Recently, there has been a renewed emphases on feminism and what it means to be a woman. Unfortunately, what is meant to be a social revolution based on gender equality too often is exclusive and judgemental. Although I support strong women and pay no attention to gender roles in my own life, I’ve grown tired of the entire feminism conversation. As I look over hateful headline after hateful headline, I think about how much this conversation revolves around qualifying self-worth. As a woman, I’ve struggled with truly loving myself throughout my entire life. I know that I’m not alone in this fight.
There are a few women in my life that successfully practice loving and accepting who they are. The person that immediately comes to mind is my soulful sister-in-law, Katie. I met Katie when we we’re both 17-years-old. Bold and brassy to the core, Katie was quite an intimidating person to know. Back then she was armed to the teeth with a vicious sense of humor that could cause serious damage to anyone she set her sights on. Essentially, she was a teenager navigating her way through life without apologizing for her strong personality and presence.
Although we got off to a rocky start, it didn’t take me long to love Katie. She has a kind of nurturing spirit that you just want to wrap yourself up in. Her loyalty and love know no bounds. If she brings you into her heart to love, you can rest assured that you’ll have a place there forever.
It’s very clear that there are many things that I admire about my vivacious sister-in-law. Without doubt, the thing that I admire most is her ability to love and see such worth in herself. Society has a wicked way of placing unwanted and unnecessary requirements on women. Setting aside the tiresome image issues each woman will ultimately face at one point or another, we are also given a standard for how we should run our homes, raise our children, educate ourselves, and entertain our friends. Unable to fulfill these demands, we women feel inadequate or deficient in some way.
Sometimes, in our quest to be absolutely everything, we only succeed at being nothing.
But back to Katie. Her hunger for a full life has led her to move from our native New York to Oregon to California. She’s taken college courses, improv classes, tended bar, and is currently studying interior design in California. My point: Katie’s life is dictated by who she is at that time. She has fully embraced the fact that she is going to evolve as a person, and the plans she has for her life should evolve right along with her.
One of my favorite things to do whenever she’s in town – which is a very, very rare occurrence – is to sit down with a glass of wine and talk. I like to call it The Purge. While we certainly aren’t purging our bodies of anything (we love to eat), we are purging our souls. Typically, I unload whatever I’m feeling or going through onto her, and she gives advice. She says things like “If it isn’t fulfilling you, stop doing it.” To me, her words are revolutionary because she’s a true example of practicing what you preach. She has uprooted her life more than once because she no longer found value in the way she was living. Fear and anxiety have never stopped her from making a choice she ultimately felt was right. And because of her unwavering inner strength, she doesn’t allow anyone control over her self-worth. Katie is powerful, strong and completely unapologetic.
The point of this long love letter to Kate is that I know that truly loving yourself is possible. The thing that irritates me about this overindulgent feminism rant is that no one is leading by example. If a woman stands up as a feminist, other self-appointed feminists argue that she isn’t true to the cause. If men dare to declare themselves in support of feminism, they’re criticized as simply jumping on the bandwagon. Black feminists attack white feminists. Everyone is too busy talking to listen.
Well, I’m not listening either. What I’ve learned from Katie’s example is that being kind to yourself is simple and essential. I can be a strong and powerful woman while fully embracing my faults. I can outline these faults very clearly. I’m a horrible slob, I often ignore text messages from friends and family on weeknights because I’m too tired from work to respond, I have a temper and an ugly sarcastic streak, I ALWAYS gain weight in winter, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Instead of letting these things define me, I have the opportunity to try and be better each day for me.
Here’s to Katie — keep leading by example, my girl!