Wednesday, March 6, 2013


What Made You a Feminist?

Haley Motek asked a group of women about the books/music/moments that started them on the road to feminism, and the answers are funny and different and unexpected and great.

I think my first encounter with feminism was likely Mary Poppins. I remember while I was watching it my mom explaining to me who the suffragettes were, and repeating the line of the song that they sing: “Our daughter’s daughters will adore us/ and they’ll sing in grateful chorus/ hats off to the sister suffragettes.” I don’t think I quite got it at the time—I think because it was so hard for me to fathom that women were treated so differently from men and really didn’t have a right to vote. But I remember it very well, and experience is meaningful to me now. I had a similar conversation with my six-year-old daughter a couple of months ago while we were watching the same movie.

Maybe all babies are born feminists, and you can only fuck it up. And then those babies find their way back to feminism, ideally. Like, Phyllis Schlafly was once a beautiful little baby feminist. There's always hope. If you were lucky enough never to have been fucked up, give thanks, and also give copies of good books to people who weren't.

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Freak matter transporter accident, when a Susan B. Anthony dollar rolled in just before the door closed.

dj pomegranate

I was probably like...20 before I understood the lyrics to that Mary Poppins song. I went back to watch it as an adult and was like "OH! VOTES FOR WOMEN steppin' time! That's cool!"

Beatrix Kiddo

@dj pomegranate It's weird how Mary Poppins (on film, don't know about the book) is actually kind of anti-feminist, with the suffragette mom presented as a silly woman wasting her time who returns home to care for the kids by the end of the movie.

dj pomegranate

@Beatrix Kiddo True! (I actually don't remember much about the ending of the movie except that Mary flies away with her umbrella, of course.) But, I think, if Mrs. Banks was silly, Mr. Banks was portrayed as equally silly, spending all his time at work with boring old men who never laugh!

Wasn't there a line about one of the suffragettes being "clapped in irons"?


@Beatrix Kiddo The whole suffragette subplot isn't there in the book--I think it was added to the movie to explain needing to hire a nanny when at the original era it was just what ladies in that class did?

Beatrix Kiddo

@alib Interesting! I feel like the suffragette angle makes the story kind of depressing.


@dj pomegranate ALSO the word "suffragette" was actually an insult! The women who fought for the vote called themselves "suffragists," and the newspaper-running menfolk of the time changed the ending to the gendered, pejorative "-ette" to show just how little they thought about those silly, hysterical ladies getting all emotional about equal treatment. History, y'all!


@dj pomegranate that was Emma Pankhurst! She's real! "Take heart, for Mrs Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!"

dj pomegranate

@Ophelia Oh! I didn't know they were referring to her! Now I want to go read her biography.


@dj pomegranate "Clapped in irons" meant arrested. Many suffragettes were arrested for chaining themselves to fences outside of Parliment and other protests. Once in jail, they went on hunger strikes and were force-fed.

Fuck yeah Sister Suffragettes, indeed!

dj pomegranate

@wee_ramekin Yeah, I was just wondering if I heard the lyric right. I didn't know Mary Poppins was so historically accurate!


i'm a feminist because i cried during this@a

Quinn A@twitter

I think I always was a feminist, even as a little kid growing up in a house where people made fun of feminists. But I don't think I actually got good at it until around 2006. I had a whole lot of unlearning to do. Thanks, conservative Catholic upbringing!


@Quinn A@twitter Ooo, man, right there with ya. I was an annoying Young Republican until college when, like, overnight (it feels like) I completely flipped the script on myself and turned into an annoying liberal feminist (annoying to other people. Personally, I quite like it!)

Also, I just donated to Planned Parenthood about an hour ago, so yay for feminists! Yay for bodily autonomy!


@Quinn A@twitter Yeah. I feel like I was actually kind of always a feminist, but I remember distinctly in 9th grade having a teacher ask us to raise our hands if we were feminists, and I hesitantly raised my hand because no one else in the entire room was raising their hand and I hadn't really started identifying with the term. Then she basically gave the definition of feminism and I think that's when I started to become the outspoken feminist I am now...


@Quinn A@twitter I remember learning in 3rd grade that women hadn't been ALLOWED to vote until 1920. Possibly I learned this from my American Girl books? Anyway, I was outraged and ran around the playground at recess, voicing my wrath to everyone. I was dismayed and disappointed by the apathy I encountered. That feeling pretty much has not gone away since then. :P

dj pomegranate

Can someone write a story about Phyllis Schlafly being a beautiful little baby feminist? I feel like this could work, maybe as sci-fi ...?


@dj pomegranate I...don't think this is even possible for me to comprehend. If I didn't know for a rage-inspiring fact that she worked in a munitions factory and went to law school when she was a young (presumably human, though the jury's out) woman, I would probably think she was hatched, fully withered, from a cobra egg kept warm by a vulture that she subsequently devoured whole upon emerging.

God, she makes me mad. She's who Madeleine Albright was talking about with "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

Hot Doom

@dj pomegranate A sci-fi tragedy...


@dj pomegranate i still haven't gotten around to making re-prints of my mother's "SPBPSU" tee shirt

(sisterhood to plant a bomb in phyllis shlafley's underpants for the uninitiated)

Judith Slutler

@noodge ahahaha yes! I remember your talk about your amazing mom. Your lesbian communist mom, correct?


@Emmanuelle cunt
The one and only!!!

Less Lee Moore@facebook

@MoxyCrimeFighter You mean Katie Couric didn't make that up? ;p


@dj pomegranate As a not American person, I had no idea who Phyllis Schlafly is. And then I looked her up. In March 2007, Schlafly said in a speech at Bates College, "By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape."
What is this, I just can't...


@dj pomegranate As an AMERICAN person, I knew that she was awful, but not any of the specifics, because when it comes to current events/right-wing awfulness, lately I just stick my fingers in my ears and go LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU. But yeah. Yikes.


Since nobody is born with an innate understanding of gender roles, I'm pretty sure we were all little feminists. Then we get handed baseballs and dolls and nurture picks up from there.

I'm glad I never had to have an "aha!" moment, growing up with a single feminist mom and a mostly-cool dad, but sad I felt uncomfortable with the term feminism for a good chunk of my late teens and early twenties. Some brilliant PR from Dude Nation, demonizing the whole concept of believing in gender equality.


When some little dick bag in 4th grade told me that Amelia Earhart probably died because that's what happens when you let women fly airplanes...a feminist was born.


@Megan@twitter When I told a joke in the 4th grade that nobody laughed at, then a popular guy repeated the same joke and everyone laughed.


Reading a ton of Orson Scott Card as a tween certainly didn't help me along my path.

Now that I think about it, going from that to LOTR didn't really help a whole lot either.

Faintly Macabre

@breccia I somehow turned out okay. I think because I was somehow convinced that if I thought hard enough, I could turn into Petra. (Though she ends up collapsing during the final battle, right?)


Watching nature documentaries and seeing that it was always girl animals that had to have babies. I was like, that's not fair! It shouldn't just be girl animals having to do all that work!

I later learned about biology and that it was kind of the definition of male/female (especially re: placental mammals), but there is still the voice in my head going "that's not RIGHT." I don't remember quite how old I was, but I was tiiiiiny.


Btw, interestingly enough, it's not always that way! And as for the promiscuous male/choosy female, that is totally untrue and entirely based on the ecology of that specific animal.
Sorry missed my chance to tell my evo-psych prof about ecology so now I tell the world??


@damselfish seahorses!

lasso tabasco

When the boys wouldn't let me or my best friend play basketball with them in the 4th grade, because I was a girl and my best friend was black.


@lasso tabasco Yeah, one of my first feminist memories was when I was maybe eight and I was denied joining in a game of pick up football because "girls don't play football." and I was like, WHAT? I was honestly flabbergasted because I had never heard such a thing.


@ghechr when I was eleven, and a boy at the pool told me I threw like a girl (I was pitching at the time), so I wailed him in the stomach with the ball. He cried, I got grounded, but also got to have a conversation with my parents about why what he said was wrong.

lasso tabasco

@Ophelia That is awesome! My response to being excluded from the games was to cry softly in the bathroom.


@ghechr I had an increasingly heated argument with my cousin's 6 year old boy who insisted to me that girls can't play football not too long ago. My other cousin's 5 year old girl was there too, and I insisted to her "HE'S WRONG, GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING THEY WANT TO DO, YOU CAN PLAY FOOTBALL IF YOU WANT."


@lasso tabasco Kindergarten, after school at the babysitter's house. Her two other charges (both boys) wouldn't let me be a TMNT because I was a girl. I had to be April.


@VerityStandingStill Same deal with The Pink Power Ranger -have you seen this article? I was struck by the neat observation that "there’s a ratio of three male characters to every female one in typical family films and TV shows—and in shows with relatively small casts, that generally means a core group of key characters (all male, with disparate and well-distinguished personalities) and one girl whose job is to be their counterpoint, their “other”. It doesn’t matter what her personality is; it’s overshadowed by the fact that she’s, above all else, female—as though that in itself is what makes her exotic enough to include in the diverse and dynamic cast. As though being female is a character archetype. You know how it goes: The leader. The jock. The nerd. The jerk. The clown. The girl."


I had a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" when I was a kid! As a child, I was a feminist, sort of like the way Haley Motek describes; it just didn't cross my mind that women could be treated worse than men merely because of their gender. Then I got older and realized that the world was unjust. Then, shit got real and I was (and still am) a feminist.


I think I (alas!) grew up more often than not with the "I'm not like OTHER girls" notion and wanting to be a boy. That began morphing into anger in my later teen years. That anger was slowly articulated as I went to college and met new, interesting young women with different life experiences who felt similarly to how I did, and also as I read what other older women had already written over the past few centuries. Inanimate frustrations and distrust took incisor shape in the mouths of Bell Hooks and Christina Rossetti and exciting professors. Then I spent time in another country and got bluntly angry again; then I calmed down and worked on collaborative theater project about making menstruation accessible (something we can talk about and something that can be funny as well as deeply scary, moving, sad) in which we told the younger theater girls that we were feminists and they said "But I just wonder like . .. why should it just be like WOMEN'S history that gets special attention??" and we shook our heads slightly and said, just hold on and keep your ears open.


