The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. ~Roseanne Barr
I remember one of the first stories that my mother ever told me about my Grandma B. She had lived with my grandfather cheating on her for years and years. One day as she was getting ready to leave for work she found a pair of women’s underwear in the family car. She decided at that moment that enough was enough. She marched back into the farm house, loaded up a shot gun, and pointed it right at my grandfather’s head as he lay sleeping. As he awoke, she said that’s it, get your crap and get out. He was barely able to get on his clothes and get his ass out the door. She pointed the shot gun at him the entire time. Fortunately, she divorced him. She didn’t let him back in like so many women of her generation did. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy thing to do in the 60’s. But my Grandma was never much of a conventional woman. She was tough but had the kindest heart. She pretty much ran a cattle farm by herself and with the help of her three children. And God forbid if you told her she couldn’t do something. She’d go through hell just to prove to you that she could. I’m very sure that’s where I get my attitude from….
I’m not saying Grandma B. was the typical feminist. She was so not. She got married to another man just 11 months after she divorced my grandpa, and she was very religious so she did believe that a woman should be subservient to her man. It was a strange thing to see really. Here’s my tough grandma that can do anything she sets her mind to, getting up from her warm breakfast to make sure that my step-grandpa had enough hot coffee and butter for his toast. Talk about a mixed message. It drove my mother kinda crazy. Mom would tell her privately that she needed to let him get his own damn coffee. But it was all kind of lost on Grandma. She would do it anyway. I think it secretly made her happy to take care of him. Isn’t that all we really want anyway, is to take care of those we love, and to have them take care of us? But I digress….
Now my mother is another strong female figure in my life. Though she was more than happy to wear lipstick, high heels and beautiful clothes, my momma is tough. My parents divorced when I was three so I don’t really remember ever living with Daddy. I grew up in an all woman household. My mother didn’t buy Barbie dolls for me because she said they gave young women a negative self image. However she did make sure that we always had our hair done and had nice clothes to wear. I don’t know how many times she made me and my poor sister sleep in rollers the night before school portraits were taken. Only to not get any sleep because of said rollers. We’d look like total shit for pictures from lack of sleep, but dammit our hair looked good. I love the fact that I learned how to do things on my own because of mom. I learned to cook, clean, and take care of a household. But I also learned to swing a hammer, build a deck, run electrical, and build brick walls. If something needed to be done we women did it.
I love the story that my mom told me about when she first started working as a secretary at UM. Her bosses told her constantly that she was an invaluable part of their team. Which was all fine and good but she didn’t get paid shit. She was a single parent trying to raise two kids on a secretary’s income. That wasn’t an easy thing to do back in the day. And it isn’t now for that matter! She told her bosses that she could make more money staying at home with her children and living off the state than she was making at her job. That freaked them out a bit and they made sure to give her a proper raise. That kind of attitude paved the way for my mom’s career at UM. She started as a secretary but by the time she retired, she was an assistant director to an institute. She was an invaluable employee and had made many friends along the way. She did it without a college degree, with the sweat of her brow and her undying need to know and be more. I know this is where I get my attitude from!
And then there’s me….. I’m a feminist. You say how can I be? I worry about about my weight, my makeup, my lipstick, and all these other superficial things. That’s all very true. But I also know that I can live with or without a partner, I can take care of a household, I can work outside the home, I can build things with my own two hands, and I can take care of my own finances. I’ve learned all this from the two strongest women I know, my Grandma B. and my momma. They were strong in a male-centric world and got through the best way they knew how. Now I’m not saying the world is perfect, but I’ve taught my daughter what I was taught. That we women can do anything we set our minds to. That we don’t need to be with a man or a woman if we don’t want to. That we can do and live and be whoever and whatever we want without limitation. That we are strongest when we break down and ask for help. That we can still wear lipstick and be feminists…….