Thank you to those who have given us, as females, a voice.

Over the past few days, I have been asked what the point of all of this is; “this” being feminism. Taken aback by this comment, I pondered it because I have always assumed that I was simply making a difference by supporting the movement itself. Then I began to think: is supporting it enough? Is being a female enough to make a difference? Are my actions that support this movement enough? Is saying I’m a feminist really being a feminist? Do my doubts and fears of the movement not make me a feminist? I had never thought about whether or not a difference was really being made in something I had made known I believed in. After feeling like my voice was smaller than usual, I realized that my voice itself was what could make a difference. A very big difference, quite frankly. This voice, however, did not come about without immense sacrifice, dedication, and bravery of many women before us. Women once were expected to be sexually pure, but also a sexual object at hand for their husband when he desired them, preferably uneducated, pious, domestic, obedient, delicate, inferior, overlooked, solely a child-bearer, etc. These previous standards and views of women were not shattered in an instant nor in a timely manner (seeing as some choose to still believe these things), but were fought for by women just like us. Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who fought at the First Women’s Rights Convention, or Marlene Dietrich who wore men’s suits in a time where that was seen as unacceptable. Malala Yousafzai and her fight for female education worldwide, or Emma Watson, who makes an adamant point that feminism is not a fight against men, but a fight for equal rights, opportunities, and freedom among both genders. Even Lucy Hargrove who created Grrlpunch, where I have been given a chance along with many others, to share my voice and open the eyes of others to this wonderful movement. Each and every one of these women fought and fight not only for themselves, but for us. Each of these things does matter – their risks and chances, but also dreams and aspirations, are what paved the way for our choice, but more importantly our ability, to fight for what we believe in as women and also as human beings. It is disrespectful not to stand up for our rights and the rights of women who still remain without a voice after all the women before us did. The world is a beautiful place and us as women have the ability to make it even more beautiful with our actions and our voice – a voice not simply given to us, but fought for us to have.

The next time I am asked what the point of all of “this” is, I will not only respond with what I just wrote, but also that every movement or fight for something started with simple, yet incredibly motivated and inspired, people like each and every one of us who’s belief was strong enough to step outside of what seems comfortable or easy. If nobody ever speaks up for what they believe in despite the negative and dehumanizing views and words of others, how can we ever expect a change? We can’t. I quote from Emma Watson’s UN speech, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” I will no longer be afraid to voice my opinion, hide behind it, or allow anybody to be put down simply because they are a male or female with opposing views. I believe in gender equality, like those before me, and I plan to continue to carry out the same intentions, hopes, and dreams as they did. The women before us have shown me this very concept and have left me here today with no fear in my voice, and no fear in this fight.

Thank you to those before me who have given and inspired my voice.

With arms wide open,

Tess

Artwork: Zoe