Recently, I have been reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. This article is inspired by her ideas in the chapter on Racism.
I am a female feminist. Anyone who has spoken to me for longer than 30 seconds or follows me on social media will be fully aware of this. Despite being a feminist, I still have misogynistic views. I still find myself frequently critiquing and hating my body, judging other women, comparing myself to other women, and assuming my doctor and dentist will be male and my nurses and hygienists will be female. You can even say that I am recovering from sexism. This is not because I want to be sexist or think that women should be oppressed, but because we live in a patriarchal, misogynistic society. We all have some sexism in us, anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or lying.
My journey to feminism was a long and hard one. 3 years ago I would rather be caught dead than to be called a feminist. I thought that women’s place in the world is where the world has told us it is, being quiet at home. My first taste of feminism started with realizing that the eating disorder I had developed is the result of a sexist society that says women have to be and look a certain way. As I started reading more literature and people I admired that spoke about the issue with the way women’s bodies are portrayed, I became introduced to more issues of feminism. I learned about sex trafficking and how it is due to the perception of women being objects for men’s enjoyment. I started identifying the internal and external biases against women in the workplace. I realized that I never allowed myself to explore the possibility of certain careers and felt empowered that if I wanted to be a Doctor, I could. I really don’t want to be a doctor, but if I wanted to I could and that was amazing to me. I started becoming aware of the way women are always talked over by men and listened to more than women. I learned the reason why most historical figures are men. I realized that women do have the right to abort if they want to and that it is not mine or anyone else’s decision what a woman does with her body. And, I realized that minority women feel all the above so much more than I can even imagine feeling as a white woman.
Becoming aware of these biases towards women was a hard pill to swallow. But, it is only through understanding these biases I have that I have been able to work to consciously change them. Whenever I catch a misogynistic thought I try to understand where it came from and what I need to do to change it. I can be a feminist but still have misogynistic views deeply ingrained in me. America’s air is polluted with sexism, it is not our fault if we find it in our lungs.
When I was younger I poured over books and movies that were about the Civil Rights Movement. I would cry and hope that if I were alive during that time I would be an ally for the movement and not just sit quietly and pretend it was not a problem.
It was hard for me to accept that I was/am one of those white people who sat at home pretending all was fine. Up until a couple of years ago, I thought that racism was not a thing anymore. As I started learning about internal and external biases that people face for women, I realized the same is true for minority races. I had to accept that I get more nervous when I see a black man than a white man. I had to accept that I judged black women and white women differently. I had to accept that all the TV shows, except the Cosby show, I saw growing up were about white people. I had to accept that the more people of color live in an area the more I judge that place to be ghetto. I also, this was the hardest for me, had to accept that I had probably done or said things to make non-white individuals feel inferior. For a while, I thought that internal racism was the only thing that still existed, that we had overcome blatant external racism.
Well, I was wrong again. It was a hard pill for me to swallow to admit that racism is still a thing and I had not done anything about it. Black people were getting shot and killed by cops time and time again while I was looking to cops as people who keep me safe. I think back to an experience I had during my Freshman year of college. I had gone to a concert and parked in the Gateway parking garage and was the last person trying to leave the garage. The card machine was not working and I did not have cash. I had no service down in the garage and the help button was not working. During this time, I had major anxiety (and maybe still do lol), and lost it. I started panicking and was convinced I was going to die in that Parking Garage. I decided to go upstairs so that I could get some service to call my dad to figure out what to do. I walked up to the Gateway and became completely hysterical when I saw all the homeless people sitting around in the Gateway (yes, I understand this is also a bias I am working to overcome). I was on the phone with my dad hysterically crying when I saw a cop walking over. I was SO relieved to see him, I knew that he could at least keep me safe from the homeless people (once again, I understand this flawed bias now). He came over and asked what was wrong. I told him what was going on and he pulled five dollars out of his wallet and gave it to me so that I could pay to get out of the garage. I was so grateful for this cop.
If it were a black person in the same situation, things would have gone differently. The anxiety would rise when the cop was seen for fear that the cop would question what they were doing at a mall so late at night. The cop would be harsher on me and ask more questions and would not have given them a “handout” of five dollars to get out of the parking garage. The black individual would have to be a lot more proper and polite to the cop to avoid any aggression and would be terrified of being taken in to be questioned or facing brutality. I do not think all cops are trying to be racist, but they are all racist deep down. We all are. We all grew up in a racist society, it was in the air we breathe. It is painful and uncomfortable to accept it, but unless we do nothing is going to change.
I have started writing countless articles on racism, but have always scratched them for fear that I would say something insensitive or that it would come off wrong. It is nice for me to accept that racism is a part of me, something I will be fighting for the rest of my life. I can choose to accept it and fight it, or to pretend it is not there and to continue to be a part of the problem.
While on my most recent family vacation, the question was asked, “What do children know more about than their parents?” I said understanding. With each generation, we get better and better at looking at society and understanding those who have a harder time than others. I am perfectly aware that my future children will bring things to my attention in regard to understanding that is going to be hard for me to accept. Despite it being hard, I am going to do it because that is what we should do as humans.
Let’s all be kind as we help each other become more understanding. This is not going to be my last post on the topic of understanding.