My name is Tashmica Torok and I have no idea what being a feminist means.
Feminism is not my area of expertise.
Currently, I am the founder and executive director of The Firecracker Foundation where I advocate for child survivors of sexual trauma and provide them with free, high-quality holistic therapeutic services.
As a survivor of child sexual abuse and incest, this is my heart’s work. I hear the stories of survivors and when I am able, I tell the stories to help educate the community.
I was raised in a conservative community hemmed into the Bible Belt. This cultural experience influenced my views of what women should become. Even more importantly, what women shouldn’t become.
I knew that Feminist was on the list of don’ts.
A conflict slowly developed in my spirit as I began to internalize the experiences of the strong, independent women in my family.
I watched their outspoken ways. I blossomed in kitchens filled with warmth and sass. I tried to impress them with bold visions of my future. My greatest hope was that they would be proud of this tiny girl made from their scratch.
I was raised to believe I could do anything except join the military. I have a hard time controlling my tongue. The substantial military experience in my family counseled me to find another line of work.
I listened. It was probably for the best.
I was raised to work hard and own my abilities. Not as a woman but as an individual with endless potential. The faith my family had in me was not as far reaching as I thought. Not every little girl is afforded the same advantages. Not every son was raised in a home like ours.
As I lived, moved away, had children and experienced life, I found that my natural tendency was to seek fairness and inclusion.
Even still, the word feminism was not one that I would claim as my own.
Today, I reflect on how a belief system guided by empathy, compassion and social justice led me to redefine a term that scared me to death.
These discoveries were happy accidents on the way to finding a comfortable place for myself within the feminist movement.
Feminism means that we do not have to hide from the truth to protect a man because his value is greater to our community. A crime committed against a woman, deserves investigation, prosecution and justice. A woman’s story – her word – bears the same weight as a man’s.
I know the women who tried to tell and were not believed. I know what happened next. I know the faces of women who were once the children sent back into the grasp of their perpetrators.
Feminism means that I am able to live in the fullness of my ambition. If privilege prevails, I can choose to be a stay at home mother, work full time or somewhere in-between. I am the mother of three little boys, the wife to a talented tile installer, a derby girl, an entrepreneur, an unapologetic fan of day drinking and a rescuer of lost pets.
My children benefit from viewing their mother as a toilet scrubber, protestor, award recipient, loving wife and student of hard lessons.
This makes me feel like a magical kaleidoscope of power and possibilities.
Feminism means that I can live in the fullness of my body.
All of the curves and straights, the stretched and firm, the wholeness and the broken – ownership is mine. The children I bear from my womb and those I choose not to, all live within the realm of my governance. I declare absolute authority over the lovers I choose or reject and in that I deserve justice if any person should attempt to tread on the landscape of my being.
Feminism means the sounds of fists pounding on the glass ceilings until cracks spider web above us and shards lay at our feet. It means that although we have not acquired equal pay for equal work, we do have the right and responsibility to challenge, examine and require the compensation we are due for a job well done.
Feminism means that I can live in the fullness of my spirit. My faith is not limited to patriarchal translations of any religion. It is not limited to legalistic views and faulty theology. Feminism means practicing my faith in my own conscience and serving my own deity.
It means rejecting the notion that my vagina is a signal to my community that I cannot lead my faith body, my family, my professional peers, my community or my nation.
Feminism means living in the fullness of my mind. It means that I can choose to take #selfies and #shelfies. That I can possess brilliance and fierce eyebrow game. It means that I can wear high heels while I design and develop a video game (no mater what Barbie says), a vaccination, an environmental action policy or a menu plan for my family. Even better, feminism means that society can stop worrying so much about my appearance and enjoy the vastness of my well-earned intellect.
Above all, feminism defends against people who actively work against these truths.
Expertise is not required. Feminism only requires that you are willing to allow all people to live in the fullness of who they are. That fullness, that potential will inspire positive change within our communities.
I guess that leaves us with one more requirement. We have to be willing to fearlessly harness that power.
Tashmica Torok sparks healing for children in the community through The Firecracker Foundation, a nonprofit organization created with holistic healing in mind. She is also an engaging public speaker, aggressive roller derby skater, lover of porch sitting, and a loving wife and mother with a house full of animals. Every day she works to incite riots of generosity.