More Than a Phase: Growing Up As a Feminist

By: Shanda Glover

Elle UK magazine cover
Since Elle UK re-branded their magazine they have started their own conversations about feminism today.

Is feminism just a fad? Has it become a new product to treat ourselves to, like leather jackets, Birkenstocks, and skinny jeans? In the media, feminism has opened doors for magazines and clothing designers to rebrand themselves and has given them the tools to change their image to make them seem more relevant to current generations. Last year, Cosmopolitan came out and stated that they were” deeply feminist.” The next magazine, Elle UK, created three feminist activist groups with three advertising groups.  Looking inside the fashion world, many designers are now putting women’s comforts first. “Feminism is back in fashion,” but what exactly does that mean? Feminism is back and hotter than ever…but for how long?

With so many celebrities coming out taking feminist stances without actually identifying as feminists or allowing the conversation to continue, feminism has just become a trend or a phase. Personally, I have been told that my feminist beliefs are not valid because I am merely following the crowd. Apparently, I only call myself a feminist because Beyoncé does. I only call myself a feminist because I want more movies that are directed by women. I have had friends tell me I only call myself a feminist because the media tells me I should.

At fifteen, my father told me that I was going through a phase. Feminism is a “liberal” way of thinking and that I shouldn’t allow myself to be influenced by women who are just unhappy with their lives. He told me I should learn to think for myself. The worst part was that I believed him. I allowed him to alter my way of thinking.

To be honest, I have been through enough phases to understand when I am actually going through one. When I was nine I wore all my shirts backwards. I liked the look on my teacher’s face when I walked into her classroom wearing a button down shirt backwards. Then, when I was eleven, I didn’t wear socks for two months for good luck and I thought without them I would run faster during kickball. When I was fourteen, I only wore skorts (even in the winter).  Finally, at seventeen, I went through my pickle phase. I ate pickles with everything. I ate pickles with my morning scrambled eggs, my midday grilled cheese, and my favorite, my evening meal—mashed potatoes, ham, and kosher dill pickles. However, the one thing all of these phases had in common was that they were temporary.

They are not who I am, rather just things I have done.

The phases I went through were not built on selfless foundations. I didn’t wear my shirts backwards because I thought it was going to benefit others, and I didn’t wear skorts because I thought it was going to shed light on clothing double standards. Feminism was built by numerous brave and persistent women who fought for themselves and for the generations that would follow after them. To say that feminism is just a trend, or a reason to buy new designer clothes or to rebrand a magazine is a disgrace to the people who have lost their lives speaking out for equality and who have had their voices silenced or ridiculed or edited.

Calling myself a feminist does not make me a part of the conversation, but being active in those beliefs, supporting others, and paying attention to the abundance of stories concerning equality that occur in our country and around the world every day, can help me carry on the conversation.

In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TedTalk, We Should All Be Feminists, “a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”

Feminism is not a mere moment. Feminism is history.  It brought us the vote, it worked to eliminate back- alley abortions, it made the workplace more equal for everyone, and aided in the fight for marriage equality. Feminism continues to speak out against sexual harassment, and against today’s rape culture. Our history is composed of years and years and years of feminists working to make the world better and opening doors for all genders, all races, all sexual orientations, and all shapes and sizes. It isn’t temporary and is not going to disappear anytime soon.

Finally, dad, after five years, I have followed your advice. I am finally thinking for myself. I am asking myself who I want to be and not who I think you want me to be. And what I have learned is that it wasn’t a phase then, nor is it a phase now. I am a feminist today, and will be tomorrow, next week, next year and twenty years down the road.

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