Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Joys of Feminism: Loving Women

Feminists are an angry lot.

I mean, that's common knowledge, right?

And it's presented as a sad, degrading stereotype a lot of the time, but the devil is that it's not untrue. It's just a shame that a lot of people think that we're angry because we're feminists, instead of the truth: we're feminists because we're angry.

(Content note: internalized misogyny, video discussing anti-choice legislation)

We have good reason to be. Some of us are angry because we were abused in a world that told us it was our own fault. Some of us are angry because we believed that. Some of us are angry because we will always serve two function: person, and decoration. Some of us are angry because injustice is a thing everybody should be angry about. Some of us are angry because something that is so obviously wrong has penetrated society so thoroughly that many people have become blind to it. Most of us are angry for a combination of these reasons, if not all of them. And if there's one thing you can say about all feminists, it's that all of us have a unique story, and we have a lot of collective anger.

So I write angry a lot. I argue. I make things awkward. I make Terrible Bargains. Because I kind of can't not do that.

But I'm also happy to be a feminist, for so many reasons. My life has gotten immeasurably better since I embraced feminism in so many wonderful ways. I want to talk about that too. I will always be angry, I will always be frustrated and sad and steaming in my own feelings of helplessness. I will always be writing and talking about that.

But I'm also happy.

Because now I get to love women.

I don't mean in a romantic sense (although I have.) I mean in a basic human sense. We often forget that in a kyriarchal society, and a patriarchal one in particular, it's not just cis-men who are taught to hate women. Everyone is taught to hate women.

I learned that too. For many reasons that will remain my own, I was raised and groomed to be a proper misogynist. I beamed when demonstrably sexist men complimented me on being "a really cool chick, not like those other girls" for acting against type. Male attention was the highest good I could possibly receive. I've always been a geek, in a time and country where the geek club was 100% a boy's club. If scampering my way up to the tree house meant stepping on other women, so be it.

I suspect I would have embraced my sexuality a lot earlier in life if I hadn't been mentally casting all women I knew in pre-prescribed roles: she's a slut, she's a good girl, she's a bitch, honestly, I can hardly stand to type all this stuff now. Maybe I would have enjoyed being with other women more if I hadn't partially done it to get that all-important male approval. And boners. That's a point of pride, getting a straight dude to pop a boner over your sexuality.

I definitely wouldn't have been so judgmental about sex workers.

You know how it is. You know what misogyny looks like. Point is, I bought into the patriarchy hook, line and sinker and it cost me dearly. It was a learning experience to be sure, but I wish I could undo some of the hurt I caused.

Because now I'm a feminist, and that means I get to like women.

And it's such a relief, I can't even tell you. It's only now that I've firmly abandoned the ludicrous idea that I am in competition with every other cis-woman on the planet that I realize how exhausting it was. Constant mistrust and anxiety and feelings of inadequacy do a real number on your mental health. It's hard to even describe the relief that slowly replaced all that negativity the more I realized that women are people, women are worthwhile, women do not exist in contrast to me, women can be my friends and allies and I can be the same to them. I don't have to quietly loathe myself for conspiring against them anymore.

It was a process that took years. Letting go of deeply ingrained bias and cultural indoctrination always is. It's a disease I suspect I'll never be fully cured from, because it still sneaks up on me from time to time. But the world I inhabit is better now. The world is full of wonderful, worthwhile, inspiring, deeply impressive people that I never even saw before.

I think we in the biz call that sisterhood. It's not just a theoretical concept. It's that wonderful feeling you get when reason and empathy blow away the dust of entrenched bigotry.

I'm a feminist because I'm angry.

But I'm also a feminist because I found a kind of love inside me that I would never trade, I never want to go without again, a love I can't imagine not feeling. It makes me a better person, it makes me want to be better tomorrow than I am today, it makes me want to keep fighting for these people I love: these women, people like me, who deserve all the support a reformed sexist like me is capable of giving.

I don't have to be in competition anymore. I don't have to compare and contrast anymore. I don't have to be better than Those Other Girls to be good enough.

Of all the joys of feminism, for me, that is the greatest joy of all.

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