For the Girl That is "Too Much"

(Catalina Fernandez at the Santa Barbara Women's March, 2017)

You're too much. These are the words my classmate used to explain why I didn't have a boyfriend. I was sixteen. 

According to him, my looks weren't the issue. I was "pretty enough." The problem, he said, was that I was "too self-driven." If I wanted a boyfriend, I needed to be "less outspoken" about my opinions and "sweeter."

These words hurt, but I'd heard them before. 

I heard them when I was a twelve-year-old in middle school and two classmates told me to "go back to the kitchen" after I'd beat them in a game of handball. Their boyish laughs, (which I now realize are reflective of a history of misogyny and oppression of women) gave me a gut wrenching feeling at the pit of my stomach I'd eventually feel again. 

I felt it when in college, an old classmate responded to my excitement about enrolling in a university Feminist Studies course with an "Lol" and an eye-roll emoji.

These instances go on and on, and on. 

More recently, during my time at UCSB, I've heard people say comments like: "she talks too much," "she's so dramatic," and my personal favorite: the "are you like a Feminist or something?" with a condescending tone. 

I know I'm strong and unafraid to voice my opinions; I've marched and rallied for the rights of women and proudly call myself a Feminist. I know I'm powerful. But still, in these situations, I find myself toiling with the decision to bite my tongue or speak out. The truth is, "you're too much" still torments me. I hear those words; I feel that gut wrenching feeling, and I become that twelve-year-old on the handball court. I shrink. 

Whether it’s a sexist joke, a patronizing "lol", or worse -- these things hurt.  

As women, we're taught to be unreasonably apologetic, to preface every question with "I'm sorry." We're taught to be silent, docile, seen but not heard. We shouldn't even think about asking for clarification or standing our ground. Otherwise, we're overly-emotional, bossy, bitchy.  

We live in a world in which our voices are neglected. More often than not, we're not heard, we're not appreciated, we're not understood. And when we point out these disparities? We "talk too much," we "think too much," we're too much.

Amid this polarized political climate that we find ourselves in, it's important to remember that wanting an equal voice in society doesn't make us crazy. Choosing to not call minority groups by offensive terms shouldn't be deemed as "PC" or "liberal bullshit." Mutual respect isn't a radical concept.

When my high school classmate said those words to me, I was embarrassed. I questioned my own self-worth. Being self-driven is not a faulty characteristic, but as women we're told "self-driven" equates to "mean." I chose to bite my tongue, swallow my pride, and be silenced. But now, if I could go back in time, I'd say this: 

I won't be silenced. I won't bite my tongue to appease others. I won't neglect my true self to be the "right type of girl." Sharing my ideas doesn't make me bossy. Being a Feminist doesn't make me overly-emotional. Standing up for what I believe is right doesn't make me bitchy. And it damn well doesn't make me "too much;" it makes me strong.

For the girls and women who have been told these words and felt the need to shrink, I propose this response: 

I'm not too much; you're too little.