Thursday, January 19, 2012

How I Became a Feminist

Junior year in high school I was taking an English class titled "Gender and Sexuality" which not only horrified my very Christian boyfriend at the time, but surprised all the high school acquaintances who had pegged me as a "nun" during those four years. Erin was also in this class. Erin was famous in our very small school for being the most well dressed, the most tan, the most blonde, the most popular, the most attractive, and other "mosts" that I will leave out for our purposes. She was the epitome of feminine in her high heels, fake nails, and perfectly glossed lips.

It so happened that we were reading Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women. I never would have considered myself a feminist before this point, but I was struck by this work. This was new territory for me. It made me feel proud of being a woman and fighting the good fight. My "nun" reputation and Christian boyfriend could take a backseat. This was my time to share my opinion.

When it came time to discuss it in class, I was eager to put my word in, but Erin got there first. She talked a lot about how titles of "man" and "woman," "he" and "she" should be eliminated to foster equality between the sexes. She wanted to obliterate the differences between men and women and have us all function as one gender. First of all, no one could understand why Erin would want to get rid of these categories if it meant she would have to ditch her highlights and bedazzled backpack. It came as a bit of a shock to us all.

Confusion aside, I considered her point. While I understood the idea and found it interesting, I disagreed. I jumped in and countered her argument saying that being a woman was something I considered very important to my identity and I wanted to take pride in it, not throw it away. I babbled about embracing my gender instead of trying to hide it, but expecting equal treatment nevertheless. Being a woman meant more than living the life prescribed for you - it meant loving who you are and being happy with yourself. I could hardly stop talking, I was so high on the courage I'd gained to speak out.

While I was sitting there practically bursting with excitement about my new found cause, Erin looked up at me and said in the bitterest tone she could muster through her valley girl cadence "Natalie, I think Mary Wollstonecraft would be ashamed of you."

This is how I became a feminist. Defending my right to continue being a woman to the infamous Erin in Dr. Whitta's English class.


  1. I love these moments of awakening. Any idea whatever happened to Erin? Fascinating that she wanted to break free from her femininity -- maybe the burden of it was too much.

  2. Though I didn't keep in contact with Erin, some of my friends did and they report that she seems (for the most part) to be the same as in high school. But yes, this was a very important moment for me. That class did a lot for developing my views on gender and femininity.