Discrimination is hardest to overcome when you believe it.
Oppression is hardest to end when you’re a participant, on any end of the spectrum.
Even if we’re aware of harmful and inaccurate beliefs that we hold, sometimes it seems there’s no other way to think. As I grow older and am exposed to new perspectives that challenge my own and consciously work on discovering and staying true to my core values, I find that dismantling discrimination that I am involved in is essential to my internal serenity. When I put substantive time into dissecting the reasons for my own beliefs and learning the opposing viewpoint, I not only feel a much stronger connection to humanity but also personal fulfillment and empowerment.
As I travel on my own indeterminate journey of accepting myself as my traveling companion, I become more and more aware that I need to completely deconstruct and retire the judgements that are keeping me from appreciating the various bumps and unforeseen curves that characterize an interesting trip. Because my discrimination is against myself and characteristics of myself I see in others, or ideas I was taught to believe by this gaseous steamroller we call society. While I strongly support and advocate for equality, acceptance, and celebration of diversity in race/culture/religion/sexual orientation/gender etc., I feel that there’s many discriminations and superiority complexes hidden within the folds of “bigger issues.” It seems to me that the “big” issues and the “small” issues are all just the same issue in different forms and represented in different places.
I do, actually, have a lot to say (imagine that… me having something to say) about current racism — especially in Alaska — and systemic, faulty fear-mongering, and hopefully I’ll write on those topics soon. This post, however, (like many others) is dedicated to girls struggling to exist proudly in this era of often surface level empowerment still plagued by preposterous expectations. That is not to say this invitation doesn’t apply to other demographics and I don’t have strong compassion or passion for other causes. Believe me, I will make that known in every way if it’s not already common knowledge. I intend to make it my life’s work.
Since I was little I have always compulsively said sorry. Even when there’s no problem or absolutely nothing I could have done, I have an immediate reaction and need to apologize for any way I may have contributed to an inconvenience. When I look around me at clever, powerful girls, I notice that they, too, are constantly blurting “sorry” at every turn. We are told everyday to just “be confident” and stay true to ourselves, yet nearly every message in our world shows us otherwise. I catch myself nursing envy of another girl’s body or even accomplishments and good fortune, yet for some reason I don’t feel that same competition with boys. We are often encouraged with approval to promote ourselves by discounting and distancing ourselves from others — mainly girls — and demonstrating our apathy and, yes, masculinity. In a very decidedly feminine and attractive way. Which is nearly impossible.
It breaks my heart to see girls using inauthenticity as their lifeline and most effective coping mechanism. A chasm splits and widens between what nourishes my spirit and what creates more work for me to repair when I see myself making excuses for the overflowing person that I am or disregarding someone else’s validity. To be clear, adapting to various situations or acting appropriately and acknowledging developments does not constitute inauthenticity.
When I inject a little (or a lot) extra kindness into gestures or comments or interactions, the reassurance of my solid place in my own morals and truths extends its portable roots. I’ll never be able to reverse the damage I’ve done to others or myself, and that’s why each moment is so grand and special and worthy. It’s not worth living for any other moment besides this one.
So stop apologizing. Stop sucking in. Stop pretending you’re not offended. Stop letting snide comments slide by for fear of being labeled as a “feminist” because then you’re just contentious and whiny. Stop believing that being unattractive is the worst misfortune that could ever befall you and that it’s objective and your fault. Stop believing you either have to be beautiful or badass and tough or nerdy and bossy and remember that you can pick and choose or be all of that or none.
This discrimination and oppression targeted towards young girls and their bodies and confidence goes unnoticed and unchallenged too frequently. We can extrapolate these internalized norms to the pervasive war women all over the world are waging against their bodies and the $60 billion/year weight loss industry. We can extend these minor misunderstandings to preoccupation with appearance and judgement that defines the first world, both women and men, and distracts from other injustices we could all be combatting.
As this vulnerable demographic, we need to support each other and also empower ourselves. We need to air our dirty laundry if it’s smelling up the house and trust that other people can follow their own noses. We need to relinquish our fear of vulnerability and know in our very core that we have the unwavering strength to do so and grow even more confident in our own validity. We need to live unapologetically.