By Kristin Mattera
It took me a long time to use the F word. No – not the four letter one (if you’ve read my other blog posts, you know I curse plenty). I am referring to the word feminist. For years the term conjured up bad stereotypical images of man-hating women in combat boots who didn’t shave and were just angry all the time. Looking back, I have no idea where that stereotype came from or why it was so imprinted in my mind, but I digress. (Comedian Iliza Shlesinger does a great stand up bit on this, and I think she beautifully defines feminism.)
My mother was a feminist and she was raised by a feminist. When my maternal grandfather died, he left behind a wife and two daughters, ages four and two. At the funeral a man approached my grandmother asking when she would be selling the house – assuming she wouldn’t be able to manage the home as a widow. My grandmother didn’t have much of an education but she found whatever jobs she could to support her family. Many jobs, including being a fork lift operator and driving a dump truck, were in fields dominated by men and she was the only woman present (this was the late 1950s/early 1960s). She led by example and my mother never questioned that a woman shouldn’t do those things. My grandmother died several years ago, but sixty years later that home is still in the family.
It wasn’t until the Women’s March that I learned my mother also took action when she was young. During her freshmen year of high school, she saw a flyer for the cross country team that stated “Interested students please show up.” She showed up and was denied because of her gender. This was before Title IX, so my mother wrote to Board of Education to fight for the chance to be on the team. In her words, “It didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t run because I was a girl.” By her senior year a varsity sport was made available to girls (field hockey), which she joined. It wasn’t exactly what she wanted, but she stood up for what she believed in, and it ultimately led to action.
On January 21, 2017 I participated in the Women’s Ski and March in Aspen. This was the first time I was engaged in this type of event/demonstration/gathering, and I walked away inspired. I witnessed little girls chanting about love and empowerment – “2, 4, 6, 8. Who do we appreciate? GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!” I saw activist grandmothers holding signs saying “Mountain Women Take the High Road” and “Grandmothers are Wise…Asses.”
A diverse community of women, children, men and dogs were out in the street with a message that was more about love, standing up for ourselves and for what we believe in. It was a message of equality and hope and that we would work hard and together to achieve a better future.
For me the march wasn’t about politics – it was a much needed reminder that women are bad asses, that we can do anything that we set our minds to, and frankly – that women get shit done. I am grateful to the feminists and Bold Betties who came before me, and I hope that I can pave the way for the Bold Betties of the future. I was fortunate to have great examples of strong women in my life growing up, and it is important that we continue to lead by example – by pushing our boundaries, by getting out of our comfort zone and for chasing the dreams we have, no matter how crazy they may seem.
This is what a feminism looks like.