The new Feminism

I’m of the age in which I can proudly claim that I was part of the second wave of feminism, the one that arose in the 1970s and 1980s. Those were good days. I remember standing on the precipice of adulthood, that sweet spot near the end of your college years but not yet mired in the demands of career, marriage and children. Anything was possible, and everything was possible. 

To give due credit to the first wave of feminists, those women truly forged a path to and through an unexplored frontier. They were not angry; rather, they were hungry. Hungry for a life beyond what men and tradition and time had dictated. They had no maps; they had few tools. All they had was the conviction that they were capable of so much more than they had been told. To this day, I applaud them. 

My mother was one of that first wave, though I doubt she’d have described herself that way. She always wanted more, from the time she was a child. She knew that it wouldn’t be handed to her. She knew she was capable of achieving that “more.” She did the hard things, because she knew they were a means to an end. It’s hard to guess how far she’d have climbed in the corporate world had she been born a mere 50 years later than she was. Had she been born, say, 80 years later, she’d have founded an Amazon or a Tesla.

My generation of feminists saw inequities. We saw that yes, we could forge careers. But we also saw that the traditional roles of “wife” and “mother” weren’t changing as we threw ourselves into our educations and careers. I remember, having been a single mom myself, feeling that I was giving neither motherhood 100 percent, nor my career 100 percent. The stress, guilt and anxiety were overwhelming, at times.

I remember being “given” six weeks’ maternity leave, unpaid, and that was given grudgingly. I remember bosses feeling free to let me know what an inconvenience my pregnancy was to them. I also remember those same bosses feeling free to massage my shoulders, even as they complained about the hardship that my situation placed upon them. 

Yes, times have changed. Through it all though, I never felt angry about being a woman. I never felt resentment. I love being a woman. I love that my body can do things that are truly miraculous. I love that my mind can see in many dimensions. Still, I see a need for perhaps a third wave of feminism.

As we age, ladies, we are given social, verbal, and visual cues as to how we are supposed to do so. We are supposed to chase the appearance of youth, using whatever smoke and mirrors are at our disposal. Surgery? Go for it. Liposuction? Sure, go ahead. Hair color? Of course, is there any question? And perhaps the cruelest youthful mirage of all:  Spanx. Just, no. 

In this third wave of feminism, I would love to see us all embrace the many gifts of aging. Speaking for myself, I love the hard-won wisdom that comes with the years. I love having no doubt about who I am, the things I enjoy doing, and the people who are welcome in my life (as well as those who aren’t). Where I am right now, at this stage of life, is a good place to be.

So do any or all of the things that make you feel beautiful. Color your hair, nip and tuck as you wish, and yes, even squeeze all of your fabulous self into those miraculous casings marketed as “Spanx.” And while you’re at it, paint. Write. Cook. Travel. Garden. Really take in a sunrise. Get a dog. Love deeply and thoroughly. Leave nothing behind.

Because beauty, my friends, grows from the inside out. Love who you’ve grown to be.

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