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Feminism wasn't my thing

As a girl, I didn’t even know what feminism was. All I knew is that I liked the Thundercats, I played with swords, I wanted to be a Chemist, I had several scabs, my favourite color was blue, and I thought boys’ toys and clothes were so much cooler than girls’.

It wasn’t until my teenage years that I heard about that word, feminism. But I didn’t want to consider myself a feminist because I was a cool girl. I didn’t hate men, I didn’t want to be superior to men, most of my friends were men. I didn’t feel the urge to burn my bra and yell at people. So no, feminism wasn’t my thing.

I didn’t want to be a feminist because I was told by a woman in my family that feminists repress their feminine side and undermine the value that femininity offers to society.

I thought feminism was obsolete and outdated because in my country women are legally allowed to go to school, to vote, and to work. And therefore, if women were oppressed, I believed it was based on the decisions they made and not discrimination made against them.

I didn’t like feminists because I thought they were being unfair and vindictive. Because I thought you couldn’t ask for equality if the word you used to describe your movement implied you were speaking for just one half, the female one.

But then, I kept growing up. I attended a University where a teacher told me that in our campus, women tend to get higher grades than men because upon graduation day, a man can get the job with a 70 GPA, but a woman needs at least 85 to get the same job.

At 20, I started working on a paper about how dolls contribute to the way girls learn about gender, and it was then when I started seeing things under a new light. I don’t know exactly why, but somewhere between the moment a 7-year-old told me a doll could be slutty and the time my dad asked me if the doll I wanted to study was the one that’s dressed as a hooker, that something in me shifted forever.

I started to rediscover that dirty word, feminism. Was it possible that I had dismissed it without really knowing what it was about?

Yes, I had.

As I started welcoming feminism in my life, I learned why it hurt when members of my family called me “machorra” or “chola” (tomboy) because as kid I liked pants more than dresses, and I played to be Batman and not Cinderella.

Suddenly it became clear why my favourite Disney princess had always been Belle—because she liked to read books, she didn’t want to marry a jerk, _she wanted adventure in the great wide somewhere, and she wanted so much more than they’ve got planned.  _

I started questioning that time a woman in my family told me I shouldn’t exercise during my period, because I would be rejecting my womanhood.

Even though I still was uncomfortable calling myself a feminist, when a man on the street tried to force his hand inside my pants, I was able to stand up for myself when my boyfriend suggested I had it coming for the way I dressed. That day, I used keys to protect myself against sexual assault and my words to reclaim my body as something that belongs to me and nobody else.

Today, as woman approaching 30, I see feminism as nothing else than the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.
My feminism has allowed to understand why it’s not enough that women are legally allowed to go to school, to vote, and to work if our culture is not designed for women to truly succeed in those areas. It’s like saying a girl is allowed to swim with her feet tied together–she can try to stay afloat, she can use her arms, she can even enter a swimming competition and win it. But she still can’t use all of herself.

As a middle-class Mexican woman living in Canada, my feminism allows to me understand both my privileges and my challenges. To acknowledge that while I’ve been immensely fortunate, I also feel there’s a lot where we can improve as humankind. I no longer assume that everyone experiences life the same way I do, that every man and woman in the world shares my challenges and opportunities.

Feminism made me realize how messed up it was when I judged my mother’s body and weight, and how unfair it was that I questioned her self-love and the love she had for me and my brother based on the number of a scale.

It showed me why it’s important that we tell our boys and our men that they can cry, that they too can be artists, play with dolls, enjoy the ballet, learn how to cook, and read poetry. And that none of this makes them any less of a man.
It’s taught me not to assume someone’s sexual orientation based on the way they look or speak.

It has allowed me to find a life partner that shares the idea that our relationship, our marriage, is based on mutual admiration and respect of who we are as individuals. A man who considers himself a feminist and shakes me to the core with his beliefs and actions.

I am a feminist, and even if I was only able to admit it at a later stage in life, I can say without a doubt, I’ve never felt more comfortable with my womanhood and my body. I’ve never been more hopeful for the world than I am today.

It is because of feminism that I can say that out of all the fears I have about becoming a mother, having a girl is no longer one of them.

I now come to the realization that maybe, I have always been a feminist, because even as a girl all I ever wanted was just to be myself, the girl who liked the Thundercats, played with swords, had several scabs, whose favourite color is blue, likes to read, is opinionated, is a long-distance runner (even with her period), and listens to both Interpol and Grimes.

And above all, I wish for every boy and girl in the world to discover and love who they really are, without their gender having any investment on who they should be.

Happy International Women’s Day.
-Daniela

This essay was also published on Everybody has a brain and TYCI.