05/27/2015 11:55 am ET Updated May 27, 2016

5 Struggles Feminists Will Understand


I was seven years old when I first realized I was a feminist. It was mid-September in the second grade, right around the time the student council elections were under way. Being the natural introvert that I am, I was super bored with the entire process. Yawn. As students stood up to proudly announce their nomination to the class, I daydreamed in the back while doodling The Little Mermaid. That is, until my desk mate stood up and announced that he was running -- and that he would win -- because he was a boy. And apparently boys, and only boys, were meant to be leaders.

Well that sure got my attention.

I shot up in my seat, probably yelling something to the tune of, "But, but, but that doesn't make any sense, Ms. Moore!" and she immediately added my name to the list. How did my classmate get off thinking a penis had anything to do with being a good leader? I had better grades. I didn't talk during class. And I sure as hell could draw a much better Arial. Honestly, at that point in time, what else could make for a better student council representative?!

It was a close call, but I ended up losing the election to my male rival by only a few votes. After school that day, in order to ease my pain, I went over to my best friend's house where we played with Barbies and watched Sesame Street. And even then, I remember thinking, "Hmm... maybe if I played more boy-like games, I might have actually won the election."

I still cringe about that thought today. Seven-year-old me shouldn't have been ashamed about playing Barbies or having some solid girl-time fun. I should have been super proud that I threw myself into a last-minute campaign and almost pulled it off! I should have been ecstatic that I actually stood for something other than Disney movies! I should have been proud. But seven-year-old me wasn't proud. She was ashamed.

Of course that struggle between femininity and feminism still gets me today, as I'm sure it trips up a lot of you as well. Barbies grew into nail polish and makeup, and Sesame Street grew into Bravo and E!. The struggle is real my friends, and even in this new millennium of progression and open mindedness, it still very much exists. Here are my current feminist struggles -- and I'm sure you have way more to add to this list as well.

1. The name change:

Ugh. To change or not to change, that seriously is the question. Feminists everywhere know this struggle -- do we keep our beloved last name passed down to us by our own male ancestors, or do we take on the name of our chosen partner to show commitment, loyalty and congruency for our future phantom family? Such a booger.

While on one hand, changing our last name seems like the obvious choice -- women have been doing it for years, and the occasional kindergarten pick up won't be so confusing ("Mrs. Rogers here for Billy Solomon!"). But... It still feels a wee bit wrong, right? Aren't we simply handing over our independence and individuality by swapping in our birthname for a name we hardly know? I mean, we have lived with our last name for the past 30ish years. Why would the choice to love someone forever mean we have to give that up, let alone any part of us at all?

But... I don't know...the tradition still seems nice. Mr. and Mrs. Solomon. It has a ring to it. I guess I get it.

Of course, a true feminist still knows that we each have our own right to select a last name, whether that's our own, someone else's, a hyphenated version or a new one altogether, but it's still a struggle we have to face upon the arrival of marriage. One might I add, that most men don't seem to think about very often. Funny how that works.

Want advice from a feminist? (Of course you do!) Have the conversation. Doesn't matter what you choose, as long as giving up your name is no longer a requirement or an assumption. Seems fair to me... even if it is still a struggle.

2. The Kardashians:

Damn, these girls sure know how to stir up controversy. Whether they're straight up naked on the cover of some random magazine, promoting themselves via a sex tape (gah), claiming that racism didn't exist until 2014 (double gah), or getting divorced left and right, they are still so intriguing to watch. But no! They don't stand for our values! They hyper sexualize women and make us look like stitched up objects! I mean GOOD GRIEF the 16-year-old is getting plastic surgery! For the love.

But, somewhere deep down in us, we don't hate them. No way. We may not love them, but we probably like some parts of them. And I know this, because we continue to perpetuate their fame by tuning into their Sunday night shows and skimming their magazine blurbs in the grocery store line. And there's a reason for it -- they are women.

After years of Hollywood idolizing men in strong and assertive lead roles while throwing women an obvious line or two from the sidelines, the Kardashians have created a dynasty of wealth, power, sex and fashion. I'm not saying they're my favorites -- hardly -- but I don't hate the fact that a female clan is dominating the pop culture. And, I must say, I do love them for making big butts a commodity.

Regardless, the Kardashians are here to stay, and we might as well enjoy the fact that they are starting a dialogue about women, the transgender community (!!!), and of course, large tushies.

