Once again, I have fallen prey to the façade of feminism. First in 2017, the pull to work for a period-proof underwear company got me so excited to break the stigmas surrounding menstruation that I took a 50% pay cut. Then, in 2018, I decided to join an all-women co-working space. While both of these places were instrumental in getting me to where I am today, I have realized now that I was complicit in their image peddling. They created a shiny exterior that reflected intersectional feminism without really being that.
Part of me wonders how gullible I was to believe that these places were truly intersectional and part of me acknowledges that wanting to belong to these spaces has something to do with performative activism. Fool me twice, shame on me. As I mentioned before, I was not always a feminist. What started my path to feminism was a set of professional experiences that left me heartbroken and in need of a deeper search. I started to ask myself, why was it so hard for me to trust that my female boss wanted me to succeed? Why was getting feedback from female bosses harder to digest than the feedback I got from male bosses?
I don’t have all the answers but I believe some of it has to do with the fact that as women in corporate America, across any industry, we see just how few women are at the top, how much they have to sacrifice to get there (either not having a family or having a “ball-buster” reputation or both), and how little they get paid compared to their male counterparts. As women in the workplace, we are pitted against each other so that we avoid coming together, demanding to be treated equally among men and ultimately getting the equal pay that we deserve. This is similar to how different diagnoses or even skin tones divide us, making it hard to have power in numbers and bring about real change.
And while much needs to be done so that we are truly equal to men in the workplace, in the meantime I decided to look inwardly. What was with this jealousy I felt towards other women’s success? Why did I judge other women’s appearance, actions or even apparel so harshly? As I started asking these questions, the person that unravelled in front of the mirror was not someone I was proud of, let alone someone I aspired to be. Slowly but surely I realized that I needed to work hard to love myself truly, because if not, I would never be able to show up genuinely for other women.
The road to self-love hasn’t been easy, neither has the road to being a true intersectional feminist. Both the company I worked for and the company I co-worked at were amateur attempts in practicing intersectional feminism that at best made feminism “cool” and at worst, created a toxic environment where minorities either had no place or felt unheard and undervalued. Joining these organizations was also a passive effort on my part to be an intersectional feminist and I have now recognized that. That doesn’t mean, however, that I should give up on intersectional feminism. I have become smarter, and a bit more cynical, and instead of buying the messaging, I take action. If I hear something that is unfair or unjust, that is not on-brand, I call it out. I do my research. And I continue to show up when it is uncomfortable.