July 2014: A Recap

rn - quote 1 for realIt’s hard to believe it’s been a month since Radical Notion began. We’ve had so much good content from guest posters, and we’ve so enjoyed sharing their words, as well as ours, with you! I’d like to thank Laura Sook Duncombe, Shannon Deep, and Leigh Camacho Rourks once again for submitting to us and so bravely sharing their stories.

Here’s a recap of what went down this month:

An Introduction by Sky – July 1st

“…this blog is hopefully the first step of many. I’m gearing up to step forward, and this is where it begins.

I don’t know if I can change the entire world, but with me and my fellow women, I believe we’re going to try.”

Welcome to Radical Notion by Ariela & Sky – July 3rd

“Earlier this week, everything came to the point where we just decided to get it together and do something. And here you have this blog.”

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Every Young Woman’s Battle Is Not Mine by Laura Sook Duncombe – July 4th

“Girls already grow up afraid of men, who will harass, oppress, rape, and murder us—we do not need to grow up afraid of ourselves, too.”

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How Feminism Released Me From “Biblical Womanhood” by Sky – July 8th

“Feminism has liberated the twelve-year-old in me, the one that would rather carry a sword than a handbag, and wear a cape instead of a skirt.”

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Misogyny, or Not Misogyny? That Is the Question by Shannon Deep – July 11th

“Having a feminist boyfriend doesn’t mean that he sees the same production of Hamlet you do; it means that when you call out misogyny, he knows enough to say, as mine now does, ‘I believe you.'”

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Breaking the Rules by Ariela – July 15th

“I am breaking the rule that says I am ‘only’ a woman. Breaking this rule felt like jumping off a cliff; it gives me new life and expands the possibilities of my world.”

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Respect Yourself by Leigh Camacho Rourks – July 18th

“The only “respect” my breasts really need from me are check-ups, mammograms, and some armor if I decide to go in for a contact sport. The only respect they need from you is your lack of judgment.”

“The Period Poem” by Dominique Christina, with words by Sky – July 23rd

“My favorite line of her video is this: ‘And when you deal in blood over and over again like we do, when it keeps returning to you, well, that makes you a warrior.’ 

I’ve always wanted to be a warrior, brave and strong. But every month, now I can be reminded: I am.”

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Learning to Love Ourselves by Ariela – July 26th

“Why shouldn’t I love the curves that form me? It’s me, after all. Do yourself a favor, dear. Look in the mirror and even if you don’t believe it, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself how sexy you look. I can’t see you but if I know I would agree with you.”

Contribute

Radical Notion doesn’t have any guest posters lined up for August, so if you’ve been wanting to submit, now’s the time! We are looking for personal stories about how you’ve experienced sexism in your own life, as well as discussions about the way females are portrayed in movies, books, TV, and popular culture. We also accept examinations of how misogyny, sexism, and feminism affect our current culture. Please look at our submission guidelines and then shoot us an email at radicalnotionblog@gmail.com! We can’t wait to read your writing!

 

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Learning to Love Ourselves

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by ariela

I believe that loving your own body is one of the hardest things for a woman to do. Granted, it might be easier for some women and harder for others, but overall I get the feeling we women simply struggle with loving themselves and embracing their bodies.

Why?

There are many reasons, and depending on the culture you grew up in might affect how you view yourself. A conservative, nondenominational, homeschooling, and patriarch-supporting family like mine? I grew up being told that my body was a stumbling block for men and therefore I needed to cover it up. Skirts had to be below the knee and all shirts had to pass the “tummy test”. If you aren’t familiar with this degrading dressing room ritual, it’s where you do various things such as bending over to make sure the shirt doesn’t pull up to reveal your back/butt, and raising your hands as high as you can to make sure no stomach is revealed at all. Once I turned 11, shorts were pretty much a no-no, because puberty was coming. I’m in my early 20s and it’s been almost 11 years since I last wore a pair of shorts.

Because of all the shaming, I have believed for many, many years that my body was a lean, mean, seducing machine. Unless I covered up, men would stalk me, just waiting for a glimpse of sinful flesh that would instantly make them rape me.

It’s dangerous. And to top it off, I’ve always been slightly overweight, so there has been the added pressure of losing weight to have a “body that pleases the Lord”. Because, you know, Jesus ONLY loves women who wear size 0.

Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too curvy, too straight. Your boobs are too big, your boobs are too small. I’ve heard it all.

Is it any wonder we struggle with loving ourselves?

I almost feel like a parrot, because this subject has been written about so many times. But maybe if we keep talking about it, things will begin to change.

Things have already begun to change for me. A few days ago I had my hair cut into a bob, which I’ve always wanted. My grandma is completely ignoring it and my dad can’t bring himself to say he approves.

But I realized that I don’t care anymore. It’s my body, it’s my hair.

I tried on a new shirt a couple of weeks ago and looked in the mirror. The shirt really looked good on me so I told myself something; I spoke out loud and said “Damn, woman, you look sexy.”

Do you know what happened? No, men didn’t come leaping out of the crevices to attack me. The world did not explode. The Lord is still on His throne.

But I felt a surge of confidence come over me.

It’s my body. Why shouldn’t I love the curves that form me? It’s me, after all.

Do yourself a favor, dear. Look in the mirror and even if you don’t believe it, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself how sexy you look. I can’t see you but if I know I would agree with you.

Haven’t brushed your hair in two days and still in those ratty sweatpants? Love yourself anyway.

Just dropped a couple pounds and wearing a new dress? Love yourself anyway.

Overweight, with bags under your bloodshot eyes and a stained tee shirt? Love yourself anyway.

Get picked on at school for wearing that outfit because you have a tiny build and need to gain a couple of pounds? Love yourself anyway.

As I learn to love my own body more, I hope to keep writing on the subject. Meanwhile, keep telling yourself encouraging things. What do you want to hear someone say about you? Why don’t you say it to yourself?

“Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?”

— Maya Angelou

“The Period Poem” by Dominique Christina

“The Period Poem” by Dominique Christina

Transcript:

So let me be very clear. I wrote this poem with a very specific intent. I have a 13 year old daughter. It is important to me that I throw every part of my experience, whatever wisdom I’ve gleaned from that, every part of my backbone, toward her, to sustain her, to offer her language that lifts her up and keeps her up.

That said, there is for me, a necessary conversation that seeks to undermine the shaming that happens to some girls around menstruation. I had that experience of starting my period in 7th grade, boys, finding out that I had started my period. And then it was some shit, like I’ve been to class with the frantic, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom now,” waved and they’re like, “You’re on your period, aren’t you?” You know, that dumb shit.

And so then my daughter, like she starts her period and she’s stricken and walks out the bathroom looking like she’s died or something, and I wanted to undermine that. So I threw her a period party, my home is red up, dressed in red, and there was red food and red drinks. It was great.

[Applause]

It was great. So all red, everything. I loved it. So, that’s what it was and it was wonderful. And then, when I was in Austin, Texas for Women of the World this year, she sent me a screenshot of a tweet and in 140 characters, this dummy, damn their, undermined my legacy. This is my response to the aforementioned today. You’re welcome.

The dude on Twitter says: “I was having sex with my girlfriend when she started her period, I dumped that bitch immediately.”

Dear nameless dummy on Twitter: You’re the reason my daughter cried funeral tears when she started her period. The sudden grief all young girls feel after the matriculation from childhood, and the induction into a reality that they don’t have to negotiate, you and your disdain for what a woman’s body can do. Herein begins an anatomy lesson infused with feminist politics because I hate you.

There is a thing called the uterus. It sheds itself every 28 days or so, or in my case every 23 days, I’ve always been a rule breaker. That’s the anatomy part of it, I digress.

The feminist politic part, is that women know how to let things go, how to let a dying thing leave the body, how to become new, how to regenerate, how to wax and wane, not unlike the moon and tides, both of which influence how you behave, I digress. [laughter]

Women have vaginas that can speak to each other and by this I mean, when we’re with our friends, our sisters, our mothers, our menstrual cycles will actually sync the fuck up. My own cervix is mad influential, everybody I love knows how to bleed with me. Hold on to that, there’s a metaphor in it. [applause]

Hold on to that. But when your mother carried you, the ocean in her belly is what made you buoyant, made you possible. You had it under your tongue when you burst through her skin, wet and panting from the heat of her body, the body whose machinery you now mock on social media, that body, wrapped you in everything that was miraculous about, and then sung you lullabies laced in platelets, without which you wouldn’t have no Twitter account at all motherfucker. I digress.

