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Feminism. This word is a conversation starter in and of itself. Though I think there could be a single definition to capture feminism, I believe this makes feminism unique because it can take so many meanings. For many Black women, feminism is complicated. Black womxn have historically raised their voices and used the strengths within themselves to address the inequities they experienced. Sojourner Truth. Anna Julia Cooper. Harriet Tubman. Zora Neale Hurston. Angela Davis. bell hooks. Patricia Hill Collins. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Hell, Beyoncé. Nicki Minaj. Meg the Stallion. There’s not enough of my computer screen to include them. 

[bf_image id="q60l1v-83246w-vmhtt"] If you told me ten years ago that I would be a feminist, I probably would have died. So many women, especially Black women who used their voice to shake up the patriarchy, and, there I was, a sixteen-year-old Black girl who loved books and anime. I did not think of myself much in my teenage years, but, in hindsight, I did feminist things without knowing what I was doing. I questioned the opinions adults had on my life. “Don’t you want to be kids?” “You can’t think about that? You need a career first!” “Wear your hair like this!” “Girls are meant to be seen and not heard.” Though I resisted, I received a lot of push back as a sixteen-year-old. I was taught by the world that Black girls are angry, uncooperative, and unwanted, and I internalized that. The rage that I used as my fire was smothered, and I found solace in playing into respectability. 

[bf_image id="kbv9c9s8445bvzmg3rsr8bgb"] There was nothing that I hated more than playing into the palms of the patriarchy, but I did it for seven years. I made myself quiet. I straightened my hair. I rejected anything that would indicate my Black femininity. It was a hard time. My hair was breaking from chemical relaxers. My self-esteem took a hit. I found myself comparing myself to other women. I saw the relationship with other women as a competition. I believed in what I believed in. No one has a right to stomp on your back and mine. I was a huge hypocrite. 

[bf_image id="q7jzwk-2vsrx4-3v27bz"] It was not until I took an undergraduate Women’s studies course where I saw the word. Feminism. A light bulb clicked. That’s what I was! I finally found a name for it. Before I knew it, I felt reignited by the rage I used to power me. I began reading for fun. I read a lot about feminism and feminist figures. I began to write and journal about my thoughts on who I was as a feminist. 

[bf_image id="wq4sbw7jxhk3mfn3fbkc2r64"] Feminism for me was not only about self-expression but healing. It was being unapologetically myself. I learned to be comfortable in my skin. I let my kinky hair be kinky. I shared my vulnerability with other women. I uplifted others, especially other women. There was a motivation in me to further my understanding of myself through my relationships with others, especially with Black women. In healing, I learned my strength in being relational and empathic and leaned into my natural skepticism. Even bigger, I used my voice when I could, and I was not afraid to do so. 

I am a feminist in progress, and I am not ashamed to say it. My journey in feminism has been a challenging yet empowering one. I was able to learn how to use my feminism to heal. Feminism moved me to find healing in a place that didn’t provide it. I hope it can do that for you. 

Caitlin Mercier

Louisiana Tech '22

I am fourth year in the doctoral Counseling Psychology program at Louisiana Tech University. I love reading, writing, and cooking. Fun fact: I am a vegan!
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