I feel like I’ve been a feminist my whole life. When I was growing up my parents taught me that I was capable of doing anything I set my mind to through faith, self belief and hard work, which I interpreted in my own way.
I was a very headstrong, determined child and could be found alternating between trying to persuade my mum to let me go to sleep late and sitting on the windowsill trying to read by the glow of the streetlight – yes, I was a rebel. At that point in my life everything was great; I was still under the illusion that the world was a beautiful place and that the worst thing that could happen to me was losing my favourite doll.
When I was still young the closest thing to sexism I experienced was not being able to play football with the boys at school (because I was terrible at it) or being told that “girls should always look presentable, and be tidy” while my brother lived in a tip and could wear what he liked.
However, this all changed when I started secondary school. The day I started secondary school, 11 year-old me was met with a series of contradictions:
Welcome to Secondary School
– You must be smart, but not too smart. Otherwise you’re a geek.
– You must be pretty, but not too pretty or else we won’t like you.
– Aren’t you going to put some concealer on that spot? Maybe you should try wearing some more makeup so boys like you. Not that much, you look like a clown.
– You need to put in a bit of effort in the morning, but not too much, or else you’re trying too hard.
– “You must have had your first kiss by now. Are you frigid?”
– Don’t speak to too many boys, that makes you a slut.
– “Why do you only have two friends? Ugh, you think you’re better than everybody.”
– You need to be sporty and fit, but you can’t lift weights because boys don’t like girls who are too muscular.
– “Don’t be a wimp, stick up for yourself!”
– “Oh my god! Why are you so angry all the time? Racism and sexism doesn’t exist anymore, it’s 2015.”
When you’re and 13 trying to be “cool” the last thing you want is more labels attached to you. So, although I was having countless “debates” with preteen boys about where exactly women belonged and wondering why I felt the need to call other girls sluts, I rejected the whole idea of feminism.
Like many people, I was very ignorant about feminism and rather than actually doing some research, I just believed the stereotype that feminists were man-hating bra-burning ugly women that I did not want to be associated with. I saw every single girl I knew as competition, which meant I missed out on many friendships that I should’ve formed earlier. I went from spending hours reading novels to spending hours reading pre-teen magazines teaching me how to dress in a way that would make boys like me (ugh x100). I even found myself saying a lot of of the stupid things that female “meninists” on Twitter say now.
But something happened when I turned 15. My brother introduced me to TEDTalks and I came across Tavi Gevinsons “still figuring it out” talk and from that moment I was hooked on Rookie magazine. I read about girls not that much older than me doing things I’d only dreamed about, learning that I shouldn’t feel shame for being a women and going through lady stuff like periods. Underneath all of the silliness, I was a feminist.
I know most of the people who read Zusterschap already know what feminism is, but for people like 15-year-old baby feminist me here’s a very brief definition:
Feminism is simply the movement for social, political, and economic equality between men and women. It’s not wanting one group to be superior to the other, nor is it belittling the experiences of those who don’t identify as female.
Feminism, as a concept, is simpler than I first thought, but the issues it addresses are much more complex. With the help of women, particularly writers and speakers like Tavi Gevinson and and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons about feminism. I am by no means the perfect feminist (though obviously that doesn’t exist) and I have moments where I do or say some really un-shiny things, like disliking or judging other women because of an internalised misogyny. But at least I recognise that’s what it is, and can hopefully continue to grow as a feminist, and share with you my feminist journey on a monthly basis.
Writer, video maker, feminist and crazy Taylor Swift fan.