I went to college once. I loved it there. I learned so much: I blew my mind open and learned about oppression and white privilege (shocker!); I studied slavery and empire and colonialism. I learned the about Globalization and Revolution and the CIA.
In my last term of college, I got pregnant—a state of being celebrated in many parts of society, but not when you are a young woman in College. I immediately became “other” and was devalued and ignored by many. I found it odd that my immense state of womanhood was viewed as a total failure from the context of UNIVERSITY.
Nonetheless, I graduated with honors and soon became a mother. I absorbed all my studies into my body and shifted into a very different life and a very different school system. I spent years as a single mother. I supported myself. I leaned on the state for help with food sometimes. I leaned on friends and family a lot. If anyone was down to help me, I accepted it.
This is what I’ve learned from a pregnant semester in college and from life after college:
Feminism is not about women’s studies classes. It is not just about women’s image in the media, or the glass ceiling, or equal pay. It includes these things, but this is not at the heart of it. Feminism is about letting mothers be celebrated as students and young people, not only as wives or 30-somethings.
Feminism is about deep feminine power being unchained and unrestrained. It is about bringing that power into this system of patriarchy, from the ground up. It is about women in the workforce, being able to be womanly, not necessarily “equal” to men. It is about protecting mothers at home. Or young mothers, mothers of color, poor mothers, older mothers, all mothers. It is about allowing that softness, that intuitive certainty to be a thing valid and recognized. It is about saying to the mother who witnessed her child react to a vaccine, “I hear you, your story is real,” regardless of what science reports. It is allowing those both to be true.
It is about the coexistence of science and intuition, that delicate dance between magic and math that Einstein so brilliantly played with. It is not about women climbing the ranks of men, but women bringing with them the new ways of thought as they climb that ladder. Allowing intuition to be recognized as reasonable is one of the greatest radical shifts I can imagine.
Once we define feminism, we begin to lose it. It is constantly moving and growing, like we are, and like our children are. When we filter it into a classroom, (especially a classroom that is increasingly becoming unavailable to women of color and underprivileged women), it begins to lose its validity. Feminism is not a school of thought. It is a way of being, it is activism of the heart. It is the right for women to be protected and to protect. It is the right for women to be beautiful and know that they are so. It is the right for them to be mothers and workers, or just mothers, or just workers. It is the right for women to be wives or unmarried and to be in healthy marriages and relationships. It is the right for women to be feminine and still be viewed as strong. Feminism is about subverting the current system of power because the current system of power is inherently masculine.
In my heart, I rebel against the privileged, white, academia-protected definition of feminism. Because it forgets its own whiteness and its own privilege. It forgets the hungry masses, the women of the eras before us who have carried this world on their backs. It forgets the women who will never “study” feminism because we have developed a system where multitudes of women cannot access our education system. Therefore, true feminism is not found in the textbooks or classrooms or buried deep in the institutions of our nation.
Feminism is not a simply a woman in the White House, or a female CEO. It is a woman who climbs up there and says “this system is broken, this system has lost the yin from its yang, this system is starving our children and shaming my sisters.” It is a woman who says, “this system is perpetuating war on our brothers and sisters of other nations. This system is asking my brothers and sisters to trade their souls for consumerism.”
Women challenge the patriarchy simply by existing. The new feminism defines success not by the paths of our male counterparts, but on our own terms. Where love and softness rule alongside strength and determination; where strength rises like water, not just like rock; where justice is measured also by the heart, not simply by the books and ledgers. The new feminism is where courage is never confused with bravado, where love is never confused with money, and where femininity is given its proper seat at the table.
About Sadie Rose Casey
Sadie Rose is a mother, writer, and creative project manager in Northern California. Through her work she strives to connect women with each other and to create beauty from elements that surround her. Read more at SadieRoseCasey.com.