Unlearning sexism and learning sisterhood

My history with feminism (or womanism or sisterhood or whatever) is rocky at best, shameful at worst. I’ve been catty and mean. I’ve been cruel and unsympathetic to the plight of others. I’ve been rude and ruined friendships over nothing. I’ve said horrible things to some women just to make others feel better. I’ve shamed women in conversations with men. The worst part is that I really enjoyed it, I boasted about it like it was something to be proud of. I didn’t feel any shame or remorse until I got older and it started to hit me. These women, rightfully, hated me. These men I thought I thought I’d gain favor with by joining in on their misogyny turned around treated me like trash.

Let me be clear: Treating other women like garbage, whether you like them or not, is nothing to be proud of.

Even worse than how I treated other women is how I treated myself. I let men take credit for my accomplishments. I allowed men to speak for me. I wanted attention from men so badly that everything I did as far as how I looked and acted was to appease them. I tried hard to be the “cool girl” re: Gone Girl monologue. I often categorized things as being for men, even simple things like putting together furniture. I doubted what I, and other women, were capable of. Looking back, I’m not proud of how I behaved or what I believed but know I would not be the person I am now without going through that stage.

Somewhere in my early twenties, I started learning about feminism. I made a conscious effort to treat other women with respect. I started lifting them up, often above myself, instead of putting them down. I began publicly praising women and their accomplishments. I started thinking of women first and men last. It felt good, like a weight was lifted, and life seems better on this side. I never realised how much being a shitty person and hating everyone was affecting me emotionally, mentally, physically and every other “ally” (Here’s an article about how toxic emotions can have serious consequences for your health). The universe started giving me more and I’m not saying this in a mystic sense, I’m not that kind of person but it’s totally cool if you are, I’m saying doors started to open. Female friendships got easier, the men that entered my life were respectful, I did better at work, my overall health improved. Feminism, or whatever word I want to use today, has been a truly transformative experience for me.

I’ve come a long way and that’s something to be proud of. I still have a long way to go and I don’t know if there’s any point where I can say YES! I’VE MADE IT! MY WORK HERE IS DONE! Because, as Audre Lorde says, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own”. There’s so much work to do. Sometimes I find it difficult for me to show women I don’t care for respect even though I know they deserve it. I’m still working on showing myself the same respect I show others.

I’ve created a feminist starter pack, take from it what you want

1 (Bonus TEDTalk)| 2 | 3 (Bonus speech)| 4 (Bonus TEDTalk)| 5 | 6

In a way, I think this blog is a way for me to hold myself accountable. Maybe in a year, or two, or three, I’ll revisit this post and reflect on it. I can’t help but to think of how much more I can do to really ride for my sisters (if you identify as a woman, you are my sister). I am thankful for every woman that has stood by me and given me the space to grow as I’ve learned to do and be better. I am grateful for all of the women I’ve met along the way and for every woman I learn from. The gift of sisterhood is something I will cherish along the way and am so happy to share with my biological sister who, at thirteen, is already more down for the cause than I was in my early twenties.

(Gender justice image from WomensMarch.com)