My rss feed pointed me to an unsurprising article about a talk that Phyllis Schlafly gave as part of a new course offered at The Citadel, Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America. According to her:
“Feminists are having a hard time being elected because they essentially are unlikable,” she said.
Schlafly talked to a group of Citadel students about the culture of conservatism and the history of the religious right. She told the all-male group that “feminist is a bad word and everything they stand for is bad.”
And she warned them about having personal relationships with feminists. “Find out if your girlfriend is a feminist before you get too far into it,” she said. “Some of them are pretty. They don’t all look like Bella Abzug.”
I find this rather histrionic condemnation of feminists remarkable because I have daily evidence to the contrary.
Now, not all of the women in my life identify as feminists, for a variety of reasons, though the most common one is that they can’t be bothered to deal with the arguing over who gets to be a feminist. But regardless of whether they claim the label, they are all strong, confident, smart, amazing women and I consider it an honor to know them.
The women in my life get shit done. Whether it’s kicking ass at a demanding job, raising wonderful children, supporting the people in their lives when things are hard, working at world-changing organizations that improve people’s lives, creating gorgeous art, music, or novels, running a business, or anything else (and usually, several of these at once), these women are some of the most capable people I know. It’s not that they’ve figured out how to be the mythical superwoman who does it all- they’ve decided where their passion is and made it happen. I find it a constant inspiration to behold, and it helps me get over my life’s speedbumps.
The women in my life know their worth. They don’t settle for less than they deserve. They demand to be treated with respect and they inspire their friends and their partners to step up. In return, they offer insight, care, support, love, fun, pleasure, and joy. If you want to be around them, you have to have skills, though they almost always have compassion when it’s a struggle. Yes, it’s a lot of work to meet them and the payoff for it has always been worth the effort. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for these women refusing to receive less than their worth, as friends, colleagues, or lovers. And the more I’ve risen to the challenge, the more I’ve received from them in return. It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop that has improved my life beyond what I could have imagined.
If you’ve never surrounded yourself with smart women who are willing to let their intelligence and wit be visible, you have no idea what you’re missing. The insight they offer, the perspective they bring to life’s challenges, and the passion and dedication they use to affect the world are beautiful. It takes a lot of courage for women to not hide their light, especially when so many people will take potshots at them or belittle them in order to drag them down. If you can hold space for them to shine, your life will be immeasurably better.
In conversations, the women who don’t identify as feminists have told me that while the label doesn’t resonate with them, they wouldn’t have had the chance to be such amazing people without feminism. And the women who do identify as feminists have described how feminism has helped them find new strength in a world that denigrates and belittles them. So when someone like Schlafly maligns feminism and reinforces the ideas that feminists are ugly and that all they stand for is bad, I can’t help but be amazed. Because feminism has made my life much, much better than it would otherwise have been. Not just because of how I have personally grown as a result of exploring it, but also because it has helped carve out a space for the talented and intelligent women in my life.
I think it takes a special kind of mind to be incapable of seeing that. It seems like a very dark, sad place to me. But then, my world shines in the light of these incredible women. And that’s how I like it.