Feminism Step One
To be a feminist means admitting that you are scared.
As a feminist and as a therapist, I’ve learned that no matter how good a prospective change might be for a group or an individual, there is always ambivalence and fear around it.
Lately I’ve been mired in my own fear of feminism. As Jack and I are still in the Hard Conversation about family planning, I keep wishing that it was 1950. I wish so hard that the expectation put upon me to reproduce and support my husband and children was so all-consuming that it didn’t even occur to me to try to listen to my own desires. I would rather have the depression that comes from a stifled self, the vague unknowable emptiness, and the decision made for me. This has become my daily fantasy: I wish it was 1950 and choices about my life and my body were made by the men around me. I am not even kidding.
Even as a member of the gender that is oppressed through misogyny, I am scared of it changing. I am bought in.
We are all bought in.
We’re invested in patriarchy and sexism (and all related forms of oppression… racism, heterosexism, ableism). Patriarchy, like Chase, with whom Jack and I still do our banking, is the easiest option simply because we’ve been there for so long. All of our auto bill pays are set up. The Patriarchy ATM’s are everywhere. We haven’t moved to the credit union of equality because it’s small and a pain in the ass and we don’t quite understand how it works, even if the Chase Bank of Sexism treats us like shit.
Acknowledging that we are bought in to a sexist (racist, homophobic) system, and that we are scared, is not just step one. It’s steps two through ten thousand. Acknowledging is like practicing scales and arpeggios… every pianist does it every single day, from the 5-year old still learning how his fingers work, to the master playing to sold out concert halls.
Most of my fights with Jack lately have ended with me saying, “Just admit it!” And although I take my rage out on him, I’m saying it to myself too. As we navigate this Hard Conversation and any future Hard Conversations, we won’t get anywhere if we don’t return, over and over, to Feminism Home Base. To admitting. To acknowledging. To saying, “I want change, and I am scared of it.” We defile the sonata if we try to play it without practicing those goddamn scales. Likewise, talk of equality and empowerment become just another oppressive force if they are not backed by all of us admitting all the time that we are terrified of our own dreams.