To every person who has said that feminism is a thing of the past, I want you to think about female infanticide, about child brides, about rape culture, and tell me how feminism is no longer necessary.
To every man who has asserted that feminism does not benefit men, please realize that the movement fights to deconstruct the very patriarchy that not only oppresses women but limits men, too.
To every person who has voiced disapproval over the term "feminism" for being "exclusive" or "unfair," recognize that male entitlement and misogyny are precisely why we need female empowerment.
To every meninist and Men's Rights activist: you need to understand that the inequality you are supposedly fighting against was not caused by women, and that the movements you support are fueled by ignorance (if not hatred) and dangerous, anti-feminist rhetoric--movements that have done nothing to help the lives of men who need it.
To the men who think that feminism is no longer applicable in first-world countries--that in developed nations, equality has already been achieved--I want you to check your privilege at never having been catcalled, slutshamed, or underestimated on the basis of your gender. To the women who believe the same, I am happy about your luck yet adamant that you do not remain oblivious to the everyday sexism that pervades even the most progressive, urbanized regions of the world.
To every person who has said to me that they are not feminists because the fight for gender equality will ultimately be futile, that is not a valid excuse. Do not feel justified about your role as a bystander.
To those who, at the end of the day, simply cannot be bothered with feminism, tell me that it isn't a little sick or heartbreaking that a 12 year old girl, who has just begun taking the subway alone to get to school, not yet aware of her own vulnerability, thinks "friendly" and not "dangerous" every time a grown man initiates a conversation with her on the train.
I believe that ultimately, and rightfully so, feminism becomes personal for each of us. In between the months of 12 and a half and 13, male entitlement presented itself on streets far beyond my small, familiar neighborhood, waited with me on every train platform, asked me for my name, age, a review or summary of the book I held open with the hand that wasn't clutching the pole so I wouldn't fall whenever the train lurched. At 13, I did not have the eloquence or passion of a confident, self-assured feminist. My "resistance" then was the mainstream type: wary, wide-eyed stares and caution, always, because others thought that was enough. As if it is up to the victim to de-victimize herself. As if avoidance and self-doubt constitute a proper defense.
Now, years later, I have branded disdain into my expression and rigidity into muscle memory, as if I am challenging or expecting a stranger's eyes to roam unabashedly over my body, someone to express disapproval of my clothing, or a passerby to disregard my right to any sort of privacy. I am a weapon forged from anger, unapologetic in my aggression. I am also a victim--turned survivor--turned victim once more--a label so critical because I will not let it be the end to my identity, and because it gives me a legitimacy to cling to every time a man attempts to school me on my own oppression.
Every activist wants to spread influence, to better lives and engineer real change. Speaking up gets tiring, as you begin to wonder how much longer your pain will be examined and dissected, unveiled over and over again, if it wasn't already clear enough, so others can you give permission to speak for your own movement. Faced with astonishing ignorance and confusion, I have had this conversation far too many times: why is feminism necessary? Why is it important? How can it possibly not be irrelevant or exclusive--because, of course, everything always goes back to men.
I see it. When feminism is not the logical default but rather a rebellion, when my "resting bitch face" and refusal to let a sleazy comment sit silently in the space between me and a man hellbent on making me feel uncomfortable make me "feisty," when the tangible sense of my fear in every confrontation makes me so, so aware of my own mortality, I see, with startling clarity, why feminism is necessary.
And so, lastly, to every person who has renounced, rejected, or scorned feminism: how dare you, and how could you?