Published on The Daily Femme – Friday, Mach 25, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
Feminist. It used to be a dirty word to me. It used to be a word I’d never identify with.
My first “real” exposure to feminism was in the mid to late 1990s when last remnants of the Riot Grrl movement were petering out. What was left in its wake was a seemingly arrogant elitism among my high school peers who thought they were so enlightened because they read Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and went to Women’s Studies workshops on the weekends. I, instead, read Albert Camus and Hubert Selby Jr., enjoyed the art of Cindy Sherman, and loitered around a local cafe until 2 am. We really had nothing in common.
So I kept my distance from feminism. I didn’t want to be a part of a group that pointed their noses down at girls who just didn’t get it. Sure, I wanted gender equality. Sure, I wanted equal pay and rights. Sure, I wanted violence against women to end. Sure, I wanted to live in a world where we were not oppressed, not controlled, not expected to live up to defined gender roles because we happened to be born with ladyjunk. Sure, I wanted all of that. But I never felt I would be accepted into the fold. After all, I also wanted an honest discussion about violence against men (both domestic and sexual). I also wanted to discuss sex-positive culture, and rights for sex workers. I also wanted to discuss the hypocrisy of gender expectations. I also wanted to discuss how this brand of activism was not entirely inclusive of issues concerning Latin, Asian, Black and LGBTQ communities. At that time, I had yet to meet other women labeled as feminists who thought like me, and because of that, I just didn’t think I’d fit in.
I realize now I defined an entire movement by the actions of a few, and, to be honest, it was a stupid move on my part. My ignorance and unwillingness to connect denied me the opportunity to develop relationships with so many amazing people and organizations. But, most importantly, it kept me from truly understanding and knowing my passion in the fight for women’s rights. If only I had known then what I do now.
The epiphany really didn’t occur itself until I started writing for The Daily Femme last year, at 27-years-old. It bothers me that I’m late to the game, that I couldn’t say “Yes, I am a feminist, and I’m OK with that,” until I started nearing 30. I can’t hold the same feminist conversations as my peers because I’m not as academically well-versed. I can’t name the great feminist thinkers of our time and their theories as quickly as I can the tracklist off of Jeff Buckley’s Grace. My late blossoming is like a scarlet letter on my chest. I feel like an absolute fraud.
I struggle with whether or not I’m truly a feminist, or if I should even be allowed to give myself that label. Maybe this apprehension is a residual effect of my high school years. Maybe I shrink because I think I’ll never be accepted into the movement because I will always be one step behind. You can say I’m still coming to terms with my personal feminism.
In the end, though, I’m glad it’s happening because I have a better grip on what I am passionate about. Through writing for the site, I’ve been privy to a network of people who think like me, feel like me. I still sometimes feel like I’m in a smaller pool of feminist thought–after all, championing the rights of sex workers and taking the stigma out of sex work (two of my areas of focus) are very much divisive issues among feminists. But that won’t stop my mission. If anything, it drives me to help evolve the movement any way I can. It drives me to give a voice to those vulnerable populations that can benefit from the feminist fight.
We can’t progress if there is no one there to lead progress.