Speaking of feminism... Can we talk about the new PBS documentary - "Makers: Women Who Made America"?? Incredible! It covers the entire women's right movement from the 1950's up to current women's role issues. You can watch it for free at the PBS website!!

miss buenos aires

@ohpioneer My aunt is in that! She founded 9to5, an organization for working women. Am going to cuddle up with the Internet this weekend and cheer her on.


@ohpioneer I saw it and enjoyed it but I also think it wasn't inclusive enough. Like, of course it mentioned how so much of feminism has always catered to the needs of middle class heterosexual white cisgendered women. But it didn't really do much about it, like making an effort to spend significant time on other women. I felt like for every "section" there were only a few asides, like, "Let's spend a few minutes to see what the lesbians and women of color were doing and experiencing at the same moment in history"--in a 3 hour documentary! Also, as it got closer to the present day, I felt like it tapered off very suddenly.


@ohpioneer oh my god! my friend is having a get-together tomorrow night so we can all watch it and eat food and cry together.



I loved it! Mostly because I love historical documentaries, anyways, but it was pretty well done (aside from what @yeah-elle mentioned). I got my fiance to watch, too, and I think it opened his eyes a bit. He's mostly on board with feminism, but there are finer points that he doesn't really get. I think watching this helped. :)


My mom never called herself a feminist in so many words, but she always has been I think? She got a degree in a male-dominated field, always spoke to men (including my dad) as a peer, and bought us girls (all 4 of us) Legos and Hot Wheels and Fischer-Teknik in addition to dolls and play kitchens, etc.

That being said, I think many people define "feminist" differently, so idk if I'm doing it right.


@rimy Would like to add, both of my parents were conservative, extra-religious Republicans growing up (my mom is still very religious but voted for Obama this time around, which impressed me) and my mom definitely believed that the woman should serve the man, or at least gave lip service to that effect. My dad is Not A Feminist (he doesn't talk smack about feminism often but his attitude toward women is pretty old-fashioned) but having 4 girls and zero boys might have made him a little more aware? Nah, not really actually.


@rimy And as for me, I think I've just been feminist from birth. Considering myself as a peer of men was naturally inherent in my being. I was super competitive with the little boys in my preschool - my preschool arch-enemy was a little guy named Sterling who I challenged for alpha position of the class regularly. That feeling of being equal has never left me. I detest being condescended to by man or woman and always have. I do get a weird housemaker-y satisfaction from baking/cooking shit for my boyfriend though and that messes with my head a little.


@rimy my mom definitely made me feel like i could do anything, be anything, and that i was not inferior to anyone.

much to my surprise, as an adult i learned that not only does my mom consider herself emphatically not a feminist, she thinks my tweenaged brother is smarter than me just by virtue of being a male. in retrospect, i wonder why i never wavered from seeing myself as equal to any man. maybe it was alex mack?


My friend is on this list :D


@tee I guess I'll tell my own feminism story while I'm here...

My parents (especially my dad) raised me to believe I could do or be whatever I wanted, be it an adventurer, a detective, a volcanologist or a pro soccer player (all things I wanted to be when I was little). I think I was really disappointed as a young girl to discover that the world didn't celebrate women who wanted to be strong and independent and brilliant. I officially became a feminist when I went to university and discovered that what I already was had a name.

happy go lucky scamp

@tee my dad was always the feminist, teaching me I could do whatever I wanted.
My mum still believes that I'll give up my career when I have children (no IF). Although she's got a lot better as she's got older. She's recently retrained and thanked me because she didn't think women could do that kind of thing but because I did she thought she could.

But yeah, my dad is awesome and I still kind of feel like I let him down by not being an engineering or a scientist.

Adult Footie Pajamas

I don't know that there was one moment in particular. My mother was a fierce feminist and never let me forget it. My father is the son of an army colonel who grew up playing sports and begin generally status-quo oriented, so he had some shitty ideas to unlearn. (Actually he still does.) But I watched my mother work on it for two decades, and I learned how to fight the good fight from that.


I was five when my mother and her friend told me I should let my little boy playmate (the son of my mother's friend) win once in a while because otherwise I'd damage his ego. And I was like, 'Dude, the whole world is looking after his ego. I guess it's just me looking after mine.'

/born this way.

Nicole Cliffe

@laurel GURL.


So when I was in elementary school I was in a softball team like most girls I grew up with. On year A League Of Their Own came out and as part of the promotions for the movie they had some of the ladies who had been in that baseball league come talk to us and be all GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING! YAY!

My dad was the team coach and he loves to tell the story of how apparently most of the girls on the team heard the speech and were all "Well why the fuck are they telling us this? No kidding we can do anything"

So I'll go with born feminist.

raised amongst catalogs

Whatever it was, it happened before I hit 2nd grade. We were all assigned an animal to write a report on, and mine was on monkeys. Unable to write an objectively scientific paper, my report included the following:
"The mother monkeys carry the babies everywhere with them. I think that the father monkeys should carry the babies sometimes, too."


Being an arrogant little shit basically from birth, when my experience didn't line up with feminine societal expectations/dictates i.e. I am good at math, I am sex obsessed, I am smarter than all these fucking boys, instead of thinking "man, there's something wrong with me," I concluded instead "Fuck that, there's something wrong with Y'ALL. I rule." This was late elementary school I think. So, thank you, inflated childhood sense of importance and self worth! You put me on the right track.

EDIT: I just remembered that in 1st grade I wanted to join the Boy Scouts because they did cooler stuff than Girl Scouts, and was outraged when I couldn't because that's discrimination. So, earlier then.


@hallelujah my mom (my girls scout troop leader) got around that by signing our troop up for all the Cub Scout events, like orienteering, she could get away with :)

Beatrix Kiddo

@Ophelia I was a Girl Scout and we did tons of outdoorsy activities, like orienteering and camping! Is that not standard?


@Beatrix Kiddo My girl scout troop SUCKED. All we did was practice saying no to drugs and selling cookies. Lame.

Beatrix Kiddo

@ghechr Boring. Mine was much, much cooler than my brother's Cub Scout troop.


@Beatrix Kiddo I think it really depends on the troop. We definitely went camping, rafting, etc, but the other troop in town did, like, makeup day at the mall, so.


@Beatrix Kiddo My Girl Scout troop was terrible. I was in it for a year, and we only did outdoors stuff once, when we went camping and the theme was "how to cook when you're camping". I don't think that was necessarily sexism, though, since we didn't do any other activities besides selling cookies, either. The leaders just really, really sucked.


@Beatrix Kiddo It depends on the moms leading the troop. Mine did its fair share of camping (only in lodges though) and hiking but most of the emphasis was on singing for the elderly and sharing things (and to be fair a good dose of Women Can Do Anything). So I totally also wanted to join the Cub Scouts cause they got to learn to tie knots and build fires and RACE TINY HOMEMADE RACECARS!


@ghechr We made things out of newspaper or soap, and once, after months of planning and a whole pile of parental consent and risk assessment forms, walked ten minutes to the chip shop. I got fed up and joined the boys, who set stuff on fire in the fields every week and went rafting.

Nicole Cliffe

I had that exact edition of "Our Bodies." I remember every single chapter. And my mom had an autographed copy of "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions," and my dad was a stay-at-home-dad, all of which helped. But, mostly, exposure to my Aunt Joanne, who is/was gay and running a women's shelter, and later running the local HIV/AIDS project, and later spending half a year volunteering at an AIDS orphanage in South Africa (and saving up for three years to be able to pay her own way), and now working in the field of open adoption and doing PEDICURES FOR THE ELDERLY in her "spare time" was the nail in the coffin. Women! They are amazing. Intersectionality! It is the only way. We must love one another or perish. (drops mic)

<3 u, amazing women.


@Nicole Cliffe My mother had this exact edition, and I read it for the dirty pictures and personal accounts of orgasms! Years later, she still referred to it when I had questions about things like the Pill, and I remember being very suspicious about how up-to-date the science was.


@falconet ^^^ Best typo of all time?

@Nicole Cliffe After a decade of seeing gynecologists to find out why my periods were so horrendous, a friend handed me a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves with the chapter on endometriosis bookmarked and said, "Read this. I think you have this." One ultrasound later, she was proved right. Women are in fact amazing and their love for you can save your life. Or at least your reproductive organs.


@laurel Heh - fixed because I couldn't let it stand, but yep, pretty much!


@falconet Dang it!


@Nicole Cliffe My (feminist, lesbian) mother had it on the shelf growing up. I think she said her sister in law gave it to her as a young woman and it was the first time she saw being gay presented in a positive light. As for me, I decided to try masturbation for the first time after reading the masturbation chapter. Thanks, OBOS!


@Nicole Cliffe I had the same edition too! I bought it at a flea market when I was a teenager. My parents weren't traditional, but they are pretty conservative, so it was my first exposure to feminism in action. (Just realized I have repressed memories of my work-at-home Dad's constant listening of Rush Limbaugh, which, in the Clinton area, was particularly packed with feminazi this and feminazi that.)


@falconet ME TOO. I was terrified/fascinated/aroused when I first found it, and looked at it in secret whenever I could. I still remember, word for word, some of the first-person anecdotes about sexual experiences, discovering sexuality, lesbianism, etc. It was my first erotica.
When I turned 18 my mom gave my a copy of the updated edition but I don't like it as much. It doesn't feel radical, just pink-ribbon-y, which is really disappointing to me because of the big-awakening-typ memories I have attached to it. I wish I could find our copy of the old edition..


When I said my prayers aloud at night, I ended them with "a-women" rather than amen because I didn't see why I had to pray to a man. I was three or four years old.

polka dots vs stripes

@gigglefest ....that is amazing.


Watching my highly educated, full-time-working mother do all the errands, chores, and dinners while my father watched TV with a beer, wondering why she was pissed off, made me a feminist pretty early on.

Ummm also probably why I'm single? Though I do know one or two happily married/living-with-their-partners feminists.


@iknowright Yeah, my mom was the hardworking full-time breadwinner and the only household chores my dad would lift a finger to help with had to involve power tools, motor oil, or the grill :/


@rimy Thirded. Argh. Still pissed at him.

