If you’re anything like me, you feel a little torn about leaving feminism behind, maybe a little guilty. We inherited all these wonderful benefits and now we’re kicking feminism to the curb? Seems so cold and ungrateful. Or arrogant and prideful. Either way, we’ve got some resolving to do.
Ironically, while many of us may feel disloyal internally, only about 23 percent of us are willing to identify externally as feminist. That should tell you something right there. Something about the word, the label, or the history of feminism is a turn off to most women.
There are those caricatures of early feminists; the bra burners, the armpit hair growers, the man haters. There are those awkward moments in feminism’s history; Betty Friedan warning the National Organization of Women that it faced a “lavender menace”—1970s speak for the lesbians are taking over. There are those rubber-stamped feminist choices we are expected to make or risk being kicked out of the club: abortion, few children, if any; education and career before marriage, or maybe instead of marriage and family.
Then there’s the true litmus test for any feminist worth her salt; she needs a man for absolutely nothing but her own pleasure because she can provide everything she needs for herself. (That the role of “husband” is played by the government with a lot of single mothers is the subject for a different day.)
Certainly there are women who are not turned off by any of the above, about 23 percent of them. The rest of us are looking for something else.
We can see it—21st Century Women—on the other side of the bridge. We sense the peace of choosing the life we want to live, a life that is uniquely our own and unmolded by anyone else’s expectations. We sense the confidence of needing no one to approve of our choices. We grasp the power of owning our choices and the freedom of blaming no one for how we’ve met the opportunities, few or many, we’ve been presented in life. The only question is, how do we get there from here?
From the safety of the familiar side of the bridge, we can experiment with small changes, shots in the dark, trial and error, or multiple choice attempts to taste life as a 21st Century Woman.
If the hallmark of a 21st Century Woman is to choose the life she wants, start with figuring out what you really want. Maybe you already know. Maybe you’ve wanted to be a geologist since you were five. Maybe you want to be a full-time homemaker. Maybe you have no idea. The best way to start is to get out of the echo chamber where everyone already agrees with you politically, spiritually, and economically. Scan the whole horizon; be willing to examine your beliefs and your choices; if you find more truth, let it in.
Hang out on the edges of who you might want to be until they aren’t edges anymore. When you feel that click or whirr or hmmm of everything sliding into place, the hardest part is over.
Once you know who you are and what you want, boundless amounts of courage and drive appear to help you achieve it. So far, no one has to know but you. Still nothing to be scared of.
Something else happens when you catch the vision of who you really are. Your thoughts and words and actions begin to coalesce around that truth. You find yourself becoming so sure, so hungry to realize the vision, that, almost imperceptibly, it starts to happen.
There is power in knowing who you are and what you believe. The alignment with your True North is so compelling that it becomes your pearl of great price. Whether other people like or approve of your choice matters less and less because the truth of living who you are warms you like the sun.
You’re halfway across the bridge and didn’t even realize it.
When the unexpected happens, and it always does, you recalibrate, always keeping True North in your sights. No matter what happens, you are the serenity of self-mastery, never bitter, never a victim, always seeking more truth.
Some of us call that truth God, some of us don’t. It doesn’t matter. Twenty-first Century Women don’t need to be right and don’t need to make anyone else wrong.
You’re almost across the bridge now, just a few more steps, and those steps can only be taken in gratitude and optimism. When your willingness to believe in yourself exactly matches your respect for those who differ, you’re there.
Life isn’t rainbows and unicorns on the new side of the bridge; in fact, there are brand new adventures and challenges. The important thing is that you’re a 21st Century Woman now. You know what you stand for and you stand for it no matter what.
Go get’em, Tiger!