Do you remember when you became a feminist? I do! I’m often embarrassed to share it, because it seems so childish and extremely uninformed. So, challenging my fears, I tell you the story now. One day in junior high I went to the gym for volleyball practice and the wrestling team had posted up in the gym, even though it was our practice day. I said hello to all the boys and went to sit in the bleachers, joining my teammates on the bleachers, not changing into my practice clothes. Our coach got there and immediately yelled at us to go change into our practice clothes and then she started yelling at the wrestling team to get off our floor. She didn’t ask them, she didn’t reason with them that it was our day, she didn’t even talk to the young boys that she knew would listen to her, she went straight to the head coach and honest to God yelled in his face, “Get your boys off our floor”. My feminism was born. A woman, a real life woman, can tell a man what to do. And my feminism took off. Oh, if only the story ended here and I got to say, the next day I was truly informed and a “good” feminist. No, my feminism was superficial feminism. It was feminism that had very little analysis and lots of let’s go fight energy.
Over the years, my feminism has grown into an analysis of the intersections of all oppression. An understanding of the systems of oppression and structures that marginalize women. It started including an understanding of sexual violence as oppression and why women of color accomplishments were erased from history to the value of White men. I started to see all the spider web of connections that maintained supremacy.
So, I’m embarrassed by my first toe dip into the movement. It has been a process of learning and unlearning. I feel better about it as I’ve seen that feminism itself is going through the learning and growing process. It should be expected that feminism is a path of unlearning all the bogus information that has been downloaded to us.
My circle of influence at 12 was minimal and my process wasn’t extremely damaging to the culture. But, what do we do when someone isn’t far along on her path, but her influence is great? How should we help Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, etc. find their way to “good” feminism? Can it be a gentle push towards understanding intersectionality when their reach is so large? I don’t want to castigate them for fear of pushing them off the path into silence. But, we cannot wait for them to go through the lengthy learning (and unlearning) process the rest of us are afforded because they are so influential. We should love them into a quicker and better understanding. And, we must create a bigger space for those with influence who are already farther along on the path. Anyone got ideas on how I can grow Amandla Stenberg into a household name?