Zeke is the typical white stoner type of guy. He’s tall and skinny, and often dawns a five o’clock shadow. He wears dark wash cutoff jeans, and rolls them up to form pockets where he stores his handmade cigarettes and hookah pen. When he saunters in the classroom, he walks with slugged shoulders, yet puffs his chest. He sports a mischievous smile, and those shirts you see on the internet with slogans like “What drugs would Jesus do?”. Zeke wears flip flops, but the soles of his feet are often black, perhaps ridden with dirt or ash of some sort. Zeke also takes pride in rolling cigarettes in class and his identity as an atheist. Maybe it was the way he fastened a cigarette behind his ear exactly five minutes before class ended, or the way he circumspectly dripped suspicious liquid into the nooks and crannies of his futuristic smoking devices that caught my attention.
Although we exchanged “hellos” before class a few times, I hadn’t had a legitimate conversation with Zeke until last week. While the professor explained a vocabulary exercise, Zeke turned around and asked to share a textbook, and I nonchalantly complied. It was then that I noticed some type of unrest within him. Zeke was a walking contradiction: open minded but aggressive, friendly but hostile, and intelligent but foolish. When it was his turn to read or if he wished to check something, he would, without asking, lift the book and do as he pleased, regardless of my obvious effort to try to keep up with the professor. Although I considered this seriously disrespectful at first, I later noticed that he only meant well and just didn’t know better. Either that or he was a jerk, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I had seen Zeke inject potions and suspicious powders within tubes and wires, but mentally excused him as a chemist. It wasn’t until I watched him tear slips of paper and embed tobacco within rolls that I thought to ask him what the spongebob he was doing. I tapped his shoulder and he raised his eyebrows in response. “Are you rolling cigarettes in the middle of class?” I asked with an expression that was supposed to look like a cross between disappointment and concern, but in reality, probably looked like a duckface. “Maybe” he replied, grinning. “That’s not really appropriate for a classroom environment” I responded, awaiting my death by shank as his facial expression hardened. “Well, it’s my hobby.” “My hobby is painting. Do you see me with a canvas and palette?” He nodded in acknowledgement, and five minutes later, turned to lift a cigarette to his nose and dramatically sniff, stifling laughter. I playfully rolled my eyes as another classmate, Noor interjected. “Is that just regular tobacco?” she asked. “Kind of. It gives like a nice nicotine buzz though..it’s really calming.” “Oh.” was all she said before continuing to pack her bags. “Want calming? try meditation.” I mentioned (passively aggressively) before slamming the door behind me.
I can’t exactly pinpoint what about Zeke intrigued me, or why the fact that he (very obviously) pursued drugs upset me so much. A cup of tea and thirty minutes after sundown, it hit me. It was because, although it wasn’t much of my business, Zeke was killing himself before me and I couldn’t do anything about it. In this event, I had two options: either entertain the fact that he was digging his own grave, or simply ignore it, and I had never wanted a third option more.
I’m not Zeke’s friend, or even his acquaintance. But I have noticed the way he is first to answer questions in class, and the way he always has something to say about the Arab world’s political situation. I’ve noticed his cheeky jokes in class, and the way his eyes twinkle when he gets a question right. I’ve noticed that cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, and I’ve noticed that he, like many others, is just too smart to become another statistic.
I remember watching myself in the mirror as a young girl. I remember poking at my thighs and avoiding illuminated mirrors at Bed Bath and Beyond because they made the fibers on my face look pricklier, grosser, and more evident. Because girls aren’t supposed to look like that. Phrases like “run like a girl” and “because you’re a girl” have rung in my ears since the day I skipped into preschool and I never did a thing about it...until now.
I am a Feminist, and I declare this with all the willpower in my stomach and fire in my eyes.
To begin, let us delve on the definition of feminism. A feminist is a person, male or female, who acknowledges that there is truly a problem with gender today and we must repair it.
All of lives, us women are taught shame: to behave a certain way where we aren’t exposing so much of ourselves. Like being born a female means that we are guilty of something, so we go on to silence ourselves. We apply glue on our lips like lipstick, powder our noses and morph into beings we simply are not. And to top it all off, we grow up with the same childish mentality planted in the gardens of our minds and feed it to our children.
We need feminism, and desperately.
Without feminism, masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage. We tell them, “dress like this!”, “do not write!”, “do not cry!”...but why? Is his heart not beating? Why must he develop brawny arms and abs? If skinny girls and fat girls can be accepted through emerging beauty campaigns, what about men?
Because boys can be sensitive, and girls can sit without their legs crossed. Because my son will play with dolls, and my daughter with firetrucks. There are no boy colors and no girl colors. And what about a paid paternity leave, where both parents have the opportunity to be a part of their child’s early days?
We need feminism, and desperately.
But why are all curses directed toward women? How many feminine curse words can you list, and how many masculine? Because if a man is not a b----, he is the son of one. Think before you speak.
When I first begin community college last summer, I was deeply worried. Not about the content or supplies, but about what to wear. If eyeliner was too much if I wanted to be taken seriously. If I appeared too feminine, nobody would take me seriously. To be serious or even considered intelligent in today’s twisted society, women are typically told to dress plainly. The bitter truth of the matter is that when it comes to appearance, men are seen as the precedent. After all, Hilary Clinton didn’t trim her hair and don shoulder pads for the hell of it.
Marriage is another example. When a woman isn’t married by 30, she is seen as a personal failure or a hideous lump. When a man isn’t married by 30, he just hasn’t found time to make the right choice. Burn the double standards, and the patriarchy.
So why feminism?
Because there are still people in the world who think rape is okay if the other person is sleeping. Because a woman’s dollar is 77 cents. Because a woman is raped every 14 seconds in South Africa. Because today, 3 million girls are victims of genital mutilation every year. Because...have you played Grand Theft Auto? Because when a man is a victim of a sex crime, no one cares to ask if he was drunk or what he was wearing.
So stop using my body to sell your cars or your burgers. I am not your background dancer. I am not an accessory, or a toy. Why is the future of my body being debated in your courtroom? I am an equal. I am everything and anything I want to be. I am a woman, and I am the universe in ecstatic motion.