I didn’t have a eureka moment per se.
I never had that cinematic money shot where I jumped on my desk in the middle of my social studies exam and suddenly declared “This is patriarchal hegemonic bulls**t of the most rank and venomous order and, as God as my witness, this misogynistic outrage shall not stand!”
After all, I was popular and being Popular While Fat, especially in high school was radical enough. I didn’t want to ruin my chances at Prom Queen.
The truth was, and still is, I’m a pretty girly girl on the outside and my highly-polished candy shell has served me well.
It’s not fake.
I point that out because we’ve all run into sugar-coated vipers from time to time — in the South their distinctive hiss is, of course, blessherheart— but I believe for every poisonous powder puff there are a dozen women just like me, whose almost cartoonish femininity is just one letter in their persona’s alphabet soup.
It has always been thus.
I loved classic movies as a kid.
I still do, but as pretty as Audrey Hepburn looked in all her Givenchy frocks, I never related to the easily-digestible non-threatening Professional Naif. Where were the female rugged individualists with opinions and guns to back them up? Except Annie Oakley from Annie Get Your Gun. Screw that trick-shooting traitor.
Sure, I wanted to DRESS like Holly Golightly but I wanted to BE The Duke.
And as much as I wanted it, I knew it was out of reach and it was out of reach because the Rules were Different For Girls.
I didn’t even know what the rules were.
I knew they didn’t involve pushing for the front of the line or trying out a new and exciting dirty words only to have it excused away with the mysterious “boys will be boys“.
I knew it involved being a Nice Girl, since the worst thing in the world –with repercussions so terrible I never exactly found out what they were– was to have your name whispered along with the pointedly capitalized phrase “Not a Nice Girl”.
Nice girls did (or more often didn’t) do this, that or the other thing and the finishing school finish line always kept moving.
I was walking a moving tightrope just to make sure I didn’t fall into perdition before the training wheels fell off my bra and yet somehow when my brother acted up it was —say it with me now— “Boys will be boys“.
Sure he got punished –I still can’t believe he thought making pornographic calls to 911 from a payphone and then hanging around the phone after was a good idea– but for he was punished his actions, not as a judgment against his character.
He had to worry about grounding, about spankings and demerits, but I’m pretty darn sure no one ever told him he’d end up alone, unloved and surrounded by cats unless he had gleaming bouncy hair, inoffensive opinions and a stomach that curved in instead of pooching out.
In fact, I suspect if someone had told him that, he probably would’ve nodded his seven year-old head seriously, sworn to walk the straight and narrow forever and then shrug the whole thing off as ridiculous and proceed to do what he damn well pleased.
I was 17 before I realized rebellion, either oblique or acute, was an option for girls.
It would be five more years before I started saying “no” to menial gender-based assignments and another five before I understood wanting freedom from being treated involuntarily like a publicly-held commodity in which all people everywhere own shares is not sociopathic entitlement: It’s a basic human right.
My brother figured that out at seven.
So no, I didn’t really have a “feminist eureka” moment.
I am a work in progress, and like many women who’ve grown up in the comparatively calm waters of passive third-wave feminism, the recent “War on Women” (because yeah, that’s new) has been an unpleasant wake-up call to necessary activism.
I’m interested in hearing the stories of other women. Did you have an easily traced Feminist Eureka or did it comes in drips and drabs, like me? Maybe you’re still waiting. Either way, put it in the comments.
As an aside, Hot Latin Boy’s workplace offers free birth control to employees and their partners –not just spouses– and most of my friends here were genuinely surprised that was not the case in the United States, since it’s seemingly standard practice in their culturally Roman Catholic developing third world nation. Interesting, no?