I feel as if my life is pretty unextraordinary. Since I was little, I’ve dreamed of being a famous singer, a writer, and actress. It seems all the famous people we see today have led pretty interesting lives, and looking back on our own, we tend to only see how dull they are. Where’s the motivation to become the voice of my generation? Where’s that gargantuan moment that made me realize I was worth something? Looking back on the chronology of my life in the months before turning 19, I realize I have experienced some pretty extraordinary moments. And some terrible ones. And all of these have made me into the person I am today. I may not have realized it when I was younger, but many of my experiences had something to do with me being a girl, a woman.
I have discovered that I am an extraordinary person because I am alive—I am surviving this tumultuous world we live in.
Feminism is useless, you say. It doesn’t benefit you. I get it. You feel entirely insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Just another one out of the more than seven billion people currently inhabiting our planet. I get it. We really aren’t that different—I’m just as insignificant as you. But try to understand that someone as insignificant as you may have entirely different experiences. And though you may struggle to understand, this is why I need feminism.
- Starting in fifth grade, I have been made fun of for my “big” boobs.
- In sixth grade, a boy told me I was so skinny I was probably anorexic.
- That same year, a man who would get off my train when I got on for school every morning began molesting me daily. When I told my “friends,” they thought I was only telling them to get attention. This carried on for two years.
- When I finally told my mom four years later, she insisted I enroll in self-defense classes.
- In seventh grade, the same friends knocked me to the ground and tried endlessly to pull my pants off. Because apparently it would be funny.
- In eighth grade, I stood up in front of my middle school with some of my classmates calling for an end to “pinging”—a ritual where the boys in our class would snap the bands of our bras. Everybody thought this was ridiculous and not a “real” issue.
- One of the boys who was doing this pinging spent the duration of our To Kill A Mockingbird screening with his hand up my skirt. He later told me he didn’t stop because I hadn’t told him to.
- The same year, when I was 12, a teacher who had heard a rumor the previous year that I had asked older boys for sex asked my mother if I was sexually active.
- I was constantly made fun of for wearing dresses.
- When my fashion sense evolved, a boy complained that I never wore skirts.
- During my freshman year of high school, a boy told me I had a big mouth and thus would be good at giving blowjobs.
- My purity ring deemed me the poster child for abstinence. My sophomore year, a bunch of boys decided that whomever was the one to deflower me would be “The King of Kings.”
- During swimming in P.E., girls had to wear either a plain black or blue one piece. Boys could wear swimming trunks or Speedos of whichever color or pattern they chose.
- On “free-dress days” in my uniformed school, girls would be policed about what they wore.
- During a class in my junior year, my male teacher said I looked like a “street walker” because I was wearing a black tank top and shorts that were designed to have the pockets stick out.
- One of my friends and teammates was reprimanded for dressing inappropriately by wearing spandex on track and field day.
- Even though I already had New Year’s Eve plans, one of my friends told me I had to go with him to his party because he had cooked for me and bought a bottle of champagne—which I hadn’t asked for.
- After three years of Krav Maga (Israeli self-defense), I went to a job interview my freshman year of college and was raped.
- While in the ER, the doctor told me there was not sufficient evidence to perform a rape kit.
- She asked me if it had been consensual.
- The SVU detective told me repeatedly that what I had experienced had not been rape.
- On our first and last meeting, she made me sign a form affirming this.
- When walking to the drugstore one night in Times Square, a man approached me and took out his wallet to reveal a handful of 20s. He asked me to go to a hotel with him. When I said “No” he asked me to go home with him.
- On the way back to campus from the city that same night, a man sat across from me on the train and would not stop talking to me. I was too polite to just ignore or tell him to shut up. Then tried to get me to go home with him. After declining numerous times, he tried to follow me home. When I turned around and told him I was calling security and that he should go home, he took hold of me and began kissing me. When I finally managed to escape from his arms and I started walking away, he shouted, “Really?!”
- Pepper spray and tasers are illegal in my state, so I carry a switchblade with me everywhere I go.
- If I ever got caught, I could be charged for possession of a concealed weapon.
I understand that I am also just a statistic and my personal experiences may mean little to nothing to you, but consider these:
- In 2012, a 16-year-old Moroccan girl killed herself because a judge forced her to marry her rapist.
- An 11-year-old girl in Texas was raped by 18 men and the New York Times attributed this to the fact that she “dressed older than her age.”
- Reyhaneh Jabari is an Iranian woman who killed the man who was going to rape her. This led to her imprisonment, torture, and subsequent hanging.
- Nujood Ali is at the core of the Yemen movement against child marriage and forced marriage. She got divorced when she was 10.
- Two boys raped a 16 year-old girl in Ohio while the ordeal was filmed. CNN reporters discussed the bright futures of the rapists as athletes.
- In 2014, 94 Jordanian women were legally married to their rapists.
- An eight year-old girl who was married to a man five times her age died the day of her wedding. Her death was the result of bleeding and uterine rupture after intercourse.
- In 2013 in Palestine, 25 women were killed by their brother or father to “protect their honor.”
- As of 2014, 99% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment.
- 90% of Yemeni women have experienced sexual harassment.
Feature image of Tavi Gevinson is courtesy of thestylerookie.com