I see the way eyes roll and the room gets quiet when I proudly declare that I am a feminist. I hear how people—both men and women—spit the word out as if it were a sour grape. I know, and accept, that over the past century, this word has picked up negative connotations. But I believe in the ideologies of feminism—equal rights and equal opportunities for women. It's not a hard concept, really. And this simplicity solidifies it for me—I cannot imagine any other way to be.
I am not sure where my feminist inspiration originated, but I can feel it growing, intensifying, inspiring me to write, to fight, to speak, to act. I believe this recent surge of pride in my feminist beliefs is a result of an event that occurred five years ago: the birth of my daughter. Therefore, because she is my inspiration, a driving force within my soul, I write this for her.
I want so much for my daughter. I want her to be healthy and fulfilled and validated and proud. I want her to make the world a better place and to know that she is making the world a better place. I want her to find at least one thing that she will fight for. One thing for which she will stand up to the most intimidating bully in the room and refuse to back down when challenged. Whether it be animal rights, or equal funding in education, or saving the planet's natural resources... I hope she finds something that burns within her gut, that keeps her up at night, that makes her angry at times, that makes her take risks. And if she asks me what my thing was—my passion, I'll say it was for her. For all girls. I'll say it was feminism.
Why are you a feminist, Mom? She might ask.
And I'll tell her this.
I am a feminist for you. I'm a feminist because by 5 years old, you already seem to value being pretty as important as being smart.
I am a feminist because you've heard people insult each other by demeaning girls. You've heard, "You throw like a girl" and "You're crying like a girl." I know you heard them because I was there. And some of these people are your friends, your relatives, people who love you. I am a feminist because they don't understand why this is hurtful.
I am a feminist because older girls of the generation before you are idolizing women like the Kardashians and Hiltons more than women like Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson.
I am a feminist because there are women who wanted Hillary in the White House so badly—and pressured other women to vote for her, even if they disagreed with her policies—because they so desperately wanted to be able to look into their daughters eyes and say, "See? You can be anything you want to be."
I am a feminist for you. Because someday you'll be a grown woman. And you might live in a world like I do, where a man who leaves a party with three women is a playboy, but a woman who experiments with her own sexuality is a whore.
I am a feminist because there are men and women in our country who voted a misogynist bigot into the presidential office.
I am a feminist because a court and congress, 80% of whom are men, think they can tell you what you should do you with your body, even though no one tells them what they should do with their bodies.
I am a proud feminist because people are afraid of feminists. And I want that for you. I want you to be a force. A vehicle for change, even if it means people don't like you at times. Even if people are scared of what you'll say or do.
I am a feminist for you because you'll be judged by your appearance more times by the time you're 30 than your brothers will be their entire lives.
I am a feminist because it's easier to purchase a semi-automatic weapon in this country than it is to make a safe, legal choice about your own body.
I am feminist for generations before you. For your grandmother's grandmother, who wasn't allowed to vote. Who wasn't allowed an education. Who wasn't allowed choices or opportunities.
I am a feminist because feminists historically align themselves with other marginalized groups—people of color, members of the LGBT community, the impoverished, and the sick. And I know your little 5-year-old heart, and I see how it bleeds for those who suffer.
I am a feminist because the world will judge you. The world is already judging you, making decisions about you, for you. Assumptions about what you should wear, how you should behave, and who you should be.
I am a feminist because Bernie Sanders was able to look disheveled and elderly and be endearing, but Hillary Clinton was torn to shreds if she showed a hair out of place, a wrinkle, or an extra pound or two. Because our society believes that somehow her appearance—and only hers, not his—affects her ability to properly run this country.
I am a feminist because, although we've come a long way, we are still often thought of as the weaker sex. Someday you might grow another living thing in your womb and scream in unbearable pain as you bring a child forth into the world, yet people might still label you as weak, because you are a woman.
I am a feminist because feminists are fighters. We know we are hated, but we keep going. I want you to fight for something. I want you to know the reward, the pride that comes only after you've taken a risk, taken a punch, and got back up.
I am a feminist for you.