3 ways that women can fight internalized misogyny

The United States is an inherently patriarchal society. This means that the power structures in this country are set up to keep men in power and to keep women out of power. Nothing made this more clear then the election last week, when a completely unqualified man beat out an overqualified woman for the most powerful job in the country, maybe even the world. In order to ensure that men stay in power and women stay out of power, patriarchal systems instill a deep sense of misogyny in the people, especially women.

Patriarchal systems used the media to depict women in ways that decreases their value by making their worth tied to their appearance. Double standards in the workplace ensure that when a woman displays what are seen as leadership qualities in men, she is seen as aggressive. These double standards also mean that a woman has to work twice as hard as a man doing the same job and may never see the benefits of that extra work.

This results in few women in leadership roles, which reinforces the idea that men are better in leadership roles. The less we see women in leadership roles, the less likely we are to believe they are competent in leadership roles. The same is true for women in politics. Every action they make is harshly critiqued by their contemporaries and the media, holding them back from achieving leadership positions.

All of this results in a society where we have very few examples of women in leadership roles and women are valued for their appearances and docile personalities rather than their skills and abilities, even if those skills and abilities are equal to or surpass a man’s.

In a society that is so clearly against women, it’s not surprise that women internalize misogyny. Women are indoctrinated to believe that they are worth less than men, so on a subconscious level they begin to believe they are worth less than men. Any intelligent, ass kicking woman knows that this isn’t true, but somehow she can’t shake the lingering feeling that she doesn’t deserve that promotion or that she’s not pretty enough or that no one should take her seriously. This is internalized misogyny.

So how can we ass kicking ladies fight internalized misogyny so we can overthrow the patriarchy? Here are a few of my ideas.

1) Educate yourself about feminism

Oooh, the F word. Feminism has become another dirty F word. How, you may ask? The answer is always the same: patriarchy. The male dominated power systems are, rightfully, threatened by the idea of equality for women, so for years the systems have slandered feminists. Did you know that feminists in the 60’s never actually burned their bras? That story was made up by a male dominated media that wanted to make feminists seem scary and crazy. The media also spends a wild amount of time talking about the ugliness of feminists. In a world where women’s value is linked to their appearance, calling feminists ugly has been a way to discredit feminists and their movement.

In short, the media has made up all sorts of stories about feminists to make them seem like awful people as a way to discourage women from being feminists. Don’t believe the hype. Read some books. Like “The Feminine Mystique“, “The Beauty Myth“, “We Should All be Feminists“, and “The Feminist Utopia Project“. Read articles on sites like Everyday Feminism, Bitch Media, Adios Barbie, and The Body is not an Apology. Listen to podcasts like Call Your Girlfriend, The Guilty Feminist, and The Bodcast. Find out what feminism is really about (hint: it’s just the idea that women are equal to men and should be treated as such). Find out how patriarchal systems have affected your perception of yourself and your daily life.

If you’re not angry enough to shout from the rooftops about the patriarchy after all that, find more resources to educate yourself. Educate yourself until you understand how badly the patriarchy has screwed you and then get ready to fight back.

2) Talk to other feminists on a regular basis

One of the ingenious ways the patriarchy has kept women from overthrowing them is by keeping women apart and at each other’s throats. Women have been taught their whole lives that other women are the competition: for jobs, for success, for men. The patriarchy has taught women to compare themselves to other women constantly and to be jealous of women we judge as better. We’ve also been taught to try to tear down women so that we can succeed as if success is a finite resource that can only be possessed by a few women. Unfortunately, the systems that keep women out of power reinforce the idea that success is finite and only available to certain women. In short, the patriarchy has kept women from connecting in order to ensure we will never band together to overthrow the system.

In the sixties, when the Women’s Liberation Movement really began, women started hosting get togethers at their houses where women got to know each other. These get togethers were also used as a way to educate women about the Movement. Women at these get togethers shared their experiences, which led to the realization that they all faced the same sexism in their homes and offices. When these women realized they were not alone, and became friends, they created a powerful force that allowed the Women’s Liberation Movement to succeed.

So, ladies, you need to get you some awesome girlfriends. I know this can be really uncomfortable at first. Many women, myself included, have been taught to believe that they just can’t be friends with women. Too much cattiness, too much drama, too much trouble. But it’s actually not.

Find a core group of women and start talking to them about the sexism you experience. They’re going to tell you that they’ve experienced the same. Bond over the frustrations of being a woman in this world. Don’t just talk about makeup and clothes and men. Talk about changing the world. Build each other up. Compliment each other on things other than appearance. Tell each other how smart and brave you are. Reflect their value back to them. Start to make them believe that they deserve everything.

