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A Feminine Feminist
by Jessica Simpson

As a young girl, I wore dresses and had ribbons in my hair with boots instead of dress shoes. I played with Barbies and dolls, but I did not hesitate to chase boys instead of waiting for them to chase me. I also climbed trees and rolled around in the dirt while wearing dresses. I found myself between the stereotypical image of girls and less stereotypical images, but I did not realize this until I became a feminist.

The Game

The Game
by Tonya Engel

When I reached my teenage years, I began to think that women were not as privileged as men. Then, my interest in feminism began to develop. I was disgusted when a woman was depicted in a sexual manner. I remember the first time I was really disgusted. I was about twelve years old and my older cousin lived in the basement of my father's house. The basement consisted of a living room, laundry room, bedroom, and bathroom. One day I went down to the basement to get him because we were all going out for dinner, and I saw a Playboy laying out on the table in the living room.

I could not believe what I was seeing and what I could not believe even more was that he looked at Playboy. He came into the living room from his bedroom and noticed the expression on my face and then saw that the Playboy was laying out, open for me to see. He said he was sorry and took it into his room. I told him, "Yeah, you should be sorry." He just looked at me strangely. From my experience, I have formed the opinion that the majority of society allows and even accepts sexual depictions of women. In turn, this leads to sexual harassment and sexual abuse towards women.

There was an incident, which I clearly remember, that happened when I was in high school where I was sexually harassed by a male student. As I was walking by him before class began, he told me, "You have a nice ass." Then he actually slapped me there. I was so startled and I did not say anything, I just walked away. I felt so weak and demeaned. It bothered me the entire day, but I did not tell anyone about it, not even my friends or family. After this, I constantly avoided the student. I knew many female students were experiencing the same kind of thing, but did nothing about it, except an occasional comment to any male harassers, such as "You're so disgusting!" or a sarcastic, "You're such a big man now!"

It was not until I began college that I acted out against the sexual harassment and sexual abuse towards women. I joined a group called "The Equity Players." The group was organized by the director of the Women's Center at the university I was attending at the time. The group's purpose was to educate the campus and surrounding community about racism and sexism through poetry, songs, and plays.

We performed a play that was based on four college students' experiences with rape. Each account was a true story and the material was very intense. My character was a student who was raped in her dorm room by a male friend. At the end of the performance each of us that were acting as the four students had to answer questions from the audience while still in character. I remember the main question I got a lot was, "Why didn't you scream?" My answer was always, "How could I? I was in shock." But that never seemed to be a good enough answer. It made me more disappointed with people's attitude towards women.

There was another group, called Feminists Liberating Our World (FLOW), that was also organized within The Women's Center at the university I was attending. They always came to our performances. The group consisted of about thirty females and one, maybe two, males. They consistently dressed in black and the females never wore dresses or colors considered feminine, such as pink. Many of them said that these were stereotypes of women that they were trying to avoid.

I do not agree with them about avoiding what is stereotypical of women. I enjoy wearing dresses and flaunting the color pink to express myself as a woman. It makes me unique from the majority of the male gender. It is an aspect of being feminine and this aspect is genuinely female. I would much rather celebrate it than avoid it just because it is considered stereotypical. This has a lot do with why I never joined FLOW--even though I wanted to. I look back and think that I should have joined because they spoke out for a good cause. But I would have been the only female in a dress and who wore colors other than black. I probably would have worn pastels and I am not sure they would have appreciated that. I did not want to disrespect them in anyway.

I do not limit myself to the feminine; I do explore and express other ways of being a woman. One way is exploring and expressing myself in a way that is considered, yes, stereotypical of men. I think it is great that a woman can do this without being harshly criticized. A man that was to explore and express the feminine would definitely get criticized and probably worse. As I mentioned in the beginning, I had a tendency to mix the feminine and less feminine as a young girl. It must be in my nature since I did not know what I was doing or doing so on purpose.

I understand that many women do not believe feminine is only wearing dresses or wearing pink. But for me, this is feminine; this is uniquely female. I do not care if other women, usually feminists in my experience, think I am conforming to society's "norms." I do not look at it that way at all. If there were a protest about women's rights or the sexual abuse and harassment women receive, I would be there. You would notice me; I would be the one with a dress on.

Jessica Simpson is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her website can be found here.

Other Nonfiction Articles:
[ Women: Where Would We Be Without Them? ] [ In Search of the Feminine Archetype ]
[ What Makes Us Who We Are? ]

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