One of my pet peeves on twitter are misattributed quotations or worse--unattributed quotations. It's called google, people. Use it.
|The second-to-last night with my three best friends in France, with our matching tattoos only 24 hours old.|
If you're not well-versed in American women's history, then you don't really have a reason to know Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. On the other hand, I double-majored in history and French, and I concentrated (minored) in Women's and Gender Studies. Naturally my undergraduate courses led me to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a prominent historian of early American history and women's history.
When I was younger (read: pre-university), I didn't understand this quotation. I was very much your stereotypical goody-two-shoes who worked hard in school, held multiple leadership positions, attended church regularly, and genuinely got along with everyone. I took the opposite of "well-behaved" quite literally. Why would I misbehave? Why would I do something wrong?
I was still a little naive about breaking gender roles, even though I'd been challenging gender stereotypes and pointing out sexist biases for years. I was already a proud feminist, an identity supported by my parents, my teachers, and most of my peers. Aside from some good-natured ribbing, I hadn't received any criticism for my feminist beliefs. I totally thought I was completely under the umbrella of "well-behaved."
And then I went to university. I actually studied everything I had believed intuitively about feminism. The more I learned, the more passionate I became about gender equality. I finally shed my lingering confusion over the "sinful" act of same-sex relations.
I graduated. I moved to France. As much as my education had opened my eyes, living abroad completely turned my world around.
I met an au pair who thought that women should choose between a career and children--if she wanted both, she was selfish. An au pair. Someone experiencing firsthand how to juggle a career and children by hiring outside help, with the cultural bonus of having a native speaker influence bilingual children. I didn't realize until then that young people could still think like that.
I saw genuine poverty that troubled my heart. I also saw organized, entitled begging that left me angry but confused.
I befriended au pairs who were openly bisexual and totally blase about it, making me wonder if I could ever have the courage to be that accepting of myself. I hid my sexuality under the guise of "hot girls making out to attract boys."
I discovered the excitement and the dread of male attention. I loved making out with guys in clubs--consensual sexual activity is hella fun. I hated guys honking at me, or sitting too close to me on the metro, or straight up sexually assaulting me. I had written a ten-page paper in French about three films by Agnes Varda, with my thesis revolving around the male gaze. I finally experienced firsthand (in French) what I had written (in French) just the year before.
I bought sexy lingerie, just because.
I traveled by myself, and everyone at home freaked out. Nothing happened to me.
I kept my intentional virginity a secret, because most of my teaching friends treated casual sex as normal and almost expected of young adults.
I never had a singular, defining "Ah-ha!" moment, but somewhere along the way, I realized that I had stopped being a "well-behaved" woman. More than that, I had stopped wanting to be a "well-behaved" woman.
The tagline of my blog is "A Christian feminist living outside the Virgin/Whore dichotomy." Although it does literally describe my beliefs as a Christian feminist and as a sexy demi-vierge, I like to think it expresses more than that. We are so quick to judge people based on a single label that we often forget how complex human beings are. I'm a walking contradiction only to people who think I can be defined by a single identity.
Today, I challenge you to misbehave. I challenge you to live outside your comfort zone. Stand up for something you support, even if it's a taking a side on a controversial issue. Be true to yourself, even if it means disagreeing with someone you love or respect.
You can't change the world if you remain quiet and well-mannered.
So go out there.