I distinctly remember the first time someone asked me if I considered myself a feminist.
Back in grade 12, one of my high school teachers got upset with my friend for calling the girls in our class “chicks.” Once class was over, my friend complained to me about our teacher and her apparent overreaction. Suddenly, he turned to me and said, “Wait, you’re not a feminist, are you?”
I immediately shook my head and thought, “Feminist? Of course not! I don’t want to burn my bra!” The word sounded dirty to me and I definitely did not want to be associated with it.
It took me a while to realize that my understanding of feminism was distorted and uninformed. Like many others, I thought feminists were crazy, man-hating protesters who were fighting for equality that had already been achieved. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where I never felt like I was inferior for being a girl. My parents treated me with complete respect and encouraged me to reach my full potential. I didn’t feel the need to empower myself so I couldn’t understand why others did.
Once I graduated high school and entered university, my ignorance was replaced with information and a desire to educate myself. I was surrounded by thousands of women from different backgrounds and exposed to new ideas on a daily basis. I learned about the experiences of women who didn’t grow up in supportive homes like I did. I learned about women around the world who lack basic human rights. I was breaking out of my sheltered bubble and seeing the world from different perspectives. I realized that there was a need to empower women everywhere, including in my community.
I started to question why my high school only had a major basketball tournament for the boys’ team, why my middle school dress code had twice as many rules for girls as it did for boys, and why my elementary school gym teacher was so mad at the boys for losing to the girls in floor hockey. These were things I had never questioned before.
Learning about feminism has made me more aware of the challenges women face in our society. While this can be discouraging at times, I’m glad that I’m aware because that means I can create change. If we all work together, we can empower women which will make the world a better place for everyone.