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The Moment I Embraced My Feminist Perspective

All hail the "F" word.

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The Moment I Embraced My Feminist Perspective

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He was headed off to Army training in a few weeks, he expressed real interest in my goals and current projects as a writer, and he was a close friend of a close friend who I'd only be around for a night before we we both went our separate ways at the stroke of midnight (8 am). At face-value, he was the perfect harmless bar interaction and hook-up (also, his face was nothing to complain about). I laughed and conversed as friends made suggestive comments. These inevitably snuck into both our heads and propelled forward the type of forced yet natural flirting that can only result from two people knowingly set up who actually enjoy each other. It was a great night with an ending I'll leave up to your imagination, because while I'm an open book in person I rarely kiss and tell in writing. We'll call him Rick.

There is one conversation between us that has stuck with me since.

We were waiting at the crowded main bar at 11 pm on the third of July. A woman and her gay brother-in-law were taking turns hitting on Rick while we waited to order his Bourbon and Coke. All of a sudden, the pair bumped into a woman who was conversing with the bartender. She turned around in a fury and began to fight with the brother-in-law, proclaiming she didn't care if he was gay or straight, he needed to stop shoving her and give her space. This resulted in a battle of not-quite-wit where the two spat drunk half-insults at one another. Rick and I exchanged looks and made our way to the other side of the bar to avoid any further interaction with the developing drama.

"God, fucking feminists am I right?" was the first thing out of his mouth once we settled at our new perch.

*Cue jaw drop*.

He continued, "She just gets all high-and-mighty and assumes everyone is hitting on her and is defensive. It's a crowded bar, get over it."

I grabbed a broom and dust pan, swept my jaw off the floor, and responded in as patient a voice as I could manage, "So you don't think women are equal to men?"

He responded that of course he did, there was full equality in value between the sexes, women should be paid the same, etcetera etcetera. He just didn't like "feminists". I didn't have the energy to explain to him what at this point I thought was obvious to the reasonable person, or at least obviously something you didn't say to a woman you were potentially interested in sleeping with.

I'll only say it once. I'll reinforce it, support it, march for it, and continue to write about it. But it's not a complicated concept and I see no reason to need to say it more than once.

Feminism is not a man-hating, bra-burning, bar-entitled movement. Feminism is about sex equality. The first wave of feminism addressed our right to engage in political conversation and vote. The second wave addressed the work place and our reproductive rights (I am in awe that in 2017 those are still debated, but that's another conversation for a different time). The third wave has addressed the wage gap among other issues. The fourth wave of feminism has addressed intersectional feminism and the necessary inclusion of all religions, races, genders, and sexual orientations in the dialogue on equality. An expert on the history of the feminist movement will likely have comments and corrections on these general definitions, so excuse me - I prefer to be concise.

I waged a battle in my head over how to address this interaction between Rick and myself. I replayed every discussion I'd had in my gender communications course this past semester, hoping one would have the gold nugget of clear logic I needed to explain to Rick what feminism truly was without preaching or reinforcing his ignorant belief of what the term meant.

The night came and went, my friends and I drank a few more drinks than was reasonable considering the seven hour drive we had ahead of us, and I never brought up the "F" word to Rick. I did, however, come to terms with something that had been plaguing me for the last few years as I navigated my single life and dealt with the opposite sex. I have reasonable expectations for the men I choose to spend my time with, the same expectations I would hope they would have for me. That night I added a new expectation to the list, written in bold with a purple Sharpie (for those of you who don't know me, this is a mental list). I wedged it between "be a kind soul" and "watch SNL with me even if you don't find every sketch funny".

I can't date or respect a man who doesn't respect the power of his words and doesn't recognize feminism for what it is.

Nearly a week later, this interaction has crossed my mind daily. I replay the conversation, wishing I found the right words to say to Rick to hopefully make an impact on him regarding the pesky "F" word. Finally, I came across exactly what I would have said. Ironically, they were words published by another Emma - my idol - one whose speeches and work I hope men and women alike will choose to read.

"If you stand for equality, then you're a feminist. Sorry to tell you." - Emma Watson

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