• Virginie Da Costa

Virginie, why are you a feminist ?

One day, I was approximately 8 years old, a new classmate arrived in my class. Her name was Tania and she was my first lover.

I remember remarks of the other girls when I told it to them and their incomprehension. To tell the truth, I did not understand it either but all that I knew, it is that I adored the smile and the eyes of the little Tania and that it was great as feeling. According to others, it was not normal. At the age of 8 I was already confronted with standards which I did not understand and which did not include me. 

People were used to call me "young lad". I was used to wear short hair and I was often wearing old pullover full of holes and not matching socks.I played football and basketball with my male friends during school break. I built treehouses and I loved building small houses for birds. When it was raining, I often arrived late to school because I loved to hang out on the road and enjoy the rain and all the things she brought with her! This particular smell, but especially: snails. So I arrived late, and I was carrying dozens of snails on me! My behavior and interests meant that the girls did not accept me in their group. Anyway, I had way more fun with the boys ! At that moment, I remember that I was wondering if I was a girl. I knew that something was different, after all, maybe I was a boy, inside ?

For years, I claimed that I was a tomboy because I saw my father's proud look when I was strong -I was not crying when I was hurting or smart -I was good at science and maths classes- or brave -I climbed the rope in the trees even if I'm dizzy-. Qualities of a little boy according to adults. That's how I came to tell myself that I wanted to be a boy. I thought it was a lot easier to be one. And besides, they could pee standing up and that sounded amazing to me. I tried to do it once in the school race, and I came back with the pants full of piss and a note in my school diary! What is certain is that it has greatly reinforced my questioning about gender. I did not understand why I liked to do “boy’s things” and the fact that no one ever told me that I simply had the right to, have, by analogy, implanted in me this idea that I was not from the right gender or abnormal.

My childhood has been very violent and restrictive in my family environment, I will not dispense more about this topic but it will give explanations concerning the foregoing. When I arrived at the beginning of my adolescence, things changed very quickly. Puberty was transforming me and I did not find myself in so-called feminine norms. Coquetry, pink and glitter, skinny jeans and thongs. This need to seduce constantly. And as a result, I have been harassed by my classmates for quite a few years. I was not the type of girl that pleased boys and I wanted to be like others, to be accepted.

It was a great pain to be rejected for who I was : me. I sought love by all means. This is how I did my first kiss with a girl. She was my best friend and I was 13 years old. We just trained but I liked that. I learned later that the guys also liked it, that it excited them. When I learned about bisexuality and finally realized that I loved girls too, my girlfriends and I have been verbally and physically attacked by men who have believed that we were kissing to excite them.

To come back to the story, my best friend at the time was a great seducer, she had already had sex with several partners. We often went to her house because her mother was rarely there and she told me about her adventures so, one night, we went to her friends' house. I remember the feeling of disgust and insecurity I felt there, so to calm down I drank a little alcohol. There were beer and joints. She was layed with a guy and I felt all the evil vibes emanate from this situation, this man much older than us and his friend who was watching me out. It was stronger than me, I got up and pulled her back by her arm. I remember shouting that this guy only wanted her ass and that she was better than that. We were drunk and smoked a lot of joints. I tried to take her away but she did not want to. She returned with this guy and I ended up with the other. I was tired so I ask where I can go to sleep. He invites me to his room, so I put on my pajamas and go to bed next to him. It did not take long before I felt his hands on me, and his erection. It had petrified me. He kissed me but it was uncomfortable, it was hurting, so I told him to stop, that I did not want to. I had never been so far with anyone before. I was scared and this guy was much stronger than me. He was on me and I could not move. As he did not stop when I asked him, I did something that saved my life I think and I still do not know why it came out like that : I burst into tears and I told him that I had already been raped. And then, he stopped immediately. It's one of the strangest things I've ever lived in my lifetime and I would never understand his reaction. He then took me in his arms and apologized, that he did not know and that he would never have done that if he had known. The night ended like this. This event was only the beginning of a long series.

With the childhood I had, I long thought that I was deserving what happened. When I would see an injustice, I was ready to (literally) fight it, but when it was concerning me, I could not do the same. I endured humiliations, critics, and violences, and every single time, it left a scar. Either a wound stays open and gets infected, or closes and heals. But one day, I learned what resilience is. Thus I finally understood how to convert destructive energy in a creative one. That made me move on, despite what I was going through. Without knowing it, my numerous scars gave me the strength to fight and go forward.

At this point, I didn’t consciously think of feminism. I think I even never heard about it. I was just finding it all so unfair, and I responded this injustice by going against everything that was contrary to my values system. I was trespassing every rule I could because I was refusing any obstruction to my freedom. I suppose I was some sort of activist on my own scale. I started to defend myself. This very hard time lasted my whole teenage hood. I went through so many difficulties and for these years I was so lost. No one could reach me and I could reach no one.

The day I realized that people could be fundamentally mean and cruel, it brought me down to earth with a bang. Before that, my naive side was giving me hope, though. I was so sure that love could solve everything, even the most incurable sorrows. The day came when I figured I wanted to be a mother, I wanted to dedicate myself entirely to another human being. I wanted to create a safe and healthy home full of love. This desire came early, but then I figured out all women go through this at the time of their puberty.

So I made it happen. I became a mother when I was 17. And again at 20. I remember that, back then, I wanted to have boys. Because boys are « easier » to raise. It just shows how badly I was considering the women’s situation in society. I just didn’t want to have daughters, and to have to tell them how it works. Obviously fate decided otherwise and gave me two daughters. And today I am so proud of them and of who they became. They are the reason why I fight. Because, precisely, I will have to explain to them that women are seen like a sexual object destined to reproduction, that they will have to work thrice more than men and that they will face verbal and sometimes physical aggressions, street harassment concerning their outfits, and many more other examples in the ocean of inequalities and discriminations !

That’s not something I wish to tell them, that it’s just the way it is and they should just handle it. I want to pass them down the will to fight for what is right, for freedom, and for love. I want to teach them that today’s world is not tomorrow’s, that everything can be changed ! That today’s thoughts take form when you act and that this is how you can deconstruct toxic thoughts and a sick society. And finally, I want to teach them that sometimes you stumble and fall, and even stay on the ground for a while. That they should never stop believe it. When I felt this burning desire within me that my decision was taken : I refuse this world, but I want to built another.

I want some changes, for my kids and for all other kids to be able to live, evolve and learn in a just and equal society. I want them to be respected and loved, independently of their gender, their nationality and their sexual orientation. I finally want this value judgment to end, the one under which so many kids and oh so many adults still suffer today.

I am conscious of the world in which I grew up, and I want to do everything in my power to change it. My experiences and the ones that so many other people went through gave me the courage to fight for what is fair. Because it’s not only about me any more, it is about everyone. It’s time to unite to built tomorrow’s world and raise consciousness.

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Based in Lausanne, Switzerland 

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