"Phenomenal Woman, / that's me." -M. Angelou


Everybody's fave subject! Nothing gets people all yell-y and knot-knickered like feminism. Except maybe politics. And religion. And whether cake or pie is a superior dessert (actually, it's cookies; and I'll fight you on that).

I'm not sure if I ever really gave feminism much thought when I was younger. I was, you know, anti-traditional gender roles and all; but the words "rape culture" probably meant nothing to me even as a college student. Sure, I spent most of my life rolling my eyes at women's magazines littered with fatuous "advice" about how to exist solely to please men ("Don't be that girl who orders salad at dinner! But definitely don't eat real food. Just pretend to love burgers and beer. Act like one of the guys. But, like, be sexy while you do it. Be a sexy bro lady. IT'S SO EASY"). But my ideas of what was relevant to feminism were pretty narrowly defined.

Now, an enlightened -- and perhaps somewhat embittered? -- adult, my views on what constitutes a violation of my gender's rights are expansive. I rage out loud at commercials in which a woman is stereotypically portrayed arriving at a hotel with an extraordinary amount of luggage; I fume at every new sitcom that features a nagging wife. I die a little when I hear a woman comment on another's weight or body; I feel heartbroken when a friend expresses fears that she doesn't want to build muscle lest she look "manly."

In the wake of the most recent "rape culture" scandals -- i.e. what is and isn't "locker-room talk" -- I started giving my expanded definition of feminism some thought and realized it comes from a combination of two things: eating disorder recovery, and crossfit. This surprised me at first, but it makes total sense.

One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome in both overcoming anorexia and in starting crossfit was learning to accept and embrace the space my body encompasses. And, as it turned out, "taking up space" began to mean much more.

In learning to take up space physically -- both in terms of NOT starving myself into shrinking and in terms of building muscle -- I've learned to take up space in some other ways, too. Like saying "no" without guilt to things that don't serve me (a skill I am still working on). Like refusing to accept other people's definitions of what is and isn't "feminine." Like doing my part to teach girls that their bodies are tools and not decorations, that their voices and their muscles should be equally functional, and that they are capable of changing the world around them.

Subject to "manspreading" on the metro? Claim some elbow room with equal force. Tired of weak and ignorant people calling for the repeal of the 19th amendment or condescending to tell you how to use your reproductive organs? Use your voice to be active politically and socially. Heard one too many people complain that weight-lifting makes women "look manly"? Clean and jerk the next person so unfortunate to utter the sentiment in your earshot. Be bold in thought, action, and presence.

Because what is more feminist than for a woman to take up space in the world?