A/N: Hey, thanks for checking out my story! :) Just want to clarify a few things that you may or may not be wondering based on the title and description! If you don't really care, then feel free to just skip this and start reading! If you're wondering about what message I'm trying to share about feminism, then this next part is for you! :)
First off, this is not meant to be some sort of anti feminist story and I am not against feminism. I actually am a feminist and I think that feminism is important and needed around the world.
This story was inspired by how I used to act as a feminist when I was younger. I discovered feminism when I was in middle school, but I found some blogs and articles that were honestly not the best representation of feminism. So I kind of followed these examples and thought I was doing a good thing until I learned what feminism actually was when I got older. Looking back now, it's kind of funny and one day, I wondered what it would look like if there was an in-person community that all shared some of those ideas.
Slight spoiler, but I do have a plan to represent what it really means to be a feminist in later chapters. There will definitely be some positive representation of feminism as Justice is exposed to some new ideas in New York. :)
Also, not everything that is portrayed in this fictional community is something I disagree with. I tried to keep all of the beliefs in this story in line with what someone with some of the beliefs I disagree with would believe. For example, there is a non-binary character in this story. Most people who are feminists are very supportive of LGBT people (with the exception of TERFS/radfems), so I thought that in an environment like that, it would be more likely for people to be aware of their sexual orientation or gender identity at a younger age and feel comfortable telling others. I would consider this to be a positive thing and definitely not something I would criticize. It would definitely be one of the few perks of living in that community! :)
Hope this clears everything up and feel free to ask any more questions that you have about this story/why I'm writing it/etc.
March 8, 2018
The cool wind blows my hair around my face. I guess today was not a good day to be running late and forget to bring a hair tie. I should really just sleep with a hair tie on my wrist or something, but of course, I keep forgetting to do that too.
"Hey Justice!" my best friend, Marshella smiles and waves at me when I finally get to the bus stop.
"Hey Mars!" I smile at her. She probably can't see my face behind all my hair though.
She chuckles, "It's pretty windy today."
"Yeah!" I agree, "You're smarter than me! You actually came prepared!" We both laugh.
Her thick wavy hair is pulled back in a half ponytail with a purple scrunchie, so the hair around her face stays put. She reaches into the front pocket of her backpack and pulls out a silver scrunchie.
"Here, I have an extra one." she hands me the scrunchie.
"Thanks Mars! You're a lifesaver!" I grin.
"Anytime!" she smiles as she helps me hold my hair in place while I tie it back.
On second thought, this day isn't so bad. In fact, it's actually a pretty good day. The weather is the best type of spring weather. Still cool, so you're not sweating. But also, warm enough to just wear a light jacket. The wind is not so great, I guess, but it's not so bad if you have a hair tie.
The bus pulls up and I grab a seat next to Marshella. A few minutes later, it stops at Ms. Mellow Feminist Elementary School. We look around the schoolyard for our other friends, Safron and Avery. We immediately spot Avery because of their colourful hair. They currently have it partially shaved and dyed a bright, but not quite neon, teal.
"Hi Justice! Marshella!" Avery calls. They rush over to us with Safron and we all walk over to the tree by the monkey bars. Safron must really like this nice weather because she is only wearing a beige crop top, a pink cardigan, a very light pair of jeans that I would never be able to keep clean for more than five minutes, and strappy sandals. Most people are at least wearing light jackets today. I don't know how she's not freezing!
Shade Simmons, who is climbing on the monkey bars waves at us. Some of the girls in our class think he's cute because he has blue eyes. I'll admit that his eyes are pretty, but his annoying personality totally ruins it. He seems to think that all the girls are in love with him. Well okay, maybe about half the girls in our class are. But still! He's always going out of his way to be friendly to all the girls and then acts shocked when the girl doesn't get all excited that Cute Popular Shade™ is talking to her.
"Hey Safron!" he calls, but she ignores him since she does not owe him her time. Who makes unsolicited comments to women anyways?
"Safron?" he calls again as we approach the monkey bars. What's his problem? He really needs to take a hint!
"HEY!" Avery yells. "YOU CAN'T JUST MAKE UNSOLICITED COMMENTS TO WOMEN! DID ANYONE ASK FOR YOUR OPINION? NO? THEN FUCK OFF, YOU FUCKBOY!" they scream.
"Okay, okay. I was just saying hi." He turns to Safron. "I'm sorry if I upset you. That was not my intention." Safron shrugs.
