Here’s some background information about me:
I am 19 years old.
I am white.
I have never been raped, abused or mistreated.
I have had good experiences with long-term boyfriends.
I have avoided conflict and drama, mollifying those around me.
I abide by one philosophy: do what you want and do everything you can to get where you want to be.
I don’t want to come off as a braggart. I don’t want to tell you how to live your life.
I do want to share with you my story of becoming a feminist.
For a long time, I didn’t want to consider myself a feminist. I cringed at the word, because what came to mind were overly zealous, bra-burning and men-hating rioters. This was the stereotype at the time, and I had no feminist friends to convince me otherwise.
In fact, for a while, I hesitated to put any labels on myself. It came off as laziness: I wasn’t a Republican or Democrat because I hadn’t taken the time to truly research both parties’ beliefs, and I wasn’t pro-choice or pro-life because I didn’t completely understand the dispute. Instead of blindly associating myself with one side of an argument, I instead stayed quiet, searching for the truth or validity in someone’s statement before making one myself.
As you can see from the facts above, personally, I hadn’t ever felt thwarted by the male population. If I was, I didn’t notice it. I didn’t live in a household with an abusive – or even dictatorial – dad. When my high school boyfriends broke up with me, I reasoned that it was for the best. I had as many guy friends as I did girl friends, and some of them I considered best friends. I wasn’t interested in politics, in the news, or in what was going on in the world around me. I was selfish. I didn’t understand why people were feminists because I wasn’t one, and because, in my experience, there was no reason to be one.
Instead of labeling myself a feminist, I said that I believed in equality. I was always about balance, between anything and everything. I thought feminists wanted women to become better than men; I thought they wanted to exclude men from gender conversations that should concern them; I thought they were too opinionated, outspoken, and in the process they actually discouraged men from participating, whether they knew it or not.
These were the myths I subscribed to.
However, once I moved to college, it all changed.
My friend Carlie, who lived in the feminist hall Emerson, asked me if I’d like to live with her. I thought this would be a great opportunity – a real live roommate! – but I was worried about the dorm. Number one, would I fit in? Number two, shit, I had to do some research.
I went online. I talked to a few strong-minded friends. I re-evaluated my own opinions. And what I found surprised me.
I had been a feminist the entire time.
Equality is the strongest and primary principle of feminism. In my research, I found that while I was busy not being a feminist, I had discounted the experiences of others – in the workforce, in the streets, in their own homes – because I hadn’t experienced the same things. Embarrassed, I realized that I had been ignorant to a doctrine that advocated for the same equality I had. Most feminists don’t want to be better than men; they just want to be rid of the stereotypes that categorized them as people they didn’t want to be – unhappy housewives, desperate for their husband’s attention, among many others. I realized that a lot of women had self-esteem issues because of these stereotypes, especially those in the media that showed them what their bodies should look like.
I put a lot of time and thought into my application. Even though I had never taken a Women’s Studies class, I looked back on my other classes – specifically a sociology class called Media and Society – and realized that I had learned a bit about feminism there, too. So maybe my views had been changing and morphing all along.
When I got in, I worried that people would see through me – would be able to realize that I hadn’t always been a feminist, that I had (and still have) a superficial understanding of the doctrine, that I had never taken a Women’s Studies class. Instead, everyone was welcoming. Now, I’ve taken to talking about feminism with friends, parents and co-workers. I had a conversation with my Subway co-worker about feminism a while ago. Later, as I was doing the dishes, he said something like, “That’s exactly where you should be.”
I stopped what I was doing and whirled around to face him. He put his hands up, and cried, “Just kidding, just kidding!”
I went back to what I was doing and didn’t say a word. Later, he apologized. And then, again, he apologized. Before I left he said sorry one more time.
I looked at him. “Are you scared of me?” I asked, bemused.
“A little,” he said.
That’s when I realized that I had become the kind of opinionated, outspoken woman I used to disregard. But now, instead of cringing at the thought, I was proud of myself. I knew my coworker didn’t mean what he said – he wasn’t a malicious person, and he said it as though he thought it was funny – but I had managed to make some sort of impression on him. And in the process, I had made an impression on myself. I knew what kind of woman I was. I know what kind of woman I am.
I am the kind of woman who thinks everyone should have the chance to be who they want to be.
And that, my dear friends, is what feminism is all about.
What was your journey to becoming a feminist like? What do you believe in? Tell me about it in the comments below!
P.S. If you’d like to write a guest post about your journey to becoming a feminist, and what feminism means to you, contact me!