I grew up in the South, where sexism can be so aggressive it smacks you upside the head (or in other places), so naturalized it’s like the sun coming up in the morning. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, when I was coming into adulthood, open expressions of feminist ideas could earn you hostility that was often downright scary.
But reading feminist authors like Marilyn French and Betty Friedan when I was an undergraduate at the University of Georgia gave me a sense that the resistance I felt to the discrimination I saw around me was something to be nurtured rather than overcome. I learned that being a feminist in the South was tough — it meant you had to be quick, Protean, subversive, and you damn well better have a sense of humor, or you would not survive. It also gave me strength and pride to identify with a movement that could correct wrongs and rewrite a social script that didn’t fit me."