"You should be!" Avery says.
Kent Rivers, who is walking by, adds, "It doesn't matter what your intention was Shade. It is our responsibility as men to not make women feel unsafe." I smile at him.
"Thanks! I wish all guys would understand this!" Marshella says. Shade rolls his eyes and walks away.
"What a fuckboy!" I say. Yes, I was referring to Shade, not Kent. Marshella and Avery agree.
"I'm so sorry you have to deal with things like this every day!" Kent says, looking back at us. I smile at him while Safron looks irritated. She must still be annoyed with Shade, which is totally justified in my opinion. The bell rings and we all head inside.
At Ms. Mellow Feminist schools, Women's Studies is everyone's first class. Our teacher, Ms. Denmark has written today's topic on the board : INTERNALISED MISOGYNY.
"Hello everyone!" she greets us. "I want you all to write down what you think when you hear the word, internalised misogyny. Kent, can you please hand out the paper?"
We talk a lot about feminism at home, so I already know this one. When I get my piece of paper, I immediately write,
"Internalised misogyny is when women internalise the misogynistic ideas that are so prevalent in our society. Women with internalised misogyny hold misogynistic views and often distance themselves from other women."
Two minutes later, Ms. Denmark says, "Now, I want you all to get into small groups and share what you have written."
I turn to Marshella, Avery, and Safron. "Who wants to go first?" I ask.
Safron begins, "It is when a woman believes she is inferior to men."
Then Marshella reads, "When a woman hates other women."
Avery says, "It is when a woman supports the patriarchy and is against feminism." Finally it's my turn. I read what I have written.
"Very good!" Ms. Denmark says. I didn't realise she was listening to us. "Do you mind if I share this with the class?"
"No, not at all!" I say.
"I walked around the room and I saw that you all had some very good answers, but Justice has the perfect description of internalised misogyny. Justice, can you please read what you have written to the class?"
"Internalised misogyny is when women internalise the misogynistic ideas that are so prevalent in our society. Women with internalised misogyny hold misogynistic views and often distance themselves from other women."
"That is exactly what internalised misogyny is!"
"Now let's go through some symptoms of internalised misogyny." she says, while writing on the board. "If you use 'like a girl' as an insult, you have internalised misogyny because that implies that women are inferior to men and that there is something inherently wrong with being a woman. If you are pro-life, you have internalised misogyny because you are prioritising a fetus who is not born yet over a woman who is already born. If you say that you are not like the other girls, you have internalised misogyny because you are implying that there is something wrong with the other girls and that there is something wrong with being a girl. The same thing applies to saying that you are one of the guys. Has everyone written this down?" Everyone nods.
"Good," Ms. Denmark says, wiping off the chalkboard, "please keep your notebooks open. There is more that I want to discuss! Who has heard of patriarchal beauty standards?" I raise my hand along with most of the class.
"Good, good! Now who here has conformed to a patriarchal beauty standard at some point?"
I definitely haven't. I know I'm beautiful without makeup, and more importantly that outer beauty is completely irrelevant. I have never shaved in my life. I don't own any makeup and I only wear comfortable clothes. I look around the class to see what the other girls are thinking. Most of them are looking at their desks awkwardly. Nobody raises their hand, but I can see why some of the girls look so uncomfortable. Many of them are wearing some sort of makeup. Many of their outfits look very perfect as if they spent a bunch of time putting them together. I suddenly feel very sad for these girls, especially Safron and Marshella.
"No volunteers?" Ms. Denmark continues. "That's okay! It can be uncomfortable to confront our internalized biases, but that's what I'm here to help you with!" She starts writing on the board,
"Examples of Patriarchal Beauty Standards:
Spending Time and Money on Makeup and Complex Hairstyles
Wearing Uncomfortable Clothing
Wearing Harmful/Uncomfortable Shoes"
I write all of this down and try to recall if I have ever done any of these things. Like I said, I have never shaved and I don't own any makeup. I don't really care how my hair looks, so I normally just wear it down or put it in a ponytail or a messy bun or something. Nothing complicated. I only wear comfortable, practical clothes and the only shoes I own are sneakers, flip flops, and boots. I think I'm doing a pretty good job at rejecting patriarchal beauty standards.
"Now, let's talk about why these things are harmful!" she says after we have finished writing. "Shaving may seem like an innocent personal choice, but I would challenge you to consider why you do it. Do you feel insecure when your legs are hairy? If so, why do you feel that way? Why do you feel ashamed of the natural state of your body? I would challenge everyone who defaults to shaving to try to go without shaving for a couple weeks and see how it feels. See how it changes your perception of yourself and the beauty standards you subconsciously follow."
