How I Became a #GirlBoss & Defined My Feminism
By Whitney Kippes
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]T[/dropcap]he moment I decided to change careers was a bit terrifying. I remember sitting down one morning at my computer, ready for the day ahead, and realizing that I never ever wanted to do this ever again. I had grown to hate everything I was doing. I had negativity and spite and worry consuming me constantly, and it dawned on me that self-preservation demanded that I make a big change.
So, after six years in business development and sales, working long hours on high stress projects month after month after month, I was done. I was ready to do something new. I was ready to make the switch from a high stress, very traditional work environment to working for myself doing freelance marketing work.
But at the time, I didn’t realize the profound ripple effect that changing careers would have on my definition of who I am, and what I believe.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
Since initially identifying as a feminist during my college years, I’ve gone through stages in development and growth. My infant feminism was very one dimensional and simplistic and over time, it’s evolved and grown, becoming a huge part of who I am and how I define myself. Now, I try to maintain an openness in what my feminism is–always learning and growing and accepting different perspectives.
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the most significant challenges seem to come from inside myself. While I’m ready and eager to accept challenges to my definition of feminism from others, it’s really difficult when those challenges start coming from within myself. When someone else is telling me that it’s time for a change, it’s easy to take their perspective, think and consider, and take action accordingly. But when it’s my own life, I don’t have the sense of clarity that makes it easier to define the direction I’m heading.
[pullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]What did it mean to be a feminist when I was staying home? What did it mean to be a feminist when I was taking on the lion’s share of home-related responsibility? Is that what I wanted my life to look like, or was I just falling into traditional gender roles?[/pullquote]
My feminism is heavily predicated on making the political fight a part of my everyday life. This means challenging gender stereotypes in my home, speaking up against unfair policies in the workplace, and generally trying to be a visible feminist voice. I hadn’t realized it as such, but my definition of feminism, and my definition of myself, had gradually come to include being a woman who was the primary breadwinner in my household. This definition came to be a central part of myself – not only was I taking the power that money brings and making it my own, but I was making my own push to increase the 38 percent of heterosexual American marriages in which a woman out-earns her husband. I love taking on a personal fight against a daunting statistic.
Then, after more than five years ingraining being the primary breadwinner as a core part of my identity and my feminism, suddenly things changed. I decided to make a significant career change.
After years of tension building up, I broke away from a career that was driving me into the ground. In the months that followed, I struggled, not only to understand the new direction that my career was moving in, but also what my identity looked like without that core element.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]W[/dropcap]hat did it mean to be a feminist when I was staying home? What did it mean to be a feminist when I was taking on the lion’s share of home-related responsibility? Is that what I wanted my life to look like, or was I just falling into traditional gender roles?
At first, I had a really difficult time understanding exactly what was happening, and why it was such a big transition. While on one hand, it was essential that I practice self-care and take myself out of a toxic career and into doing something I love, it was also taking away huge chunks of my identity and changing what it meant to be a feminist to me.
I can’t confidently say that I fully understand how my feminism has changed. But what I do know is that this new iteration of my feminism is more open in ways that it wasn’t before. It’s more understanding that numbers should not define who we are. There are more opportunities to define myself– not in contrast to a national statistical database but as an individual human being who needs to do something I love. It’s also knowing that I can own my own future and my own career, and take it in the direction that makes me a happy and healthy person.