Non-fiction by Skye Edwards
Almost two years ago, I stepped off the plane by myself. I made my way through the small, dark hallway with my suitcase and into the light of the rare Portland sun, where for the first time, I saw a beautiful freckle-nosed girl with pink, magical hair. Her hair made me come to the realization that I was no longer in the deep south of Mississippi.
Mississippi is not like Vancouver, Washington or Portland, Oregon. It’s different not just in the weather, hot humid thunderstorms, or the scenic, red mud hills, but also in the belief system. Anyone with knowledge of politics understands this, but from experience I can tell you that Mississippi is truly a whole other world. In Mississippi, the doubt of God is not in existence. Church is not a suggestion. Every Wednesday and Sunday you can find every church chapel full—from infants to 90 years olds—dressed in their very best, believing that women should remain quiet, submissive, and that Jesus loves everyone except gays and transgenders. An old friend in Mississippi reminded me of this. She commented her opposing opinion on a Facebook post I made about how we should all be feminist, inspired by my all-time feminist hero after reading her TedTalk speech on feminism and gender-stereotypes. She made no sense as she ignorantly came at me, telling me to go to the gym if I wanted to seem strong and independent. Then her dad called me a swine, but of course in the most polite way, since it was in a Bible verse.
After a bunch of my Vancouver friends educated her with their wonderful comments back to her ignorant ones, I think I helped turn an old-fashioned, Mississippi-living, God-fearing girl who’s supposed to stay quiet into an atheist who thinks for herself. But probably not.
In my home state of Mississippi, opposing opinions run from feminism into racism. The racists walk around tall, their Confederate flags hanging proudly in their yards. Their Ford pickup trucks pass you with confederate flag stickers in the left bottom corner. There are also the people who just feel like they have superior power based on the color of their skin, but won’t admit it—almost as though their presence is supposed to make people of color quiver and bow to the ground. I knew it made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal until I moved away two years ago. But I really say all of this to try and give a perspective of how closed-minded people can be towards just the color of someone’s skin. Imagine the mental block towards the status of gender and looking at a book that was written over 3,500 years ago for the roles of men and women. After moving here, I realized the massive oppression on women, understood racism, and heard the word “feminist” literally for the first time.
To really talk about feminism in Mississippi you sit in your best friend’s car in the driveway of your mom’s double wide trailer at 2 in the morning, willfully waiting to hear the points she’s about to make on why she isn’t a feminist, as the disorientation of not having enough sleep sets in. Or it’s the passive aggressive threat from your mom’s glare and sharp clear tone that could cut glass, correcting you after referring to yourself as an “independent woman” to the more socially acceptable “young lady.” I think there are fears of independent women walking around topless in Walmart, while chanting the P word, since this is something “independent women” do, while “young ladies” have manners. But if the now-president can say the P word—and vulgarly, I might add—why can’t I?
One of the greatest and most empowering moments was going to the Women’s March in Portland in late January. It was freezing and rainy, but I think that made it all more beautiful. So many people—men, women, young and old—came out in the cold and rain to march for something so important. The whole march showed me the true power of feminism. There was a young girl, around 9 or so, wearing a hot pink hat and holding a sign at the march that read, “women stand in solidarity.” I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and opened the camera. She saw as I held my phone in her direction and gave me a soft smile. We did not have to speak to know and understand what we were both fighting for.
Feminism is an issue that was not acknowledged where I grew up. All these people—social media users and friends—complain, “I don’t know what you are trying to be equal to, because I’m equal.” Personally, I am glad they feel privileged enough to say that. I hope as they feel comfortable knowing their skin color or genital status is not a definition of who they are, that they say a quick thank you to all the early feminists and activists who worked to give them that comfort of equality.
I am a feminist. A white, 16-year old feminist. I have more privilege than most. But no matter what, I believe that all genders should be equal in all aspects of life. I don’t believe that there should be stereotypes of a more respected race, gender, but mostly importantly, any human. We have been fighting this fight for a while, and it’s one of the saddest things. Finally, I have found my voice and I plan to use it for myself and those who haven’t yet found theirs. I am a feminist, one of the best F words in society, and I am very proud of that. Every day, I think about that flight 2,506.5 miles across the country, and I am so happy I stepped off that plane and into the rare Portland sun.
Skye Edwards is a daydreaming feminist who is believes equality should be a way of life! She loves having dance parties while listening to records with her cats Oliver and Bean, reading as many books as possible, playing soccer, and writing empowering essays. Writing has been a hobby since she was very young and she is so happy to be able to share it with others! She hopes to make a difference in the world through her writing!