By Erin Bagwell
Founder of Feminist Wednesday
& Director of Dream, Girl
It’s Thanksgiving night, and someone brings up Trump. My mother pauses their thought, thanks for them for their interest, but tells them this year we won’t be talking about politics at the dinner table. My heart is grateful, and I take a subconscious exhale of relief. I just spent the whole day sleeping, trying to recover from a sinus infection, and I’m not sure I am up to battling bigotry tonight.
Since the results of the election I have let myself feel the anger and sadness that accompanies grieving the death of a dream. Some mornings I wake up in tears, some afternoons I yell at my husband, sometimes I break down into a heavy sob after working out. Releasing all the pain of what it means to let her go- the loss of Hillary weighing on every other moment, and the desire to stand up for her, to fight for her still burning deeply in my heart. This mix of fire and fatigue has put me into a state of confusion. Perhaps it’s just living through the shock, and trying to recalculate what it means now to be feminist.
Liz Plank said it best – “if you couldn’t handle my feminism under Obama, wait until you see my feminism under Trump.”
Over the past few years I have felt the burden of being a feminist. The looks I get at dinner parties, the fights I have with my husband over gender role nuances, the confusion my parents have at my inability to leave my passion at work. I have absolutely exhausted and frustrated every relationship I have in my life with my feminism. People who don’t get it, or don’t understand why I can’t turn it off. The look that says, ‘She’s fabulous on a panel, but I don’t understand why it needs to continue after that.’ As if the women and rights I am fighting for get shelved or resolved after the applause.
Sometimes in a moment of overwhelm I imagine Gloria Steinem locked in a bathroom, giving herself a moment of pause before entering a dinner party that’s driving her nuts. This vision of a veteran feminist offers me sanity and stability as I try to remember I’m not alone in this fight. Cecile Richard’s friend texted her during the Planned Parenthood Congressional Hearings: “May the rage of women through the centuries center you as you go into this.” For we will all need a lot of centering. We will need a lot of moments to pause to either lock ourselves in a bathroom, or turn off our phones for an hour, or whatever we need to do to survive and thrive.
This, this is the long game. This is a journey we have chosen. This isn’t going to be easy. But we are not alone.
There are fierce women we can enjoy wine with, without judgement, and activists who we can call on to join us in the streets. There are millions of new allies who are uniting under one pantsuit nation. There are partners who take care of us and offer us a cup of tea after a long day of being a woman.
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau once told us that radical self-love is the key to everything. The healing, passion, and joy we crave in all our lives. As feminists, we need to jump all-in to the act of caring for ourselves and grounding ourselves. And while it’s ok to pause and disconnect and take a break, we mustn’t stay silent for too long.
We are needed now more than ever.