FEMINISM IN 2018: it is tangible

When I wrote, ‘Feminism in 2017: A Wake Up Call’, it felt that the world was in rapid decline. I knew it had never been in great shape, but fundamental achievements that had been hard-won were being cast aside, hastily, and in ways that were disorienting. It felt that a curtain, behind which a bunch of nasty stuff lay, had been ripped away, and there was nowhere to hide a festering mess. Maybe I had known this mess had always been there, growing, but I had been able to select when to take a peek.

 I was reliant on others to deal with issues, whether or not they directly impacted me. Despite occasional discontent, I believed things could not get ‘too’ terrible before righting themselves. Right themselves? What part of looking at the world, and its history, made me believe that to be true? Behind that curtain, there had always been individuals fighting, particularly members of other vulnerable groups and their allies that could not swing back and forth that curtain. I had been reliant on these individual to bring issues into stark relief for myself.

Yet, finally seeing the mess in full view brought with it the need for self-reliance. In particular, troves of other women were recognising that the world’s shape is based on they, themselves, caring about themselves – not on complacency. The recognition of the importance of action, contribution, and involvement was 2017. You did not have to be a tidal wave to do something or share something. And that added up. 2017 tested the water for new stories, and then individual experiences flooded in, and, importantly, were shared by others who may or may not have lived a similar reality.

We are now seeing the impact this is having in 2018.

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Do dark times always lead to renaissance?

The magic born of dark moments is being breathed into 2018. While meaningful stories are often born out of an injustice, or worse, stories have a purpose: they are helping myself, and many others, understand more fully lived experiences. Instead of feeling queasy or helpless or looking away, I have been made ready to digest these stories, and to try to live them.

Our lived experience is something we all possess, and can contribute to this marked revival in the intertwined nature of human fates.

We can remember and remind of personal or historical occurrences, and we can bring that into our own lived experience. Yet, we cannot do that if we think the past speaks for itself, or, so too, if we think the same of the present. That is what there clearly was a lack of when we descended into madness. We were made aware, if we had been so lucky to dismiss or had not listened closely enough, that the madness was always there.

My resentment following the undermining of rights (women’s and that of many other – intersecting – groups), at the close of 2016 was not so much to do with the people who I knew in their heart of hearts were full of dangerous ideas about how power should dictate people’s experiences. Rather, it emerged from my knowledge of the people I spoke with that did not know how horribly destructive their lack of awareness was to the democracy.

In parallel, it took a repulsive acknowledgement on my part that, as much as I had studied these issues and had made myself aware of the problems going on all over the globe, in the past I had the luxury of being able to look away, pass the buck, or, at the very most, do the very least to raise awareness about an issue. I shied away from taking too strong of opinions, making an effort at engagement, and, rather, let the knowledge that I could only effect small change – change which would not solve the whole issue – decide that what I did, or did not do, really did not matter.

But honesty is powerful.

However, the notion of sharing one’s voice and divulging self-reflective insights about one’s experiences can, at best, seem superfluous, and, at worst, make one feel incredibly vulnerable. And if it is the latter, so too can it make one feel incredibly pressured to get things perfect the first go when explaining an experience of impact (that, more often than not, takes a lot of analytical unpacking and can never be fully gotten ‘right’).

In 1977, Audre Lorde addressed the Modern Language Association on just such an issue: “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action.“ In the address, she underscored the fleeting mortal nature of our unique individual experiences, and why staying silent a moment too long can jeopardise ever sharing what you are holding close to the vest:

“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. And it was the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength and enabled me to scrutinize the essentials of my living.”

Note: if you have not read Lorde’s address before, it is one of the most inspiring short reads you can find – see here.

Lorde illustrates this fear of sharing, in addition to whatever personal reasons exist, is also something that has been driven into us by how we have been socialised. We see it as self-preservation keeping one’s thoughts to one’s self, and this manifests as an actual fear of sharing. Counter to this sociological influence, it is human nature to share. Sharing is also hindered by the knowledge that being forthcoming is a vulnerable position to be in with oneself. It takes critical analysis, refection, and work. We may not enjoy what we discover.

