I was 21 when I first discovered feminism. It wasn’t an ‘Aha!’ moment, no lightbulbs appeared above my head. It was more like a slow realisation.
It all started on Twitter. Someone I was following retweeted a link to a blog post — I don’t remember who it was or what the post was about, but I clicked on it, read it, and was intrigued. This was stuff I’d never thought about before.
I looked at the author’s Twitter account and followed her and, over time, followed some more links, and looked at those authors’ accounts. And slowly, I began to realise that while in theory women were equal to men, like I had been told all my life, in practice that just wasn’t the case. I was learning about things like domestic violence and pay inequality and rape culture. And I was angry. Angry at society, mostly, but also angry with myself.
How had I never before noticed the sexism all around me? I remembered inappropriate jokes I’d laughed at and told, and a speech I’d given in year 12 that was supposed to be tongue in cheek but, in hindsight, was really just offensive.
I remembered trying so hard not to be ‘girly’ in high school, because all things feminine were signs of weakness. I remembered things I’d done that demonstrated a huge lack of respect for other women, and for myself.
As I Twittered my way into feminism, I learned it wasn’t about burning your bra and hating men and being a lesbian, as I had on some level always believed. And I was furious no one had ever told me.
I started to wonder. Why did I love maths until I was eight or nine and then suddenly lose interest? Why at age 12 did I decide girls were too much drama and I didn’t really want to be one?
I have tried to forgive myself for the many decidedly unfeminist things I said and did in the decade prior to discovering feminism. I’m a product of the society I was raised in, and the blame for those misguided words and actions doesn’t fall solely on my shoulders. But I can’t help but feel guilty.
It’s all in the past though, and what’s important is my actions moving forwards. You know, ‘be the change’ and all that. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But there’s no harm in trying.