“If any thing other than a girl walks into the girls’ restroom, you tell me immediately,” my dad says.
His eyes roll. “Ok, dad,” he mocks. “Yes, dad.”
He knows I’m not really listening. I know this cycle will happen again.
What does it mean to be conservative? Frankly, like any political label today, there’s no clear definition nor standard. Morals differ and change. Current events in the news and personal circumstances skew and alter ideas. But the political label has a lot of stereotypes, such as “religious’, “gun-owning”, “nativist”, and “homophobic” among others. Of course, not all of the stereotypes apply to every conservative, maybe even none at times, but nevertheless there have been studies that link the political ideology to those following labels and memes about feeling bad for friends who have republican parents and not believing in science. So what does that mean when a family’s political ideals clash?
“What’s so bad about letting in the refugees?”
“They’re scum. Just like the Mexicans, Indians, and Asians.”
“But they’re human too. In my mind, the risk is worth it.”
“It’s not, they’ll bring the terrorists with them. You want another 9/11?”
Silence. He knows I don’t fully agree. I know the news is on every night.
It means the family, and or the individuals themselves, have a decision. Fight it out, or be passive, both arguably painful. But what if fighting it out leads to the death of the family, broken ties to parents, siblings, and the extended, something even more painful than the battle itself? Feminism furthers that decision to an ultimatum. There are cries for women to fight for what they believe in fiercely, tirelessly, and against anyone who believes otherwise. The choice essentially develops into: a) fight, and you can be labeled as a feminist, or b) allow the thoughts of inequality to survive, nixing your feminist repertoire.
“Can I help in the garden?”
“No, I have your brother. Help your mom make dinner. Women’s work.”
“Do not argue with me.” His eyes say it all.
I could throw the rake down like a gauntlet, but he knows he can make my life hell. And I know it even better than he does.
Feminism doesn’t have to be an ultimatum or a pyrrhic victory. Moreover, being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to be progressive or liberal. But when your basic morals don’t coincide with those you love most, you love them still and adjust to make it work. You’re not a doormat, weak, or anti-feminist for doing so. It’s what’s in your head, heart, soul, and every fiber of your body that makes it count, like a feminist V for Vendetta.
“Nice to meet you.”
I smile and pray my dad won’t see the bisexual and gay pride flags on my roommate’s suitcase.
“Where do you want your novels?”
“I can do that later.”
“Why not do it now?”
I shrug. He knows I’m rushing him and my mom and brother out. I know I can’t let him know why.
Coming back to college after being unable to see eye-to-eye with the people you love most might be the trickiest part of the whole process. Suddenly, the talks you have with others results in more agreement than uncomfortable discord. The fear of not fitting in and the clamp you tightened on your own mouth doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s immediately easy to feel like these people around you, these roommates, classmates, professors, everyone in sight understand you and can see clearly. The overwhelming feeling of belonging…threatens….the feeling of love you have for your family. It’s so simple to get caught up on your aversions to their opinions and the idea that those opinions mean your family just doesn’t comprehend you and thus cannot love you in your entirety. Where there is lack of acceptance, there is lack of compassion, right?
“I think your father is just trying to protect you because he loves you so much.”
I stare at my mom. She knows I’m trying to hide the disbelief in my eyes. I know she can see it clearly.
“In his eyes, you’re still his little girl.”
When you go home, the compassion is right there in front of you, even if it gets a bit blurry at times, even if tensions feel unbearable. When you leave and settle in a new, temporary home, the compassion is muddled by miles.
And for them, the miles can become exponential to fear.