3) Work on a self acceptance/self love practice

The words “self acceptance” and “self love” used to make me throw up in my mouth. Every time someone said “love yourself” or “accept yourself exactly the way you are” I wanted to punch them in the mouth.

After entering recovery for an eating disorder and starting to educate myself on feminism, I discovered that my self hatred was a result of internalized misogyny. Women are constantly told by patriarchal systems that they are less than and that they are not worthy or love or acceptance. The media, beauty, and diet industries all profit off telling women that there is something wrong with them and that they need to change. This barrage of negative messaging results in women being literally unable to accept themselves, let alone love themselves.

The patriarchal systems of power are never going to teach women to accept or love themselves, so we have to do it ourselves. How, you ask? Good question. There are plenty of ways to start recognizing your own value and to start working toward self acceptance and self love. You just have to get over the hokeyness of them and do them without judgement. Or with as little judgement as possible.

Try writing affirmations on your mirror like “you are worthy of love” or “this mirror is a lie, your value is not tied to your appearance” or “you are a strong, smart woman”. Whatever it is you want to believe about yourself, write it on your mirror and read it every time you brush your teeth or work on your makeup. While you’re at it, say “I love you just the way you are” to your reflection in the mirror. Start a daily journaling practice and write things that you like about yourself or think that you’re good at. Before bed, write down all the things you did well during the day. Call a friend and ask them to tell you what they love about you.

I know all these things seem stupid and awful, but I’ve done all of them at some point over the past couple of years and my perception of myself has infinitely improved. So suck it up, swallow the mouth vomit, and give these things a try. You won’t be willing to fight for your worth if you don’t believe you have it in the first place.

Women face an uphill battle in patriarchal systems. At every turn they will be pushed back and told to be quiet. Unless women confront their internalized misogyny, they won’t be able to fight back and shout loud for the things they deserve. And trust me, you deserve everything. If no one’s ever told you that before, listen closely: you deserve everything.

Now go forth and educate yourself, find some other bad ass women, and learn to love yourself so we can start another revolution.

 

My five stages of grief over the election

Since Tuesday many in this country have been going through a grieving process. Despite multiple attempts by others to shut this down, despite the cries of “stop whining” or “just get over it”, the grief is real and it is warranted. People are grieving Hillary’s actual loss. They are grieving for the ideals that appear to be lost as a result of this election. People are grieving the loss of a country they thought existed, which is actually much different. For many, myself included, this is a gut wrenching, heartbreaking loss. We deserve to feel that pain.

The well known stages of grief model describes the emotions that arise when dealing with loss: Denial, Bargaining, Depression, Anger, and Acceptance. Sometimes the feelings arise in that order and people move linearly through the stages arriving at acceptance. More often, the feelings arise haphazardly, leaving the grieving person feeling discombobulated and perhaps a bit insane. They can jump from Bargaining, to Anger, back to Denial, and plunge in to Depression. The grieving person may feel brief periods of Acceptance then plunge back in to Denial and start the whole cycle over again. Grieving is a complicated process and we should all be giving ourselves the necessary time to feel and process these difficult emotions. We should be talking this through with people we love. And we should be ignoring those who insist that we should already be over this. Or that we should get over it at all.

My grief process has not been linear. I’ve been jumping back and forth through the stages hour to hour on a daily basis. Here’s a little of what each stage has looked like for me:

Denial

My denial phase on election night was super brief. By the time I got home to watch the coverage around 8:30 Trump was already ahead in electoral votes. I tried to convince myself that it was early and things would turn around, but I didn’t hang on to that for very long. When I awoke briefly at 3:45 Wednesday morning and saw the results, my denial phase was pretty much over. I haven’t really been back there since. I’d known in my gut for months that this was the way the election would go, I just hadn’t wanted to believe it. Now that it had happened, I wasn’t really wasting my time with denial. This was real, it was happening, and I had to deal.

Anger

During election night and certainly on Wednesday, I skipped bargaining and depression and went straight to anger. No anger isn’t right. Rage. I went straight to rage. Howling, screaming, visceral rage. At one point during election night, a straight male friend I was watching with began to complain about how annoyed he was at how vocal everyone was about their political views pre-election. I stared at the electoral vote map on the screen, almost completely red, looked back to him and screamed, “I’m not going to be able to get birth control!” It’s not the biggest consequence of this election that was already brewing in my mind, but it was the most relevant thing I could think of at the time. I continued on, yelling, “It’s time for all of us to get very angry. It’s time for us to yell.” Five days later I still believe this is true.

