It can be easy to let labels run our lives.
A few years ago, I opened a door that I haven’t quite been able to wedge shut. It was Christmas vacation: I’d watched a film with my parents and nestled onto the couch with a hefty glass of wine. I don’t remember why inspiration struck, but I remember tweeting, very innocently, “thank goodness for #feminism.”
The darkest depths of the Twitterverse opened to reveal its nastiest messengers. I received at least 30 replies from Internet trolls, willing to fight me to a virtual concession. They—mostly anonymous accounts with anti-feminist names—told me I was moronically sexist, clueless, compelled by white-guilt, a waste of a college education, a sheep, and weak for making my profile private.
Sure, I fell for the bait. I tried to reply a few times, but it was taxing. My goal, if there was one, was to respond with kindness, but it did not yield any productive results. While I’ve all but blocked each of those interactions from my memory, a single conversation stands out.
One person was a little more kind, saying that he was glad to see that I was not totally a man-hater (noting a cover photo of my then-fiance and I), despite following an evil feminist agenda.
For whatever reason, that Twitter comment has stayed with me. Every once in a while, I try to look into my life and how I am externally defined. Though not entirely interesting—I’ve lived a fortunate life of privilege and average accomplishments—there’s at least one conflicting narrative. Yup, I’m a feminist. But I also married at 22.
Before getting engaged, my husband and I were together for five years. I was 16 when we first started dating, and spent much of my youth loving this singular person. We grew up side-by-side, entering adulthood and facing big changes and decisions simultaneously.
I was young, and I still am.
When you are a young adult and start making decisions with another person in mind, you face a lot of scrutiny. And usually, for good reason. Hormones and emotions can interfere with logic. Loved ones are typically looking out for you with best intentions in mind, even if it can feel like your love is being questioned.
As I began to learn more about feminism, and explored important topics like patriarchal oppression, toxic masculinity, and intersectionality, I grew.
I became more aware. I aimed to be better: as a person, participant, and ally. One thing didn’t change, however: the love for my partner.
That didn’t make things easy. I’d receive (mostly unsolicited) questions and pressure about my commitment and engagement, about only having one boyfriend, if I was okay with modern-day ownership, or if I would participate in outdated ceremonial garbage. It wasn’t really offensive, but it did shed a light on labels. Labels that I myself had given in to, plenty of times before.
I even struggled with facets of wedding planning myself: would I have my dad walk me down the aisle? If so, wasn’t I contributing to the outdated model of a man giving away his property to another man? What about my last name? I was stressed out. Was I a bad feminist for wanting to engage in societal norms, and a simple person because I truly enjoyed them?
Screw the labels
Here’s the good news: I realized very quickly that these labels stand a purpose—often good and positive—but they don’t have to have anything to do with my on my big day.
If I choose, they don’t have to have anything to do with myself, ever.
So, I walked away with heartfelt pictures of my dad hugging me at the alter, while my last name stayed put.
I am 100% a feminist—a believer of equality and women’s liberation and the right to be whoever you please. I am also 100% married, to my high school sweetheart, and could not be happier. It’s not an identity crisis, it’s being a fully flushed, three-dimensional character in my own story.
This goes for all of the existing tags placed on our existence. You can be a liberal who advocates for responsible gun ownership, a police supporter that still holds them accountable for any violence, or someone who respects veterans but also wants to forego war. Nothing is black and white, including people.
You, me, us—we’re here to live. Don’t let who you’re supposed to be interfere with who you are. Weigh your choices. Take your time. Make decisions right for you, and both balance and confidence will come.
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