What was your “aha!” feminist moment?

To celebrate launching our brand new blog, we decided to go right back to where it all began! These women share the moment their feminist spark was ignited. A huge thank you to everyone who contributed!

Name: Gabriela De Jesus
Year: 2nd

My “AHA!” moment was when I was a freshman here on campus and got more informed about feminism. At first I was unsure of what that term meant, I did know it was related to gender equality but that is about it. Over the past months I have discovered why it is important to be aware of what it means to be a women and stand up for equal representation in society, instead of accepting the socially constructed ideas about men and women.

Name: Carley Towne
Year: 4th

I fucking love feminism. I fucking love talking about feminism to anyone and everyone that will listen. I fucking love reading about feminism, because there are so many insightful voices that contribute to a critical understanding of the world. The thing I love most about feminism, though, is the sense of solidarity and community the movement creates. And our constant re-negotiation of what feminism means.

I could probably point to my fresh(wo)man year in college when I first read Barbara Ehrenreich’s critique of scientific knowledge as a major turning point in my own feminist journey. It was my second quarter at UCSD and I just started our writing program. I was super jazzed about the class because I heard you talked about morality and got to voice your own opinion. I read Ehrenreich’s essay, and my life changed forever. I’d never encountered someone who questioned the knowledge that *Science* said was true about the way women’s and men’s bodies worked. Ehrenreich’s essay awakened an intense interest in the nature of knowledge and power in me to which I am eternally grateful.

But the reason I fucking love feminism so much is because it is less an ideology to me and more a relationship. So, my relationship with feminism has changed just as much as i’ve changed in my 21 years of life. I think i’ve had AHA moments throughout my life, because growing up as a girl can be rough. When I was five and I felt a sense of comfort amongst my fellow Daisy girl scouts. When I was eight and I was so upset that manatees might go extinct because of the hubris of humans, I adopted Dana the manatee, who herself had a very progressive understanding of what it meant to be a mother. When I was in middle school and I realized people judged me for the way I looked. When I was a junior in high school and I was called a bitch for voicing my opinion. When I was in college and I found solace in the community of feminists who could understand some of my most painful experiences.

Name: Rachel Birnam
Year: 3rd

The older I get, the more feminism has an influence on my life. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I truly began to get in touch with feminism, as I started to understand and experience the social injustice that women face on a daily basis. I have become more and more aware of the misogynistic tendencies that our society taught me at a young age to accept as “normal,” and have taken a stance against it. I can’t say that I have one specific feminist “aha!” moment; but rather, a series of moments.
When I realized, simply, that men and women do not share equal rights.
When one of my roommates goes out for a run at night, and the rest of us pull out our pepper spray and remind her to keep her keys between her knuckles, just in case.
When I talk about how feminism has empowered me as a women and it elicits eye rolls, laughs, and even “that’s cute” from men.
When slut shaming is considered the norm and rape is all too often a punch line of a joke.
When my feelings are trivialized and my thoughts belittled simply because I am a woman.
When I hope that my little sister never has to experience this social injustice that I know she inevitably will.
For me, my stance as a feminist is something that is still evolving. It has become a part of my identity and continues to grow as I surround myself with strong, powerful women, as well as men that support and advocate for feminism. I am proud to be a woman and I am proud to be a feminist, and even though my feminist “aha!” moments are not always positive, they continue to fuel my empowerment as a woman and motivate me to fight for gender equality.

Name: Micaela Stone

I had always believed that girls could do anything that guys could do. I was also told that I couldn’t do things because I was a girl. Being the way I am, I set out to prove everyone wrong. However, I didn’t really realize what being a feminist really was. It was a word that I hadn’t even heard of until I was sixteen. People often associate being a feminist with man-hating or putting women before everyone else. What people don’t realize is that it is simply the equality of both genders. That men and women can have the same opportunities, and that they can be paid with equal wages. Throughout high school, I had always heard feminism associated with negative connotations. Things like “you can’t do it because you’re a girl,” “maybe it was the way she was dressed that was asking for it,” “she’s such a slut.” Endless things like that from people I didn’t know, and people I was close too. Topics such as rape and abortion were taboo, because people honestly just assumed that women were asking for it. MALES AND FEMALES thought like this at my school. Here I was with, all these opinions, but I didn’t really know what they meant.
Even though unconsciously I had always been a feminist, I didn’t fully acknowledge myself as a feminist until I came to college. I was finally in a environment that wasn’t so toxic, so slut shaming. I could dress the way I wanted, I could say what I wanted, I could do what I want. I didn’t have to have people who were close to me, saying that I was dressed like a slut and to cover up (which someone who was very close to me in high school did say to me). I didn’t have to be objectified in front of my whole class for wearing shorts to school. I could finally say what I wanted to say without the worry of being ostracized. Yes, I still meet people who think differently that I do, that believe that women should be subservient to their partners and that a women’s place is in the house. But now I always tell my self, WHO THE HELL CARES. By embracing my beliefs, I found the confidence to work for the Planned Parent Action Fund, fighting for women’s rights. I was able to handle people calling me a baby killer and a horrible person, tell me that I’m going to hell, that I need Jesus, that I should be ashamed of what I was doing. I just looked people in the eye and told them I’m standing up for what I believe in. I can now say that I’m proudly a feminist. People may look at the word likes a swear word, think what they think about it, but to me that doesn’t matter. I am a feminist and I am proud to be one.

