Recently, and quite often, I find myself peering into the past. And what I find there unsettles me more often than not.
As a teenager, and I make these observations having graduated from that phase of my life less than 6 months ago, I was troubled. But not in the way people assume when you term it that way. My parents were together, I was not an only child, I hardly touched alcohol until I was ‘of age’ and I still find anything you need to smoke, unappealing. You could say my life was pretty uneventful — because it was.
Now, I had very little to do with the opposite sex, having been in an all-girls’ school and having been very awkward, etc. Gender inequality was scarcely pointed out to me, if at all. A friend of mine said that she never felt the need to be feminist since we were always surrounded by mostly women. Perhaps we didn’t need feminism (we most certainly did) but I wish we had it. Yes, feminist issues were very much muted in an all-girls’ high school but I wish that feminism wasn’t treated as a dangerous and foreign concept.
I can only speak for myself but I’d like to think that, had I learnt about feminism throughout school, I would have handled myself, my insecurities, and my relationships very differently. I would have been better off for it.
When I first began interacting with boys and building relationships, I remember coming away with some unfamiliar feelings. Yes, I was fat and thought I was butt ugly and hated myself but I still had some sliver of hope and love. But then boys gave me advice and told me to be a certain way and change certain things, thinking it was in my best interest. God, were they wrong. I don’t blame them, though, I was very much in need of guidance, and they did care enough to give it. But I remember admitting to my diary that these boys always made me feel like shit—like I wasn’t good enough—like I was only worth what they could turn me into. But I didn’t know why and so I didn’t walk away. Instead, I chalked it up to me biting the hand that feeds and tried to take all that advice to heart. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.
Where was feminism to tell me that my body was nobody’s business but my own, that my personality didn’t need changing to suit the interest of a boy, that there was nothing wrong with me when my insecurities couldn’t be solved with a smile or when I couldn’t “just get over it”? Where was feminism to educate me when I said, “she shouldn’t have taken those pictures in the first place”? Or when I blamed the drunk girl at the party for being drunk and defended the drunk guy because, “hey, he was drunk”?
Where was feminism in high school? It should have been there, right next to puberty and safe sex in Life Orientation and reading Shakespeare in English.
Featured image: ‘Rose Mandala’ by Roxann L. Murray. Find more of her work here.