Feminism as a journey
Summer isn’t here yet, but I have been spending a good portion of my time reflecting on my past year and my journey as a feminist. It’s been a year of transformation, knowledge and frustration and I am thankful for it.
When school began this year, I didn’t talk about my Women’s Studies major degree, I either left it out of the conversation or told people I was in the major because most of the classes I already took were cross-listed with other classes in other majors-which somehow made it seem more respectable, despite the fact that I loved my classes and knew I wanted to be involved with it my entire life.
I wouldn’t say I was a feminist out loud, just because it seemed like no one would take me seriously. I knew not all feminist burned their bras, had hairy legs and all those other myths, but I also knew not everyone else knew that, nor would they changed their minds. So it was something I knew I was, but wouldn’t admit to.
Then slowly things started changing. I could tell you it was completely personal, but it wasn’t. What happened was I found people who were like me and identified as feminist. That’s where my journey began and continues today.
Around November I started volunteering at the Women’s Center because I wanted to get more involved on campus and as a Women’s Studies major it seemed like a given that I should volunteer there. Plus I knew I wanted to work with a feminist organization after college, so it was a good place to start.
From day one there I found my niche. I walked in and there were people talking about the Victoria Secret fashion show and how it objectifies women, and sassily critiquing it. I eased into the conversation slowly but I found myself thinking that finally someone outside of my classes finally “got it.”
It was a snowball effect from there.
From the Sloss House I found the truly amazing Vagina Warriors, who are some of the most amazing people I have met in college. These women claimed the label, and had no shame in it. They cared about what I cared about, and helped me find things I had no idea existed. The Vagina Warriors introduced me to the Vagina Monologues, Ask a feminist, and Take Back the Night which led me to ACCESS where I will be interning at this summer.
Each new experience allowed me to say a little bit louder that I was a feminist to the point I am at today. I don’t hide my feminism for fear that others won’t “get it” but try and explain to them what it means and why I claim the label. Sometimes they understand it, and sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t stop me from being who I am.
Not only did I find inspiring people but they taught me so much that you can’t learn in a classroom, like how to lobby, stand up for what you believe in or do social justice on campus. People are continuously helping me learn things like white privilege, how to be an ally and how to go about applying to graduate school. I’ve grown as a person because the people I met pushed me to be a better person and calmly explained how to do better if I screwed up. They were there for advice and they there for congratulations and I believe I was there for them when they need me.
The point is that sometimes it’s hard to do things alone, and it’s helpful to have people there to encourage and be someone you can lean on if you need help. It takes a lot of courage to stand up alone, and even if you are alone at the time, it is good to know that afterwards you have someone to go to. It’s a hard place to start from, but go out and met people, no matter how scared you might be. Find people who like the things you do, but don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone.
Each new experience and person you meet helps you grow in so many ways, that you don’t recognize it at first until much later on. People say there is strength in numbers, and I think that goes both internally as well as externally. I would still be in my little cocoon if I kept my feminism in the classroom and not embrace it in my everyday life.
I don’t know what will happen my senior year and beyond, but I know that I am not done learning and but I do have powerful and brilliant friends that I know will be there for me every step of the way. To end off on a cheesy note: feminism is a journey not a destination, there will be new experiences and new things to learn the entire way.
Abby Barefoot is a volunteer at the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center and Vagina Warrior. She is a Junior in Journalism and Women’s Studies. Follow her on Twitter @notsobarefoot