When we recognise what sharing can achieve – and that a greater fear is our unique experiences never meaning more to anyone, or anything, but ourselves – we can gain clarity.

By far, the best thing about the current state of affairs has been the theme of storytelling. Janelle Monáe’s speech at the GRAMMYs provided a call to action for artists:

“And just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well.”

 Music, art, the written word, images, film – they can have powerful honesty and game-changing impact on how we perceive the world. Monáe’s line is relevant for the rest of us, too. We can acknowledge our fear of sharing certain elements, but also recognise that this fear is serving no one. The speech led into the introduction of another female artist – a two-time GRAMMY nominee – who was fearless about personal, painful truth telling: Kesha.

More and more, people are telling the truth about their experiences, and highlighting crucial aspects, even when it is difficult, intimate, and gives cause to be terrified of people’s reaction. These experiences are relevant and valid in their own right. They do not need to be shared, that is a choice – and everyone deserves to decide.

But the knowledge that an experience may grow beyond one’s own to play a role in contributing to other people’s worldviews – whether that be validating feelings or expanding minds – is something that is evermore lifting limits on silence.

No one should be excluded from sharing – there is room at the table for all, or we can make room- but, we should recognise that some stories may need a bit more focus on them, or response and discussion, than others.

The selfless sharing of others has affected me personally through a variety of stimuli this past year:

– WORDS –

More and more, we are receiving the books we may not have even known we wanted or needed to get our hands on. These works have been developed by incredible people, fearlessly (or perhaps, even more bravely: fearfully), to breathe light into the author’s own experience of a world that may or may not be receptive to said sharing. Hunger by Roxane Gay was a masterpiece I could not put down. This was not because it was an easy read. It was incredibly challenging to face the words she carefully strung together. What the book said about her experience described her reflection on what society, time, and trauma had constructed for her reality. It was not meant to provide a happy ending or a proposed solution for readers’ pleasure. It was meant to unmask and tell about a lived experience. But voices like this can, indeed, cause change. Reading those words changed me. It made me proud to exist as a woman, and made me want to analyse my own interaction with the world. It demonstrated how starved I was for these works – for writing that hurts, but creates an impact person-by-person.

– ART –

Be it amateur posters for protests, to the more complex female-focused exhibitions, to the painful and soft poetry of individuals like Rupi Kaur, to Mari Andrew’s insightful drawings, to companies reinventing the art of the letter: art is empowering women. It is also changing the perceptions and interactions of all. It is an outlet for women to reveal their own truths in their creations, particularly when words do not or cannot work. These creations, likely, were not created for the sole purpose, if for the purpose at all, of propelling us towards gender equality. However, art has many different reasons behind it and reactions to it. The lives and mindsets revealed through this broad, limitless medium, has the (at times intangible) effect of feeling new experiences in sharp contrast to one’s own. Art can make new, or rework old, connections in one’s mind.

– CONNECTIONS –

There have been a whole string of networks and companies and communities that have sprung up, founded by women, to help other women. Taking part in these forums – be it sharing in discussions, submitting articles, bilateral messaging – provides the communal support that many may have felt starved of – or perhaps, more aptly, women now recognise was something of which they were starved. It is allowing individuals to see new possibilities, ask for help, and learn from those who have tread where they are hoping to go – or, at least, somewhere nearby.

Self-reliance should include mindfulness of your own self, in relation to others.

“Everyone has each other to change,” was the really beautiful way that actress Lydia Wilson put it in an BBC Breakfast interview, on 31 January, 2018, when asked about the #MeToo movement. Women helping other women understand that their experiences are not the same, and that they experience oppression differently based on their identities is critical. As is reflected in my 2017 piece, intersectional feminism, while not new, was a hugely influential idea that made the feminist movement check itself in its campaigning and activities this past year. It is the idea that, in the specific case of women’s rights, women have multiple identities that influence the way in which they experience oppression and power. A woman may belong to multiple vulnerable groups, and this distinguishes her engagement with the world from someone who gains privilege through other groups to which she belongs. She could have economic power, but suffer racial prejudice, which plays into how key issues are experienced. An understanding of intersectionality and identity is incredibly valuable in order to learn more about your own lived experience, and how you can be more effective in advocating change for all.

