I am listening to a woman sitting beside me on the train as she reprimands me for not being a woman warrior because I had on red lipstick, winged eyeliner, and a dress.
“Feminists don’t wear winged liner.”
I was angry. I was offended.
I wanted to tell her off with a slew of words explaining that my war was the same as hers, while she was loudly saying I must not know what being repressed was like, but instead I just nodded and said “Okay.”
So, this is to the woman who told me I couldn’t be a feminist because of my eyeliner:
I’ve understood the dangers of boys since I was in the third grade and learned them on the playground. It was disguised as a “game.” When I told my teacher she told me, “Maybe you shouldn’t always play so rough with the boys.” They didn’t go to the principal’s office, their parents weren’t called; all that happened was a swift change of their “color card” in class.
I, on the other hand, cut off my waist length curly hair and was sent to counseling. We wound up graduating high school together, and they still laughed about the game we all played underneath the slide back in third grade. I never laughed with them—I hadn’t been laughing then and it wasn’t a game to me.
By the time I was in middle school, I understood which floorboards to tip toe across so I didn’t wake up the wolf that lived in our house. I learned about kept secrets, and about smiles that cover up words we weren’t able to say. The winter of my senior year I decided that I could no longer watch the crime scene unfold, that this would be the day that life would be different, and I ran. I ran out the door, barefoot on a gravel road away from the house, and never looked back.
The further I got away, the more I promised myself that I would never be a woman living in fear of any man.
I swore off committed relationships until my third semester in college. I thought I loved him. Instead he left me unconscious on our dorm staircase for someone else to find. I continued to go back to him and forgive him, until I learned the truth.
On my 21st birthday, I stumbled home by myself because the bartender confused me for an easy ride and the janitor came a little too late. He told me, “thanks for the good time.” I returned to that bar almost a year later and looked him in the eyes. I wanted him to know I wouldn’t forget, and I wasn’t afraid.
Every morning I leave for work before the sun rises, and walk in the middle of the street in an unsafe neighborhood with pepper spray in my hand, because I’d rather take my chance with a car than a drunk man confusing ignorance with power.
I am 22, and just now learning how to love myself. Just now learning that my past doesn’t make me a victim, that I don’t need to be ashamed. Just now learning to embrace my beauty, my mind, my words, my body, my sexuality, and my sensuality. I have never been so proud to be a woman.
I wear winged liner for myself, not for a man.
Our war is the same.
Author: Chrissy Owens
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Ashley Harrigan/Flickr