See, it’s possible that we know the world better because of the blood that visits some of us. It interrupts our favorite white skirts, and shows up at dinner parties unannounced, blood will do that, period. It will come when you are not prepared for it; blood does that, period. Blood is the biggest siren, and we understand that blood misbehaves, it does not wait for a hand signal, or a welcome sign above the door. And when you deal in blood over and over again like we do, when it keeps returning to you, well, that makes you a warrior.

And while all good generals know not to discuss battle plans with the enemy, let me say this to you, dummy on Twitter, If there’s any balance in the universe at all, you’re going to be blessed with daughters. Blessed.

Etymologically, bless means to make bleed. See, now it’s a lesson in linguistics. In other words, blood speaks, that’s the message, stay with me. See, your daughters will teach you what all men must one day come to know, that women, made of moonlight magic and macabre, will make you know the blood. We’re going to get it all over the sheets and car seats, we’re going to do that. We’re going to introduce you to our insides, period and if you are as unprepared as we sometimes are, it will get all over you and leave a forever stain.

So to my daughter: Should any fool mishandle that wild geography of your body, how it rides a red running current like any good wolf or witch, well then just bleed, boo. Get that blood a biblical name, something of stone and mortar. Name it after Eve’s first rebellion in that garden, name it after the last little girl to have her genitals mutilated in Kinshasa, that was this morning. Give it as many syllables as there are unreported rape cases.

Name the blood something holy, something mighty, something unlanguageable, something in hieroglyphs, something that sounds like the end of the world. Name it for the war between your legs, and for the women who will not be nameless here. Just bleed anyhow, spill your impossible scripture all over the good furniture. Bleed, and bleed, and bleed on everything he loves, period.

Sky’s thoughts:

To be honest, I just got done watching this for the first time, and I’m a mess.

I never really realized how much shame I feel about my cycle, how I feel embarrassed when I ask for someone to grab me a pad or when I bleed on my favorite pair of shorts. But it’s real and it is there.

And it makes me angry.

How dare we be thought of as the inferior sex when we bleed every month for days at a time? I swear, that’s hardcore. Most times when people bleed for seven days straight, they die. We don’t.

There’s something in that, I think. We don’t die. We continue to live. Women know how to rise and rise again. We should be down, but we. are. not. We are resilient.

A while ago, after watching the first season of Teen Wolf, I commented to myself that women are like werewolves. Every month we turn into a monster and act in unnatural ways. I said it negatively, feeling shame over my cycle, but now this video has flipped that idea on its head. We do not turn into monsters. We turn into wolves. Wild, strong, and brave.

My favorite line of her video is this: “And when you deal in blood over and over again like we do, when it keeps returning to you, well, that makes you a warrior.” 

I’ve always wanted to be a warrior, brave and strong. But every month, now I can be reminded: I am. You are, too. Remember it. Claim it and drive your stake into the ground. Mark your territory and roar as loud as you can. Be a lioness. Make up your own battle cry.

And sometimes, bleeding means being vulnerable. Asking for help, appreciating feminine things, crying, and not being unbreakable 100% of the time is absolutely okay, as much as the world may tell us they are not. Doing these things does not make you less of a woman. Nothing should.

You are whole. You are not broken, you are not a screw-up, you are not a burden, you are not less: you are a woman, and I am proud of you, I am proud of us. The world can tell us there is something wrong in the way we were born, because of the fact that we don’t have a penis. Frankly, that is bullshit. You are enough, and there is NO SHAME in who you are. Accept and be proud of the fact that you have a vagina, you have curves, you have a period, you have hormones; you are a woman. Be proud of yourself. Don’t be afraid to bleed, whatever that looks like for you.

And if you are afraid to bleed, that’s okay. We’re here right alongside you.

(P.S. – As Ariela said, our periods are bloody beautiful. See what she did there?)

Respect Yourself

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By Leigh Camacho Rourks

The woman at Dillard’s is being helpful.

She is motherly. She is smiling.

She would like to measure my breasts. “So many women are wearing the wrong sized bra, dear,” she says. She actually says “dear” while eyeing my cleavage.

