Middle school. A time of acne, braces, and sweat stains, also known as the blessings of puberty. When I was in middle school, there seemed to be a magical solution for everything. Makeup could hide acne, lip gloss would distract from braces, and a style called muscle tanks would make sweat stains not appear as easily. I can remember watching YouTube tutorials about how to cut t-shirts to create this trend that would save girls from embarrassment in the heat of the springtime. What I couldn't remember though, was anyone telling me that this trend wasn't trendy for me.
You see, when girls wore muscle tanks, the low armholes sometimes showed what girls had underneath. I wasn't aware of this issue until I was stopped one day in the hallway by an administrator. I was told that when I lifted my arms, and someone was looking into my sleeve, my bra could be seen, and that I was required to change because a bra being visible was a distraction. I remember saying that I would put on a sweater, knowing full well that it was 90 degrees. What I had wanted to say was, "Why are you telling me not to wear a shirt that can be looked into, when you should be telling others that it's inappropriate for them to be looking down my shirt at all?"
This is when I learned that I lived in a world dominated by gender and that I wasn't the type that was dominant. In eighth grade I officially decided that I was a new label; not just a young pubescent teenager, but a strong, independent woman; a feminist.
Flash-forward three years and I found myself attending the 2017 Women's March on Washington. By this point, I had been exposed to many more realities of the gender-divided world that I lived in. I had learned that as an adult unless things changed, I would be paid less than a man for the same job. I had learned that there were people who thought they could decide for me the rights of my own body. I had learned that as a junior in high school, I was one of the lucky ones who had not experienced sexual assault. I learned that even if I did experience such a thing, I would most likely be asked what I was wearing or if "I wanted it" before I was believed.
Being a middle schooler wearing a sweater in June had made me unbelievably hot, but after that incident, I decided to turn that heat into a fire. The fire isn't just a flame, but a movement that blazes across women, men, and anyone in between, across the world. Each day brings new struggles, new people who try to diminish the fight and to throw water onto the fire. But in the continuing struggle for equality, it's feminists who will make sure that the fire never burns out.