Feminism and My Crazy Momz (2of2)

June 8, 2010

This is really a continuation of my prvious post Thoughts on Feminism.

Let me start off by giving a few facts about my mother:

She went to college at a time when women were not allowed to wear shorts on campus. She had to get special permission to attend since it was only open to females if they were locals. They didn’t want to put women in dorms – they had to live at home with family to be properly chaperoned. So my mother lived with her aunt while she was in school and the university allowed that. An overwhelming majority of women studied either Nursing or Teaching. Nothing else. I don’t think it was forbidden to study other subjects – it just wasn’t done. I’m not sure if she had to get more special permissions or not but I do know that she was the ONLY female Mathematics major in her class. Upon graduation she took a job at the same university working with computers. In the 60s. Back when they took up whole rooms. She learned to program in languages no one uses anymore. She worked until the day she had her first child. She made the choice to continue working after she got married – despite the fact that many women looked down on her for not being home and taking proper care of her man (my father was all for her working BTW).

Have I just painted the picture of a pioneering feminist woman? You would think so. I grew up hearing these stories. I never ever thought I wasn’t good at math because I was a girl. Until high school, I thought that was a myth. It seemed perfectly silly to me that girls would be bad at math simply because they were female. But I learned that many of my peers had experienced that feeling. I always went to my mother for help with my math homework. My father sucks at math. And my mother can’t spell a word to save her life so it was to Pops I went for help with spelling and English. So I was shocked when I found out that she and my father had argued about the Equal Rights Ammendment (ERA) back in the 70s. He was FOR it SHE was AGAINST it. How could my mother, the woman who worked with computers in the 60s, not believe in equal pay for equal work? Did she really think she was worth less?

Why did my mother never want to be anything more than a wife and a mother? I still don’t understand it. And, to be frank, she wasn’t particularly good at either. So why was that all she wanted? Was it simply because it elluded her? She had to go back to work when my parents divorced. I’m not saying that SAHMs don’t have any other identity than wife and mother. I think many do. But I fail to understand how a person can successfully define themselve through other people (hubby & kids). You need something of your own. And my mother never wanted that.

This is a woman who feels SO STRONGLY against feminism that when I got married and she yelled at me when she found out I didn’t intend to change my last name. Literally yelled at me (not something she ordinarily does). Her exact words: “I didn’t raise you to be a….a… Women’s Libber!” The phrase “Women’s Libber” was said with such disdain I could never do it justice when recounting this story. I’ve never fully understood that comment since I believe she DID, in fact, raise me that way by telling me the stories of her college days – even if she did recount them not in awe of what she accomplished but matter-of-factly. She calmed down after I explained my reasons for that decision. My reasons for not changing my name really have nothing to do with feminism. With the noted exception that it is because of feminism that I can make that choice at all.

There is a stark contrast between my mother and Right Guy’s mother. Right Guy’s mother never went to college. Because her family didn’t believe in educating females. Can you believe that?!?! It outrages me. The choice was taken from her. Well, I suppose she could have chosen to go later in life. But still. My mother had all these amazing opportunities but never really wanted or cared about them. And there are so many others who would have killed for them!

I guess it all boils down to personal choice and doing what is right for YOU. But, damn, sometimes it’s really hard to understand those choices when they are not the ones we would make for ourselves.

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2 Responses to “Feminism and My Crazy Momz (2of2)”

  1. PlaiduhPus Says:

    “But, damn, sometimes it’s really hard to understand those choices when they are not the ones we would make for ourselves.”

    That it is. This post is very enlightening and helps me better understand your pov and how it came about.


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