In college, I’m surrounded by many bright young women. Many of these bright young women believe they themselves are not feminists. I’m not going to quote the statistics about the wage gap that you may not believe exists or cite The Feminine Mystique. Those things are there but you already know about them and you’ve already decided what you think about them. I just want to talk about our experiences. There are moments in your young life that you became wholly aware that you are female. Being a woman was not something I consciously thought much about before college. In high school, I identified myself as cheerleader, clarinetist, NHS member, cross country runner, class officer, sportsmanship committee member, academic team participant, homecoming attendant, any number of arbitrary high school things that I loved. I did these things and laughed and ran and created and lived in the privilege that gender was never really something I had to think about on a daily basis. But in college, I was repeatedly told I couldn’t walk home alone in the dark. I was told I could get into all the bars easier. I was told to never accept a drink from a stranger. I was told there wasn’t a women’s bathroom on the entire first floor of the engineering building. I was told a lot of things based on a trait I didn’t pick out. And so were you.
You were told to smile sweetheart. You were told that he liked your hair, but don’t worry he’s not hitting on you in the line at the gas station. You were whistled at from passing cars. You were nervously clutching your pepper spray walking back to your dorm at midnight. You laughed at misogynistic jokes that weren’t funny because you were trying to play cool. I did too.
You are a feminist every time you are angry when someone grabs your lower back to push you aside at a bar without asking. You are a feminist every time you comfort your crying friend who did not say yes. You are a feminist every time you succeed on your own, for yourself, by yourself. You are a feminist every time you question these rules and these structures or every time you are scared, purely because you are female.
You may not realize it. You are not crazy or man hating or bra burning and you probably shave your legs. But if you believe you are more than what is between your legs, you’re feminist. If you believe women should not be working for free past October 26th, you’re a feminist. If you think that your voice matters just as much as the person beside you, you’re a feminist. I hate to have to be the one that breaks it to you but odds are despite that Odyssey article you shared on Facebook or the fact that you’ve never heard of Roxane Gay– you are a feminist. Revel in it.
art by @artsyalexx