Here’s a little thing about me. I love being a girl. I can get down in the mud with the best of them, but in my daily life, I like things that would be labelled ‘feminine’. I like pink and lace. I like having smooth legs and bouncy curly hair. I love experimenting with make-up and feeling light and girly. But I also believe strongly in equality. Not just for women, for everyone. I thought standing up to fight put me in a category that would ridicule me for my ‘girly-ness’. I was no naive.
Growing up I believed that calling someone a ‘feminist’ was an insult. No joke! As a child I was a tomboy, and for a little stretch I even cut my hair short like a boy and didn’t wear make-up. I dressed in tracksuits every day and spent my time playing soccer and fighting with my mom about ‘looking nice’ for events. If there was ever going to be a cliche feminist in my school, it would have been me. But I hated it! I shrunk back, just wanting to be me. Why do I have to label myself? Why couldn’t I just be a girl that like the dress like a boy? Why did I have to be a ‘feminist’?
Emma Watson said it best in her speech at the UN Conference back in 2014 when they launched the campaign #HeforShe. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s a must!! She talks about this very cliche. We’re hearing the word ‘feminist’ and putting a very ugly picture on it. I think of a very belligerently obnoxious woman dressed to look like man, ranting about gender equality without ever giving a second to have a serious discussion or hear other opinions. A sermon, pushing her beliefs on the rest of us. Our opinion is wrong if it differs form hers. Sometimes when I think of a ‘feminist’ I hear my friends mom going on and on about the disgusting cruelty of men as she smoked and refused to shower. I see the kids teasing me at school, or the teacher who had armpit hair that they all laughed at.
(Here’s the link: Emma Watson UN Speech. Feminism has become a bad word.)
A few months ago there was a girl in my go-to coffee shop with armpit hair and hairy legs. I couldn’t care less about those choices, but she was being very obvious about holding her arms up and spreading her legs like she was a guy sitting down. Her entire self said ‘look at me, I’m a feminist and I’m going to get in your face’. I wanted to tell her that I agree with a lot of her views, but I don’t respond to her aggression. You attack me, it doesn’t matter what you’re saying, I’m going to be defensive. Of course it’s not all about me, but there are a lot of people who respond the same way I do.
I shy away from people like her not because I don’t believe in the same things they do, but because in my experience they look at me like I’m the problem. Something for them to fight and pressure. They want to tell me I’m wrong just by looking at me. This coffee shop girl didn’t ask me a single questions. She saw my heals and pink hair streak and labelled me. I’d conformed to the way ‘men’ saw me. I was playing by their rules. Her mind was made up about me based on a single look.
What are we really fighting for? What does being a feminist mean? Continue reading