I am a feminist.
I believe in women’s rights, and in women standing up for themselves at any cost.
I’ve often heard men complain about feminists, and make ignorant comments about our “whining” for equal rights and respect. Society often pictures us as masculine women who don’t shave, and hate men. Some even think that all feminists are lesbians.
Though that is true for some, That is normally not the case.
I am a petite, feminine, heterosexual woman who is in a committed, long-term relationship with a wonderful man. I do not hate men, and I do shave.
But my friends still consider me a feminist.
In other words, I have turned into a strong woman that does not put up with sh*t from men, and I will confidently open my mouth to any derogatory, or misogynistic speech or behavior towards my gender.
Throughout my life, I have developed different feelings for the male population ranging from fascination to anger. Sadly, the most superior feeling that I’ve had is fear.
Why am I a feminist? Here are some events in my life that lead me to feminism.
1. Boys often chased me to kiss me as a little girl:
In 1st grade, random boys would chase me, grab me, and kiss me. Most adults thought that it was cute but as a 6 year-old child, I was afraid and uncomfortable. I didn’t understand why it was okay for them to touch me and I didn’t understand why adults didn’t stop them.
2. Boys spied on girls in the bathrooms: I even recall one boy who tried to spy on us when we would use the restroom. One time he peaked under my bathroom stall as I sat on the toilet. Of course, adults attributed this to him being “curious”, and his punishment was nothing more than a warning. Because of the lack of consequences, he continued to do it. From then on I was too embarrassed to use the bathroom and avoided it at all costs. People assumed that it was “just boys, being boys” and didn’t bother correcting their behavior. To this day I have a slight fear of going to the restroom alone.
These “curious” boys grew up to be men that viewed women as objects. Behavior that could have been easily corrected was left unresolved.
3. I was controlled: In middle school I had a boyfriend that tried to control me. He was my first boyfriend. He often insulted my hair style choices, and even my clothes. He would say that my hair was ugly, and said that he couldn’t be seen with me unless I stopped dressing so “Gothic”. I didn’t think anything of it, and agreed to it. I began dressing in v-neck, brightly colored clothes and wore push-up bra’s to impress him.
Only then was he okay with letting his friends know that I was his girlfriend. Once they found out, they referred to me as “DSL”. Believe me, you don’t want to know what that means– but in short, it has something to do with my full lips. Once I found out what it meant, I felt humiliated. I asked him to stop, but he said, “It’s a compliment, calm down.”
4. I was intentionally hit by a boy: During the local high school football game (that most middle school students attended) I confronted that boyfriend about his controlling behavior. My friends were by my side. They had told me that I needed to let him know that the way he was trying to control me was not okay.
Once I was done talking, he slapped me across the face and laughed with his friends.
I wasn’t brave enough to fight back, but one of my friends, who witnessed the incident, slapped him back even harder. She wasn’t even slightly nervous about possibly being struck herself. She was fearless and he walked away. I felt empowered by her ability to stand up to men.
5. I was sexually harassed in school hallways: In high school there was a boy that would slap my butt as I walked down the hallway. This was a guy that I was once friends with, but our friendship ended abruptly and then he began the inappropriate, sexual behavior. The slap would be hard enough that it would sting even 5 minutes after. I was usually too shocked and terrified to say anything about it. My response was to ignore it. I didn’t know what else to do. I wasn’t taught about defending myself.
But there was one incident where I did develop the courage to stand up for myself. I was fed up with avoiding the hallways, and fed up with being afraid of him. The result of that? The guy mocked me, attempted to do it again, and walked away laughing. I cried from the humiliation. People saw it, but just stood by and watched.
6.“Men are better than women”: This is something that I have heard from a lot of men throughout my life. They claimed that they were superior, that they were more intelligent, that they were meant to be the bread-winners, and we’re meant to just pop out kids and take care of the household.
There was a time that I was having a political discussion with a man about future political candidates, and he was very opinionated about Hillary Clinton running for president. He didn’t see Hillary Clinton as a good candidate. His reason?
“Hillary Clinton can’t be president. She’s a woman. Women are too emotional to be able to handle that stressful of a job.”
A grown, 30-something year old man made that comment. I wondered if he even noticed that he just blatantly disrespected my gender, or if he was so accustomed to thinking that women were less that men that he really believed that he said nothing wrong.
Later he realized that I had been offended. His response to that was, “ It’s not your fault, it’s in your DNA. Women weren’t built to handle jobs that were meant for men.”
I think that was suppose to be some sort of apology.
7. Sexual Assault: Before I begin with this, sexual assault is defined as ANY unwanted, sexual contact or behavior without the explicit consent of the other individual involved. In other words, unless the person explicitly says yes, you have no reason to touch, or force yourself on to them.
