People are always astonished when I tell them how old my fish is, but it’s the truth. Ten years ago, my mother took me to PetSmart after school, and told me to choose whichever betta fish caught my eye. After a few minutes of wandering, I found myself returning to the same blue, male crowntail betta—I knew he was the one. Soon, little Gilliam Jefferswim Clinton was happily exploring a 4 gallon aquarium on my dresser.
Perhaps most people do not become emotionally attached to their fish, but I did with Gill. Yet, since coming to Columbia, I developed a terrible, sinking feeling in my stomach. After learning about institutional sexism, intersectionality, and the gender spectrum, I am now concerned that my fish is not a feminist.
I should note that Gill Clinton has always, in my experience, been respectful towards women. When my mom feeds him, he treats her offerings as he does mine, happily chowing down on the flakes. In fact, Gill’s favorite hiding place in his tank is behind the reclining mermaid. But Columbia has taught me to be more skeptical; while Gill has never expressly rebuked feminism, he has never expressly lauded it either.
Feminism allows for little gray area, and because Gill has not showed that he is willing to stand up for justice, he must have chosen the side of the oppressor. When my friends and I would have sleepovers in middle school, not once did he object when we gossiped about which girls had graduated from training bras. When I played rap music containing profane, misogynistic references to female genitalia, he raised only an apathetic glub glub. When I complained about women’s history month (an immature viewpoint which I have since disavowed), Gill even swam up and down in agreement.
Since this realization, I have tried to introduce Gilliam to literature that would broaden his perspective on the plight of the modern woman. I read him the Feminine Mystique and Lean In; I plastered images of Kate Chopin and Lisa Leslie in view of his tank; I played Girls and The Amanda Show on continuous loops. Thus far, all has been in vain, for Gill has not once voiced his backing of income equity or paid family leave. If Gill does not soon affirm his support for women everywhere, I will have no choice but to eliminate his toxic masculinity from my life, by flushing him down the toilet.