I’m 18 and Proud to Be an Imperfect Feminist

Photo Sarah Whiting

I am a feminist. I can rattle off sexual assault statistics like Ms. Lauryn Hill rattles off a rhyme. I use phrases like “micro-aggressions” regularly. And if someone tells me I’m making a fuss over nothing I’ll happily quote Audre Lorde at them.

I’ve always been like this, but I haven’t always been willing to identify myself as a feminist. For someone of my generation, it’s a loaded term. There are ridiculous stereotypes cooked up by misogynists. More importantly, there are massive faults of the movements — for example, ignoring the voices of the racially diverse, the socio-economically disadvantaged, and the non-heteronormative.

I wasn’t sure if calling myself ‘feminist’ was worth it. Hadn’t mistakes killed feminism as a legitimate movement? Couldn’t I simply fight for equality without calling myself a feminist?

To answer these questions, I went on a feminist literature bender and somewhere between “The Feminine Mystique” and “We Should All Be Feminists,” I found what I was looking for.

If movements died every time they messed up, there would be no movements. Civil Rights movements tended to be sexist, anti-war movements tended to be disrespectful to Vietnam vets. All of this is inevitable because movements are made out of people, and people are mistake-making machines that catch the prejudices of their times with the same frequency that kindergartners catch the common cold. Movements come with mistakes.

I choose to join this movement. For the opportunity to work with like-minded humans for something genuinely important, and for the chance to help make feminism a better, more inclusive movement, I can handle some complex history.

Besides, I don’t have a choice about whether or not I’m a feminist. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a feminist is a person who believes in “the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”  That’s me. So that’s that, and I wouldn’t have it any other way because, for all its flaws, feminism is a movement that fights for a world of inclusivity and equality — a world that would be freaking fabulous. I’m excited and proud to be a part of that work. 

So here I am: a young, queer, biracial, cisgender female, multi-cultural human. I am a feminist.

6 Books That Made Me a Feminist

Everyday Sexism
By Laura Bates
Compulsively readable snapshot of women’s rights today.

Bad Feminist
By Roxane Gay
Hilarious and vulnerable essays by a very good feminist.

Against Our Will
By Susan Brownmiller
Though marred by its era’s racism and classism, it remains an electrifying treatise.

When Everything Changed
By Gail Collins
A truly intersectional history of U.S. feminism in the last 50 years.

Ain’t I A Woman
By bell hooks
Eye-opening look at the cost of the schism between Civil Rights and Women’s Rights.

We Should All Be Feminists
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A brilliant 50-page pitch for universal feminism.