In the wake of the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement, there are extremely polarizing opinions on what it means to be a feminist. Coming from a fairly conservative area in the south, often times, people are confused or shocked when they find out I'm a feminist.
So here’s my story on why I chose to join, quite frankly, an extremely divisive and controversial movement:
My identity as a feminist didn’t come as some sort of awakening or existential crisis, but an identity that slowly manifested over time. See, I was raised in a single-parent household where I was told that women could do anything and everything by themselves. That being said, growing up I wasn’t just taught how to cook by my mom, but how to build furniture, paint walls, and do my taxes. (Sorry, Mom, I still need some help on that one), along with many other traditionally male roles.
I took for granted that women are equals to men because that’s what I had experienced my whole life. As a result, I stood oblivious to the fact that many other people had never experienced the same reality as me. Thus, I never thought of myself as a feminist because, to me, women’s rights weren’t a humanitarian issue or an issue at all.
As I grew older, I became more knowledgeable about the issues that women face, but being a feminist was never part of my identity because it seemed like something so distanced and extreme from the world that I lived in.
However, during the 2016 election season, I began to notice the small, but still extremely degrading actions happening around me. I never experienced anything traumatic or life changing that made me identify as a feminist, but it was the monotonous, daily actions that soon helped to mold who I am.
Whether it was being ignored by my male classmates in an engineering class, or catcalled while walking back from the library, I began to realize that women are, in fact, an oppressed class and that something needs to be done.
Women are under the constant reminder to utilize their bodies as Swiss Army Knives— to stand in a constant mode of defense against the world. We are the girls taught to live via a checklist: don’t drink the PJ at parties (check), travel with a group of girlfriends when going out (check), don’t raise your hand too much in class or you’ll seem like a bitch (check).
We live in a time where there are more rules governing what we shouldn’t do than what we should and can do. We live in a time where female oppression is not an isolated experience, but something that all women experience —where having a friend harassed at a party is a weekend, not a life-altering event.
I want a city where my body isn't public property, where what I wear is an outfit, not a welcome mat. A place where Mace is not my go-to accessory in my purse. I want a school where I'm no longer told I'm "brave" for majoring in a predominately male field. And that is why I am a feminist.