I’m Sad and Pissed Off: An Ode to the Relevance of Feminism

Yesterday was a bad day.

The realization that millions of people can choose hate is not an easy one to digest, especially when the manner in which one of the world’s most powerful, influential and copied nations treats its people is on the line. It was a bad day. It was hard to go back to business as usual and to try not cry or to talk to people about the results.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, dancing around my apartment in my symbolic ‘Bow Down’ Beyoncé shirt I’d slept in the night before, I never imagined I’d be going to bed 21 hours later feeling the worst I’ve felt in a long time.

I actually had never considered that Hillary Clinton would not be president. In my mind, ‘Election Party’ was synonymous with celebration. I was going to a friend’s place to watch Hillary become the first female president-elect. I was going to watch history be made amongst friends, and that was worth staying up all night for.

Even though this was not an election in my country, it was a big deal. Seeing one of us break the glass ceiling is a big deal.

But I arrived late… and Trump was ahead. Not a problem, as an Atlantic Canadian, I’ve become accustomed to knowing that the first few polling stations to come in don’t dictate the entire election. Our region can go one way and the entire country go another… but then it didn’t stop. The votes continued to be tallied and then she lost the swing states and our bottle of sparkling wine branded with the Hillary ‘H’ was popped and passed around in a consoling manner… then campaign chair John Podesta came out and said Hillary would not be speaking tonight.

It was over.

My walk home was foggy and dark and then I went to bed, still hopeful that there would be a challenge to the results.

I woke up to clips from Trump’s victory speech all over my news feeds. I still haven’t watched it. I can’t, because the quote I’m seeing everywhere is that Trump says he will be a president for all people… and that’s just not true.

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Feminism has been a big part of my life for about 3 years, but I didn’t always think the way I do now.

I was guilty of trying to be the impossibly elusive cool girl. My teenage self craved the idea that a man would see me as “different” and “not like other girls”. I scoffed at women who brought feminism into anything.

What broke this was one particular relationship where a man saw me in one light and I saw myself in another. His perception of me was society’s view of women – always over reacting, shrill, needy, and dependent on men– and I saw myself as independent, strong minded and bold. I couldn’t reconcile this. That’s not me, how can he not see me as I am? I could basically hear the glass of illusion shattering.

What’s come from this is the process of unlearning, and I’m sure this will continue for my entire life. It’s exhausting to realize you’ve lived 21 years in a world where you don’t necessarily do and say things because it’s really you and your thoughts, but rather because you’ve internalized so much sexism that you’re acting on it.

I love my feminism in a selfish way. It may not be the same as yours, but my feminism has allowed me to discover who I truly am and has provided me with so much purpose. It’s allowed me to develop close relationships with the women in my life… but there are also things I hate about feminism. I hate that I’m too scared to put “Feminist” in my Twitter bio because I’m worried about the repercussions. The word is often misinterpreted and I don’t want it to inhibit me in my professional career. I work in tech…what if the person making a decision about whether or not I get access to an opportunity sees it and misunderstands?

I AM a proud feminist, but is it worth losing a job over?

I’d like to say yes, but yet the word feminist still does not appear in my Twitter bio.

I like to think the world is on my side, but Donald Trump is the president-elect after running a campaign based almost entirely on hate and turning back the progress and strides made by minorities over the past century. This is his “Great Again”. A man who grabs women by the pussy will call the White House home.

This is a personal blow to me because it literally happened to me this year. On top of watching Brock Turner go free, Jian Ghomeshi get acquitted and Donald Trump get elected as president, I was asked to go public with an incident of being sexually harassed by multiple groups of men on a walk home at night. One man who passed me on the sidewalk literally tried to grab me by the pussy, but his assumed state of intoxication caused him to instead paw at my inner thigh and hip. It’s not locker room talk.

I agreed to go public for feminism and the desire to do good… but the experience taught me why women don’t come forward or sometimes regret it if they do. From attacks on my appearance to ripping apart my credibility, it was traumatizing. These men all passed me in the dark, some of them were in cars, my phone was dead… and by the time I got home and got battery, I didn’t have anything to tell the police other than that it happened. So why would I call? They’d just ask me details about the situation I couldn’t provide.

