My name is Marianne. I’m 36, half-Danish, half-Norwegian (and these days my heart beats sorrowfully and warmly for the courageous and peace-loving friends I have in Oslo), and I’m a feminist.
I say the latter with pride because I’m incredibly grateful for the advances of the feminist movement. It has given me rights that I believe everyone – no matter race, religion, gender, or any other classification we can come up with – is entitled to.
Being Danish, I realize I’m a bit “spoiled”. In Denmark, things like gender equality are a given. Here, feminism has made advances much faster and more easily than in the U.S. (for example, full voting rights five years earlier than in the U.S.).
In recent years, the focus of Danish feminism has been on making women as much a part of the workforce and the government as men are. Great gains have been made in this regard through such policies as free child-care, paid maternity leave, and paid paternity leave.
In addition, reproductive rights are much further ahead in Denmark than in the U.S. Birth control and early-term abortion are free of charge in Denmark, and where the percentage of teen pregnancies in the U.S. is discouragingly high, in Denmark it is very low.
To me, such advances are what the feminist movement is – or should be – about: concrete steps to equality. Only then, I believe, can we affect a societal change in the framework that defines the feminine. To me, feminism is about rights, not about whether or not you wear a bra, whether or not you dress sexy, whether or not you have children. The point is, you have the right to choose: what you wear, what you do for a living, who you marry etc.
I embrace my femininity! I’m proud to be a woman, boobs and all! And I don’t care whether you happen to be sexier than me or whether you happen to want children or not. I don’t (want children, that is, or care if you do). To me, feminism is about declaring that the feminine is equal to the masculine – not the same, but equal to it. I don’t have to behave and look like a man to succeed; I am a woman and I shall succeed as a woman, with all the qualities that make me and my fellow women unique (and I should have equal pay!).
And, by the way, just because I’m sexy doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with the boss to get ahead! I can actually be pretty and smart, and I can succeed because I’m smart and I work hard. Period. In Denmark, this is a given, but I sometimes feel that in the U.S., this is still highly questioned.
We must not forget that in spite of all the advances of feminism in the western world, in many countries, feminism has hardly touched ground. One of the tough challenges we face today is the human trafficking of women and children.
On the other hand, it is encouraging to see how, in many parts of the world, women are the ones making a change in their communities. We are the ones protesting against the building of dams that will destroy our livelihoods, the ones organizing against oil drilling in rain forests, the ones exposing animal cruelty. I believe this is because it is our natural role as caregivers to affect change. Through our connection with the earth – Mother Nature – and our sense of community we can affect the change needed for the betterment of all living things. Not by imitating men, but by embracing ourselves as powerful women.
Marianne Ingheim Rossi