On the day I realized my life was a political statement, I was sitting in the dermatologist’s office, a small, white-walled exam room covered in pamphlets featuring beautiful women with clear skin. I’d sat on the same exam table a thousand times before; it’s something I’ve been forced to do since acne colonized my face when I was ten. This time, I was seeing a new doctor, but I wasn’t worried; I’d been going to the practice for a long time, and that included two six month rounds of Accutane four years apart and all the hasty prescription topical gels that followed.
The doctor was a man, something I hadn’t thought much of, although later I realized all my past dermatologists were women. “I got off Accutane four months ago,” I said when he asked why I was there, “and my acne’s coming back.”
Yes, by the way, you read that right: I’ve been on Accutane twice and all it does is make prescription-power acne topicals more effective. But this isn’t about zits. This is about what the doctor said next.
“Acne can sprout up right before your menstrual cycle,” he told me. “It could be that.”
“Yeah, and it does,” I said, “but I’ve had acne for a really long time, and I’ve had my period for a really long time, and I know the difference between breaking out because I’m PMSing and breaking out because my acne’s coming back.”
He remarked that I must be part of the four percent that Accutane doesn’t really work on, something I knew long ago was partially true. He prescribed me new topicals, and I moved on with my day. It wasn’t until later that afternoon, when I recalled our conversation to my mother, that I realized I reacted to his question…boldly, as my roommate would later call it.
“You said that to him? Out loud?” she asked.
“Um, yeah,” I said. Apparently, I was fighting the patriarchy and teaching a seasoned doctor not to condescend women. I thought I was communicating with a medical professional (albeit an arrogant one). But instead, I was really being a feminist.
I think my relationship with feminism isn’t so much as some sort of conversion, like one day I woke up and realized fighting for women was my true calling. When I learned what it was: the advocacy for equal rights of all genders, I didn’t say, “Sign me up!” It was more like, “You might as well put my name on the roster, because I’m already here.”
When men try to talk over me, I just keep going and raise my voice. I didn’t rally my forces and decide that this would be my response; it’s just what I naturally do in situations when men (or anyone) tries to talk over me. I don’t like it, I happen to lack an inside voice, and my personality is hyper-competitive. You wanna talk over me? Challenge accepted. Let’s dance.
A boy in Spanish class says he agrees with feminism, but he doesn’t agree with being extreme about it. What does he mean by extreme, the professor asks. Oh well, you know, the people fighting in the streets. I turn to him. “Who’s fighting in the streets?” I ask, because the classroom is silent and he’s pissed me off. Oh you know, just people. That he sees in videos on Facebook. Where? He can’t answer that, either. I tell him that I’m an activist, that I go to rallies and I don’t see anyone fighting. Unless he’s talking about metaphorical fighting, of the nonviolent variety, which he should support if he believes in feminism. Because how do you change the world if you just stay silent? How do you expect things to get better for women if you do nothing?
He can’t answer me. If you can’t answer someone, you need to ask yourself if any argument exists at all.
When people see my room in my parent’s house, they can’t believe it. It’s pink? They ask. Did your mom force you to do it?
Hell no. I picked out the color myself. And then I painted the whole thing listening to Nirvana. Why is that so hard to believe? What is it about me that makes you think I’m a dichotomy? I’m sure you’re not, either.
The natural state of womankind is feminist, I think. We’re all not what we seem. I think a lot of us delicate flowers cuss, and say and do things we later realize are some act of feminism, some challenging of a stereotype. Living your life as woman is exactly that. Of course, we say in retrospect, I was doing that on purpose. I wanted to destroy the patriarchy; because you did, because you were on board with that. But in the moment, a hell of a lot of us were just living our lives.
And that is a political statement.