Growing up, I didn't always explicitly identify as a feminist. It wasn't that I wasn't one — I just grew up in a very rural area where that qualifier was somewhat of a foreign notion. Then, I graduated high school, left the nest, and went on to do the things every feminist did in college. For me, those four years were a learning experience in more ways than one and their profundity in my life is not lost on me. Somewhere between all-night study sessions and all-night not study sessions, waiting in line for spaghetti in a crowded cafeteria and midnight meals at Waffle House with my crew, I figured out what feminism meant to me.
At the time, feminism wasn't the buzzword or hot button topic it is today. Lately, it seems to have catapulted into the hazy stratosphere that is the court of public opinion — where the voices of a few seek to suck the air out of it by obviating its validity as a human rights movement. But that's exactly what intersectional feminism is: It's a human rights issue. This is a conversation we should be having far more frequently, and not through the lens of patriarchy. People shouldn't have to wait until college to take a Gender Studies course. Once in college, everyone should be able to enjoy some of these quintessentially feminist experiences without fear of being branded a "feminazi" or some other silly pejorative.
So, to all you feminist folk who long ago got your diploma and all those yet to walk across the collegiate stage in a cap and gown, I applaud you. I celebrate you. And I present to you a celebration of those feminist college experiences you did or will hold dear.
1. Found A Favorite Feminist Professor, And Signed Up For Every. Single. Class
Naturally, right? You gravitated to them like a moth to a flame, and they helped illuminate the strong, smart person you were and the strong, smart people you sought to emulate. So, thanks for that, Dr. David Phillips!
2. Dated Other Feminists
There's a lot to be said for that old "birds of a feather flock together adage." If you are a feminist, the value you place on all people is part of your psyche. While you very likely dated a few non-feminist frogs, you filled the gaps with plenty of feminist royalty.
3. Refused To Feel Ashamed For Choices Involving Your Body
Whatever those choices may have been. For me, it was having sex — and not letting others sex shame or slut shame me, or anyone else, for that matter. It was about taking birth control and not feeling bad or guilty for needing to since, yes, I was having lots of sex, and that's totally fine. (Lots of people have sex. It's pretty great. You might think about giving it a try, if you want, but no pressure if it doesn't interest you, either.)
4. Took A Women's Or Gender Studies Class
I took my first Women's Studies class during my freshman year at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and it may very well have changed my world. It re-invigorated my sense of self-worth. It opened my eyes to the implications of gender norms and social constructs regarding sex and identity. I became fast-friends with a doe-eyed girl named Kiki who had a lotus tattoo on her shoulder, and together we marveled over movers and shakers like Betty Friedan, bell hooks, Frances Beal, Julianne Malveaux, and Emma Goldman. Nowadays, you can take courses on feminism and Beyonce. It's pretty rad.
5. Wondered Why All Students Didn't Take Said Class
Seriously, though ... why? According to research, a very small fraction of incoming freshman choose to take women's studies classes at all. If you were part of that tiny percentage, well, it's a safe assumption you are a feminist — one who, to this day, wonders why women's or gender studies classes aren't part of the core curriculum for everyone.
6. Tried To Explain Why There Were No Men's Studies Classes
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this question from some dude, I'd have a lot of dollars. So, one more time, for those in the cheap seats: There is a men's studies class — specifically a straight, cis, largely white men's studies class. In fact, it's got an entire department — it's usually called "history." But women, people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and many, many others have always been marginalized in the most literal sense of the word — which is to say our place in history books is generally as a side note stuck in the margin or footer box. So please. Just let us have these few classes we have that focus on anything accomplished by people other than straight cis, largely white men. We don't have nearly enough of them.
7. Joined Or Created A Feminist Community
Despite the stigma often surrounding them, yes, this can absolutely include sororities. If you were part of Greek life during your collegiate years, this is very likely a point who find yourself arguing with annoying frequency. The bottom line is that feminists in college find other people who believe in equality and in empowering each other and, when they can't, they form them.
8. Called Out Campus Rape Culture
This is not a made up concept created by feminists to villainize men — one in five women will suffer some form of sexual assault in her lifetime, and an estimated one in four women in college will experience some form of sexual assault on campus. Feminists have been fighting the good fight against this epidemic since their college days of checking each other's drinks, reporting inappropriate behavior, participating in walks and rallies to raise awareness, creating safe spaces, and always, always having each others' backs.