I have not always been a feminist.
Or I didn’t realize I was a feminist.
I am not a woman who has ever said the word with derision or disgust.
I am not a woman who was afraid of the word and what people would think of me if I used it to describe myself.
I just didn’t really think it was relevant.
When I was asked to develop a Leadership for Women course for the local college, I delved into so many books and articles that made me realize the challenges I’d been facing in the workplace were not about my age (or at least not entirely about my age), but rather about my gender.
As typically the youngest person in a room, I assumed not being taken seriously was due to my being 10 or, often, 20+ years junior to everyone else in the room. Rather, as I started to dissect those scenarios more, I realized that I was one of very few women or the only woman in the room.
I started to pay more attention and notice that the women in my classes did, in fact, speak up less often than the men; that the women got interrupted more than the men. I started to notice that women apologized for asking questions, especially of my male colleagues.
I remembered that, after I had my son, people had stopped asking me about my career (even though I was teaching at the post-secondary level and running my own event planning and public relations business) when I went somewhere with my then-husband.
I thought back to being told I shouldn’t bother with college or university, because I’d never make anything of myself. Given that I was a straight A student, the only way to interpret this was that it was because I was a woman.
It wasn’t until I started teaching that Leadership for Women course in 2008 that I clearly identified myself as a feminist.
I won’t say that I found my voice right away. That was a slow process as well and is probably another blog entry, but I was acutely aware of all the things that were easy for men or were meant to favour them, that were not easy for women. That we had to work harder; had to fight harder.
Today, I not only proudly identify as a feminist, but friends and colleagues use me either as an example or ask me questions in search of some clarity.
Today, I proudly wear this shirt as often as possible: