I Tried Acting On My Feminist Values For A Week

I’ve always liked to think of myself as a dutiful feminist. I volunteer with women-centered nonprofit organizations and vote for the candidate who fights for better reproductive rights. I mean, I write for a feminist website and have a vag tattoo on the back of my left arm for crying out loud (chill, it’s the vesica piscis, a sacred historical symbol of the vagina), so I like to think my love for womankind is pretty clear.

But as important as all that is, I've recently become a little more concerned with feminists' day-to-day deeds. The little stuff is just as significant, like where our money is going, whether we're truly encouraging our female friends, calling out sexism, and what kind of fairness we're demanding in our relationships. All these things speak represent our overarching feminist philosophy just as much as our voting patterns do.

Take Ariana Grande's recent radio interview, for example, which proved that even the smallest responses can say a lot about what we truly believe in. When the chauvinistic DJ asked if she would pick her makeup or phone if it came down to the wire, she responded like a true boss: "Is this what you think girls have trouble choosing between?" Later on, she challenged him yet again, telling listeners everywhere that both boys and girls, not just the latter like the DJ implied, have a lot to learn from putting their phones down at dinner.

I've always had a little trouble calling people out on their passive aggressive sexist remarks. I've been working on it lately, and watching Ariana stand up to the delicate shades of the patriarchy inspired me to do more in my everyday life — and to showcase my feminist beliefs by putting my everyday actions where my beliefs are.

The Experiment

For the next seven days, I would support as many women-owned businesses as humanly possible, even if it meant I had to go out of my way to find them. In my relationship, equal division of household responsibilities was the new name of the game, because as rad as my boyfriend is, he does half the cleaning I do — and that's in part because I've never really asked him to do more.

Obviously, making small changes in daily conversation was also a pretty big priority. I promised myself I would no longer remain silent if I was confronted with chump remarks that made me feel icky. In the same settings, I would also fast from gossiping, especially if it was about a woman I considered a friend. Phew, here we go.

Day 1: Nobody Calls Me Feminazi

The week got off to a rocky start. During lunch with a group of friends, I was navigating through some small talk with a fairly new male acquaintance, who politely asked what I was up to this weekend. I went out on a limb and told him I was considering attending a women’s circle for the first time, an idea I’d been flirting with. A women's circle is pretty much exactly what it sounds like — a diverse gathering of females who gather to encourage one another and discuss what it means to be a woman today.

His response was, um, less than desirable. He scoffed and joked, “You know those things are sexist, right?”

I leaned in, looked at him square in the eye, and told him that comment wasn't funny — and I wasn’t cool with it. I reminded him that men have been assigned the overwhelming majority of power and agency since the dawn of time, and women have been left behind in the dust. We’ve also been denied the support we deserve and need to be successful, and gatherings like this were one of many ways we are reclaiming our place in the world.

Not surprisingly, his reaction was even more douche-y than his initial commentary. He mumbled something along the lines of “feminazi” and told me to chill the eff out because life was really not that bad for chicks anymore. My cheeks flushed and my blood boiled, but I stood my ground and continued to try and educate him on the inequalities of our world.

The whole thing ended sourly. Even though I was still fuming on the way home, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel pretty proud of myself when I climbed into bed that night. I knew this jerk was only the first of many who will give me a hard time over being an outspoken feminist, so I patted myself on the back and promised to never shy away from a difficult conversation like that again.

Day 2: Supporting Women-Owned Businesses

I was craving a veggie burger when the afternoon rolled around. Instead of rocking up to my usual spot, I decided to hunt for a local joint that was owned and run by a fierce female, something I never think to do when there’s a growling stomach on my hands. I’d always known how important it is to support women-owned businesses, how significant it is to support our fellow females in their financial endeavors, but I had never taken the time to do my homework and find out which restaurants in my area were established by women.

I asked various friends for a list of suggestions and was surprised to learn that two of the four women-owned places recommended to me were cafes I had been to — many, many times before. I was thrilled to find out that my favorite vegetarian restaurant in the neighborhood was opened by a single mom whose son was only a year old when she signed the lease. I was determined to meet her.

I asked around and found her sitting at a corner table, draped in a long skirt and a glowing grin. After chatting for a few minutes about her success story, I turned slightly fangirl and asked her if we could be, like, friends (she said yes). Taking the time out of my day to listen to her accomplishments gave me a glimpse of just how difficult it can be for a woman to go out on a financial limb. I had never felt more appreciative of a veggie burger.

Day 3: Gossip Girls And Chores

My friends and I were enjoying the sunset when the conversation started to turn a little bitter. A mutual girlfriend of ours had been recently driving everyone crazy with her constant complaining. Honestly, we were a little fed up, so it didn’t take long for things to take off at full gossiping speed.

I itched to join in, but instead remained loyal to my investigation. I thought about how I would feel after trash-talking a woman who is my supposed friend. When their gossiping escalated, I chimed in to remind everyone of the difficulties our friend has been through lately, and then I abruptly changed the subject. Weirdly enough, it worked pretty well; soon enough, we were all gabbing away about something — not someone — else.