Briony Fields

@iknowright This, too. My mom used to have meltdowns and my dad would console her and go right back to chillin on the sofa.


@rimy Yeah, my dad legit thought re-doing the porch (which granted, looked great!) was equal to one YEAR of everything she did. Like, I said that in arguments. One weekend of hard physical labor = one year of cooking, cleaning, child-rearing. Because it saved them money and hurt his knees.

@rimy, @martinipie, @Briony Fields: I'm a bit curious if you all are close to your dads now? I sort of inherited my mom's resentments, which sucks for our relationship, but is also sort of justified, I guess?


@iknowright No. I mean, he and my mother are still married, and I love him, but he is not a very open person emotionally. So on top of my anger towards him he's never been the sort of dad I could, I don't know, talk about boys with, or anything to do with emotions. I called him today and after the general "so how are you" conversation there was....nothing to talk about. He's kind of a blank, sometimes.

the roughest toughest frail

@iknowright Same here. My dad is much older and my mom comes from a very conservative background, so they tried to play it off as "this is how a household is run" rather than acknowledging how fucked up it all was/is.


@iknowright @martinipie No. I fought constantly with him growing up - big, dramatic fights with lots of nasty words on both sides. He was a prick to me when I was little - demanding respect without giving any in return. At first my mom had his back but resentments grew on her side over the years as she wised up to what a lazy/prickish guy he was. They're still married but fight frequently when they spend too much time together. I have a permanently damaged relationship with my dad that will probably never recover. My dad apologized to me for his mistakes in parenting last year out of the blue which meant a lot, but not much has changed in his behavior. I get sad when I see happy father/daughter relationships in movies and stuff - it's something I'm just now discovering is important and it's something I never really had. My dad's not the worst guy ever and there are things about him that I love, even interests that we share, but I don't think I've ever kissed/hugged him or opened up to him about anything personal. It's sad and it has had a huge negative impact on the relationships I have had with boyfriends.


@rimy Oh, God, the boyfriend fallout...it totally affects me to, in that I have mostly pined after or felt best with guys who were distant and silent and inexpressive because I wanted to prove I could get some love out of them, whereas guys who basically offered me their hearts on platters I ran away from because I just didn't know how to handle that. (This is of course broadly speaking and plenty of the distant guys were great and many of the platter dudes were...not great in the end!)
It's kind of annoying that my dad has had such an effect on my man choices, it's like, at least stay out of this part, please!


@iknowright Also the porch re-doing = SAME. EXACT. THING. He was great at building stuff, spent a whole year and a half building a back deck in tiny, tiny increments with a three-month recovery break when he slightly twisted his pinky. This horrid ghastly injury apparently gave him full leave to sit in his armchair reading trash sci-fi novels, occasionally issuing an edict from on high to one of his daughters to fetch him another glass of sweet tea. If we delayed in coming to his beverage/snack rescue we would get yelled at for disrespecting "the head of the household". If any of us showed anything other than total deference to his dignified offense, the yelling would escalate into a top-volume 3 hour long lecture compendium of our faults in their entirety which we had to listen to or risk corporal punishment. All this while my mom slaved away at a demanding 60-hours/week job an hour's commute time away.

God, this is fucking depressing.


@martinipie I always run away from heart-on-a-platter guys, too - probably because I don't like opening up about myself (haha not that you'd know it from my comments on this site!) or putting too much trust in other people. Luckily my current boyfriend made me see how crazy I was being and I'm really glad I stayed with him. He does equal amounts of chores, pulls more than his weight, and treats me to nice things when he can. I have learned to accept his gifts/open affection/trust and I love him. I still have crazy moments where I am so afraid he's going to morph into my dad. When I'm angry or depressed sometimes I even say so to his face. It cuts him deeply that I would think that about him and he doesn't forget it after I apologize for lashing out... He just keeps it quietly tucked away but I know he thinks about it sometimes.

Sorry Hairpin this has become my therapy session apparently. Speaking of which, I've never been to a therapist but I probably should.


@iknowright I think my dad was better than your dads sound with roles, but he grew up in a conservative household and really, really struggled with trying to be a different kind of father. He volunteered at school, took me fishing, had serious conversations with me, and tried to help out with chores. When I was very little, my mom made more money than him, and he took care of us during the day while working nights.

He still didn't carry an equal share of the house/child responsibilities as my full-time working mother though. And he couldn't see it. I think legitimately. They would get in fights where he would be like "what do you want, I did the dishes yesterday, I'm helping! my father never washed a dish in his life!" and she would be like "mm hmm, but I emptied the dishwasher, got the kids ready for school, picked them up after school, made dinner, did the dishes tonight, did three loads of laundry and read the kiddos a bedtime story".

It still complicates our relationship today on occasion, I think usually in ways that he doesn't expect. Recently, I was talking about taking a solo vacation and he said he wouldn't allow his daughter to do that. We had a huge fight. He really doesn't like when I disagree with him and gets very "I am the Patriarch! You will obey me!" in tone. I have huge sympathy for how his world has changed, but I'm also not cool with orders/being patronized.


*A dude chimes in. I'll admit it: I fucked it up for a little while. I was an adolescent shit-head, but then I witnessed how awful high school dicks were and got back in line with how my mom and big sister raised me, which, they did a good job--could've justifiably been more heavy-handed but were confidently chill.


When I was 5, we moved, and the lady that was moving out of the house we moved into left behind a magnet that said, "a woman's place is in the house. And the Senate." I apparently got really mad about the first part, until my mom explained what the House and Senate are.


when I was 7 (I think) and we'd just had the 84 olympics and I wanted to be a pole-vaulter SO BAD. and my mom said that sounded fantastic! but she didn't know where I could go to learn how to do it because I was a girl and the stupid world thought our centers of gravity were all wonky and therefore we couldn't pole vault.


I was skating at a roller rink when the DJ wanted a show of hands to see who wanted to hear 311's "Down". I raised my hand, to which he said, "I was talking to the -boys-" in this little condescending tone of voice. I was so mad. I'll request whatever the fuck I want! I was 9.

I'm still confused as to why he thought only boys could like 311. What a weird thing to say.


@large__marge Oh, it's because sexism is irrational.


I remember being pissed about injustice everywhere but I only became a feminist in the 1st grade, when my parents enrolled me in a posh school. None of the mothers had outside jobs. My grandmother freaked out and told me, "Listen! In this family, the women all work. Because we know that men die, and you can only rely on yourself."

Gulp. Thanks, grandma! (She was a total gem amongst grandmas and I am so lucky to have known her.)


@geek_tragedy My mother did a lot of that too. She grew up, along with her 6 brothers and sisters, in a single parent household headed by my grandmother. She liked to use pop culture to point out why women had know how to fix everything and have job experience, because you can't depend on anyone else being around forever.

She took us to see Erin Brockavitch in theaters (R movie) when we were in third grade to teach us a lesson about the difficulties of single motherhood, and afterward told us that we always had to have a job. I was like 8 years old. My little sister was 6.

Hot Doom

I think the realisation hit when I was 5, and in the bathtub after my 2nd Little Mermaid viewing at the theater. I was flopping around pretending to have a tail and babbling about wanting to be a mermaid and changing my name to "Ariel" and my mom was like "nah, it's really sexist and that bothers me". Cue the "but Mommy...what??" (also induced by shock that she didn't think this was the greatest, most entertaining and painfully romantic movie ever). My mom's reply was "It is sexist because they imply that Ariel needed a man to come and save her because she's helpless. I don't want you to think you need help from a man to do anything." I, being a contrarian from go, said "ugh, Mommy, I want a man to save me" and pouted and flopped around for a while longer. I hated agreeing with my mom, and continued to publicly disagree/ internally agree with her on this, the Beatles and Indian food for another 5 years until I gave up and just accepted that the patriarchy is bullshit and the Beatles and Indian food are great.


@Hot Doom Oh, I totally remember my mom talking about hating the message of the Little Mermaid, and how Ariel abandons her entire life to be with some guy. Moms: creating baby feminists since always.


@Hot Doom Yeah our mob loooooves Mermaid Princess but we ARE going to have to have a talk about the themes when they're a bit older.

Right now their biggest concern is that right after her tail gets changed to legs, she is not wearing socks.

dj pomegranate

@iceberg To be fair, socks WOULD make the transition a little more comfortable.


@iceberg My parents refused disney for a while, but my grandma took me instead and they gave up.

They always discussed the films with me afterwards, and I think they help form my SUPER MEDIA CRITICISM mind.

Hot Doom

@iceberg yeah I think that's a good phase to be in, where the serious problems with the story are lack of socks and how unrealistic that is. I wish I had had that a moment longer in some ways, because then I just became the kid who would put the kibosh on the girly fun saying "Y'know Disney is real sexist, right?"


@iceberg I was going to say, Belle is the best Disney princess because you know, independent, loves books, not just interested in looks, but never mind, just go with Miyazaki for awesome animated girls. CHIHIRO 4EVA.


@Bittersweet I favor Jasmine. She is definitely problematic in some ways from a feminist standpoint (the skimpy outfit, for example), but her mini speech where she angrily tells all the guys, "I am not a prize to be won!" is one of my favorite Disney lady moments.


I was raised super liberally and definitely believed in feminism and called myself a feminist, but it took reading about and seeing rape culture in action for me to be like HOLY FUCKING SHIT, I AM A FEMINIST!!!!!!!!!!!

And then I started reading a lot about it and getting into theory and seeing how white feminism can be shitty to women of color and I started feeling weird about the word but I still call myself a feminist, and am always, always the one saying that shit isn't funny to my friends. I was the only person pissed of at Seth McFarlane's Oscar bullshit, and I felt so uncomfortable.


I don't even remember not being a feminist. Like, my grandpa has stories of toddler me yelling at adults for saying girls couldn't do things that boys could or that girls should be quiet. I honestly have a hard time imagining not being feminist/womanist.

Beatrix Kiddo

@heroicdestinysquad This is how I feel, too. I don't think I ever had a single moment of awareness about it. It's just how I've always been.


@heroicdestinysquad That's so cool. Inherently badass.

