Lesson Sixteen: This is what a feminist looks like.

After reading The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, I started to identify as a feminist. Through my Melting Pot manager Ari, I met Ani DiFranco and Eddie Izzard. Then I started to tell people I was a feminist.

Laura and Ellen, the authors of The Courage to Heal, were feminists, I was sure. SARK was a feminist. My church had not appreciated that label, which made it appealing. The therapists in Louisiana that had helped me had all been feminists. It seemed insane that I would work so hard to recover from sexual abuse and not become a feminist. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve been a woman all my life. Why wouldn’t I be on my own side?” I couldn’t have agreed more.

Feminism gave me a moral compass, which I was desperately missing from my Bible days. The longer I was in college, the more I heard, saw, and read. The more people I met and got to know, the further my view of “normal” was expanded. I could no longer live under my rock of piety.

When I’d been in the church for a couple years, Pastor Stan once said of me that I was like David; one after God’s own heart. I repeated this to myself as I studied scriptures, willing myself to know God’s heart.

In college, I abandoned my life jacket and swam in the wider seas of being wrong. If my studies had been correct, which seemed less likely over time, then God knew me. He had predestined me to accept Him, serve Him, flee from Him, and eventually return, if I should, in fact, return. If it was meant to happen, it would happen. If there is a God, I have the utmost faith that His will shall out.

I had been encouraged to question my faith because it brought me to researching dogma for answers. Dogma is not fact. I knew the Bible so well that I didn’t know any other book of faith.

Feminism said that men and women were equal. This was an adorable concept and hard to accept. I didn’t think women were idiots. I also didn’t think they were the same as men.

I got caught up in “the same” vs “equal”. Men and women are not the same, not at all. But they can be equal.

As a child, my sister and I learned to sweep, dust, and clean the bathroom. My brother helped my step-dad in the yard from age five to seven, and then no longer had chores. Boys had video games, and girls had Barbies. Boys wore sneakers and girls wore pretty sandals. Boys climbed trees and rode skateboards and girls did makeup and went shopping.

As a teenager, I attended a course through church called Apples of Gold. I learned about decorating my dinner table in a way that would please my husband upon his arrival home from work. I was taught, and in turn taught others, that I shouldn’t preach. Despite my (usually) superior Biblical knowledge, I was unfit to preach over men. Those damn ovaries, ruining speech for women across the lands. Even in early college, Preston told me that I couldn’t reason as well because women had smaller brains. I believed him.

My brain has since grown.

I studied women. I took as many classes from Dr. Madeline Powers as I could. I ended up graduating with a history minor due to my women’s’ studies. I read books recommended by Ari, and my life was changed with each wave of feminism. I looked at my vagina with a mirror, and I checked my cervix for color changes through my menstrual cycle. I got very serious about being able to orgasm alone. I started to study porn, what it looked like and what it said about my gender in society.

One of my friends in college was transitioning from male to female. My father had cross-dressed. It was a trigger subject for me. I didn’t address that with my friend, but I was always in therapy, addressing the ever-growing list I kept in my notebook. I allowed myself to question why it was heroic for women to wears pants in the 1920s, but wrong for men to wear skirts in the 2000s.

I sought out other women. I had avoided doing this most of my life, with the exception of my sisters. I needed examples. I had Frida Kahlo and Margaret Cho, but I needed women I could compare notes with, physical people that could pour a glass of wine. Comparing notes would require wine.

Megan and I became close. She was my best friend for a long time.

I sought other survivors. Feminists who knew firsthand the cost of misogyny. I found voices that cried and raged, and it allowed me to consider those feelings. I saw women who hid, despite being aware of the injustice. I became a critical thinker concerning relationships and equality.

In retrospect, giving in to the truth that women were as good as men was simple. Slower was the process to decide I was as good as other women, ergo people.

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