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The Power, a work of magical realism by Naomi Alderman, provides a parallel universe for the mind to tangibly explore the complexities of the patriarchal order of the globe. It illustrates a transition of power from male to female. Magic becomes a reality for women, and is what provides them the opportunity to seize control over men. This magic awakens the possibility to physically dominate men, and in the novel, women explore their own capabilities and opportunities to abuse this dominance.

“It follows that there are two ways for the nature and use of human power to change. One is that an order might issue from the palace, a command unto the people saying “It is thus.” But the other, the more certain, the more inevitable, is that those thousand thousand points of light should each send a new message. When the people change, the palace cannot hold.”

While a work of fiction, if looked at symbolically, when magic was found harbouring in each woman, it was unstoppable. It did not stop until the world was transformed, because people’s experiences, led by women, were changing daily.

The next generation of women are now getting to see that power is not a fantasy.

I ended my article last year with Rebecca Walker’s phrase, ‘the genius is here.’ Genius or magic, she was right – it was always here, and now it has arrived. The magic that had settled in many women is now shaken, and pouring into more writing, art, actions, hopes, and dreams, at an unrelenting pace.

There is plenty of room for more. We all have the opportunity to make changes in the world. It does not have to be daunting or high-level change. But, it does have to be something. It cannot be someone else.

Do not worry about getting it perfect, and “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

The magic is now tangible. Good luck trying to forget seeing your spark.

Transitions are scary, but fear the limits of Resolutions

With it being the New Year, many individuals are setting goals for themselves and taking comfort in a time where it is ‘acceptable’ to work on oneself. I thought it would, therefore, be valuable to discuss how transitions are an essential part of life, and why it is limiting to equate a resolution with personal growth.  

According to a January 2017 article, the Telegraph reported that people’s top resolutions are to exercise more, lose weight or eat more healthily – none of which, alone, are going to transform one’s life.

As the writings in this space are largely inspired by and related to transitions in some way, shape, or form, kicking off 2018 with an argument for perennial transition may provide some clarity of thought for your approach to the year, and what you will see as your own successful growth.

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January sets high expectations for renewed personal growth, even for those on the cynical end of the resolution spectrum.

You can spend all the time you want on this growth objective – e.g. restricting your indulgences, trying a new activity – but, I would argue that the most substantial personal growth comes from transitions in life. And, while they can indeed be the product of decisions you have made, transitions (more often then not) may feel like they are happening to you.

To me, a resolution represents a well-intentioned life improvement, often born out of a desire for a ‘reset’ at the start of a year. Where personal growth demonstrates some combination of reflection, perseverance, and, perhaps even, the opportunity to contribute to someone else’s own experience. Let me discuss this further.

Events and opportunities that do catalyze substantial growth come in waves, but also multiples items come in those waves that can be a confusing mix of good and bad. Personal growth is not typically clear-cut, you are not always conscious it is occurring, and it takes reflection to understand. The problem of reconciling resolutions with growth is that, as much work as you do on yourself as a person, the world is not in your control.

Personal growth is more akin to perseverance than to reinvention.

In my ‘about me’, I list a quotation I find as powerful as I do confusing.

“Life may contain the ‘essence’ (what else could?); recollection, the repetition in imagination, may decipher the essence and deliver to you the ‘elixir’; and eventually you may even be privileged to ‘make’ something out of it, ‘to compound the story.’ But life itself is neither essence nor elixir, and if you treat it as such it will only play its tricks on you.”

– Hannah Arendt on Isak Dinesen, Men in Dark Times 

I think the emotion of confusion that Arendt elicits only adds to the power of the sentiment.

