Are You A Feminist?

It's a question I've been asked multiple times within the last 12 months. Until the first person asked me, I hadn't actually thought about it. Obviously, as a woman in a PhD program, I have to subscribe to some degree of feminism. Of course, in a lot of regards, my actions are old fashioned—I don't ask guys on dates (not first dates at least), I wouldn't ask a guy to marry me, and I am a die-hard fan of chivalry. Which made me question whether I was a feminist or just a girl living in a man's world.

Perhaps it's the creeping of age, and the on-set of the "when are you going to get married and have kids" comments that pushed me to explore where I stand. Or maybe its simply not wanting to sound like an idiot the next time someone asks am I a feminist...

Not long ago, when I decided to move it really hit me where most people think a woman's place is. Many people—men, particularly—seemed to think that my decision to leave should have been dependent on some guy. Conversations went something like:

Conversation A

guy: "You must not have a boyfriend."
me: "What makes you say that?"
guy: "You decided to leave."

Conversation B

guy: "You'd go all the way to Florida?"
me: "Florida's not that far. Most CS jobs are in Cali anyway."
guy: "You'd take a job in Cali?"
me: "Yeah."
guy: "Even if you were dating someone here?"

The idea that my entire world should revolve around a guy who may or may not be here next week really ticked me off. Who in their right mind thinks a girl in a PhD program—who has been working toward a PhD for 4 years—is going to quit because "Prince Charming" bats his eyelashes? In my later years of grad school, many of the guys I've had conversations with still hold the belief that as a woman I should be contented to get married and have kids; the idea that I actually want my PhD and care whether my job is crap or not is completely befuddling to them. Yet, when speaking with men studying to earn their PhD, it became obvious that they felt if they brought in the bulk of the money, they got to make the decisions. You expect me to give up my chance to afford the lifestyle I want for a man who may or may not give me the lifestyle I want? You expect me to make life decisions based on a boyfriend? A fiancĂ©, or a husband, I can understand, you've both committed to staying with each other for better or worse (theoretically), but a boyfriend who may dump you whenever it strikes his fancy? Well...that explains why I don't date often; no way I'm giving up my beach house and corvette for a maybe. I don't exist solely to please some man. Sure, if and when I get married compromises will have to be made, but any man who thinks his ambitions automatically trump mine is not worth my time. 

I know women who think the housewife life is great—it's what they want—and that's fine. Each person should be free to do what they choose. Perhaps this makes me a feminist.  There are a lot of topics people associate with feminism: the right to wear what you want, the end of slut shaming, equal pay, etc. Though I believe in standards (which I accept that everyone will and should have different standards), I don't believe in double standards. Perhaps this also makes me a feminist. 

Feminism, as my proud feminist friends tell me, is about the right to be whomever you choose regardless of your gender. I'm totally down with that.

So, are you a feminist? Why or why not?

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