Yankee Peach

When I was about 9, I told my father I would like to play center field for the Boston Red Sox. He said "Girls don't do that." I was stunned. For a 9 year old, I had a pretty good throwing arm. About 20 years later, I discovered my jackass male co-worker who spent most of the day playing MUDs and MOOs was making 10K more a year than me. I had to go and face down the (female) Senior VP of my department and ask why there still was this kind of pay inequity in the 21st century. The battle, apparently, is never over.

Briony Fields

@Yankee Peach Wow, I am impressed! I'd have been terrified. What did your Senior VP say to that?


@Yankee Peach Mad respect. I hope they corrected that ASAP!

Blackwatch Plaid

When I was 7, I gave a McDonald's drive-through worker a long lecture about why there shouldn't be "boys toys" and "girls toys". Needless to say, I got my Hot Wheels and not some dumb Barbie.


@Blackwatch Plaid Yes! But also, sometimes if you were crabby enough, you could get BOTH toys. Not that I ever did that...


I stayed in Girl Guides for probably a little too long, and there's actually a badge you can earn, as a Girl Guide, for like Canadian history or "our heritage" or something. Anyway, I spent a few hours of my 10-year-old life sitting on a gym floor and listening to stories about THE FAMOUS FIVE. Which, if you're not well-versed in Canadian history, is the group of women who spearheaded the campaign to recognize women as "persons" under the law. And I guess it had never occurred to me that there was a time when women were not considered, you know, people with rights. So that was pretty cool.

Shortly after that I went to Ottawa with my family for a funeral and we stopped by Parliament Hill, where there's a set of larger-than-life statues commemorating the Famous Five (they're having a tea party -- it's so rad and also kind of weird?). And my ten/eleven year-old self was SO STOKED to see these women I learned about being recognized in such a prominent way, and I guess that was a huge source of inspiration for me and still is.

Even if Nellie McClung was really in favour of sterilization of native women.

Coal Tar Epoxy

@chnellociraptor There's a Famous Five Challenge now! It is awesome and the crest holds a place of honour on my camp blanket.


My mom. My mom made me a feminist. <3 you, mom.


When I was in kindergarten, and some (female) early learning specialists took me and the other "smart" kid in the class for some special testing of our smartness. They didn't know either of us but kept saying, "now siniichulok, John will probably be better at this than you are, boys usually are, but you should still try," in particular with some spatial/drawing testing stuff, which I knew I was especially good at (considered the "best" in the class, for what it's worth, but they seemed determined to believe that he was better at it). I was torn between wanting to please them and wanting to prove them wrong, and eventually I started crying, but it always made me angry that people would automatically think a boy was smarter than a girl without knowing either one of them.

This was also probably instrumental in my decision twelve years later to attend a women's college....


@siniichulok oh my godddddddd why would they SAY that to you?!


@siniichulok Is there any chance this was a child psychologist studying gender priming? I mean, sick and irresponsible still, but otherwise, how does that person sleep at night?

ETA: Poorly, I hope.


@iceberg Ha! I don't know....I guess it was just 1983, in a not-at-all-liberal area? The more I think about it, the more LOLWTF?! I find it.


@adorable-eggplant oh my G-d, I never thought of that! That would indeed be sick. They told us that they wanted to see us do some special things because we were the "advanced" kids in the class, but who knows what their actual agenda was....


@siniichulok Sorry to plant that seed of suspicion. I was did a bunch of volunteer psych tests as an undergrad (to get out of writing a final paper) and realized that the constant of that experience is learning that they will always be lying about something. One test, they told me I had to give a speech that they would film, but first I had to play a videogame. The speech never happened: they just wanted to see how fast I could click buttons while stressed.


@siniichulok Yay women's colleges! But that's awful.


@adorable-eggplant True, but if this WAS a psych test, it was a horribly irresponsible one. When working with a minor, you always have to get parental consent for the child to participate, and then after the test is over, you're ALWAYS supposed to debrief people and explain what was going on. Heck, before the experiment, you have to tell people the possible risks involved, including emotional distress.

Of course, I am not as up on history of ethics in psychology as perhaps I should be. It could be that in 1983 things were sometimes still being done a little less ethically.

polka dots vs stripes

There's a few things that influenced different aspects of my liberalism/feminism:

-Growing up in an incredibly liberal Roman Catholic church. My mom was involed in a social justice group there, regularly talked about the priest vs nun BS, advocated that God could be a woman (she often subsituted "she" for "he" in the Our Father, among other prayers). Yup: 10 years of Catholic School + Confirmation made me a raging feminist liberal.

-In Girl Scouts, my leader (well, my mom) talked to us about the Taliban and how they didn't let girls go to school, and what local women risked in order to educate their girls. It made me conscious of how lucky I am, and that the need for feminism never goes away as long as any woman in the world does not have equal rights.

-Dating Mr. Polka Dots. I started out as a moderate, he started out as a crazy liberal feminist (thanks to his mom!)....the positions have been reversed. IE, he did not find Seth MacFarland to be TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS like I did, just stupid.

-Watching my dad be completely supportive of trips to Seneca Falls, vintage Suffragette postcards, generally letting us be girly but also play sports. I was never told being a girl was a reason I couldn't do something.

Um, WTF Interrobang

When my mom told me about the time she wanted a loan for a color TV and the bank made my dad sign for it, even though she was employed. Blew my mind!

dj pomegranate

@Um, WTF Interrobang Man, whenever I hear a woman say, "I am not a feminist..." my FIRST THOUGHT is, "So...you're cool with someone else controlling your money?" Because THAT IS HOW IT WAS not so very long ago!


@Um, WTF Interrobang Last year, a man selling insurance rang my house and asked to speak to my husband. I said that wouldn;t be necessary, as - he didn't let me finish, and asked again. I said we were both capable of making financial decisions as we shared our finances. He insisted. I hung up.


(Of course, if he'd LET me finish I'd have told him my husband worked for an insurance company, so no deal he could offer would have been better than his staff discount.)

Um, WTF Interrobang

@Anninyn OMG. Who are these people?? I used to work on campaigns and spoke to so many women who told me "I don't know who I'm voting for. Let me ask my husband." I died inside each and every time.


@Um, WTF Interrobang I went with my mom when she opened a checking account in her own name. As a married woman. In 1973.

Not that I understood what was going on at the time (I was three, for heaven's sake), but now I get it.


@Um, WTF Interrobang urrgh urrrgh my soul

I mean, your VOTE, your VOTE that is yours and the point of it is that you decide yourself.

The thing that gets me about most sexism is it is so obviously silly, illogical and bizarre. The stuff people do, say and think! I don't know how they think the species could ahve got that far if they genuinely think HALF of it are so useless and ineffectual.

Springtime for Voldemort

@dj pomegranate As someone who for a very long time was an I'm Not A Feminist But, and still has lots of issues identifying as a feminist, that line wouldn't have really convinced me. Asking me what my critiques were of feminism in a non-judgmental tone, and if you agreed with those critiques responding with "yeah, I think that's a super valid critique" would have. But I don't think the I'm Not A Feminist But thing is about women being pro-sexism or anything.

dj pomegranate

@Springtime for Voldemort I actually agree...that line would not have convinced me in my pre-feminism days, either, and it's not something that usually works if you're out to win an argument.

I think that's my first thought because having to ask a husband's permission for money was something that really astounded me when I first heard about it. I had had *no idea* how recently women had won the right to open their own bank accounts.


@Um, WTF Interrobang I had a salesperson come to my door a few months ago and ask for my dad. I'm 38. I told him, I'm sorry, he lives in a different state. He looked confused, but then asked for my husband. I told him, sorry, don't have one, he's stuck with me. He then started to call me "Miss". So, I stop him, tell him I prefer Ms. He rolls his eyes and deliberately pronounces "Miss" at the beginning and ending of every sentence. So, I shut the door on him. I don't have to put up with that.


@Um, WTF Interrobang OHHHHH MY GODSSSSSSSS *despairs for humanity*

My grandfather, who was Not A Feminist, Not Even Remotely (my grandmother embodied the very sweet postwar housewife image), was of the opinion that it was none of his business who my grandmother voted for, and he wanted every wife to vote independent of her husband because women were half of the country and he fought in WWII for the rights of everyone, not just men.


It came from my mother.

But I can think of two incidents that cemented it.

1: When I was a little girl I liked dinosaurs. I was bought lots of plastic dinosaur toys and the like. One day I was talking to a little boy who told me -
"Girls can't like dinosaurs."
This was the first time I'd been told in actual words that I couldn't do something because I was a girl. I thought this was stupid.
"Girls can like anything they want to," I said.

2: A little older. I was invited to a Pirates and Princesses party. I didn't want to be a princess, so I went as a Pirate. Everyone (even some adults) told me there was no such thing as a girl pirate. But little did they know, I'd just been bought a book about Pirates that told me about Anne Bonny and Mary Read. So I told everyone about them.

I have spent a lot of my life perpetrating what I call 'subtle' feminism, in that whenever someone says a woman can't/shouldn't do something, or implies that 'female' is inherently negative, I just ask simple questions of them 'Really? Who says? Why?' until they wrap themselves up in logical knots and then I hit them with a truth bomb.

(Obviously I've been hit by worse examples of the bullshit sexism we live with every day since then, but they made me a baby feminist, and I don't think I ever wavered, though I went through an unpleasant stage of loathing other women, especially 'girly' women when I was in my mid to late teens. I grew out of it, though.)

Beatrix Kiddo

@Anninyn The subtle thing works really well. I also use it when people tell sexist jokes, because if you innocently pretend you just want them to explain it they get embarrassed and flustered.


@Beatrix Kiddo My husband is much more agressive, but he gets away with it because he's a man (rrrrage). What he does is just goes to the extreme of whatever they've just said, and jsut watches them as they attempt to stammer out that's not what they meant. Works like a charm.

But mock innocence/not understanding works really well if you can just repress your natural rage. Sadly, it works really well BECAUSE of sexism but I say use their nonsense against them.

dj pomegranate

@Anninyn "use their nonsense against them" is my new life motto.


@dj pomegranate I've used it my whole life. I get all stammery and cry-ey when I try to argue passionately, so for me, it's easier to just use their assumption to weaken them.

