Yesterday was the Buffalo Women’s March.
I was about seven or eight years old the first time I noticed inequality between the sexes, and it was of course found in the middle of the Catholic Church. Now, I was raised Catholic and respect the church, but no longer practice as I have many differing opinions with it. The first crack in the foundation came when it was explained to me that women could not become priests. They could be nuns, which to me was unsatisfactory as the only time you got to be onstage was during the Eucharist and who wanted that? I wanted to be the star. When I was in 4th grade they changed the policy so that girls could be altar servers, but even I knew that was crap. A non-speaking role of servitude? No thanks. Obviously, I was less suited for religion then I was for theater, but this discovery was still several years off. What bothered me was that this inequality did not align with what I had been told
See, here are some things that I was taught growing up:
- Women and men have different attributes, but are fundamentally equal.
- My ancestors fought for my right to vote and own property.
- I can do anything I put my mind to.
- Men and women should share household duties.
- One does not need a relationship to be a whole person.
So I’m just going to take a second and applaud my parents, who never let me feel like I had to worry about the opposite sex, because I can take care of myself, and I am just as good as the average dude walking down the street.
What they didn’t prepare me for, however, was the realization at nineteen that not everybody was playing by these rules. I had just spent 4 years in an institution which insisted I was equal to everyone, and came into a world so skewed it sickened me. I decided then that I would not tolerate such inequality, and I would actively fight against it.
When I met my husband Mark, he had many gender biased opinions. For one, he expected a woman to do all the cleaning and cooking, even if said woman had a 9-5 job. I recall actually belly laughing at this, thinking it was an honest to god joke. His bewildered expression made me laugh harder, as I patted his shoulder and said “Oh, honey…that ain’t me.” Many years later when we moved in together, I found that he still thought this was the way the cookie crumbled, which led to me holding a strike on housework. Eventually he ran out of clean underwear and cracked, but he realized that I was not to be trifled with when it came to equality. We live in a house together; we take care of a house together. No person in my household is above another based solely on their genitalia.
Last year for the women’s march, I was sick. I was sad I couldn’t make it, but when I heard there would be another this year I was excited. I asked Mark if we could go and he said of course, as his social conscience has grown exponentially in recent years. We had the kiddos that weekend (sidebar: I’ve got four step-kids who are awesome) so we decided to take them along. I don’t know if the four of them had some sort of magic perfect child cereal for breakfast or what, but what I thought might be a disaster was a triumph. The complaints were at a minimum, and the excitement was high. They were amazed to walk around downtown, seeing building up close they had only seen on tv. They loved walking through the streets, reading the different signs, and chanting along with the crowd that this is what democracy looks like. When Markus, the eldest, and the one that I thought was most likely to have a terrible time, said “It’s not fair that men get paid more than women,” and “I like this, this is awesome,” I almost cried. We had a talk about democracy, and the right to peacefully assemble, and how it was important to fight for women’s rights because they are human rights. My heart was so full of pride and hope.
I hope that in the future, my step daughters make the same amount of money as their male counterparts. I hope they never have to worry about health care decisions. I hope they are never harassed or assaulted. I hope they never have to compete for grades or jobs. I hope no one ever tells them they can’t do it on their own. I hope they grow up strong and fierce, and I hope their big brothers are allies, and a support system they can always count on.
Taking the kids, Mark, and my sister to the march yesterday reminded me of all the times that my gender has caused me strife, and how much stronger I had become to overcome society’s patriarchal boundaries. I hope that every woman who marched yesterday, and every woman who wanted to but couldn’t, finds their own personal empowerment, and their own sense of self. We can stand alone if we want to, but we are stronger together.