It is human nature, and possibly even survival, to believe life is going to bring with it elements of sense and compatibility, and of understanding and wisdom. What happens when it does not, or, at least, if it is not one’s individual destiny to find acceptance in what it presents?

While a resolution could provide a new experience that leads to personal discovery, it is not so much the experience than it is the reflection on it that will lead you towards unpacking its power for growth.

How one approaches their personal growth is key, and storytelling is essential. It seems paradoxical in the modern age, but storytelling is becoming fewer and farther between. It is one of those strange things where if we did not have digital stories coming in by the second, we might realize more starkly the absence of beneficial storytelling interactions.

A lack of this type of storytelling severely limits our ability to approach our growth, whether born out of desire or necessity, productively.

I realized the absence of relatable storytelling in my life was when I was ashamed at my initial response of being startled to see people upfront with their own challenges online – from representation to parenthood to illness to wellbeing to career ambitions to body image.

Individual stories are catalysts for personal revelations, as well as global revolutions.

There is no better testament to the relationship between revelation and revolution than Oprah’s instantly iconic Golden Globes speech:

“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.”

On a global front, the occurrences in 2017 that are carrying us forward into 2018, included movements such as the Women’s March, as well as the #TimesUp and #MeToo campaigns. These demonstrate, on a large-scale, why silence is not optimal for problem solving and community building. And, of course, this is far from limited to women’s rights issues alone, as these issues overlap with thousands of other ones.

Ultimately, experiencing and sharing personal growth can provide comfort for others at different stages of the journey.

We are always transitioning, and if we do not come to terms with this fact, we are bound to be frustrated at the speed of progress or even miss the vitality of the experience itself.

So, rather than a goal being to fix something ‘wrong’ with us, I want to hear and tell more stories. I want to be aware of the new ideas I am absorbing, the newfound influences to which I am subscribing, the attitude I am exuding, and the desires I have for a changing world.

Life’s transitions cannot be escaped nor fully planned out, but one’s own experiences can be reflected upon and discussions by others can resonate. Eventually, that can lead to a breakthrough in personal growth for yourself, and, if shared, for others.

Resolve to look beyond the limits of ‘self-improvement,’ and far beyond January.

Five Reminders to Raise Body Positive Children

*THE ORIGINAL POST WAS AN ARTICLE I WROTE FOR ENTREPRENURSERY (HERE), A FLEXIBLE CO-WORKING SPACE FOR PARENTS, ON 1 DECEMBER 2017.

Disclaimer: I am not a parent (yet).

It is not too early to think about the topic of ‘body positivity.’

Body positivity is just as relevant for adults as it is for the children in their lives. While the terminology is already shifting, and will be shifting in the coming years, surely the gist of what is meant by the term is something to uphold: the idea that you have the right to feel good about your body. It is just fine if this is not always the case, but every individual deserves to be liberated from the pressure of mainstream imagery, and the perpetual shame felt when she or he falls short of that ‘goal.’ It is a liberating realisation when it hits, and a refreshing reminder in the lifetime that follows.

The far reaching consequences of not ‘feeling good’ about one’s body is a realisation that has been decades in the making. At the very start of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, she writes of the awakening to the confusion of internalized beauty standards coupled with a progressive mindset:

“But in spite of shame, guilt, and denial, more and more women are wondering if it isn’t that they are entirely neurotic and alone but rather that something important is indeed at stake that has to do with the relationship between female liberation and female beauty.”

Wolf was writing in the early nineties. Since then, different groups have sought to address what Wolf was unmasking, and expand the target issues. The current championing of body positivity is being carried forward, challenged, and made fit-for-purpose, for every body, by a myriad of books, personal stories, articles, Instagram accounts, and even, controversially, big brands.

As this discussion is meant to be an immersive experience, a good place to start is to ask, “What does body positivity mean to you?”

 Nora Whelan at Buzzfeed writes:

“Body positivity is about working toward a world where everyone can live in their bodies as they please while receiving the same respect, representation, and opportunities as everyone else.”

