Feminism, equal pay, and female empowerment. These words are common to most people, but 7 years ago these words were like a puzzle to me. I was born and raised in a city named Guangzhou in China, where history was the center of everything. I grew up in a lower-class household, and I am the only child. My mom immigrated to America when I was three, so there wasn’t any female role models that I could look up to or anyone who could teach me about feminism or women’s rights. China is not a country that talks about feminism all the time. So I guess that explains why I didn’t know the meaning of those words. I remember when I was in elementary school, no one ever mentioned anything about women being treated equally. It was okay for them to be treated differently. I remember one time I was on the school playground, and there were a bunch of boys playing basketball. Suddenly, a girl walked up to them and said “Can I play with you guys?” The boys said, “You’re a girl. Shouldn’t you be doing girly things? I mean, isn’t basketball for boys only?” At the time, I agreed with them. This was just how things were, and I thought that it was normal. Fortunately, I changed my mind when I moved to New York.
I moved to the big apple on Valentine’s Day, to a city where everyone has a voice, and where I started to find my own voice. The first time I had heard of feminism was on TV. I watched a woman stand up to her boss and demand equality. I was so interested in the idea that I went up to my teacher the next day to ask about feminism. I was a little scared of going up to a teacher to ask a question like that, mainly because the teachers in China are not as friendly as in the U.S. So, I waited until after school and I went up to her and politely asked “Hi, Ms. Martinez, I was wondering if I can ask you a question? Can you tell me what feminism is?” We ended up chatting for about an hour. I remember what she said to me to this day: “At the end of the day, we are all just humans looking for equality; we’re all just looking for acceptance.” That struck me because that was exactly what I was looking for, to be accepted and be treated equally. As a gay man, I knew exactly what it felt like to be treated differently because of who you are. I went home with that heavy thought in my head, and I tried to think about what it must feel like to be a woman in our society. Doing the same work, but getting paid less. People telling you that you can’t do this or you can’t do that just because you are a woman. The next day, I went back to the teacher and said I want to start a feminism club.
The club was filled with amazing young women who had inspiring stories just waiting to be told. Their stories were so real and raw, Fortunately, the club remained strong after I graduated, and I was so lucky to have the opportunity to go back and meet with the new members. I am so glad that I live in a city that has allowed me to find my voice, hear from others, and start inspiring people. A city that has granted me access to marches and meet with activists. One of them is my new professor! (I am talking about you, Professor Wright). After leaving the club, I started writing about feminism for my high school’s magazine. I got a lot of positive reviews from teachers and principals, and after graduating from high school, I joined Her Campus continuing my love of writing about feminism, which is what I am doing right now.
Lastly, I just want to have a few words with all the women around the world. Girls, I hope you know that you can do anything. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. You are strong and as long as you have the determination you can achieve anything. I believe you will continue to inspire all the women around the world and I believe in each and every one of you. Because you know what they say. Who Run the World?? GIRLS!!!!
All photos pictured taken by Heather Wright