The heart of feminism is liberation, not oppression.
When I was first introduced to feminism I felt more oppressed than I had before. As a very conservative woman, I was overwhelmed by the responsibilities I mistakenly believed were associated with feminism. What if I wanted to get married? What if I didn't want to burn my bras? Bras are expensive! I can't afford feminism!
This is a misconception many people have about feminism. People think that if they subscribe to feminist values they have to throw all their beliefs out the window and shun anything that may be associated with traditional gender roles. There is a feeling that in order to be truly empowered, you must subscribe to a certain brand of feminism.
This is not right.
Feminism is dedicated to giving people the opportunity to be who they were created to be. Feminism strives to remove the barriers that prevent people from making the choices they believe are best for themselves and from fully actualizing their potential.
Feminism is here to empower you, not to tell you how to feel empowered. Feminism fights for your right to have a choice.
I want to share a very personal story with you about a very personal choice a friend of mine made (don't worry, she gave me permission to share).
Back in High School, one of my friends got pregnant. She had been careful, but still, these things happen. After careful consideration of all her options and taking into account all personal variables, she made the decision to have an abortion.
I went with her to the clinic and held her hand through the appointment. She sobbed in my arms; our hearts broke.
Making the decision to have an abortion was not easy for her, but it was her decision. I believed that she had the right to make a choice, and even if I didn't agree with it, I was going to respect her and love her through it.
This is something we forget: even if we do not agree with the personal choices someone is making, we still need to fight for their right to have a choice. As long as their right to choose does not infringe on the rights of others (I know, sometimes this area gets grey), we need to allow people the space to make their own decisions because ultimately they know what is best for themselves.
Patriarchy does not give people a choice. Patriarchy allows one gender to make decisions for the other. Patriarchy enforces strict gender rules, regardless of personal desire. Men are expected to have a career and to never cry, women are expected to have babies and keep silent. There is no recognition of the unique strengths different people have.
Thanks to the efforts of feminists and the privilege I was born into, I have had the right to make a lot of choices. I made the choice to pursue post-secondary education, I made the choice to put having kids on hold while I work on a career, I made the choice to marry my husband, I made the choice to have a relationship with Jesus and I made the choice to speak out against the injustices of the world around me.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by strong feminists who have fought for my right to choose, just as I will fight for their right to choose.
I am not your stereotypical feminist. I love floral prints and puppies, summer dresses and baking. My husband always says, "you are the perfect combination of adorable and powerful." My blonde hair and blue eyes throw people off, because under the sweet exterior is a fierce warrior.
But I am a feminist. I am empowered. Feminism didn't teach me what to do in order to feel empowered; it allowed me the space to be empowered.
So make your own decisions, and know that feminism is fighting for your right to do so. Be whoever you feel you were created to be, and know that feminism is cheering you on. Embrace the liberation that comes with feminism, because once you get a taste of what life could be like if people understood that men and women inherently deserve the same rights and freedoms, you will never go back.
Feminism isn't here to force you to be someone you are not; it is here to give you the opportunity to be exactly who you are.