I remember sitting at a small diner with my boyfriend at the time, back when I lived in Iowa. It was the first time we had been “out” in a while, and this was supposed to be our way to sit across from one another, looking at each other with the love in our eyes that we once had. Let’s just say…he became distracted. Not by the large breasted woman sitting behind me. Not by the crying baby causing such an immense amount of embarrassment to her parents.
No, not by any of that. He was distracted by the female waitress serving us. She was a cute girl in a black tank top, but as she reached across the table to set down the plate, my ex and I looked at one another as we noticed her crazy amount of armpit hair-side note- it was quite impressive. I wonder what mine would look like? But personally, I DO NOT want to find out any time soon.
After she had walked away, he said “I do not want to eat that. I bet her armpit hair fell in that.” And do you know what I said? Do you know how shallow and uneducated I became (mostly out of his influence)…I said, “ugh these overly liberal feminists are driving me INSANE.”
I am a woman…who was dismantling the beliefs of feminine equality. My simple comment that day began to extend much further than that. I started saying things like “women aren’t funny.” Or…”no wonder why it’s so difficult for us to get equal rights…we are always bitching about something.” It is taking a LOT for me right now to admit this. I feel this great amount of guilt. I feel ashamed.
I don’t want to defend myself here, because I don’t know if my harsh thoughts and beliefs deserve ANY justification whatsoever…BUT…I will say, it was 2015, I was just beginning to explore the topic, and my first encounter with what a woman defined as “feminism,” was a posting on Facebook about how she had been collecting her PERIOD BLOOD for a year. I’m sorry, but what in the hell are we trying to prove here?
It wasn’t until I began my MA program that I started to understand what it meant to be a feminist. In layman’s terms…it is the ability to advocate for women’s rights. After years of inequality, we finally have activists making true change. We have movements. We have protests. We have a VOICE…
I began to educate myself on the topic. Which…I understand sounds quite ridiculous..as a woman, I had to EDUCATE myself on the topic of equality FOR WOMEN. But admittedly, as someone who grew up in a household with three boys, sharing a tiny bathroom, and having an overabundance of male friends, my introduction to the movement was so poorly executed.
I began reading articles about the struggles of queer women, Muslim women, women existing in marginalized communities and backgrounds, nonbinary women, women who endured an abortion, women of color, trans community, Native American women, gender violence…the list goes on. (I don’t mean to disregard any other cultural backgrounds-so if I didn’t mention how you identify yourself- please don’t take offense-I haven’t had my coffee yet).
What women endure in society today is…just…incredible. And I chose that word because of its many meanings. It’s unbelievable. The violence against activists is tragic. The slut shaming is appalling. The hatred is disgusting. But above all else…what I want to focus on…is the strength we possess. We continue to fight our fight despite the pressures of society. We continue to empower one another. More and more, I see women on social media expressing praise for one another…and NOT solely based on physical appearance. I receive messages such as “your strength is admirable.” I send messages such as “I am blown away by your intelligence.” We are beginning to lift each other up and it is the most beautiful part of the movement…at least in my eyes.
Once I stopped focusing on men and took initiative to focus on myself again, incredible things happened. I found my place in a community where we radiate positivity, hope, intelligence, beauty (in all forms), pride, strength, resilience, and unity. We are in this together…and it is beautiful. I want to thank each woman who has made an impact on my life. Even if it’s in the tiniest form. I want to thank you for teaching me that beauty is found within. I want to thank you for encouraging me to remain strong when I felt weak. I want to thank you for your unconditional positive regard. And in return, I want to give that back to you. I am in NO way saying that men don’t face significant pressures of society. I am in no way expressing hatred towards men. I am in no way saying that men can’t be feminists…However, what we as women face, goes a bit further than simply pressures of society. Every single day, we are fighting a fight. And I just want to say…it isn’t going unnoticed. I am so greatly appreciative for the women in my life. I WANT TO SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS (hence all caps- that’s me shouting).
I will continue to educate myself. I will continue to read about the Indigenous feminists who face violence I am too damn privileged to even understand. I will continue to promote positivity. I will continue to remind people of the importance of equality-which- come on- it should be pretty damn obvious.
So, girl, don’t shave your armpits if you don’t want to. YOU DO YOU. And embrace every part of it.
Over and out.