I unfortunately experienced this. We were friends, and I had been crying after a long relationship had ended. He asked if I wanted to talk privately, and I said yes. And that is when it happened. Luckily, it was caught on camera and was reviewed by police. The guy who forced himself on me claimed that I had been “flirting” with him through text messaging, and in person. It wasn’t true, but even if it was, it does not give you the right to continue to touch me as I push you away and resist.
The police encouraged us to press charges because the incident fell under 4th degree sexual assault. My parents made the decision not to press charges, and wanted to put the incident behind us. What is the saddest part about this occurrence is that he genuinely thought that he did nothing wrong, and that somehow his behavior was my fault.
This is clearly a problem within our society, and this behavior is continuously supported by negative media images, inadequate parenting, and insufficient consequences.
8. My mother was assaulted by a man: A couple of years ago, my mother told me that when she was pregnant with my older sister, a teenage boy (about the age of 16) ran up to her and attacked her. She shielded her stomach, but he was able to forcefully punch her in the back of the head. The boy ran away with his friends. They were previously staring at her as she walked down the street. She didn’t know him, and he was just a kid. She speculated that it may have been a dare by his friends for him to punch a pregnant woman. There were several people on that sidewalk, and he chose to target a full-term, pregnant woman. I believe that misogyny played a role in that attack because she was the most vulnerable victim– a pregnant woman.
9. My mother was often harassed by men: As a little girl, I witnessed my mother being harassed by men when we would go shopping. My mom was often alone with us because my father was normally out of town on business trips.
Some of these men would whistle, others would make disgusting, inappropriate comments– yes, right in front of my sister and I (we were 4 and 5 years-old). My mother often ignored them, and I presumed that this was just the way girls were suppose to be treated.
One day as we walked into K-mart, she became brave and said something back to an older man who had made revolting comments as she walked by. It turned into a scary altercation. He was enraged that a woman had the nerve to stand up to him. I hid behind her in fear–and thus I developed my first feelings of fearing men.
10. A former boss made sexual comments to me: Under no circumstances is it EVER okay for anyone to make sexual comments to a co-worker or employee.This particular man offered me a cookie and when I declined he said, “You should eat it, it’ll make your breasts bigger!”.
That is only one display of his inappropriate behavior towards women, and doesn’t even dent the amount of times he was inappropriate. I just want to inform all the ladies and men out there that this IS sexual harassment and it IS against the law.
I know that people might say that these are just isolated experiences and that maybe it was just the area that I lived in. But how can that be when I’ve lived in the U.S Virgin Islands, California, and Maryland. If these were “just” isolated incidents, I wouldn’t have experienced it regularly throughout different stages of my life within different cultures and places.
This isn’t a matter of secluded events, this is an international problem, and it is a VERY real issue in America.
We are still being paid less than men for the same exact work with the exact amount of education and experience. This is even apparent in female dominated jobs.
A misogynistic response to this would be something like, “Well, women don’t work as hard as we do, that’s why they’re paid less”. This is both an ignorant and false statement. A study in 2013 by the Ponen Institute showed that women work longer, and even harder than men. So…why are we still being paid less?
It is because we are raising misogynistic generations. We allow words like “C*nt, b*tch, and wh*re to be thrown around in reference to women. In fact, we often encourage it in rap songs. Major motion pictures normally depict women as sexual objects, or damsels in distress.
It is because we are not teaching our sons how to respect women, and we are fostering generations that abuse and demean the female gender.
It is because we are not teaching our daughters that it is never okay for a man to disrespect you, or put his hands on you in any unwanted ways. In fact, the media and society are teaching women to use their bodies instead of their minds to reach their goals. They try to teach us that our value is in how we can please and impress men, instead of teaching us how to empower and love ourselves. Instead of women supporting one another we are having wars about “who’s body is better”, and pushing one another down in an effort to be approved by society and men.
I am expecting for many men to be offended by this post, and if they are, it may be because they are guilty of doing some of the things that I have described. My purpose in writing this was to be able to explain why I have chosen to fight for women’s rights. I do not hate men, but I have experienced events in my life (many that I did not cover here) that have shown me that we do need feminists and feminism. I have also met some wonderful men that treat women equally and respectfully, but that is difficult to come by. If you are one of these wonderful men, I thank you for your respect and for your contribution in helping women move forward.
I am a feminist, and I am proud. I didn’t really choose to be this way, but experiences and events have lead me to fighting towards women’s rights not only socially, but also politically and economically.
Visit me at: www.syannecenteno.wordpress.com