Being the son of a single mother the idea of being a male-feminist was never an option, it’s simply who I am.
My mother has been the subject of a rollercoaster life rivalled only by the dramatic plots of a Hollywood film. Throughout her existence she has been presented with numerous obstacles and met them with only the deepest determination and strength. Watching her as a child overcome all that was laid in front of her with courage and grace quickly taught me that despite social conventions women are every bit as equal as men.
Some may say that the life of a fatherless child should be looked at with empathetic eyes, but in my case had a relatively comfortable life considering the circumstances; all thanks to the tireless work of my mom. Apart from the necessities like food on the plate, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head my mother also made sure I enjoyed my childhood as best as I could and she worked three jobs to ensure of it. At the time she was just mom, but in retrospect I’m honestly not sure how she managed to do it. While she certainly had helped in the way of my grandparents, uncles and aunts; she always made time for me despite her certain exhaustion.
Work ethic alone wasn’t the only insight into her strength; it was simply dealing with the social climate of both our neighbourhood and the business world my mother eagerly pursued. Growing up in a predominantly European area of Toronto there tends to be quite a lot of sleazy bars in which semi inebriated men hang out on patios and storefronts ogling and cat calling women that find themselves passing by. Being the awesome mom that she was she often took me out to the local parks or bike riding on weekends, which usually meant passing these fine establishments. I remember holding my mother’s hand and walking as these strange men hurling gross comments at my mother who was simply passing by. She endured these public bits of degradation daily, but insisted only that we move on and ignore them.
In withstanding these frequent barrages of harassment it became obvious even at such a young age that my mother possessed an inner fortitude that could compare with the physical strength of the mightiest of men. Some things however were not quite as apparent to me then as they would become later in life, such as her struggle in the corporate world. I mentioned with a sense of pride that my mother worked three jobs, what I didn’t mention was that she never wanted to. While working multiple shifts at various jobs may of paid the bills, she always dreamt of having a career. She was a beautiful, intelligent, and savvy woman and knew that these dead-end positions were but a means to an end, and sought more for herself professionally.
The early 1990’s was a vastly different professional landscape than the one that exists today, while diplomas and degrees may have been required for some positions one could still get by on sheer ability alone; and ability was something my mother had in spades. A quick learner, hard worker, and given her status as a single-mother a fantastic multitasker she was an asset to any business open minded enough to hire her. Due to many unforeseen circumstances in her life she found herself being everything from a Ballet Teacher, to a Casting Agent, to a high-end furniture Saleswoman. While those may seem like incredible achievements, much like the fantastic memories displayed in a photo-album; it takes countless hours of work and sacrifice in between each achievement to reach success.
The number of times my mother has been told “no” in her professional life is astounding, and perhaps it would of crushed her if she didn’t meet each rejection with confidence and persistence. When many of the men in her field would go home and rest after work, or go out to bars; she came home and not only raised a son but studied to keep herself ahead of the curve. I’ve used the word strength a few times so far, but not nearly enough to describe my mom. She never had to tell me to treat women equally, because when most boys my age looked up to their fathers – my mother to me was a superhero.
Through her I saw that women were every bit as capable as men. She never used her femininity to get ahead, and never wanted any favours done to her because of her gender. All that my mom ever asked for was an equal chance, and that’s something that will stick with me as long as I live.