My first experiences of feminism were on the blogging website Tumblr.
I had knowledge of feminism before then, but I don't think I'd ever come into contact with a woman who identified as a feminist before. To be honest, the first time I was actually exposed to feminism on the internet is what made me rethink the notion all together.
As a body image advocate, I advocate for all bodies, all genders, everyone. So I shared an image of a white male holding a sign reading "it's just as hard to be Ken as it is to be Barbie" on my blog, to help others to understand that men suffer from low self esteem as a result of poor body image.
Boy, the backlash I copped from that.
I thought I was doing the right thing, helping to spread awareness of body image issues amongst everyone. Not so, according to a couple of users who identified themselves as feminists.
"Help yourself into the nearest vat of acid," one wrote.
"Kill yourself," another chimed in.
"You're opinion is stupid, and so are you," a third added.
Another comment declared me a derogatory word for a vagina, beginning with C.
These four responses were received from four different users, all of whom claimed to be feminist.
I was angry, and I was hurt. I tried to plead my case with these people, explaining to them that men do indeed suffer from body image issues.
I explained that I understood that being a woman goes hand in hand with having body image issues. I mean, I'm a women who has suffered from body image issues, so I can speak from experience. I wasn't trying to create a competition; I was just trying to spread awareness, but time and time again I kept getting attacked. I received more anonymous messages of hatred and nastiness.
Is this the way feminists treated their fellow woman?
It was then that I decided that I was an anti-feminist. Women telling other women what to do and say and how to act, what to like, saying that if they weren't feminists and they were the scum of the Earth -- was that not misogyny? That I did not want to be a part of.
It was a few months after that a friend extended an invite to an all-girls Facebook group. I accepted and joined, and for the first time I experienced feminism to what I truly believed it was. Women supporting women. Women supporting all women, from all backgrounds, from all walks of life, supporting those who identified as women and those who did not. They were friendly and empathetic and helpful. I fell in love with the group and have since made some great friends from it.
In only a few days, I experienced so much love and compassion from people who identified as feminists, it was enough for me to realize that this is what feminism was. And I loved it.
Sadly, that group no longer exists, but I still have many friends from it.
It helped me to understand the meaning behind feminism, to properly understand misogyny and how far we've come, but we still have a ways to go.
During my time within the group, and even after it ceased to exist, I felt myself becoming more aware of everyday sexism, racism and bigotry. I found myself feeling more powerful as a woman, and I felt comfortable.
I fear that a lot of other women have had the same negative experiences with feminism as I had, and have not had the right guidance to truly see how feminism works and how it is beneficial to everyone, and because of that -- because they've been hurt by these other people who call themselves feminists, but have a warped view of the movement -- they have chosen to remain indifferent to feminism.
I am extremely thankful for the guidance and support I received in my journey of discovery. I feel I have come full circle, first as someone who abhorred the idea of feminism, to someone who supports the movement wholeheartedly.
I stand now, as a feminist.
It has taken me a long while to reach the point where I can truly say that I identify as a feminist, but I am proud to say that I have reached that point in my life now.
And it is my only hope that my story may serve to educate other young people in the ways of feminism, and why we need it in our society.