You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.
Dina Leygerman

Dear Dina:

Thank you for this. I just wrote a similar post (less eloquently, I’m afraid) saying basically the same thing. We all owe so much to the women who came before us and swam against the stream. I owe it it my immigrant grandmother, who taught me the value of education, self-reliance and assertiveness, and to my mother who always wanted a career, set out to get the training she needed, and had one — which meant that when my father got mad at her for having two daughters in a row and started in abusing us, she had no sense of being trapped. Instead, she had the freedom to instantly kick him to the curb instead of remaining in a toxic situation. My mom was a very shy person, and I admire the hell out of her for having that kind of courage all the way back in 1962, when it just wasn’t done. I admire her also for giving me a childhood free of gender stereotypes — of letting me play with Tonka trucks, Erector Sets and dinosaurs as well as Barbies, and for being fine with me pretending to be Robin Hood or King Arthur, not just some helpless lady on the sidelines waiting to be rescued. I was extremely lucky to have quality men in my early life — a grandfather who took me fishing, taught me woodworking and loved to have me hang out in his shop and help him, my mom’s long-time gentleman friend, who gave me gifts like a wristwatch, a sleeping bag for summer camp, and a kickass alien space gun (courtesy of Nerf) to go adventuring with, instead of dolls and tea sets. I love that these men loved me for being smart, active and fearless, not just for being cute, and that built in me the strength to choose only healthy relationships later in life, with partners who also loved that I was intelligent, capable and completely myself.

I’ve seen so many women settle, let themselves be put down in a million ways , excusing it with “that’s just how men are.” No. No, it really isn’t, any more than blatant misogyny is just “locker room talk.” We don’t need to be timid. We can take care of ourselves. It’s okay for us to choose our own paths, to be at math, good at fixing cars AND enjoy traditional things like sewing and cooking, if that’s what we want. It’s okay for us to be moms AND career women , to be stay at home moms, if that’s our decision—or to not have children at all. It’s okay for us to be as “ladylike” as hell, to be be assertive yet restrained, or to cuss and wear pussy hats if we want to. What isn’t okay is to see ourselves as less than men, to work against the rights of other women (or other people who’ve suffered discrimination), or to be a kind of Muppet for the patriarchy, letting them own our bodies and our voices, being what they want instead of making our own lives.

Thank you for the inspiration.

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