I grew up in a home where women and men are treated the same (or close enough, boys mow the lawn and girls don’t– my mom was stay-at-home and made dinner, but not in an oppressed way, she always wanted to be a full-time mom). I was taught that I can do anything I want, have any job I work for, and deserve respect from everyone. Along the way, I never noticed any negative sexism against me- we had a faculty member in middle school who told me he liked “my pants”– i think his true meaning is clear.. and we had a gym teacher who didn’t make girls workout when they didn’t want to.. because they’re girls? Overall, these things worked to my advantage that men thought i was a pretty girl who couldn’t do hard labor if she didn’t want to. I rejected feminism all my life, believing this was the extremist movement of lesbians and butch women who were overreacting to the world from their biased standpoint that women should be both respected and revered. I saw this as a drastically misguided movement- you can’t be equal to men while still being revered as a women and bearer of life.
This summer– I became a feminist. It happened rapidly. Really, it all started in a town outside of Nairobi, Kenya. I’ve spent time before in developing regions, but was never really on my own. In Kenya, there was a lot to be done, and as a strong, independent adult, I did things on my own or with my female friend and teammate. I continued to reject the sexism that people were projecting on me, but my professor urged me to work around it and through it. We did, for example, by bringing a man with us to all of our meetings, something essential in this “culture”. By having a man sitting at the table on our side, we could talk about the business– even though he had no leadership over us– his presence was essential for us to sit down.
Returning to “The Land of the Free” 3 weeks later, all the sexism in the world was quickly unveiling itself to me. I was drawn in by Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDtalks on Lean In and how our discourse about girls and women influence how they act and are treated. I realized that my high school teachers had treated me this way– I was called “AGGRESSIVE”.. did they really mean that I was being a leader? That I was strong? That my strength, intelligence, and independence threatened them?
Realizing for myself that I had never been called a leader in my 20 years of life, I became deeply offended and insulted by the male leaders and authority figures who were supposed to mentor me and teach me how to grow and lead the world into a better future.
My view of feminism has changed- so drastically- this summer. I now openly consider myself a feminist, and I address feminist comments when and where they are made.
This weekend, a drunk guy on the street said to me “damn you gotta fatass” (yes in the admiring way) and I told him he was being sexist and rude. To be honest, I love when guys on the street tell me I look hot, or when someone says I have a fat ass, but why is that? Is it because in middle school, the boys told me the only reason they liked me was because I was hot? Because I grew up being told that my ass was the best thing about me? Because I was compared to every other women that they listed as “hot” in high school?
***this was written in one breath of emotion, excuse my spelling & grammar.
Let’s revisit this soon..
What are your experiences with feminism?