Blurry Lines: Living Out Feminism, Generally
Working out what feminism means, assessing its implications, definitions, and ideologies, has been a constant struggle for me. As a woman, what “kind” of feminism was I supposed to adopt – could I tailor my feminism to my ideals? If the infrastructure of feminism exists to promote equality, why were the lines so blurry when presented to me and why did feminists seem so divided?
When I was younger, and admittedly, still today, I grappled with contradictions that seemed to exist within the realm of feminism. I was utterly perplexed about how women are expected to be vulnerable, yet tough; nurturing and accessible, yet ambitious and independent in their careers; empowered through sexuality, yet careful not to enable the objectifying male gaze; emotional, yet not too emotional – while men were sadly and simply expected to be only one of these inconsistent attributes. Or, how some women are heckled by those who call themselves feminists because they don’t prefer the bra-less life but instead would like to look down and see that their boobies were exactly where they left them that morning…
How was a woman supposed to be all of the above or find the best of both worlds in the middle?
My internal conflict has been rooted in the idea that women are powerful when they make their own decisions, yet they must also make sure that they are not simultaneously betraying feminist ideals. I felt as if I needed to tiptoe around every single decision that I made to remain true to what I thought feminism embodied - and it became exhausting. I did not wear certain black yoga pants for years because I didn’t want to fall into a “group” that was stigmatized as wealthy, lacking depth, conformists. I grew to resent many men around me because by failing to understand feminism, they were perpetuating it.
Today, while I make daily decisions, I do think about the decision within the context of my feminism. Feminism can have infinite contexts depending on who, what, when, and where. At this point it is ingrained and impossible to eradicate. At times it can be isolating; feminism is inseparable from my relationships, my body, and my mind. I’ve learned to assure myself that this way of thinking is okay and welcomed if applied well. To convey my agenda to a society that rejects feminism in a useful manner for everyone remains my greatest challenge and my passionate objective.
To provide some context; I am of mixed race, my grandparents were immigrants from China, I grew up in a wealthy suburb outside of San Francisco, a place that I would later come to immensely appreciate as well as loathe.
I appreciate Burlingame, CA for molding me into a woman who is educated, who could make rational decisions, who could leverage my privilege and wealth to ultimately get what I wanted; to possess the option to choose a career that could support the underprivileged (was I self-righteous in this decision?). My mother showed me that diversity is strength and that a woman can be the breadwinner of a household.
I loathe Burlingame, CA for surrounding me with wealthy beautiful white women who were so stuck in their lives perpetuating anti-feminism that they inadvertently rejected the progress that the feminist movement was promising. And the men… THE MEN… who confined their expectations to this behavior. I loathed the fact that rather than celebrating differences, these people humiliated differences and permitted others to become a shell of themselves. But then, how could I blame them? All we ever do is all we ever know. It seems to take very personal and explicit experiences to convince someone to change the way that they act, to adopt a different variety of self-respect and external respect, because it lies in accordance with what you believe is right. This is not to say that it does not happen.
I will never really understand whether this negative energy that I felt was justified. I just knew that it was not productive and that it was not healthy. Ultimately, it was very non-utilitarian.
Today, I realize that women are in this together. We have a great deal of work to do to address the divisions in the feminist movement regarding race, economic status and social determinants, gender, disability, and a whole lot more. Feminism is a battle that affects everyone and everyone differently. When oppression exists, we must all unify to repel it in every sense; this is the feminist call to action.
The resentment that I felt for those other women, and still occasionally struggle with today, has disseminated. Though it remains a challenge in my everyday life, I have identified the irony amid my feminist goals and I have reached a place of peace with my feminism.
I can spend quality time with women that I would have categorized in the past to be enemies of feminism.
I can finally (though this is the hardest one) listen to men and women who would reject a woman because she doesn’t shave her body hair or who gets offended when a woman tries to describe sexual assault. I can tell people about what growing up in a semi-conservative church was like and handle the intermittent shaming that follows.
I will be a bomb mother and I will be a bomb leader in my career. I wear black yoga pants because they are God’s gift to the world, practical for almost any activity, and they make my butt look good.
And I am no longer apologizing.