With a birthday on Bastille Day, it’s no surprise that I’ve been protesting since I was born. My parents joke that my colic as an infant was so long run and my howls so loud that I was guaranteed to be an only child. The collective stories of my childhood show the streaks of quirky independence that have following me into adulthood. From stripping naked during a nap and smearing my entire body with red lipstick (thanks, Gram!) so I could be an “Indian” (I’m not sure the term “Native American” was in the general lexicon in 1972, and I definitely said “Indian”) to running away on a regular basis because I could survive just fine on my own (even though I rarely made it past our neighbor’s drive way a quarter mile down the road because Mrs. Quigley could always tempt me with cookies), my basic viewpoint was aligned with being left alone to do what I wanted.
At some point, age and experience aligned to teach me that doing what I wanted in every circumstance had the potential to be harmful not only to me but to others as well. It wasn’t enough to be for me, if my alliances didn’t include the needs of others. Gradually, the idea of collective humanity took root alongside the strong individuality, and thus, my activism was born.
The key component of my beliefs has always been bodily autonomy. Men have it. Women should as well. The fact that women are told what to do with their bodies by society, which is still…popular vote be damned…run by men, is galling. Part of bodily autonomy includes reproductive rights, of course, but it also includes the right to try out for the football team, the right not to be touched, the right to walk in public without harassment, the right to have has much or as little sex as you want with as many people as you want, the right to be opinionated or quiet. Basically bodily autonomy is about the right to be, to simply exist in the world free of interference. It’s a right that men have without much question, yet when a woman claims the same right, she’s seen as a predatory threat.
Kindness is another crucial component of my belief system. I’m a feminist, who rejects WhiteFeminism(TM). Feminism is collaborative, not competitive. In my world, resources are abundant, and we have enough to share. The voices of the marginalized should be heard as loudly and as regularly as those, who are in power. In fact, the very concept of power is one that baffles me. Whenever I’ve been in charge, I’ve given people the broad strokes and allowed them to fill in the gaps as they are able. Micro-management isn’t my style, and you don’t want me to explain things to you anyway because I’ll go off on a tangent. But I digress.
As I’ve gotten older, the importance of doing the work has grown. It’s not enough to simply have beliefs, or to vote (or not vote), or to donate money, or to support certain causes. No, the work is actually getting in the trenches, getting dirty, and being uncomfortable. It is in having your belief system challenged, going into places where you’ve never been before, sharing meals with strangers, and in knowing that above all, “Love is the why.” I can only encourage you in this. Your path is your own, and where you begin many not be where you land.
All I can say is that I was born in the summer of 1969 and it’s now 2016. We live in interesting times. Live your feminism. Live your activism. Live your independence. Live your kindness. Let love be your guide. #FuckThePatriarchy