Recently, we had a blizzard with no school for both my kids. I love snow days; it’s a bonus day that is taken out of time so there are no expectations, no to do list, just a free day. We stayed in our pj’s until lunch and read books, baked and had lots of hot cocoa and tea.
The one not-so-great thing is that my husband plows so while we are at home in our jammies soaking up the luxury of the bonus day, he is working 12, 14, sometimes 18 hours. It’s a long day and most of his plowing is over half an hour away from us so we are left to our own devices.
For years, I asked him for a snow blower, primarily because our driveway is one hundred and fifty feet long and if I want to get out, that is a LOT of shoveling. In addition, I worry about him doing all that work, strung out on caffeine and junk food then coming home and having to do our drive and all the walks. I am highly capable so I have always just gotten out there and shoveled. He finally took pity on me and bought me a monster snow blower for Valentine’s Day a couple years ago. I love it! I can get the entire property done in the time it used to take just to shovel the drive.
While it still takes time, it does not, however, take a lot of brainpower. (Though, beware, the first time I used it I almost ran myself over because I would put it in reverse, forget and give it gas resulting in serious backpedaling…on snow…while I remember to let off the gas! So you do have to pay attention!) I am an old pro now; I just get behind the thing and go to work. However, my brain does spin in time with the wheels.
Today was no different. While I watched the graceful arch of snow fly away from my driveway, with a large amount flying back into my face, my mind wandered first to Bora Bora, and from there, skipping around… I ended up thinking about an article a friend of mine had shared earlier in the day about the women who came before us; the women who fought for equality. Though they were jailed and beaten in their fight, they never backed down. They secured the rights for women to own property, to stop actually being their husband’s property and the right to vote, to name a few. As I guided my snow blower through drifts of snow, I mulled this over.
My mother was not a huge proponent of the ERA back in the 1970’s. She never really spoke to me about equality or feminism. She did teach us to speak up for ourselves. Interestingly enough, it was my dad who taught me about equality.
I’m not sure if it was his intention but circumstances required it. My mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 11. She had several attacks early on and was often bedridden. My dad’s answer was to work 18-hour days so that left three kids home with my mom. We heated our house by wood and while my dad did the best he could to get ahead, there were days we ran out of wood. My dad chose me as the oldest to learn how to split wood. If you knew me, you would know I am not terribly coordinated, it was a miracle I did not chop something off, but I learned how to chop wood quite proficiently.
When I got a car, my dad taught me how to fix everything that broke on that car, and believe me, there was a lot on that old junker! I can change a tire, change my oil, change the spark plugs, replace the distributor cap – do cars even have those anymore? I don’t think they do. (I have a mechanic now – you need a computer degree to repair cars now!)
My dad never said, “Girls need to learn this” he just said you need to know this so get over here and take a look. He respected me because I was strong and I pulled my weight. Not for a girl, for a kid. I don’t ever remember him distinguishing between my brother, my sister and I based on our gender. He just taught us, and it was equal, we all worked! Not at boys jobs or girls jobs, just work.
It wasn’t just my sister and I though. My brother bought a sewing machine before I did. He lived on his own and was too cheap to go to a tailor to get his clothes altered. I had to borrow it a couple of times before I finally bit the bullet and bought my own machine.
I never liked the word feminist. It had a negative connotation of an angry woman trying to bully men. I had to grow into it. I had to be called “Little Lady” in a meeting I was running with a client and know he was telling me to sit back and stop negotiating so hard. I had to receive a promotion and get my budget only to find that my male co-worker had been making more money than I and as his boss I was now only making $2,300 more per year to manage the department. I had to become the mom to two girls and watch as TV, magazines, toys, games and a host of other outlets were subliminally telling my daughters what colors to like, what careers were appropriate, what books they could read, what toys they could play with and ultimately, who they couldn’t be. All of these things and so many more had to happen for me to realize that being a feminist is not negative. Being a feminist is what my dad did; he just treated us equal.
As I ran my monster snow blower up and down the drive, I was thanking my lucky stars for the women who came before me. Susan B Anthony, Juliette Gordon Low, Alice Paul, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelly Bly and Mother Theresa all jump to my mind. While not all women’s rights activists, they were women who dared to be themselves fully, strongly and without reservation. That to me is feminism.
Nevertheless, my dad is a feminist too; my diesel mechanic, farmer, dad, who unknowingly laid the groundwork for the idea that I am equal and capable. I am so thankful that he taught me that girls can, and should, work on cars if they are going to be driving them, that boys should be able to sew, that we all should be working to the best of our ability and that gender does not qualify or disqualify you for just about anything.