Not About Choice? What Is Feminism, Really?

USA

A long time ago, in a society far, far removed from our own, women really got the shaft.

The expectations for women during my grandparents' generation were relatively strict. They were allowed to get an education, even go to college. They were expected to hold down a job in their early adulthood- you have to pay the bills, after all. But once they found a nice, handsome man to marry, that all changed.

Women by and large were expected to get married, have kids, and become a stay at home mom. Now, as with everything else, that wasn't a hard and fast rule. There were plenty of married women holding down jobs- at times full-time jobs- but the general expectation was the same. And if a woman wasn't married by a certain age (namely thirty), she was branded with the worst stigma of all: being an old maid!

My grandmother, despite having a college degree and serving as a biochemist during WWII, was forced by her father to take a job as a Home Ec teacher until she got married. I often wonder what she could have accomplished, had her opportunities not been so restricted at the time. My grandmother was a shrewd, cunning, and brilliant woman, who raised five rambunctious kids (and a husband); she could have made a big impact in the scientific community.

Fast forward a few decades and we see things changing. During my parents' generation affirmative action happened, as well as the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Women were now empowered to pursue lifestyles previous generations couldn't imagine. The idea that the average women could hold a prominent career, instead of getting married and having kids, was now a reality.

While that did bring its own challenges and setbacks, it was clear that the goal at the time was to provide the same opportunities for women as men. If a man can decide to have a career, putting off marriage and family- why shouldn't a woman? If a woman wanted children instead, of course she was free to do that. If she wanted both? It would be hard, but dammit shouldn't she have that chance?

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