With stories of America’s rape culture splattered across the news, it seems like the world has gone in too deep over its head.

I am a girl. Think about that. What's the first thing that comes into mind? Is it weakness, or is it power? Is it ignorance, or is it understanding? Is it appearance, or is it talent and intelligence? This isn't the 19th century. Women do not belong in kitchens, confined in a house, spending our days as a cleaner, a cooker, or titled as baby-makers. No, women are changing the world. We are bringing home gold in the Olympics and setting records in sports. We are fighting with our lives to spread education. We are writers. We are teachers. We are executives. We are doctors. We are the gender that can not, will not, stop until we receive equal rights.

America was born and bred upon the shoulders of white men. But times changed. Different skin colors painted the white canvas of America, and women stood up and rallied together for equal rights. But still now, hundreds of years later, women are fighting the same battle against gender inequality, rape culture, and sexism.

I can tell you right now that I'm extremely excited to study hard through years of school, maybe go through graduate school, work as hard as any man to get a job I love, and then get paid less. For every dollar men earn, we earn about 79 cents. Think that's not much? Once a man hits $1,000, women only have $790 in their hands. Yet there are still people who remain ignorant, claiming there is no wage gap. Do they honestly not see the statistics and studies and sheer evidence, or are they scared to see a woman be equal to a man? Just another aspect of life separating the male and female genders is the phrase "hit like a girl" or "run like girl" or "fight like a girl". I don't remember when that started to be an insult. In kindergarten, I played tag with boys and I caught them. "Run like a girl" meant run as fast as you can. “Hit like a girl” meant leave a bruise. Now it means run slowly like your hair is getting messed up and to hit is to lightly tap someone.  So many campaigns are out there raising awareness about this gender inequality, and honestly it's empowering to turn on my computer or T.V. and see those advertisements.

If I said I was a feminist, would you jump to the idea that I hate men? That I'm always angry? That I'm ugly? That I never want to get married? And my personal favorite is the myth that guys can't be feminists. If you want women to be politically, socially, and economically equal to men, then you're a feminist. So many celebrities, men and women, are proudly identifying themselves as feminists. But feminism isn't wanting to see women fare better than men in life. This past year, surveys from seniors for their classes were handed out for the freshman to take. One of the questions was: “Women should have more rights than men. True or false”. A girl sitting at my table immediately circled “true” whilst declaring she was a feminist. But that’s not the end goal of a feminist; we’re looking for equal rights. We’re looking for a world where NO gender is superior.

Fun fact: Did you know in the first few colonies in America, rape resulted in death? It simply was not tolerable. But somehow we’ve evolved to sending a rapist to jail for three months. And don't ever say “she asked for it”. Unless the word “yes” is spoken out loud, I don't care how she dresses, I don't care if she's naked, I don't care if she's unconscious, I don't care unless she said “yes”. Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist, is leaving on September 2 after serving 3 months for a crime that ruined and dehumanized a woman. When Brock’s father's statement and the victim’s statement are juxtaposed, it's clear to see who felt the pain and who walked away. The father says, “His [Brock’s] life will never be the one he dreamed and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life”. Just by using the word “action” completely disgusts me. It wasn't action, it wasn't enjoyable sex, it was rape. The victim says, “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my own voice until today. The damage is done, no one can undo it”. Maybe it was action to Brock, but for the victim it was pain. But of course he doesn't understand, and frankly neither do I because you can only fully understand the damage and humiliation after it has been done to you yourself. On the news there are all too many cases of girls being taken advantage of without their consent, but it can go the other way around as well. There aren't as many occurrences, so some people think it's impossible, but men can be raped by women. And just like the vice versa, it's shaming and disgusting for a woman to cause that kind of pain to a man.

I have to be honest, with stories of America’s rape culture splattered across the news, and sexism finding ways to negatively affect and change a middle schooler’s mind all the way up until they have a job seems like the world has gone in too deep over its head. It seems like sexism is permanent. But then I think of the organizations that exist, the undeniable support for rape victims, the care in the world, the celebrities doing everything they can, teenagers learning about sexism and stepping out into the world to make a change. And one day, maybe it'll be my daughter, or my granddaughter or maybe even my great-great-great-granddaughter, but I promise she will live in a world where men and women are equal. I’m proud to be a girl.

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