- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Recently, there have been a lot of discussions and panels and articles featuring strong women: women in politics, women in science, women in entertainment. Journalists and producers have paid a lot of attention to women who have some sort of power or influence over others, and I have watched it all with interest and wonder.
These women talk about a kind of feminism which doesn’t vilify men. They talk about strength and support amongst women. They talk about the struggles of everyday life – be it machoism in business and politics, sexism in the media, or plain belittlement in areas where there are still only very few women. They give examples for how badly they have been treated. They tell stories of men’s actions that make me shiver and shake my head. They speak eloquently on the situation for women in the Western world.
And yet, I don’t feel the aversion towards their brand of feminism that I felt for the 1970s feminism I studied at university. Today’s brand of feminism doesn’t make me cringe. It doesn’t make me shudder at the plain hatred towards men that was shown forty years ago. I often find myself smiling and agreeing with these strong women today.
Because they tell stories about their mothers who always had jobs – and even careers – and who still raised kids and held the family together. They speak openly about the giants on whose shoulders my generation stands today, and I can only agree. My mother is like that, too.
I agree with these women, because they have fathers and brothers and boyfriends and husbands who support their careers, their dreams, their education, and their activism for other women. They speak about men who understand and agree that the old ideas of patriarchy don’t belong in today’s society anymore. My friends and my father and my brother are like that, too. They would never discourage a woman’s dreams.
And I agree with these women when they speak about their best friends and their teachers and their mentors – the women who have supported and taught and guided them in their lives. I look up to my best friends, because we don’t need an activist group to support us. We have each other and we are each other’s loudest cheerleaders.
But best of all, I like these strong women because they don’t care whether women are lawyers or CEOs or world-famous actors or mothers or housewives or doctors. They accept women’s choices for what they are – choices. And they understand that women are strong when they are capable of making their own choices.
So I have hope as I watch and listen. I have hope that my daughters and nieces will one day learn about a generation of women who did not hate or argue angrily. They will learn about women who spoke proudly and changed the world with poise and elegance and, above all, intelligence.
- Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being