Caroline Brewton: Women’s options have changed
I love listening to my grandmother’s stories.
When we talk, we sit at the decades-old dining room table, the host to countless family dinners and holiday celebrations. It’s heard more than its fair share of stories from the Brewton clan. It’s the witness to all our gossip.
Some of the stories she tells are tales from her childhood, growing up poor with her brothers and sisters in the Rio Grande Valley. She only started talking about the harder stuff as I’ve matured.
“Caroline,” she said to me one day, “When we went to high school, there weren’t advanced placement classes and elective options. You have more choices than I did. On your first day, you sat down with the principal and were asked if you planned on going to college. There were two tracks: one for those who were, and one for those who weren’t. I wasn’t, so I was placed in that track. It included things like home economics and sewing.”
It hit me hard. I did have a lot of options in high school. I took classes in English, creative writing, science and art — all of which were my choice and all of which would help me in my career later, I thought. And of course I was going to college. And here I am.
“In those days, you got married,” she told me.
The option to take classes in history and art isn’t the only choice that I have and she didn’t — and many across the world still don’t. I can participate in any career field I want (given education and training, of course); my gender is no barrier. Neither am I subject to the expectations of women in her time.
Irene Adler, notorious heroine of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia” (a Sherlock Holmes short story) was described as an “adventuress,” which meant something like courtesan in the terms of yesteryear. How alien to me that a word like “adventure” had a negative connotation in association with my sex!
I love adventures. I love travel. I can’t stay in one place for long. And I don’t think white picket fences are tasteful. I might get married, I might not. Either way is acceptable.
To me, feminism means the freedom to choose. I could be a housewife. I could be a journalist. I could be a doctor, a lawyer, an ex-patriate, anything I can think of and have the determination to become. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s my choice, and the time and country to which I was born, through sheer dumb luck, make it so.
I am absurdly thankful for that.