***Flawless

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No means no. This simple statement is ingrained into our minds at birth, yet now we live in a world where saying no could get you killed. 

On April fourteenth an estimated 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from their boarding school in Chibok by a prominent terrorist group. On April twenty-fifth, a Connecticut high school student named Maren Sanchez was stabbed to death by a sixteen-year-old boy because she refused to attend the prom with him. On May twenty-fourth, a twenty-two year old boy murdered six University of California: Santa Barbra students, as well as himself, because he had been continually rejected by girls sexually and romantically.

It may be noticed that the names of the antagonists where not revealed when listing these horrific events. A simple Google search will yield millions of results that highlight these disgusting attackers as celebrities, skimming over the omnipresent necessities of equality and feminism in favor of fascinating the public mind with the twisted histories of these villains. Why continue this unjust action here? These three tragedies, each hateful crimes perpetuated against women, occurred within a forty-one day period. That means that in just over a month, it has taken the occurrence of three preventable atrocities to light on the misogyny that plagues our world, when every single woman has experienced unjust treatment solely because she features a vagina and breasts.

I am one of these women. Even as a seventeen-year-old high school student, not a day goes by where I do not experience misogyny. Standing at a sold five-feet-three-inches, I feature an hourglass and curvaceous body, complete with broad shoulders, large breasts, a small waist, large gluteus maximus, and thick thighs. I work extremely hard to maintain this body with rigorous daily exercise and a very healthy diet, and I am very content with the way in which I look. However, I am exceptionally proud of the way that I think, the accomplishments I have achieved, the knowledge I have attained, and the obstacles I have overcome. Growing up I learned from my parents that beauty comes from the inside and that I should never stop trying to be the best that I could be. Never once did it occur to me that my beauty, the body in which I was born into, would seemingly determine my worth.

Every single day, someone comments on my body. Boys -- from friends to romantic interests to complete strangers -- talk about my breasts, touch and squeeze them without asking, and show me obvious extra attention when I happen to be showing cleavage (which is extremely rare). When I mention that I am looking into getting a breast reduction in the future, my male friends tell me that I would be "letting them down" and ask me to promise to "show them my boobs before I destroy them." Men grab me inappropriately in shopping malls and restaurants. Fellow females automatically assume I am promiscuous because my body is, in society's perception, so sexual. In fact, while writing this article a female classmate that I barely know asked me to "share my boobs with her," prompting laughter from every student in our class. When I go running in my neighborhood in or in the park, I am whistled at, catcalled, and have even had bottles thrown at me. When I bleached my hair, countless amounts of boys informed me that I was "so much prettier as a brunette," as if I care about their meaningless opinion on my beauty. A classmate of mine blurted out, after staring at me intently, that I "am a bimbo blonde now" and one of my teachers joked to the whole class that the "bleach must have leaked into my brain" after I performed poorly on a test. All of this disgusts me. 

I feel as if I, as a woman, have to work exceptionally harder to be recognized for my accomplishments, rather than my appearance, and I know that I am not alone. Alexa Chung stated in an interview for Into the Gloss that "a guy said to [her] the other day, 'Oh, you look really pretty!' and [she] was like, 'Ugh.' [She] can't handle that. [She'd] rather hear, 'Oh, you sound clever today!' So now he's like 'You're really clever today, Alexa,' but he doesn't mean it." And I agree; it is exponentially more satisfying to be credited for your brains rather than complimented for your beauty. How would society change if we stopped telling our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our sisters, and our friends how beautiful they are, how skinny they are, how perfect they are? What if instead we tell them how intelligent they are, how strong they are, how capable they are? Why do we tell our daughters they can be anything they want to be when they grow up? Why should they even doubt that they can? 

Debora Spar says it best: "Women can't have it all... Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we feel we can do anything, we feel we have to do everything.” The only thing that we, as women, have to do is stick together to fight for what we, as human beings, deserve. #YesAllWomen deserve a complete education. #YesAllWomen have the right to reject a man and expect to live a long life after doing so. #YesAllWomen deserve to be paid the same as men and treated fairly as such. #YesAllWomen deserve to be praised on the products of their thoughts and not the curves of their backsides. #YesAllWomen deserve to be able to walk down the street without fear. #YesAllWomen deserve to see their rapists put in jail without being blamed for instigating their assault. Yes, all women deserve equality. 

Feminism is a noun that can be defined as "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." Nigerian author and activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie promotes this in her April 2013 TEDx Talk, which can be heard in the middle of BeyoncΓ©'s hit song ***FlawlessIn fact, this article is entitled ***Flawless due to the fact that every morning, the women of the world wake up "like this" -- like the incredible females we are -- and accomplish everything men are achieving while facing the omnipresent swords of misogyny that are constantly being stabbed in our direction. Females are flawless. We are flawless not because we are perfect, but because we are not flawed by the fact that we are simply women. I strongly recommend taking the measly thirty minutes out of your day to watch Adichie's life changing lecture, because as Mazzy Bell so profoundly explained, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. In other words, it is the idea that men and women are equal. A lot of people are uneducated on what the feminist movement actually is which is why so many people look down on it. Really though, everyone should consider themselves a feminist. It's [2014], if you don't think women and men are equal then you are clearly missing something here." 

What do I want you to take away from this article? What I want you to take away from this article depends on how willing you are to recognize fault and instigate change, so the question itself alters. What are you willing to change? We are society. Each individual has his or her own powerful impact. It should not take the kidnapping of passionately educated schoolgirls, the murdering of a promising prom attendee-to-be, or the massacring of six bright, creative thinkers to realize that misogyny is an epidemic that must be desecrated at all costs. Every single reader here has the ability to make this difference because #YesAllWomen gave life to each and every single one of us here on planet Earth. 

Today, May twenty-eighth, coincides with the death of the incredible poet, essayist, and activist Maya Angelou, who, conclusively, surmises: 

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

Photo of Gloria Steinem by Joyce Culver for 92Y. 

Thoughts?