by Tyrone Scafe
Before my experience in New York City this summer, I had always viewed the feminist movement as one led by an exclusive group catering to a majority I was not born into. People usually only become interested in something when it is relevant to them, and I’m no different.
I remember when I first told my mom that I was going on a Schuler Mega Exposure on feminism. Her response “Oh no, they are going to have my baby out in New York protesting!” Is that the image the feminist movement has in America? It’s almost as if the public sees the movement as poisonous. It’s almost to the point that all the feminists that I know are terrified to admit they are feminist, similar to how new writers are afraid to admit to people that they are writers. Why essentially hide or deny something you are so passionate about? I knew that despite the negative media portrayal, there had to be some great overarching idea in this movement that intensely unites many of the powerful women in my life.
I tell myself I want to be a social activist in the future, but I have never really bought into the notion of specifically supporting the civil rights movement, the feminist movement or the gay rights movement. Why? I envisioned these movements as selectively combatting oppression to build their own vision of the way the world should be instead of supporting a general movement towards social equality. I wondered why there wasn’t one overarching movement geared towards ultimate social justice. Maybe that is why I was so happy when bell hooks defined feminism as a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.
One of the first things I did on this exposure was look at how I benefit from the structure of our patriarchal society. The more I thought about it the more I realized that males were the ones benefiting from this system even if they are completely unaware of it. At first I was in a state of denial, believing that bell hooks’ book Feminism Is for Everybody was just presenting information to make us biased. However, the more I read, the more I realized the sexist patterns ingrained in my thought.
How could I want to be an activist and not even attempt to address my own sexist thinking? The whole week of our exposure, I learned to critically analyze my own thoughts. It was enriching hearing other people tell their stories. I realized the feminist movement is still as real as it was forty years ago. Even though most of the feminists I know are closet feminists, I hope that when I and others show our support, they will make the difference they set out to make.
After our exposure, I realized that feminism is a much bigger idea than portrayed on the surface. It’s not about men equal to women, or boys equal to girls. It’s about challenging the entire notion of equality. Everyone should be able to pursue the same dreams and live the same lifestyles. I’m glad I went on this exposure. After the first day I considered myself an ally; in the end I saw myself as a new found feminist.
Tyrone Scafe graduated from Waukegan High School in 2013. He has attended summer college programs at Emory University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the MITES program). He was a participant on the SSP's summer 2013 Mega Exposure to New York City, where Scholars visited various nonprofit, publishing, and professional organizations to learn about the feminist movement.
In the fall, Tyrone will attend Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.