Lipstick and Feminism — Jennifer Ha

When I was sixteen, my parents uprooted me from a Seattle suburb to the middle of Canada, in a tiny farming town in the middle of Canada. It was an opportunity to start fresh and become somebody completely different, but also a great chance to rebel and milk my parents’ guilt for taking me away from everything I know and forcing me into a town still waiting for a 3G phone tower in 2011. I did a little bit of both: I started wearing red lipstick every day and embraced term “feminist”. It scared the farm-town boys and my parents alike and I’ve never looked back.

I was a part of Human Rights Club in my Washington high school which opened my eyes to the many injustices in the world, misogyny being a huge one. As I learned about gender inequality in a broad sense in the club, I also exposed myself to feminism online. Feminist blogs kept me updated on current information, helped me feel included by being intersectional, and had relevant writers to whom I could relate. After the move, I compensated for the fact I no longer had Human Rights Club to guide me by immersing myself in online feminism whenever I could. It was on Tumblr and Blogspot where I first learned about rape culture, double standards, gender stratification, misogyny, and other crucial feminist concepts that shaped my thought and strengthened my beliefs.

I’m now out of high school and almost finished with my first year of college, I can look back on my beginning days as an identifying feminist with fondness (the bad bangs and naivety makes it hard to pretend it was all peachy, though). Something that began with worrying about facing the pay gap in ten years grew to be an integral part of my life. I am confident that feminism saved my adolescence. It gave me hope by being a reminder of the fact not everyone in the world lived in a place with suffocating gender roles and ignorance. It motivated me to try to dismantle some of the sexism I saw. Feminism shaped me to become a critical thinker of the world around me. It made me aware of patriarchal beauty standards and reject them. It helped me realize that I am a sexually autonomous being and allowed me to grow comfortable with my sexuality and grow confident in it, fighting rape culture and objectification. It pointed out all the injustices in the world that affect me and gives me the courage to fight against them. Feminism was the first and, to date, the only thing that I, a young woman of colour, truly feel a part of. I have so much to thank feminism for, although it, paired with the fact I’m always wearing lipstick, made getting boys to kiss me very difficult.

It’s been two and a half years since I was moved and I’ve since acquired over forty lipsticks. The majority of my lipstick collection is red, but there are a few fuchsia and several oranges, and, most recently, a growing number of purple shades. A tool of expression, lipstick has the power to make me feel complete and invincible. Feminism makes me feel the same way. It is empowering and personal, and I work to expand my collection of feminist knowledge every day. I went from a very linear understanding of feminism to recognizing the omnipresent patriarchy and realizing the absolute need for intersectionality.

At this point in my life, I’ve decided that feminism is an ideology and movement that I want to dedicate my life to. Currently, I’m pursuing a double major in political science and global development with a focus on gender and social change, with an unofficial goal of taking all the classes related to gender that my small, liberal arts and sciences school offers. My plans after graduating is to adopt cats and smash the patriarchy. I’m by no means a feminist academic, so the stuff I write about are about stuff I experience as a young woman, a person of colour, college student, and, of course, a feminist: double standards, race in relation to feminism, sexual liberation, intersectionality, and more. My hobbies include reading feminist books with scary titles in public, searching for the perfect red lipstick, doing tequila shots, making collages, and dancing wildly. I probably should have put this blurb in the beginning, but oh, well.

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