When I entered my freshman year of college in 2011, I was put into a Women and Gender studies class. I had, of course, learned about women’s rights in high school, but this class was different. This class opened my eyes to everything I had been overlooking my entire life.
One of the most eye-opening lessons I remember is when we went over unpacking the invisible knapsack. If you’re white, have you ever stopped to think about the fact that “nude” colored bandaids and panty-hose only match your skin color? If you’re white, have you ever been asked to speak for all of the people of your “racial” group?
Now in my senior year, I constantly see the injustice that happens in our world. Whether it’s in Hollywood, the local community or within my own family. Sometimes, standing up for what you believe in can be hard when there are people who oppose you.
Here are three things that helped me transition from closet-feminist to capital F-E-M-I-N-I-S-T, thank you very much.
1. Read, Read, Read
If you want to speak up, read up. Knowing everything about a subject gives you an edge when someone wants to counter your argument. If you’re like me, you might get flustered when someone spits back a “Not all men!” and continue to defend every guy who hasn’t done anything to offend you. Being confident with your feminism facts can aid your conversations and maybe even motivate someone else to change their attitude.
2. Open Up To Those You Love
My friends, family and boyfriend are my best listeners! I am lucky to have two amazing, intelligent sisters that are just like me. We exchange ideas and stories and educate each other whenever possible. When my parents say something “old fashioned,” I ask them to see my point of view on a subject. My boyfriend lives on a college campus where sexism and misogyny runs rampant, even within his own group of friends. When I see something, I say something to him. He has even spoken up to friends when he knows what they’re saying or thinking is unfair. If you’re comfortable talking to your friends and family about feminism, soon you’ll be able to talk to other people about it, too.
3. Don’t Laugh, Ask Why
So many ignorant ideas and jokes rely on someone else’s pain. I remember sitting in a crowded movie theater waiting for my film to start and listening to two teenagers, a guy and a girl, talk behind me. Whatever “joke” he was telling had to do with shaming women for being less than men. And the girl with him laughed! I often wonder if girls know that they are openly accepting misogyny when they laugh at a joke that is intentionally sexist. If you hear someone make a joke, you don’t have to call them out on it if you’re not comfortable doing that. Instead, you can either not give them the reaction they want (laughter) or ask them why it’s funny. Because it won’t be funny when they try to explain that inequality is hilarious.
Feminism isn’t just about women. I support the many people of color who are victims of racism and racial profiling, the LGBTQ community who can’t be who they are, the people who are seen as “abnormal” and are forced to be the butt of ableist jokes. To support, we need to speak up.