For me, the word ‘uncomfortable’ is a good buzzword for why we need body positivity. Not ever being comfortable with my body was, and still can be, draining. It infects everything from how long it takes me to get ready, to confidence with strangers, to vulnerability with friends and family. So I would couple this with the word ‘representation,’ as it was possibly the biggest shift in experience with my body for me to see a model, Iskra Lawrence (@iskra), whose clothes fit her the way clothing fits me, and who was absolutely unapologetic (after a long period of struggle herself, I would add) about her body.

Now, this is a great time to reiterate that body positivity is for every individual.

However, just as in society, not everyone is equally represented within movements with the best of intentions. While seen by many as a force for good, body positivity is not immune to falling short of being fully representative. I have struggled with body weight. That said, as a white, cisgender woman, I get to see white models all the time, and have been categorised on a BMI chart as dancing with the ‘overweight’ category. The body positive movement has come to represent any size, and has definitely resonated with me. It should be able to resonate with every individual, and all of the intersections of their identities (e.g. size, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation). But, particularly with its origins in the fat acceptance movement, it is important to watch how the movement evolves, and what individuals it may leave out. Some have argued that it is no longer representative of the movement of its origins, while others claim it has been commandeered by big brands that are selective in who represents them.

Just as it is important to think about what body positivity means to you, it is important to remain alert of what it means to others. I believe this alertness will also be a quality that will trickle down to supporting your child, and, as a bi-product, other individuals who you or your child’s life touches. Confidence is contagious, and this does not exclude body confidence.

I have a made a list of reminders to myself that I hope, in our shared aim of raising body positive children, you will be inspired to use and to create even more.

This list is incomplete, and is neither mutually exclusive nor indicative of every experience. I do not have all of the answers, but I do have a lot of ideas born out of my own experience getting to where I am today.

Reminder 1: Your child’s body will change – daily, weekly, yearly.

This is an obvious claim, but it is not so obvious to your child. From bloating to weight gain to growth spurts to getting ‘hips,’ your child needs tools to understand the transitions her or his body undergo, why it is normal and healthy, and that a longing to return to a prior form of themselves may simply not be possible – and that is OK. I was a competitive figure skater on a strict training regimen as an adolescent. It was an utter shock when my body stopped looking and feeling the way it had for years (muscular, lean, and, in my mind, capable of anything). While I did not have the understanding to realise that exiting my sport was a transition period in my life, and so too for my body, I did develop an unexplained discomfort with myself and an unspoken worry about what others in my life thought of the change. This discomfort led to an unhealthy yearning to look the way I once did as a teenager and competitive athlete, though these were two things I would never be again. My discomfort lasted for a decade to come.

What will validating these changes do for your child? They have a lifetime journey with their body ahead, and the sooner they embrace the idea of change, physically and mentally, the happier they will be with what is to come. You can provide conversations for them to learn about their body, and for you to celebrate the changes.

Reminder 2: Your child is strong.

Strength can be a very powerful model for one’s body. I recognise that you may not send your child out to lift weights, and also that not every child is capable of developing their physical strength. However, being strong need not be tied to intensity, it is tied to mentality. Strength is something you can feel. Show your child diverse role models who are using their physical and mental fortitude in creative and incredible ways. Physical strength is not better than mental, nor are they separate from one another. Both are highly capable to adapt to and endure challenges.

What will affirming your child’s strength do for them? It reframes their thinking towards their body, as not about weight gain or loss, but about capability. It will inspire them to cultivate their strength, and reframe their ideas of confidence as far, far beyond aesthetics. It will also show them how it is natural to want to make changes to your body, or even for drastic changes to happen to a person’s body (as with Reminder 1), but that it is an incredible vessel that you want to care for so it can keep being incredible.

Reminder 3: Food can help your child achieve their dreams.

It sounds simple, and also is linked to Reminder 2, but food is power and should not be something kept absent from their goals or seen as an enemy to them. If recognition of the wonders of this form of energy is developed early, it can help later in life with a multitude of issues. I do not speak for every eating disorder or the nuanced origins under which these can be developed. Yet I maintain that having the foundation of a strong relationship with food to fall back on may have made a difference for me when I saw it as the enemy: something to restrict, or fear when I did not.

