What Feminism Means to Me

fem1Sara-Louise Tareen, 16
Sheffield, UK

Feminism. Until a year ago, feminism was just a word… a world that I knew nothing about. I was oblivious to who feminists were, to what feminists are. I used to stand for all the “women belong in the kitchen jokes” and just laughed along whenever a boy said it, not really thinking about what it meant. My mother was born in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country. So, I’ve been brought up in the UK in an Asian family, with the mentality that men are superior to women.

It wasn’t until my older sister asked if I was a feminist that I realised I could openly speak about the topic. I replied with a simple “no.” Then she told me that I should be. However, I didn’t realize what I needed to do to “be a feminist.” In September 2013, I began working in a chocolate shop where one of the girls who I worked with recommended a book called “How To Be A Woman” by Caitlin Moran. It wasn’t until I finished reading that book that I realised “I. Am. A. Feminist.”, and I’m not afraid to say it!

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Droll Models – Move along, nothing to see here!

droll1Kristen Horner, 18
United Kingdom

We’re a nation exposed to brainless beauty, reality TV wrecks, and most disturbingly, inaccurate, damaging representations of women. Something’s got to change. Fast.

 A question to consider: If I were to ask a young girl about who she looked up to in the public eye as a positive role model today, whose name would come up?

Perhaps Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese women’s rights activist who, after being flogged 40 times for wearing trousers in public, says she is not afraid of more corporal punishment and will continue to fight for her cause? Possibly Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl mercilessly shot by the Taliban after rightfully opposing the decision to ban females from attending school? Or, after the profound success of London 2012, surely a female sports star like swimmer Rebecca Adlington or cyclist Victoria Pendleton?

 But, no.

A survey of 1000 children by the BBC’s Newsround showed that, disappointingly, one-fifth chose Cheryl Cole as their role model. When asked why, many made ambiguous comments such as “her hair is gorgeous” or simply, “I love her.”

 And it’s no wonder our children are viewing Cheryl as a good role model, when us adults are equally as guilty. Miss Cole was crowned most inspirational woman of the decade by the UK’s leading cosmetic surgery review website, ‘Good Surgeon Guide,’ with a landslide 78 per cent of the vote. Out of the 1178 women surveyed, one-third of them related Cheryl’s ‘inspiring’ disposition to her ‘natural beauty.’ (Doesn’t it seem a coincidence however, that the run-of-the-mill, self-absorbed user of this surgery website chose a glamorous, good-looking ‘Wife And Girlfriend’ as their icon as opposed to a woman of substantial achievement?)

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Why Feminism is Saving Marriage in the US

vday_crop1by Erin Bagwell, 26
Brooklyn, NY

One of my favorite myths about feminism is that feminists hate men. In fact, I was just in a bar last Friday and I told a guy I met that I ran a feminist storytelling blog. It was amazing to see his eye balls grow three times in size as he took a step back in shock. Amazing! It was like I had just announced I was a man eating vampire and I was going to/had the power to murder him on the spot. My male friends are so supportive and excited about Feminist Wednesday that I almost forgot there are guys and girls out there who see the Feminist label as something to fear.

The origin of this myth is essentially rooted in years and years of smear campaigns and fear mongering from the mainstream media. I was going to site the church’s uncomfortable relationship with feminism, or pull a quote from Freud (lots of issues with women there) however the internet is the gift that keeps on giving, and I was able to find a much more recent sighting of feminist ‘mental illness’ from our dear friends at Renew America from 2006: “Peer into the dark heart of radical feminism, and you’ll get a glimpse of a seething caldron of delusion, phobia, and paranoia.”

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How Living in Hawaii Shattered my Standards of Beauty

Hawaiiby Erin Bagwell, 26
Brooklyn NY

Growing up an army brat, I have gotten the opportunity to live all over the United States. One of the most challenging places I have ever lived was Honolulu, Hawaii. I know- this place is gorgeous, some people even call it paradise. However for an awkward eleven year old girl, it was anything but. Growing up on the mainland, I never thought too much about being accepted for my general appearance. I worried about things like clothes and hair cuts but I never questioned whether or not I was beautiful. I was white, I was blonde, I had blue eyes. I knew the mainstream media accepted me, and I felt no shame for the color of my skin or the color of my hair. And then we moved.

We moved across an ocean, to an island where the darker your skin is, the more beautiful you are. Where the girls had cascading brown locks to match their beautiful brown eyes, and to me they all looked like Polynesian princesses. Suddenly I was on the outside of what was considered beautiful. I was bullied and called names. I was expected to modify my behavior to fall back, stay out of the way, and socialize only with the other white girls. I felt alone, isolated, and confused about who I was supposed to be.

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The Vagina Monologues

ShelbyShelby Forsyth, 21
Appalachian State University

I attended The Vagina Monologues for the first time as a freshman at Appalachian. I don’t quite remember the reason I went. I just knew the title of the show intrigued me and its content was something my parents would’ve never approved of. That was reason enough for me to buy a ticket and see what all the buzz was about.

That February 2011 show blew me away. After it ended, I looked at my roommates sitting in the seats next to me and said, “I have to do this next year.” Never before had I experienced something like the Monologues. Women, talking so openly about sex and love and their lives all in relation to their vaginas… it was amazing. At first I was blushing and stuttering with the rest of the crowd. But then it dawned on me: “I’ve got one, so why the hell can’t I talk about it?!” The rest was history.

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Skate Girls Productions

shredby Rosie, 25
Dorset, England

Me  and Sadie met at school briefly but it wasn’t till college that our friendship blossomed and we found out how much we had in common. One of our shared interests was skateboarding, we both hadn’t done for a while because we were to scared to go to the skate park, which was a little intimidating as it was mostly boys.

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Geminis and Dreamchasers: The House of June

HouseofJuneby Ebony, 28
Atlanta, Georgia
The House of June

My partner, Amber and myself, met in a lighting class at Georgia State University about three years ago. We were never in a group together but somehow one day the universe led her to speak to me while we were picking up equipment.

“What do you do?” she asks.

“I write and direct” I said.

I then asked her the same question and she said she directed and acted as cinematographer.

Now, I don’t know if it was love at first site. But the first time we spoke I felt an organic sisterhood form.  She was the creative strength to my technical weaknesses and I vice versa to her.  We quickly learned that we were both Geminis and dreamchasers working a nine to five.

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