Picked up this meme from several places, including Shakespeare's Sister, JackGoff, Amanda, and Feministe.
It took me a while to get to this, both because I've been feeling so hideous, and because I wanted to ponder it. I'm a little shamed to admit that I've not thought about it particularly long and hard before this, or at least not specifically. So it's already been a great topic!!
1) It's given me a world where I didn't grow up ashamed of my sex. I was fortunate enough to be born into a time and family where it never once crossed my mind that being a girl was worse than being a boy. I never questioned that I could be whatever I wanted, and if I decided when I was 7 that I was never getting married, well, that was okay too. (I did change my mind on that.) My dad encouraged me to join the Math Club, and I played soccer at a very competetive level for several years. My teachers encouraged me to be an engineer, astronaut, or whatever my heart desired. I cannot ever remember a time that I was denied or discouraged from something because I was a girl.
And all this is because so many women fought so long and hard before me to make it so. I can never thank them enough.
2) It's made me more observant and critical of my own inherent prejudices. While some of this is part of getting older and maturing, I also credit my exposure to feminism. I once never understood how someone could choose to stay home and have kids rather than work. "What a boring, stupid choice!" I thought. And while I continue to think it probably wouldn't be for me, feminism and feminist blogs have forced me to read accounts and stories of women (and men) who have made just that choice, and happily. And I realize that I can be a narrow-minded, pig-headed wench sometimes. But feminism encourages us ALL to expand our world view.
3) It's given me choices. As I touched on a little earlier, I have had the choice to do what I want, which wasn't possible even 30 years ago. I can choose my profession, to marry or not, to work outside the home or not, to have kids or not, or to have sex or not. I can vote. I can, as Shakes says, "Let my freak flag fly." I can play video games, train animals, look forward to calculus class, and enjoy bad movies with impunity. I won't be shunned, or prosecuted, or raped, because I refuse to conform to old, patriarchal ideals of feminine behavior. And I am grateful beyond words.
4) It's made it okay to have and enjoy sex. While I also credit my parents for avoiding the whole "body is bad, don't touch!" message, that would never have been an option before feminism. But I grew into an adult who didn't feel badly that some things felt good, some things felt REALLY good, and dammit, I enjoyed them!! And if it weren't for feminism, my parents couldn't have given me and hubby the advice to "live together before you get married."
5) It's given me hope for the future. I watch my sister growing up, and know that she, too, can be whatever she damn well wants. I know my (potential) daughters will be confident, assertive, and eclectic individuals, and society will not (generally) punish them for it. My (future) sons will understand how to respect women and their past struggles, and how to encourage the women around them to do what they want, too. I see a future where misogyny will be the exception, rather than the rule. And I feel hope.