After we parted ways, I arrived home with a mission. Knowing that 90 percent of wives and 85 percent of husbands in our country admit that the woman is in charge of almost all the household chores , I asked my partner, who was completely unaware of my week-long research, to help me tomorrow with some chores in preparation for having guests over — fold the laundry, sweep up the dog hair, etc. I gently urged him to consider the fact that we both work and we’re both home for the same amount of hours every week, yet I was the one doing the majority of the cleaning.

I’m pleased to report that, despite his initial reaction of slight shock, he complied with my requests. Then, he actually thanked me for all the time I put in to make our home a beautiful place. Progress, but it remained to be seen if he'd put his words into action.

Day 4: Catcalling And Cleaning

Frankly, Day Four sucked. It all started with some moronic catcalling, something that has always royally pissed me off. A car full of young, rowdy guys cruised by, sending me loud whistles and sexist comments. I wish I could report that I responded in a way that was both clever and useful — but my anger got the best of me.

I screamed that they were chauvinistic pigs and that they were perpetuating the disgusting patriarchy, blah blah. Before I could get my first complete sentence out, though, they drove off in a hurry. I was left with sweaty armpits and a confused audience of onlookers.

However, redemption presented itself to me when I got home to see my boyfriend in a startling position: on his hands and knees, scrubbing the shower. No, he had never done anything like this before for me. I thanked him with a big grin on my face, and then I put my feet up to relax for the rest of the night while he scrubbed the whole bathroom until it sparkled. True story.

Day 5: Spreading The Vagina Gospel

Still recovering from yesterday's mini-meltdown, I whipped out Vagina: A New Autobiography by Naomi Wolf, a book with an important feminist message that I had been soaking up deliciously but had yet to bring up in conversation. I flew through the final chapter moments before heading out for a panang curry.

I seized the opportunity, surrounded by close friends at a dimly lit table, to insist that the book I had just finished was a must-read. The topic immediately generated interest and inquiries from the girls, some of whom had never heard of it. We chatted about the incredible pelvic nerve system and how its intricacies have been largely ignored because our culture is hyper-focused on male gratification.

One of the guys at the table chimed in, shyly at first, and asked if he could borrow my book because it sounded “really interesting.” Score.

Day 6: The Farmers Market

After my morning shower, I realized my fridge and pantry were looking bleakly empty.

I carted my recyclable bag to the fruit and vegetable stands, where I only gravitated toward the rows of produce that had a woman standing behind them. I asked them all who was in charge of their operation and who owned the property where everything was grown, until I found the few that were truly female-driven. Most of them were utterly bewildered by my minor interrogations, and some were even slightly hostile when answering my inquiries.

Towards the end of my morning, one of the ladies looked back at me quizzically when I asked her if she was the boss. She shook her head in disbelief and said, “You know, nobody has ever asked me that before.” It turned out she was the person calling the shots, the woman who managed the crops and took care of the administration, a fact no customers really cared about before I showed up. She wasn’t exactly the friendliest person on the planet, but she did express appreciation for my business and tossed in an extra handful of perfectly ripe strawberries.

Day 7: Homemade Feminism

If I’m being perfectly honest, I thought I was fresh out of ideas at this point. Then I realized my lotion bottle was empty. Instead of running to the nearest department store to replace it, I suddenly remembered how my friend, Megan, who has a 3-month-old baby and runs a bed and breakfast, told me months earlier that she had an incredible recipe for homemade body butter.

I begged her to share it with me, but instead of rattling it off, she insisted I come over so we could make it together. She'd been accumulating the ingredients for awhile and planned to sell the extras to her guests for a little extra cash. Her husband looked after their adorable son as she and I melted down the ingredients (all organic) and separated them into recycled glass jars, all the while giggling like a pair of entrepreneurial schoolgirls.

I helped a woman I love do something she genuinely enjoyed, something that would help her earn some extra cash in the long run — and that’s an experience I would never be able to find in a store.

My Conclusions

A lot more happened in my week of everyday feminist acts than I ever would have expected. Some parts were painfully uncomfortable, but the majority of the week was pretty rewarding. I was surprised to learn that far more people are interested in feminist issues than I gave them credit for, and that there is certainly no harm in trying to incorporate these kinds of topics into everyday conversations with friends and family. If they react poorly, it's just an opportunity to be a powerhouse and respond accordingly, with strength and grace. Moving forward, I'll continue working on shutting down those inappropriate remarks that somehow slip into our daily lives.

I’m also more aware than ever before about where my money goes; I know now that they are so many more options out there than I ever thought possible. For one, I'll never buy body lotion from the shelves of a pharmacy again. There are so many women living right around the corner from me who I could be giving my business to, rather than tossing money back into the billion-dollar male-run franchises that have most of the world’s money.

Perhaps the most rewarding result of my week, however, was watching my boyfriend scrub the toilet bowl. Out of all the tasks I assigned myself, I was most nervous about confronting him about chores, because I was afraid he would scoff at me and I would have to dump him. Luckily, he accepted it all like a champ — like someone who really gets how important equality is in a relationship.

It was the smallest improvement I saw all week, but it was also the one that has most inspired me to keep my everyday feminist momentum going.

Images: Gina Florio (6); Giphy (4)