Name: Anonymous

The “AHA” hit me recently. I was sitting in class and our teacher was talking about the early movements for women’s equal rights. One of my favorite quotes from a woman who actively wrote, spoke and protested for women’s equality said, “Don’t make queens out of us.” This quote made me realize that all of the work, all of the struggles of the early women have been and continue to be counteracted by every societal structure set up. We ‘hail’ the women on magazines, in the movies and on stage making them our ‘queens’ but ignore the women in suits, the ones who are making a difference. Women in society are placed on this societal pedestal as soon as they go through puberty; they are seen as gentle, coy and powerless because of their gender. This idea places us as “queens” before we have even decided our path in life. While some women may chose not to use their power those who do are often labelled as bitchy. The stigma of a powerful women being a bitch needs to be shed and the idea that all women want is to be treated as queen needs to vanish. I believe that this quote struck me because it shows how women need not be made into queens but into human beings.

Name: Anonymous

It sounds a bit silly thinking about it now, but my “AHA” moment came out of my frustrations with the high school dating ritual.

Like many young, hopeful teenage girls, I was in the mindset that winning over my crush would have unlocked the ultimate life achievement. Together my gal pals and I would scheme over what cute new clothes to wear, what flirtatious comments to shyly drop, basically how to ask someone out without really asking someone (because Heaven forbid we break the patriarchal mating standards)

On the opposite spectrum, my guy friends had similar ambitions but their attitudes toward the situation (as I now realize) were out of line.

“Being a guy sucks, we have to do all the work by ourselves!”

“Ugh, I can’t believe I’ll have to pay for everything”

“Why do I have to open the door, huh??”

Before, I was just annoyed. Honestly, I did all those things and I was a girl. At the time I thought they were being, well, stupid teenage boys.

I began to question why did one gender have certain perceived responsibilities over another, and if there was so much resentment, why didn’t they just like go “hey, this is unfair! we should be equal!”

Little did I know, that a larger force called patriarchy was not only creating narrow standards for women, but men as well.

So that’s pretty much the turning point where brutally honest 17 year old [ANONYMOUS] started challenging her guy friends.

“Um, okay what do you actually mean by “all” and “ourselves”

“Well, can’t you just like ask to split the bill?”

“Dude, that’s not a “guy” thing. It’s called being ‘polite’ so can you not”

By refusing to accept these standards, I opened a new world for myself and began to explore what being a feminist could mean for me. The core value of feminism for me has and always will be equality for men and women.

Sometimes I feel as if people neglect the “male” aspect of it because of patriarchy’s overbearing power.

But you’ve got to change the standards for both if you want true feminism.

Name: Erika Gonzalez
Year: The Preuss School UCSD

My feminist “A-HA!” moment was probably in in the middle of 2014, close to June, while I was on twitter. Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ commercial video popped up on my timeline as an ad and I decided to watch it. I knew that doing something like a girl was taken in a negative way and I always snapped back with “What’s wrong being a girl,” so seeing the title of the video intrigued me. The video asks girls and boys what it means to do something “Like a girl” and the kids would respond. When the video was done, I read the comments and one of them said “This is what feminism is about.” I had only known about the word ‘feminism’, but I never took the time to learn about it or do any research on it, it was just a regular word to me. However, being much older than before, I searched feminism on twitter and got lot of tweets about misogyny, gender identity, and patriarchy, etc. All these words were new to me, so I googled the definitions of the words and when I knew what they meant, I did even more research on feminism and what it was all about; I used Tumblr, Twitter, blogs on feminism, and bought a couple books about feminism. I fell in love with it all; it had words that described situations that I had been in that I didn’t even think there were words for. It was all new, but it made me really happy to know that there was a movement to empower girls and educate people about gender identity, women’s rights, and the portrayal of women in the media. I spent my summer learning and reading about feminism and international movements. By the end of the summer I knew I was a feminist and wanted to work in a career that emphasized feminism.

Name: Damare Kinley

My AHA Feminist moment was when I was talking to my friend over the phone and we were talking about our future ideal relationship.  He stated that he wants to be the provider for his family while his wife stays at home to cook and clean. I asked him why he wanted that for the future and he responded by saying that it is the way society is supposed to be where the man is the bread winner and is   supposed to be in control of the relationship. As a feminist I told him what would happen if the roles were reversed and how he would he feel if he had a daughter and her husband told her that. When he heard my rebuttal  he was hesitant to defend his argument because I challenged him in a way that no one had ever done before.

