A Place for Feminism: Rising Voices Fellowship
The first time someone called me a “feminist” I was in the 3rd grade.
I had raised my hand for the billionth time to voice my concern that we weren’t talking enough about women and girls in our history lessons. I was specifically upset that Cornelia Jackson, daughter of famed Newton, MA abolitionist William Jackson, was barely discussed in our class, despite having her diary (or a fictionalized account of it—my memory is hazy on the details) at our disposal. My teacher, trying to humor me, said she would look into it. My classmate (let’s call him Brian for his protection) at the adjacent desk rolled his eyes and said, “Oh my god, can you please stop being such a feminist?”
I looked at Brian for a moment and then said… “No.”
I’m not sure I understood exactly what a feminist was, or why Brian said it with such disdain in his voice. The class had been sighing when I’d raised similar concerns in the days prior, but no one had ever said anything until now.
When I asked my mother what a feminist was, she told me it was the idea that women and men are equal, deserve equal rights and opportunities, and that it meant I was as good as any of my male classmates (if not better, per her motherly bias). She said that not only was I a feminist, but so was she and so was my father. The concept made sense to me: of course women and men are equal. So why had Brian said “feminist” as though it was synonymous with “annoying”?
Years later, I wish I could say things have changed and that people no longer equate feminist with some kind of annoying or unwelcome voice of dissent...but unfortunately, it’s the same. My feminism is part of the fabric of my identity, but it is still something many of my peers (of all gender identities) continue to shrug off as a label they’re not fans of—even if they believe in the fundamentals.
What I would have given as a teenager to have a community where I could talk, think, and write about feminism—and wear the badge loud and proud.
Since I didn’t have that opportunity, when Jordyn and I began the conversation about the Rising Voices Fellowship, I secretly wished I could rewind my life so that I could be a junior in high school right this second.
This fellowship, this cohort of young women, will have the chance to shout their beliefs from a rooftop—well, a digital one at least. By giving them training, a platform, and community, our hope is that they will work together to struggle with their questions about feminism in their own identities...and we’ll get some great blogposts out of it. I can’t wait to read, to experience learning with this young women, and continue to embrace the feminist label.