Most of the girls seem to be very uncomfortable with this idea. It's so sad that their parents didn't teach them to love themselves. I zone out for the rest of Ms. Denmark's explanation. I really hate society right now. I wish everyone could see how much these horrible beauty standards really hurt all women! Even women, like my friends, who have been raised in a feminist community their whole lives!
"Now, it is time to talk about any instances of everyday sexism that we have experienced. I'll go first." Ms. Denmark says. "Yesterday, I was telling my mother about my day and she told me that I should tone down the feminism or else I will never get a husband. Who wants to go next?"
"Yesterday, I was discussing the erasure of non-binary individuals with my brother and he asked me why it even mattered. Why it even mattered! Can you fucking believe it? Anyway, I got really angry and sort of lost my temper and got a bit physical because you know this subject is very important to me and has a huge impact on my life and guess what my mother told me? She told me to calm down and that it wasn't acceptable to hit my brother! My own mother told me to fucking calm down! Tone policing happens so much in our society and it is always used to silence women and non-binary people!"
Ms. Denmark nods. "Thank you Avery!"
"Well, I was just thinking about Ms. Mellow's daughter, Riley. Recently, she has stopped being a feminist and she has decided to be a housewife. I can't help but notice that she got a lot of hate when she was a feminist, so clearly she was influenced by society into acting differently. Even Ms. Mellow's own daughter is not safe from sexism and internalised misogyny. Let that sink in!"
"Thank you Justice!"
"Yes, Cora?" "On the weekend, I was visiting my grandparents and I wanted to wear my favourite outfit that I am wearing today, by the way. My mother told me to change because it was too revealing and 'not appropriate for the occasion.' This is clearly slut shaming and it is not okay!"
"Thank you Cora!"
"Does anyone else have any experiences they would like to share?" Ms. Denmark asks. Avery raises their hand. "Yes, Avery?"
"Well, this didn't happen to me but this morning Shade made some unsolicited comments to Safron!"
Ms. Denmark nods. "Safron? Do you want to talk about what happened?"
To my surprise, Safron shakes her head. "Not really. It wasn't that big of a deal. He just said 'hi' to me." She looks around the room. "I mean, I can understand why some people would see it as a problem but I think it was all a misunderstanding."
Ms. Denmark frowns. "I see." She thinks for a moment and says, "Safron. Shade. Can you please stay after class for a little while?" They both nod.
"Please turn to page 71 in your Gender Studies textbook and read the chapter on Menstruation and Shame for the rest of the period. If you finish early, please let me know and I will give you a worksheet to do." Ms. Denmark says.
I open my textbook and start reading about Menstruation and Shame, but I still can't stop thinking about Safron. She didn't even seem upset about what happened. The bell rings and I head to science with Marshella and Avery.
Ms. Toad tells us to get into groups to do a lab. I work with Marshella and Avery. I almost mix the wrong substances, almost causing a mini explosion. Safron joins us when she comes to class late after talking to Ms. Denmark. We finish the lab and start working on our lab reports. I can hardly concentrate the entire time because I'm still thinking about what Safron said. It just makes no sense to me. The bell rings and I head to the gym with my class.
Ms. Mulch puts us in three teams, girls, boys, and non-binary people to play dodgeball. I try to play my best but my heart just isn't in it. At first, it seems like the non-binary team is winning but in the end, the boys win by one point. Ms. Mulch tells the boys that they should always consider their male privilege and that they should have gone easy on the girls and non-binary teams. They all have to run laps because of this. I notice that Safron looks unhappy. I ask her if she's okay, but she just shrugs and changes the subject. I look at Avery and Marshella. Avery looks as confused as I am. Marshella doesn't seem to care, but that's normal for her. Finally, after what feels like forever, the bell rings.
At Ms. Mellow Feminist Elementary School, we are allowed to go wherever we want at lunch and do whatever we want. We don't even have to stay on school property, so my friends and I normally go to HuggaMug Café. It's a really nice, cozy café that is only a five minute walk from our school, so it's perfect. It's also owned by a woman so we also get to support female entrepreneurs! Her daughters sometimes help run the café too, so we're also encouraging girls to follow their entrepreneurial dreams! Pretty awesome, right? It also helps that the food there is amazing! Avery, Marshella, and I start walking towards the doors, but Safron stops.
