I used to hate feminists.

How is that for a click-bait opening line?

Unfortunately it is true. Like so many other people my first experience with feminism was extremely negative. This is one of the reasons I started this platform: I want people to experience true feminism in all of its honest, loving, accurate glory. But more on that later. Right now I want to tell you a story.

Once upon a time I was friends with a feminist. Her name was Julie. I met Julie when we were both wide-eyed fifteen year olds. Julie was the outgoing, hilarious, opinionated friend I needed to give me the confidence to go boldly into the world without fear of judgment. Julie was my kindred spirit.

In our senior year of High School Julie developed an interest in feminism. She fell hard and fast, quickly going from a girl with questions to a girl who believed she had all the answers. Julie’s intentions were good—I never doubted that. However, Julie quickly went from a feminist to an extremist.

Julie’s version of so-called ‘feminism’ became extremely problematic. Rather than approaching the subject of inequality with grace and love, she viciously attacked it and anyone who stood in her way. She was all about female empowerment, but she judged and condemned women who found empowerment in their sexuality. She believed all men were, at their core, sexist pigs and had zero tolerance for anyone who questioned her beliefs.

As a woman, I felt personally victimized by Julie. If you were not her brand of woman, you were no better than an unintelligent, sexist man. I walked away from our friendship burned, drained, confused and broken. I believed in female empowerment but if Julie’s version was what it looked like, I wanted nothing to do with it.

Still, my heart was aching, because I was tired of the inequality I saw in the world and the ways in which I was being told my worth was in some antiquated idea of womanhood that I never signed up for. I was trapped in patriarchal society and there was no way out, so I had to endure what so many other women do.

I remember the time that the pastor of my church told me that my studies at University were a good way to stay occupied while I searched for a husband. He patted me on shoulder, called me a good girl and then had be stand behind the men on the worship team even though I was one of the main vocalists.

I remember a sex education class in grade eight where the boys and the girls were split up. Us girls were told to make a list of our boundaries so that when a boy inevitably tried to stick his hand down our pants in the backseat of his Dad’s Toyota we would already know when to say ‘no.’ The boys were taught how to put on condoms.

 I remember all the jokes my male friends made about women. All the manipulative, derogatory language they mindless used without ever knowing how it made women feel. They were not even fazed by it and worse yet, eventually I wasn’t fazed by it.

I arrived at University a cynical freshman, both passionately protective of my gender and vehemently against Julie’s so-called feminism. My heart was breaking as I watched the girls I lived with get burned over and over again by a system that devalued women. I wanted something more, something better, but it couldn’t possibly be feminism. Feminism was a hypocritical movement by angry women that could never be pleased.

Or so I thought. Then I met my favourite English literature professor. In one of my first classes with her she spoke aloud what I had never been able to find the words to ask: “At some point in history people decided that women should be excluded from the arts, politics and religion. Why did this happen? This is what feminism addresses. The inequality women face. Feminism is the belief that men and women inherently deserve the same rights and freedoms. ”

It was as if someone had finally, courageously and clearly, spoke to the yearning of my heart. This was what I believed: that men and women are equal. If this was what feminism was, then sign me up. Since then I have had to re-learn what feminism is. It has been a long process, but I am so thankful that someone redefined it for me.

I went from hating feminism to now being proud to call myself feminist, and you should be proud to be one too.