I started my morning by reading THIS BLOG POST and crying. Like, a lot of crying. The last time I cried this hard John and I were fighting (I truly could not tell you what it was about but it felt like a big deal then) so I went into the bathroom, locked the door, turned on the fan and bawled. My brother lives with us and usually I don’t mind our mess being on display, but when I feel that vulnerable I don’t really want anyone to know. The time before that was when I watched the video of Philando Castile being shot amidst all of the chaos and turmoil in our country. The time before that was when John called me at work to tell me he had just responded to an accident involving a teenager and dismemberment. I won’t say “I’m not a crier” because that’s not true—I used to say that about myself when I was “tough” but it’s not true. It is true however that I don’t cry the way I did this morning very often, and I am still kind of surprised by it.
Eighty percent of what I see on Facebook makes me angry or makes me laugh. Typically it’s a ping pong between ignorant, rant-y shit that makes me mad, and hilarious and adorable animals which actually make me LOL. I guess the other 20% is for, I don’t know, Harry Potter. I use emojis with tears—either laugh-crying or hardcore sobbing—in a hyperbolic way to describe my reactions to things without using words, but I don’t actually cry about Facebook stuff that often. The post that I linked above has been going around my newsfeed for a couple of days and I have avoided reading it because, honestly, I assumed from its title that it would be sarcastic, uninformed, and anti-feminist. And I just don’t have any energy for anyone on Facebook shouting (in a sense) that the women need to calm down (in a sense). Boy, was I wrong (I mean girl? I mean…feminism can be confusing).
When I read this post something kind of snapped. I actually just thought of another time I ugly-cried recently: when I watched that video of Canadians telling Americans that they think we are already great. I knew I was fed up with all the Trump bullshit but I was having a hard time articulating why and second-guessing myself a lot, and then I watched this video of nice outsiders telling us that we aren’t as bad as I feel we might be, and it was the catharsis I needed to get all of the hurt from the election out of my body. I didn’t realize how much I was being affected by the negativity until that video flicked me on the nose and I lost it. THAT is what happened when I read this blog post; all of this emotion just came pouring out because a lifetime of micro-aggressions towards me from a system that finds its stability in keeping women down has poked and pulled at me all the way up until I read this stupid blog post.
When I was younger I did not consider myself a feminist. In fact there were plenty of times in high school and college when I was that girl with the loud voice saying, “I don’t want to be a feminist; I like that boys open doors for me. Let them serve me! I am a lady afterall!” I have since refined my views about relationships between men and women and would have something kind but firm to say to that girl, but I know where she was coming from. I didn’t want to feel like a victim because I was a strong girl. My dad always told me that I “marched to the beat of my own drum” and that was considered a good thing. I was encouraged to stand up for myself, have my own opinions, and never let anyone else tell me who I was. This kind of thinking has been so deeply engrained into my self-image that accepting feminism (which I didn’t understand the definition of) felt like admitting that I was sub-something, less-something, and needed rescuing. Fuck that! I bullied boys when I was a teenager. I threw my powerful, mystical femininity around like it was a weapon pretty much up until I married my husband—and, poor bloke, I still sometimes do. I was unable to see myself as a victim to the patriarchy, and that I am sad to say is the great modern feminist battle.
When I was in eighth grade I was obsessed with the popular kid. We were both pretty cocky and also thirteen, and we liked each other, so we were pretty horrible to each other. We kind of dated for a bit and it was the epitome of if-he’s-mean-to-you-it-means-he-likes-you. One day out of hurt feelings and lack of tools for expression I wrote “_ _ _ _ _ _ sucks cock” on the white board in class (except his name was in the blanks). Keep in mind that I didn’t know what a blow job was until eighth grade so I didn’t really understand what I was saying. My teacher immediately pulled me out of class and started shouting,
“You are smart and pretty, you don’t have to be such a little B-I-T-C-H to get attention!”
I believe she (yes, she) failed to see the opportunity she had in that moment to redirect me. To teach me to be a strong AND kind woman who can take no bullshit from a mean thirteen year old boy while also remaining dignified and careful of others’ feelings. She was upset because I embarrassed him, no one ever asked me why I did it.
I sometimes struggle to put words to my feelings about feminism because nowadays I am positive about the fact that I am, indeed, a full-blown feminist force of nature. It still has to do with not feeling like a victim but now I see that it’s not feminism which labels me as a victim, rather a system which victimizes me over and over again despite my being capable, willful, and whole without needing permission. I have been a victim my whole life to the attitude that my middle school teacher took with me. One that looks at me with disdain and says “bitch” simply because I am unwilling to roll over and take it.
Eyes are always rolling, I am always having to think very hard about whether or not it is worth it to stand up for myself, and sometimes I feel like I am unjustly being treated like a dangerous animal for acting exactly how the men I look up to would act. How often do I hear, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, okay, okay, calm down Courtney, geez!” for being passionate about something even when I am not raising my voice? If I feel disrespected or see an injustice in my personal relationships I tend to say so and the response I am used to is, “Calm down”. Yes, from the public school system. Yes, amongst my friends and family. And absolutely yes, all-the-damn-time in the church. As a teenager I heard this every time I made a new friend: “I used to think you were scary/a bitch/bossy/intimidating but now that I know you, you’re really cool!” I always felt like this: “duh”. I have been passive-aggressively praised for “saying what everyone else is thinking” until the conversation goes sideways at which point I “could learn when to pick my battles”.
I am a feminist because I don’t really believe we are treated equally. I have been sent a mixed message. “You are beautiful, you are smart, you are powerful”, “You are going to change the world one day!”, and “You are a bitch”. Using my voice is a good thing until it makes me seem threatening (and sometimes all it takes to seem threatening is someone else feeling uncomfortable). I can have and do and be anything I want in the whole world, but there will be consequences. I am free…but free to fight. Not simply free to be and be accepted, but to scrap and rumble over the legitimacy of my feelings, my opinions, and my place in the conversation. Something is broken, people, and while I struggle over it a great deal and may not have it all sorted out, I feel it. I feel it so deeply that I weep because I am tired, and frustrated, and something is broken and I don’t know how to fix it. Anti-feminism may be subtle in some ways, but the reality is that girls and women are not given the same amount of automatic credibility as men for the same behavior in our society, and that is a problem.