Leslie Caccamese always prided herself on her independence and autonomy. Falling in love forced her to rethink the meaning of her feminism.
I make my husband lunch at work, a fact I have meticulously guarded lest others find out. So much of my reputation has been built around being a professional and a feminist. Surely, my sandwich-making habits would call my feminist ethos into question.
For a long time, I thought that being a feminist meant that merging with a man, if pursued at all, should occur with his & hers distinctly maintained. I hustled to earn as much money and advance my career as far as I could. I made an elaborate show to prove to anyone who scrutinized our relationship that I was abundantly capable of taking care of myself.
I was so successful at trying to appear independently successful that the only thing that wasn’t succeeding was our relationship. We argued often, likely a byproduct of failing to involve each other in important decisions in our respective lives.
So we decided to try it his way. Recently, I left my San Francisco job to fill a void in his Napa Valley farm business. Yes, the man I was so insistent on proving I did not need is now my boss. In this new life, I gladly get up from my desk and make him lunch when I see him stuck on the phone as the clock ticks past noon.
I recently shared my tensions around being a feminist who has built her life around her man with a friend who told me she thought I had gotten it wrong. “Feminism was never intended to get in the way of love,” she asserted. Her words stung. I had never realized I was letting that happen.
I don’t know where my notion of go-it-alone feminism came from, but I do know that my fighting so hard to prove I did not need the man I am with left me lonely. Now, I feel like we are together trying to create something bigger than either of our individual selves. Our joint decisions are active negotiations. As we stood together at a recent women’s march, I realized this is what feminism in love looks like. I am an equal stakeholder in our shared life, and I can definitely still call myself a feminist.
With a Perspective, I’m Leslie Caccamese.
Leslie Caccamese lives and farms wine grapes in the Napa Valley.