Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Feminism Isn’t a Four-Letter Word, Part III

(originally posted 08/08 at wordpress)

by Blythe Pavlik

I am finding my voice thanks to feminism. I’m sure this is much of the reason why feminism and its participants get such a bad wrap. It is as if feminism is the can opener – and the can, of course is institutionalize, traditionalized, socialized… patriarchy.

I was a strong, bossy, outspoken little girl. I took no guff from anyone.

But as I moved through puberty that all changed. A certain dance began, one that came with no understanding of the steps involved – I was expected to follow and surrender my natural tendency to lead. The more my body transformed - the more silent I became. It was as if I had been preprogrammed to lose my power and my voice as a trade for becoming a woman. And as I write this, I suddenly realize that it was not the physical transformations that lead to depression, but depression resulted from my loss of power – when I lost my voice, I lost my will.

From 16 to 28, I lived a lie. I struggled to breathe, let alone speak – as the cold metal-soled boot of oppression pressed down on my throat. I attracted social and romantic relationships that mirrored this struggle. I simply did not know how to live without some sort of sacrifice. I became an expert in passive/aggression and was drunk on the belief that co-dependency would be my way of finding true love. Someone would eventually recognize how generous I was… right? All this sacrifice had to be for something… right?

During certain phases of those twelve years, I found the courage to speak-up or speak-out and was met, every time, with resistance by male peers. Some resistance was so strong that I underwent the modern-day version of a humiliating public-hanging which involved gossip and rumors that lead to my brash extraction from a particular social group. ("We don't always get what we want, but we always get what we need" [Rolling Stones]).

How dare I use MY VOICE to state my opinion or ideas!!

The boys and men I encountered at various stages in my life were deeply offended when I expressed anything resembling wisdom, intellegence or creativity. When I did find the strength to push the boot off my throat to express a sentiment or two, a hush seemed to overtake observers. Rather than having support rush to my aid and offer mercy, people reacted by filling the boot with rocks. Women stood behind the men who I had offended… in silence.

This pattern all began to change when I enrolled in college four years ago. I began to reclaim my voice! It is no secret that many of the world’s struggles would cease if access to education was more readily available. The oppressed would be empowered and the privileged could be humbled.

After spending six months hanging around the Women’s Resource Center, I have regained my strength, and reestablished myself as outspoken and powerful. Feminism has served me as a thousand compassionate hands reaching out to me, removing rocks from the boot and the boot all together, supporting me as I take my stand, and encouraging me as I regain my balance in a world that is still not totally ready to let go of oppression.

I am learning that who we surround ourselves with is vital. It is not a matter of “good” or “bad” people - it is merely a matter of honoring who we are and where we are trying to go. If we want to become a doctor, we should not waste our time in law school. If we are trying to be happy, we should not waste time with people who bring out the sadness within us. And if we want to be empowered, we should not waste time with people or beliefs (given that we have such a choice) that serve to reduce our effectiveness and our wisdom.

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