High school: A time for figuring out how to be kind of a human, trying out "looks," and, for those of us who are gender equality warriors, beginning to work through our views on feminism. While it's a movement that puts a premium on individuality (the idea is to have choices, after all), there are definitely some things that every feminist did in high school — or wore, or said, or chanted. You know — those "radical acts" that you look back upon now with fondness and a slight twinge of embarrassment. Because let's be real, adolescence on the whole is an embarrassing time. Important, yes, but also embarrassing.
Personally, I began to explore what it actually mean to be a feminist once I hit high school. I'd been raised by super liberal, old-school feminist parents, so the term was never taboo for me; it was also kind of just a given that I identified as a feminist, without ever really exploring what it meant. Then I discovered Sleater-Kinney and Patti Smith and Riot Grrls and Peggy Oki (a groundbreaking female skateboarder). I started wearing my now-shrunken Spice Girls and "Girl Power" T-shirts from when I was 8 year old. I began arguing with friends and non-friends about why, exactly, it was so bad for a woman to be ambitious and want a career and want to be treated as an equal in the workplace (because as far as I was concerned, it wasn't, even though society kept trying to convince me otherwise). I began to grow a serious amount of respect for my mother, who was a woman in a male-dominated speciality in the male-dominated field of medicine, and for my dad, who, when I was born, asked my mom if she wanted her kids to carry her last name instead of his.
So here's to all of the baby feminists we once were — and to the badass grown ones we've become. We all remembering doing these things, right?
1. Found A Feminist Writer Who Resonates For You And Devoured Everything They've Ever Published
Emma Goldman, bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, Roxanne Gay — we all have that one activist who becomes a sort of baby feminist mentor from afar, whose words articulate all of those pent up, mushed up, firecracker feelings threatening to explode every time a peer raises their hand in class and makes a casually sexist comment. They teach you how to argue, how to build an argument, and how to be eloquent when all you want to do is scream.
2. Re-Read All Your Childhood Books To Look For Feminist Themes...
Because when you're 15 years old, everything is black and white, good and evil, yes and no. And it kills you to think that maybe, at one point in your life, you enjoyed a misogynistic plot. So you must investigate. And that is definitely why you're re-reading the entire Judy Blume canon. That is definitely the only reason.
3. ...And Subsequently Learned The Meaning Of "Problematic Fave"
Oy, the number of times I tried to convince myself that the Real Housewives franchise or the cartoon version of Thumbelina were "actually feminist, you guys."
4. Adopted A Girl Power Anthem
And wrote the lyrics in every notebook you ever owned, in the margins of your homework, and on your beat-up Converse sneakers in Sharpie. I was a Sleater-Kinney babe all the way. And Patti Smith. I was way cooler than than I am now, to be honest.
5. Learned That "Women's Suffrage" Was Not, Um, "Women's Suffering"
When I was in high school, there was a super popular video of a TV show host interviewing scores of young women and asking if they were "against women's suffrage." And, predictably, the majority of them said yes. That terrified me into remembering forever the meaning of "women's suffrage." It also got me into a lot of arguments defending the women in the video as evidence of the failure of the American education system. College is when you learn that the suffragette movement was actually only good for white women.
6. Fought Patriarchal Expectations Of Beauty
Did you shave your head? Did you refuse to shave anything at all? I wish I could say my penchant for bellbottom jeans was a statement against misogynistic beauty standards, but, uh, nope, I just had bad taste. I did have hairy legs, a giant mop of curls (and knots), and a wardrobe that was about 50 percent things my little brother used to wear, though.
7. Educated Your Friends — Or Tried To
Aaaaand learned that being condescending towards people who don't have a similar worldview is literally the worst way to get your point across. But honestly, most of your friends didn't even know! So you introduced them to riot grrls and highlighted the feminist undertones of Clarissa Explains It All and then they got it!
8. Realized That Feminism Was EMPOWERING
And you are powerful.