I know I’m wearing the wrong sized bra. That is why I’m at Dillard’s. I’ve gained some weight. My underarm flab is pooching around the band of my current bra, and I am afraid to check if the pudge I feel straining the hooks, encouraging them to jab and poke, has become full-fledged backfat. My right boob, the big one, is bouncing between unattractive double boob and all out escape. I have put this off far too long, and I am completely demoralized. Despite the fact that I do know the proper way to size a bra and have a fairly good idea of what size I need, 44DD, I say yes. I want to be pampered. I need this kind woman to fuss and measure. To make me and my breasts feel better.

That is not what she does.

Forget the fact that she will not leave the room as I wiggle into bra after bra, eyeing me and my swaying double Ds, forget that, over and over, she tries to physically put each of my boobs into its cup (I want to ask her to buy me dinner). Forget that every single bra she brings me is large and reinforced and horrifyingly ugly.

What sends me to my car, desperate to not rage-cry in public, is her insistence that what I really need is a minimizer.

A minimizer is a bra designed to hold your breasts down, to make them appear daintier. Less obtrusive. It is like a leash for the most unruly boobs. It keeps them under control. For those on the search for a smaller rack, minimizer bras are the perfect solution. I was on no such search.

The first time one was ever suggested to me, I was about 16 and the adult who advised I compress my breasts did so with nothing but love. “Your clothes will fit so much nicer,” she said.

Over the years, I have learned it is code for, “You look kind of slutty with them big ol’ titties.”

At the time, all I heard was, “Good god, freak! Get a hold on those unwieldy things.” It felt like I was walking around with a couple of baby Godzillas strapped to my chest. People even suggested I consider surgery. And all I could thing was, “Come on, y’all. They aren’t that big.”

I pretty much liked how my clothes fit. I liked my body and I chose to wear clothes that didn’t hide it. Yes, you read that correctly, I was sixteen and I liked my body. A damn, short lived miracle. It was this glorious point in my life where I stopped starving and binging long enough to marvel at the beautiful breasts that had been growing non-stop for four years. The lovely hips that had turned baby fat to hourglass. I had nice legs. Cute freckles. I was going to be okay. I stopped hiding behind oversized shirts and crossed arms and started wearing things that fit my shoulders, my waist, my back, and yep, those breasts.

The thing is, if a flat chested girl wears a shirt that fits her breasts, even if it is low cut, she looks “tailored.” If I do, I look slutty. The more boob you have, the more baby feeding flesh people are afraid they might see. And apparently, that shit is ugly. I should know. People have been helpfully suggesting I “respect myself” and hide it for as long as I can remember.

I can’t imagine any of my progressive, feminist friends suggesting to a young girl that she show a little self-respect and cover her beautiful brown eyes. Maybe she could learn to love herself and hide those shiny locks. A little more self esteem and maybe she wouldn’t feel the need to flaunt her athletic legs! Slamming collar bone? High collar for you. Delicate neck? Get a scarf!

But, many are willing to tsk at any overly exposed boob not feeding a child. It is the juncture where a lot of conservatives and liberals find common ground: Teach your girls to love and respect themselves and dress appropriately. The bigger the boob, the more self respect that is required.

It isn’t just the soft, round bits either.

I was at work one day, wearing a mock turtleneck that literally covered me from chin to hip. I have, this time, lost some weight, so not only is the shirt not skin tight, but it sags a little at the boob. I look sloppy and I know it. At least I am SFW, safe for work.

A friend, a fierce feminist, leans over and quietly advises me that my nipples are showing. Afraid that my black top is so old and worn that it has actually given up and become invisible, I scuttle to the bathroom, cursing my inability to throw anything away.

Nope. It is just a bit cold in the building. And my nipples, cute little arrows that they are, are doing what chilly nipples do. The sag in my shirt is no match for their eager salute, and I am left to wonder what on earth I am expected to fix. I don’t even really understand the problem at hand (or nip). I am not, after all, a Barbie doll, smooth and plastic.

I do nothing except move them around so that they point in the same direction.

Barbie’s breasts were shrunk years ago, giving her a more realistic, athletic build. I wonder if she is the future. Her smooth, large-but-not-too-large rack is already the politically correct fashion. It sits still, each well mannered boob in its own space, no real cleavage, no nipples, no jiggle.

