In case you didn’t know by now, I’m a feminist, and recently a group on my university campus joined part of a pro-feminist project called “Who Needs Feminism?” In it, people write why feminism is necessary or why they personally need feminism. If you have some time, I definitely recommend going through and looking through the pictures on the facebook group. I found it really inspiring to see that I’m not alone in my thoughts or feelings.
When the young women running the project showed up in my Women and Language class I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to participate. Here’s my picture:
It went up on facebook that day, and I was quickly overwhelmed by the positive response it received when a friend tagged me in the picture, making sure that all my facebook friends would see it.
But then some people, including some people that I know and used to be part of the same friend group with, but with whom I am not facebook friends, saw the post, and suddenly I was getting a first hand account at the backlash speaking out about feminist topics can cause.
When I read these comments I was hit with a lot of emotions. Rage at the fact that people can be so rude and ignorant. Frustration at the fact that I expected anything more. Fear that when I said anything to defend myself I would just be setting myself up for worse bullying because right away I knew I needed to say something. Staying silent has never been my thing, and I’ve been burned by that reaction to speak up before. Actually, by some people from the same group of former friends I mentioned above.
The thing is, bullying can be hard to pin down. It’s not always a punch to the face or someone calling you a bitch. It can be subtle. It can be the person who laughingly tells you to get back to the kitchen whenever you give an opinion. It can be the supposedly complimentary nickname that targets your large breasts. It can be the “stop being so serious,” “loosen up,” “we’re just having fun,” “it’s just a joke” that really means stop being such an over-sensitive little girl.
I am so happy that my boyfriend was there when I saw those messages because there is no replacement for someone else’s support when you’re facing down a bully because that is what those people who said those things are: bullies. He recommended waiting to say anything, and it was good advice. If I had replied immediately I wouldn’t have been able to say what I needed to say.
Speaking up isn’t easy, but if you know it’s the right thing, even if it’s not the most comfortable thing, you need to do it. But the most important thing I’ve learned from this experience is how important a support system is, and that I have the best one anyone could hope for. So thank you everyone who liked or commented to show their support on that post. Thank you to all the people who have told me that I have a right to be heard. Thank you to everyone who gave me the strength to speak up. I hope this post can help pass a little of that strength along.