The F Word: Feminism and Me

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Instead of tackling the BIG issues when it comes to feminism, I am going to go personal, because really in this it is the personal that makes the political. For me it starts with my hair. My very big, naturally curly, frizzy hair that unfortunately was not the “in” style when I was growing up.

I remember hating my hair, I was always cripplingly insecure about my appearance anyway (something that still rears its ugly head from time to time) but in particular it was my vast curly locks that caused me to cry in front of the mirror before leaving the house, telling my Mum I didn’t want people to see me with my hair the way it was.

You see we were and still are, bombarded with what is seen as the “ideal”. I remember seeing advert upon advert of women with smooth, silky hair and I wished my hair could be like that. But it was not, and at my tender age I never really comprehended that there could be more than one “ideal” and I did not realise that this “ideal” was an ever-shifting construction.

It meant that I spent many years straightening the life out of my hair with my beloved GHDs. And with time my hair became a big part of character. And yet it wasn’t really until I got to university that I truly embraced my “real” mane. With the help of Shockwaves hair mouse and the discovery of the diffuser, I fought against the urge to change it all the time. Slowly, I embraced my curly locks. On the occasional straighten I would feel like I was stamping something out, my Irish heritage and even deeper, like I was giving in.

I distinctly remember the first time feminism was discussed at university. I was in one of my first seminars and we were asked to raise our hands if we were feminists. There was a couple of people like me who wavered, underlining tensions established with the hesitation.

However there were a number of girls whose hands boldly shot up. I was shocked. Because of my experiences at school, the very concept of a girl of my age embracing feminism was so unfamiliar that the whole thing threw me.

You see at school “feminism” or “feminist” was thrown at me as an insult. The fact I was always one of the most opinionated, politically engaged girls in my school who also listened to classic rock, some of the guys found this, for want of a better word, threatening.

By the end of the seminar I had not only been told of the many different distinctions within feminism, but had been firmly told that if we believed in equality, we should all be feminists.

I started to notice a change in society. I am not sure whether it is because I had become more a tune to it, but feminism started to be openly discussed and importantly embraced by prominent figures; Beyonce and her use of the inspirational words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in song “Flawless,”   Emma Watson’s speech at the U.N. and the wonderful Catlin Moran.

You see although these women have had an impact on the overall view of feminism, there’s still a fight to be had.

Feminism is not about hating men. It is, really, about equality. To me it is about being able to express an opinion without it being a surprise. It is about being judged on my achievements and talents before being judged on my appearance. But ultimately feminism to me is about embracing your own femininity, whatever that may be. It is flipping a big, bold V to the “ideal”.

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