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coming out & standing up for what i believe in.

August 25, 2011

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For most of my life, the extent of my political current events knowledge began and ended with the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. A high school summer internship with my congresswoman changed all that and I began devouring the Times and the Post, eager for more information so I could strike out on my own and form opinions for myself.

College saw the peak of my passionate political participation. My freshman and sophomore year brought avid political discussion and involvement with Tufts Democrats. My junior year was marked by the election of President Obama and the ensuing excitement and optimism that came with a “new age of politics.”

And then senior year, as was the case with many of my other hobbies, I lost interest. Maybe I’d already moved on in my mind as I had been contemplating getting my MBA online and/or finding a job. Blame it on the persistent desire to move on to the next chapter of my life, the burn out I felt after 4 years of being a political science major, or even the general feeling of disinterest in things that once moved me. I was 22 years old and I took my environment for granted.

Attending a very liberal university in a very liberal state, I never once questioned my rights as a woman or citizen. I was comfortable in my bubble of activism, gay acceptance, and general progressiveness. I even complained about it numerous times, criticizing the “delusional liberals” who thought a walk-out would end the War in Iraq and at those who cried foul at every small injustice that crossed their paths. I rolled my eyes at my fellow classmates wearing their “THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE” t-shirts. I took it for granted that I lived in a state that was the first to require universal health insurance for its inhabitants, that supported equal marriage rights for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, and where a Planned Parenthood was within walking distance of my house. None of this was remarkable to me; it just was.

Then I moved to the South. While Atlanta is a moderately liberal urban microcosm, the state as a whole is overwhelmingly conservative. My comfortable bubble of liberalism burst, and I’ve spent the last year in various stages of rage, sadness and disbelief at the current political agenda.

“I have never felt my right as a woman was more threatened than I do today.”1

I can’t blame it entirely on being in the South. Perhaps I feel it more strongly here than I would somewhere else, but it exists across the country. This movement to regress as a society, to return to puritanical times and apparently to embrace denial, terrifies me. Michele Bachmann, with her rampant, “100 per cent pro-life” stance (even in the case of rape or incest)2 and her support of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage3, is negating decades of social progress with her every comment.

Thanks to Bachmann and the rest of the Tea Party, I’ve recently reignited the political sphere of my brain and I’m no longer taking my rights as a woman, and as an American, for granted. I’m tired of politicians ignoring report after report detailing how abstinence-only education is ineffective in curbing teenage pregnancies, and of them refusing to believe that no federal money funds abortions performed at Planned Parenthood. I’m sick of their attempts to ban gay marriage in the Constitution when it should never have become a political issue in the first place. And I can’t stay quiet any longer when the media, politicians and prosecutors victim-blame in cases of rape where a woman’s past is scrutinized and used as a basis for credibility.

I’m at a point where this stuff worries me. I feel as though we as a nation are on the precipice of major change and what happens in the next few years can permanently and drastically alter the direction we as a country are heading, as well as the example we set for the rest of the world.

And for that reason and myriad of others, I am coming out to you today.

My name is Jenn and I am a feminist.

And I’m really proud of it.

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