I have been pretty stuck in anger for the majority of the past five days. It started with anger at those who chose to vote third party. While watching the numbers come out of Florida and Michigan, one of the first things I noticed was that in both states the percentage difference between Trump and Clinton was tiny, and that two percent of voters had voted for Gary Johnson. It seemed pretty obvious to me that if Gary Johnson hadn’t been on the ballot that there would have been clearer results from these states. And that if Gary Johnson voters who hated Trump had just sucked it up and voted for Clinton, she would have won both states. Of course, I cannot be sure how the numbers would have been effected without his name on the ballot because that’s not what happened. And it’s ridiculous and reductive to blame the loss of an election on third party voters, even if I had written multiple articles about why a third party vote was contributing to a Trump presidency.

Eventually, my anger at third party voters shifted to anger at the DNC. I was a die hard Bernie supporter. I went door to door in New Hampshire in the middle of February to campaign for him in the primaries. I read everything he wrote, proudly wore a hand knitted (by someone else) Bernie beanie, and talked the ears off of anyone who would listen. I believed in our Lord and Savior Bernie Sanders. When it became apparent that he would lose the primary, I begrudgingly supported Hillary. I didn’t want to because I truly believed Bernie was the right choice, but I did because I believed that Hillary was obviously better than Trump.

When it came out that the DNC had tipped the scales in Hillary’s favor I was livid. I yelled about the rigged system, spent some time considering writing in Bernie, and then settled, angrily, on voting for Hillary anyway. When Trump won, all of my anger at the DNC was rekindled. Hadn’t they said that Hillary was the only viable candidate against Trump? Hadn’t they promised the Democratic party that Bernie stood no chance, even though polls showed that Bernie was much more likely to beat Trump? If they’d just let us have Bernie, none of this would be happening!

From there, my anger turned to the people who voted for Trump. How could there be so many racist, sexist, homophobic, assholes in this country? What kind of awful place was I calling home? Didn’t they understand what this would mean for all the marginalized people in this country? Did they even care? I fell hard in to the myth that everyone who voted for Trump was an ignorant, uneducated, white person and I began to hate them.

It’s taken a lot of talking to those around me to realize that my hatred for an imaginary “Trump voter” does no good. When I am truly ready to listen, which I’m not right now, I need to listen to Trump voters and find out why they truly believed he was the better option. And I need to work with others to address their concerns. Because the rage I have felt all week is the rage they’ve felt for years, and they poured all that rage in to electing a hateful bigot. The longer we exile these people, the longer their rage will control our future.

I still haven’t been able to let go of the anger. I’ve gotten to the place where I’m not angry all the time, but the anger is still there the majority of the time. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the anger is unproductive; that it’s just another way that Trump wins. I agree and disagree. If we stay stuck in our anger then it certainly is unproductive. We just rage and nothing changes. But if we hold on to our anger and let it fuel action, then change can occur. I believe that the collective anger of the country can be transformative. If nothing else, this election teaches us that anger can change the landscape of an entire country. So, I believe that we must hold on to our anger to transform this country back in to the one we want. Anger over injustice has changed this country many times over. It can happen again if we refuse to stay stuck and let the fire of anger burn and cleanse us.

Depression

Wednesday was spent oscillating between anger and depression. I cried all the way to work as I listened to the NPR coverage of the morning after. My job on Wednesdays is at a Visitor’s Center where I’m basically there to answer the phone and say hi to folks when they come in. This leaves me with a lot of downtime, which is good when I have an article due, but not so great the day after a traumatic election. It took everything in me not to break down in tears. I read Hillary’s concession speech and fought back tears. I read Obama’s speech and held back tears.

I felt legitimate despair in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time; utter hopelessness. At times during the day on Wednesday it really seemed like the world was over. I didn’t know how to move forward. I felt like this had all happened despite my best efforts and that nothing I could do could stop the ball the country had set rolling.

A lot of my friends have expressed this kind of depression and despair. And we have been called melodramatic, but are we really? The world fundamentally changed on Tuesday and the way we will be living their lives day to day is being threatened by this administration. We are mourning the loss of the lives we’ve been living. We’re mourning the loss of our safety. This depression is real and we’re allowed to feel it.

Bargaining

I’ve seen a lot floating around my Facebook feed about how the electoral college could fix this mess by changing their votes from Trump to Clinton. In some states, the electoral college representatives are not required to cast their votes the way their state voted. In theory, this means that the representatives to the electoral college could switch their votes and elect Hillary president.

