Hi all! My name is Rebecca Bender (I go by Becca, not Becky which I really don’t like), and I’ll be guest blogging here from time to time. I’m a 21-year-old college senior stuck between wanting to bury myself in college shenanigans and also swimming through the vast unknown of what is to be my future.
Growing up I was quite lucky. I’m from a neighborhood in Brooklyn, a place where the community’s biggest issues involved the word “Kale” being graffitied on public spaces. To say it was (and still is) a bubble is an understatement- and living within that zip code made everything appear to be just perfect - you could be who you want, love who you want, dress however you want, with absolutely no judgment.
For me, my so-called gender epiphany happened about two years ago sitting in the middle of a classroom. Yes, I had heard of the so-called “Gender Wage Gap”, but with the numbers jumping out in front of me, I was embarrassingly shocked. A sophomore in college, a 20-year-old, Cis female who always rolled her eyes at the “feminist” movement, suddenly realized that the frat boy doing the handstand on the keg could end up making more than me- for doing exactly the same job.
I personally never felt “less than” as a female. I use to claim I was just “one of the guys” - of course I didn’t even realize what message I was conveying just by using that term. I mean we never say (in a complimentary way), ”he’s just one of the girls”. Back in my Brooklyn bubble it was fine to just be – and it allowed me to be somewhat ignorant in the struggle for gender equality. Before college and before I started taking Women and Gender Studies courses, I thought scoffing at the feminist movement was the cool thing to do. It’s not that I didn’t believe in equality for women, I just assumed it was the woman’s responsibility to earn it.
There are often a lot of stereotypes that are put on feminists; man-haters, lesbians, girls who are clearly just PMSing, or angry women, just to name a few. And there was a time when I too, questioned the intention of feminism. Not anymore. Google feminism. Seriously, do it. And if anyone ever tells you that they are not a feminist, have them look it up too. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at me, but I was one of those people; that self-proclaimed strong, independent woman who refused to identify with feminism simply because I let the stereotype define the movement.
Two years ago I sat in the middle of the classroom, uncomfortable because I felt out of place in a Women and Gender class – that was a class for feminists. Flash forward two years and you’ll find a more enlightened woman, proudly embracing her newly understood feminist side, having a broader outlook to observe the world around her. It’s one thing to want equality, it’s another thing to peel back layer by layer, the masked and unmasked inequalities that have perpetuated throughout the beginning of time. Here’s hoping that these blogs posts can help do that.
I just read Becca’s comments and really liked what I read. I know Becca, Amy and rest of their family, along with April. I walk Becca’s family dog the past few years. I have watched Amy and April build Rigit from its inception. They are two incredibly dedicated and hardworking people.
Becca’s comments about her Brooklyn neighborhood were dead on target. However, the area has not always been such a safe bubble for free expression.
I am considerably older than Becca and also grew up in the area. When I was growing up here the area was rife with racial and sexual intolerance. Gay bashing was a “sport” for many teens. There were hardly many black people living here. Hispanics only lived on 5th Avenue and below pretty much. It was impossible for a black family to purchase a home on certain blocks.
I recall seeing lesbian couples being assaulted on 7th Avenue for no reason other than holding hands and loving one another. I admit I was very bigoted myself on many levels. It was the 70s and 80s and things were so different. Thankfully I began questioning many of my prejudices over the years and I began seeing many things differently. I admit I still struggle with some of my prejudices, they are so deeply ingrained. But I have come a long long way since my youth. It can be so hard to reverse the things some family members and society instilled in me about others different than myself.
In high school I had a black girlfriend from Fort Green starting in 10th grade. We went thru hell. Both blacks and whites gave us problems over being together. Today I see mixed race couples happily walking hand in hand free from problems. It amazes me.
I never see gay couples being ridiculed or assaulted here nowadays. Things changed here. People can change, even the worse. I applaud Amy and April for taking the leap and starting Rigit. So much more needs to change in this country and even still in this area. I saw big changes take place here and it emboldens my faith that things can change everywhere for the better.