Being an Effective and Privileged Feminist
As an adult, it took a strength I never developed growing up to jump down from my pedestal.
I grew up getting a lot of what I asked for from my parents. They’re by no means wealthy, but were able to provide financially comfortable lives for my sister and I. As a result, there was an abundance of simple pleasures I knew I could get my hands on just by asking for it - comic books, cute stationery, CDs, snacks, toys, etc. - but my mom and dad knew when to draw the line. Throw splitting my childhood between residential Queens Village and the tamer Northwest Bronx into the mix, however, and I was a spoiled outer Borough Princess. No one couldn’t tell me I wasn’t living a good life in those nice, furnished developments next to thriving parks and supermarkets with options.
Because I was largely used to getting what I wanted, I occasionally caught an attitude when my parents put their foot down. It was a quiet anger, accompanied by an eye-roll and some muttering, but I got over it rather quickly. After all, that's where grandparents and aunts came in, right?
Childhood selfishness faded away during adolescence; I just internally seethed when I didn’t get my way and moved on, earning me the nickname “Moody.” Surprisingly, I became known for my passiveness and excessive apologizing, which were personality traits I’d always possessed, but had since become dominant because of teenage awkwardness. Luckily, those traits died down when I went away to a small, private college upstate and an innate sense of superiority returned. So many of my high school classmates had stayed in the city and went to community colleges, so obviously (sarcasm) I was better than them, right??
On the outside and, mostly, on the inside, I was humble and knew that being privileged was no reason to crap on anyone else’s life. After growing up thinking you’re superior, however, it was a feeling that was hard to shake.
Luckily, feminism and all of its learnings abruptly fell at my feet at the age of 19. A goddess send? I think so. Unbeknownst to me, the movement was going to set the stage for what would be a harsh, but much needed fall from my seat above my peers.
I never considered myself a feminist before adulthood; I knew women were considered less than men in every part of society and received unequal treatment in public and private spaces, but it never spoke to me personally, so I never thought to do any research. I just stuck with the images of burning bras and hairy armpits. My first brush with feminism was thanks to Tumblr, when a follower of mine began to post articles about every topic from the wage gap to a woman’s choice to abortion to dismantling the patriarchy.
What began as casually scrolling through the information and picking up nuggets here and there became me actively seeking out blogs, books and articles. My close friends were doing their own research and we began to spend our lunch and dinner dates talking about intersectional feminism, trans inclusive feminism, white privilege, the glass ceiling and every other topic under the social justice umbrella. I started to learn that these facets of society were something bigger than myself, but at the same time, right in my own backyard. I looked at my own behavior over the course of my life, specifically in high school, and recoiled at the times I had been grossly anti-feminist: calling girls sluts when a crush favored them over me, judging those same girls when they chose to lose their virginities, boiling their “wild and ghetto” personalities down to the fact that they came from a public school background and that I was better because I had had a private school education; it was a rude awakening to unpack those memories, but they aided me in bettering myself as a feminist.
I learned about sisterhood (and not just cis-terhood); about unity; about lending a helping hand to women both similar and different to me, whether that was in affluent or not as affluent conditions. I learned to accept the different ways women choose to live, not that they need my approval. Among the most important was the acceptance that while, yes, I’ve been privileged financially and opportunity-wise, that was no reason to look down on those who didn’t have what I had.
2016 made five years since I first began knocking down my pedestal. Pangs of superiority still come and go, but I consider my days of childhood selfishness to be behind me. In my journey to become a better and more informed feminist, I’ve learned about how some Black women just like me are simply not given a chance to thrive and if and when they try, that attempt might not work in their favor. I’ve learned to lift up those around me instead of thinking ill of them and it’s never felt better.
Written by Asia Ewart
A fledgling lifestyle and entertainment journalist, Asia has written articles on pop culture, feminism, race, sexuality and the like for sites like Bustle, SheKnows, Metro US and TheDishh. When she isn't waiting for her tea to steep, she's cuddling with her cat and planning her next vacation. Stay up to date on her articles at asiaewart.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @asiaewar