When my husband first reminded me of this on Wednesday, I temporarily thought it was a great idea. I was entering the bargaining stage. Maybe this doesn’t have to be true. Maybe the electoral college can save the country from itself. Maybe we could get Clinton after all!

Upon reflection, however, I realized that though this scenario was technically possible, it would not be the right decision for the country. As much as I hate it, Trump was legally elected via our democratic process. Part of the anger and resentment that led to his election was the belief that insider elites have control of the government. The same people harboring that anger and resentment complained loudly about the system being rigged against Trump. If a group of insider elites changed the vote in favor of Hillary, chaos would erupt. The anger and resentment would boil over and I truly believe that violence would ensue. The country may never recover from the violence that would take place and those harboring anger and resentment at the system would continue to be ignored by said system. We’d only be making the problem worse.

Another bargaining technique I’ve employed was believing that all of Trump’s bad actions would catch up with him in the courts, and he would be barred from taking office or impeached shortly after taking office. This bargaining logic was flimsy to begin with, as the judiciary system has time and again proved that rich, white men can do whatever they want without facing prosecution or punishment. I also quickly realized that if Trump were impeached, Mike Pence would be President, which is honestly more terrifying than a President Trump.

So, my bargaining phase passed as quickly as it came.

Acceptance

In certain ways I have reached acceptance and in other ways I don’t believe I ever will. I have accepted the result of the election. Donald Trump legally, as far as we know, won the 2016 election. He will be inaugurated on January 20th 2017. He is moving in to the White House. He will be largely in charge of the country where I live. These things are facts that I really cannot change, and I have learned through lots of experience that when we cannot accept the things we cannot change we create our own pain. So, I accept that Donald Trump will be President.

I refuse to accept him as my President, and I will not advocate that anyone else does. I will not accept the legislation he intends to enact. I will not accept the repeals he is planning. I will not accept the ways in which he wants to change my life and the lives of my friends. A line must be drawn and it must be held. I will not accept this regime and I will do everything in my power to fight.

So what can I do? What can we all do? It’s time to make some earnest decisions about how we are using our resources, primarily our money and our time, and how we can give those resources to things that matter. Because it is time for action, and it is time for every single person who will not accept this administration and its goals to take action.

As a white, straight passing (even though I’m not straight), woman I have a ton of privilege. For years I have sat idle while marginalized people fought for themselves and I have not lifted a finger to help them in their fight. It wasn’t until the shootings this summer that I even began to be involved with activist groups. Yes, I was writing about feminism before then, but I wasn’t doing anything in my community. Then I joined Black Lives Matter Vermont and SURJ-BTV and I started to truly understand how much work there is to do and that it was my responsibility as a compassionate citizen to help do that work.

I always thought that I didn’t have the time to help or the money to give and the truth is that I was too selfish about my time and money. I have the time to give if I make the time for what I believe is important. I have the money to give $5 or $10 to organizations that matter. So do you. Over is the time where we can simply share Facebook statuses or wear safety pins and call ourselves allies. We have to take tangible actions, in our community and nationally.

Here is a list of charities that need your money and your time. Find out which local nonprofits need help fundraising or someone to sit at their desk and answer their phones. Check out protests in your area or nationally. Get out of your house and in to the streets. Most importantly, ask marginalized communities what they need. It’s not up to us to decide what action would be best to support them right now. We need to listen and show up in the ways they ask.

So, take your time to get through these stages of grief, and forgive yourself if that takes time. Be kind to yourself and others as we process this trauma. Once you feel able, take action. We can start the change we want to see.

Why is Everyone so Mad at Becky with the Good Hair?

I did not see or listen to Lemonade. I don’t have HBO and I have $20 in my bank account right now so I can’t exactly afford to buy it on iTunes. I do, however, have the Internet, so like the rest of the world I now know that Bey implies on the new album that Jay-Z cheated on her with “Becky with the good hair”. I also know that the Internet has exploded with speculation about the identity “Becky with the good hair”. Since I am unfamiliar with the slang kids these days use, I was completely clueless about the fact that Becky is a slang term used for “the other woman”, so I was confused as to why accusations were being made about women not named Becky. Women suspected of being “Becky with the good hair” have been enduring insane amounts of online harassment, even death threats. Amidst all this chaos all I keep saying to myself is “why is everyone so mad at Becky with the Good Hair?”

