It started with a hat—one dusty too small rigid little brown bowler with a red feather attached to the side. It sat among a pile of books at a family run thrift store, looking a little out-of-place and lonely. I bought it for $4 and thus began my journey into hat collecting, feminist revelations and discovering my future calling as an activist and a journalist. Although that first hat is long gone, the memory of its impact is forever present in my mind and constantly reminds me of when and how my story began.
As a young, dramatic child and even more insufferable pre-teen, my love for writing blossomed, but my skill level was questionable. I wrote fan fiction about the private lives of my favorite pop-punk bands and poems dripping with self-indulgent angst. What was important, though, was that I did not stop writing; a wise decision that led me to join the high school newspaper staff during my senior year. When the first publication came out, I held the paper lovingly in my hands, the ink still smelling fresh from the printer. I re-read over and over the words, “Katie Madden, Staff Writer.” I fell in love that day with the profession and instantly knew that I wanted to pursue journalism.
I discovered the thrift store hat about the same time I began writing for the paper. Already a lover of fashion, I had a great deal of pride in my wardrobe, but this little hat was that catalyst that allowed me to develop my own style. I continued to buy hats, expanding my collection and establishing my reputation as “Katie: the hat girl,” a title I was quite happy with. Through my fashion choices, I began to shape my image, which became extremely empowering. I felt in control and truly confident. While many have expressed their respect or admiration for my fashion choices, I simply learned how to not care when others made rude remarks or judging glances at me—an occurrence that is far more common than you might think.
My personal empowerment pushed me to explore and to better educate myself, helping me find the force that would dramatically change who I was as a woman and a writer. That blessing was feminism, a movement I had always been reluctant to join because all I knew about it were the stigmas. However, what I uncovered through my research, reading and engagement with online feminist communities was beautiful. While the world of feminism can be an intimidating and admittedly alienating one, I found that it is vital to discover the true goals of inclusive feminism for society to progress in a positive direction. Inclusive feminism, the only true and valid feminism, doesn’t simply cater to white, straight, cis-gender and able-bodied women—as mainstream feminism has tragically done for decades. Instead, it addresses the needs of women of color, queer women, transgender women, non-binary people and differently-abled women, while it also works to bring people of all genders together by breaking down societal norms and barriers that hurt us all.
My hats, which I now have 21 of, stand for so much more than a fashion statement—they are my declaration of radical self-love, passion to social activism and a promise to use my pen to educate and inform others. Blessed with several privileges, I vow to use my voice to advocate for the groups who most deserve to have their stories told, for the entirety of my career.
Katie Madden, Editor-in-Chief