Growing up…

I don’t remember when I started declaring myself a feminist, but I’m pretty sure it was to shock my parents. I’ve adopted the label gleefully and declared it loudly to the shocked guests at the “adults” table. I invited their mockery and welcomed their ribbing. I parried their arguments, shook my head, and smiled at the condescending “you’ll grow out of it” comments.

Even before I embraced a label, I scorned most things “girlie.” I was no tomboy by any measure. I played barbies, wore dresses, and was growing out my hair to what I hoped would be knee-length. Yet I bore a deep suspicion of prescribed gender roles in the context of a heterosexual relationship. Growing up in Russia, the “man’s job” and “woman’s job” were two strictly segregated concepts. Whenever my mom would ask dad to help out with chores, he’d be incredulous, “you have two daughters, I don’t understand why you have to ask me!” I hated chores, and I deeply resented the sentiment that housework was only for women.

In middle school I had two wonderful friends. Together we were outcasts, scorned by classmates for abstaining from communal hazing, gossip, and general malice. Our friendship was strong, built on mutual respect and deep commitment to each other. Though never loved by our peers, we were too confident, too comfortable in our own skin to ever be bullied. There was something magical about three girls empowering each other, fashioning themselves into independent, strong women.

Teen angst…

Switching countries in my teenage years brought about many changes. New way of thinking, new language, new social norms, new identity. I’m sure my view of feminism changed, now that I was looking at the world through a different lens. Yet, mostly, my inner feminist was in hibernation, as I was confronted with more immediate issues (holy crap what do these people want from me???)

College…

For many people, college is the time when one is accosted with scary new ideas and vastly different life styles. Away from the watchful eye of a parent, the college student hesitantly dips her toes into the fountain of youth, eats all of the forbidden apples, and wakes up with a knowledge hangover. I was no different. Having come in contact with so many lives, I’ve absorbed their ideas, their pain, their injustices. I have seen many victims of patriarchy – LGBTQ friends, heartbreaking number of rape survivors, “sluts,” “sissies,” insecure hyper-masculine frat boys, all the unhappy medicated people who just didn’t fit.

Many a night was filled with feminist discussion fueled by rage and two-buck chuck. I’ve learned from my older, wiser friends. I’ve researched, each new statistic igniting a new fire of indignation: income gap, achievement gap, disproportionate gendered violence, (mis)representation of women in media, workplace discrimination, blatant misogyny, unconscious bias, etc etc etc. I developed a network of feminist men and women and from it drawn support and courage I needed to speak up.

Present times…

Facebook has become one of my battle grounds. With 400 of my closest friends posting something every day, misogyny runs rampant. I was inclined to see my 30 comment-long arguments as mostly pointless until something unexpected happened. A white male engineer redditor was so convinced by my argument he donated money to Anita Sarkeesian’s kickstarter and became a prominent feminist ally. Ha! Just kidding! What really happened is, I was approached by an unfamiliar woman at a dance event. “Are you Miss X?” she asked me. Surprised, I nodded. She explained that she followed the facebook argument in which I rebutted the most misogynist article I’ve ever had the displeasure to read. “I just wanted to thank you and to let you know that I agree with you – I didn’t want to say anything on the post itself,” she explained.

You know, it’s a shame she did not feel comfortable expressing her opinion in a public forum, however, her discomfort tells me that what we do here matters. It shows that every time a woman speaks up and calls out sexism, she gives voice to those who can’t or who won’t. Every time a woman speaks, she makes it that much more acceptable, she paves the way for others to freely express their opinions. Here, on DDP, we want to start a conversation, we want to give voice to the timid and disenfranchised. We are here to say that we will not be silenced, we are feminists, and we are many!

Miss X

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