What will a happy relationship with food do for your child? It will demonstrate the affect that food can have on their wellbeing, and provide a productive way to delve into issues of health. If you start respect for nourishment from an early age, and separate it from other struggles, it may provide your child an outlet from stress and anxiety. You can also tie it to positive activities like cooking and mealtime with family. It may give your child the tools to support their friends when confronted with an unhealthy approach that their peer group may have to food (rather then to fall into that line of thinking). Finally, it will also provide your child with an understanding and respect for those who go without this basic need, and may inspire them to want to help solve a social justice issue.

Reminder 4: Fight against the confusion of ‘respect’ and ‘shame’ regarding taboo body subjects.

There is a much finer line between ‘respect’ and ‘shame’ than we wish to see, as regards the body. We teach our children to be respectful of their bodies and the bodies of others, and in this day and age I cannot underscore the importance of that enough. Yet, being respectful of certain body topics can also promote feelings of shame for your child. For example: periods. Getting one’s period is a big moment, and it continues to happen, for many, every month for decades. But we are told to largely steer clear of period talk with others, which sends the underlying message that instead of respecting our body for what is happening, we should be ashamed of it. Too many people have humiliating stories surrounding their period, and we are conditioned to find an unused tampon as something to conceal at all cost. Furthermore, far too few boys and men are given an understanding of this topic, though why should they not know the basics of a natural occurrence for many of their siblings and peers? Feeling ashamed about one aspect of the body can be pervasive in the entire relationship a child has with her or his body, so we need to be aware of the confusing signals they may be receiving, from others and us. At the end of the day, fearless respect is what our goal should be. We need to recognise when our efforts to promote this run counter.

What will tackling taboos with your child do for them? Discussing areas where respect may be confused with shame will affirm for your child it is ok to talk to you openly about their body, and this will become important, especially, when something is wrong. It will affirm that they should be proud of their bodies, irrespective of societal norms they may feel necessary to follow (e.g. tampon stashing). And, as an added bonus, tackling taboos will teach them to be a future advocate for others, be it those who are not respectful of their body or others’, who experience embarrassment, or who could benefit from talking through something off-limits, yet critical to their wellbeing.

Reminder 5: Challenge your child to accept themselves and others.

Unfortunately, parents are often best placed to give their child the advice and confidence they need, but worst placed for this to resonate with their child. I hated my eyebrows when I was ten. They were (still are) big and bushy, but the razor thin eyebrows were all the rage at the turn of the century. Despite my mother protesting (I recall a mention of Brooke Shields), I was adamant about waxing them off. It is shocking to see in photos now, especially now that brows are back in vogue. However, I use this as an example to show both how silly (and damaging) ‘trends’ can be for your child, and also how difficult it can be as a parent to get your child to embrace their natural self. What is more, it becomes further complicated as I think a child should be able to explore their identity, and this includes their physical appearance. So how do you shepherd them through this without promoting further insecurities and without stifling independence? While not always possible, try providing your child with the tools to recognise for themselves what a trends is (i.e. share your own experiences growing up, give them a full picture of all the different ways in which you can explore your identity beyond appearance, show them diverse role models, etc.).

What will challenging your child’s perceptions do for them – especially if you are unsuccessful? Even if you are unable to sway your child from waxing their brows or wanting to try out dark eyeliner, the importance is that after this dialogue they will be (hopefully) on their way to making changes based on exploration, not based on self-doubt.

As an overall and final point, why this matters is because the struggles around body image are sweeping, and seep into ugly elements of society in regards to how we treat one another.

 As parents, we want our kids to be happy and healthy, and, also, to treat others well. We can prepare for both the former and the latter by starting with how we treat ourselves. So, again, what does body positivity mean for you? Let us all make sure the next generation are aware of how great they are and of the greatness of others around them. If we can achieve this, we can help insure that generation utilises their energy to fight beneficial battles– not one against their own body.

