In my junior year of high school, my AP History class was assigned a research project. We could look into any issue we wanted – within reason, of course – and argue for our side of the debate. I chose to look at the so-called “war on women” in American society. I went into it knowing my angle: the supposed “war on women” in America is non-existent, and the claims of such a war being waged on American women takes away from the attention that should be on the women who truly suffer around the world.

My presentation focused on debunking the wage gap and discussing the ways in which women in American society have shattered the glass ceiling, and to ultimately make the point that there is full equality under the law between men and women in the United States. I pointed out organizations that are working to empower women in the US, as well – Future Female Leaders of America even got an honorable mention!

I juxtaposed the freedom and equality that women have in the United States with the stories of several women from around the world. These women in my examples were real ladies who have experienced atrocious crimes against them simply for being women.

I was proud of my presentation; it was factual, while still highlighting my opinion that the “war on women” in the United States is not real.

Now, almost four years later, I stand by everything I said in that presentation. My facts were accurate. My stories were real. The organizations for which I advocated were reputable. I’m even a Cabinet Member at FFL, now, if that gives my junior-year self more credibility!

But I also recognize the areas in which I fell short in that presentation. While I still believe in everything I said, I know that there were aspects of this issue I failed to consider, or, at the very least, should have acknowledged.

I often think about what I would say if I were to give that presentation today. How would I have addressed issues like #MeToo? How would I have considered the woman who struggled through the beginning stages of her career because her male colleagues thought she was a joke?

And in that respect, I realize that my views have softened. Women in the United States are freer here than in any other nation on earth; I believed that four years ago, and I believe that now. But that does not mean women in the United States do not experience difficulty for being female. Harassment and assault run rampant in our culture, as do victim-blaming and shaming. Further, women certainly encounter problems with being accepted among male colleagues. These issues vary in degree of severity. They are still legitimate battles American women face – and there are countless more.

So, while my presentation was accurate, and while I believe the “war on women” is being waged on our female counterparts elsewhere, if I were to give that presentation today, I would recognize the problems American women encounter, as well. I would give them the legitimacy they deserve, while still advocating for more attention and action for the severely oppressed women across the globe, the ones who are truly victims of patriarchal systems.

This is just one example; I can confidently say my views have adapted on nearly every political issue over the years. Honestly, it would be strange if they didn’t.

But there is this notion that refining and changing one’s beliefs automatically insinuates that the individual is not strong in their principles. And that is simply not true. In fact, I would argue that it is the complete opposite. As a person becomes more grounded in their principles, their political leanings and opinions will reflect that.

It is not hypocritical for people to let their principles guide them to a change in political views, to a change in their standpoint on public policies and social issues. We should be encouraging individuals to do this. You are not a “traitor” for changing your opinion. Thinking about what you believe, analyzing your views, and deciding that the policy for which you used to stand is not in alignment with what you currently believe is not a negative thing.

You are not expected to subscribe to every belief you stood by in high school, or college, or whenever simply for the fact that you once advocated for it. If you change, you’re not a hypocrite. You are being dishonest, however, if you disagree with that belief you once stood for, but refuse to speak out against it because you are afraid of being labeled a hypocrite.

If you know your principles, know what you value, and stand by that, you aren’t a traitor; you’re being honest.

In step with my example, I know what I believe in. I am a firm supporter of female empowerment and women’s rights across the globe. That’s why, as I grew and learned and understood more about women in the United States and around the world, I realized there is certainly room to advocate for change in the way women are treated in America while simultaneously pushing for equality worldwide. I can recognize that women in America are not victims and are not oppressed in this so-called “war on women”, but there are still struggles we endure as women in America.

It’s important to understand that you won’t know everything. Especially not in high school, and definitely not in college. But you’ll learn. And you’ll grow. Your views will adapt to accommodate that. It’s perfectly healthy. It is certainly not traitorous to yourself or the political party to which you subscribe for this to happen.

Don’t be afraid to change or refine your opinion. It’s not a move of hypocrisy; it’s a move away from ignorance. Be confident in your principles, and let it steer your opinions.

Liana I.
FFL Cabinet
Liana is a follower of Christ and current communications student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She enjoys writing, reading, and serving others.

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