The Feminism movement is imperative because it is one belief that feeds into creating the overarching culture of our country. Feminism means fighting for equality, fighting to erase the stereotypes associated with gender. Feminism means taking the pressure off of women who feel the weight of the world to be everything to everyone. Feminism fights to take away the unrealistic expectations of gender roles. Feeding into the bigger fight of equality for everyone regardless of gender, race, age, etc.
When we reflect on defining feminism, we naturally reflect on our own stories – what situations have formed us into the powerful women that we are today. I want to tell you a little bit about where I got my voice & my power. Like most people, my mom played a huge role in my life, but mine in a different way than many. My mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was in 2nd grade, 7 years old. Her cancer spread & she battled it for 15 years. There were good years and there were bad years with her health. Through all of that she taught me how to be strong & how important knowing your self-worth is. From a young age I watched my mom be stripped of everything that society tells us defines women. She lost all of her beautiful blonde hair, her eyelashes, her eyebrows. She lost her breasts. She lost her uterus. Her bones shrank, she grew physically weak. However, that did not stop her, she kept rolling with the punches. I know she struggled with it, but she rarely let it show. She held her head high & kept doing what she knew she had to do. She was a teacher & a child care provider her whole life. She knew the importance of teaching and investing in children. She never let cancer define her. She never let her appearance define her. She chose to let her love & her personality out shine the disease that was trying to destroy her.
As a society I know we all struggle with the constant pressure to look good. Be fit, dress well, be on your A game at all times. She encouraged me to not be defined by anyone else’s idea of who I should be or could. She encouraged me to take pride in myself and in everything I do. My mom is the strongest person I’ve ever met & every day I strive to be just as strong as she was.
Today, I work in an industry that’s considered a “boys club”. I work in the booze industry – wine specifically – but none the less at the end of the day I work in the liquor industry. I’m continually put into situations where I’m speaking to a room full of older men in suits who are looking at me like “What does this little girl know about wine?”. Not only do I work in a male dominated industry, but I’m also younger than most of the people that I work with. Everytime I walk into a meeting with an older salesman, I hold my head high, introduce myself and shake his hand. I work really hard and I do feel this pressure to be everything and to be the best at everything I do. In my business I often feel that since I’m a young woman I have to work even harder to prove myself. I’ve also been put into situations where I’ve had to remind the men that I manage that they simply “can’t talk to me like that.” I feel the pressure to look good, to be smarter than my counterpart, to work long hours, but balance a social and family life. I feel pulled in every direction sometimes, just like I’m sure men do but I’m not sure if they feel pressure to prove themselves like we do.
Growing up watching my mom deal with every bad hand that she was dealt with a smile on her face & love in heart made me realize that all of these superficial and material things aren’t what define us. We are defined by the choices that we make, the words that we speak and the company that we keep. We should not be defined by our gender, our age, our race or anything like that. We are defined by who we are. And that’s exactly what Feminism is fighting for.
Born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, Emily Fjerstad has spent the past 6 years living, working & studying in Chicago, IL. Her passions for culture & travel have cultivated themselves in her wine career. She graduated from Concordia University Chicago with a degree in Communication & International Business.