After three semesters on the ShoutOut! blog–two of which were spent as Editor–I’ve learned quite a few things about myself and my feminism. I’ve experienced so much personal growth, and I feel the need to share some of my personal insights for anyone who needs a pick-me-up, a small dose of empowerment, or a gentle reminder that no matter what you’re going through, it gets better. Here are some of my favorite life’s lessons, from a feminist perspective:
1. Fall in love with yourself…every day
This one is seriously a daily struggle. We are all subject to scrutiny and judgement from the outside world on a daily basis. There are some days where getting out of bed is that toughest battle you’ll fight. But even when you feel like the world is on your shoulders, love yourself. It’s easy for someone else to empower you, but it’s much more permanent if you can will yourself to be strong, self-reliant, and self-empowered. Love yourself, and make the nasty, self-doubting voices in your head love you too. Confidence is the sexiest thing an individual can wear.
2. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
This gets harder when you’re in a leadership role. I’ve held a number of positions over the past four years, and I always felt a tension between being approachable and being respectable as a leader. I think the most precious memories I have from my experience with this blog especially, were the times where I opened up about my insecurities, my struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and becoming a survivor of abuse, rather than a victim. Instead of hiding behind my past and the things that make me the woman I am, I found support in being vulnerable with people I trust. This enabled me to be more confident as a leader and as a person, because I felt accepted for who I am: the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t have to be a tough bitch: vulnerability is the key to empowering consciousness-raising. It’s amazing what strength you can find in revealing your weaknesses.
3. Find a womentor/Be a womentor
This is crucial for feminism. My two favorite womentors are our ShoutOut advisers…they’re amazing. I’ve called them on Saturday mornings with questions, feminist “tensions”, or to rant about a controversial news story. Their doors are always open for life advice. They’re the world’s greatest role models, and they inspire me to be a better feminist, and a better person. It’s a “pay it forward” system: I have a responsibility as a feminist to facilitate public learning, and to be the kind of upstanding feminist that can inspire others. The sisterhood is powerful, and the accountability is crucial. Be proud to live your politics, and to be the spark that can ignite change.
4. Take criticism in stride
There are always going to be haters. Always going to be the people who think you’re a radical, godless swine because “feminism is outdated/so exclusive/unnecessary”, because “why aren’t you a humanist?/women have the right to vote/I like men to hold the door open for me.” DO NOT LOSE YOUR COOL. Seriously, when people challenge your politics or your worldview, don’t be insulted. Take the time to talk with them, address their concerns, and explain why your feminism matters. There are always going to be those hopeless cases (some members of my family, but I won’t specify…), but I’ve also had incredibly productive conversations with people because I took the time to talk with them, rather than give them the proverbial bird flip (I would [almost] NEVER do that….). Again, public learning is your responsibility as a feminist, so don’t back down from criticism–confront it. It’ll make you a better, more confident speaker, and might change someone’s mind.
5. Always think critically
Just because it walks like a duck and talks like a duck doesn’t always make it…well, you know. Just because someone claims to be a feminist, or espouses a feminist idea, does not give you free reigns to jump on the bandwagon. You’re better than that. There is no such thing as one true feminism–to quote Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, “liberation is something different for each person.” Whatever your liberation is, don’t let anyone threaten it. Think for yourself, stand up for what you believe is right, and never give in to group think. Some of the most productive conversations I’ve had have been disagreements with other feminists. We may not see eye to eye, but we are all fighting for the same thing: creating and maintaining a space for all oppressed groups to share their experiences and fight for change.
Feminism is the most worthy cause I ever could have decided to fight for. I have found myself by committing to something much greater than my individual self, and I’ve met some extraordinary people along the way. To those who are on this path with me, graduating this week and moving on to the next chapter in our lives, I hope you won’t lose what you’ve discovered here. To those who will continue to raise consciousness in this university setting, don’t underestimate the challenges and rewards that this journey has in store for you. The sisterhood will never abandon you–don’t abandon it.
Thanks for the good times, ShoutOut! It’s been one hell of a ride.