I’ve been thinking about feminism a lot lately what with the Ray Rice business and all, but not just about feminism– about all of these categories and subdivisions in our society and our reactions to them. Gay pride, black panthers, the rebellious youth. There’s a lot of walking on politically correct eggshells going on here.
On the one hand we display a desperate need for belonging and a sense of camaraderie, yet on the other hand we are terrified of anyone else pointing out common traits among us. We want to be fierce and be proud of being a woman, to own certain empowering feminine qualities, yet when any unpleasant characteristic is primarily identified with women, we bare our fangs, berate the perpetrator and dismiss it as misogynist poppycock.
On the surface there appears to be no rhyme or reason to it. We don’t want to be like other women but we do want to be like other men…? Or we want all women to be exactly the same as men? Or we’re okay with everyone being their own individuals, but we just want everyone treated as if they weren’t?
We all possess certain unique strengths of character and other less flattering ones, regardless of what aisle you’d find us in the supermarket.
So what is really going on here? Have we just lost our minds?
Maybe. But really all everyone wants is to be understood. To be seen. For someone to look into our eyes, to reach into the window to our soul and touch us deeply and tenderly, to tell us, “I hear you. Really. And I’m here.”
Unfortunately the number of people on the planet capable of doing that is probably somewhere in the low 20s. (Email me and I’ll give you their phone numbers, if you want.)
We have a deep-set historical precedent (like, from the beginning of time) of not really caring about people very well. You know, we kill them for holding certain religious beliefs, enslave them for having a certain skin color, oppress them for having a uterus, and so on and so forth. It’s gone on for so many generations and it keeps going on as we pass our poor social skills on to our children.
By now, gee, feelings are a bit touchy. All someone has to do is quietly judge us for being the wrong gender and we unleash a lifetime of acerbic venom, just upend onto them a big bucket of all of the anguish that has compounded from the start of time.
Wow. And then we leave people reeling in our wake going, “…did I say the wrong thing?”
You didn’t have to. Your eyes did all the talking.
That’s one way to handle it. But all that ever accomplished for me was intimidating the hell out of people and reinforcing all their stereotypes about angry feminists. In many cases it has been and will continue to be necessary to take political action. Then there’s the matter of how we handle it in our personal lives.
There will always be multitudes of people that misunderstand us. If it’s not for possession of a pair of ovaries, it will be for having the wrong color hair, having too many syllables in our first name, or having a manner of speech that just really reminds someone of their Great Aunt Mabel whom they hated with all their guts.
None of these people matter. At all. Really they don’t. People who are unhappy blindly insist that everyone else should be more like them without ever being aware of doing so. I can attest to this from the personal experience of my bad days.
If you can find even one person that does see you clearly, it makes all of the groundless assumptions worth it. That’s all we want.
Because being a woman really does mean something and it’s more than just our physical bodies. It is a part of our identities. But it does NOT mean that we have to wear aprons while dusting the kitchen counters weekly, or even that we share the same physical experiences. For some women the concept of PMS is totally foreign whereas I turn into a monster once a month. Kind of like a werewolf except scarier and unrelated to the cycle of the moon. Whatever. What we can agree on is that no men ever go through this experience.
We know whether a particular does or does not apply to us. The convictions of others can only hurt us if we allow them to.