Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Super-Feminist!

When Gloria Steinem wrote Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, critics used the opportunity to deride feminism. If a feminist icon such as Steinem admitted to suffering low self-esteem, feminism must be a complete failure.

For several days now, I have felt like a complete failure.

You see, I’ve proudly claimed that women can be opinionated, loud-mouthed and forceful, and also, married. I’ve believed we don’t need to feed egos of husbands today the way my mother spoon-fed my father in the past, and I’ve held myself out as evidence.

But I no longer know what I believe.

Good God—whatever you do—don’t tell the patriarchy! Apparently, my doubt doesn’t expose the weakness of humanity, but the weakness of feminism.

“You’re ruining the reputation of feminism,” an acquaintance recently reproached my state of uncertainty and emotional vulnerability. I don’t think he realized he had just endowed me with incredible political power—much more than I can possibly claim!

Does feminism imply immunity to pain, assault, personal tragedy? Superhuman self-esteem?

Steinem reminds us that the “powers that be” have no motive to boost our confidence. Low self-esteem keeps us in place: obedient and pliable; doubting and distrusting of our own gut instincts. So, in revolt, we must strive to nurture our self-worth.

But how can we do this if we don’t acknowledge that we falter; if we pose as perfect role models for friends and family? And how can we do this without leaving ourselves open to harsh criticism? Hell, we can’t, can we?

Since my husband left, I’ve been agonizing over self-worth, wondering if my mother was right when she told me: “No one will ever love you.” I was a young teen at the time; impressionable.

In a recent conversation with a divorced man, we shared the lists we write to remind ourselves of daily functions (while our hearts are mending). I told him “Remember to Eat” was in mine. He told me “Remember to Wake” was in his.

Remember to love me.

I’ve added this to my list. Mom—she’s been wrong all along. Even if I must remind myself in writing; even if, during a dark hour, I can’t establish much more reason than challenging a false authority, I will love me.

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Dear Readers, I look forward to the time when I may read your essays in peace again. I miss your writing and your inspiration!