Essay: “Another Person Asks, When Did You Become a Feminist?” by Lindsay D’Andrea

Lindsay D’Andrea

Another Person Asks, When Did You Become a Feminist?

“It comes with the job,” my mother says—meaning a possibility that your boss may touch you when you don’t expect him to—“So why all the fuss,” “take it as a compliment,” after all “boys will be boys,” etcetera. This is the woman who raised me. I wish I were not ashamed by her philosophy, wonder what tune she’d turn to if I told her about my boss locking me in his office after hours and pushing me up against the bookshelf, worry that I’d consider such a lie only to discover that she wouldn’t change at all. “You have a good job,” “I thought you liked your boss,” etcetera. All cousins of the example I told myself I ignored as a child running mud-stained through the world, kicking my brother’s friends in the balls, ripping off the arms of my dolls whose bodies I believed to be alien. Yet through early years, there I was with “I’m not a feminist” perched easily on my lips. By age ten I fell in love too often—secret romantic, Whitney Houston certified—thinking my worth rounded itself out in the eyes of boys who wanted me as a girlfriend, not the ones who picked me first for kickball. (I’m not a feminist, I’m just one of the guys.) By thirteen I couldn’t stand the way they looked at me, was afraid to wear tank tops to school, skirts almost never. (I’m not a feminist, I’m just confused.) In college my friends posed arguments, and I tried to walk them back to the middle ground (I’m not a feminist, I’m just open-minded.) I didn’t want to be a “bra-burner,” boobed anarchist—I didn’t want to be seen as angry. Think of my mother behind her Lancome sales post at Macy’s, shrinking herself to agreeable for men who might return again and again to buy perfume for their wives. Don’t get angry, she’d tell me, play the game—so for a while I played, and by the reaches of the board I knew I was wrong. We don’t “become” anything—not angry, not wild, not resistant. The ugly truths unearth themselves like fistfuls of dried slugs doused with salt, a mass grave of reason. Feminism is a sorrow, crushing as it is empowering, to think of all those women who would count themselves out. The facts speak for themselves, demand strategy more than games. It’s not easy: small victories pile onto greater losses. Most necessary are the daughters to come, bright battle shields one day yearning into the world. I will tell them it’s okay to be angry. Glance around, ask questions. It is a birthright. Indeed, it comes with the job.

Lindsay D’Andrea holds an MFA in creative writing and environment from Iowa State University. Her work has been published in The Collapsar, Fiddleblack, InDigest Magazine, and others. She currently lives in the Boston area.

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