By: Tori Mano

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to help other people. I cycled through various jobs in my younger years, claiming I wanted to be a doctor, a teacher, a ninja, a wizard–anything that would make me the hero. Heck, I’m sure I wanted to be a superhero at some point. When it came time to declare a major in college, I had finally settled on something I was really excited about: communication disorders. That would put me on the track I wanted to be on, one that would make me a speech-language pathologist one day.

However, when entering college, I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty. Throughout my high school years, I painted myself on being a feminist hero. I went to marches, I advocated for women in STEM, I listened to riot grrl daily--I did everything I could to make myself the perfect feminist. Going into a predominantly female field made me feel a bit unsettled, had I wasted that time “sticking it to the man” only to find myself becoming a sucker to the system? It took me so long to realize the flaws in my activism, and to understand that there was a way I could be empowered without becoming a computer science engineer or a biochemist. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with ANY majors or job fields. I found that my passion for what I was learning about and what I would eventually be working as was what empowered me. Helping others made me feel good! Learning about things that genuinely interested me made me feel better about myself. It made me realize I could use my enthusiasm about speech-language pathology to still help the people I spent time fighting for.

I am not some empowered hero. It took me ages to realize what the complexities and layers of feminism included, and that it was not a scale but a spectrum, and that it always came down to the individual. I found that not having to put myself in a box helped me realize how I could truly be happy and be confident.

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