After receiving hundreds of nominations for our Feminist You Should Know contest, the Feminist Campus team was able to sift through them, sit down, knock our heads together, and decide on ten finalists! This was no easy task: every single nominee was the most amazing person we’d ever met so far in our lives. No lie. Our awe-inspiring crew come from a diversity of backgrounds, universities, regions, and perspectives in the feminist movement – and it’s just not possible for us to choose a winner alone. And that’s where you come in!
Over the next week, we’ll be posting blog posts written by each of our stellar finalists; on Monday, we’ll launch an online voting form where members of our community – that’s you! – cast a vote for who moved you deeply, inspires you most, or simply has your favorite haircut.
I remember the first time I was asked if I identified as a feminist or not. It was the first day of classes my freshman year, in my Philosophy and Feminism course at the University of New Hampshire. After my professor posed this question to us, I remember fiercely crossing my arms and thinking, “Nope, not me. I’m not one of those people. I like men.” And so it went.
As you can imagine, after studying all the different types of feminism and actually understanding what it really meant – not what I thought it meant – I took back my “no” to feminism and turned it into an enthusiastic “yes.” I realized that I had been a feminist all along; I just didn’t know how to define it. This, in turn, has fueled all the work that I do to advocate for equality with feminist principles.
Recently, someone asked me that same question as to whether or not I was a feminist. I looked this person straight in the eye and declared “yes” with all the power and conviction that I wish I had during that first class my freshman year. This person was surprised and commented, “Wow, you really own that,” to which I responded, “I have to.” Since there is the overwhelmingly negative stereotype of what it means to be feminist, which I am sure many of you have encountered, I recognize that I need to truly own the word in every way, shape and form. I find that it is my way of making “the f-word” less scary and more relatable, and hopefully it encourages people to begin to listen and understand that I am an advocate and soldier for equality. I explain that feminist, to me, does not mean women rule the world. It means that there is balanced power, equal opportunity, and all people are free to express what we deem masculine and feminine qualities fluidly without judgment or discrimination. Feminism is inclusive, understanding, compassionate and powerful in the best ways possible. I take my feminism and apply it in all areas of my life that I am passionate about, especially with empowering young women, trying to change representations of women and underprivileged groups in media, and trying to engage more women in politics and having people remember that the personal truly is political.
I find that we have forgotten how hard the women who came before us had to work to get the women of the United States to where we are today. At least where I come from, we hardly recognize when our reproductive rights are being threatened, that women are still not included in the Constitution, or that the wage gap still exists. There needs to be an active resurrection of feminism in this country where women and men wake up and realize that all people deserve to be treated equally and given equal opportunities. I envision a world where every student receives a top-notch education regardless of where they live, a world where there are an equal amount of women and men in STEM careers, a world where mothers and fathers will (both) take parental leave from work and find it is socially acceptable (as well as world that, when parents are not able to take off work to tend to their children, has policies in place that enable them to thrive in the workplace anyway).
There is much to be gained by our advocating for feminism in this country. The flame has been slowly burning since the era of the second-wavers and it is our time to reignite that passion. We have to stand up and show that feminism is for everybody: it is for equality, and it is what has the potential to heal a world that has been ridden with anger, revenge, and crimes against humanity. We need to unite and spread the message of feminism the same way pebbles make waves when landing in a pond. These newfound ripples need to start from somewhere. It might as well be us. I want it to be us. I believe in our collective potential to be the next wave of feminists who change the world.
Who’s with me?
Stephanie is an amazing young women who exemplifies the word feminism as do all the women who have been nominated in this campaign. I am so grateful for you, Stephanie, because you are proud of who you are and are not afraid to speak out for those who do not or cannot find their voice. You inspire the best in people around you and show positive leadership qualities. You either just go about doing what needs to be done or embolden those around you to carry the torch and spread the good news that we are all created equally and deserve to be treated as such. Most importantly you allow others to be themselves and do not cast judgment on the paths they take. I love your enthusiasm for feminist principles, life, as well as the laughter and light you bring to all those who know you. Good luck with all you do and follow your heart. You will do amazing things!
Thank you so much, mom! You have been the best role model and you are the most inspiring person in my life. I love you so much and I would not be me if it weren’t for you!!