I've said it before and I'll say it again: There's more than one way to be a feminist, and no two feminists go on the exact same journey. A number of factors, such as your sexual orientation, your ethnicity, where you grew up, what gender you were assigned at birth, and your religious background (or lack thereof) might have caused you to have a very different middle school experience than I did. You might not have even known you were a feminist back then, and that's really nothing to be ashamed of. All that said, I don't think it's totally out of line for me to suggest that there are some things all feminists did in middle school, and it's really fun to remember those things as a (mostly) grown up feminist.
If you were anything like I was as a middle school feminist, then you probably got really into books, movies, and TV shows featuring fierce female characters. (Elizabeth Swan, Lorelei Gilmore, and Lizzie Bennet, we're looking at you.) You likely went through a bit of an androgynous phase, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if you treated your group of girlfriends like your very own feminist tribe. But these are just a few of the many things every feminist did in middle school.
Read on if you feel like reminiscing about some more of the awesome things every feminist did in middle school.
1. Read Books With Strong Female Characters
Not all feminists loved to read when they were in middle school, and there's nothing wrong with that. Even so, I feel like most of us can remember the first book we read that featured a strong, inspiring, badass female character. For me, that book was Jane Eyre, and it kind of changed my life. Before I finished Charlotte Bronte's Gothic classic, the only books I wanted to read were either fantasy-themed or all about that lovable klutz, Amelia Bedelia. After getting to know Jane Eyre, though, I couldn't get enough of literature's strong women — like Jo March and Hermione Granger.
2. Had A Favorite Female Action Hero
Unless your parents had a no-TV policy, then you probably found yourself falling for an inspiring, female starlet when you were in middle school. I know I did, and her name was Keira Knightly. I watched her give life to every last one of her kickass, feminist characters in total awe — starting with that time she played Robin Hood's Daughter, Gwyn, in Disney's Princess of Thieves.
3. ... And Discovered Other Inspiring, Female Celebrities To Admire
Whether she was a singer, actress, politician, or athlete, I'm pretty sure all of us feminists started discovering more and more ambitious, professional females to inspire us during our middle school years. Personally, my list was pretty long, because the late '90s and early '00s saw now shortage of encouraging female celebrities — but Dominique Dawes definitely topped it. As a gymnast myself, Middle School Me couldn't get enough of her awesomeness. Of course, I couldn't do a back handspring to save my life these days, but I still think Dominique Dawes is cool as hell.
4. Got Annoyed When People Told Them To Smile
I think it's safe to say we're all still wondering about this one, but for me, middle school was the time I really started to question why in the heck I couldn't just embrace what I now know was my propensity to sport a solid RBF. I remember everyone from my grandparents to my Sunday school teachers to my friends telling me to smile more, and I hated it. Unless you were just naturally smiley AF as a middle school girl, then I'm guessing you had a similar experience.
5. Played Sports With Boys — And Relished Winning
OK, so maybe you didn't win every time you played kickball with the boys or valiantly arm wrestled the middle school-aged males in your life. I know I didn't. Even if you didn't win every time, though, if you're middle school experience was anything like mine was, then you probably chose this time to start representing strong female pre-teens everywhere with whatever level of athletic prowess you possessed.
6. Had A Favorite Feminist Anthem
Due to the fact that I grew up with very strict parents in a fundamentalist Christian home, I feel like this one was probably a little trickier for me to pull of than it was for most feminists when they were in middle school. I still managed to sneak some No Doubt, Avril Lavigne, Joan Jet, Heart, and Kelly Clarkson here and there, though — and it literally rocked. Maybe Middle School You found feminist inspiration from a different list of equally amazing lady rockers, but either way, if you listened to music regularly in middle school, and you knew you were a feminist that early on, then you're probably no stranger to feminist anthems — and that's awesome.
7. Experimented With Their Appearance
Maybe for Middle School You this meant wearing all things pink and piercing your ears. Or, maybe you went through a goth or "tomboy" phase. For a middle school-aged feminist, experimenting with awkward hair cuts and oddly-fitting clothes is where the embracing of body positivity and bodily autonomy usually begin, and that's just super cool in my opinion.
Back when I was a middle school feminist, I wore t-shirts and sweatpants on the regular, cut my hair so short people mistook me for a boy, and rarely wore makeup. Obviously, this doesn't mean all middle school feminists have to go through a tomboy phase to be legit — but I feel like many of us did. I, for one, look back on all those crappy hair cuts and baggy pants with nothing but joy. I feel like it was the first time I truly saw my body as 100 percent mine, and I don't think I'm alone in this experience.
8. Spent Tons Of Time With Their Girlfriends
Feminists of all ages know the importance of maintaining healthy, strong, female friendships — and, from what I can remember, this is especially true for middle school feminists.
Perhaps you were more introverted than I was, and that's more than OK. For Middle School Me, however, hanging out with my fellow homeschooled girlfriends as much as our parents would allow, and going on adventures in Donkey Kong Country with my sister on a daily basis, was just as important to my feminism as my near-daily feminist rants and "boyish" hair cuts.
9. Started Arguing When Someone Said Boys Were Better Than Girls
I don't know what it is about middle school, but it seems to be the time most feminists reach their tolerance for anti-feminist comments and general misogyny. At least, that was the case for me. Whenever one of my guy friends, my brother, or anyone else started saying boys were better than girls in any way, I'd give them hell. If you, too, knew you were a feminist by the time you reached middle school, then I bet you can relate.
Images: Warner Bros; Giphy/(8)