I have fine breasts. So far, they are healthy. They no longer sit as high as they once did, sliding into an armpit if I lay down, or as firm, my bounce now pure Jello, but they are fine, lovely girls. They are one of the few things I really like about my body. And when I wear something that shows them off, it isn’t a lack of self esteem or daddy issues that prompted the plunging neckline and tight bust.

The only “respect” my breasts really need from me are check-ups, mammograms, and some armor if I decide to go in for a contact sport. The only respect they need from you is your lack of judgment.

rnotion - leigh camacho rourksLeigh Camacho Rourks lives in South Louisiana, where she is the assistant editor of Louisiana Literature. Her stories have been chosen as finalists for the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival Fiction Contest (2012) and The American Fiction Prize (2013), and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of journals including Kenyon Review Online and Prairie Schooner. You can follow her on twitter @ScaredWriter or visit her website and blog at LCRourks.com.

Breaking the Rules

by ariela

Growing up, I was never much of a rule-breaker. This is changing, and I am realizing that it can be a good thing. Because fundamentalism has a way of taking lies and power plays and turning them into rules. Rules that press into your soul and hold you back from finding who you really are.

I am breaking the rule that says I am “only” a woman. Breaking this rule felt like jumping off a cliff; it gives me new life and expands the possibilities of my world.

I am breaking the rule that says I must conform to my parent’s dreams for me. Breaking this rule feels like running through a heavy downpour of rain; I cannot be stopped despite the oppression pouring down around me.

I am breaking the rule that says my words must be perfect. Breaking this rule feels like a burst of energy in the middle of a marathon; my words do have power and meaning even if they aren’t exactly perfect.

I am breaking the rule that says my art must be like everyone else. Breaking this rule feels like dancing to a new beat; who cares where my paint goes as long as it expresses my soul?

I am breaking the rule that says I am worthless. Breaking this rule feels like stepping into the light; I don’t need to be afraid for people to compliment me and my work.

I am breaking the rule that says everyone must agree with my writing. Breaking this rule feels like a breath of fresh air; I can write what I want and don’t have to worry that everyone will approve or not.

Tell me, darlings. What rules have you broken or do you need to break? How can we help you break free?

This post was inspired in part by a writing prompt from the writing community Story Sessions, which Ariela is a member of. Please consider checking it out and joining the story?

Misogyny, or Not Misogyny? That Is the Question

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By Shannon Deep

“I just don’t see it like that,” my boyfriend shrugs. He’s not upset. He’s not even really arguing. To him, our disagreement is simply a divergence of two equally valid opinions. To me, one of us is acknowledging a goddamn fact and the other is not.

We’ve just seen a 4-person production of Hamlet in downtown Manhattan. Generally, we’re both underwhelmed. Specifically, I’m offended by the scene where Prince Hamlet, feigning insanity, greets two old school chums, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who have been sent to spy on him. Hamlet figures this out and, for lack of a better phrase, fucks with them.

This is a scene with 3 male characters traditionally played by 3 male actors. In this micro-cast production, however, Rosencrantz is played by the lone female in the cast. Throughout the show, when the actress is playing a male character, she’s addressed as male and referred to with male pronouns. The script has not been altered. This lady-Rosencrantz is male.

Which is why, as the scene unfolded and Hamlet began to tease and bully Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, I became increasingly confused and then disturbed by Hamlet’s very gender-specific harassment of Rosencrantz. While he is physical with both characters– yanking on their costume pieces, aggressively leading them around the stage– he is only sexual with Rosencrantz, who is, for all intents and purposes, a man. Except that he’s clearly not.

Hamlet grabs Rosencrantz’s ass forcefully and holds on, thrusting his pelvis and miming sex. He attempts to kiss and touch Rosencrantz “romantically.” And as Rosencrantz squirms and tries to get away, Hamlet grabs Rosencrantz’s breasts. Except Rosencrantz doesn’t have breasts. The actress does.

Suddenly, I am not watching Hamlet harass Rosencrantz. I am watching a male actor harass a female actor in a highly gendered manner. And I’m uncomfortable. But when I express my distaste for that misogynistic scene, my boyfriend– who would call himself a feminist– doesn’t see the problem with it.

