Everyone knows what you are talking about when you utter the phrase “50s housewife.” You can picture the perfectly styled hair, the perfect dress, and all the way down to the perfectly manicured nails. There are probably two or three children close by. She may be vacuuming or cooking dinner, waiting patiently for the return of her husband from his long day at work.
In recent years, this image has been under more fire than ever. It has been used in numerous arguments and jokes about the lack of equality between men and women.
I, myself, can remember when I was in high school, and the 2012 election was a topic on everyone’s mind. I decided to come to school in a 50s housewife-type dress and told people I was preparing in case Mitt Romney got elected. While fighting for respect and equality is one of the most important ventures a person can choose, where do the women who prefer traditional gender roles fit into that fight?
I want to be a teacher, a traditionally female-dominated career. I want to eventually get married to a man and have a few children when the time is right. I enjoy cooking, but that’s mostly because I love eating. I also consider myself to be a feminist and a part of the fight for equality for all marginalized groups, but I know I sometimes wonder if I am being true to my feminist identity because of who I am.
Do I have credibility as a feminist? Am I not a valued voice in the rhetoric of equality? I think so.
Equality, in its simplest form, is about being who you are and being treated just as well as everyone else should be treated. It’s about your identity getting the same respect as all other identities. I have the privilege of not having to fear for my safety or mental well-being because of this aspect of who I am, but I still identify the way I do and choose to live the way I want to for myself and no one else. I didn’t choose this because anyone told me to or because society labeled it as right or wrong.
Women come from all walks of life. Women come from poverty. Women come from wealth. Women come from love, and women come from abuse. Women can be gay, straight, bi, trans, non-binary and genderqueer. Women come from violence and shame, and women come from empowerment. Women come from motherhood and childhood. Women come from independence.
While women come from all walks of life, they also choose entirely different paths during their lives. They choose entirely different careers, home lives, families, and friends.
If we are going to empower women, we need to empower all women. We need to make heard the voices that are so often silenced. We need to give a platform to those marginalized individuals and let them have a voice.
There has always been a fear of the single story, of one story being told that defines all people from one group. This fear of the single story leads to a common misconception about what it means to be a woman because there is no one thing that defines womanhood. By telling all stories from all different women, we can share the true reality of what it means to be women, beautifully individual women. This means we need to tell stories that redefine traditional gender roles.
It is 2017. People are marrying for love rather than societal obligation. Women are having children because they want to experience motherhood, not because someone said she had to be a mother. Women are becoming teachers, nurses, daycare teachers, and nannies because they want to, and that is what their passion is.
Women are choosing the lives they want. Women are also staying single and becoming lawyers, doctors, construction workers, and CEOs because that is where their passion lies. Women have a choice. We have a choice.
Women need to tell the story of making the choice to be who they are because it made them happy. We need to tell the story of all of the women who are happy being mothers, wives, and teachers. We need to give power to that voice as well as all voices.
Women have come so far, and we still have quite a distance to go, but we can choose who we want to be. We can choose to be who we are whether society likes it or not.
We need to give power to every voice in order to give power to the identity of all and to empower the women who need empowering. We will continue to accomplish and overcome until we achieve true equality for all individuals no matter where they come from.