Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2016 – Why I’m A Feminist

Name: Isabel Fields
From: Santa Monica, California
Grade: 11th
School: Crossroads School for the Arts & Sciences
Votes: 0

Hey there, Mami.”

The man shouts as my sneakers pound the asphalt; chills. You know the drill, Isabel. Look straight; not down, sideways, or at your phone; don’t look weak or make eye contact.

Minutes later: “How ya doin’, girl?”

Another head nod and invasive eyes graze my curves. Head up, Isabel. He. Isn’t. There.

At the intersection, a man in a passing car whistles and winks. Pretend he doesn’t exist.

We pretend that the words and stares don’t raid our brain, scrape our heart, diminish our self-worth. This is the world we live in, right girls?  

             A world where, “I got girls that I shoulda made pay for it / Got girls that I shoulda made wait for it / Got girls that’ll cancel a
flight back home / Stay another day for it,” are the Drake and DJ Khaled lyrics we praise as they 
blast through the speakers while my friends and I sing along, naive to the meaning. Until I stop and think: Is my “p****y on agua”? According to their song “For Free,” it
Am I supposed to abide by the mantra, “You the only one I know could fit it all in her…man,” because the gods of music say so?
Because my friends say so? Because I say so? Until you pull the lyrics apart,
For Free is just a song we all listen to, made up of degrading words normalized on the radio. This is the world I live in.

A patriarchy where women are objectified by derogatory lyrics and whose quintessential feminine needs are overlooked. No matter our age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, we women yearn for recognition, including: the thirty-something Caucasian woman in tattered clothes who exchanges a smile with me on my run to the beach; the group of tired teenage girls with backpacks and road-worn shoes on their way to Safe Place for Youth (SPY); and Bea, the fifty-something homeless African-American woman, bundled in layers of dirt-covered clothes, with missing teeth and short cornrows, who I buy a sandwich for; the woman of whom the boy from Walgreens warns me about; the woman I enjoy a conversation with in the winding alley.

In Los Angeles, we objectify homeless women in a different way; we view their needs as equivalent to homeless men, needing clothing, food and shelter, but neglecting to recognize their ultra-feminine needs. How can a seventeen year-old girl show society that these women deserve to be seen from all angles?

        Change the society I live in? Not yet.

Build a primary and vocational school in Thailand to save girls from trafficking with micro financing? 20 years.

Become an international human rights lawyer? 10 years.

Graduate college with a degree in Women and Gender Studies? 5 years.

Now? Create a charity for Angelenas that enables women to diverge from the binding patriarchal path, alleviating the monthly menstrual struggle, ensuring that women’s needs are seen, to help women like Bea.

The end of my Junior year arrived; my friend and I sponsored a menstrual supplies drive for homeless teenagers at SPY. Within five days, we collected over 3,060 feminine products.

First step: create name—Feminine Every Month (FEM); make logo; set up website; interview homeless women in Venice; recruit people to donate. FEM’s ultimate goal is to solve the feminine dilemma: all women get their period, but for the average homeless woman, those few days each month can be her most difficult. Without supplies, homeless women risk infection and suffer from poor hygiene. More so, feminine products are one of the essential supplies donors overlook.

I refuse to be a passive bystander in a country plagued by inequality.

To hell with the catcalls, degradation, invisibility.

Invigorate me, ultra-feminine rhythm!

          FEM is my here and now, my community-driven solution; my step to providing a sense of decency for women at least once a month. A world I want to live in.

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