My Journey with Feminism: Breaking Through the Boundaries

Over the past few years I have struggled to accept my identity as a feminist. In a society that stigmatizes women as being “hysterical” and “radical” for believing in equality on all fronts, I was too scared to publicly express my opinions. Whenever feminism was brought up in conversation, it made people roll their eyes and proceed to talk about how “crazy” women are these days, and I just nodded along with it because I was too afraid of what people would think of me. It was because of this that I hid my true feelings in hopes of acceptance from society, and it wasn’t until this year that I became comfortable expressing myself the way I should’ve been this whole time. Now that I have broken out of my comfort zone, and away from how society wants me to behave, I feel confident and proud to call myself a feminist.

My journey with feminism started when I was a young girl. Growing up, my mom has always been my greatest inspiration; she is the strongest and most independent woman I have ever met. Throughout battles with dominant men, and fighting against the typical idea of what a woman “should” be, my mom has taught me lessons of feminism from a very young age (and I don’t even know if she would identify as a feminist herself). My mom always let me do my own thing, even if it wasn’t what society deemed the norm. She never forced me to wear pink, take a gymnastics class, or join the girl scouts because I didn’t want to. Instead, I wanted to play kickball with boys, wear comfy clothes and play outside in the woods, so I did. My mom has always showed me how to be fearless, headstrong, liberated and sassy, especially in a patriarchal society. I think that this is extremely powerful and the roots of my feminism.

However, the older I got, the more complicated feminism became. By high school, when I finally became old enough to really grasp the concept in its entirety, I began to notice that feminism had such a bad reputation. With every utter of the word, it aroused negative responses from so many people, even women. Some think it’s pointless, some think women have nothing to be fighting for, and some find it excessive and dramatic. It is intimidating to be in a climate where your ideas are constantly ridiculed, and to be a teenager trying to find herself, the idea of not fitting in within the constraints of the norm is especially terrifying. It was for this reason that I became silenced for far too long.

As I think back, the most prominent example of this silence would have to be during my senior year. It was during this time that the #MeToo movement was in full swing, and opinions were constantly flying around. In one class, in particular, my teacher and classmates were very open about their opinions on the movement. They talked about how the whole situation was overdramatic, how the women were “ruining Kavanaugh’s life”, and how they were clearly lying for attention. Listening to this in class, I was too afraid to voice my opinions and contest their claims, even though I disagreed with them severely. The fact that I sat there in silence in order to protect my own public appearance is something that I am ashamed of.  

Fast forward to today, feminism has allowed me to break out of the suffocating grips of my comfort zone; because of it, I no longer care about what others think of me and I am freely able to be myself. I speak my opinions, dress how I want, shave when I want (if I want), go braless when I want, and wear no makeup because that is what I want to do. However, prior to beginning this school year at Rutgers, I was still a little lost. Yes, I certainly had transitioned from that girl who was scared of going against the norm months before, but the confidence in my feminist identity still wasn’t at its peak. 

I remember in my first lecture for my Intro to Gender, Race, and Sexuality class, the professor asked the question, “Who in this room identifies as a feminist?”. In my mind, I was still a bit nervous outwardly expressing myself, but I raised my hand high anyway. Hundreds of people, not just women, raised their hands alongside myself. At that moment, I knew that I was going to grow exponentially in this class. Being surrounded by people who support me and allow me to be myself unconditionally, who understand my issues with society and want to make strides to fix them, and who will constantly challenge me to become a better person means everything. Also, covering taboo topics like the social construction of gender, confronting privilege, and reproductive justice has allowed me to gain so much knowledge and perspective in such a short time. Overall, it is through this class that I have become a better woman and feminist.

Sometimes breaking through the boundaries is all it takes to become the best possible version of yourself. Whether that may be quitting a bad habit, or standing up to a bully, all of these boundaries are there to keep you contained in your comfort zone. For me, escaping the confinement of social norms and finding my true identity as a feminist was the way I broke my boundaries. It has definitely been a journey so far, one that I will always be on; but for now, I am happy with who I am and happy with where I am headed.