Sometimes I feel just too cynical to even move. Today I’m swapping perspectives with a young woman writer named Hannah Schaefer. Because I need a little of what she’s got. And, maybe, she needs a little of what I’ve got, too. Hannah’s post is below. Mine, “Still Feminist,” is at her site, right here. Here’s to both of us, speaking out from where we are.
I am 20 years old.
I usually avoid saying that because it can turn people off to what I have to say. All they can see for the rest of the essay is “young and naïve”, and I wind up being condescendingly told off by an older adult after sharing my opinion. With men my age they often receive encouragement for thinking about such big controversial things, a little pat on the back. But most people seem relieved when women my age stay silent. Don’t be angry. Don’t tell us how to live or how to do relationships. Just leave that to the adults of the world.
My whole life I have been too opinionated. Too intense. Too loud. I make people uncomfortable with my intensity. My passionate nature brings out the insecurity in authority figures. They never initiate conversations, assuming I think they have nothing to offer. When I need them to show up, when I need them to sit in their insecurity and lead me, the most hurtful thing is being told I pushed them away by being what they said they wanted us to be.
There’s a risk that comes with having a raw, bleeding heart. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and I used to cry as I walked past the homeless people sitting on the streets, shaking their cups for coins. I was berated for being “too sensitive”, and I had an anger problem and an over-developed sense of justice.
People watch from afar with curiosity and a little bit of awe, wishing they could “be like me” like I am some sort of foreign species, but everyone has the ability to care. The only reason I care more than most people is that I am incapable of feeling any less. I suppressed whatever I could to blend into the crowd.
I am in the minority of people that are respected: young, average looking, and a woman. But I am compelled to speak, even when no one likes my words. I am compelled to stand, even when everyone else is sitting. And I am compelled to change, even when the world is at a standstill.
These days I am learning to let go of being something I’m not, and to lean into the ache. The ache inspires change, and whether or not I chose it, I am designed to be a voice of change. I am forgiving myself for not being what I was supposed to be. And when I feel ashamed for being too much, I remind myself that well-behaved women rarely make history.
Bio: Hannah Schaefer lives on social justice with a side of sarcasm, but when she’s not on her soapbox you can find her reading a good book or outside with her camera. When you find her at Starbucks, it won’t be with Uggs or a Pumpkin Spice Latte. You can find her writing about faith, fear and feminism at www.hannahschaefer.com and tweeting sassy things @hannahschaef.