 

Feminism In 2017: A Wake-Up Call

*The original post was an article I wrote for Ellevate (here), a global women’s network, in early 2017. It was also featured by The Huffington Post (here) on 23 March 2017.

Anxiety about the state of things was palpable. The issues that still needed changing now lacked the prospect of hope.

That was the atmosphere in which Rebecca Walker, the renowned feminist author, delivered Feminism in a New Era to a crowd of hundreds at the University of Washington on January 11, 2017 — just prior to the worldwide Women’s March.

Two months on, amid a list of growing challenges, that bleak hopelessness has diminished. Hope has grown as the year has moved forward.

At Walker’s talk we did not define feminism for 2017. Perhaps, I should say, we did not narrowly define it. For what this new era cannot call for is defining something that is meant to be limitless — and that is where I find hope anew.

In the introduction to her 1995 anthology, To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism, Walker states:

My hope is that this book can help us to see how the people in the world who are facing and embracing their contradictions and complexities and creating something new and empowering from them are important voices leading us away from divisiveness and dualism.

A passage that is very much still relevant, this year is going to call upon all of us to reject divisions in new and sometimes painful ways. A narrow and self-serving view of what issues we need to dedicate ourselves to is utterly futile. Furthermore, the fear of learning new things that did not fit my worldview made me hesitant to engage on items of substance when what mattered needed to be defended. So, too, that fear appeared when simply analyzing and dissecting my beliefs amongst like-minds.

Roxane Gay’s powerful collection of essays in Bad Feminist breathe truth into facing down how one sees the world:

To have privilege in one or more areas does not mean you are wholly privileged. Surrendering to the acceptance of privilege is difficult, but it is really all that is expected. What I remind myself, regularly, is this: the acknowledgment of my privilege is not a denial of the ways I have been and am marginalized, the ways I have suffered.

The instructions at many of the Women’s Marches were to walk side-by-side, not to leave others behind, and to listen before we took action.

The needed feminism in this new era is one that is intersectional. Intersectionality takes account of the different ways in which individuals experience oppression, and recognizes that the different aspects of peoples’ identities do not interact with the world in silos. A feminism bolstered by intersectionality is the only type of feminism that can succeed because it is the only one that acknowledges its members’ full identities and world views.

“How can we be apart of the future in a proactive way?,” Walker posited.

In February, I organized a Women’s March Huddle on Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA. The Huddle was a rare experience to meet with women who were strangers, and with whom — even if we had met under a separate set of circumstances — we would never have felt the collective permission that we did to delve into the issues at hand. We decided to start small but mighty. We have made strides to expand our awareness beyond our own individual expertise and interests, and have looked towards creative ways to hold our representatives to account. We have also, importantly, sought to challenge our perceptions by aiming to expand the Huddle to un-like minds.

A return to a time of dialogue, rather than echo chambers and feuds, is not a short-term or pain-free goal. The goal of dialogue, however, is as essential to understanding the experiences of those who do not recognize the key issues to the feminist movement, as it is to understanding the varying experiences of those within the movement itself.

I recognize what the new era cannot be – none of these tools at our disposal to further women’s rights, however cloaked in goodness, can be divisive. Feminism is a tool to address this new era, but we must be intentional about who it is seeking to help (hint: all women). Additionally, feminism has to leave room for us to recognize our shortcomings and our strengths, connect us to counterparts that will encourage us, and it must intersect in our lives in ways that push our own growth.

At the University of Washington talk, Walker impromptu suggested that feminism may need to be “blown up” to start anew, and, ultimately, be fit for purpose. I agree – it should be blown up. But, by blown up, I see it as being inflated, as if one were to blow up a balloon. Inflated with any number of the other issues it does touch, or should be touching, and raising those issues up (passionately!) with it.

Walker tells us “the genius is here.” I think we should recognize this, but not assume we already know everything there is to know about this genius – be it our own genius, the genius of others dear to us, or the genius of strangers. It is 2017 – a time not just to act, but to actively learn.