I don’t condone cheating. I don’t think people who do cheat shouldn’t face consequences. However, I do think that both parties to cheating deserve to face those consequences equally. As is almost always the case, that is not happening with Jay-Z and “Becky with the good hair”. The Internet’s reaction to Jay-Z in this situation is largely satirical. There are a lot of memes about how embarrassed he must have been watching Lemonade or how he’ll be sleeping on the couch for weeks. I have yet to see any reports that Jay-Z is receiving death threats for cheating on Bey. Nobody seems to be acknowledging that Jay-Z is just as responsible for the situation and no one seems interested in him facing the consequences of his actions. The focus is all on “the other woman”.

This is consistent with the patriarchal interpretation of infidelity that has existed for centuries: men are weak willed when it comes to women, therefore their occasional dalliances are understood. It’s basically the same argument that fuels rape culture: men are powerless against the sexuality of women. This narrative portrays a man who “can’t help himself” being ruthlessly seduced by a harlot without morals. It’s not the man’s fault because he was pursued. This sets up the woman to take the blame for the entire situation. In reality, many men are the pursuers, not the pursued, but even if they are the pursued it does not alleviate their responsibility for the situation. We can’t honestly believe that men are such slaves to their sex drives that they lose all sense of logic and rationale when confronted with a sexually forward woman. Unfortunately, this narrative is so ingrained in our culture that many still consciously or unconsciously agree that women are more to blame in situations of infidelity than men.

Women are also much more likely to lash out at other women than they are at men, so when they are hurt and confused by infidelity it is easier to blame the other woman than to blame the man. Women are taught from a young age to be confrontational with other women. Women are also taught that other women are competition for men, so it’s not surprising that when they men cheat they blame the women they are taught are trying to “steal” their man. Women are much less comfortable lashing out at men. They have been taught that men represent safety and security for their futures, so they risk all of that by lashing out at the men who cheat. This makes it much easier to just blame the other woman.

I’m not saying that “Becky with the good hair” doesn’t deserve to face the consequences of her actions. I am saying so does Jay-Z. They should equally share the consequences since they were both equally involved. I’m also saying that facing the consequences should not include being crucified on the Internet. This was a personal issue that Bey chose to make public, which has resulted in the defamation of many women. We don’t even know for sure who “Becky with the good hair” is, so we should probably stop harassing women we don’t know. “Becky with the good hair” is probably devastated right now and though she should be held responsible, it’s not up to us to do that. Leave her alone.

Fight the Patriarchy, Literally

One of the main control mechanisms of oppressive systems is fear. A key example of this is rape culture. The patriarchy oppresses women by making them fear violence and victimization. When women find ways to eliminate the fear created by rape culture, they weaken the patriarchy. This is why I believe it’s crucial for women to train in martial arts, or at least take a self defense class once.

In addition to training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I have trained in Boxing, Muay Thai, and combined them all for MMA training. At one time I was training for fights in all three of these disciplines. Yes, the featured image is me, a year and a half ago. I was punching, kicking, and getting punched and kicked at least five times per week. I am lucky that I never had the occasion to use these skills outside of the gym. Many women are not so lucky.

Learning how to properly punch, kick, take someone down to the ground, disarm them, and maybe break their arm, was an incredibly powerful experience. I don’t just mean that it was a profound experience, which is was, I also mean that it made me feel literally full of power. Knowing I had this skillset made me less afraid of being attacked.

I want to take a minute here to acknowledge my privilege. I am a white woman from the suburbs of Connecticut. I live in Vermont, in a city, but not a “real city”, a Vermont city. The likelihood of me being attacked is much lower than it is for some women. Walking home from the club in the middle of the night is not nearly as dangerous for me as it is for some other women. Unfortunately violence against women is so widespread that no women, no matter how privileged, can really feel like she’ll never be the victim of violence, but I do feel the need to acknowledge the fact that my circumstances make me much less likely to be attacked and that is a form of privilege.

That being said, I did have a healthy fear of being the victim of violence. I knew that statistics dictated that is was more likely for me to be a victim than not to be a victim. I also watched far too much Law and Order: SVU. I didn’t start training to fight with self defense in mind. I started training at a very angry time in my life where I felt like the only answer to my feelings was hitting things or being hit (don’t worry, I’ve discussed it with my therapist). The unintended result was that I began to fear violence less and less. I began to be more confident that I would know what to do in a violent situation. Of course, I acknowledge the possibility that in an actual violent I would forget everything I know and freeze, but just knowing that I had some training made me less scared.

