It is so wonderful to see social media swarmed with images from one of the many marches for women that took place yesterday, to see so many coming together to speak up for our human rights. I hope that this is a start of something… and the start of the end of a lot of things, too.
Me, I did not do much yesterday. I bought a bag at REI. I recharged, as introverts need to do. I also texted back and forth with a colleague in the morning. We had a loose plan of heading to Washington for the march and she was feeling badly about letting the logistical annoyances spoil our plan. I reminded her that as teachers we are activists everyday. That to teach is a protest. That we empower the most important people of all at a key moment in their development… everyday: the future. It was a impassioned and true, but also a bit of a rationalization. I did feel badly for not partaking. Feminism is an ideal I’ve held tight to since I was first learning what it meant for me to be a female. And I felt without many allies at this time. Perhaps it was my shaved head or vintage Girl Scout outfit that scared them away?
Inspired, I looked through my archives to relive the dawn of my womanhood, which is just a few clicks away on an external hard drive. Approaching womanhood immersed in musical and political counter-culture, my feminist ideals helped shape me into the the woman I am today. And as a zinester in the 90’s, it has a paper trail. My youth: written down (typed on a typewriter mostly) and then photocopied and distributed in indiscriminately. The pain and confusion of growing up as a girl captured in a kind of time capsule. Well, many time capsules. Cringe-worthy stuff, for the most part, laden with horrible grammatical offenses (like this blog often is!) However, when I reread through the lens of thematic interpretation, these little handmade magazines I “published” from my parents suburban home capture something comforting.
I see that the most important parts of who I am now were born then. Underneath all the cuss words and embarrassingly bawdy humor, was me. The critical thinker who takes action, the basketcase who wields her heightened emotional energy into a myriad of creative outputs, the introspective collector of observations, the critic who synthesizes all gleaned through those observations and those emotional experiences, the seeker of strict authenticity. That’s me–my favorite parts of me. Of course, I also saw some of what I am still challenged by–my flaws–which are related to and are extreme versions of my favorite attributes. Too harshly critical, the tendency to fall and remain within impractical emotional states, romantic rationalizations, self-righteousness, living in my head and nowhere else, etc.
Also striking but not so comforting is how I got it, like youth often does. (Though societal shifts have taken this from the millenials. And that’s another blog post.) I knew that the game was rigged. And in my youth, I vowed to not play. I knew that the distractions doled out to us [mass media and consumerism mostly; and in extremes, the social constructs of love, gender roles and related; and I agree with Marx about religion.] serve to further the agendas of those in power, those who benefit from a divided, frenzied, ill-informed populace.
What strikes me harder is how much more plentiful these distractions are today and how deeply they are ingrained within the norms of everyday living that most do not question because they relate to our financial and perceived emotional well-being. As a child, you can vow not to “play,” but as an adult, your ability to survive and thrive is tied to playing the rigged game, making the most of it, doing what you can. And who rigged the game? The rich white men. From the very start of The United States of America. To now. To today’s headlines. And there is our feminist tie-in.
What would Founding Sisters do? We will never know. But it’s not too late to see what we can fix. Let’s build some momentum. Principled daily actions will impact continuously. Speak your ideals, make your demands part of your choices everyday. Move beyond summarizing them cleverly on poster board every once and awhile. Everyday, the world needs to treat women better. Everyday, men need to treat women better. And finally and maybe most of all, women need to treat women better. Everyday. So without the snazzy clip-art and cut & paste, my latest zine entry on the topic: A Post-post feminist how-to on empowerment.
- Celebrate your fellow woman’s success, her intelligence, her attributes. Don’t resent them. You can’t celebrate and support women if you’re catty and jealous. Plain and simple. All women need support from other women, even women who you feel threatened by or who seem to be emulating society’s ideal. It’s a farce.
- Stop comparing yourself to other women. This will help with above. Create your own version of happiness, success, beauty–society’s version is all messed up… and it will mess you up, too. If you have your own ideals, you recognize that we’re not in competition. We’re allies. And we can help each other. Find the real you inside what the world expects from you, reject the things that are not okay with you or just not possible (like perfection).
- Stop putting yourself (and other women) down. Social norms make it common practice for women to go on about how ‘flawed’ they are. Let’s talk about how wonderful we are. And don’t perpetuate the divisiveness. Don’t make presumptions based on a woman’s relationship status, whether or not they have children, the size of their diamond ring, their weight, their wardrobe. These things are part of the farce, a rehash of an old Barbie episode you might have acted out when you were 10. Let’s not act like we’re 10. In spite of popular culture, advertising marketing campaigns, and other predatory profit systems, love yourself.
- Resist. Understand that there are many who profit from keeping the masses powerless and distracted. Align your values to actions that chip away at this reality. Research the places that get your money. Do they profit scary right wing agendas? What about your media consumption? Think critically. Embrace your freedom. Then find new ways to embrace your freedom–freedoms that women, globally, do not share. Be free. Validate yourself and don’t wait for others to do so. Don’t help others (men, women) to demean you. Be an example for young women; help them develop values that empower them, not hold them hostage.
Then, in 20 more years, check in. I hope I don’t have to write something like this again.