Dispatches from a Teenage Feminist

News & Politics

Sometime between waking up at the crack of dawn and fourth period I became a teenage werewolf.

No, wait, I mean feminist.

It’s as if I didn’t know until someone pointed it out to me in English class, but it was more like an “Ooh, dude, I think you just stepped in some feminist,� or a “Damn! You smell like feminist,� or maybe even an “I think you spilled some feminism on your shirt, and it stains…�

I’ve been labeled many things throughout my life in Cleveland, Ohio, from preppy (but don’t ever expect to see me in a collared shirt and khakis) to punk (maybe my new lip piercing and occasional green eyeliner add to this, but even for Cleveland, I'm about as punk as Marcia Brady) to slightly insane (a mix between MTV’s hidden camera show Punk’d and starlet Nicole Richie) -- I’ve even been told that I’m unique looking (why am I so sure it's not a compliment?) and maybe labeling me makes it easier to figure out who I am (hell, I don’t even know!), but recently my whole class seems to have decided that I’m a bra-burning, men-hating Feminazi.

My English teacher, a minority-equalizing, feminist-loving, all around pro-everything-liberal kind of man, said that if a guy were to ever hold the door open for me, I would “punch his lights out.�

I pictured myself through his eyes, toned and fuming hatred, simultaneously liberating the oppressed and crushing lanky teenage boys with my bare hands, their awkward limbs flinging in the air as I fought in honor of my fellow womyn.

Would I? I wondered. Maybe I would just thank him and walk through the door. Teenage boys displaying chivalry is not something I see every day, so I might pause. I might wonder, why this gesture of civility, right here, right now? But punch his lights out? I'm barely five feet tall -- I aspire to meet the height requirements for amusement park rides, not to dominate all who cross my path.

But I should have seen it coming. After sharing with the group several weeks earlier that being whistled at in the hallways or told that I have a fine ass (or some other creative come-on) was about as flattering to me as being compared to Santa Claus (jolly, red and round), it is only fitting -- they finally discovered that I am the monster within their midst.

It’s as if I was biding my time at school until I could become a trophy wife for some successful businessman or an exotic dancer with breasts filled with more than my brain, and suddenly I’ve crushed their dreams by becoming this, this, this breathing, thinking, independent young woman!

I am not about to apologize for wanting to be seen as the lovechild of Mary Wollstonecraft and Justin Timberlake (smart, sexy and awesome on the dance floor). And even if it angers them to hear I think so, my guess is I will be more financially and personally successful than most of the boys I know.

I know I'm a feminist, but I am also just a teenage girl trying to survive junior year (because everyone knows being in high school is almost as enjoyable as four years of paper cuts). I could be a Clark Kent feminist -- you know the ones; coy and giggly when the boys are around, fierce all-grrrl when she's alone with her posse. I could be the kind who keeps Ms. hidden inside a copy of Seventeen on the bedside table, or I could go all-out old-school in ripped jeans and combat boots -- but that's not me, either.

I want to be who I am, big or small, editor-in-chief or head cheerleader, point guard or math geek, and I want to make it so that when my daughter goes to high school and says she's a feminist, everyone in the school, from the kids smoking in the parking lot to the principal, just yawns and says, yeah, who isn't?

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