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22 Powerful Stories About Feminist Awakenings

From personal experiences to Beyoncé and everything in between, people have found feminism in lots of different ways.

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We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their stories about what sparked their feminist awakenings. Here are their powerful responses:

1. “I started following a girl on Tumblr who happened to be a feminist.”

I started following a girl on Tumblr who happened to be a feminist; I read almost everything she posted about feminism and it just made sense. It clicked. I realized some of the ideas I had grown up with were really toxic and there is so much internalized misogyny in most girls.

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2. “I was told ‘just touching’ me was not a crime.”

When I was walking downtown with my mother and a stranger grabbed my crotch, I was in shock. My mother called the cops and when I went to make a formal complaint I was asked what was I wearing and then I was told "just touching" me was not a crime. I was a teenager, and I didn't know it was feminism back then, but I just knew that no one should say it's OK to touch another person's genitals just because they didn't rape you, regardless of what you're wearing.

—Paulis Grienssen (Facebook)

3. “The fact that Beyoncé stood before millions in front of the now iconic FEMINIST sign empowered me to openly be a feminist.”

Mine came from Beyoncé, specifically her song "Flawless" with the excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie speaks with such conviction that it immediately resonated with me. That, and the fact that Beyoncé stood before millions in front of the now iconic FEMINIST sign, very much empowered me to openly be a feminist and to fight for the rights of other women and men experiencing sexism and gender rules.

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4. “When I went in to give my application, the older lady said, ‘This is no kind of job for a woman.’”

When I was 14 I was applying for a job at a place that builds lawn chairs. From the time I was little I was always my Dad's sidekick and he is a contractor, so I knew exactly how to do this kind of work. When I went in to give my application the older lady that was the manager, she said, "This is no kind of job for a woman." That is when I proceeded to notify her I had previous experience and she completely dismissed me. The thing that stung the most was it was a fellow woman who dismissed me.

—Savannah Snow (Facebook)

5. “I asked my dad why I always had to wash the dishes. His only answer was, ‘Because you’re a girl.’”

Ever since I was little, I always had to wash the dishes. If I didn't, then I would be grounded. I have three brothers who did nothing after dinner, so when I was 14 I asked my dad why I always had to wash the dishes. His only answer was, "Because you're a girl." I was pissed off and we got into a fight because he never made my brothers do anything around the house. My brothers and parents expect me to have a bunch of kids and become a housewife, but ever since that day I decided to start doing things for myself and myself only.

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6. “Super Smash Bros. had only one usable female character, which was Zelda.”

It was playing video games as a child with my male cousins. The GameCube games we had were all male-oriented, and even my favorite, Super Smash Bros., had only one usable female character, which was Zelda (though I had no idea that Samus was a girl until I was older). I thought about how wrong it was because I saw that everywhere, girls were always weaker in everything, like in video games they were the worst players. I never knew there was a word for it until recently, but when I did, it felt right.

—Meagan McDowell (Facebook)

7. “I was raped ... when I talked to an officer to press charges, they said that I wouldn’t stand a chance.”

I was raped when I was 19. When I talked to an officer to press charges, they said that I wouldn't stand a chance because the court would bring up the fact I was drunk, went to his place willingly, and I've slept with other people. A month later, I saw the guy at the bar and he actually tried to take me home with him. That's when I realized that I'm a feminist and I deserve the right to say no. I deserve to not have what happened to me be just one more story of a discredited woman who, instead of being taken seriously, was told that she was asking for it.

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8. “I want my girls — and EVERYONE — to know that women are capable of greatness.”

I have two daughters; one of them was born with a heart defect that may affect becoming a serious athlete in the future, and my older daughter has serious food allergies. Considering there are medical restrictions being put on them as it is, it was at the moment my daughter's cardiologist discussed her potential physical limitations that I became a feminist. I don't want them to think they cannot be intelligent, brave, vivacious, brilliant, and capable just because they are women. I want my girls — and EVERYONE — to know that women are capable of greatness and that the limits of achieving that greatness is up to each individual.

—Catherine Cara Toler (Facebook)

9. “He only valued me as another guy’s property.”

I was at a party and the only way I could get this one guy to leave me alone was to lie and say I was in a relationship. I realized that he only valued me as another guy's property and not as a human being who deserves respect.

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10. “I had never heard anything about being pro-choice and their signs intrigued me.”

Growing up, I lived a few blocks away from my town's Planned Parenthood and there were always a good number of protesters outside, holding signs and chanting. One day there was a group at the end of the street protesting the anti-choice group. I had never heard anything about being pro-choice and their signs intrigued me. I looked it up, discovered the word feminism, and my identity as a feminist has remained since.

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11. “[The Spice Girls] dressed the way they wanted, acted the way they wanted, and loved themselves.”

The Spice Girls. Here were these girls that dressed the way they wanted, acted the way they wanted, and loved themselves even if people thought their clothes were too loud or too revealing. It was a big reveal to me that being a woman meant being who you wanted to be and that loving yourself gave you a power over the people who wanted to belittle you. That made little 11-year-old me a feminist.

—Sonya Ballantyne (Facebook)

12. “I'll be perfectly happy because I don't need a man or children to validate me as a woman.”

