Let me first say that I am not political. I don’t write about politics. In fact I actively avoid political discussions (unless I am in session and then I typically just nod until there is something clinical I can comment on). This post is going to be a rambling hodgepodge and while I’m sure is is “wrong” or “uninformed” from a political perspective, it is merely MY perspective. I will say it again: the thoughts presented in these ramblings are merely MY responses, experiences and thoughts on the topic of feminism.
Here we go…
When I hear the word feminism I tend to clench my jaw. And when I meet a self-proclaimed “feminist” my gut response is typically the desire to back away slowly. Part of me is intimidated. Another part of me purposely avoids intense emotions outside of the clinical setting. Call it self-preservation. Since I soothe crying and at times angry people every day that by the time I’m off the clock I just want to curl up in a sun room and read until I fall asleep.
It is my understanding that feminists want women to have the same rights as men. (Please say I’m correctly informed on this.) Feminists lobby for women to be paid the same as men for services rendered. I can get on board with this. Feminists are NOT OK with the startlingly high incidence rate of sexual assault, rape and trauma women encounter during their lifetime. Once again, I feel strongly about this; I am not only appalled by the number of women who have suffered traumatic sexual advances in their lifetime but also how many Americans shame women who come forward years after the occurring event. These feeling have been magnified over the recent events of the past two weeks: the Kavanaugh trial paired with the startling number of my female clients who were been triggered by the pervasive, unsettling newscasts and consequently broke down in tears in my office feeling overwhelmed, angered and at times depressed.
If I align so strongly and similarly with basic feminist philosophy then why do I experience such a negative reaction when I hear the words feminist and/or feminism?
Because when I hear the word feminist I inadvertently replace it with ‘man-hater.”
When did this re-branding occur? I’m not entirely sure. It’s probably been a slow evolution that was hammered home during the last presidential election. My experience has been one of so much negativity. It is my understanding that newscasts of videos of men boasting about their conquests and interviews of tearful women reliving incredibly painful experiences intend to educate the public about the reality of what is transpiring behind closed doors across our country. Since then I have bore witness to women bashing men outright; these women have been hurt so deeply by their own experiences or women close to them that these women often (but not always) become fearful and/or angered with all men. Distrust becomes the automatic stress response.
The behavior of physically, emotionally and/or sexually abusing another human being is abhorrent and yet men are not. We have created a vicious he-said/ she-said cycle of negativity between the sexes. When will it stop? Will it ever? Instead of lobbying for human rights women started wearing hats in the shape of a woman’s who-ha to promote women’s rights. I did not find these hats humorous or empowering; I was a little disgusted by them.
The overt message of feminism consists of equality and even accountability for abusive perpetrators. It’s not the overt message that leaves me unsettled; it’s the covert comments, the nasty eye rolls and the dismissive nature towards those of the male persuasion. I have witnessed it in the news, social media and even in my sessions. All the while I keep my lips pressed tightly together and I observe and process what seems to be burgeoning around me: hate.
I didn’t want any part of it- none. So I backed away slowly from all political affiliations, newscasts and intense political debates with my hands held high in the air while not wanting to wake the dormant beast resting inside my friends, family and clients.
A few weeks ago I attended Wilder writing and running retreat organized by Lauren Fleshman. When I learned about this retreat I simply thought to myself, “I LOVE RUNNING annnnnnd I’m working on the writing bit; I have to go to this retreat!!” It flat out didn’t occur to me that I was signing up for a WOMEN’S retreat where I would be face to face with approximately 50 passionate, determined women writers and runners. On the first night of retreat I sat in opening circle with a look of terror plastered on my face. Did I just sign myself up for a weekend of feminist-man-hating?? …Oh shit. I need to pull up my DailySkimm email ASAP so I can at least attempt to know what’s going on in the world. Ahhh but they just politely suggested for everyone to disconnect from their phones. Greaaaaaat.
As the weekend went underway there was a completely different tone present among the women than I anticipated: a lighthearted playful tone in which we were people who merely enjoyed the same activities of running and writing. There was no man-bashing, no talk of politics and absolutely no vagina hats. Thank God.
So what was there? What did I actually do in Maine for four days with fifty other women?
A magical rainy trail run in complete silence.
Lots of laughter.
Learning how to write freely; wild writing with prompts from poems or even a single word.
Listening. Practicing truly listening to other women and their writing- BUT not commenting on the quality of their work. Just listening to what other women wrote.
Reading my work aloud- yep, that part was terrifying.
Lots more running- mostly trails.
A lot of apple crisp consumed- yes Katie Henderson I’m looking at you. Muahahaha.
The focus of the weekend a lesson in learning how to be present in the moment. When we are present we rid ourselves of the stress around what we “should be” doing and allow ourselves to enjoy what we are. Instead of worrying about what pace we should be running, we ran passionately. Rather than counting our macros, our fats and carbs, we nourished our bodies. Instead of worrying about if our writing was worthy, we wrote furiously.
This practice was eye opening. It allowed for me to accept where I was a the moment and simply be present. The self-deprecating thoughts evaporated. The guilt around what I ate… the critical thoughts that “I should have ran farther or faster”… the nervousness around reading my writing aloud – gone. I practiced accepting where I was in the moment and damn did it feel good.
This was not a weekend intended to promote mediocrity as many of us also discussed the interplay between allowing ourselves to be satisfied with where are are while also retaining goals for our writing, running and lives as a whole. How do you make peace with where you’re at (with regards to running, writing, health/body) but also set goals for personal growth? I still haven’t figured that part out yet, so if you have then shoot me an email and fill me out.
It feels that there has been a shift in my soul and therefore in my running. A shift that represents acceptance of a changing life with added stressors, an evolving,aging body and making peace with doing the best I can with the time and energy that I have. Lately I have been running for me. Some days I run fast. Other days I run slow. But I’ve been practicing just allowing my body to lead the way. It’s a completely different approach to running and I don’t know what that means for my racing (especially since I signed up for Boston 2019!!). But I don’t have to know. Right now this is what my body and mind need so I’m going to roll with it.
Notice how I talked about the retreat but I didn’t address feminism… men… politics? Yea, me too. Because the retreat WASN’T about feminism. Well, maybe it was. I don’t know anymore. Instead of slapping a label on Wilder I can tell you that attending it made me proud to be a person who loves to run, a person who loves to write and a person who thirsts for more. It was absolutely wonderful to be surrounded by so many like minded runners and writers and yes, they were also women.
Wilder, thank you for not talking about politics. Thank you for not bashing men. Thank you for creating a weekend where we can support each other in our own endeavors of running and writing. Thank you for cultivating a space of personal growth that did not occur at the expense of others. Thank you for listening. Simply put: thank you.
Can’t stop. Won’t stop.
Never stop running.
The Lone Runner