#thetimeisnow

Talking to parents about the f word When it comes to understanding feminism, age is slightly more than just a number

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“I’m not a feminist.”

I was shocked to hear the words leave her mouth; I almost didn’t even believe it.

“I can’t tell, are you joking right now?” I asked.

“No. That’s just never a word I would use to describe myself.”

Hearing my mom tell me she didn’t relate to the term “feminist” was a blow to my whole understanding of society. For my entire life she has been the driving force that has taught me that women deserve equal rights when compared to their male counterparts and that I should always take care of myself and never rely on a man — or anyone else for that matter. And she is the one that is always the most disturbed and angry when she finds out I’ve faced sexism in the workplace. Yet for some reason, she wouldn’t call herself a feminist.

My parents, like many other students’, grew up in Canada in the ‘60s and the ‘70s. While they are both racialized individuals and these decades of their youth made headway for movements in civil rights, their greater understanding of things like gender and women’s rights, on the other hand, is slightly tainted with memories of what would have then been considered extremist activism.

Second-wave feminism was sweeping the nation at the time, and if youth were not actively involved in the movement (for a variety of reasons), they were often taught that this was something negative and over the top. Especially for people that were already being treated as pariahs for their skin colour, going into the street and talking about abortion and marital rape just brought up more opportunities for people to mock and abuse them.

The pivotal moments in my parents’ youth were restrained for various socio-political reasons. And because of these reasons, they now struggle with grasping the meaning of these terms in our modern society.

The actual semantics of the word “feminist” have gotten a horrible reputation over the years. And contrary to many a belief, some sampling in a Beyoncé song isn’t going to change everyone’s minds. Often I feel that my mission as a feminist is to overthrow the opinions of the people closest to me in age range, because they “are the future” and we should be focusing our time on them. But the harder mission may be to work with the people who raised me, and to educate people that I feel already know what’s going on, but don’t quite have the history to know what it means in our day and age.

The pivotal moments in my parents’ youth were restrained for various socio-political reasons. And because of these reasons, they now struggle with grasping the meaning of these terms in our modern society.  

When trying to create a society that is truly intersectional, I often forget the important role that age plays. While there are many older citizens who do not stand up in arms in our present-day activism simply because they’re assholes, there are also many who weren’t raised to have the same knowledge and understanding that is being promoted to us today.

When we’re looking to talk to people and to promote diverse causes, it’s important to remember that age is also a point of privilege and the terms and ideas we’re bringing up may take more effort to understand. My mom is a feminist, but she refuses to call herself one because of the time she grew up in. Here’s to hoping our current efforts towards education in feminist activism can start to turn back time.

Photo Credit: Diana Davies

 

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Author: Amanda Watkins

Amanda is a graduate of McMaster Humanities, majoring in Multimedia and Communication Studies. She started at The Silhouette as a Lifestyle volunteer in her first year and is now Editor-in-Chief. She humbly acknowledges that she started from the bottom and now is here.