They think I'm stupid? Use that to go around them and above them. Someone who underestimates you isn't watching you.
They like to mansplain? Give them the opportunity to do so, let them tie their own noose.
They think some things are frivolous? Means they can't see me use those things to change the world. (I'm doing that with my writing, I hope)

Shouty feminism is also valid and great, but I can't do it. I'll leave it up to women who can, and I'll back it up by weakening the foundations. Slowly but surely, like water.


@Beatrix Kiddo I need to learn to do that. Ripping people's heads off as my eyes shoot out laser beams is beginning to get me a reputation.


@Mingus_Thurber No, see, if you shoot lasers and me and @Beatrix Kiddo innocently ask them to explain AT THE SAME TIME they will probably crumble into the pit of their own stupidity


@Anninyn Also Ching Shih, who was arguably the most powerful pirate of all time. Lady was a boss.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Growing up Catholic and then growing a brain of my own, by about age 8. I'd look at my mom after a homily and ask why the Bible thinks it's OK to say that women need to bow to their husbands, etc. Then, later on, my first year of high school, my Catholic youth group leader said we ladies had to be careful of what we wear so as not to rile up the boys. I immediately called bullshit, told him it's not women's fault men can't control themselves, and left. (I was also dating his son at the time. Didn't quite work out.)


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I used to agree with the nonsense of "be careful what you wear so you don't rile up the boys." It SOUNDED like it might be right, and everyone else seemed to think it was true. But years later, I became aware that 1) there are plenty of boys capable of not necessarily getting "riled up" over a woman's clothing choices and 2) that the boys were never taught a similar edict to be careful what they wore so they wouldn't get the women riled up, which was dumb, because it seemed to assume that girls didn't actually have sexy thoughts about guys, and any teenage girl could tell you that wasn't true. Utter crap.


Reading these comments makes me all teary. I heart you, sisters!

I don't remember ever not being feminist. Mom grew up with two brothers, was active in sports, and did all sorts of things in Alaska in the early '60's, like butchering moose, that women weren't supposed to do. Dad wasn't and isn't actively feminist, but he never said or implied that I couldn't do something on account of being a girl.

My big feminist, oh hai theory, whatcha got goin' on there awakening was reading Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology when I was 18, in 1988. It was such a paradigm shift that I wandered around for two or three days feeling drunk.

I'll skip over the difficulties I had with integrating the realization that institutionalized sexism and racism are things that still exist, all the trouble I got into as a newbie activist, and my descent into hell (aka being a corporate wife). Now I'm past forty, feminism is ingrained in my self, and I still retain enough pissed-off-edness to call people out on stupid, sexist shit. Sometimes loudly.

Oh, and I have that edition of OBOS. And the *first* edition, a huge score at the used book store.

*Edited to add: SCIENCE FICTION. My Mom read SF during the Golden Years and passed the love of all things SFy to me--and that, I think, was key in my development as a thinker. I got to see all sorts of women doing all sorts of things, and there was always something new to discover in the magazines we picked up on Sundays. Oh, and the OZ books! Dorothy was much more feminist and humanist than she's given credit for in the movie.


@Mingus_Thurber My mum had TONS of feminist literature around the house and when I developed my love for fantasy and scifi my aunt got me a load of both of those published by the womens press.

I do remember reading OLD scifi and wondering why, in 2350-something, women were still staying home even though they had robot housekeepers.


@Anninyn Hm! I never read anything about women staying home with robot housekeepers, which makes me wonder if maybe Mom steered me toward the more progressive stuff. I *do* remember one story about a singer who's remade as a robot (can't remember the title, sorry) and her awakening to what her life means at that point, and what she's lost and gained, and how brain-stretching that was for me at age 8.

Strangely, my folks were/are very weird about talking about sex. I never got the "facts of life" talk; my one sex-talk with Mom was the night before I got married: "Don't get an IUD. I hated mine." Into the breach rode Heinlein! Crappy gender stereotypes ahoy, but a good introduction on the fluidity of sexuality.


@Anninyn Read Herland! Best old sci-fi by a mile.


@Mingus_Thurber I was put off Heinlein by the book where Lazarus Long travels back in time and sexes his own mother. As well as his two, opposite sex, teenage clones.

I think my dad had a load of trashy pulp sci-fi around and as they had no rules about what I SHOULD read I read everything. But in a lot of the books the man was out having an adventure and the woman was staying at home waiting for him even though she had a house that kept itself and she didn't have a job. I wondered what she did all day. Did she just sit at home, twiddling her thumbs, thinking about him?

It's like they couldn't imagine a life for a woman that involved actually having the adventure HERSELF.


@Anninyn I was put off Heinlein by the one where the female astronaut has to get permission from her husband to go on the space journey.


@iceberg Yikes! I don't think we had that one!

Fucks sake Heinlein


@Anninyn Like I said, crap for gender roles, but great for exploring what sexuality means.

I think it was "Podkayne of Mars" or one of RHH's short stories that had me questioning, to Mom, why the girls in his stories always ended up realizing that marriage and babies were the best way to go. She said something along the lines of, "Well, honey, he hadn't grown up yet when he wrote those."


@Mingus_Thurber This is a little late, but I wonder if you're talking about a James Tiptree story--maybe "The Girl Who Was Plugged In"? If so, your mom is awesome, you are awesome, and you should read Julie Phillips's James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon for maximum feminism/sci-fi feelings.

Briony Fields

I was always a rah-rah feminist in title, but I didn't come to realize the true subtleties of discrimination against women until I was in an abusive relationship, sadly. Then all the shades of misogyny in our culture came into view that I hadn't noticed before. Now I see that shit EVERYWHERE.

dj pomegranate

@Briony Fields I was trying to think of how to say this: "I didn't come to realize the true subtleties of discrimination against women until I was in an abusive relationship, sadly."

I was aware of feminism growing up, but it was always poo-pooed. (Oh hay, conservative Christian culture!) At about age 25, I read The Beauty Myth while dating my now-ex and remember trying to have a conversation with him about it, because it blew my mind. He shut down the conversation at almost every level, but I couldn't un-see what that book had helped me see! I later broke up with him and it was only in the immediate aftermath that I discovered that feminism had WORDS for his misogyny and emotional abuse! Feminism was trying to help me!

Now I see that shit everywhere.

Briony Fields

@dj pomegranate Props to The Beauty Myth! I am reading it right now, for the first time!

Abuse is terrible, and I'm glad you were able to find your voice against it. Honestly, I wonder if I'd still be excusing bad male behaviour today if I hadn't been through my own abusive experience. Sometimes it really takes that push to the edge to see what's truly going on.

You are awesome. Carry on with your bad self!

dj pomegranate

@Briony Fields I think it would be interesting for me to re-read the Beauty Myth now, as an older/wiser/more informed/actual feminist. When I read it the first time, I had literally no feminist vocabulary. Every single concept was new. (Ironically, I only read it because my then-ex was very politically active and had met Naomi Wolf as she was signing her new political book. He was going on and on about what an amazing activist she was, so I decided to check out her work. Joke's on him.)

Three cheers to YOU for being awesome! It really takes guts to get out and grow in self-awareness (and misogyny-awareness), and I'm so glad you did. Rah-rah feminism!


I think Anne Fine's books (like Bill's New Frock!) had a hand in my becoming a left-wing liberal type. Also, Lisa Simpson. ("'When I get married, I'm keeping my own name!' Hmm ... maybe that should be 'If I choose to get married' ...")


Marion Zimmer Bradley and Robin McKinley started it all. Elementary school. Gender studies class in college made it easier to articulate my beliefs.


@minijen Robin McKinley is THE BEST. I'm feeling a little conflicted about MZB, but I reread The Blue Sword at least once a year.


@minijen Oh, I forgot about that! I read (and loved) The Hero and the Crown when I was ten (and young/oblivious enough not to figure out that Aerin and Luthe were having sex), and I didn't realize until years later what an unusual book it was, gender-role-wise.


@siniichulok Actually, after reading The Hero And The Crown, I made this rule for myself that I would never read a book for fun unless it had a) a well-rounded female main character and/or b) a female main or almost-main character who did all the interesting things that the male main character did. This eliminated a lot of the classics for me, but I still had a good time.


@minijen Add Tamora Pierce to the list and you have my childhood.


@SarcasticFringehead - Why the conflict? I'm convinced my reading material in my formative years made me a better person. Loved all the ladies of SF/F, but these two were my favorite. I will definitely check out Tamora Pierce, thanks!


@stonefruit Oh man, I actually hadn't heard of that. It was more that I was rereading some of her Darkover series, and there were some that were definitely feminist (if a little prescriptive and heavy-handed) but there were a few instances that I didn't love.

In the first book (at least in the series world; I don't know about publication order), a bunch of people crash-land on the planet, and within a few months all the (totally smart, professional, astronaut) women are happily wearing skirts and having babies and realizing motherhood is truly the greatest calling (not that I'm saying it isn't, but it's not for everybody).

Then in another one of the books, this guy ends up in a different dimension (as you do), and he has sex with his other self's wife, I guess to see if she'd notice he was a different guy. Which she obviously does, but is not nearly as pissed about as I would be.

So she's not banned from my readings lists or anything, but those were disappointing to see books by someone who influenced the feminist development of so many people.


I guess I should thank my mom for eschewing gender norms and dressing me as a G.I. Joe for Halloween when I was a little lass of three.

Quick Brown Fox

I've been a vocal feminist about forever, and when I was 18, someone asked me how that came to be. It's an interesting question, because I feel like I just always was a feminist. Like my mom, and dad, and grandparents are feminists. The idea that all people are equal, regardless of gender or race or religion or sexuality, was just always there. I have an amazeballs family. Sorry for the brag, but I'm just always so very lucky to have been born to them.

Faintly Macabre

@Quick Brown Fox Yeah, I wish I had a cool story about my childhood badassery, but I was just born/raised one. And like you, I am so grateful to have the parents that I do and have escaped the pain/struggles I've seen caused by other parents' nonsense. I wore pretty gender-neutral clothes, and while I had a huge doll collection, I also had a lot of Tonka trucks and Legos and was obsessed with pocket knives and surviving in the wilderness. (I don't mean that any of these things are actually more boyish/girlish, just that my parents let me play with all of them!) I popped the heads off my sister's Barbies, but that was more because I'm morbid than from any feminist rebellion.