"I can't go to the café with you guys today. I need to go to the library and finish some homework."
"Okay," Marshella shrugs, "see you in math!"
Avery and I look at each other in disbelief. "Did she just say 'you guys?'" they ask, clearly as shocked as I am. This may not seem like a big deal to most people raised in a misogynistic society, but "you guys" is a sexist microaggression that erases women and non-binary people. We have all been taught to use more inclusive alternatives.
"I think so," I frown, "and she seemed really distracted and a little flustered."
"She's probably still upset about Shade harassing her this morning!" Avery says.
"That's possible," I agree, "but she didn't really seem that upset about that, which is really weird because he was definitely harassing her." Avery nods.
"Maybe we should be extra nice to her and let her know that she can talk to us about anything!" Marshella suggests.
"Good idea!" I agree.
We walk into HuggaMug Café and are greeted by warmth and the smell of cinnamon and coffee.
"Hello Justice! Marshella! Avery! Good to see you!" Caroline, the owner of the café says when she sees us. "What can I get for you today?"
"Can I get a medium hot chocolate with caramel whipped cream on top?" I ask.
"I would like a small raspberry tea." Marshella says.
"Can I have a large strawberry banana smoothie with whipped cream and cherries on top, a large chocolate fudge brownie and a medium chocolate chunk muffin?" Avery asks.
Caroline smiles. "Of course! It will be ready in a minute." We move out of the way to let the other customers order. A minute later, our orders are ready and we sit down to eat.
Avery eyes Marshella's small raspberry tea suspiciously.
"Is that all you're ordering?" they ask.
Marshella shrugs. "I'm on my period and it helps with the cramps."
Avery nods. "Oh okay! It's good to be connected to your body. I was worried you were dieting or something!"
Marshella laughs nervously. "Of course not! Does that seem like something I would do?"
"I guess not." Avery admits. "So, have you tried the new period panties yet?"
Marshella shakes her head. "No, I honestly prefer tampons. I really don't feeling like I'm wearing a diaper."
Avery frowns. "So you're disgusted by the blood?" they demand.
"Well yes. I guess you could say that." Marshella shrugs. "It just feels really gross. I respect everyone's choices of course."
Avery frowns and looks like they are about to say something else, but I ask, "So, what do you think we should do about Safron?"
"We could invite her to my house after school and we could make cookies for her and watch some feminist movies. Then, we can tell her that we're here for her and she can talk to us about anything." Marshella suggests.
"Good idea! Let's do that today." Avery says.
"We should!" I agree. "You should ask your mom about it right now."
"Okay!" Marshella says, taking her phone out of her pocket.
"What movie should we watch?" I ask.
"We should watch the new Ghostbusters reboot!" Avery suggests.
Marshella frowns. "I don't know, I heard that movie had some pretty bad ratings."
"Well, duh," Avery rolls their eyes, "any movie that feature strong female protagonists is gonna be hated by society and therefore flop!"
"Well, I was thinking of watching Mean Girls because that's Safron's favourite movie, but that works too." I say quickly, trying to make everyone happy.
"My mom said that we can all come to my house after school and stay for supper." Marshella says. "You two should check with your parents to make sure you can come. I'll text Safron right now."
I take out my phone and text my mom to see if I can go to Marshella's house and Avery does the same thing, momentarily forgetting about the disagreement.
"My mom said I can come." Avery says.
"That's great!" Marshella says.
My phone buzzes. I look at my phone and frown.
Not today, there's something that I need to talk to the whole family about. Please come right home.
"I can't today. Sorry." I say.
"It's okay," Marshella says, "maybe next time!"
I smile and nod. I look down at my phone again. I really hope that this announcement isn't anything bad. I then look at the time and realise that lunch is almost over.
"It's almost 11:45." I say. "We should go."
We quickly walk back to the school.
We have math next. Ms. Main is teaching us about geometry. It's the easiest unit in my opinion, so I zone out until we are assigned textbook work. After I am finished, I zone out again. I can't help thinking about what my mom said. I really hope she doesn't have bad news for us. Finally, after what feels like forever, the bell rings.
Avery, Marshella, Safron, and I head to Assorted Arts class. Ms. Boggs announces that we are going to work on visual arts today and she starts handing back our assignments that we had been working on previously. It is a sketch of how we see our bodies. It can be a literal representation or more figurative or metaphorical. I continue working on my sketch until the bell rings.