Being less scared has allowed me to stand up for myself in unexpected and seemingly unrelated ways. I used to be the kind of girl who just let guys touch me without my permission when dancing because I was too scared to start something. Now I assertively say no without fear. I used to walk home at night with my keys in my hand to use as a weapon in case someone tried to grab me. I used to insist upon being walked to my car if it was past midnight, even if my car was a block away and the whole path was well lit. Now I walk casually to my car alone, no matter what the time of night, and my keys stay in my purse. If I’m out with the guys I trained with they don’t insist on walking me to my car because they know I can handle myself. If those sentences just made you nervous it’s because you’re a victim of the fear created by rape culture. Your fear allows the patriarchy to control you. Training in martial arts allowed me to be free of this day to day fear. I suggest martial arts or self defense classes to any woman who is looking to make herself a little more free of the control of the patriarchy.

Of course, women training in self defense or martial arts does not address the core issue: rape culture itself. The fashionable thing to say today is don’t teach women self defense, teach men not to assault women. I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, but I find it naive and shortsighted. Of course changing the way men think about women and violence is key to dismantling rape culture, but this takes time. Like generations worth of time. Today’s parents need to teach their sons differently than this generation and generations before were taught. Those sons need to grow up and put their different viewpoints in to action in the world. Those sons need to have sons and teach them their different viewpoints. Whether we like it or not, violence against women is here to stay for quite some time because rape culture is here to stay until we can change a whole generation of men.

So, in the meantime women need martial arts and self defense. Women need to know that their bodies can be powerful weapons if they need to be. Women need to know that they can stand up for themselves and protect themselves if they are ever threatened. Women need to know how to react if they are ever faced with violence. And more importantly, women need the confidence that comes from knowing that they can literally kick ass.

I Didn’t Agree to This

Sometimes when I think about the ideas that shape the way I think about myself and how I relate to the world the only response I can come up with is “I didn’t agree to this”. Like the concept that my worth in this world is dictated by my appearance and the size of my body. At no point in my life did anyone ever ask me if that standard was acceptable and whether or not I agreed. If asked, I might have said that this was bullshit and rejected the standard, but I was never asked. I was indoctrinated. In order to move through this world in a way that was more amicable and less painful I agreed to accept dogma that made no sense.

In reality, society has a list of bullshit rules that we’re all supposed to play by regardless of whether or not we accept them. Women are supposed to look a certain way, behave a certain way, engage in certain activities, and avoid other activities. All this to adhere to some sort of structure in which we didn’t agree to participate because we were never given a choice. On top of that, women who break the rules are shamed for their non-conformity. So, if we acknowledge that we didn’t agree to the rules and follow our own rules we are punished. The system even has a failsafe built in because women are conditioned to be overly concerned with what others think of them, so they abide by the rules in order to be accepted. We’re trapped in a system set up for failure in which we didn’t ask to participate.

Part of me wants to shout that I didn’t agree to this, please let me out. The other part of me fears the retribution that would come from such a balking of the system. Part of me wants to reject the rules entirely, and the other part of me wants to do anything it can to be fully accepted by the system.

This cognitive dissonance is a really painful place. The voice deep in my gut tells me that freedom lies in rejecting the system. The good little girl inside me says that it’s too dangerous. Right now, I can’t offer any insight or answers. I can finally see the system for what it is, but all I can do is stare. I’m at the top of the fence, stuck on the barbed wire, trying to decide which way to jump.

I’m a Feminist, but I Didn’t Vote for Hillary

I know I’m late to the conversation about feminism and Hillary Clinton. I know that the Internet has already eviscerated Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem for their comments about how feminists should feel obligated to vote for Hilary. I have read myriad blog posts written by outraged women and listened to a plethora of interviews with feminist thinkers, all of whom rail against the suggestion that they should vote based on gender rather than issues. So, why am I writing this at all? Hasn’t it all been said, many times over? Perhaps it has, but there’s another reason I didn’t vote for Hillary that I think is more important to my personal feminism than objections I’ve seen on the Internet and in the news. The main reason that I did not vote for Hillary is because I believe she is a creation of the political machine, which is essentially, a creation of the patriarchy.

The thing that saddens me the most about Hillary Clinton is that she has spent her whole life doing everything she needed to do to become the first female president, and in doing so she has lost her humanity. Who is Hillary Clinton as a human, as a woman? I couldn’t tell you because she is a robot created by her quest to be the President of the United States. I can tell you who I think Hillary Clinton used to be, and the narrative I have created for her is what makes her a tragic character in my mind. Obviously this is just conjecture since I have never and will never know Hillary, but given what I do know about her this is what makes the most sense.