“He– the actor– was trying to make his fellow actor uncomfortable,” my boyfriend, also an actor, explains. “That’s a valid acting technique.”

“But she’s not playing a woman!” I argue. “And besides, if his goal is to make his fellow actor as uncomfortable as possible, wouldn’t making sexual advances on the other male actor be more effective?”

“Maybe. But it’s still a valid choice.”

“If she were a woman onstage!” I insist. “He feels like he has the permission to touch her in a way he would never touch a male actor. He feels entitled to make that acting choice.”

“I’m not convinced she wasn’t a woman in that scene,” he comes back.

And here’s where the argument gets fishy. The production, at times, was self-aware and self-referential in that, with a nudge and a wink, the cast would sometimes acknowledge the fact that the actors were playing different characters, drawing attention to the gimmick. Therefore, my boyfriend argues, we’re not pretending that these people are the characters. The actors are saying, essentially, “We know we’re actors and we know you know we’re actors.”

If I had seen any other instances of gender-blind characters being treated as the gender of actor and not the character, maybe I would have bought it. Essentially, he tells me that what I’ve seen is a matter of interpretation, and he doesn’t interpret it that way.

And now, I’m upset. I’m angry with my boyfriend for not seeing what seems perfectly obvious to me: A male actor treated a female actor in a manner that expressed, inherently, his belief in his license to do that onstage, to make that acting choice, because his scene partner was female. And maybe a lot of people would excuse the actor and accuse the director, but in this case, the actor playing Hamlet was the director! It was all so perfectly, perfectly plain.

And I don’t think the guy playing Hamlet is a terrible person. I think it’s all much more sublimated and unconscious than malicious misogyny– which is what makes it so insidious. Similarly, it’s not that my boyfriend is a raging misogynist; it’s just so much not a part of his world that he is blind to the more malignant undertones. This subjectivity is a disease we all suffer from.

A prime example: my good friend’s former roommate, a 6-foot, thin, blond, Scandinavian goddess. Basically a supermodel with a sweet disposition and the naïveté to match. Her world was full of free drinks and instant admission to nightclubs and men falling over her to make her life easier. “People are so nice here!” she would exclaim about New York City, a place that has never been nice to anyone.

When my friend was turned away at a club or a guy didn’t call her back, Goddess was quick to excuse the lapse and provide the benefit of the doubt. “The club was probably too full!” she would say. Or, “He probably lost your number!” Because those were the rules of her world. People were kind. Clubs opened their doors. Guys called you back.

Or: “He’s using a valid acting technique!”

Reality is subjective.

And that’s what, now months after Hamlet, in the wake of anti-slut-shaming campaigns, of Elliot Rodger, of #YesAllWomen, of the maze of conversations my boyfriend and I have had about misogyny since then, I have come to realize: We really are living in different realities.

So I explained why I felt slut-shamed by his condemnation of the casual sex I’d had before we started dating. I explained why what Elliot Rodger did was a hate crime and not just a product of mental illness. And I explained that he has a privilege that I do not enjoy: The privilege of being unaware of misogyny.

Having a feminist boyfriend doesn’t mean that he sees the same production of Hamlet you do; it means that when you call out misogyny, he knows enough to say, as mine now does, “I believe you.”

rn - shannon deep bio photoShannon Deep is an essayist, dramaturg, and playwright originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She currently lives in New York City with her boyfriend, too many roommates, and three cats whose mission in life it is to pee on everything she ever loved. She will definitely tweet back to you if you say hi to her on Twitter at @sldeep. If you like essays that are long (but still good!) you can read more on her blog, This Millennial Life.

How Feminism Released Me From “Biblical Womanhood”

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By Sky

When I was ten, I started blogging. My first blog was hosted on a small homeschool blogging platform, and because I was so young, I was only allowed to visit blogs on the same site as mine. This arrangement was amazing and allowed me to make a ton of friends, but it also exposed me to a different niche of Christian homeschoolers than the ones I’d previously experienced.

