I’ve always felt like I was a strong woman. Without going into details, I had a few things thrown at me at a young age that I look back and wonder how much of it was strength and how much of it was sheer terror that presented as strength that got me through those times, and sometimes I think those lines are blurred.
If you asked me in my 20s if I was a feminist, I would have said no. In fact, I remember a myriad of things coming out of my mouth that were nothing short of misogynistic because of my own internalized frustration with my life, my personal situation and the things I struggled with – being a young mother, broke, and in an unhappy marriage – and the way I felt like I was treated by other women, completely oblivious to the fact that we are, as women, constantly pitted against each other.
I had no idea.
I thought feminism was what angry women who just didn’t like men believed in. “Don’t be like those women, they’re clearly miserable bitches.” Clearly.
I didn’t need that, I was fine just how I was. Feminism was offputting, and my guy buddies and I would roll our eyes at the whole idea of it. I was already equal, right? What’s the point?
It was important to me to be seen as “one of the guys” because I thought that would garner their respect if I was one of the guys over “those women”. It seemed to be serving me well, but hindsight being what it is, I was completely fooling myself.
I used to take it as a compliment when men would tell me I was different than other women, better than other women because , and that basically I was like “a guy with tits”…therefore reinforcing the thought that women were shitty creatures and, if you didn’t behave like a shitty creature, that you were more like a man.
I don’t know when I became aware of how I was manipulated as a woman. I really don’t. I’m not sure when I realized just how pervasive that the inequality of women actually was…and most of that was, I believe, that I couldn’t actually allow myself to believe that, in the time I existed, women were actually having to STRUGGLE for equal footing. This wasn’t the dark ages, right? There’s no way there’s the gender imbalance that feminists rail against.
I don’t know what age I was when I realized that, while I didn’t THINK I was doing things to “please men”, that I was actually very much actively compromising myself to do just that. Daily.
I’m pretty sure that, like a lot of men seem to do today, I saw successful women out there and thought, welp, that woman’s a CEO, so…I mean we’re able to do that, so what what do you mean we are fighting for equality?
So I don’t think there was an “Aha!” moment that put me in the position where I am now: To see how much women have accomplished in, for example, my mother’s lifetime. And to see, with clarity how far we have yet to go. How painfully far we have to go…and how painfully high the percentage of the population that is terrified of that…is railing AGAINST that.
I don’t remember exactly when little jokes that demean women, either by feminizing men as an insult, or outright just plain demeaning women that I wouldn’t give a second thought to would come out of my mouth and I’d immediately think…wait…did I just say that? And why? Jesus…is this how I sound? Am I part of the problem?
I can’t pinpoint the day where I became aware of gendered insults that I would use as a joke with no intent or malice. “Hey, quit being little bitch,” or “Alright, Nancy.”
And I won’t be able to pinpoint when another long-time behavior suddenly seems problematic to me. Because I can’t predict evolution. I can’t predict clarity, and I can’t predict progress. I can work towards it…I can fight for it…but I can’t see into my future. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll be slipping up on until the day I die.
I’m a work in progress. I will fuck up again. And I will be called out on it. Possibly by someone else, possibly by my own self…that”self” who is currently trying to punch her way forward and bring women along with. That same “self” who wishes she had figured shit out a lot earlier in her life. Time is so precious, and it’s easy to look at time spent doing so many of the wrong things as wasted time.
I’m very much the same woman I’ve always been: Strong, intelligent, determined, stubborn, and so very flawed.
But I am also, simultaneously, not the same woman I used to be at all.
My words and actions now don’t necessarily reflect who I was twenty years ago. But my intentions now are to be the woman I needed then.