Feminist Fridays: How Studying Abroad Turned Me Onto Feminism

Feminist Fridays in a new blog project in which one Women’s Center employee will tell the story of how she or he was influenced to identify as a feminist.

By Mallory Long

I like to say I “fell” into feminism because I didn’t realize how much of a feminist I was until my junior year of college, when I was added a women’s and gender studies major to my journalism course load.

I think I first unconsciously became a feminist when I was 18 years old, right after a messy break-up with my controlling, verbally-abusive boyfriend from high school. After a few weeks of being really torn up, I decided I was fully capable of being a strong, successful, fulfilled woman with or without him, or any other boyfriends, for that matter.

At that time, of course, I haven’t have been caught dead identifying as a feminist. Feminists weren’t fun. They had short hair and didn’t shave their legs. They frowned upon make up and hated men. I wasn’t any of those things: I had hair growing halfway down my back and owned more make up than Ru Paul. No, I wasn’t a feminist, I was an independent woman and because of that, I was determined to become a successful professional.

I took the gender issues beat writer position at my paper because it was a paid, staff writing position that was easy to get — no one else really wanted it at that time. I spent a few months writing about the Women’s and LGBT centers, feminism, activism and gay rights, and eventually thought, “This is interesting. Maybe I should take a class about this.”

I enrolled in Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies and continued to write about gender issues at the paper. And I was doing really well. I felt as if I truly had the hang of it, and that made it fun. While I was taking this first class, I received an e-mail about a new study abroad option at my school: women’s and gender studies in Paris, France for a summer. I had always wanted to go to Paris. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take women’s studies that seriously, but it was going to get me to Paris for a summer. I applied and, much to my surprise, was accepted to the program.

Paris was by far the most terrifying and the most over-joying experience of my entire life. Paris was also the place where I feel head-over-heels in love with feminism. Prior to being in Paris, I thought feminists were all one way. Paris opened me up to many different kinds of feminism AND many different kinds of feminists, and most importantly: French feminism.

Before being introduced to French feminism I felt that I didn’t fit in to the cookie-cutter mold of how a good feminist behaves. I didn’t call myself a feminist because I thought I was fun and feminine: two things I never thought feminism could be. When I was introduced to French feminism: flirty and feminine, I felt a total click. This is was my kind of feminism. I felt as if I finally fit.

I studied abroad nearly two years ago, and my life could not be more different, especially in terms of my view of feminism. Now I’m a women’s and gender studies major, editor-in-chief of our campus women’s publication and an active member of the Voices of Planned Parenthood, among many other things. I spent two years as the gender issues writer at my newspaper, giving up the position only because I felt I was becoming to close to my sources, too involved in feminism.

I have learned that feminism comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and ideas and that not everyone has the same ideas of what feminism is or should be, and that working together, even with different feminist ideals, is an important and effective way to promote equality.

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About Ohio U Women's Center

The Ohio University Women’s Center serves and responds to the needs of OU women students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the community. Founded in 2007, the center is dedicated to creating an inclusive and welcoming campus climate for all members of the community through programs, resources, referrals, advocacy, and education. Located in Baker University Center 403.
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