What was even greater is that the feminist community, especially online, was even more inspiring and eye-opening. What I like most about feminism is that it is about questioning society and seeing it with new eyes. Yes, it is likely that I would have done this anyway without labeling myself as a feminist, but finding your voice in a world that often tells you to shut up is difficult. No, I think it's more that the world doesn't encourage you to speak. In particular, it doesn't encourage young girls to speak, to stand up for what they believe in. Hell no.
As an inherently independent person, I have always struggled with the idea of relationships and, pretty much, letting anyone else into your life. I have a fear or losing control of my life, of who I am, if I was ever to be in a relationship. This, I have realised, is partly due to the fact that, growing up, young girls are taught to give everything up for a chance at a relationship, at a chance to experience "love". Do what it takes, gals, and don't stop 'till you find your number one man! We are taught to change our bodies, change ourselves, in order to prepare ourselves for the male gaze. I remember trying to cover up my legs from boys when I was fourteen years old because I was ashamed about their unshaven state. I tried to adjust my pose to make myself look more "beautiful", to make myself more appealing somehow to the opposite sex. It's interesting, because before I entered adolescence and began to somewhat passively consume and attempt to adhere to the ridiculous ideals that society sets for us (thanks, bros!), I was totally excited about being myself and not listening to what the heck anybody else told me to be.
Now, it's as if things have come full circle again. I no longer care about what kind of state my legs are in, and I now accept fully (this took a long time) that I should be able to do whatever the fuck I want and not worry about whether I'm going to put off any guys whilst being my grand old self. As much as it doesn't fit in with the norm, I would prefer to live my life doing this than having to mould myself to fit into some kind of distorted "reality". This does not mean I undervalue relationships or sexuality in any way, I just don't stand for changing yourself in order to experience them.
I used to be afraid of talking about these kinds of things, being honest about how I feel, because a lot of the time it didn't fit in with what everyone else was saying. But what truly is pointless, is pretending not to be a complex human being (which you are!), and pretending that you don't have these feelings. I am a very thoughtful person, and unfortunately sometimes this means I hold back in making my voice heard lest I am proved wrong. I admire greatly those who can so confidently express their opinions. But luckily, everyone can interpret what it means to be a feminist in a different way. I am not always firm in my beliefs, but calling myself a feminist is my own way of expressing my beliefs in a single word. It makes me feel powerful because it reminds me that I am not alone.
What perhaps I wasn't prepared for was the fact that my new set of eyes has made me angry, and it has made me sad. I would never take back what I have learnt, but unfortunately once you learn how to see through the bullshit, you have a whole new world to face.
Recently, the idea of male privilege has been playing on my mind. With my newfound adulthood, I have a newfound freedom, but sometimes I wonder whether my male counterparts have just that little bit more than I do. I sometimes wonder whether it's all in my head. Am I being a paranoid freak? And then, at 1am, my friend makes an offhand comment that he's going to travel alone into the city, just because he wants to. And I am jealous, because I cannot. I am jealous, because he doesn't have to be walked home from the train station by his parents (via the lane with the security camera) as soon as the sun goes down. I am jealous, because tonight nobody will comment on how sexy he looks or crudely invite him to "come and have a good time". All because he is a boy and I am a girl. I want to walk around at night without the fear of being hollered at, or abused in a violent or sexual manner.
This, understandably, makes me feel annoyed. I have a hard time comprehending why things are worse for some people just because of their race, gender or religion. This is why, when people in positions of power deny people any sort of basic right, or refuse to acknowledge inequality, it makes me really mad. Yeah, Tony Abbott, I'm looking at you.
My friend and I recently set up a group at school for young girls to talk about things such as sexuality, individuality, self-esteem and feminism. We have had to face a lot of bullshit, from male classmates sniggering when a notice is read out about it on the daily bulletin, to a young boy deciding to tell us how "sexist" we are for not allowing boys to join the group. By standing firm with my beliefs, and helping young girls to figure all this stuff out, it has made me feel more confident and has been helpful in consolidating all that I have learnt.
These things are important, because it's what young women have to face. I feel lucky, because what I know now has set me up for life. I know the world is unjust. I know how awesome it is to be a girl and to be a woman. I know that work needs to be done in order to make the world a better place. I understand the importance of listening. My role models are those that truly love what they do, and do it selflessly.
Yesterday, as I was out for a walk around the park, the ironically titled "No.1 Party Anthem" (look it up) by the Arctic Monkeys came onto my ipod. As Alex Turner lazily drawled out the hook, C'mon c'mon c'mon, I broke out into a run. I fucking ran as hard as I could, and all the time all I could think of was "This one's for the patriarchy". Yeah, it makes me sad, but at the same time it gives me strength to fight for what I believe in. By becoming aware of my feelings and becoming part of the feminist community, my moral compass has become more defined, as has my sense of self and place in the world. Maybe sometimes I am afraid to speak, but at least I know that I can and that no one can stop me.