The International Day of the Girl assembly was a way to educate our peers and teachers, as well as learn more about our selves. My role in the assembly was to introduce the program with a small speech and read a passage from my intersectionality paper.
This assembly marked a beginning for me, for it was the first time I spoke to a crowd about feminism and my beliefs on the matter. It was a safe environment to take a step forward and I felt as though my words, whether or not powerful to the crowd, were very meaningful to me. They reflected the time and effort I put into finding a voice within me.
The idea of “white privilege” that Peggy McIntosh spoke about in her piece “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” opened my eyes. It made me think about my role in being a white woman, emphasis on being white, and how my life has been affected by my race. It was not only crucial for me to realize this, but it was a turning point in how I approach feminism as a whole. I understand better the differences between women’s experiences. By having this additional perspective, I can broaden my lens and be open to and relate to more people.
I feel like the International Day of the Girl assembly was a way for our class to collaborate and recognize each other’s strengths. When listening to my classmates speak, whether reading from our intersectionality essays or providing information on girls education globally, it was clear that we are all driven feminists.
It was not only inspiring to see our class work together, but it was great to see the support we received from our peers and teachers. It was motivating to be a part of our small community of fierce and fabulous feminists, but it was also inspiring to feel like a part of the larger community celebrating International Day of the Girl around the world.
I take pride in being a part of a worldwide celebration. I feel as though I can now officially call myself a feminist and feel I understand what it means. To become a feminist is to become part of a community that spreads across the entire world.
At the beginning of the course, our teacher Ileana Jimenez asked all of us to define feminism. At the time, I felt as though I knew the answer, but in reality the definition of feminism is based on one’s own interpretation. Barbara Smith would define feminism as “a struggle to end sexist oppression,” and this “struggle” uniting those people fighting to end the marginalization and oppression of women is the heart of feminism. While I completely agree with Barbara Smith, I would now add a level of intersectionality to the definition. I would go so far as to say that feminism is a struggle to end oppression.
Feminists are not confined to women nor any specific type of person, as feminists are a community ready to fight for what they believe in and women’s rights are an integral part of the workings of a societal whole. It’s about acknowledging how everything intertwines as we strive to achieve the most from that blend that will allow feminists to succeed. In my original definition I stated, “My grandmother, my father, my mother, and just about everyone around me have been involved in the feminist movement in some way.” But feminism intersects with much more than just the concept of women’s rights.
Through learning about intersectionality I have also found my own personal voice. I have discovered what it means to be white in today’s society. In my intersectionality personal essay I stated,
“I cannot speak authentically for those women whose backgrounds and experiences are outside of my own, but I can speak out and demand that their voices are heard. For no one can completely recognize his or her own biases and prejudices, nor can they feel what another is going through. Only by collaborating to bring all these perspectives to light can we strive to genuinely respect each other and make ethical decisions.”
I don’t think I could have come to this conclusion if it had not been for being pushed to talk about my ethnic and racial background. I think in realizing that I can only speak for what I can truly understand, I grew as a feminist.
I think that part of being a good feminist is helping all feminists be heard; furthering the dialogue so all opinions can be voiced. The only way to effect real change is to be the strongest group we can possibly be, and that comes with self-awareness and acknowledgment. Together, thousands of voices can be heard.