Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor
I grew up with an odd view of the world. My mother was a 60 and 70s era pantsuit wearing feminist but she struggled with addiction and mental health issues so I grew up in my grandmother’s house and she had a very old world view of the woman’s role in society. I came up always wanting to be feminine and I wore vintage clothes before vintage clothes were cool. I harassed my grandmother into giving me money and I would hit the garage sales in the neighborhood and buy the most ridiculous, crazy dresses and sport them around like I was the coolest person on the block. Of course I was the scorn of my friends because I was odd and my family just scratched their heads and put up with it. My grandmother enjoyed it though because at least I liked to dress up. At least I was feminine. I was the antithesis of what my mother stood for and yet I was very head strong and had a very particular view of myself in this world. That view of myself did not include marrying well or allowing a man to support me. I rebelled against both my grandmother’s views and my mother’s version of feminism. I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t alone in this new take of feminism.
As I hit the workforce, I found my mother’s version of feminism quite a bit. Women that wore pantsuits and thought that being a female in a man’s world was literally trying to be a man. I don’t scorn these women. They paved the way for my generation in the workforce yet it wasn’t my style. I did everything a man could do in the workplace and then some but I did it as a feminine woman. I was happy to don the dresses that my predecessors had scorned. I was a millennial feminist before that label was ascribed to my generation and yet I learned some valuable lessons both in my personal and professional life.
Because I didn’t have that nurturing mother type in my life, I learned the value of work and money early. I knew that I would always have to support myself because that safety net didn’t really exist. I did have my father and he helped me but my strength and my resilience came from tough lessons learned. I had men in my life that felt it was an acceptable course of action to remove money I worked for from my accounts to the detriment to myself and my children. I found out first hand about the inequity in the wage gap for women. Though these issues are tough, these are first world problems. I have traveled quite a bit for my job and personally. This experience has shown me that most of the world’s poor and starving are women and their children. Poverty is sexist as Melinda Gates has said and even though here in the United States, we make $.80 to a man’s dollar, outside of the U.S., conditions are far worse. The women of the world make our clothes, our technology and earn a starving wage to do so. I realized then that the millennial feminist cannot just be a state of mind, a law put into place for workplace equality or some heartfelt resistance movement. The real power for us women is in cold hard cash.
The new brand of feminism needs to stand for economic justice and the rest will follow. Martin Luther King said that “civil rights means nothing without economic justice.” So we as millennial women salute our predecessors and their fight for equal rights. We salute the suffragists. Our next fight is the end of slave wages. Women do not need charity but rather understanding. They need the means to invest in education, health care and well-being for their children. If this fight is fought now and won, we as women will have the power to improve the rest. So I implore you to find your own way to fight to improve the global wage gap. Buy products only from companies that pay their employees properly. Purchase with your conscious. Fund non-profits with this purpose in mind. The change will occur by economic means and this change cannot just occur for American women. It must occur for all women.