Hillary is that girl who always knew she was going to be President. When she was five years old she said to her parents “Mommy, Daddy, I’m going to be President one day,” and they were like, “That’s cute Hillary. Eat your broccoli.” But Hillary wasn’t being cute. She knew she was going to be President someday. Every choice Hillary made growing up was made with this goal in mind. She volunteered for political campaigns. She eventually worked for political campaigns. Maybe in hindsight she worked for the wrong political campaigns, but I truly believe she was doing whatever she had to do in order to get the experience she needed in the political sphere. In 1975 she made the ultimate right move and married a man she believed could be President of the United States, and in the 90’s she played no small role in getting him elected. She inserted herself masterfully in to his Presidency and became a political force to be reckoned with in her own right.

During this whole process of becoming a political powerhouse she had to deal with an incredible amount of misogyny and sexism. She had to endure hours of derision about her outfit choices and her hair, forcing her to make statements like “I like headbands, but it matters what the First Lady looks like.” She had to constantly deal with implications or even outright assertions that she was not qualified to be a politician of high ranking because of her sex. Her response to this sexism and misogyny is where Hillary fails in my eyes. Instead of continuing to be the strong, powerhouse of a woman I believe she could be and standing up for her own opinions whatever they were, she began to adapt herself to what she thought the public wanted. She saw that if she was truly going to achieve her dream and become the first female President, she needed to change herself, and she became willing to be whoever she needed to be to get what she wanted.

Hillary started to say all the “right things”. She started to change her opinions based on the popular opinions of the times. She started to give sound bytes rather than answers to questions. She started to straddle issues so she was never quite on one side. She started to wildly oscillate between being a “bitch”, which is whatever she was called when she acted just like any of her male counterparts, and a “good woman”, which she reminded us she was by constantly talking about her husband and how she listened to his good judgement. She tried to be the strong independent woman and the fifties housewife at the same time, neither of which were authentic or believable. Rather than having her own, distinct personality, Hillary was crafting her personality to appeal to the public and the political machine. Today, she is still playing the same game, but she has added outright lies to her repertoire. Just go to YouTube and search “13 minutes straight of Hillary Clinton lying” and you’ll find a video of her contradictory statements back to back. She says whatever serves her at the time.

Because Hillary has spent her entire life molding herself in to the “perfect female politician”, she believes that she is entitled to the distinction of the first female President. This is, perhaps, the thing I find most annoying. She says it as if it’s a forgone conclusion. To be honest, I can see how it could be in her mind. Hillary has done “all the right things”. She has made “all the right decisions” to lead her to this point in her career and the logical conclusion in a society that claims to be a meritocracy would be that she would be rewarded for her efforts. However, her assumption of entitlement to the reward of the Presidency overlooks the thing that is most important to me as a voter: the motivation for her decisions. I don’t believe that Hillary has made a single decision in her adult life that was driven by anything other than her desire to be President. I don’t think any of her decisions were made without first consulting popular opinion polls. I don’t think any of her decisions were made without the thought of “how will this affect my political career”. I don’t believe that any of Hilary’s decisions have been made with authenticity or integrity. I don’t believe that the woman she shows us on TV is the woman she is at all. I would probably prefer the woman she actually is to the woman she claims to be in the media.

To me, the saddest part about all of this is that it’s not entirely Hillary’s fault. Below the surface of her transformation in to a political robot is the insidious institutional sexism that pervades our political system. In order to gain the same attention as any similarly qualified male politician Hillary had to sell her soul. In order to be taken seriously she had to say whatever anyone wanted to hear. In order to be heard at all she had to get a fashion consultant and a hair stylist. As a woman she didn’t stand a chance as herself because her Self is not worth anything to the larger political system. Hillary Clinton, the robot, is a creation of institutionalized sexism, and she’s so far entrenched in that paradigm that she can’t scrap it without scrapping the political career she’s worked her entire life to build. She’s had to enslave herself to the patriarchy in order to become the first woman President. I don’t want that for my first female President.

 

 

 

 

Guys at the Club Are Why I Need Feminism

If I ever need a reminder about why feminism is necessary I just need to go dancing. In my personal experience there are few other places where it is so clear that women are not considered equals and that their bodies and feelings are not valued by men.

I go dancing because I like to dance. Personally, I have rarely ever gone out dancing looking to dance with anyone but the people I came with. I have almost never gone out dancing looking to hook up. My personal dancing style is very solitary. I do not grind, with anyone. I rarely ever even dance close to people. When I do it’s with my significant other, a close female or gay male friend, or because there is no more space in the club. I would much rather have a small space of clear floor to really bust a move and feel my own style. Unfortunately, my space is never respected.

