Have you ever seen something so often you took it for granted? You didn’t know what it was called or that it even had a name? Phineas and Ferb, a show I insist is for adults and not children, did an episode on the little plastic thing on the end of the shoe-lace. Turns out, it’s called an aglet. It has a name. I have been educated.
That was startling to discover, but not nearly as startling as my discovery years ago that this feeling I had about how girls and women can do anything was called “feminism.” Or how frankly offensive some people feel that term is.
It is so offensive, apparently, that when a young girl wore a shirt that said “Feminist” to her school picture day, she had it censored by the administration. It’s so offensive, that when I do a google image search for Feminist, it breaks my heart a little, and scares me more than a little.
I wonder if people have feelings this intense about aglets now that they have a name? What the fuck are these little tips trying to get away with, anyway? Helping guide laces through holes in the top of shoes. They don’t know their place.
I was raised by my mother. My dad was there, too, but he was in the Navy and away a lot during my formative years. I don’t want to minimize his contribution to my bringing up, but in things parenting, he deferred to my mom. I think he was frankly baffled by us.
My mom worked and took care of us. My mom managed the finances. My mom fixed things and put things together. My mom painted and tinkered. She worked retail in the hardware section. Then she worked as a jeweler. She had five kids, and she kept us in line without spanking or yelling. One look was all she needed to quiet us down. To disappoint her was to disappoint ourselves.
I didn’t grow up thinking my choices of career were limited by my gender. I didn’t grow up thinking I had to get a husband. I didn’t grow up thinking power tools were only for men.
I always knew that women were smart and strong and funny. I always knew women were problem solvers. And I always knew women could be real forces of nature. I have three brothers, and they certainly think women can do anything men can do (except pee standing up.)
When we settled back in New England near the end of my dad’s time in the Navy, my mom put herself through college while she worked one full-time and one part-time job. Then she got her Masters degree while she worked the same jobs. She became a teacher, and a damned good one. A sought after one.
She was always a little disappointed, I think, in how little we kids marveled at her accomplishments. We didn’t marvel. Poor mom. We didn’t because we were completely unsurprised. Of course she did it. My mom can do anything.
In my life, I’ve tried things and succeeded. Except for having a kid, I’ve never thought of one accomplishment as having to do with my gender. I’ve tried things and failed. Except for not being able to pee standing up (tidily), I’ve never thought of one failure as having to do with my gender.
The feeling I have that girls should be able to have the same opportunities, safety and rights as boys came from having a mom who took on the world. It has always been there inside me. If that makes me a pants-wearing, nonleg-shaving, foul-mouthed aglet, I’ll take it.