I clearly remember the day I first heard the word ‘feminism’. I was in junior high school and my social science teacher was explaining to us about civil rights and equality. Somewhere in the discussion she mentioned feminism. She said it was the next major battle to be fought after the civil rights movement. She talked about equality and rights for women and how words were used to keep women in their place. She talked about the pressures on girls and boys to conform in a society that was driven by competition.
I remember my 13 year old self sitting up and paying more attention than I had ever done in class before. The things my teacher was saying resonated at a time that I was just discovering how boys were beginning to be interested in girls again after years of telling us we were hopeless – we couldn’t run, throw or catch a ball. We weren’t smart enough, or fast enough, or strong enough. The boys that couldn’t run, throw or catch ball were somewhere in between, not quite boys but not bad enough to be girls. But then as our bodies began to develop boys began to look at them. Some of the girls had cottoned onto this much earlier than me and they realised that if they were the right clothes and showed off enough body parts and giggled at the right time then they could be popular with the boys. I was painfully aware of all this (without being able to put it into words) because no boys ever looked at me. I was too skinny and still looked like a little kid at 13. I had red hair and freckles and the boys made sure I knew that I wasn’t what they were after.
So when I heard my social science teacher talking about equality and how girls and women needed to fight back I sat up and listened. I wanted to learn more, and learn more I did – slowly – as I made my way through high school.I never became a ‘popular’ girl with the boys. I was too quiet to argue but I wrote things. I wrote stories and essays and poems and some of the boys called me ‘lesbian’ because I preferred to spend my lunchtimes in the library with a book and a writing journal.
So now I am twenty years old and have just finished the second year of my creative writing degree at university and I am proud to think of myself as feminist. I still see the negative effects of our competition driven, patriarchal society every day and this is a reminder of why we need an alternative view of the world.
I wish I could remember her name but I am ever grateful to her for introducing me to the world of feminism.
Have a fab feminist Friday.