MY FEMINIST BIRTHRIGHT
There’s a story my parents tell about me that I love because it makes me sound like I was one of those sassy, adorable kids that populate Modern Family and the imaginations of childless TV writers everywhere.
When I was about three, I announced to my neighbours that I wanted to be a truck driver. My neighbours – three girls, all older than me – laughed.
When I asked why, their mother told me that little girls can’t be truck drivers because that’s a job for little boys.
These days I’d argue that, technically, it’s not a job for children at all but at the time I had larger concerns. I told her that she was wrong because “my family are feminisms which means that girls can be any job” and immediately ran next door to tell my parents what I’d heard.
In retrospect, this story reflects better on my parents than it does on me.
For a three-year-old to know the word feminism, let alone to identify (albeit grammatically incorrectly) as a feminist, indicates a homelife that features healthy discussion.
It was hugely important to both my parents that my brothers and I knew that men and women are equal, even if they’re not treated that way by society or the law.
As I entered my teenage years, the conversation became more complex.
I wanted to know what my parents thought about contraception, equal pay for equal work, maternity leave, pro-life versus pro-choice and whether declaring Natasha Stott Despoja a stone-cold hottie undercut her authority as a politician. (I was about to write “R.I.P Democrats” but Wikipedia claims they still exist. Hang in there, you crazy kids.)
My parents never shied away from answering these often difficult questions, or from encouraging me to read everything I could and draw my own conclusions. So it was with some surprise that, about a year ago, I found myself answering a few queries that they had about feminism in my generation.
The SlutWalk phenomenon began when a police officer in Toronto suggested, in January 2011, that women should “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”. The wrong-headedness of this statement provided an opportunity for something wonderful.
Suddenly, the term “slut-shaming” entered conversations and rape culture became a popular topic for opinion pages.
This was hardly new for feminists my age who use sites like Jezebel for daily lady-news, but the language was a stumbling block for my parents.
“But why does it have to be a ‘slut’ walk?” asked my dad. “Why would you want to reclaim the word ‘slut’ anyway?” asked my mum. “The Sydney march is in June? Won’t you be cold?” asked both of them.
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