Happy Thursday everyone!
Today I’m participating in the F-Word link up organised by Marielle from This Flooded Sky and Kiersten from She is Fierce! When they announced the link up I was totally down from the get go! I have had this post saved in my drafts called ‘How I asserted myself as a feminist’ forever now and was always unsure when I would get to write the whole thing and publish it. Well today is the day!
The link up asked the question ‘when did you first realise you were a feminist?’ and that is a good question, however in my case it is more the question of when did I assert myself as a feminist?
I believe I’ve always been a feminist – I just didn’t know what it meant yet. When I was 2 years old in daycare my best friend was a boy whom I insisted on protecting – clearly 2 years old me was a badass! (if you’re interested to know, me and said boy are still friends after 23 years!) I always competed with boys for best marks and best runner, etc. It was never a case of boy vs girl, it was a case of who is the best in the class, period.
Then when the awkward teenage years began, I went to all-girls school. So there was no competing or trying to impress boys there. Instead, I was taught so many amazing things and my confidence in myself as a ‘girl’ grew exponentially with each day. By watching my peers who were so successful, each in their own terms, it made me see that there is nothing that girls can’t do. I will always say that all-girls school is the reason I am the woman I am today.
Moreover, a very important factor in my life is that I am very well surrounded. I was always surrounded by strong women and very respecting men. My mother is one of the strongest person I know and my dad is also the most amazing guy. So is the rest of my family, family friends and my own friends. The two most important men in my life – my dad and the Brit – are both self proclaimed feminists in their own way. I was always respected as a human being and as a woman and the negative experiences I have gone through were always with strangers – and so I thought those didn’t affect me that much. I mean who cares what those people say, right?
Anyhow, coming back to the question of when I asserted myself!
I didn’t used to like the word ‘feminist.’ I used to think it meant either old fashioned suffragettes or girls who don’t shave and burn their bras. I didn’t like the word but I was clearly a feminist. It’s an awkward situation that a lot of girls probably go through when they don’t fully understand the meaning of the word. To me, it had such a pejorative connotation. Which, in turn, is a reason why we need feminism!
Then, in uni, I studied literature and one of the classes I liked most was ‘Gender and Sexuality in Literature.’ That class was life changing! When my professor explained the differences between gender/sex/sexuality I was baffled – it was a revelation! Society has constructed the idea of ‘gender,’ and therefore ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ are such societal concepts. We think they are innate concepts, but no! I loved that class so much! From that point on pretty much every paper I ever wrote was some sort of feminist/gender reading of the works of literature we were reading. Then, when I applied to grad school my first choice programme was Women, Writing & Gender at St Andrews, which I entered into in September 2012.
Could you believe that I still didn’t assert myself as a feminist then?
My peers were so inspiring and, in all honesty, I didn’t feel I was feminist enough. I thought they were so great and perhaps I didn’t know enough about feminism. Perhaps I didn’t deserve that title. Then, one cold night of February, at a typical St Andrews party, I met this guy who asked me what I was studying and when I said WWG, he asked, laughing, if I was one of those feminists. I was offended that he was laughing. ‘Yes I am!’ I thought – and then I realised what had stopped me all these years from saying I was a feminist. I didn’t want people to laugh or denigrate me! Yes, I did care what those people said.
That was the moment when I stopped being scared of telling people I’m a feminist. Obviously on the blogosphere I’m still a bit scared to show it off because I do not deal well with conflict, trolls and such, but in person people are much less likely to ever say something. Obviously, it’s a bit easy for me to be all proud and stuff – because most of the people I know are feminists. That’s the great thing about attending a grad school programme in feminist/female literature and surrounding myself with people who understand and value “progressive” thoughts like these.
I realise I’m probably one of those few lucky girls who are so well surrounded, but then I realise that one of the reasons I’m a feminist is because I wish everyone had the same experience and environment to thrive.