Power Through Words
Boys in my preschool told me that I should like pink. “Boys like blue and girls like pink;” that was their reasoning. They told me that if I wanted to play with them at recess I couldn’t “act like a girl.” I didn’t understand what they meant, but I agreed to the terms. While things like this didn’t bother me in preschool, as I got older, people’s choice of words started to have more and more of an impact on me. I started listening. In high school I started to notice the frequency with which boys used language to specifically diminish or demean girls: Girls being called a “slut” because of the clothes they wore, or a “whore” for simply talking to boy. It’s because of this reality that I am a feminist today.
For one reason or another, it is socially acceptable and even celebrated to use words, such as the ones previously mentioned, to put women down. No woman should feel like she is part of a “lesser sex,” and the fact that the word “girl” is used to make men and women alike feel lesser of themselves is a gigantic leap backward from all the progress women have made. Considering women’s quest for equality, they should be associated with power and perseverance, not with weakness.
Sadly, women are also guilty of using words to tear each other down and judge each other for their choices. When girls and women do this, they are saying that it is okay for the rest of society to do it as well. It is crucial for women to build each other up, as there is enough judgment from society. We are all at fault, but because of that, we all have the opportunity to fix the issue.
In addition, demeaning women has an effect on society at large. An article in Psychology Today makes the compelling point that since women are judged by harsh names so frequently, young women often grow up self-conscious, which later could transform into mental illness. One of the leading factors in developing a mental health issue is one’s environment. The more judgment and cruel names that are directed towards women, the more susceptible women are to mental illness. This is one example of a real and very serious consequence of hateful, sexist speech. We can’t forget the large and sometimes devastating impact our words can have on others.
I am a feminist because I like the color blue even though the boys in my preschool class told me I had to like pink. I am also a feminist because I believe that women should be respected just as much as men. Most importantly, I am a feminist because I believe in complete and utter equality between the sexes. By being a feminist, I have learned to think more about what I say and about the impact that words have. I intend to use my words, both verbal and written, to fight this issue.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.