feminism

Shine Theory: If you shine, I shine!

Shine Theory is a term coined by Ann Friedman who wrote about it for New York Magazine. I listen to her podcast, Call Your Girlfriend (she co-hosts with her bestie Aminatou Sow and I love them both) and after hearing them talk about it I googled the term and read her article. I liked it a lot. I also read an interview of Jam Wilson for Styleite where the discusses Shine Theory and what she makes of it. Instead of Friedman’s “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine” she modified it to “If you shine, I shine” and I actually like that better.

It’s a well established talking point that women are taught that we’re always in competition with one another. I can’t speak for men, as I am not a man, but there does seem to be a tendency to compare ourselves to other women. I remember being much younger and immediately taking a dislike to any girl I thought was smarter, prettier, or more popular than me. I quickly came up with reasons to justify my dislike of her: she dressed like a tart (hello slut shaming!), she was stuck up, she was arrogant, etc. I basically reduced her to things that I now know are nothing but toxic garbage. I think it’s okay to be insecure at times but it is important to learn to recognize that insecurity and see it for what it is. There will always be people who we perceived to be more accomplished than us in something. Instead of begrudging another woman her successes we should celebrate them! Instead of making their accomplishments about us, and how they make us feel inferior we should work on silencing that negativity that sucks the joy and genuineness out of our friendships.

Powerful, confident women are wonderful and instead of cutting them down in order to make ourselves feel better we should regard them as mirrors in which we can see our own awesomeness and potential. I know that it can be a struggle to see those closest to you moving onwards and upwards but instead of snarking about them behind their backs how about we practice being legitimately happy for other women? I have friends who are at different stages in their lives, some are stay-at-home parents, others are working parents, some are authors in addition to the previous two, some are lawyers, teachers, PhD candidates, etc. They are all amazing in their own right and every time they achieve something I am genuinely happy for them and it feels great to be happy for my friends. To celebrate them and their lives instead of measuring up how their lives stack up to mine is one of the most positive things I can do.

What do you do when you meet somebody you find intimidating? Imagine they’re well put together, oozing confidence and poise. Do you recoil from them, thinking that you’re not good enough to befriend them? Do you immediately hate them, assuming the worst of them? Or do you simply see a shine that mirrors your own? We should all strive for the latter.

I recently interviewed and went on to secure a seasonal job at a nearby retailer. It’s a part-time thing I’ll be doing twice a week and I’m excited about it. When I told some of my friends I saw a wonderful example of shine theory. They were SO happy for me! They were as excited as I was for this new job. I cannot describe how wonderful it feels to have people legitimately share in your joy. I am at a point in my life where I WANT to see my fellow women succeed. I want them to reach that highest peak, get that doctorate degree, build that multi-million dollar dream house, all without any ill feelings. When you stop making other people’s lives about you, you become happier.

Something else I think ties into Shine Theory is perception. How we perceive ourselves and others is not necessarily reality. The person you think of as most confident might actually feel like they’re falling apart on the inside. The woman whose figure you envy might struggle with body confidence and even admire your own figure. The point is that we are all worthy and we are all good. Life is not meant to be lived in one way.

To me, Shine Theory is about uplifting all women starting with ourselves. Self-hate is real and I see it too often in women and girls. The worst part is that we take this internalized hate and project it outwards. I recently read a blog post that was talking about being thankful for girlfriends. It was a lovely post with good intent but it left me feeling bit off. The author mentioned that she doesn’t like drama but that a lack of drama is hard to find in women because women like to talk. This was such a backhanded jab at women and it really bugged me. Putting down other women in order to lift up your friends is the wrong way of cerebrating anything. Women being gossipy and drama-prone is such a tired stereotype. If it was an attempt at humor by the author it fell flat (for me). The idea that women make shitty friends because they are drama queens might be supported by anecdotes but in reality any human being is capable of pettiness. To be honest I once shared that perception about women but I have since learned that it starts with me. My attitudes, my beliefs about my fellow women greatly impact the interactions I have with them.

Shine theory resonated with me because it’s something I was already doing in my life and it took a conscious effort to make the switch from insecurity and jealousy to unwavering support and genuine enthusiasm for the accomplishments of other women. In a way it’s one of those fake it til you make it type of things because breaking years of bad habits is difficult and silencing the snarky thoughts you once voiced about women you resented instead of admired is difficult but it’s worth the effort. Even somebody you might not get along with should be celebrated for their achievements and perhaps this is not a person you would personally congratulate but you can silence the unkind words you would have expressed before. I don’t have to like you but I won’t put you down either.

As Jam Wilson said in her interview, “Shine Theory is all about supporting, uplifting, complimenting, and encouraging women who are just doing great. Whether that means she looks great today or she’s doing really well career wise, Shine Theory is celebrating other women for their achievements without jealousy or ulterior motives. I just want to celebrate women in any way I can!”

I don’t mean to end on a sour note but I figured that I would also add my opinion on disliking other women. It’s okay to not jive with everyone you meet. Shine Theory does not mean you have to be kind and friendly towards all women just because but I think it’s about being more intentional and mindful of what we put out there and why. We are all capable of differentiating between toxic pettiness and legitimate gripes we might have with an individual 😉

Lastly, I wanted to give a shoutout to my fellow book loving friend, Sarah who just launched her book rec blog Between Two Books. I am thrilled for her as she had been talking about doing this for a while. Please check her out if you’re looking for book recs. She has a reputation for picking winners 😀

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. Remember to shine.