My mom was also the boss of most things at home despite working 50+ hour weeks, so I never had the idea that women needed to be guided or sheltered by their husbands.

To check, I bugged my mom on gChat:
"Cause you have a mom who is a strong, kick ass mama babba" (her weird word of the day)
(I ask for more details, if she and my dad taught us to be feminists)
"Where else would you have learned it?"


I think we *are* all born as little feminists, because I remember from a very young age feeling confused/affronted when it was suggested that girls couldn't do the same things as boys. I also grew up in a Korean-American household, and have always found it hard to accept the deference to men and boys that is generally expected. I made it known to my parents from a very young age that I helped in the kitchen because I *wanted* to help my mom and insisted that my brother pitch in as well.

Sad story though: last summer, I was on a weekend getaway with some friends and friends of friends, when a girl declared, "I just don't like to see men fail." The implication being that it didn't bother her to see women fail.


Please everyone keep bragging away, because I love these stories.


Definitely my parents - my mom was the breadwinner (a teacher and later union president) and my dad was the stay at home parent and the better cook. My mom had also gone to Berkeley in the 70s; she didn't shave and she didn't wear makeup, which I think embarrassed me when I was a young teen but I grew to understand it. I remember that she insisted on going by "Ms [Lastname]" instead of Mrs. when I was in elementary school - which I think she still does, but maybe not as stridently, possibly because she'd been working in an alternative school and her students called her by her first name. (She's currently a union president for the second time, yay Mom!)

I also had a copy of "Stories for Free Children" published by Ms Magazine.

Pseudo Pseudonym

@Quadrophenia Oh first name schools, I never called my teachers by their last names until I got to college. I loved my super liberal (though very privileged) independent schools. Feminism was a default setting but people called bullshit on attempts to out-liberal someone just as quickly as on sexism.


I can't really pinpoint when it all started, but I do know that it goes waaaaay back. I know for a fact I pitched a mighty fit in the first grade because during recess, the boys wanted to play soccer and exclude me -- this epic fit-pitching resulted in me playing goalie and getting called "girl" instead of my name because I was the only girl playing, but damnit, I got to play.

My mother's always been the kind of woman that insists you can do whatever the hell you want to do so long as you stick your mind to it and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and my grandmothers on both sides are just the same. So I think I've got a good set of role models inside of my family, let alone the ones I've found along the way outside of my bloodlines.


Hell, I only ever knew that women WEREN'T feminists when I was in college and someone I knew had one of those "I'm a feminist because" posters" and someone else asked her in this contrary tone "You're a feminist?" I was so confused that anyone wouldn't be one. Yay to growing up in Berkeley.


The more I think about it, the more I realize that my mom was totally a stealth feminist. We've only recently started actually talking about grownup stuff like politics, but she always pushed more gender-neutral toys and books, and it was always taken for granted that girls could do whatever they wanted. So that was pretty sweet.

Judith Slutler

Frankly...? Watching my grandpa treat my grandma like shit. Watching all of my many fundamentalist Christian high school friends internalize enormous amounts of shit about their bodies. wondering why it had to be that way for all those lovely ladies. 7th grade sex ed where we were told it was "a matter of opinion" whether or not birth control is abortion. IN PUBLIC SCHOOL y'all.

I'm so glad that my mom always had my back in terms of leaving her feminist magazines around and suggesting I do a school report on Bella Abzug and things.


@Emmanuelle Cunt My dad volunteered for Bella Abzug in his young activist days. I've always been pretty proud.


Part Princess Leia being amazing and part my parents teaching me solid life lessons (probably more my parents really, but Princess Leia stands out more, oh the fickleness of children). I was definitely the kid in high school getting into intense debates with the right to life kids when they brought in their disingenuous flyers with pictures of dead babies.


I only took on the title in high school when a friend explained what it meant to me, but even before that, I was totally a feminist. At the 3rd grade Christmas pageant we were all supposed to be angels or shepherds, I was the only girl shepherd. I also picked a lot of dudely/bitchin lady halloween costumes like the Phantom of the Opera or the Statue of Liberty. I remember getting mad when the teachers/principal would ask the boys to put away the chairs or tables as if I wasn't stronger than half of them. I've never heard either of my parents use the word feminist, but they always expected my sisters and me to do things like mow the lawn, hang out the window to put up the awnings, and move all sorts of heavy shit. There was no, "girls can't do that" bullshit in my house. Not that it was a bastion of liberal politics, mind you, but my family definitely has a long line of sisters doing it for themselves.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@MarianTheLibrarian I grew with only sisters - five of us total - and we were expected to do plenty of manual chores around the house. My parents valued our individuality, which was why I found Catholicism's gender hierarchy so confusing.


Totally forgot about the boys being the only ones asked to put chairs up! Them and their stunted-growth arms couldn't even handle our more rapidly developing biceps.


This reminds me of the excellent Thelma & Louise article from last week. It definitely sticks out in my mind as one of the movies I watched as a preteen that made me think something about the way the world treats women was very fucked up.

My mom (a feminist) also gave me an excellent puberty/sex ed book when I was 10 or 11 called What's Happening to my Body? that explained abortion in a very calm and rational way and I know that was a huge influence on me when I later developed my identity as a feminist.


It always frustrated me that there was a time when I absolutely hedged at the term, "feminist". Growing up, I was a feminist in action - totally believed girls and boys were equal (with something of a vengeance, I might add) played every sport under the moon, dressed "like a boy/however I fucking wanted", etc. But until I was, christ, 19 or 20 maybe? I was uncomfortable with the term. Even though my parents had never made me feel like feminism was a bad thing, I was still raised in the catholic church, and boy did that fuck me up. The catholic church! Not big on women's rights! (My very intense, very fast loss of religion was what allowed me to finally be proud to be the biggest fucking feminist I could possibly be) Needless to say, I will now rant to anyone within 50 yards of me about how frustrating it is to me when people say they aren't feminists (thanks for perpetuating this bullshit Taylor Swift and Katy Perry!) and how mad it makes me that there is still this unstintingly large set of young women who have had it beaten into them that "feminist" means "man-hating harpies who hate babies". I think I have managed to convince my 20-year-old brother than he needs to be fucking cool with calling himself a feminist, which makes me feel like I've made up for some of my youthful ignorance, so there's that.

Miss Maszkerádi

@katiemcgillicuddy In my humble opinion, it doesn't matter so much what a person calls themself as long as their actions are good. Like, I often balk at the term feminist for myself personally, because I've had enough unpleasant experiences with the Hardcore Feminist Activists in my life/college that I just don't want to get dragged into all the politics and mandatory shouting of it all. (Harpies? No. Frequent assertions that one MUST be an activist or one is a default tool of the bad guys? Often, in my experience.) I don't have the stomach for politics or the energy to be an activist in a movement whose style of rhetoric often annoys the shit out of me. Doesn't mean I don't demand myself and other women be treated with respect, and do my best to treat all people with equal dignity in my own life.


@Countess Maritza I think my problem is how bastardized the word "feminist" seems at times, and I really wish it wasn't. It's one of those few cases where I actually do like labeling myself, out of a sense of community I guess? There are always going to be extreme jackass feminists who just make the rest of us look like assholes, but I wish that they didn't have such a negative effect. I guess I just wish we could fully "take back" the term feminist. If that makes sense? I do understand your point, and I didn't mean to sound too harsh.

Miss Maszkerádi

@katiemcgillicuddy You sound exactly the opposite of harsh! Completely legit reasoning on your part that has arrived at a different conclusion than mine, that's all. <3


@Countess Maritza And this is exactly why we all need to stay away from every other comment section on the face of the internet. We actually deign to show each other respect. :)

Miss Maszkerádi

@katiemcgillicuddy SERIOUSLY. I don't know what's in the water here.


@Countess Maritza I know what you mean, but I think it's important to keep a word meaning what it means. I mean, languages evolve and all that, but when there's a word like feminist that was coined to serve a very specific language gap and we allow it to start meaning something else without replacing the original word with a new one that communicates the same idea, it's kind of a problem. I definitely think feminist, with its original meaning, is a word that should be retained.

conniving little shit

How many of the people involved in all of these discussions are non-white? There's backlash re: feminism among woc (class and race-based critiques etc) - just wondering if it's a small section of woc or... if everyone is white bc of all the feminism love going on in this post


@conniving little shit I'm white, yes. I definitely accept that mainstream feminism needs to sort its shit the FUCK OUT when it comes to issues of race, and needs to delete the nasty as fuck transphobia that's crept in.

But even with that I still think it's a valuable thing to define yourself as, a message that's still necessary and relevant. I can promise that I will fight for woc and transwomen when I fly my feminist flag, though.

Other people may not agree and for them the race issues may be too much to climb over. I'm sad that we've let those women down.


@conniving little shit I'm not white. :)

ETA: I am mixed though, fwiw.


@conniving little shit I'm hapa^^ Asian-American, fwiw.


@adorable-eggplant I thought you were gonna say you're purple.


@amitygardens@twitter Aubergine, actually.

all the kittens in the club gettin nipsy

As a little one I was pretty convinced I wasn't actually a girl at all, but either an alien sent to earth to live in a human body and learn about human society OR the only human in existence, kept in a holodeck-thing by aliens who had programmed the world to be the way it was to test my limits and see how I reacted.

Anyway, probably Ursula K Le Guin novels.

Springtime for Voldemort

Depends on what you mean by "a feminist". If you mean, a person who saw and experienced gender discrimination and got shouty about it, I was 4, and my mother started having this line about how "the first thing ladies do when they sit down at the table is put their napkin on their lap". If you mean, a person who identified as a *feminist*, 24, when I read Valenti's Purity Myth. Before then, all the feminisms had either not been explicitly called feminism, or were but I found them to be a bit off, or more frequently, actively oppressive to my life.

