By Paola Aguilar
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. While most people agree that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, few identify as feminists. I’ve advocated for gender equality my whole life without realizing the entire time that I am truly a feminist at heart.
I grew up in a small town in Idaho as one of five kids. Of my immediate family, I am the first to be born in the United States and my family reminds me of the privilege that comes with being a native born citizen. I was lucky to grow up with parents who thought that no obstacle was ever an excuse. I was always expected to do my very best in every situation, regardless of the circumstances.
In the 4th grade, I became a big sister. My senior year of high school was the first time I became an aunt. Today, I am the proud aunt of five wonderful and intelligent nieces and nephews and the proud sister of a talented 13-year old brother. Because of this, I am passionate about the messages our youth are receiving from the media about the gender roles they should play. I want more than anything for my brother, nieces, and nephews to always know they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.
As a college student, I have become passionate about the issues that affect me and women in other parts of the world. I fight against rape culture because there is a 1 in 4 chance that I or other female college students will be a victim of sexual assault. I advocate for policies that will make female students safer while receiving higher education not only for myself, but for future generations because every student deserves to feel safe in their educational environment. I know that the privilege of being a native born citizen to parents who immigrated from Mexico to the United States comes with the need to do what is in my power to help women who are oppressed in other parts of the world—only because they are women.
Feminist was not a word that I used to describe myself up until about three years ago. When I was in elementary school my classmates would describe me as a feminist anytime I spoke up about the girls in the class being treated differently than the boys. I never denied the title of feminist, but I also never claimed it.
In 2013, when Beyoncé released her self-titled album with the track Flawless, I looked up the woman who was featured on that track. Her name is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I watched an amazing TED talk, titled We Should All be Feminists, that suddenly inspired me to claim the identity of feminist. I called myself a feminist but did so very cautiously because I was still constantly worried about the negative associations that are tied to feminism. After watching the film Miss Representation and the PBS mini-series Half the Sky , I knew that I could advocate for these issues I’ve always been passionate about by acting on feminist principles at their core.
I am a political science major and plan on going to law school next fall. My goal is to one day serve our country as a United States Senator. I am passionate about women’s and gender issues and plan to be an advocate throughout my career.
Today, I am proud to call myself a feminist.