I am not a feminist. This is what I always used to say in primary school, and if I’m quite honest, almost the whole way through secondary school too. I always held the belief that being a feminist was bad, it meant that someone had radical opinions and continually crossed the line to get their opinion heard, to get their point across. I am not a feminist I said, all the while advocating for myself to have the same opportunities as the world leaders I saw in the news and learnt about in history; longing to be picked to carry the boxes between the classrooms and help the “few strong boys” who always got picked; constantly standing up for myself when I got called bossy, or demanding. But still I said: I am not a feminist.
In retrospect, it is absurd to think that I thought being a feminist was bad. It’s even more ludicrous to think that I vehemently protested against being labelled as a feminist when it is so obvious that that’s what I was. But at the same time isn’t that also a part of the fight for feminism: not being labelled something that you don’t identify with even though so many other people determine you as such? Was it really fair of this patriarchal society to put me in a box filled with feminists and say that I was the same when I, as an individual, was repeatedly saying that that’s not what I was. I was just a child. And yes, I was a child determined to learn for myself in order to meet my ambitious goals, forgoing the easy route of simple indoctrination, but what if I was not like that? Think of all the other children, not only the young girls but all the developing children who would always hear one of their peers be called a feminist despite her protests. Surely all that taught them is that society can split people into categories, ignoring their personal self identification and just calling them what they think is right. So maybe at that time I was right, I was not a feminist.
All that being said, if you asked me now if I am a feminist, there could be only one answer that I could give you. Yes. I am a feminist. Today, I am no longer ashamed at the thought of being seen as a feminist because what even is feminism? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. And I firmly believe that all of us, no matter our socially determined sex or our self identification, we need to fight against misogyny and determine equality. Although I can never be a Ruth Bader Ginsburg, however much I might want to set a Supreme Court precedent for women’s rights, I still think we should all enter the world wanting to make as iconic of a change as Justice Ginsburg did.
But I have only just been able to reach this point. It has taken me 17 years to be comfortable with admitting the factat I am a feminist, or at least I feel comfortable saying so at Pearson, who knows about the wider world? It has taken me 17 years to realise that being a feminist is not bad, it’s not extreme or radical. 17 years of saying that I am not a feminist to finally be able to proclaim that actually, that is exactly what I am. It fills me with fury. It makes me enraged to think about how I was never taught the truth about feminism in school. I had to find out for myself what it actually means to be a feminist. And that is the reason we should all be feminists, so that the generations to come do not have to wait 17 years before understanding the truth, so that they do not bottle up all that shame and passion like I did. Maybe back then I wasn’t a one, but today: I am most definitely a feminist!
- Lili Dombi