“Hello Officer? Yes, three men said they were going to attempt to all penetrate me simultaneously against my will. I have no physical descriptors and they walked in this general direction 20 minutes ago. Also, I was called a bitch and a slut and a whore and one man grabbed me… again… no helpful details for how to find them…”

So I didn’t call, but now I wish I would have. Not because the police could have done anything, but because it would have been a point towards my case as someone worth believing. I feel like all I’ve done for two months is defend why I went to bed and didn’t call the police in a vulnerable and exhausted moment. We only believe women who follow the steps society deems they should follow to be able to speak from a place of legitimate experience. And that’s wrong. There’s very little reason or forward thought in post-traumatic behavior.

I don’t regret my choice to go public. My decision was validated by the 300+ women and men who reached out to thank me or share their similar stories. Many of these people were strangers who just needed their story to be heard. That was more traumatizing than the backlash, but in a different way, and it reveals that there is a need to talk about these things more publicly. Women crave it and jump on the opportunity to talk about it in private… but they don’t want to go public for obvious reasons.

We as feminists are constantly expected to defend our experiences and go to bat for ourselves. We’re expected to be happy and willing to enter into the arena with a smile on our faces, ready to debate every colleague, every person we went to summer camp with 13 years ago and every Twitter egg avatar who wants to tell us why feminism is “a cancer”.

This is not a debate. Healthy debate should have two consenting parties who are respectful of each other. Sure, let’s debate which policies provide greater access, which Land Before Time movie was the best, whether the Beatles are the foundation for all musical genius post-1960… but you’re not entitled to debate me on my personhood, my rights and my lived experiences. That’s not a debate, that’s an attack… and it’s not anyone’s job to educate you on how they’ve been oppressed. You have the internet for that.

What’s beautiful about feminism and femaleness is the connection we find in each other. It’s the way I’ve grown closer to new friends and women I’ve known my entire life since embracing my feminism. It’s the 6 women I saw yesterday who instinctively gave me a hug, the friends who checked in, the waitress who laughed about how we all needed a drink and the woman in the coffee line with whom I shared a tired, knowing glance. Even within the dark times, there is real support and love to be discovered.

Now more than ever, I love to live my feminism loudly and proudly… I’ll call you out and bring it up on dates and talk about it on Facebook. If you don’t like it, please do us both a service and unfollow or delete me. You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last. I won’t say I don’t care, but I am tired of accommodating your ignorance.

November 9th was a hard day for many of us. Though a few tears were shed throughout the day, it hit me hardest mid-morning that after decades of work and fight, Hillary Clinton will never be President. It’s not an inevitability like I thought it was. After everything she’s been through and endured and worked for to prove her value and the value of all women, Hillary Clinton will not be the first woman president.

It’s not just what it means for her, but what it means for all of us who see ourselves in her.

We need feminism because we don’t want to live in a world where we can work our asses off and still not get to where we want to be. We need it because the most stacked resume to ever run for office, with decades of buildup and experience, was just defeated by a male real-estate-mogul-turned-reality-TV-star with no political experience, who tossed around the idea of being president like it was a joke. We need it because it’s more than just women, it’s the people of varying abilities, bodies, genders, sexualities, identities, colours, religions and origin countries who feel like their rights are now on the table. Basically everybody outside of the patriarchal/colonizer framework are scared and left wondering where they stand.

So, I’m here for intersectionality. To borrow from Neko Case, it’s time to get gayer, blacker, browner, lgbt’er, indigenous’er and WOMANER than ever before! I don’t want to blend. I want to fight and create space and place for us to succeed and thrive and be who we are… EXACTLY as we are. I don’t want to think like a man or succeed like a man, I want to do all these things as a woman and for that to be OK.

I never want to hear anyone ask me why feminists are so angry ever again. Feminism puts a name to what we’ve known and felt our entire lives.

I’m with her. I’ve always been her and I’m with me and I’m with the nasty women and I’m with you and I hope you will be too.

Let’s do the damn thing.

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