Since the first time I went out dancing, the audacity of males in the club has amazed me. I cannot count the number of times that I have been dancing by myself, having a great time and I suddenly feel hands on my hips, or hips pressed against me, or the worst: a hand grabbing my ass. These physical assaults come without warning. It doesn’t even cross the minds of these men to ask me whether or not I want to be touched; they simply touch. They grab and fondle and molest as if I didn’t have a say in the matter, and the truth is, in their minds I don’t have a say. They want, so they obtain.

I used to be polite when I was touched at the club without my consent. I would move away, face the man, smile, and shake my head or mouth “no thanks”. Soon, I learned that this tactic is not sufficient. “Why?” you might ask. “You’ve made it clear they don’t have permission to touch you, isn’t that enough?” Unfortunately the answer is a resounding “no”. After the polite refusal comes the negotiation from the man. “Come on baby, I’m just trying to have a little fun.” Or perhaps they don’t even try to negotiate; they just grab me again. I try to move away from them and I am followed. Sometimes halfway across the club. The denial of my consent has been made repeatedly clear, but that is not enough. On multiple occasions I’ve had guys follow me across the club for the entire night and try multiple times to engage with me. They just don’t take no for an answer, which makes me wonder how dangerous they are at home, after the club.

After multiple refusals, when the guy finally gets that I am unwilling to relent, comes the anger. “You don’t have to be such a bitch”, and they sulk away to find another target. It’s not their fault that they have spent the entire night trying to force themselves on me, it’s my fault for being a bitch. This mindset implies a deeper belief that men have a right to women and their bodies that women should not be allowed to refuse. It also implies that women should simply accept however they are being treated by men without protest. This mindset basically says that women and their bodies are still men’s property to do with as they will.

This is never clearer than when I am out with a group of male friends. The scenario described above changes drastically when there are other males involved. Though it is nothing for a guy at the club to disrespect a woman, he is cautious about disrespecting other men. Now the scene plays out like this: I’m dancing alone, but surrounded by male and female friends that I am clearly “out with”. A guy notices me and starts approaching. He notices that the group is mixed and acknowledges that I may be “with” one of the guys in the group. Instead of asking me if I would like to dance or if I am single, the guy catches the attention of one of my male friends. He motions to me then back to my friend. My friend shakes his head “no”. The guy then motions to me and the other guys in our group. Again my male friend shakes his head “no”. After all that, the guy walks directly to me and starts dancing with me.

An entire “conversation” about me and my “status” within the group has occurred between the two guys. Essentially, the stranger asks “Is she yours?” When my friend indicates no, the stranger asks “Is she one of theirs?” referring to my other friends. When my friend again indicates no the stranger assumes that it is okay to engage me because he does not risk pissing off any males. The fact that he never asked me if I was single or wanted to dance is irrelevant because he has gotten “permission” from the other guys in the situation. By the way, I’m not creating a scenario to illustrate my point. This exact scenario has happened to me multiple times. The fact that the only thing that keeps women safe from being assaulted by men at the club is by belonging to one proves that men still believe that women are property to be owned and passed around.

Another common situation at the club is the “watcher guy”. I’ll be doing my own thing, feeling the rhythm and I’ll notice that there’s a guy standing in the corner watching me. I don’t think that much about it until a half hour or so later when I notice he is still in the same spot, watching me, like I was a stripper doing a private dance. Now for complete transparency I will admit that sometimes I love this. On days when I am feeling down about myself and not that attractive I get a major ego boost from the “watcher guy” even though I know it’s super creepy. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the honest truth and this blog is about my struggles with finding my place in feminism so I have to be honest about when I’m not so feminist. Other times I get so angry that “watcher guy” is creeping on me. I want him to know that I am not there for his amusement. I am not dancing for him. I dance for me and me alone. I am not an actress in his fantasy, I am a real person. Sometimes the “watcher guy” is worse than the handsy guy because at least the handsy guy is making it clear that he wants my body. The “watcher guy” just silently does whatever he wants to my body in his head and that’s more creepy than being touched.

Guys at the club are why I need feminism. Women are clearly not equals in this world when men believe they have every right to touch women without their consent. Women’s feelings and bodies are not valued by men who believe that they don’t need to ask before they touch, and most men still believe this. Women are not considered beings with their own agency in a world where men will ask each other consent to touch before or instead of asking women. And in a world where men assume that women’s bodies are there for their own entertainment and benefit, women are not humans; they are just bodies. Anyone who claims they don’t need feminism should put on a tight black dress, go to their local club, and tell me how respected they feel.