When I was about 7 years old, my dad and I would play hockey with the neighbourhood kids. It didn’t matter that I wore figure skates, I was part of the team. When I was 10, I joined the chess club. I never seemed out of place among the “gambit squad”. I have so many great examples from those formative years where my gender had little to do with my childhood choices. My father’s indifference towards my gender back then would be celebrated today. He bought me remote control cars, hockey sticks, and barbies for my birthday. I helped him build basements and he made sure I knew the difference between casing, concrete, and box nails.

Thanks to gymnastics and swimming, I was also athletic. I loved sports, and I would often get asked to join the boy’s teams for a game of soccer, dodge ball, or flag football. My gender did not limit my beliefs. I played football, dressed up my barbies, and drove my BMX through the backwoods, all in a day. It was all interchangeable at that stage of my life.

Then I hit puberty.

Being athletic did not seem to matter anymore. It was the size of my chest, the length of my skirt uniform, and how I looked from behind that seemed to get more attention. I felt becoming a woman was slowly becoming a total drag. I began to internalize this sexual objectification which led me to feel anxious and insecure.

Fortunately, that internal struggle shaped me into the feminist I am today. I tried to stay away from the label because who needs another label. Maybe I just felt that I did not need to proclaim my position in this world, since I have had it easier than most, as a cisgender, white woman.

Then I decided that the word “feminist” isn’t a bad word. So many incredible women have claimed the term for themselves and opened up conversations about gender equality.

I am, indeed, a feminist, and a proud one. I hold certain truths to be self-evident: Women are equal to men. We deserve equal pay for equal work. We have the right to move through the world as we choose, free from harassment or violence.

What we endure as women is far beyond what many of our male counterparts will ever understand.

I am a feminist because society tells rape victims it is somehow their fault.

I am a feminist because derogatory terms like slut, cunt, and whore are still used to describe women.

I am a feminist because male lawmakers are still making decisions about our reproductive rights.

I am a feminist because women and girls around the world are still married as children or trafficked into forced labor and sex slavery.

I am a feminist because women earn, on average, just 82 cents for every $1 earned by men.

I am a feminist because taking charge in the boardroom is labeled as bossy, pushy, and demanding.

I am a feminist because organizations still see sexual harassment complaints as something that slows them down and as an unnecessary expense with many sticking to an “admit nothing and blame the victim” stance.

I am a feminist because I want to talk about sex, sexuality, and pleasure without being judged.

I am a feminist because women are expected to fit a particular beauty standard and we are bombarded with messages telling us to assimilate.

I am a feminist because women are still shamed for not wanting to become mothers.

I am a feminist because this pandemic has proven that the burden of the family has primarily fallen on the shoulders of women.

I am a feminist because talking about women’s rights, gender equality, and feminism is still synonymous with “radical”.

I am a feminist because I use my position in society to elevate these issues instead of sitting idly.

I am a feminist because I believe in the right of each of us to live as we see fit without constraint by outdated ideologies or unfair financial obstacles.

I am a feminist because I fully support my sisters everywhere in the world where they fight to make their lives fulfilling and rich.

I am a feminist because I have felt my own spirit liberated by what I know of the hard work carried forward by early and subsequent feminists.

I am a feminist because patriarchy is bad for men too.

If I can empower, inspire, and give hope to just one another woman, then I feel every other human is able to do the same. As a mother, I want my daughter and my son to feel they can live their lives on their own terms. As an entrepreneur, I want to run my business with the same potential for growth as my husband. As a friend, I want to stand with you when you feel mistreated or violated. I want to see all my sisters rise to new heights. I will cheer for you always.

I celebrate all women. I thank those who paved the road for us. And applaud those who will continue to shatter the glass ceiling.

ME, aged 6, Montréal, QC, 1978