Feminist Roots: Know Your Own

I don’t remember when I became a feminist.

Is that weird? I feel like it should be. I talk to other people about when they became aware of feminism or when they realized that they were one, and everybody seems to have this exact, precise moment in which their entire perception of the world was suddenly altered. And then during the course of these conversations, inevitably, the question gets turned around on me and I’m left scrambling to come up with some viable response.

It’s not that I was raised in a family where I was taught that feminism was a good thing and that everyone should be one, etc etc. That wasn’t my family. To this day my parents (plural, that’s both my dad AND my mom) make sexist, misogynistic, anti-feminist comments around me. My dad vehemently argues that there’s logic behind the pay discrepancy (70c to every $1) that women and men receive. My mom has this habit of watching chick flicks, and then slut-shaming one of the female characters. When it comes time to delving out the housework, my mom and I always end up doing the cleaning while my dad and brother get relegated to more “manly” tasks.

Of course, the world is not all blacks and whites. My mother was one of the first female prosecutors in her district when she first started working as a lawyer. When her male colleagues told her that they’d received a higher starting pay then her, she marched her way to the head partner’s office to demand she receive the same until the men stopped her. Turns out it had all been a joke to see if she had the metaphorical-balls to do something about it — which, as it turned out, she did. My dad has never once told me that I couldn’t accomplish something because I was a girl — in fact, he’s pushed me to be my best and always told me that I could succeed if I only tried. There have never been any qualifiers like “for a girl” in my household.

So it’s fascinating to me, then, to try and untangle my life experiences and figure out when my feminism first began to blossom. Was it in third grade when I told everyone that I was going to play on whichever team of Boy-Girl tag that I wanted? Or was it that moment in fourth grade when, at a new school, I voiced my confusion as to the existence of boy-girl cooties? Was it while watching a TV show in seventh grade and feeling a rage well up inside of me as a character’s rapist walked free? Or was it that first time I uttered the words “I’m a feminist”? And if that’s the case, when was it? Does anyone else remember, because I sure don’t.

And then, of course, I sit for a moment and I think. I think and I wonder — what does it matter that I can’t remember when I first realized that I was a feminist? Isn’t it all the more important that I am one — that somehow, out of all the paths my life could have taken, I’m sitting here writing a blog post about my own feminism instead of a Fox News oped about the war on men. Because I think, in the scheme of things, that’s what matters most.

Because whether there was a single life-changing moment in my life or not, I’m still here. Wanting to fight for women’s rights to make their own choices, receive equal pay, and go through life without the fear of slut-shaming or victim-blaming. I’m here to applaud when women succeed in our politics and to point out the injustices when the media paints a horrible sexist bias. And maybe right now, social commentary is all I can offer to feminism, but I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor. I think talking about the very real problems that we face in our lives today is a big step, and if I can help anyone else take that step with me, I’ll be proud.

So thank you. To the people in my past, in my life, in my community who helped shape me into the woman I am today. Collectively, I think you’ve done me a huge service.

2 thoughts on “Feminist Roots: Know Your Own

  1. I don’t know the exact moment, but it was about four years ago when I began to question everything I had been taught. I grew up sheltered, and my parents practiced strict evangelical Christianity. I always felt inferior, and one day I just finally had it. Interesting topic.

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  2. I think this is a great post! Although I think there is some value in reflecting on our own feminist histories as individuals, I also agree that knowing the exact moment when we “chose feminism” is not spectacularly important/even possible to discover for everyone. For many people, I think there are lots of events we recall as contributing to our “feminist selves.” However, for some people, I think it’s also possible for a single event to stick out as that “defining moment.” So, I like that you explore this difference and don’t try to confine yourself to one particular moment. I also like that you focus on what you can/want to contribute to feminism at present. I think it is interesting to take a step back and look at what we provide feminism instead of the other way around. Personally, I don’t know if I have ever really given that much thought. Maybe I think that nothing I say is particularly thought provoking or novel. But, this post reminds me of the potential every person has to make a feminist difference, even if only on a small scale. Thanks!

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