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By Elizabeth Dorssom
I first started referring to myself as a feminist when I was 17. Even though I didn’t identify as a feminist until I was older I was definitely a feminist from a very young age. When I was in elementary school I enjoyed playing with Hot Wheels cars instead of Barbie dolls. The boys at school would make fun of me and I would always be quick to remind them that girls could do anything boys could do. Fast forward to high school and I’m lucky enough to study United States history with a teacher who emphasized women’s contributions to history.
For the first presentation, I had to choose a famous woman from history in my chosen career path. I chose Ella Fitzgerald because I wanted to pursue a career as a musician. I was a saxophonist, not a singer, but I didn’t know any famous female saxophonists. This class really opened my eyes because not only did the teacher introduce me to the music of great female saxophonists Candy Dulfer and Mindi Abair, and other women’s contributions to history, but it also inspired me to pursue a degree in Women’s Studies.
If someone had me asked me in high school what Feminism meant to me, I would have simply defined feminism as realizing the important contributions women made in history. However, this changed for me once I began women’s studies at the collegiate level. Growing up, I never realized that women were valued less than men because I lived in an egalitarian household. Both of my parents cooked, cleaned, and completed other household chores. Through my collegiate studies and interactions with other students I realized that not everyone had the same upbringing as I did. I learned about the glass ceiling and how women could not own property for a substantial period of time in U.S. history.
Learning all of this changed the meaning of feminism for me. Now it includes an urgent need to get rid of all stereotypes and glass ceilings. Women shouldn’t be labeled “tomboys,” nor should men be referred to as “sissies,” when their interests don’t align with stereotypical ideals for their gender. In addition, women should be able to pursue any career they want, with the freedom to excel as far as they’d like to go. For me, feminism means women should experience absolute equity everywhere—at home, in the work place and beyond.
I am a feminist. This does not mean that I hate men; it just means that I believe that women of all races and ethnic backgrounds deserve the same opportunities as men. Because I am a feminist, I enjoy spending my spare time volunteering for women’s advocacy organizations, including Planned Parenthood and local battered women’s shelters. I hope that one day labels such as “feminist” will not be necessary—because all human beings will be considered equal.
Elizabeth is a graduate student, feminist, and community advocate. She is passionate about history and politics and loves to travel. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies from Chatham University. She is currently a first year graduate student of Public Administration at California State University, Northridge.