Name: Sulochana Marpadga
Year: 2nd

When did I realize I was a feminist? I felt it when I was just eight years old and teased for having hair in places besides the top of my head. I felt it when I was twelve and wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or shorts while all my friends did, and when I could tell I really didn’t look like them, but that didn’t bother me much then. I felt it when I was thirteen and watched the women at our family parties serve the men, and when I refused to do so, I was seen as unfit to be a woman and someone’s eventual wife. I felt it when I was fourteen and joined my high school’s male-dominated debate team and had to work twice as hard for the next four years to have my ideas heard and recognized. I felt it when I was fifteen and was told by math tutor that I wasn’t doing well because men are “naturally better” at math. I felt it when I was sixteen and was told that “I could be just as pretty as [insert female friend’s name] if I wore makeup and learned how to tame my hair,” but I had never thought I was doing anything wrong until then. I felt it when I was seventeen and going on a rant that involved a plethora of cuss words, and my male friend told me that I was scaring him and I wasn’t being very ladylike. I knew it when I was eighteen and in college and learned the true definition of feminism–not a movement to hate males or reject traditional notions of “femininity,” as shaped by the media, but rather one to empower all women and fight for equality. I am sure of it now, at nineteen, as I go through each day challenging myself and those around me about the way I view the world. Being a feminist has given me the opportunity to be stronger and more confident in my identity as a woman and in the choices I make.

Name: Anonymous

My feminist “aha” moment came during my freshman year of high school even though I didn’t really realize it at the time. I signed up to take a programming class to fulfill one of my requirements. When the bell rang and the teacher started to take roll on the first day of class, I soon realized that I was the only girl in the class. The male teacher would always come to me first asking if I had any questions and frequently asked if I needed extra help. I decided I didn’t want to be pitied on, so I ended up working a lot at home reading more on the class material and ended up acing the class!

While I ended up not pursuing computer science, I did end up going into a STEM-related field. My friends and roommates in college were usually STEM majors, and frequently they would tell me they were also the only woman or one out of a small handful in a class full of men. It wasn’t until I realized during my later years of college, that pursuing a STEM major also meant sometimes having to pursue a higher degree afterwards such as a Masters, a PhD, or MD. This meant another two to eight years of school, and during a time that many people believe is “critical” for a woman to marry and start raising a family. Who’s to say when a woman should raise a family or why she should sacrifice a successful career doing something she is passionate about? While I have only just started volunteering at the Women’s Center so far, I hope I can help to empower other women by breaking society’s stereotypes through awareness and self-discovery while also learning more about feminism myself!

Name: Stephanie Chang

One of my femtors started a hashtag #beforeIwasanactivist. I was reading through the comments that her friends put and was unfortunately agreeing with most of the statements. And yet, most of these statements had 10+ likes! I began to seriously wonder what part of the picture I was missing, for this fantastic group of people to all come to a consensus on such controversial topics. The one statement that stood out to be the most was “#beforeIwasanactivist I thought ‘you’re not like other girls’ was a compliment.” I think during most of my youth I had tried to distinguish myself as unique. I actively tried not to conform to the idea of “girly,” as if by doing so would automatically make me just as good as the guys. In my “aha” moment I realized that the concept of “other girls” was oversimplified and stereotyped and that simply identifying with my gender was somehow made to a bad thing. It was this moment that I noticed how systemic all this sexism really was. So, #beforeIwasanactivist I was completely blind to all the microagrressions of sexism in my life that even I sometimes perpetuated myself.

Name: Liza Lukasheva
Year: 4th

Name: Liza Lukasheva

Year: Senior

Submission Title: I was taught poetry

I was taught poetry
As a child I was taught poetry
the quiet writing of feelings reflections
often in a beat with a rhyme and a few examples of alliteration

I was taught that as a woman my feelings
should be hid and kept quiet
that when I liked a boy it was not my place
to ask him whether he liked me back
I was taught to look out for myself by not dressing slutty
not walking home late at night
I was taught that my curvy figure would make people
question my morals my virginity my character
I was taught that as a girl I won’t be as successful in math or science
I was taught to give myself to other pursuits
in liberal arts or domestic dealings
I was taught that even if by some miracle I found success in the fields where I “wouldn’t be successful”
that I would and should give it up in a heart beat to raise a family
I was taught that I must share my feelings
my emotions my struggles
but not in a loud and open way

I had to remain quiet cool composed

Poetry was to be my outlet, written in couplets sonnets and verse
quiet and held inside written on paper
stored away from the world
to be read inside the mind
by others- men, teachers, parents
in order to decode me
and learn how to
keep
me

silent

This was really my first coming out moment as a feminist when I wrote this poem, I had recognized the injustices before the kids making fun of me in middle school for the hair that I did not shave, and in the way that my mother who taught me to be a strong womxn told me that i need to tone down my outgoing and bubbly personality for guys to like me. But I didn’t really connect until this poem flowed out of my fingers now I am a feminist. I keep up with what injustices are being done in the world and try to bring the issue to light one person at a time even if i can’t make everyone see my point of view maybe i can stop them from saying one negative sexist thing and that’s already a change for the better.

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