By Morgan Fisher
Before this semester, I had never given much thought to my particular beliefs on feminism. I knew that I considered myself an absolute believer in gender equality, and that was about all I knew. When I was presented with the opportunity to write for this blog, I was excited to learn more about what I believe and where it lies on the spectrum of others’ beliefs. And I definitely did.
The definition of feminism was always murky to me. I never interpreted the word as the man-hating, bra-burning extremism that is so often what it is mistakenly associated with. But I didn’t really ever equate myself to be a feminist before coming to college; mostly because I never thought too much about it.
I was fortunate enough to have been raised by people who never force-fed me gender roles. With my parents divorcing when I was five, most of my growing-up was spent helping my mom hang up Christmas lights, watching her fix things when they broke, never thinking “something isn’t right,” just observing and learning from her—the way it should be, really. My mom showed me films like Mulan and Harry Potter and kept me away from Cinderella and The Little Mermaid because she, as I learned recently, didn’t want me to spend my life thinking I needed a prince to save me.
I played baseball with boys until the fifth grade, and when I was told I had to switch to softball, I quit sports altogether in what was apparently a subconscious protest. Looking back, I realize that many of the things I’ve always deemed “normal” are apparently what fall under the term “feminist.” I find that to be quite comforting.
But of course, after a semester of finally writing about feminist issues and formulating an opinion on them, I realize that I’ve encountered a great deal of sexism in my life.
I used to dress like a boy. Most of my childhood was spent with my hair in a ponytail, wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt. And in fifth grade, I actually cut all my hair off. I was constantly a victim of ridicule. I remember one kid in fifth grade who relentlessly made fun of the beanie hat and Green Day shirt I was wearing at recess. I got so mad at him that I told him he sucked, a colossal insult in elementary school (and I was the one who got in trouble, but I digress). I eventually let my hair grow back, mostly because I didn’t like it, but also because everyone thought I was a boy. This made me furious. I didn’t ever want to be a boy; I just liked dressing like one. No one seemed to be able to accept the fact that I wasn’t dressing the way I was expected to. As I got older, I started taking interest in more “girly” clothes, but to this day, I hate dresses and I refuse to paint my nails, and that still comes as a shock to some people.
I’m ashamed to admit that despite my mom’s admirable efforts to keep me away from the damsel in distress stories, I still found myself a fan of the Twilight saga. I marveled at the idea of a love so intense, so profound that it defied all norms and persisted, regardless. For years, I argued tooth and nail for the story, justifying the plot with my rebuttal that it’s a story about how love can overcome anything.
Like I said, writing for this blog helped me immensely.
After writing my scathing review on the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, which originated as a Twilight FanFiction, I began to reevaluate my feelings on the story. If a character as abusive and manipulate as Christian Grey stems from the “perfect” Edward Cullen, I must have overlooked a lot of things. And I did. And now, my eyes have never been more open.
But I am, also, a victim of the society I live in. I’m still dumbfounded by sexist remarks that I hear on a daily basis, still appalled at the articles I find about the way women are treated in prison or the way they are ridiculed by men in the video gaming world. I still find myself conforming to certain stereotypes that I realize have only been perpetuated because of what is societally expected. In the words of the spectacular Amy Poehler, “it takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.” I constantly find things that outrage me about the lack of gender equality, and as sobering and depressing of a realization as it has been, it’s helped me see what’s really going on in our world, and how much progress still needs to be made. It’s allowed me to conclude what I really believe about feminism, and I’ve never been more sure and confident about what I mean when I say: I am a feminist.