This past Sunday was International Women’s Day (and the irony behind the whole situation is that it was the shortest day of the year due to the turning of the clocks, but that’s a rant for another time). My dearest younger self, I am here to report that your ranting does not go away by the year 2015, and I don’t think that it ever will. I’m not sorry for that. I know that you may sometimes feel ashamed by your outbursts of energetic speaking, especially in the presence of your classmates, but do not ever let it go. It will get you very far.
Lovely little Solina, I find it very difficult to put my feelings into words for you. Perhaps it’s because you struggle with feelings akin to a young feminist in a middle-school world that condemns the “f-word” and makes you feel like a nuisance to those around you. So I present you with a short list. I hope you take it to heart. I am also sorry for revealing a bit of your future to you, but it was necessary.
Moments you will realize that being a feminist is being yourself:
They are coming: the dreaded and impossibly lame, “get back in the kitchen” jokes. To this day, I am still not sure why middle-school aged, pimple-faced boys find these jokes creative or the slightest bit funny, but they do. The environment in which these jokes permeate will last for a few years. The first few times you hear them, you will observe the reaction of those around you. Most of them will probably be laughing. Your immediate response will be confusion and a feeling of hatred for the boys who tell the jokes. Don’t hate them: change the society that creates the joke.
Despite your intrinsic hatred for the joke and the positive responses of others, you will find yourself sometimes laughing along with them. You may feel ashamed of this later, but try your best to forgive yourself. It is natural to want to fit in. After some time, you will begin to speak out against the boys who say these jokes. They will make fun of you, call you a b—h, and snicker about you. You will cry into your mother’s arms.
I’d like to tell you that the boys who made those jokes end up never having a girlfriend (because “what self-respecting woman would date a sexist pig!” as you constantly say to your friends) but that would be a lie, and I would not like to lie to you. Just know that you must keep speaking out, no matter how hard it is. The boys will grow up, and the jokes will eventually stop, but don’t let that discourage you from speaking out right now. Because speaking out for what’s right is you, and I know you.
In 11th grade, an incredibly sexist student in your class will give a sarcastic and eye-rolled filled presentation on Susan B. Anthony, during which he cringes every time he must say the dreaded “f-word” in front of his classmates and teacher. You will be filled with rage to the point where you feel you must excuse yourself from the classroom, but you control your outbursts because you cannot disrupt the class anymore than you probably already are with your curling fists and quickly reddening countenance. After the presentation, you will make some quick comments about the importance of feminism during a classroom discussion on the presentation, and you will hear a girl in your class speak the words, “I hate feminists! I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men.”
You will have never heard a fellow female mutter those words before, and you will be shocked. How can a female hate feminists? How can a female hate a movement that calls for equal rights? You will grapple with this for a few days and decide that you will make it your mission to educate those around you of what feminism is and what it is not. You cannot stand around and let your peers spread information about something you know is so important. You want your fellow females to know that feminism is a human rights movement and not a man-hating movement. You cannot let the stereotypes get to you. Because being strong is you, and I know you.
From time to time, you may get bogged down in feelings of smallness and defeat. You will feel powerless and think to yourself, “I am just one teenage girl. What can I do?”
But, you will look at your mother and think about how she raised you completely on her own. You will look at your female science teacher and think about how little women follow the path of science, yet here she is encouraging a new generation of women to pursue science. You will look at your yoga instructor who, after all her children had graduated from high school, decided to open up her own small business. You will think of your host mother from an exchange you did, and how she was the first woman in her region in France to win a big mountain biking competition. You will realize that being a feminist does not always mean being on active duty at all times. You will realize that, to you, being a feminist is being inspired by the little things that strong women around you do on a daily basis.
Making positive change in this world requires a positive attitude. You will stop focusing on those who hold you back and start looking at the amazing women that surround you who truly embody the essence of International Women’s Day. Because being positive is you, and I know you.
Hang in there you young feminist, you. Much love from the future.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphics