It was back in 2012. I was a bit over a year out of college and in my first real-world, using-my-degree office job. My desk was situated near that of the office manager/customer service manager/executive assistant/etc. who was a sweet, smart girl named Sam. Sam had degrees in women's studies and political science. Sam was not afraid to call herself a feminist.
Sam and I were often the only people around for each other to chat with, and we could practically whisper from one desk to the other. We spoke a lot. We spoke about things that happened in the world while we sat sheltered from it behind our desks. We were both news junkies and admitted progressives, and we both got breaking news alerts sent to our phones and Twitter feeds.
It would usually go something like this: *news alert comes in, something regarding the right's latest attack on female autonomy* "JEEZ, ARE THEY SERIOUS?" *hyperspeed conversation about all the problems with this ensues.*
So anyway, after several of these chats, Sam sent a tweet out into the universe. Believe me, I tried to hunt it down, but it's pretty buried back there. Anyway, it said something to the effect of this: "When you find our your new coworker is a feminist too [some expression of excitement, maybe an emoji?]."
At first I recoiled. And then I thought about it.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I educate myself on feminist issues for fun. I'm kept awake at night in fear for the women with poor resources in rural Middle America who are having their rights and autonomy stolen right out from under them. I fear the future we're leaving to our daughters, and that fear is part of what makes me believe I may never have daughters or sons.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I believe men and women are of equal merit to society. I believe they are intellectual equals. I believe they are equally deserving of success, respect, opportunity, and kindness without consideration of their assigned or assumed gender.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I know that I am capable of contributions that, while they may differ in content, are equal in value to the contributions of my male counterpart. I know that my worth does not lie in my appearance or my relationship status. I know that I am whole and worthwhile as I am, without the definition of a male in my life, be that my father or a husband.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I understand, sadly, that centuries of deference to male-centric issues and judgments have given an unfair advantage to men of a certain status, and that women of my generation and of those that will come after me will continue the work to reduce the habitual nature of sexism and misogyny that infects various aspects of our modern culture. I know that thousands of women have gotten us this far, and that we—male and female feminists invested in this struggle—owe it to them, ourselves, and future generations to continue pursuing across-the-board equality.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I see a sickening trend of slut-shaming that feeds rape culture and prevents women and particularly young girls from having certain contributions valued because of aesthetics and other qualities that are elevated in importance by those who choose to judge them unfairly. I see that the victim-blaming culture we live in is born out of disdain for women and has infected psyches of those who lead the pack, perhaps beyond repair. I see the damage that this does to young women and young men.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I know that certain attitudes that collide with the feminist movement are as harmful to males as they are to females. I know that feminism helps us all. I know that feminism accepts young men as more than sex-crazed piles of hormones who lose their humanity at the sight of a bra strap, and instead encourages them to be their best, most respectable, most respectful selves. I know that the lack of feminism reduces men to animals and women to their prey. I know not all women are good and not all men are rapists. But I know there are rape apologists among both genders, and I know there is no excuse for that.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I know my gender is doing extraordinary things left and right. I know we are breaking free of the need for male approval and rewriting rules in the work force, in the home, in politics and government, in education and academia, in thought leadership, in the arts, in STEM. I know my gender is shattering new glass ceilings every day. I know my gender is earning more, contributing more, and demanding more. I am proud to be a woman in the age of Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Dodai Stewart, Jessica Valenti, Amy Poehler, Kathryn Bigelow, Oprah Winfrey, and too many more people of note to name here.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I have seen that for every stride these women and their peers make, there is someone ready to call them sluts, whores, bitches, or worse. For every victory toward equality, there are a thousand verbal lashings including threats of stalking and rape. There is a woman who doesn't understand the millions who need other women to speak up for them, because their ability to speak for themselves has been stolen. There is a man who wants to and attempts to silence her by any means necessary. There is a generation of lawmakers working around the clock to literally turn it back decades and steal away rights and protections they don't understand my gender's need for. There is nearly an entire governmental party working to reduce these women and the entire rest of their gender to nothing more significant than a bug crawling across the road. For every step forward, there's another step to be taken still.
Yes, of course I am a feminist. I don't let casual sexism and mindless misogyny slide. I call people out on their harmful comments, because I can't not. I speak up for women and men who I see are afraid to speak up for themselves. I don't tolerate being treated badly or unfairly because of my gender. I won't let my friends do so either. I educate when I can, and share my beliefs to increase awareness of what the "f-word" really means. I know embracing the word, whether you're male or female, can only do good for the future of the world. Sometimes, I'm pushy. But I'm not pushy because I'm a feminist and not all feminists are pushy. (I'm pushy about everyone giving yoga a try and New Jersey being the best state too.) I'm pushy because I'm pushy, and I'm loud about feminism...can we afford to be quiet?
Yes, of course I am a feminist. Why wouldn't I be?