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Book Fridays: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It’s the dreaded F word of modern times… I find that men and women alike are afraid of the word feminist. So much so that it’s becoming common for female celebrities to publicly distance themselves from the term but why is that? Now, among women of color (especially black women) there is an understandable aversion to mainstream feminism because it is often not intersectional. It doesn’t include black women but that’s material for a whole other post.

I have found myself more times than I care to count in conversation with people who truly have no idea what feminism is. They base their opinions on misinformation and anecdotes that support it. Feminism is NOT about superiority over men. Also, feminism is NOT misandry. Misandry is also not a real thing. It is not the counterpart to mysoginy much like reverse racism is a myth.

We Should All Be Feminists is a wonderful essay adapted from Adichie’s Tedx talk of the same name. It is a short read but a powerful one. Her Tedx talk is just as wonderful and you can watch it here. She approaches the topic in a way that is accessible and powerful.

I found it difficult to choose an excerpt to share but I succeeded:

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer wold. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.

We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.”

Feminism is not just about women, it’s about men, too. We should all be feminists because this cage affects us all.

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I am teaching my son not to rape

There have been many news stories recently that have caused me to contemplate Diego’s future and what I want to instill in him. I have a lot of thoughts in my head so this post will probably be all over the place. The shooting of six women in Isla Vista brought about an important conversation about the treatment of women. The gunman’s manifesto has become an example of the mysogyny that runs rampant in our society. The hashtag #yesallwomen was a heart-wrenching read. And it’s absolutely true that all women have at some point or another experienced sexual harassment of some sort.

Men feel entitled. They are taught to feel entitled to access to women and their bodies. You hear men complain about being friend-zoned. I have such an issue with this term because it puts an emphasis on sex and romance being the point of any male/female relationship. I have seen a disgusting meme featuring a sloth whispering in a woman’s ear with the caption “She put me in the friend zone so I put her in the rape zone.” Even more disgusting is the fact that this meme has a name: rape sloth and if you’re brave enough to Google it you will find hundreds of memes that reduce rape to nothing more than a joking matter. If you are a man it’s not enough to not have raped, or to not plan to rape. By sitting back and doing nothing when your buddies joke about it makes you an accomplice. Men like that contribute to the problem. Any person that stays silent when this is joked about is perpetuating this idea that it is acceptable to joke about rape. It is never ok.

Growing up I remember very clearly a delineation between what was male and what was female. I understood at a very early age that boys were better, stronger, faster, and smarter. I was taught that when a boy hit me, stole my pencils and pulled my hair it meant he liked me. I will never forget when my sixth grade teacher dismissed my complaint about a fellow male student and then proceeded to tease me that he liked me. I “dated” him for a while in seventh grade. It all ended when he forced his tongue down my throat and disgusted, I pushed him away. I wasn’t ready for that but he forced it on me. Other boys told him to dump me for being frigid. When I told him I wanted nothing more to do with him he seemed shocked.

I learned a lot from that brief relationship. I learned to be scared of boys. They don’t respect boundaries. They are taught that boundaries are meant to be broken, pushed, annihilated. Boys are taught from an early age that girls are things to conquer. I’ve had strangers grab my ass, request that I flash them my boobs (because when you’re well endowed you’re no doubt looking for attention), and been felt up without my consent. And that’s just the physical stuff, men have made lewd remarks since before I was of age.

Now I have a son and I feel a huge responsibility to raise him to be the man that all men should be. The kind of man that will respect women not because she is another man’s daughter but because she is a human being. That is reason enough to treat women right. I cannot begin to explain how infuriating it is to hear people use women being someone’s mother, sister, daughter or wife as a reason why they ought to be respected. Why should my relation to another male be what determines my worth? I reject that reasoning.

Diego is still young, much too young to have a conversation about consent but the educating starts now. It starts by teaching him that no and stop are powerful and meaningful no matter who uses them. This is important because I want him to feel empowered to use them himself but also because it will teach him that when the words are used the action stops. Every single time.

Forced affection is also something that I will not subject him to. I think it sets a bad precedent for the rest of a child’s life to be forced to hug and kiss against his will. Not only is this dangerous for children in general in terms of child abuse/molestation but it teaches him that even if affection is unwanted you still have to submit to it. It will always be his choice how to express his affection. This is also about teaching him consent. Both his own as well as that of other people.

It’s time to push back against what’s become so common: the belief that women need to avoid rape, that where we go, what we wear and how we act somehow contributes to rape.  Rape is ALWAYS the fault of the rapist. It’s time for this conversation to be at the forefront of our consciousness instead of relegated to radical feminist talk.

I am teaching my son not to rape. I am teaching him not to slut-shame, fat-shame or body-shame. I am calling out my husband when he says something sexist. It’s an on going conversation that we will continue to have as a family. I don’t think that it should take having a daughter for a man to understand that the constant threat of rape that women live under is unacceptable.

Not long ago I was walking to the pharmacy and a guy was walking behind me. Pretty mundane, except my hairs stood on end and I was on high alert. I was walking down a busy street in the middle of the day. I know for a fact that my husband would not have given the other pedestrian a second thought. That is male privilege.

There is so much to be said on this topic. A lot has been said on it already but I hope it continues to be discussed. We have a long way to go. I see men that I love and respect fall short everyday. I see micro-aggressions all the time. In tweets, Facebook posts, comments, etc. I will never again stay quiet because complacency costs lives. Because I have a son who will one day go out in the world and leave his mark. Because my friends have daughters who will one day be out in that same world and I want to do my part to make it better for all of us.

Women are right to fear men and to the men who are offended when women fear them don’t tell me you’re offended. Don’t tell me that not all men are like that. Tell your fellow men to not be scum to women. Call them out and set them straight. There aren’t enough good men around.