In partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama's #BetterMakeRoom initiative, we are publishing your awesome college admissions essays — the pieces of writing that helped you #ReachHigher in your education — leading up to College Signing Day on MTV News. If you're a high school senior graduating in 2016, submit your essay to firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name and age.
March 30 started out like any other day. I opened Twitter — a longstanding part of my daily morning routine. But unlike other mornings, on this day I was bombarded by an unexpected onslaught of emotional tweets. Two eighth-grade boys at a nearby school were harassing a girl with Down's syndrome. I proceeded to read all of the revolting tweets, which escalated to the boys implying that women are inferior and suggesting that they need to be reminded of their place in the social hierarchy.
Reading the outpouring of misogynistic comments made me angry. Really angry. I am fortunate enough to have spent my life surrounded by strong women. My grandmother became a doctor of pathology at a time when girls weren’t even expected to go to school. My mother, one of the most brilliant engineers I know, didn’t change her last name after marrying my dad, despite the overwhelming social pressure to do so. Undercurrents of feminism have always surrounded me — it was a constant reality rather than an option. So it only made sense for me to identify as a feminist. And as a feminist, I'm passionate and emotionally invested in social issues (as well as awesome medical cases and Taylor Swift, of course). So this disheartening event inspired me to act: I tweeted about it.
remember: feminism isn't pushing for he oppression of men, it's fighting for the EQUALITY of women to men pic.twitter.com/jkkuY4lpv9— Avani Bellary (@ava_bellz) March 27, 2015
My tweet soon gained a lot of momentum. People kept retweeting and favoriting it. While it garnered a lot of positive attention, it also spurred many negative reactions, eliciting people to label me a “femi-Nazi” and a “disgrace to all women.”
I ignored most of these responses, but there was one particular accusation that struck a nerve: One user called me a “redneck Republican hillbilly feminist.” I was dumbfounded that somebody could be so ignorant and arrogant, so I decided to reply and expose how ridiculously contradictory his statement was. I explained to him that being from supposedly “redneck” Texas had nothing to do with my political views or belief in gender equality.
But the user continued to argue that women shouldn’t bother to care about the wage gap because they are now as equal as they will ever be. This additional comment inspired a reaction worthy of winning an Oscar for Most Dramatic Rage Spiral in Twenty Minutes. How dare he tell me that I don’t deserve to be treated and respected as an equal human being?!
We shot backhanded comments back and forth on the Twitter tennis court for a while, until most of my classmates became embroiled in the debate. It was inspiring to see all my peers getting involved in such an important issue. Eradicating social and gender inequality requires the support of all people, not just those who are directly affected by it. My classmates' support, therefore, felt like an important step toward this goal.
My support of women's rights and equality hardly died down after this fight. If anything, this exchange of ideas only heightened my convictions. It made me want to teach people the importance of promoting gender equality and how inequality massively affects our lives. Just as I have been inspired by the strong women who surround me, I hope that my tweets inspired other women. The feminist fight for equal opportunity can't be won by any person alone, but by raising awareness about it, we can all work toward making it a reality.