Generational Feminist Gains

It’s been a rough year for Women’s Rights and it’s easy to feel like we’re experiencing more setbacks than successes. Our politicians have set poor examples that have trickled down to the everyday populace and the lack of respect can be daunting.

It’s 2017, I shouldn’t have to still be flipping the bird to every stranger who leers at me and calls me names when I walk down the street. I shouldn’t have to worry anymore about swallowing and reframing my anger so as not to come off like a bitch. I shouldn’t have to argue anymore for the right to make decisions about my own body.

But I think it’s important to remember that as hard as things are right now and as bad as they might seem, they are better than they used to be. Better than when my grandmother was born, and better than they were for my mom a generation later. Especially amongst the general population of women. I’ve always considered myself a feminist, but more women are joining the cause, speaking out, and uniting together as a demographic instead of fighting amongst themselves. We are putting equality and the interests of womankind ahead of other party-line values for the first time in a very long time.

Women are working together to support each other. We’re spotlighting the work of everyday people who make an impact on their communities, helping new candidates run for office, and highlighting the work of all the hidden figures of history. We’re bringing women out of the shadows and into a place where both men and other women can be reminded of what this country can achieve when women are involved.

Things have changed and they’ve done so more recently than the Suffrage Movement. It’s stalled in a few places due to both systemic and social issues which we have to continue to target, but every day brings us forward a little bit more, even if it’s in ways you didn’t realize.

So in order to personalize this a bit, I thought about my own family and about the changes that I’ve seen between the generations. There are things that I’ve done that my mother never has, and similarly my mother has made accomplishments beyond what was acceptable for women of my grandmother’s generation.

THINGS MY MOM DID THAT MY GRANDMA DID NOT:

Studied abroad.

Both my mom and I have actually done this and I think it’s one of the best things you can do for a kid to widen their worldview from a young age (if you can afford to do it). My grandmother got a wide cultural education from her youth in New York City, but my mom and I definitely had an advantage and it’s taught us a lot about people and about putting ourselves in others’ shoes, something I think gave us a leg up in adulthood.

Got a Bachelor’s degree.

My mom reminds me all the time that when she went to school, her parents put far less pressure on her than they did on her two brothers. My uncles went into business, something my grandfather saw as a breadwinning profession, but my mother was allowed to choose her own path. It was a sign of the times that they simply assumed she wouldn’t be a breadwinner, but still a step in the right direction that they wanted her to go to college at all.

Worked a full time job after marriage.

Even if we could have afforded to live on a single income (which we couldn’t), I know my mom would still have chosen to work. Her life has never been about just me and my brother and that’s important because she deserves the chances to do something for herself and feel proud of bringing home her own money if that’s what she wants to do. Similarly, it has never occurred to me that I might stop working when or if I become a spouse/parent, though I respect the choice of anyone like my grandmother who decides to make their family a priority.

THINGS I HAVE DONE THAT MY MOM DID NOT:

Acquired post-undergraduate certification in my professional field.

To be fair, my mother’s career doesn’t require extra certification. We work in entirely different fields. But I think it says a lot that I was comfortable getting the certification and never blinked before going into a field where I might be working mostly with men.

Lived independently.

One of the first things my mom said to me when I moved recently was how proud of me she was for taking on something that a woman in our family had never done before. My grandmother lived at home until she was married and my mother, though she had a roommate and an apartment off campus in college, moved back home with her parents until after she married my father. Neither one of them ever experienced solo-living as an adult, but here I am taking on the challenge as a matter of course.

Surpassed my mother’s income.

Again, we work in different career fields, but I think this is important to mention. Equal pay isn’t just about closing the income gaps between men and women who hold the same positions at a corporation (though that’s definitely still a problem), it’s also about opportunity costs and what women lose when they feel unwelcome or undervalued in industries or leadership positions. My mom didn’t go into the line of work that I did because she didn’t want to, but it also wasn’t as accessible to women when she started her career, meaning it may not have been something she even thought about. So she chose a career which she enjoys, but also had few opportunities for advancement and promotion, which cost her economically.


What are some of the generational changes you’ve seen in the women of your own family? Let me know down in the comments.

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