Miss Maszkerádi

I was a feminist from birth, until my first freshman-level Gender Studies 101 experience. Now I'm a human being who wants all human beings to treat each other like human beings, GOD, you guys, do we HAVE to make everything so linguistically tortured and theoretical? What - no, you've already told me that The Personal Is Political, I happen to disagree with that statement's universal validity - what? No, I don't need to "Educate myself," I just disagree with you, referencing in this case - would you stop interrupting me - NO, I am not a tool of the patriarchy! Aargh! OK, I'll publicly self-identify as a feminist if it will just make you stop snarking at me - oh, oh wait, I don't have the right to call myself a feminist anymore because I haven't sufficiently checked my prejudice and awakened to the realities of victimhood? OK. I'm going to go sit in my little corner reading [Unacceptable author's name redacted] now.

Sigh, undergrad.

Springtime for Voldemort

@Countess Maritza Slow clap.


@Countess Maritza I spent a lot of undergrad gritting my teeth and reminding myself that my mom and my aunt and my grandma were still feminists, too. And that they all had done a hell of a lot more than discuss theories in a classroom.

(I also still remember the special feeling of being told to check my privilege by a 21-year-old who had never held a paying job a day in her life.)


@Countess Maritza This is one reason I avoided gender studies classes and majored in Dead White Guys, AKA European Studies and IR.

My sister is one of the most kickass feminists I know. She went to a women's college and loved it, but knew it was time to graduate when in senior year, one of her dorm-mates complained that my sister was "oppressing" her with her heterosexuality.


@Countess Maritza Cosign. Especially on "Sigh, undergrad."


I grew up with parents who were pretty feminist (equal division of household duties, dad was a stay-at-home-dad for a while in the 80's). Their whole social circle was based around the super progressive hippie school we went to, so I guess I grew up feminist by default. I don't remember anyone ever telling me I couldn't do something because I was a girl, or that women had to shave their legs or wear make up or not shave their heads or be married, because most of the adult women I knew didn't do at least one of those things.

I do remember the first time I realized that as a woman, I was going to have to fight for rights, though. That was in Grade 8, when they asked the girls in my class if we'd like to have a Women's History component to history class. We said yes, so the teacher seperated the class by gender (because boys apparently don't need to know women's history). We girls learned about the Famous Five and went to go see the graves of important historical women in the cemetary. Later, we found out that the boys learned about early settlers and were taken out to learn survival skills in the woods like learning how to make fires and shelters. We were furious, and a couple of us took it up with the teacher. I'm still rather proud of us (quiet, "good" kids) for daring to tell our older male teacher that he was wrong. And he listened, and then apologized to all the girls in the class and said that he agreed that it was wrong.

de Pizan

I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian sect, and my parents had a very traditional marriage. My parents though were usually pretty good about teaching us girls the same thing they would a boy, and emphasizing education and being able to provide for ourselves (whereas our church said marry, have lots of babies and women shouldn't work). But I think my first feminist moment was when my brother was born. Parents put a huge banner over the front door that said "Finally, after 6 girls it's a boy!" And my dad passed out candy cigars and whatever...banners over the door and candy cigars weren't present at the birth of any of the girls. I remember how mad and hurt it made me.

Miss Maszkerádi

I know I shouldn't be using the Hairpin as my personal therapy box today, but I'm sick and PMSing and it's March and it's raining and cold. But....so my parents were excellent about the whole "girls can do anything boys can do" thing, they were excellent at raising me as an uppity little outspoken intellectual who wasn't going to take shit from anyone.
BUT, there was one way in which it sort of backfired? I heard so much of "You will NEVER NEED a man to complete you" and "You are STRONG AND INTELLIGENT and that is so much more important than being beautiful" that....my child-brain sort of took that too far and I got a little warped? Like, I still to this day will feel a stab of guilt from time to time if I'm enjoying the company of a gentleman, I'll have this mid-makeout lightning bolt of I am betraying my mother and myself and my identity and independence, freak out, and run away. (I think I've left a trail of profoundly confused dudes in my wake.) Similarly, I'm so convinced that all I am is a brain with vital organs and legs that I'm always confused and disbelieving that anyone who isn't a pervert or pitying could ever find me attractive. Because I'm the smart one, right? And being pretty is stupid and not for strong independent feminist girls?
I know, I know, my brain knows these are stupid and incorrect mental tics, but they still pop up every now and then and they drive me nuts. Does anyone have words of wisdom on balancing feminist badassery with, for lack of a better term, "femininity?"


@Countess Maritza THIS IS ME TOO! I mean, my parents never explicitly said things like "You will never need a man to complete you" and so on, but I definitely grew up internalizing that, which is great on the one hand because I will always be self-sufficient and independent, but on the other hand... I definitely have trouble believing that the dudes could ever be interested in me. And that makes me super awkward around men to the point that I sometimes feel myself acting like how I imagine a lady should act in that situation, which is just not me... AHH public therapy.


@Countess Maritza Jackie Wilson in her book The Happy Stripper: Pleasure and Politics of the New Burlesque offers the notion of "feminist fluidity" which is basically the idea of SOMETIMES wanting to participate in a system of objectification, but also being wary of that same system. It helps me realize that my feminism (like many things!) is on a spectrum, and I can dally in practices that I am critical of without losing my F-card. Because people are fluid and not static beings? I have found this enormously helpful in reassuring undergrads that they can be feminists and wear high heels.


@Countess Maritza That is an odd path to go down, I think., You don't have to be feminine to be beautiful, do you? Although it is OK if you are. I mean, if you were the very epitome of all that is hairy-legged and butch then the high likelihood is that someone else, even someone (gasp) male would look at you all googly-eyed one day, because humans find other humans beautiful for reasons not having to do with gender slavery. I don't really see how reciprocal attention from someone male invalidates your independence or self-determination or indicates that you are helpless or girly or femme.


I think if you are raised to never want to *need* a man (or someone else) to do things for you it's almost like having to re-program your brain to *accept* having a man (or someone else) do things for you.

And if you have defined yourself by your strengths and not necessarily your physical attractiveness it can be confusing for your brain to receive attraction. Desire is complicated and its weird as you never know what buttons you have and how they can and should be pressed. Erugh. I struggle with this too Countess Maritza!


@teaandcakeordeath Yeah, pretty much this. Also, I don't know if Countess Maritza meant "femininity" just in the makeup and high heels sense. I do enjoy fashion and makeup and all that traditionally feminine stuff and I'm definitely still a feminist. I think she might have been talking about behaviour more than appearance. At least that's how I read it.

For me, it's sort of this feeling that because I can do everything on my own, what's the point of dating? It's hard to let men in, I guess.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Maryaed and others, a large part of the issue is that I am very femme (or at least naturally gravitate toward) femme styles and presentations. I do shave my legs (not this time of year, but blah), I wear makeup when I want to look nice, I do stuff to my hair, I love skirts and ruffles and vintage jewelry and etc. And it can be a little difficult, at times, when so many people around me refer to femmey style choices as "part of an oppressive system of objectification" or more bluntly as "gender slavery." So you can see my issue.


@anonatron Haha, Texan high-5 on the dress thing. I love going out in my sundress when it's a 100+ degrees because it's only about a half step from naked. Poor dudes stuck in their bifurcated garments.


@Countess Maritza One of the reasons I stayed away from feminism for so long, and side-eyed feminists I knew, and still sometimes feel really weird about calling myself a feminist, is because of stuff like that. (Like, for example, in high school I always wanted to stay home with my hypothetical future babies and thought it was a good thing for moms to do, not because I was some gender prescriptivist but because my mom had stayed home with us and we had a great childhood, and just saying that out loud brought some major wrath in some of my classes. I was "perpetuating stereotypes" and "limiting freedom" and "setting equality back to the 50s" just by saying I wanted to stay home with my own kids someday. I mean, who knew a 16-year-old was that powerful?)

OMG, case in point, open in another tap: an article on XX today entitled "Should Young Women Feel Bad for Wanting Boyfriends?" *facepalm*


@Countess Maritza Aw, don't feel bad! I am a proud feminist and I do ALL of those things and more. I think the important thing to remember about feminism is that it's not about saying women MUST be non-traditional but that anybody should be able to be non-traditional IF HE OR SHE SO CHOOSES. And there are definitely people out there who want to make it more about the former than the latter, but I don't think guilting people for enjoying traditional things was ever supposed to be the point of feminism. It's supposed to be there to give us MORE options, not just different ones.


For me, the comment worthy part was the years that taught me feminism was strident and wrong that I did not un-learn until the end of high school and/or college.

I was open enrolled into a very wealthy school district by my genuinely middle class parents for the education, but part of the education I received was in gender roles. My peers were almost all Republican, Christian, and wealthy enough that in their families almost all of the mothers stayed home.

I stopped answering questions out loud in class in Middle School out of some vague understanding that girls who were TOO smart were unattractive. I did Tae Kwon Do, but used to lie and say I was going to dance practice to my peers because that was more socially acceptable. I spent a vast amount of my time worrying about how I looked, practicing with makeup, and working out. I often wonder what other skills I might have learned or developed in high school if I hadn't spend most of my time outside of school trying to learn how to be a girl in the right way. (I mostly succeeded, and I also helped police these expectations which I'm really ashamed of now).

That really changed for me in college. My roommate, who became one of my best friends, did not wear make up. She wore t-shirts/sweatshirts and jeans every day. She was not worried about it and she didn't care and she had a boyfriend and no one thought she was weird. It was truly eye opening to me to get outside of my high school classmates realm and see people breaking what I learned to be social "rules" and still being accepted and having friends and a good life. (this sounds really stupid, but yeah)


I don't remember ever having a feminist awakening, per se. I was raised along with my brother by my single mother and so I just assumed that, of course women are smart and can do whatever the hell they want! In retrospect my mother was kind of a hippy: I never saw her wear any makeup beyond lipstick in the wintertime, we didn't have a TV or car until I was in middle school, and we would do things like making our own yogurt and going to the bookstore to read books as a special outing. Also, our family was kind of broke all the time, but I don't think me or my brother realized it until much later. It was an amazing feat for her to save up enough money to buy us a house and send us to college even... applause and love, Mom!


@Hella Single moms! I think that's part of what made my dad such a rocking feminist.

