From Our Readers
October 26, 2014 6:00 am

Feminism can (and should) mean different things to different people. I was always told that I could do anything that a man could do. I was encouraged to try different things, and find my own place in a world where gender equality and gender issues are not always black and white. I will be forever grateful to the people who came before me, the ones who fought battles that I didn’t have to fight.

My strong views on the subject come from my family. I grew up surrounded by my mother and aunts, who were raised during the ’50s and ’60s, and who have witnessed the many changes in how our culture views women. I was also exposed to the more traditional aspects of womanhood as practiced by my grandmothers, who were born in the ’30s. They followed the “traditional” route of foregoing a college education, and instead, spent their days running a home and raising children. These very different women from different times have different views on feminism. And none of them are wrong.

What I have learned from the wonderful women in my life and the ones who are speaking openly on the subject in the media, is that there is no right or wrong way to be a feminist. As long as you believe in equality, and the right for all people to choose their own paths in life, regardless of what that path might be, you are a feminist. We should teach our daughters and sons that men and women are equal. That women can run major corporations, and be President of the United States, and that equal pay for equal work is something that will benefit everyone.

However, something that we have to recognize and appreciate is that not all women want to run major corporations, and not all women want to be President of the United States. Some women believe that the greatest thing and the greatest work they will ever do is within the walls of their own home. And that is just as wonderful. Some women balance both work and motherhood. I have learned that if a women sets her mind on something, all she needs is for people to get out of her way and let her rise to the highest potential of her abilities.

We are often too quick to judge women who decide to leave the workforce to spend more time with her children or family; or on the other hand, we silently judge the women who decide that marriage and children aren’t for them, when they decide to focus on careers.

So often when we hear the word “feminism” we think of it as a nasty word. It conjures up images of angry women lighting their bras on fire. And although some feminists might fall into that category, I would be willing to bet that most do not.

Society has an idea of what “feminism” should look like, and when it dresses, speaks or acts differently, we try to reject and condemn it for being “too feminist” or “not feminist enough.” Some of the most passionate feminists I’ve met have been stay-at-home moms who are teaching their children that they have the power to make this world a better place for all women.

Our goal as feminists should be working together and learning from each other. Just like each woman is unique, each woman’s definition of feminism is unique. All people who believe in equality should be able to declare themselves feminists without worry or judgment, especially from other women.

Whitney Urien is a California native who lives and works in Southern California and dreams of small towns in New England. She loves all things with polka dots, writing, singing, holding other people’s babies, and spending time with her lawyer-husband and her Pit Bull, Audrey Hepburn. She blogs here.

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