Written by Rachel Allen
In looking back, I can point to the exact moment I became a feminist. It wasn’t when I heard of Rosie the Riveter or when I saw how patronizing and abusive my father could be to my mother, and it definitely wasn’t when I continually heard, “Rachel, you just aren’t being a lady.” It was when I felt the injustice of the world when I walked out of my home and felt uncomfortable in my own skin. It was after I had already become hyper-feminine because I thought in our society, that’s what you had to be, to be liked and to be successful. It was after I had lost all my pride and self-respect by doing what I thought I was supposed to do in a male dominated world.
As women, we are pressured by societal expectations developed by the media and our culture to adhere to feminine gender roles. This further devolves us on the social ladder, creating a sense of self-loathing and we in turn become products of the society that oppresses us. The question as to why we hate the society to which we conform can be found through our own journeys in every day life. You get whistled at when you’re standing on the side of the road. You wake up wondering if you walk alone at night, if you will become the next addition to the vast array of statistics saying where you live isn’t safe. You wonder, when you enter a relationship, if because you look a certain way, you will become accustomed to abuse and live the life of a single mother. You wonder, if when you accept a job if there will ever be the day that you will make that extra 23 cents per dollar that your male counterpart makes. I became a feminist because I believe that we have a right to say no and that if we can enact change on even the smallest scale, that we are making progress for all the women out there who will always remain voiceless.
Growing up with the social alienation that comes from not prescribing to our dictated gender roles, I remained just as voiceless in a sea of sexual objectification and soon came to feel as though being alive as a woman, in this body, was a burden. In turn, I became emblematic of what it meant to be hyper-feminine, feeling as though I couldn’t accomplish anything without surrendering myself, quite literally, to the entitled patriarchy and privilege that permeates the societal blueprint of our lives. I became entrenched in a predominantly masculine society, all the while praying to be noticed for my intellect instead of my aesthetics. I became a feminist because I believe that we are all deserving of equal representation in our rigidly constructed culture and what matters is if we are allowed to operate outside of those roles without the fear of persecution.
I can vividly recall moments in my life where I thought if I chopped off my hair, taped my chest down, and wore male clothing that I wouldn’t have to fear entering into a public space and being violated for each day, I was exactly that—I was violated. Whether it was someone who couldn’t keep their eyes focused on my face when I was speaking, someone making sexual remarks as I walked passed them, or someone forcing themselves on me in an unwanted manner, I was violated everywhere I went and after repeated violation, I knew I would be a feminist because if I wouldn’t stand up for myself, who would?
I remember one day when I was wearing heels, black leggings and a long t-shirt, I entered into a bar in Manhattan and went and ordered a diet drink. Within a few minutes, I felt a hand groping forcefully between my thighs and heavy breathing down my neck, I grabbed this persons hand and turned around, telling him I would break it if he didn’t apologize for automatically assuming I wanted him to touch me. His response, “Look at what you’re wearing, bitch. You’re asking for it.” It was then along with many other times where I was called a bitch for not abiding to sexual control that I knew I would continue to be a feminist.
One of my favorite albeit feminist scene comes from The L Word where one of the female characters tells her male roommate that in order to understand what it means to be a woman in society he needs to strip himself, walk the street naked, and when a woman asks if she can fuck him, he must say yes. I can say that through experience, I have felt stripped of everything, including my clothing and fucked by society, I just have enough respect for myself now to stand up even if I’m half naked and say no.
The fight is not over until we are all free. Onward and F-Word.