Growing up, I remember being very aware of the things I often had to deal with as a girl, that boys never had to think about. I would ask myself so many questions and became so curious about everything. It was almost as if the whole world was keeping this huge secret from me and I just could not figure out what that secret was. The older I got, the more curious I became, and the harder these questions were to ignore. There were so many double standards and subtle settings in society I began to notice. I knew that dress code requirements for girls were different than the requirements for guys, because of the different dress code requirements I had when I went to private school. I knew that there were certain situations where girls were treated differently than boys, but I just didn’t know why.
Here’s the truth: I didn’t really start learning about feminism until the end of high school. It wasn’t until I started college when I really started learning about what it really meant to be a feminist, and how I could get involved in the fight for equal rights. When I began learning about feminism, all of those questions I had when I was younger began to get answered. Yet the answers I was getting were far from comforting.
Why did I have to wear a sweater to cover up my arms when the boys didn’t? So as not to “distract the boys.” Why did I have to be so secretive and discreet when I went to change my pad in the school bathroom? Because periods are stigmatized by society and aren’t supposed to be talked about.
All of these answers kept going back to same thing: sexism.
The revelation of all of these double standards and disadvantages took me by surprise. It was as though I had been walking around with rose colored glasses on and they had finally been taken off. The reality of our patriarchal world finally started to sink in. These questions were no longer just naive curiosities I sometimes thought about – now, the answers to these questions were like a gateway to all this knowledge I was struggling to unlock.
Even though I felt like I was getting answers, I still had a lot to figure out. When I started identifying myself as a feminist, not only did I begin to see myself differently or even the world around me differently but I began to see everyone around me differently.
I knew that my somewhat conservative upbringing and views played a part in this experience. Yet, I didn’t realize just how much until I started forming different opinions on my own. I in no way wish that these experiences had not happened but there definitely have been times when those different views and opinions have struck quite a chord with me.
I realized my my mom had taught me a way of looking at things that didn’t really mesh with my new feminist questions. My mom and I have always had different opinions on things, and feminism is definitely no exception to that rule. Even though I’m at the age where I am able to make my own decisions, I know that my parents still have certain things that they expect of me. There have definitely been times when they thought my dress was too short or that my v-neck was too low cut. I still have yet to be able to leave the house in a crop top, without my mom asking me to put on a jacket to cover it up.
A part of me may always wish that I had one of those moms who didn’t care about what her daughter wears – the kind who proudly supports the pro-choice movement. At the same time, though, I love everything our differences taught me. I love the fact that I can say that I literally educated myself on everything feminism-related, from sexist dress codes to double standards in the workplace. Every activist’s autobiography, every article, every YouTube video, was found by me.
All of those different sources were a part of my journey to becoming an intersectional feminist. I went from knowing almost nothing to constantly learning about so many different topics. I had never felt this excitement for learning about anything before.
Even though I know that there will always be differences between my family, friends, and I, I know that continuing to have conversations and be myself is still an absolute must. We are now at a place where having these conversations is easier than it used to be. I truly do feel like we are getting to a place where these discussions will be more open and accessible to have.
I know that my mom and I will never agree on everything,but I am hopeful that we will be able to grow and learn together. One thing I have learned through educating myself about feminism online, is that no matter what happens, you should always keep talking about the issues you care about most. Regardless of how anyone feels about my feminism or approves of my skirt length, I will always keep voicing my opinions and educating myself on issues that matter to me.