3. The high heel:

We all love a good high heel, eh? Perhaps you're a Bradshaw girl and lust after $450 gorgeous pumps. Maybe you prefer some knee-highs with a stiletto heel or a casual pair of wedge strappy sandals for the summer. Either way, the majority of you reading this right now own a pair of heels, whether you dare to wear them or not.

But if you truly do align with feminism, chances are you struggle mildly with the concept of putting these toe-murdering shoes on for dancing, drinking or flirting every Saturday night. Why? Because the overwhelming concept of the high heel shoe is that they were created by men to make women look sexy. And that's just not our thing.

Most men don't wear heels (other than a few of my faves in LA). Most men wouldn't ever dream of wearing heels. But the perception is, straight men like a girl with a good high heel, because it means we're "trying." We're dressing up. We are out on the PROWL. Annoying, right? I'm not saying all men actually think that way, but somehow, that is the message being circulated in and out of the downtown scenes.

It sucks that pulling out a specific piece of our wardrobe may indicate that we don't have self-worth. What is that about? Some girls are short and like a better view of the world. Heels help with that! Others like seeing their legs elongated for the evening. And guess what? Both of these women still have value. A shoe doesn't equal a superficial life.

The bottom line is shoes are meant for our feet, and nothing else. So wear the heels, don't wear the heels, it's all the same to me. But just know that you have lots of feminists out there who totally understand how you feel during your Saturday night dilemma between the awesome leopard flat or the sky high boot. And we love you either way.

4. The color pink:

Of course, I don't really mean the actual color pink (but if we want to take this entire piece literally, by all means), but I'm more talking about gender stereotypes. You know -- long hair, painted nails, bright lipstick and a short mini skirt to boot. As feminists, are we not allowed to embrace in these clichés? Does that mean we have totally abandoned our cause?!

I don't think I've seen Hillary Clinton outside of a black pant suit in years. Ok, maybe a hunter green, but that's it. And Hillz is definitely one of my idols. But I like pink! It's fun! It's lively! It shows off my bubbly personality! But does that also make me a ditz and not well-suited for the progressive female movement? Ok, fine. Black it is.

As feminists, I firmly believe we have the right to pink, platinum hair, bright lipstick, and sequenced everything. I also believe we have the right to take ourselves seriously. And, considering pink isn't a virus that attacks brain cells, we can do both at the same time. So I invite all of you to rock pink, pink, pink 'til the cows come home. Why not? I'm sure Hillary would approve.

5. The marriage race:

I am from Texas. I am 26 years old. I went to a HUGE university. I was in a sorority. (Oh, stop judging.) So, naturally, I can also safely say that my friend group has officially tipped the marriage scale. It is a fact that the majority of my friends are either a) married or b) engaged. I am neither.

I have been to countless weddings since the ripe age of 21. I average about seven a year between my fabulous plus one and myself. They are great fun. I do enjoy a good wedding. But as a feminist, I have ashamedly wondered, does it make me MORE of a feminist by holding off on marriage because I'm simply not in that phase of life? Does it make my friends LESS feminist because they have chosen to take the plunge before the chic age of 30? Or.... does any of this matter and, Kali, please stop talking?

I'm going to go with number three.

All I know, is that if you are a feminist and are in a long-term relationship, you have probably given some thought to the social implications of those legal vows. Some of you don't love the idea that your career isn't fully formed. Others may hate the idea of putting on a white gown while your dear lesbian and gay friends aren't (yet) allowed to do the same. (Yay Ireland!). Many wonder if your independent persona as a strong-willed female will disappear the second you say, "I do."

I know plenty of incredible feminists who are not married. I also know plenty of incredible feminists who are married, and have been for years. No, this is not the world's greatest research proposal, but I do love that my anecdote cheers for both teams. Getting married doesn't revoke our badge of female courage. You still have the choice of delaying a wedding for your own personal reasons, but that doesn't mean others are wrong to get married regardless of the social climate. And judging people for either choice doesn't help our cause, either.

And if you do decide to get married, you have struggle number one just waiting for you. Have fun!

To all of the feminists out there...

I FEEL YA, GIRLS. I hope that our seven-year-old selves and our 97-year-old selves fully embrace our feminist souls as we are, regardless of how we choose to express it. I hope a closer look at these struggles doesn't pull us apart, but more allows us to share a few laughs and keep the conversation going.

Love ya like x-o.

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