Congratulations! This week starts your journey into college. It’s an experience you’re sharing with more young women than ever before, and I couldn’t be more proud of what you’ve accomplished.
I’ve known you your whole life, and watched you follow your passion for lacrosse, community service and the Beatles. But there’s something that’s never really been on your radar: feminism, and what it means to be the smart, educated woman you are in today’s society. You know what, I get it.
I know these issues may sound highbrow and scary, or they may conjure images of marching through the streets with burning bras and unshaved legs. But they’re things you’ll face head-on in the next four years, and I want to offer you the advice I wish someone had offered to me when I first headed off to college. It will make you stronger and wiser. Better yet, it’ll help you see feminism without even trying!
Make friends who don’t look like you, inside and out.
College is a chance to escape from the bubble of your previous community. If your school did it right (unfortunately, some don’t), your college campus will be filled with diverse people and ideas. The way you reach out to everyone and form your own community will shape a lot of what you learn about yourself. Plus, if you practice this compassion and outreach now, you’re building the skills to have your education impact a diverse array of people. It’s one of the most rewarding ways to see what you’ve learned outside the classroom pay off.
Rock that miniskirt, and raise hell at anyone who tells you boo.
You, sister, are beautiful. But there are people who will tell you that beauty is dangerous and has consequences you can’t escape – and that you even invite – just by being you. Tell them to shove it. You can show them that your worth goes beyond the clothes on your back. You can walk with those who feel the same. What you’re really doing is showing your strength to a society that’s scared of it.
If you see something, say something.
I hate that I have to talk about something as ugly as rape culture with my little sister, because I wish that same petty, patriarchal bullshit I went through would be gone by now. Unfortunately, that’s unrealistic, but I feel the best resource I can give is to show you how to spot it and call it out. . It’s a culture that sees victims as objects; these victims are somehow at fault for the crimes committed against them. This seedy underbelly of the psyche rears its head whenever a guy thinks he can “lay claim” to a woman because of what she wears or drinks. It hurts women (and men) who have been hurt by their partners by automatically assuming they’re less than trustworthy.
One of the best things you can do to stop this is to be a friend and a voice to those oppressed by rape culture. It can be something as big as volunteering at your university or town’s women’s center, or something as small as giving an open ear to a friend in need.
These are but a few of the tools you will develop for yourself in college. Hopefully, during the next four years, you’ll realize how feminism can make you a better student and a better person. I can guarantee you it will be a fun journey along the way.
I love you so much, and am excited to see that journey begin.