This niche is hard for me to describe, though if you’ve been in it, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s often referred to as fundamentalist Christianity, or patriocentrism. This culture can be extremely oppressive to women, and is most often twisted in order to be that way. Strict modesty is encouraged. The idea of wearing skirts only is popular, as well as head coverings. Instead of dating, the young people are required to “court,” which is where the parents have a strong say in who the children marry. In addition, and perhaps the most awful, daughters belong to their fathers until they get married, are under their father’s “headship”, and often have little to no agency of their own. Getting married young was highly recommended, and starting as young as fourteen, women were preparing for their ultimate roles as wives and homemakers. (This can also fall under the term “Biblical womanhood.”) It was almost like going back in time, and as you can imagine, the ways that this belief set can go wrong are numerous.

Several of my old friends were among those who believed this way, and I wanted to fit in. So I became one of them for a while. Even though my parents were not encouraging me in this way at all, and often questioned what I was doing, I subscribed to this belief set in a lot of ways. I awaited the day when I’d get married and have an unrealistically perfect romance. (I still do, but to a much lesser extent.) I wore skirts only, and I tried to bake and crochet. These things were hard for me to accomplish, and it honestly was not what I was interested in. I look back on those times with mild embarrassment, and I wonder how I could have fallen for it. But I was young, and I wanted to be included. Call it the Christian homeschooling version of “peer pressure.”

But even during my time trying to fit in, I had a hard time with this sect of homeschooling. I still felt so out of place there. Instead of Jane Austen, I loved C.S. Lewis and fantasy. Instead of baking, I enjoyed blogging and writing stories. I had a secret longing for adventure. I didn’t like period dramas, I liked action and adventure movies! This was pretty hard for me to reconcile with my outer world. To be honest, I felt like less of a woman, which wasn’t helpful to my already-fragile self esteem. I remember having several impassioned conversations with my parents and possibly others where I expressed how frustrating it was. Even while trying to follow the rules, I was angry with them.

Somehow, I got out of the phase I was in. I got tired of the endless list of what a woman should be. I got tired of trying to aim for perfection. In addition, most of the friendships related to this culture ended, and I slowly drifted away from it. My old friends were replaced with new ones. I started wearing pants again. I wore skinny jeans and graphic teens instead. I’m okay now with being a geek. I don’t enjoy or want to actively pursue traditionally female pursuits like cooking and crafts, which I’m trying to be okay with. I’m not entirely comfortable in my skin, but it’s a lot easier now that I’m not trying to pretend to be something I’m not.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I know what feminism is. I don’t really know how I discovered it wasn’t a bad thing, but last year it crept up on me, and my beliefs have radically changed. Feminism has liberated the twelve-year-old in me, the one that would rather carry a sword than a handbag, and wear a cape instead of a skirt. Though I didn’t know it, that side of me is the feminist side, the one that wants to be free to follow whatever pursuits she wants, regardless of their “gender.” (I have to say, it’s my dream to go to a shooting range one day.)

I think back to when I was trying to fit the mold of “Biblical womanhood,” and it makes me sad. I don’t think forcing women to be submissive and homemakers only is the way to go. Please don’t misunderstand me: homemaking is a noble pursuit. The problem is that far too often women feel that it is their only option, and the patriocentric belief system can be so easily twisted. The mindset of “waiting for Prince Charming” is destructive as well, because it causes women to sit at home, “preparing for marriage.” Often this holds them back from experiencing everything that life has to offer.

I have feminism now, and I’m a strong believer in women finding themselves before they even consider finding a man. Homemaking isn’t your only fate, friends. Neither is “preparing for marriage.” Don’t subscribe to the notion that you are less of a woman because you are not with a man. (Don’t subscribe to the notion that you are less of a woman, period. There is not a checklist for things to make you a “perfect” or “Biblical” woman. This is not what God wants for us.) If you don’t want to get married, don’t. If you do want to get married, go for it–you are not less of a woman if you do get married, and a balanced marriage can have so much to offer. But until you do get married, you absolutely do not have to wait around.

In fact, I beg of you: please don’t wait. Don’t sit around waiting for a man in order for you to start living. Travel the world. Make a shit-ton of art. Write your first novel. Paint a picture. Cook and bake and read. Do things. Your life is not dependent on a man to come in and save you. Neither are you. You are whole and complete without a man or a list of “Biblical womanhood” requirements. You always have been whole and complete. And regardless of whether you get married down the line, or if you don’t, you have a life now. Go live it.

— Sky