Why I’m a Feminist

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13207207646029.NX9ifglzOO4AK9aYkljO_height640Laritza SalazarSyracuse University

My transition into feminism was purely emotional. It seemed as though acts and words that were a threat to my gender equality all triggered the same emotion: fear. Since becoming a feminist I’ve come to realize that fear is a force to be reckoned with.

When I reflect back on my life and look at all the things I never did, all the people I never spoke to, all the truths I believed, and everything I’ve ever worshiped or loathed were a direct result of fear. I think learning the word “vagina” was the moment in which I learned to fear because I was always taught to use an innuendo when referring to my body like “peepee” or “flower” because calling it by its own name proved too provocative, and so I should fear it. Most of the fear induced to me as a young girl transformed into constant self-adjustment, as though I must shape myself in order to be safe in the world rather than shaping the world so that I could be safe in it. I learned to view men as perpetrators when my parents refused to leave me alone in the same room as my older cousin; I learned that women’s bodies were battlegrounds and collateral in wars ignited to shelter us in history class; I learned that attacks on me aren’t valid because yelling “fire” is more effective than yelling “rape,” but most of all I’ve learned that my body does not belong to me. Instead my body belonged to layers of clothing made to cover my thighs and shoulders because universal body parts still need to be left to the imagination.

My body belonged to all the ideologies that praised chastity and so my worth always depended on a man’s touch. My body belonged to legislative bills that were meant to teach me how to use my body, as though my parts were devices left without manuals. I learned that my body never belonged to me because it was a scary, uncharted territory, and with that I learned that a woman who was afraid must also be feared, because the fear might teach her something about the dark. It is words like “flower” and “coochie” and sayings like “aunt flow” or “time of the month” that have made me fear being a woman, as though I am guilty of something for having an XX chromosome. I grew up believing my body was a metaphor for a thousand things, but it was never anything real or tangible to myself. Today I am a feminist because I am a person, and my personhood should no longer depend on the realness or imagination of my body, or its names, or implications, or demonstrations.

My name is Laritza Salazar, I live in New York City and I was born in the Dominican Republic and I am of Dominican descent. I am currently a sophomore at Syracuse University studying Journalism and Geography and I hope to get into law school to practice environmental law.