Recently, I’ve come into conflict with women who self describe as feminists, some of them radical, and I’m sure all of them are anti-Trump. Coming into conflict with other women is an interesting phenomenon in the feminist space.
As feminists, I assume that our intention is to support our fellow women. However, feminism doesn’t mean that we have to like every woman we meet or that we have to try to be friends. Rather, my definition of feminism when it comes to my relationships with other women means that I give other women the benefit of the doubt. As women, we have been trained in certain ways to be catty with each other. We have been raised to be self loathing of our bodies and our femininity, and that self loathing is projected out onto other women through petty jealousies, tearing each other down, denying other women a voice or a chance at credibility, and mindless sexual competition.
One of the main tenets of feminism is realizing the disadvantages that we have as women in this society. It’s acknowledging that professionally, we have less room to grow because men look out for their own. It’s knowing that the solution to a lack of professional growth is supporting each other in the educational and professional field by giving our fellow women professional opportunities and providing ourselves with a strong and supportive network.
Feminism manifests socially in similar ways. We must approach other women with an attitude of kindness rather than an attitude of suspicion or distrust. We must treat every woman as an ally until she proves otherwise. We cannot exclude women from social spaces over petty insecurities, minor conflicts, or perceived indifferences.
This is not easy. As feminists, we have to make the hard decision to constantly be vulnerable with other women in the hopes that from this experience springs growth. We have to hope that by trusting other women, we can build a social network of strength. This effort is doubly difficult given that in many ways we have not been trained to trust ourselves, and because of that trusting other women poses a great threat. It is a constant internal battle, but it is one that is worth fighting.
Especially in today’s political climate, women, people of color, the queer community, immigrants, and anyone else who veers from the status quo is seen as a problem in our society. It is easy to internalize society’s perception of us as a problem, and as we internalize the messages about how we are “bad,” we easily begin to fall into a trap of self loathing. This breeds insecurity, self doubt, and manifests outwards as distrust, suspicion, and creates a baseline of emotional volatility. By falling into the trap of distrusting ourselves and those who are like us, we do our oppressor’s work for them: we learn to hate each other, and in that way, the oppressor does not have to put in work stripping us of our rights, our voice, or our humanity – we do it to each other.
For many people, life during the Trump administration will be their first experience of suffering. For those of us who have always suffered and always fought, the Trump administration is nothing new – it’s the same beast it always was, but now it’s come out from hiding and everyone can see it. I understand that for people who have never suffered in this way before that the act of suffering is a shocking experience. But this is what gender minorities and people of color have always experienced – we’ve been fighting this fight for a long time. We haven’t won, but we have survived.
For the people who are new to suffering, don’t worry – I have noticed. I have noticed your fear and the tension that your fear creates in previously safe spaces. I have noticed the hysteria of not knowing how to carry on in a world like this. (Spoiler alert: the world has always been like this.) I understand that this new emotional fever pitch has made you feel less sure of yourself – you’re feeling emotions that you have never felt before, and they are all painful. Perhaps you feel desperate. Perhaps you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive.
I want to let you know: everything is going to be okay. I am surviving this. My ancestors have survived this. My friends have survived this. Their families have survived it. Yeah, life isn’t as fun as it used to be. But we will survive.
Do not let the current political climate become an excuse to unravel. As I notice all the aforementioned conflicts in feminist spaces, I have noticed that the amount of infighting has peaked since the current regime change. The tension and the fear are leading us to implode on ourselves. But we cannot allow this to happen – it is crunch time, and now more than ever we need to support other women because we need ourselves and we need our support with total urgency. Failing ourselves and failing each other is just another way to let the oppressors win.
I am not going to let them win.
So, to all the women with whom I have had conflicts lately: I do not care. That shit is in the past. I am eager and willing to move on. I would love to talk to you about what we can do to repair our relationships in order to have a show of strength among women. I know you don’t like me. That’s fine. But that shouldn’t get in the way of feminist solidarity, of uniting under a common cause of resistance.
They want us to hate each other. I will not do anything they want me to do.