10 Lessons For Young Feminists
I was a teen in the '90s, and heavily influenced by Riot Grrrl feminism. Everything was DIY, dress how you want, and live with a militant independence. My feminism was raw, precocious, and wild. Now that I'm over 30, married, and have a son, I have a gift: I can look back at everything I experienced and see how it has made me the person I am today. I know a few more things now than I did when I was in high school or college student and, as a slightly older feminist, I wanted to share with you ten lessons I've learned about being a powerful woman.
10. You need to trust others — even though it's often the people closest to you who hurt you the worst. I have been verbally, physically, and sexually abused by people who claimed to be my protectors and friends. But the only way I grew as a human, the only way I healed and became strong was by trusting other people. Making oneself vulnerable is hard but worth it, despite whatever ugly things happen.
9. Reach out to all people, but especially to other women. Divisiveness is prevalent in groups of women, even (or especially) in feminist circles. But including some while shaming others is not helpful. Others have different perspectives for a reason. Don't shun them — try to understand them. I have learned so much from people different from myself and even with complete opposite views. I try to engage these other views on a daily basis.
8. Childbirth is amazing. I know that a lot of feminists have strong views on this subject and that not every woman wants to or can be a mother for a variety of reasons. That said, I believe we can uphold the belief that women should not and do not have to have children at the same time that we respect that pregnancy and birth is a unique and incredible experience for many. It is something that men simply can't do and as such should be valued as a sacred, special experience. While pregnant, I was afraid of childbirth, of the unknown. But I knew that women have been birthing forever. I educated myself and committed to a natural birth. In the midst of my birth, I recognized I was a part of creation, participating in a simultaneously rare and widely held rite. And when I held my son for the first time, I marveled at the power of mothers the world over.
7. No matter what anyone says, your voice has value. You may be wrong. You may be saying something someone else has said. But never, absolutely never, let someone tell you to shut up or steal your words. Your experience makes your voice unique and worthy of speaking. I used to think my contributions to class discussions were obvious because those observations were obvious to me. Then one day a classmate told me they really appreciated my perspective because they never considered it. I learned then how important it was for me — and for all of us — to speak up.
6. You are beautiful. As someone trained in painting and drawing, I learned to see all the intricate shapes, lines, and colors of forms. I look at every person and find their beauty. Our culture emphasizes evaluating external beauty, but I've learned that it's possible and necessary to do this for the inside, too. Everyone has a history, a story rich with plot twists and colorful characters. They have passions and dreams and their actions are encouraged by fascinating motivations. These life stories are beautiful and we'd all do well to better emphasize their value.
5. Everything is temporary. Politics, economics, culture, relationships, and emotions all come and go. Recognizing this — really feeling it — protected me from burnout. It is crucial to care and to push for overall progressive change and alter larger conversations, but ultimately this is all a moment in time. Now I can recognize anger or sadness as a moment, as something to experience now, and let go rather than allow to manifest. It gives me a sense of peace and a feeling of hope no matter what is happening.
4. Anyone can get stronger. Growing stronger emotionally or spiritually is the same thing as building muscle – practice and you grow. When I was molested as a toddler, I had no defense except those inherent to my humanity. When I was raped as a college student, I was able to work through my feelings and confront my attacker in a way that gave me a sense of justice and peace. Now, I am able to write about these experiences with peace. While I can never erase what happened to me, or how it affected me, I am able to use these experiences to guide my relationships and work. It is only after serious personal work that I could do this. I practiced and now I am strong.
3. Pick your battles. Feminism encompasses all aspects of society and includes the experiences of women from all sectors of life. No single warrior can fight in every battle. Instead, each individual must pick the battles where they can fight best – the moments that speak to their hearts and where they feel they can do the most good. For example, I personally resonate with reproductive rights, with fostering cultures of consent and empathetic communication between people. I resonate with women writers and mothers' rights. These are the places where I plug in. When I see a sister's cause, I support it, but I let those who are more passionate and more knowledgeable take the lead on those issues. I concentrate on the work I can do where I am.
2. Life will take you in unexpected directions and that is okay. When I was younger, I thought success meant dominating male professional spaces. While that may be an empowering goal for some women, though, I found that was not what would empower me. I learned that my value, my power, comes from writing. Sharing my story and passion was a better use of my talents and much more fulfilling and claiming that experience is just as valuable
1. I have no flaws. To be clear, I absolutely have room for improvement — we all do. But there is nothing – I repeat nothing – inherently wrong with me. My failures are opportunities to do better. My history is a guiding map of human behavior. I love every single cell of my body. I love every single moment of my life – even the horrible parts. I embrace it all. And by doing this, I am a hell of a lot happier.
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