I’ve always been a feminist. I just didn’t always know it.
You know how some people were born into the wrong family? That was me. And because of that, I didn’t recognize the real me until I was well into my twenties – but the real me was still quite hard to contain for many years leading up to my eventual liberation.
I grew up in a religious household – one that held some real wackadoo fundamental beliefs: fundamental beliefs about hell (and the fact that you were most definitely going there – being a six year old child would not save you from that);
fundamental beliefs about sex and masturbation (and the fact that you most definitely shouldn’t have/do/enjoy or think about it especially if you’re a woman or a –gasp – homosexual);
and certainly, fundamental beliefs about gender roles.
I tried. I really did. I tried to be the kind of person who could hold these beliefs. After all, I so desperately wanted my parents to like me.
And my parents tried. They really did. They used every weapon in their crazytown arsenal to keep me contained: The vacation bible school, the weird, creepy “middle school” overnight retreats with weird, creepy Youth Pastor Bill, the church services every Sunday and Wednesday, the Fox News, the Rush Limbaugh, the Calvanist Christian Radio Show every Saturday morning.
They tried to keep me quietly, tucked away inside the confines of those ordinary, everyday Protestant walls. But they couldn’t. And I couldn’t.
Because I’m a motherfucking renegade.
My first and boldest act of feminism began around the tender age of ten:
When I discovered the joy of swearing.
Here’s the question: is swearing a feminist act?
To this Midwestern, Lutheran girl it was. It was my only outlet against the oppressive reign of puritanical patriarchy in both my family and my church. It was my act of defiance. It wasn’t allowed. And even more so – it wasn’t allowed for girls like me.
(I imagine while Jessa Duggar looks in the mirror at night, brushing her psychotically long mass of hair, she closes the door, turns on the faucet, clutches her brush handle, and hisses at her reflection:
“CUNT FUCK BITCH MOTHERFUCKER GODDAMMIT”)
Swearing was my secret and my secret only. No one could control the powerful words in my mind: not the church, not my parents, and not some asshole God who was probably going to condemn me to Hell anyway.
And these words did give me power. Power I didn’t think I had otherwise. Power to rebel.
I’d scrawl “FUCK” in elaborate cursive letters across notebooks that I kept hidden in my closet.
It only felt wrong because others told me it was.
Otherwise, it felt very fucking right.
What was so empowering about that word anyway? Was it the way it flipped off the bottom lip and ended in a fallen thunk? Was it because it was so inherently adaptable, so easily molded to any kind of expression? Was it because of the very freedom the word fuck itself possessed as a part of the English language?
Was it because it was likely one of the dirtiest swears?
I would read books I’d found on the top book shelf (the inappropriate ones, the ones my parents had from the 70s when they were still in college and not yet indoctrinated in their God) just to learn the art of swearing.
I got the idea from a sermon one particular Sunday.
The Pastor – Pastor “Dave” he was called — Said something like,
“If I’m reading a book, and I come across a swear word, I’ll close it up and toss it right in the trash. And believe me, I’ve had to leave a lot of mysteries unsolved because of this commitment I’ve made to God!”
Cue congregation laughing.
I remember being absolutely appalled at the idea of not finishing a book. But it also occurred to me, that books had swearing. And swearing meant freedom.
My parents strictly forbade swearing under any circumstances, so my swearing was covert.
But my skill grew.
“People who swear sound stupid.” My mother would say.
“Fuck if I care.” I’d reply in my head.
And when my sister wouldn’t let me borrow her violet and grey Delia’s sweater. Well, she was just being a real selfish twat wasn’t she?
The name calling part was particularly useful: bitch, asshole, dickhead, motherfucker, piece of shit.
Those words had oomph.
And of course to this present day, I still swear quite a bit.
“What the fuck? Where’s the motherfucking Soda fucking Stream, Godammit.” I mumble to myself looking through a kitchen cabinet.
“Jesus Christ, you swear a lot.” Max says, over hearing me.
And it’s because I’ve never viewed swearing the way others have viewed it. I’ve never thought of swearing as bad. It isn’t just vulgarity to me. It’s freedom.
It’s freedom to be myself. It’s freedom to rage against the machine. Freedom to rebel. Freedom to fight injustice.
Fuck. Shit. Goddammit.
That’s right, I said it.