By Sanah Rizvi
My most profound memory is of a warm sunny California day
Of course, right?
In a car ride, looking outside the window and watching the beautiful individuals and houses pass by. Driving shotgun with someone I love very much.
In between gossip and life lessons he stopped the car, not at will, of course.
But at a red light, looked at me in all seriousness he could muster and asked “No, really, why are you a feminist? What happened?”
I stayed still. My heart pounding. My throat dry. Externally my face was uncertain.
Internally I screamed at the top of my lungs. I screamed that I don’t need a personal injury to stand up for all women.
I screamed that I don’t need a rape or a threat or stalking or acid to mar my body before I speak out for others. I screamed again to let him know that my lack of a hijab or the donning of one need not be a reason I stand up for women with or without a hijab.
I screamed even louder lest his manly ego be hurt, and block me out, that I need not have to have abusive fathers or brothers to stand up for women who have and then I added quietly, but strongly that I need not be a victim to be a savior.
But I didn’t say a word. I was a girl first.
But I did think. I did contemplate. Why was I a feminist?
The only scars I carried were of constant worthlessness
Of an ache in the heart of being lesser than another
Of my face being a definitive portrayal of my worth
The only scares I carried, were
Of my clothes being the only marker of my character
Of my entire being, being tailored to meet the needs of my future husband
Of my body being everybody else’s property.
Why was I a feminist? I didn’t have a single blade cut or cigarette burn.
But I realized what he was asking me was out of years and years of conditioning the mind – that only those who have been injured have stories worth telling. That only those wounds that we can see are the ones we can heal.
So what he was asking me really, was
Why was I feminist already?
At 18, I shrugged, I smiled, shifted uncomfortably in my car seat and hoped we’d reach the lunch faster.
But at 22, I finally have an answer.
Took long enough, eh?
And that is that I’m a feminist because if any label can even begin to sum up my life, as an individual, as a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, as a role model, as a housewife, as a designer, as a writer, as an activist, as a teacher, as a mother, as a poet, as a gamer, as a husband, as a brother, as a partner, that label, is that of a feminist.
And I’m finally not scared to say it anymore.