I wish I were able to fully express how much feminism has taught me, how much it's changed the way I look at the world an how I look at myself, but yeah, this is the best I've got.
I started out as a tomboy, sort of, and never really grew out of it, but back then, I really hated girly things and thought pink was ugly and refused to wear dresses and played kickball as good or better than the guys and went as the Blue Ranger for Halloween 'cause his Zord was a triceratops (yeah, that's how far back it goes). And I always sneered at the girly girls who liked pink and did stupid things like wear make up, because I was cooler than that. I was one of the guys.
I look back at that and cringe a bit, at my own sort of self-loathing, and it annoys me when people say sexism doesn't exist anymore, because they're raising their kids in a gender-neutral environment, and their daughters still pick the Barbies. My parents let me go as the Blue Ranger, when my best friend's parents made her go as the Pink, and I still got fucked up views of gender back then.
I think I'm lucky, in a sense, because I've never been told by my parents that girls can't do math or science. This is partially because my mom has a P.h.D. in math and partially because they're Asian and don't believe that humanities are respectable career paths. I'm also lucky that my early CS teachers, at CTY and in high school, were female despite the mostly-male classes, that at the very least, they were there. I'm lucky that my AP Econ teacher was blond and smart and didn't take the crap the guys in class threw at her. I'm lucky that the CS culture at my school doesn't encourage sexist douchebaggery. I'm lucky that there haven't been major roadblocks between me and what I'm interested in. I'm really fucking lucky.
And I still feel uncomfortable speaking up in class. I still feel uncomfortable getting into arguments with my male friends, because I don't feel like I have the authority. Up until a couple years ago, I felt like less of a person because guys don't really hit on me, even though I don't want a boyfriend, even though most of the time, it'll be the skeevy, gross ones anyway. How fucked up is that? I was feeling unattractive because I wasn't being treated like a sexual object. Thanks, cultural brainwashing!
I think I'd always been unhappy about these things without a chance to understand or express these things, and discovering feminism changed that. Hearing this stuff, all this stuff I'd deal with day in and day out and hate and feel like a freak over, coming from other people helped me come to terms with the fact that I like being a girl, that I should speak up (even if the social conditioning's still there), that my worth as a human fucking being is more than just my body and whether or not men like it.
It helped me realize that I wasn't alone.
So thank you, feminism. Seriously. Don't let the bastards grind you down.