College is a time of self-discovery and growth. One of the most important journeys I began in college was of self-acceptance and love – a journey I know has and will continue to make me a better activist and leader.
It turns out I was always a feminist – I just didn’t know the name. I was raised by a strong mother in a family of sisters, where she taught us to be empowered and independent, so I came to college already subscribing to feminist ideals. During my freshman year of college, I took my first women’s and gender studies class, and it literally changed my life. Not only was there now a name for what I believed in, but there was an entire movement that was beautiful, vibrant, unbelievably exciting, and often heartbreaking, to learn about.
I jumped head-first into online feminist blogs and news sources and started taking as many classes in the WGS department as my schedule would allow. My eyes were opened to the injustices of the world, and I knew that I had to do something to contribute. During the fall of my freshman year I joined my campus’ feminist activist organization, and by the time spring semester rolled around I was taking on leadership roles and organizing events. As I took on more responsibility, a self-doubt that I have struggled with from childhood started to creep in.
I have a stutter. Most days, when I am calm and confident, it doesn’t play a huge role – sometimes it is even invisible to those around me. However, on days when my anxiety is high or I am in a situation that makes me nervous, my disfluency crops up and makes it difficult for me to get my words out. Communicating effectively is a pretty integral part of being an organizer, so as I became a leader, a dark part of me started to become consumed with doubt. I felt like I needed to hide my stutter – that it made me a poor leader and not the best person to get out feminist messaging on campus. The more I tried to hide that part of myself, the more out of control I felt. The more I tried to hide and wish away that part of me, the more I felt like I wasn’t a good activist.
If you’ve ever felt that way or thought those things, STOP! That whole downward and negative spiral is totally not what feminism is all about! Feminism is love. Feminism is valuing the perspective of all people and their lived experiences. Feminism is all about creating legitimate space for everyone – no matter their intersectionality. I am empathetic, passionate, and organized. I know how to set goals, get things done, and I won’t stop until my team is there. Those are the things that make a good leader and organizer.
I am on a journey of self-acceptance and love. I work every day to love my stutter. My stutter helped shape me into the person I am. There are parts of all of us that we wish we could change. The negative energy we spend on self-loathing is so much more productive and empowering when we make a conscious decision to turn it into positive energy in an effort to love those parts of ourselves. Loving yourself in all of your beautifully imperfect ways is one of the most radically feminist things you can do.
Learn who you are – discover yourself, and love all the elements you bring to the table. The light that shines through you when you extend yourself will make you an even more fabulous leader!