My road to feminism began with the rape of my best friend and ended with a conversation I had with a male relative. "Kalie, if you lost weight, you'd have guys crawling all over you," he said.

"Well, I wouldn't be interested in anyone who knew me before the weight loss and approached me after. A man should love me for me, not my weight," I replied.

"I don't see you getting a lot of offers. You should lower your standards," he countered.

"You know what, Dad, I'm amazing; I have so much to offer a man that my standards should be high. All I want is a man who will love and respect me because I'm a unique human being with passions, hopes, and dreams. That's not too much to ask. And if, God forbid, I don't get married or have children, that's fine; I'll be a kick-ass career woman with amazing friends and a dog. And I'll be perfectly happy because I don't need a man or children to validate me as a woman," I said.

He ended the conversation by saying, "Oh Kalie, please don't be a lesbian."

—Kalie Hoke (Facebook)

13. “I don't remember how old I was, probably early teens, but I remember Jo March in the 1994 version of Little Women.”

I don't remember how old I was, probably early teens, but I remember Jo March in the 1994 version of Little Women saying, "I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country." To this day, that is what I believe about equality: Regardless of gender, color, age, orientation, or place of birth, we are human beings.

—Christian Paul Keller (Facebook)

14. “I remember waking up and realizing that there were two guys engaging in sexual acts with me.”

I was sexually assaulted by two of my friends in the dorms. I had been drinking and don't remember how I got back to my room. I just remember waking up and realizing that there were two guys engaging in sexual acts with me at the same time. The next day one of the guys told me that I liked it. My friends also told me that I was drunk and I had been with one of the guys in the past so it wasn't a big deal. I felt so alone and like I was at fault for what happened to me. It wasn't until I read a blog about someone that had gone through the same situation that I realized how entirely wrong it really was. It took what happened to me to have my feminist awakening. I don't think those guys think that what they did was wrong and I want to change that.

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15. “I realized it when I joined the U.S. Coast Guard.”

I realized it when I joined the U.S. Coast Guard. The male-to-female ratio is so vast that at 18 years old, I was stationed at a small boat station that hadn't had a female crew member in two years. To say it was a "boys club" would be an understatement. I was treated so unfairly based on my gender, it still affects me daily. I knew then that equality between the sexes was not only needed, it was necessary.

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16. “I realized we almost exclusively learned about French men in literature, art, and music.”

I told my philosophy professor that I had studied French in high school and he asked me what I knew about Simone de Beauvoir. I had never heard of her. I then realized that we almost exclusively learned about French men in literature, art, and music and that most of Western canon is based on the male perspective. Once I started to ask why that was, that's when I learned about the systemic oppression of the female sex and consequently, feminism.

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17. “As a high schooler I just thought double standards were a normal thing.”

I became a feminist after reading the book He's a Stud, She's a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know by Jessica Valenti. As a high schooler I just thought double standards were a normal thing we all had to deal with, but after reading this book I became fired up and wanted to make changes about all the unjust standards women have to face.

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18. “I was at a party and a close friend of mine was sexually assaulted.”

My feminist awakening was caused due to sexual harassment of my friends in which the harasser never was punished. I was at a party and a close friend of mine was sexually assaulted. It happened right in front of many people, including a few of my other close friends. I screamed and yelled and confronted the guy, and all that happened was that I was called a bitch.

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19. “Twitter has opened my eyes to feminism.”

When I read the #YesAllWomen tweets. Twitter has opened my eyes to feminism. Just this past weekend there was a big fight on Twitter between many kids at my high school talking about sexual abuse. The boys were saying the most awful things, and it really opened my eyes.

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20. “It was the comments that sparked my feminist awakening.”

When I was a senior in college, I started following a handful of celebrity gossip blogs. The blog posts themselves were often implicitly sexist but I might not have even realized that if not for the comment sections. It was the comments that sparked my feminist awakening. A lot of women who don't consider themselves feminists like to say that they don't see the need for feminism because they've never experienced sexual inequality. Presumably, they don't think sexism really exists — at least not to an extent that should bother anyone. I would consider any such woman to go read the comments section on a gossip site and get back to me on whether sexism exists and should bother them.

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21. “Being in eating disorder recovery from anorexia.”

Being in eating disorder recovery from anorexia made me a feminist. I've met amazing, beautiful, and strong women. As I've become more confident in myself and comfortable in my own skin, I've realized that I can be strong, too. Some of the bravest and most intelligent people I know are women and I think all women deserve to feel equal to our male counterparts.

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22. “My feminist awakening has been about changing myself.”

The most enlightening moment was when I figured out "internalized misogyny." I must've spent my entire high school career calling other women sluts or judging them for wearing "too much" makeup; you could've tattooed "I'm not like other girls, I'm one of the boys" on my forehead, just to save me the trouble of introducing myself that way to everyone I met. Everything I did had to be justified if it was feminine, and was some kind of triumph if it was masculine. Then I got older and I got into college and I took all these literary theory classes where we discussed gender performativity and queerness and feminist writing. I learned about rape culture and slut-shaming and realized I'd been doing it for basically my whole life. And I didn't want to anymore. More than changing other people, my feminist awakening has been about changing myself.

—Jasmine Felicia Lane (Facebook)

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Krystie Yandoli is an entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Krystie Lee Yandoli at krystie.yandoli@buzzfeed.com.

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