It’s amazing to realize how much you change as you grow up. I realize that’s part of coming into adulthood; the time between adolescence and adulthood is filled with so much drastic change it only makes sense. However, I can see a 95% difference in myself from how I was in my teenage years. Growing up in Bible Belt, Texas I obviously had a more conservative outlook on most things. I didn’t understand the LGBT+ community, I didn’t know any people of color, and I was ashamed of being a woman.
Anyone that knew me back then versus now remembers the days where I was embarrassed to have breasts and hated going bra shopping. I had conditioned myself to look at my own body and demeanor with disdain because my femininity was wrong or dirty. Having boobs was sexy and sex is dirty and girls are supposed to have purity rings and not be aware of them being sexual beings. Or something like that. All of this was something I had made up or assumed; while my parents never mentioned anything about the birds and the bees to me or made me feel ashamed, somehow I still did. Really, many of these feelings followed me into college and down to Florida. It wasn’t until I began to see body positivity firsthand that I realized my femininity is something to be proud of.
These days I can say without hesitation that I believe in true feminism. I believe in encouraging girls and women to love themselves as an A cup or a EEE, to love their curves and stretch marks and Fred Flinstone Feet. Women need to hear that makeup doesn’t make you beautiful, but if winged eyeliner and a killer cut-crease makes you feel empowered, then by all means go for it. It is entirely your opinion and choices that matter and not that of society. Show your stomach if you want to! Exposing some tasteful sideboob doesn’t make you a slut unless that’s how you would like to self-identify. True feminism advocates equality for men and women alike, realizing that men face just as many social pressures as women do. Opening my eyes to love myself as I am has made me a stronger woman and I want to encourage other people of all genders and identities to feel the same.
On this International Women’s Day, I celebrate all women. This includes trans women, women of color, republican women, democrat women, immigrant women, women with disabilities, and every other type of women out there. So much of the mainstream society tries to pit women against each other by making everything a competition and putting them down. Telling me I’m not girly enough or not as thin as this woman is a way to break down my mind to conform to the bullshit. We all need to stand together as sisters and use our differences to make us stronger as a group to defend against that bullshit social norm.
In the past, I’ve felt guilty for going to Starbucks and being perceived as a “basic white girl” or expressing my emotions and being called “dramatic and hysterical”. Now I realize how silly that is and have chosen to embrace myself for who I am. If I can choose to be unapologetically me, then maybe I can inspire more of my brothers and sisters in the world. I’ve been brushed off when I talk about not wanting to have children, as if this makes me less of a woman. When I asked my gynecologist about a tubal litigation he told me I was too young to make a decision like that when I know in my heart that it’s not something I am going to change my mind on. I’m louder and more independent than most men are used to, and I’ve accepted that that is the reason I’m single; it will take a very special man to be able to handle me. I talk openly about sex and zit popping videos and other “non-ladylike” topics and I’m proud of myself for having the freedom to vocalize my opinions and feelings.
As a woman in the United States I realize how lucky I am. Compared to how women are viewed in other countries around the world, here in America we have so many rights to be thankful for. Not only am I lucky enough to be a woman in America, I’m also lucky enough to never have experienced a sexual assault when 1 in 6 American women have. While I am extremely fortunate to not have this history, I never want to take that for granted and forget the women who have suffered through harmful situations because of their gender. From the women in other countries fighting for education and jobs to the women around the world who have been assaulted or live in fear of assault (not to mention the women who have not survived these battles), I want to live to support them and not let them be forgotten. Because I am one of the lucky ones, I feel like it’s part of my duty to stand with victims and offer encouragement to my sisters to stay strong through whatever life throws at them.
I’m grateful for the changes I’ve made since high school. I’m proud to be a woman, and I’m even prouder to be the strong and independent woman I am. Being raised to speak up for myself and encouraged to do anything I set my mind to, I’m using my voice to stand with my fellow women in their right to live the lives they want and not the ones expected of them. Liking Starbucks, not wanting children, listening to bubblegum pop music, wearing pink lipstick and getting your nails done, playing sports, being covered in tattoos and liking sex doesn’t make you more or less of a woman. It makes you you. The most important lesson I’ve learned as a woman is that mine is the only approval I need. I want to support women around the world in their own journeys and battles to achieve their rights and find their individual voices.