I am going to write about my favorite topic ever.
See, since I've started calling myself a feminist, I have had the hardest time accepting the fact that not a lot of other women are. I've come down with depressing horror realizations about how little other women in my life know about feminism. I mean: IT'S SO RELEVANT!!! I am baffled to say that the most satisfying conversations I've had about the ongoing relevance of the feminist movement has been with men. (Although, mind you, that is probably not an exclusively bad thing either)
And why is that? I don't have a universal answer for it yet, but through talking to a lot of my female friends, I think I see one major miscommunication:
The common assumption that feminists think women's default setting WITHOUT feminism is weakness, and that they can only find empowerment through it.
See what happened here? Someone took feminism and turned it into yet another freakish layer of female suppression. Speak: That assumption is bullshit. Feminism is about enabling ALL women to live lives free of inequality, judgement and objectification. It's a positive movement. We don't want fanatics or extremists, we just want an open dialogue about the shatteringly unfair shit that's still happening to women all over the world. And to see some changes.
So without further boring you with with my idealistic views of feminism, I'll share a little of my post and pre feminism experiences. We all love seeing before and after pictures of people's transformations, but here's a different take on it, since the transformation happened in my BRAINS!!! (Yes, this is an adequate moment for Zombie pronunciation of the word "BRAAAIIINSS")
Before reading about feminism and immersing myself in what I like to call an ongoing "study" of the ins and outs of women bashing, I shamelessly judged every single female that passed through my life. Even the briefest encounters are still, to this day, embedded in my brain cells as somewhat shameful memories.
I can still remember how freaked out I was by other women from a very young age. I felt so thoroughly intimidated by other creative women, other women who knew more about music than I did, thinner women, more beautiful women, women with longer hair than mine, women with partners, single but proudly careless women, women who made my male friends laugh. At the same time, I felt superior to women who I perceived as "harmless".. (CRRRRIIIIINGING so hard at seeing this in writing for the first time.)
Growing up, I was the only girl in a group of fifteen or so friends. I was the stand out tomboy, big mouth and all. I never had to worry about attention or validation and I liked it that way. It was safe and super low maintenance to rely solely on my gender as the one thing that made me stand out.
Let me tell you it was more than a shock when the boys in my group got girlfriends, who then introduced their female friends to the rest of the group, and I slowly but steadily saw my status dissolve in a sea of "other women".
You see, I wasn't the type to thrive under pressure, I was the "scared dog who bites" kind of type. Can you see the ridiculousness in this sentence? I saw other women as competition, not potential friends. And it's even funnier to think that I felt threatened in these situations, when there was never a moment I was remotely interested in anything other than friendship with any of those boys.
Moving on to when I started going out, I don't remember many instances in which I made friends with women. I never acknowledged them as important enough to approach. Whenever there was a buzzing personality in the room, I would want to be close to them if they were male, and demonize or talk down to them if they were female. I was a scared dog.
There are a million other instances, in which I was confronted with my internalized misogyny, without noticing it. (I'll safe them for future posts.)
I never felt very good about my behavior, my actions were always accompanied by feelings of unease. I knew I was being a dick, but I didn't know why. I was riddled with self-doubt and had a constant urge of comparing myself, my life, my body or my talents to those of other women. It never occurred to me to do the same with other men.
Needless to say that aside from three amazing women I still call my best friends, I didn't have a circle of friends that was busting with gender diversity, which continued to nurture my misogynistic behaviors all throughout my teens.
In my last year of commercial college, I decided not to continue with conventionality by choosing a random uni course, but to take a gap year instead. I was angry, depressed, super insecure and felt completely out of place by the time I finished school. Looking back at my graduation photo, I can see the misery pouring out of my red, sore eyes. I put on so much weight in the final two months of school, I can hardly recognize my face on that photo. I didn't know who I was at that time. So I hopped on a plane in the hopes of finding out what the hell life had to offer me.
One thing I found, was that I actually really enjoy the company of other women.
But it didn't come to me like some sort of "Eat, Pray, Love" life epiphany about my misogynistic behaviors and my self hatred. Life never goes that way.
Instead I met women. SO many women. Women from other countries, women from other continents. Women of all ethnic groups, levels of wealth, different upbringings. And because we were on the other side of the world, completely alone, nothing to compete over, nothing to be ashamed of, no image to keep up, no walls to build, I finally started talking to them. I initiated conversations with other women for the first time in my life. I had to turn nineteen years old and get away from everything familiar, in order to not feel scared of other women anymore.
I listened to their stories, and they listened to mine. There was no judgement or jealousy. All we had were stories we shared and realizations we had, some of them about how similar those demons were, we were fighting at the time. The feelings of inadequacy, the body image issues, the suppression of our sexuality back home because of our fears of slut shaming, the abusive or otherwise terrible relationships we went through, the low self esteem issues, the anxieties and spurts of depression, the complete cluelessness of our life purposes.
Simultaneously we acted as each others' cheerleaders, something I never thought I could or should be for another woman. We called each other hot whenever we left for a night out, we gave each other sneaky thumbs up whenever one of us had a fling over, we cheered one another up if we felt home sick, we praised each others creative projects or professional achievements.
It wasn't until after I had stopped traveling though, that I started actively getting into feminism. I started reading books, blogs and websites, banned women's magazines and slowly but steadily managed to see a link between my constant urge of comparing and bashing other women, with my lack of self-esteem. I started paying more attention to my own, while fewer, still present judgmental thoughts. I axed words such as "bitch" or "bitchy" out of my vocabulary, in order to avoid criticizing other women based on nothing but stereotypes. After all, it's a lot harder to search for adequate adjectives, than to just label another woman as a bitch for whatever reason.
So hey, why not give it a try? I challenge all of you this week to not be judgmental towards a woman, without a factual reason behind it. In other words, if you can't find a gender neutral cuss word for an idiot of a human who happens to be female, you're probably being a misogynistic bum. Identifying those miserable thoughts already brings you one step closer to becoming a non-judgmental and more content Earth dweller! HAPPINESS!!!!
(multi media collages via http://instagram.com/ohfajar)