From Our Readers: The Things I Realized When I Decided to Be a Feminist
Feminism is defined as "the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities."
The day, I knew I was a feminist opened a world of possibilities. I wanted to be the girl who educates others, the girl who uses her voice to preach that "women are not inferior or superior to men but we are their equal." But then I realized that I am not a celebrity or a person of influence, I am merely a student, a daughter, a girl.
However, I can be the girl who dresses for herself. Fashion is a form of self-expression, it’s a form of art. I can refuse to dress more conservative to protect myself, what I wear should not decrease my safety. I can choose to wear pants over a skirt, if I want to. One of my closest friends chose to wear pants instead of a skirt and stockings to school every day for six years. People questioned her because every other girls wore a skirt. And she would tell people, "I wear pants because they're more comfortable and that's that."
That's the thing about fashion, the options are endless. You can wear pants, shorts, skirts, dresses whenever and wherever you want to. My fashion choices do not conform to society's expectations but more notably, I do not dress to impress a boy. I can be the girl who dresses to impress myself.
I can be the girl who comforts a boy and tell them everything is going to be okay. I can offer him my shoulder to cry on and he would not be judged. I can reassure him that he is not weak and remind him that he is human. He does not have to live up to the societal expectation of masculinity where a man is strong, a man is tough, and that he must uphold his reputation. I will listen to his problems and help him find answers. The most important part of a relationship is effort, it's a two way spectrum. When I'm upset, broken or lost, he has to do the same for me.
He can be my comfort and I can be his rock.
I can be the girl who encourages younger girls to dream. I have a lot of young female cousins in my life, and I want them to believe that they can achieve anything they put their hearts into. If they want to be artists, dancers, or musicians, they should be able to share their talents with the world. If they want to be doctors, lawyers, or politicians, they should be able to share their intelligence with the world. If they want to be sporting superstars, engineers, or miners, they should not be discouraged from their aspirations because they are entering male-dominated industries.
I do not want them to drift away from something they are interested in because they think they're supposed to or because they're afraid of how they'll look. I can be the girl who raises awareness to the individual potential each young girl possesses.
I can be the girl who teaches young boys how to treat girls as their equals. I also have a lot of male cousins and I do not want them to think women are their inferiors. I want them to know that girls can do everything they can do. I want them to know that it is wrong to look at a girl as an object, it is wrong to treat a girl as his possession, and it is prominently wrong to hit a girl. But everyone is equal, on a scale, genders need to be balanced. I want them to know it is wrong for a girl to judge them based on their appearance, it is wrong for a girl to expect him to spend his money on her, and it is wrong for a girl to hit him, too.
I can be the girl that explains to young boys and girls they can work together, not hurt each other.
Finally, I can be the girl who supports other girls. Their accomplishments are not my failures. Everything they have achieved makes me proud of the gender I was born into. I look up to women in history; the suffragettes who fought for our rights to vote, Coco Chanel who dressed in pants and suits, Amelia Earhart who was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, and Marie Curie who founded radioactivity. I look up to women in modern society: JK Rowling, writer of the one the greatest pieces of children's literature, Sophia Amoruso, the founder of NastyGal and to all the feminists fighting for our fundamental rights.
I can be the girl who supports other girls. Their accomplishments are not my failures.
All of these women found strength to succeed in a society which oppresses them. My fellow females are not my competitors but my teammates, for when one of us succeeds, all of us move forward towards equality. Men are not my enemy; we work together to coexist to achieve equality despite coerces by society. My mother once told me this, "In this world there will always be bullies; do not be the girl that gets bullied, be girl that fights."