Once Upon a Feminist Life

Del Smith

[This post is the first in an on-going series of social justice stories and reflections from members of the First UU Wichita congregation.  If you would like to submit a blog post for publication, please contact our Social Action Coordinator Margi Ault-Duell at socialaction@firstuu.net. Enjoy!]

Once upon a feminist life…

Written by Del Smith

When did you know–really, really know, positively and for sure—that you are a feminist?

Fair treatment for farmers, whether they wore aprons or overalls, became a serious matter for my 10 year old self during harvest time 74 years ago.  My mother and I worked together all morning.  We did the farm chores usually shared with dad. We took coffee, ice tea and sandwiches to the combine crew for their mid-morning break. She made a pie and fried chicken, fixed vegetables and mashed potatoes for the noon meal.

The  3-man crew washed  their hands and faces, then stretched out on the living room floor to rest.  Mom and I put out the meal.  Instead of summoning the men to the table, I decided it “Just Wasn’t Fair”–and that I should share that insight.   Standing over Dad, I explained that Mom hadn’t had any rest all day…..and it wasn’t right.  It wasn’t fair.  Probably I stamped my foot for emphasis.

Surprise!  The men laughed at me and my mother pulled me aside, not to thank me, but to advise me that “getting smart” wasn’t a good idea.

That audacious girl wasn’t silenced; I just tried to be a little more discriminating about voicing opinions on fair treatment during the six more years I lived on that Kansas farm.

Along the way I learned the word for my wanting fair treatment for everyone:  feminism.  I also learned that feminism isn’t gender-specific.   Feminists come with all combinations of chromosomes and testosterone.   Biology shouldn’t dictate intellectual and social functions, capabilities, and rights.  bell hooks (sic) states it precisely:  “…feminism—creating a world free of sexism—is only possible if men and women both believe in and fight for the feminist cause. “

Feminism applies to causes other than women’s issues—gun violence, LBGQI concerns, disparate treatment of people of color, to name a few.  Look around at the next gathering for a progressive cause you attend. Chances are most, if not all, are feminists, whether or not they publicly identify as such.

Do you identify publicly as a feminist?   Your fundamentalist cousins might change their minds about “man-hating crazies” or “wimpy mama’s boys” if they realized their sensible, intelligent relative is actually a practicing feminist.  Try it!

Pictured: Feminists Corey Swertfager, Charles Merrifield, Mary Erickson

Corey Swertfager, Charles Merrifield, Mary Erickson