He told me a story that one time my grandmother confronted her boss about why all the men in her department did the exact same work, but made more money, and her boss said, "Well, they have families to support." Of course, at the time my grandmother was supporting her two sons, but I guess that didn't count. Man, just ugh.

Away Laughing

Oh, wow. I'm seventeen and my mom and I are going through the whole We Have Lived Together For Significantly Too Long deal, but man is this reminding me how cool she is. I don't think I ever had a moment like this; it was just an unspoken rule that The Women of the Laughing Family Do Whatever the Hell They Want. I do remember watching The Little Mermaid in preschool at a friend's house and thinking "surely being half fish is more interesting than making out with a boy, right?"

Clara Morena

I was ten when I Identified as feminist. I was reading a book about California women and my mother said "You are very feminist". But it started with
-Parents with very liberal views
-Civil Engineer mother who didn't want her daughters to her like her mother.
- A young girl who at a young aged noticed people were meaner to her Mexican mother than her white father. Sometimes it was the women who were nastier to my own mother than the men.
-Growing in large Mexican-American community were women tended to be more supportive of each other.I know this is massive generalization but I only speak from my personal experience. I never understood the "women hating on other women" until college. Most of my life,the women supported each other.


I think I've always internalized things like "I don't need a man" and "you're smart, you don't have to rely on your looks" which in a way have warped my understanding of the world a bit? Like @Countess Maritza up-thread, I feel conflicted about these notions once in a while.
And while I wouldn't describe my parents as necessarily having feminist views, I come from a former Soviet republic where the norm included women at work and being equal to men and it kind of stuck in the society. My mom has always been working and I've seen my dad be supportive about it and never tell her not to work or pursue her dreams. So I've also always known that a woman must be able to support herself and do what she wants and not sit around, waiting for a husband. It's both been implicit while growing up and I've had conversations about it with my own mom.
Also, we've never had things like household chores for men/women. It's always been the case that chores are for whoever is available, so I've been mowing the lawn, shovelling snow, etc since my childhood, while a lot of my - female - friends always say "but that's a man's job". No. What is wrong with your hands that you can't do anything on your own?
And now that I think about it, it might be derived from the fact that my father comes from a single mother/influential strong grand-mother household. Everyone did what they could and there was no "have father/grandfather/other male figure do it".
And I think we're born feminist because I remember many instances from my childhood when I was told that *something* is not what girls do and thinking "what is wrong with me that I can't *do something*"?


my mother.


I grew up a strident feminist not because I really had any game-changing experiences as a child but just because...it was how things were? Like, I was raised pretty much entirely by women. So was my mom, in fact. So if something was going to get done, a lady was gonna have to do it.

Funny thing is, I didn't even call myself a feminist until college, when I started realizing that not everyone was running off the same underlying assumptions I was. Whatever other terrible internalized bullshit I picked up during my childhood aside, I'm glad that gender equality was so ingrained into me that I never really considered the alternative.


For me it started early on, at home. My parents had an incredibly retro marriage. I decided that I'd rather be like my dad, going to work in a sleek office building full of shiny equipment then coming home to relax with a drink, reading a book and screaming for his supper, than like my mom, who gave up her education in science to follow my dad to a foreign country where she moped around the house all day taking a lot of naps. I knew I was a girl and wanted to look pretty in dresses and eventually be kissed by boys, but I didn't want to be my mom. And my dad, although he was Archie Bunker to everyone else, had a blind spot for me and encouraged me to be everything I could be. 

When I was 10 we moved back to the US. My mom became very active in antifeminism, out of a (justified) fear that the average American didn't have much respect for her choices. The more she ranted, the more I knew I had to go a different way. The first grown-up book I bought with my own money and read was The Handmaid's Tale. I started on a pursuit of other people's mothers as surrogate mentors and role models that continues to this day. I don't remember any of them identifying as feminists, but they were women I could look up to. 


The link doesn't work for me. I want to read! Am I being a moron?


I grew up being a feminist but it was the Free to Be You and Me era, so that was going to happen.

Only in the last decade did I realize how scarily recent it all was and how really fucked up my mother's experiences as a young woman were.


The Anita Hill hearings. I was a teenager, and I was raised in a very Title IX, go get 'em way - and here was this woman telling what I believed to be true, and people were slandering her character at every turn. It turned my stomach, but I remember that the adults in my life (my mother, my father, my best friend's father) were adamant with me that they believed Anita Hill, and that they were as disgusted as I was, particularly as parents of teenage daughters whose lives were just beginning. They taught me to use my outrage as armor, and I'm so thankful to them. I still believe Anita Hill.


@hungrybee I worked at a public interest law clinic in Chicago right out of law school and my boss had a coffee mug that said "I still believe Anita Hill." It was pretty great.


As soon as I heard of feminism, I knew that I was a feminist. But the two people who actually helped me think of gender as a construct: Prince and Morrissey. When I was 10 or 11, watching Prince dance around shirtless and wearing make up and heels in the "Kiss" video made a big impression. A few years later, hearing Morrissey sing "You're a boy and I'm a girl" in "Sheila Take a Bow" hit home in a similar way. I think I looked at masculinity as this monolithic thing that all men agreed with and benefited from, but seeing two guys like Prince and Morrissey, who clearly represent a more feminine version of masculinity, made me think, ok, if they can do what they want, then as a female, I can do whatever I want, too. This probably sounds muddled because I have terrible pregnancy brain right now, but I always want to give props to those two for helping me to question what society expects from men and women.


I was three or four, I think, and my mom had a light blue scoop neck t-shirt with a screen print of a beautiful nude woman on the front, with butterfly wings. On the back, in velvet lettering no less, it said "A man of quality is not threatened by woman's equality". I remember being obsessed with the shape of the letter Q. I became a feminist and a graphic designer all at the same time.


My fiance (dude) is changing his last name to mine when we get married next month. I am over the moon about this and it makes me feel more feminist than anything has in a while.

My parents are pretty feminist and were very supportive of women's ability to achieve whatever they want in life. That self-confidence has certainly always been an asset. I do remember being about 5 or 6 and getting the whole "girls don't play with footballs" spiel from a neighbor boy who was throwing a Nerf with his brother. I just went and got a basketball and started shooting hoops, and pretty soon they both came over to join.


I've always been a feminist (both my parents are; they gave me a toy doctor kit for my 3rd birthday, my infant pictures usually show me in a Ms. magazine onesie, mom wouldn't let me watch Three's Company "because it's sexist and offensive against women and men," etc.), but the first time I clearly remember doing something about it was when I called a kid a "male chauvinist pig" in the fourth grade.

My favorite story involves about this, though, is about my little cousin (okay, she's not so little now, but at the time she was three). At my sister's bat mitzvah, our rabbi said something about how the weekly portion of the Torah essentially stated that women were just baby-making machines. Tiny cousin piped up (in the middle of the sermon!), "Baby-making machines? That's silly!"

Claire Zulkey@twitter

My parents are feminists. Not in any predictable way; they're both conservatives and old-school in certain ways but they raised me to speak up and never even consider that I might be inferior to a man in any possible way.


When I was a kid my mom would collect and pin to our fridge the obituaries of women from the 1940s-60s who received advanced degrees in rigorous subjects only to return to college some years later and pursue grade school teaching. She herself had wanted to be a mathematician but my grandparents refused to finance her schooling. She ended up being a nurse. I thought that was bullshit.

There was the molestation as well, which I think made me a softer and more transparent boy. Manhood did not extend its arm to me with the same force it would have otherwise. Reading books I was always really annoyed by the general pattern you would see in terms of protagonist order (in children's television as well) - the brown-haired, red-wearing alpha boy, the blue-wearing girl, and the beta boy, either a generic sidekick or some sort of nerd. Stories were always about the boy in red (the red boys tended to be assholes, really), I identified with the girls.

I kind of waffle a lot on whether calling myself a feminist is an appropriate thing. I know a lot of people who are adamant that I do, and some that are adamant I don't. The latter tend to be the radical / queer activists with whom I generally agree, so I'm inclined to be cagey. I have to answer to somebody.


@Danzig! Theory: Star Trek writers killed off redshirts because they, too, hated the red-shirted alpha males in boys' fiction.


@par_parenthese Highly possible! But didn't someone do an informal study that revealed goldshirts are actually the foremost Federation casualties?

Also I left out an important bit - red-wearers are white, beta boys can be ethnic. See also: Power Rangers


@Danzig! I saw that! But I had to make the redshirt-trope joke. It was just THERE.

(And the ethnicity thing is true of girls' books too -- a white girl can have a black or hispanic friend/sidekick but it's to show how progressive she is, not to, ya know, enter into the experiences of a person of color.)

Regina Phalange

Ahh, I know I'm ridiculously late - and I haven't even read this yet - but the fantastic Courtney E. Martin is the co-editor of a book on this very topic - it's called "Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists." Cool ladies (incl. Shelby Knox & Jessica Valenti) talking about this!


I know there were sad times in my life when the patriarchy was in my head enough that I believed things like women might not get raped if they wear less sexy clothing or men in general are better at math and science than women in general. And I thought for an embarrassingly long time that women are pretty much entirely equal now, so anyone who's still a feminist is just a whiny nag that wants to oppress men. At the same time though, I remember believing some more feminist things and loving fantastic female characters in books. And i loved good female characters in video games. So there was definitely some buried feminism there that hadn't been totally stamped out. It was my college years when I began to learn more about the actual state of women's equality, the truth about the crap I had gotten in my head, and the very real need for feminists still today (also that feminists do not hate men--I mean, maybe some do, but that's not the point of feminism). Becoming good friends with a feminist helped, as did the discovery of feminist websites (including The Hairpin!). If I have to pick one moment where I can recall turning/reverting to feminism, though, it was probably when I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles and got to the part where Angel confesses to Tess that he's not a virgin and then flips out when she confesses that she's not either. That moment made me more angry at a book than I had ever been before or ever have been since.


I'll just leave this as an artifact for late readers to come and find: A doc about riot grrls at some high school, from 1996: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/dirty_girls_13_year_old_riot_grrrls_dont_give_a_shit_what_you_think_of_them


Tamora Pierce books when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. Girls kicking butt. I remember being so upset when I realized I would never be able to talk to animals that I cried.


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