Freshman year of college, I was the subject of a contentious feminist debate on my college campus. Remember the website Juicy Campus? (I know…this is going somewhere though) “Who is the biggest ball-busting feminist on campus?” Only one answer, “Meryl Duff,” sat in the replies. Yes, I was browsing Juicy Campus, and yes I found my name in the anonymous reply. My first thought was “Oh my God, people here know me?” and my second thought was “…as a ball-busting feminist?!”
Now, after some intense self-reflection as to why I was even looking at the Juicy Campus website, I moved on to how people knew me as a “ball-busting feminist.” Was it “Penis Registration Day” or was it my argument of sexist language in my First Year Seminar? I guess I’ll never know, but I was both proud and slightly incredulous. Would I be able to live up to the ball-busting feminist hype that was freshman year? Spoiler alert – I TOTALLY DID – all the while busting zero balls (I have respect for all people). While I did not write a new feminist manifesto or become the next Gloria Steinem or bell hooks, I lived my truth and continue to do so today.
Growing up, young girls are often taught that beauty doesn’t matter, you should judge people based on “what is inside, not outside” often in the same breath as the words, “wow, you’re such a pretty little girl!” As we grow older, we realize the privilege that beautiful people often have, and of course feel the pressure from all sides – the media, dating partners, school dress codes….the list goes on. And when we are growing into our feminist identities, it often feels like we are torn in half. Similar to my Juicy Campus exploits, both sides are somehow coexisting. On one hand, I am intrinsically against the insidious nature of a website like Juicy Campus. However, on the other hand, I am still reading what is on the message boards, feeling a strange need to fit in with the rest of the school that knows the gossip first hand and I have to read it online.
I still struggle with two identities that live within me: the feminist that knows there are power structures in place that are systematically holding people back in various socio-economic and political avenues, and the feminist that has been ingrained with Eurocentric beauty standards and a white-washed education that feels bad for existing in certain spaces.
It can be revolutionary to love yourself in the midst of a society that tells you you shouldn’t. So take the selfie. In the end, what we can do for ourselves is take up space when we feel small, understand the duality of identities and how they exist within the hegemonic structure of society and fight for those things we need for a full and inclusive world with room for every person.
The photo posted along with this article is a good representation of how I feel about this subject. Part of me is filtered (literally, thanks Snapchat), layered with difficult and oppressive norms and standards, and part of me is also actively fighting them. I struggle to understand the complexities that exist within me; often they are dichotomous and seem to fight with each other. But I think that is pretty normal, and even small acts of revolutionary self-love and kindness are able to fight off the shitty white supremacy and misogyny that we struggle against every day.
Author: Meryl Duff
Author Bio: Originally I am from Columbus, Ohio, I have been living in New York for 4 years. I enjoy Irish dance, Hip-Hop Yoga, dogs, brunch and other Millenial things.
I studied Sociology and Anthropology in college, have an awkward and self-deprecating sense of humor and like CNN.
Link to social media or website: https://duffmeryl.wixsite.com/duffparty/about-me