Our next class is Social Studies. We are learning about history right now. Ms. Manilla announces that in light of finishing our slavery unit, she wants all of the white students to write apology letters to their black classmates and she wants all of the black students to write down one thing that they want white people to know. The students who are neither black nor white are allowed to play games on their phones. I start writing out my apology letter. It feels really awkward, but I know it is nothing compared to what people of colour experience everyday. The bell rings and Marshella and I walk to the busses.
The bus finally stops at my house and I get off along with my younger sisters, Equity and Privilege. They talk and laugh together, blissfully unaware that Mom has a Big Announcement™ for us. Equity is only in grade six and Privilege is in grade four, so they don't have phones yet. They have no idea how lucky they are!
"Are you okay, Justice?" Privilege looks up at me, her eyes full of concern.
Out of all of my sisters, we probably look the least alike when you first glance at us. I have pin straight blonde hair and greyish blue eyes while she has curly brown hair and bright blue eyes. But we both have the same big expressive eyes and facial expressions. It's like everyone we talk to can instantly read our minds!
Despite this problem, I shrug and try to smile convincingly, "Yeah, I just have a lot of homework."
Privilege does the same thing, "Oh, okay! I hope you finish it all."
Well, that's what she says with her voice. Her face says, "I know you're lying. What's going on?"
Oh well, she'll find out soon. We all will.
We head inside. Equity is already in the kitchen, getting herself a snack.
"I can't decide if I want a PB&J or a Nutella sandwich. What do y'all think?" she asks us.
Privilege and I grin at each other. Classic Equity! She's always thinking about food. She's also the most oblivious out of all of us. Not that that's a bad thing or anything, of course! She's also the most carefree and always seems to be having fun. I wish I could be more like her.
"Definitely Nutella!" I say.
They both giggle. It's a well known fact in this house that I love Nutella more than Eleven loves Eggos. And yes, I know that Stranger Things is a little (or a lot, depending on who you ask) problematic, but Mom okayed it on the condition that we have feminist analysis discussions as a family after each episode.
"Can you all come into the living room?" Mom pokes her head in the kitchen, reminding me of the Big Problem™. "I have something that I need to talk to you about." We all sit down on the couch.
My older sister, Diversity is already in the living room. I look at her to see if she knows anything, but she just shrugs. Weird! Normally, she'd be way more concerned about something big like this. Lately, she's been a little different though. She hasn't seemed to care as much about anything. Well, actually that's not exactly true. She has started caring a lot more about how she looks. She's started curling her hair sometimes and wearing tighter clothes. I'm probably wrong, but yesterday, I thought it looked like she was wearing eyeliner.
"I am sure that you all read my text earlier today and you're probably wondering what I wanted to talk to you about." Mom interrupts my thoughts.
She adjusts her round glasses and runs her hand through her short hair. She looks down at the floor and then back at us. Mom never gets nervous! This is really bad.
"It's not anything bad, is it?" Privilege asks.
Mom shakes her head. "Well, no. Not exactly. I have good news and bad news. I got a phone call today from TLC. I, along with a group of other feminists, have been offered a TV show! It will be such a great opportunity to educate others about feminism!" She tells us.
"That's great, Mom!" I exclaim.
Privilege frowns. "What's the bad news though?"
Mom's smile fades. "Well, our show is going to be recorded in New York. That means that we'll have to move. You will have to go to public school instead of the Ms. Mellow schools that you attend now."
Privilege, Equity, and I frown while Diversity looks excited. Maybe it's just because she has always wanted to live in a big city, but how is she not even a little bit upset? I guess living in a bigger city could be nice, but I'd never get to see my friends! I don't know how I feel about going to public school either. I've always liked learning about feminism at school. All of the feminist related courses are my favourite!
"I know this transition will be difficult for all of you, but I have some more good news. I talked to TLC and asked if you could be on my show sometimes and be in the studio and they agreed to this. You can also talk to the other feminists that I'm collaborating with. That will be sort of like talking to your teachers at your Ms. Mellow schools, right?"
Equity grins excitedly. "That sounds really cool! I can really make a difference and influence people on your TV show!"
I smile too. "That's true." I say. "I won't get to see my friends as much though."
Mom smiles. "You can still see them on the weekends! I'd be happy to drive you every other weekend if you want!"
"Really?" I ask.
"Of course!" she says.
Maybe this move won't be so bad after all. It could be like a new adventure, I guess.