-Heather Willard, Cleveland, Ohio

I go through stages in my life.  I started this year as a nervous seventeen-year-old who was terrified of failure and was in no way prepared for college.  Then I changed into a heartbroken girl, fresh from the failure of her first relationship.  I hated who I’d become, so I decided to change.  And I did, from unforgiven, I went to un-perfect.  I was sad, depressed, lost.  Who was I but a failure?

Then I vowed to become more and did.  I became a self-proclaimed unattainable being, but it wasn’t, it still isn’t, enough.  So I rather quickly went to something real, formidable, and unforgettable:  I am unapologetic.

I will be who I am, inside and out because there are no words to describe how small I feel otherwise.  I see people trodden upon and tiny, lost inside their own little worlds like that is all they will ever know, but I vow to be a pillar of strength for what I believe in.

I know, this sounds mushy and feel-y and not altogether cohesive, so let me backtrack and try to explain.

I am a feminist.  I fight for the equality of rights, and I stand up for human life.  I am alive and I matter. I am unapologetic.

I was raised in a conservative household.  My father ran the house, and though my mother was highly educated, we deferred to him on most things.  I was held to a strong Christian moral standard and lifestyle.  Then I met my first feminist, took a women’s studies class, talked to women and men passionate about the future of equality and I found myself rethinking what I had held a true standard before.  Maybe women were not meant to be subordinate, and maybe I should be able to stand up for precisely what I want.

I found a whole section of culture built on no longer demeaning women, but building them up and creating creatures capable of being forces of nature: the meaning of goddess in the flesh.  I found people who were proud of all their lumps, their scars, their femininity, and I found myself entranced.  I’d never imagined loving my body before, nor being a voice loud enough to shout above the hubbub and draw a following.

Finally, I can say it proudly and unashamedly: I am a feminist.  I fight for the equality of rights, and I stand up for human life.  I am alive and I matter. I am unapologetic.

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