Not your mother’s brand of feminism

The summer before 11th grade I went to summer camp, like I had been doing year after year for the past seven years.

Except this summer was different.

I had one counselor who handed me a copy of Jessica Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism.”  

This book started me on a journey to find my feminist identity.

After four weeks, my parents came to pick me up from camp.

I ran into their arms, hugged them both, put my hands on my hips and said, “Mom, Dad, I am a feminist.”

They smiled and said, “That’s great honey, now where is your trunk so we can load it into the car?”

That ride back from camp was a mix of me explaining all the great things I did at camp, along with facts about the patriarchy. It sounded something like this:

“We got to dress up for the all-camp activity as pirates. Also, did you know women make 77 cents to every dollar a man makes?”

As I rode home, happily in the backseat recalling my great summer at camp, I felt a pit in my stomach.

I had just identified myself as a feminist.

Oh dear, what did I get myself into?

Do I now have to forgo shaving my legs and wearing a bra? Can I still shower?

Can I still take advantage of the Victoria’s Secret semi- annual sale?

Do I now have to march topless on Capitol Hill while single-handedly slugging any abortion protester in my path?

Maybe I wasn’t a feminist; or maybe, even worse, I was a bad feminist.

Well now, what I was supposed to do?

I had already stuck an “I stand with Planned Parenthood” sticker on my laptop.

So I took a step back. What was feminism?

I slowly realized that being a feminist isn’t about who can grow out their armpit hair the longest.

Feminism was about making educated and conscious choices.

I understand that body hair is natural, yet the beauty industry tells us it’s not so they can sell us pink razors and strawberry shaving cream.

sarah-heftI get that.

But that still doesn’t stop me from pulling out that razor before date night.

If anything, I feel more empowered shaving my legs because I know I am shaving them for me, because I like it, not because I hate a naturally-occurring part of my body.

Getting over this hump has led me to discover that there is so much more to feminism than whether or not I curl my eyelashes.

There is sexism, homophobia, racism and cisnormativity that need to be tackled in order for us to live in a more inclusive, equal and less hostile society.

So go ahead and pierce your belly button, dab on some eyeshadow and shave your armpits. Just not all at the same time.

You do uterus!