Growing up, I remember changing from my soccer uniform to my dance leotard. It’s fair to say, my parents were democratic in letting me explore my own identity. As time progressed, I chose to wear a lot of comfortable clothing: Adidas sneakers, Nike sweatshirts, those unforgivable breakaway pants…
When I was nine, I signed up for karate and it became a rarity to find me without my hair up in a ponytail, mainly because of pure functionality. Sweating while your long, straggly hair flaps against your back isn’t fun for anyone.
Needless to say, I was a tomboy. It was the mid-nineties, so it was considered by the general public as less of an ideology than a preference. This wasn’t a regular topic in my household, but I do particularly remember one day it emerged: 5th grade picture day.
My mom took me shopping to pick out an outfit. She pulled out dress after dress and told me how beautiful they would look on me. I can remember thinking to myself: Why are girls supposed to wear dresses? Why do I want a picture of myself in something that I don’t feel comfortable in?
My mom didn’t understand that she wasn’t just innocently suggesting a pretty dress, that she was actually suggesting an identity. I was eleven; I was athletic, curious, healthy, happy and I frankly didn’t care to be pretty. I ended up wearing a t-shirt and athletic pants to my 5th grade class picture and although my mom appeared less than thrilled, she supported my decision.
At the time, I never thought of my experience as a display of feminism. There is a multitude of important issues women fight on a daily basis that my choice that day seems insignificant. In retrospect, my decision was based on the same ideologies as feminism. I had a responsibility to myself to make a choice that was right for me, regardless of my gender or outside opinions.
As I continued to grow up, I enjoyed experimenting with makeup and dresses. Over time I even developed a style, but that style was something I chose by my own accord. To me, that is the beauty of feminism. The word is interpreted a lot of different ways by a lot of different people. Often there are expectations of what a feminist should look like, act like or believe. But to me, being a feminist will always mean being true to yourself and knowing somewhere, out there you have a tribe of women behind you who are also not afraid to be themselves.