I am 18 years old. I am 5’2. I am 96 pounds. I am Women and Gender Studies and Biology double major with minors in chemistry and health and illnesses. I want to be a neurosurgeon. Even though all of those things are part of my identity, one of the hardest things to deal with being a college aged woman going to a predominantly white public university in the Midwest is that it is virtually impossible to be a feminist at my institution.
No matter how LGBT friendly my institution becomes and despite the fact that the majority of our population is female, it seems to be extremely hard to be a feminist for a multitude of reasons.
First, because I am from the midwest, there are many traditional ideals we follow. Many women at my university are engaged or married by the time they graduate which is fine. However, for me, I can be found in the corner thinking about my research and getting into medical school. Frankly, marriage never crosses my mind most days. I’m someone who thinks that if I get married cool. If don’t, then I’ll get a cat and a husband would basically provide me with the same amount of love but only at a greater monetary cost. These traditional views also encourage me to be quiet, to be polite, and to dismiss actions that men take that are damaging to me mentally and psychologically. If someone harasses me on campus, we’re not supposed to talk about it, but rather, I am supposed to sit idly by and pretend like I’m not afraid to go get fruit snacks at 11:00 at night.
Secondly, practicing my feminism is difficult because I am frequently crowded out by men. Were it only that my opinion were not respected, that would be one thing. But a feminist columnist in my school’s newspaper, I have been crowded out and screamed at in comments sections because I am feminist. Many of my peers in classes I take outside of my major don’t understand what feminism is at all, so I always hear underlying tones of racism and sexism, even though I stand next to them as an African American woman. My favorite comment that made me feel sick to my stomach after it was said was by a girl in my public speaking class who said, “It’s so hard to take a shower here and shave my legs;I am not one of those ‘No Shave November’ girls.” As if a woman committed the ultimate sin by not shaving her legs every day in the shower.
Lastly, the most difficult part of being a feminist in college is that significant pieces of yourself are constantly ripped away by other people who believe it to be “pruning”. Students who come from the middle of nowhere, having a graduating class of 20 tell me that my opinion is simply “different” from theirs when all their opinion is is sexist and wrong and students who don’t know any black people appropriating cultures by wearing dreads or jokingly calling their white friends “my nigga.”
Being a feminist in college is hard not just because it can be nearly impossible to find people to be around who are as enlightened as you, but that you are constantly surrounded by people who do not realize the damage their ignorance can do to others.
I love feminism. It is close to my heart. But college has a way of making me feel dirty and unclean for being a feminist and a way of trying to break down that part of my identity the way acid corrodes skin.
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