolling my thoughts around in my mind like uneven marbles. There are different ideas I've seen, but the one I see more often is that women my age and younger don't remember the undeniable limitations on life that existed before women and men fought for women's rights.

But I've heard the stories. The ones you've heard too. It's holding the hands of those with botched abortions as they die, as a former nurse shared with me, but sometimes they feature more mundane measures of control.

One story that sticks with me was from a local financial workshop for women. A woman in her 80s listened to the presentation -- Contribute to an IRA! Look at investing in real estate! -- but toward the end told our table how she remembered that her first credit card had her husband's name on it and had to be approved by him. This was in the 1970s when society didn't trust us with money or our bodies. It wasn't that long ago.

 

But those are ancient ideas for full-grown women born in this century. For them, feminism hasn't actively "done" anything for them. It's been static. It's been a Disneyfied empowerment through feminism with a sheen of Girl Power instead of the dirty work that starts with being vocal about not just about the rights of women, but the rights of men. For example, we shouldn't just have a call for maternity leave, but also paternity leave. Custody of children in a divorce should lean to the best provider, not a default gender.

Let's be real: feminism has a branding problem in the modern era. In some circles, the word "feminism" implies the domination of the feminine over the masculine -- no matter how blue in the face you get trying to explain that it's just not the definition; advocacy is not erasure. However, even the barest hint of change construed as removal -- instead of words that lend themselves toward reaching inclusivity or problem-solving -- are effectively marketing poison.

There's always the lingering hope that both men and women will rethink their need to reach for equality before our values as humans are transferred into rigid gender roles defined by the times when the trust in half of the population was left up to those who just wanted control. And this isn't just about Biblical times. It was times that our mothers and grandmothers still remember, sometimes ache to forget, and many times failed to share.

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Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

 

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