I grew up in a household full of feminists. I was the oldest of three kids, all of us feminists, including my brother and my dad. I wanted to grow up and change the world. I wanted to do something amazing and my parents told me to never hold back from that. My parents demonstrated that the gender roles in a household can be defied. My dad sews (my mom is not a craft-y person) and my mother uses power tools (the idea of my dad using a drill is both frightening and hilarious).
I knew I was a feminist. I believed in equality and empowerment. However, I found the idea of speaking out about it a little frightening. It’s one thing to believe something and it’s quite another thing to act upon what you believe. Throughout middle school, I let myself stay quiet; I was struggling with an eating disorder and I thought if I spoke out about how the media skews beauty ideals, people would just find it too ironic. When my Beehives leader told us not to bother with school, since we’d all get married anyway, I remember wanting to say something but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
As I entered high school, I joined a group in my county that promoted youth leadership and youth voices. I came out the first meeting, blown away. People (including my county leaders) were actually listening to what I had to say. And I had finally said it. I spoke out about how everyone needed to help change the way girls see themselves in the mirror and promote healthy self-esteem. We needed to find ways to educate girls on sexual assault and rape and let them talk about it without pretending like it doesn’t happen. I started mentoring girls and joining women empowerment groups.
I don’t think I ever really had a feminist awakening. I think the experiences (good and bad) I had throughout my younger teenage years gave me an opportunity to speak up – gave me back my voice. Perhaps it was more of a feminist re-awakening.
During a mentoring session with a few 8th grade girls, I noticed that one of the quieter girls was looking eagerly at me. When I asked her what she was thinking, she exclaimed, “I’m going to do some amazing things in my lifetime.”
“What things?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I just know I’ve got a voice and I’m going to use it.”