Today I was listening to The Night Circus on my way to work and then in between students was reading a bit of How to Be a Woman and I remembered a thought I had on my morning drive about how as a woman I often feel like a beautiful representation of contrasts. Red riding hood AND the wolf. Able to be both the Princess AND the Dragon. Fire-y, Fierce, and wear a dress.
It’s actually a really great time. Trouble is, that pesky misogyny, is still all over our society and thrusts buckets of shame over being wolf-like or Dragon-y, or self-sufficient, strong-willed, loud, challenger, etc. etc. etc. BUT still does enjoy women to be care-givers who sacrifice themselves to death, either literally or emotionally, and then, when they can no longer serve a purpose to look good and say nothing.
It’s real f*!$ed up.
Lately I’ve been thinking about women, about being a woman, about how I became a woman, about which accurate and inaccurate things shape that identity. I thought about the myths against feminist about hating men and I think of all the women I know, myself way too included, who often become the holding space for men –helping them heal, helping them have space and safety to name the unnameable losses, support them when a bad cold comes to end their world, OR their heart has been broken and help them learn how to love again, and then promptly get discarded.
It’s really not great.
Then there’s the whole subtle oppression used against the woman with the courage to name this phenomena to the men they’ve loved, or the people they know to be chastised for thinking ‘so little of men’ and ‘overthinking everything’ and ‘it wasn’t about you’ or ‘quit being dramatic’ or whatever male culture language is presented so reasonably tapping into the insecurity of subtle and overt oppression towards women that often women start to think ‘I guess maybe I did think about it too much or I was being dramatic’ when what was happening was a naming of a very inconvenient truth.
As a woman I feel trained to be used, discarded, abused, grabbed, viewed so often as parts and never a whole person which matches how often my voice is taken and distorted, given back to me, in parts, telling me more ways I’m wrong so that the man in question does not have to face the reality I named that hit too close to home.
This isn’t a one time thing with one guy one time. This is a lifetime of comparing notes with other women. Other women who got a drunken call months, or even years later, from the men they helped heal, were convinced by that we were wrong, dramatic, overthinking and waaaaay off the mark to be told, between slurred professions of gratitude on the good nights, and painful almosts on the worst ‘you were right and I hope to find a girl like you one day’. Like me, but not me. Why call? Oh, and that little detail that what I was made to feel crazy by thinking and observing was actually the truth. Not cool. Also a lot of hiding behind work and avoiding things through the virtue of professional development. Citing a desire to connect as being unreasonable, demanding, and that old fan favorite against women articulating their expectations and desires — needy and too much work.
It’s so frustrating. Between physical assaults, sexual assaults, verbal harassment, the events that fall some where in between all of those, then there’s this super subtle but also dangerous pattern happening and it’s not cool.
Which, is why I’m writing a book. A compilation of fictional stories that show these experiences from women’s points of views. Show the realities of what is faced. Every day. A story of falling in love, women falling in love with finding themselves, overcoming these destructive lies and learning to, despite a lifetime of being made to feel less than, trust themselves. It’s the love story I wish would’ve been read to me. One without a prince and WITH a whole group of bad-ass woman loving people, helping people, doing good things, fun things, some fun bad things, and living life, not waiting for it to begin by the status of having been ‘picked’ to date or marry, but to be enough, as is. With or without kids, with or without a relationship. Independent, strong, part wolf and riding hood, part goldie locks and all three bears, part princess and part fire breathing, ass kicking, dragon.
Women finding themselves, finding their strength, and not healing one another. Because in my lifetime I’ve never had to help another woman heal. I’ve supported women, shared the weight of their life, found partners in the female friendships in my life, and at times taken care of their physical needs when some of the fun bad things turned into some throwing up in toilets and parking lots, but save them? no. Heal them? no. They do that on their own, and often for so many others, there is nothing I can offer them they don’t already have within them. Which is why I’ve come to love those friendships in a new and deep way. A way I’ve never read before. In a way I want to read. So I’m going to write it.
A note to great men — I do happen to a know a high percentage of great men. Great men who still at times pull some of the bull shit listed above, but can handle my expressing that to them respectfully and own it on their own. Who have helped support and hold me too. The true friendships found there too. I do not hate men. I do not think all men are like the issues I raised above, just as, not all women are both wolf and riding hood. Not all, but many, and I’ve been afraid to tell those stories of the rare great men, the many good man, and the plentiful — less kind variety. I’ve been more afraid to tell the stories of the complicated, strong, soft, guarded, beautiful, defiant, strong, whole, brave, broken, rised up phoenix women in my life, because being whole, all on our own, naming that, celebrating that, leaves no space for needing men, needing to have a husband, needing to have kids, needing to fulfill the scripts we’ve been given and instead write our own.
Choosing no children, or some. Choosing to be single for a lifetime unless someone we WANT (not need) comes along. Choosing to speak up in a world that subtly, and at time aggressively and overtly tells us to ‘shut the fuck up’. The notion of a woman being whole and happy on her own seems still so threatening to a society, even one that so clearly needs to remodel our modality of doing things. Look at our leadership in this country. We are broken. What we’ve been isn’t working. We’re not going to be ‘great again’. This country wasn’t great for the majority of people. I would rather we let go of some false nostalgia and move forward to an America that’s greater than it’s ever been.
One where a woman could be president without so much commentary on her clothes or body.
One where a woman could be whole and happy on her own and not face a risk of character assignation or physical and sexual assault risks.
One where men were encouraged, raised, and expected to be kind, loving, and respectful of all others. and never knew the phrase ‘like a girl’ to be an insult. Or that ‘being gay’ is equally insulting.
Where all people regardless of their nationality, sexuality, gender expression, can live their lives in peace. Where we can all have access to bathrooms, to homes, to jobs, to communities. Where we tore down all this broken barriers that separate us, look at the invisible divides our subtle and subconscious bias creates and build, maybe for the first time ever, a united states.
That’s my dream. Maybe the book will help speak to that. Maybe not. But I know it’s worth pursuing and finally, after 28 hard years of work, I am beginning to trust myself on knowing what I need and who I am.