To be honest, I’ve been neglecting thoughts of feminism. And it took all of 30 minutes in New York City to shake them awake again. A day spent roaming these streets brings an impulse to retire my pink tank top for something black and edgy...and to revive the rigid walk I perfected in college.
I get an impulse to close down, protect, and withdraw into a hard shell.
But that’s not my form of feminism. And there is no need to mask my femininity even though that may feel safer. Feminism (to me) means the ability to embrace femininity (wear what I want, embody who I want) while claiming the freedom to walk in the world (down the street by myself).
So here’s what happened:
Taking a break to sit on a bench in lower Manhattan, I hear a man shouting behind me from across the street. I already knew he was coming my way, it’s the kind of thing you just know. I tracked his voice as he circled around, shouting obscenities. It’s nothing new. Watching him carefully, I could feel his pain. Any man walking around deranged, shouting at women is suffering major demons or mental illness. I was annoyed as hell, yes, but sat and watched, alert without reacting.
Then he lunged, swung his fist, still at a relative distance but close enough that my adrenaline started pumping. But at the same time, felt a huge sense of calm. Something inside said that I was protected and this man would not break into my space.
His was a game of cowardly intimidation.
Sure enough, every time he edged close and swung his fist, he quickly withdrew, spinning around while weeping.
I looked at him and I walked away.
Do I have a protective field, repelling the advancements of enraged men?
That’s not what I’m saying (though hell yes I hope so!).
What I’m considering here the important ability to walk away from this stupidly chaotic situation without being devastated, without internalizing it and closing down to protect myself from the world’s pain (and all of its weird manifestations).
As a super sensitive person, this self-protective shell is familiar. But the unfortunate side effect is, by locking things down completely, we are less available to joy, less likely to receive moments of synchronicity…less likely to be open to opportunity.
I fear there is a massive loss of potential when women don’t feel safe in the world.
Feminism to me means staying open and supporting each other when we’re threatened. It means helping each other heal when we’re wounded and lifting each other back into places of power.
After this street battle of nerves, I met a good friend for tea and we were so in sync it was almost scary. We uncovered points of connection in our lives, subjects of study and areas of interest. And you know, when that happens you just get a feeling like…OK something is going on here!
And the thing is, I met her only by traveling blindly to Budapest a year ago. Shields > shells. It’s not easy to step with an open heart into the unknown. Especially when there are real threats in the world...but it is vital that we do.
How else will we find each other?