My maternal grandmother had 8 children. Her first baby was stillborn, but the other seven lived to adulthood.
Birthing and raising 7 children was no small feat for a poor woman in a southern Illinois mining town. My mom told stories of tough times when the family only had bread and butter to eat for dinner. She spoke of wearing the same dress to high school every day because it was the only one she owned. They were dirt poor. Even though my grandpa worked 6 long days each week in the coal mines, his salary simply was not big enough to keep them all fed and clothed.
The struggle to survive left my grandma tired and angry. That’s how I remember her – tired and angry. I rarely saw her smile. Grandma had little reason to smile. She lived to be 90 years old, but much of her life was just plain hard.
Is this the life my grandmother dreamed of when she was young? Somehow I doubt it. But with no birth control and little money, what other choices were available to her?
My grandmother needed choices. Grandma deserved to have control over her own body, control over how many children she would birth and raise. She is why I am a feminist today. Every woman deserves to choose how many children she will bear. Every woman deserves the right to say No, I simply cannot feed, clothe and raise another child.
So, yes, I’m a feminist.
I’m a feminist who believes that every woman should control her own body, life and destiny.
I’m a feminist who demands that poor women have free access to birth control.
I’m a feminist who insists that abortion be legal and available in every corner of this country.
I’m a feminist who stands up for the rights of poor women, black women, gay women, abused women… ALL women.
Most of all I’m a feminist because of my grandma. I keep standing up and speaking up because of her.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree,
even when her shackles are very different from my own.”