“Feminism isn’t just a collective movement, but also an individual project.”
By: Alexandria Roswick
Here it is. The essay I’ve been avoiding. The ‘what feminism means to me’ chicken scratch I’ve kept in my drafts for two years. Because who wants to tackle something so broad, controversial, and — dare I say — introspective?
Well, usually, I do!
So, what is it about defining feminism that drives me up a wall?
For one thing, there have been hundreds of misconceptions and negative responses to the movement. While trying to nail down a definition, I always picture the biggest hater’s response to something I haven’t even written yet, and it stresses me the hell out.
For another, the #girlbossification of the movement. Girl bosses are a trigger for me because I was once a victim of an MLM cult. TLDR; they used feminism to take my money. Once I saw through their sly marketing tactics, I could see them in lots of other places too. It’s a touchy subject and it’s difficult to write — or even think — about.
I know that #girlboss doesn’t mean feminism is corrupt, it means girl bosses are corrupt. But how do I convey that to readers in the most intelligible way possible so as to avoid any more misconceptions? MUST CHOOSE WORDS CAREFULLY!
I’m confusing myself. My thoughts spiral. Again, I’m stressed out.
And finally — the hundreds of other overwhelming complexities of feminism (usually tied to trauma and emotional triggers) that could send me on an hours-long ADHD-induced rant. Because where does one even start? Equality? Empowerment? These are just similarly broad concepts that are not narrowing it down at all! It’s madness!
Ok, pause. Deep breath.
Let’s start somewhere simple and relevant. This morning, I scrolled through Instagram. It’s the first thing I do when I want to start writing on a new topic. Something or someone or some reel always gets me fired up with creativity. Today it was the author of the well-known List of Sh*t That Made Me Feminist series, Farida D.
Feminism isn’t just equality or equity, but also healing. Healing from pain, healing from shame, healing from being forced to sit inside a box we didn’t create and that doesn’t fit us. Feminism isn’t just a collective movement, but also an individual project. Start with you. Focus on you. Heal you. - Farida D.
As mentioned several times above, feminism is so complicated, which is what deters many from hopping on the bandwagon. (Well, that and all the loud, unlikeable, nasty women.) Feminist writers and content creators tend to oversimplify it to something along the lines of “it means equality!”
I literally published a poem titled It Means Equality like seven months ago. Yes, it does mean equality. The main goal of feminism is to progress into a society where women are seen and treated as equals. But Farida is addressing another crucial element that isn’t talked about as much. The part of feminism that doesn’t focus on all the external change we want and need to see.
That’s right. Here comes the woo-woo portion of the essay. We must also look within. We need to believe that we are equal to men. Personally. On the deepest level. Through and through.
You need to truly believe that you are equal to a man.
It’s messy, right? Because we don’t want to admit that we think we’re less than men. But how can we not when we’ve been conditioned to think this way all our lives? It’s ok to admit that, especially since the solution to this is feminism.
The uprising of the feminist movement caused us to be conscious of the toxic messaging that we’ve all been inhaling since birth. And now, as Farida highlights, the tricky part is healing our minds and bodies so that we truly believe all this messaging is incorrect.
We need to reject and eject it. Because it’s currently still inside of us. It’s not going anywhere unless we do the work to vomit it out. Because you can be told and even know that you’re equal to a man without really believing it….
You can paint a sign that says “Equality for all!” and march through the streets of your city and still not believe you’re equal. It doesn’t mean you’re inauthentic. It means feminism is more than just advocating for everyone else and all of society. Advocate for yourself, too!
This sh*t is why I write. Because as much as I’m trying to make sense of the movement, feminism is also my individual project.
I’m not claiming we have to heal first before we focus on societal change. I’m not going to tell any woman how to handle her feminism or judge her for the way she goes about it. That is something I would believe to be anti-feminist.
We shouldn’t gatekeep it. We should want everyone to feel alright — right?
I’m also definitely not saying that all this progress is contingent on the healing of marginalized people. I am saying that this inner work is something that must happen in order for feminists to work smarter and… feel better about themselves! Because that’s important!
Ideally, men would benefit from this practice too. Anybody would. We’re all fed toxic bullsh*t. Acknowledging that we’ve adapted to and normalized the bullsh*t is a great first step. I hope men begin to see the value in going beyond that recognition and work to set themselves free from toxic standards of masculinity. I want them to feel better, too.
If you’ve followed me for a bit, you already know I love to dissect female tropes and stereotypes in my favorite media and pop culture events. But as I said, that’s just the first step. And even though it’s the first step, it happens more than just once. It’s constant learning. I find a new message to be upset about every time I turn on the TV! But after I get annoyed, something unlocks in my brain. It’s like a secret password is revealed. “That explains all that mess. Now you can start to let it go.”
It takes time to get it out. It takes failing and forgiveness. And it’s a personal journey that will not look the same for the next woman.
That’s why I enjoy Farida’s work so much. She posts these bite-size feminist revelations daily. She provides endless inspiration and introspection about the cultural bullsh*t we’ve all been inundated with. Most importantly, she encourages healing together as brothers and sisters. And she’s not afraid to admit that the process won’t be perfect.
I recently published a piece about — so many things — body image, body dysmorphia, and societal standards that ruined my psyche as a child. It’s a messy piece that details my messy journey to self-acceptance. I address that my route to body image empowerment might look different from the cookie-cutter feminist route — whatever that means. I’m not at a point where body neutrality is possible. I’d like to get there, for sure. That’s the goal. But for now, taking hyper-feminine selfies, loving all things barbie pink, and hyping myself up is the best I can do.
Maybe I’m f*cking up and haven’t figured it out yet. Or maybe I’m doing what is best for me right now, and that’s not what’s best for her or her or you, and that’s ok. And we should all be ok with that as long as nobody is harming one another or stepping on everyone’s backs — like the girl bosses.
I’m not saying there’s no room for criticism. Actually, we desperately need constructive criticism when it comes to feminism. I just wish the discourse would always be rooted in compassion first with the goal of learning and resolving. Instead, it seems we’re focused on black-and-white thinking, taking sides, and proving ourselves right.
We’re not going to get anywhere with that.
That is why I aim to set a realistic example for other feminists through my blog page. I am loud and opinionated and flawed. And I’m not afraid to apologize or correct myself. And I welcome all who are respectful and open to educating themselves, even if we don’t see eye to eye on every little thing.
At least — those are my intentions. I strive for these things.
The point is, I am working on myself. I hope that recording my breakthroughs will help readers to find theirs, just as Farida and so many other female creators do for me. Feminism may be an individual project, but you can always reach out for help or insight. Read and listen to female creators who have cultivated a safe environment on their pages. Interact with us in the comments. Email me, for real. I’m always down for some feminist catharsis.
Feminism will always be complicated but the best part is that you’re not alone in figuring it out.