I was born in 1965. I think that’s important for you to know. I was born into a time of conflict, chaos and confusion. A time when people were challenging everything and my little corner of the world was trying to redefine “normal.” I soaked it all in and I carry it with me, still to this day trying to make sense of the static.
(Can I check my baggage please?)
In short: I am 48 years old and I. am. tired.
I’m tired of trying to explain myself, and tired of having conversations with people who neither believe me nor care. I’m tired of being sorted and pigeon-holed and assumed and limited.
I am complex and confused and caring and learning. I am human. I have regrets and I have pride. I have vision and I have fears. I have dreams and I have nightmares. I have been told what and who and how to be and, sadly – far too often – in trying so very hard to win others’ acceptance, I was long-delayed in accepting and understanding myself.
What I have come to embrace is one simple fact: I am so much more than any one label would ever allow you to understand. Am I a feminist? Absolutely. But that’s just one small slice of who I am. (And how I feel.)
I am the girl whose kindergarten report card observes “what a great mother [I] will be.” (And I like it.)
I am the young woman who reported a really creepy co-worker for sexual harassment (and scaring the hell out of me) and was then ostracized for “getting that guy fired.” (And I resent it.)
I am a daughter who is bound up in a string of both good and bad choices made while trying to define myself as an independent, self-sufficient, aspirational and inspirational woman. (And I am unsettled.)
I am a mentor who once said, “I am not a feminist – I am a humanist,” as if I had to pick one or the other. (And I am embarrassed.)
I am the team-player who backed down from what I thought was a “better” option because I was told “the women need to stick together.” (And I was sad.)
I am the dedicated and talented employee who was told not to bother applying for “the” job because someone had already identified the guy who was next in line. (And I am bitter.)
I am the single mom who took a risk and continues to pay the financial price. (And I regret it.)
I have lectured my children about valuing their bodies and their dignity, trying to emphasize the concept of self-worth while trying not to sound like a judgmental, 50’s-era prude. (And I failed.)
I have suggested to my daughters: “rape is NEVER your fault but, PLEASE, try to make safe choices about how you dress and where you go… ” (And I was afraid.)
I have tried to raise a son with a sound moral compass, in opposition to a world that bombards him with so much less. (And I am hopeful.)
I am tired.
You see, at my very core, I believe feminism is about choices. Equitable choices. Valid choices. Personal choices. But our choices are not made in isolation: every action has a reaction. We are all connected. There are variables to be considered. Our choices, in today’s world, are rarely free and pure. We must be aware. When we choose, we must choose carefully.
I have been tainted.
(re)defining feminism is about my children, and their friends, and the others who watch what I do and hear what I say. Hoping that they can forgive me for mistakes and misguidance and confusion while navigating these complex societal waters. Hoping that I can be seen as a role model rather than a roadblock. Hoping they will take the time to understand our collective past to make sense of the present and build on our future. Hoping they will have the courage and capacity to be stronger and more secure. Hoping that I have done something to clear the way for those who come next.
Love and learn, live and give… never settle for less than you deserve.
Robin Lynn Grinnell is the oldest of four siblings and the mother of three fabulous teens. Robin spends a lot of time mucking around in the difference between the theory and practice of just about everything. An active community volunteer, she is fixated on finding just the right balance between individual and collective good, and someday plans to write a very embarrassing book under an assumed name.