Please enjoy this weeks guest article from Jenna in Indianapolis, majoring in creative writing and excelling in quality you-tubing. Follow her, subscribe to her, talk to her (she’s really nice!).
Sure it’s been a handful of decades since women have achieved the right to vote, and it’s been a long while since we’ve gotten shot for divorcing our husbands but the fear of practicing true autonomy still undeniably smothers the majority of females in society. This fear, although completely rational, is detrimental to our movement as a whole.
Whether you’re the stay-at-home-mom type or the stereotypical anarchist/activist, the only thing I ask is that your decision to take the path you choose is completely your own. To reiterate, my goal here is not to tell you that: marrying a man, raising children, not working, being feminine is wrong; it is not to tell you that the only way to be independent is to avoid romantic relationships and always take care of yourself; it is to tell you that achieving self awareness and making decisions based on your personal wants, dreams, needs and desires is the true meaning of being independent.
Growing up I struggled with this. I juggled between 2 families: one being liberal and artsy and having a mom who brought home the bacon and one being conservative and catholic with a stay at home mom and a white collar father. I was taught through various different mediums and people how I should live and discerning between right and wrong became very difficult. Spending a mass a mount of time deciding which of my parents or families was “right”, was confusing of course, and I spent years rebutting my mother’s beliefs in my head in the words of something my father would say and I did the same when listening to my father. I do, however, believe that growing up in these circumstances gave me an advantage. Struggling with this left me to make the inevitable realization that what I choose to believe in is solely and completely up to me.
Everything about my life is completely up to me and since I’ve fully accepted this, yucky side effects and all, my life has become so much more complete and happy. It all feels right.
My one mission at this point is to spread this happiness to as many people as I can so without further ado, here are my top 10 tips for complete autonomy:
- Wear makeup! (Or don’t)
Quite often we see uproars about makeup. Petty, right? Who even cares? It’s colors for your skin. You’ll have the makeup enthusiasts who go “full faced” every day and think everyone should wear makeup and then you’ll have the naked faced ones who think that makeup is a result of insecurity etc. THEN you’ll have guys who think they’re some big knights in shining armor for saying they prefer when girls don’t wear makeup (as IF we care about their opinions). This whole battle on makeup is just one face (pun intended) of the female on female war that is inspired by the patriarchy in order to keep us distracted. There is absolutely no reason to be so angry and hateful over what people choose to do with their faces. You are no better or no worse for wearing or not wearing makeup. Remember that. So next time those little hostile bubbles start rising in your tummy when you see someone’s face (makeup’d or not) remember how you’d feel if someone criticized you that way and that it really doesn’t matter at all. Wear what you want, how you want, and when you want. It’s your choice. Don’t let any guy or girl tell you differently.
- Occupy space
One of my favorite poems of all time is called “shrinking women”. It discusses a woman and her family as said woman realizes society/the patriarchy’s impact on women’s desire to shrink and not occupy as much space as men. She describes that her mother grows “in” while her father grows “out”. Her mother takes in words as her father belts them. This poem perfectly summates one of the biggest issues facing women, which is this expectation that we should be small and fragile rather than boisterous and big. This expectation is truly problematic in that it inhibits women from being able to grow to full potential and it is also truly inhumane to dictate that one gender deserves less space. So don’t be afraid to occupy that space. The entire earth is yours. If you want to sit squished in a corner or take up as much room as suits your comfort that is completely up to you, but it is highly important to remember that you deserve to grow out. You deserve to occupy space. Don’t apologize for the area you take up. Ever.
- Respect yourself
Perhaps the most important rule of all: respect yourself. More-so, don’t let anyone else define what your self-respect is. If self-respect for you means having multiple partners or eating junk food or walking around wearing nothing but a tiara, by all means, go ahead! But defining your own self-respect and treating yourself how you want to treat yourself is one of the bravest things a person, especially a woman, can do. And I promise that it will terrify people. Society wants to control us by making us feel ashamed for our various needs and sexual nuances but if we can make this one little change, where we understand and decide what it means to respect ourselves, the headway we make will be fantastic. Be independent; respect yourself!
- Know your anatomy
It’s sad to say that in America and various other countries today, especially more conservative or religious areas, proper sex education isn’t taught. That’s just a fact. So what I advise you to do is read a book about anatomy, preferably both math and female anatomy. Learn all about your body. Learn all of the little things that school, TV, and your parents never taught you. Embrace it. Your body ISN’T dirty and you do deserve to know how it works. Oh and don’t forget to enlighten others on your newfound knowledge when you hear those, oh-so-irksome mistakes in anatomical conversation. This is one of the strongest and loudest stances you can take.
- Be able to say the word no
No I don’t want to go on a date with you, no I don’t think I’ll have a salad, no I don’t want you to order for me, and no I don’t want to “cover up”, no I’m not going to let you make sexist jokes and get away with it, no I’m not picking a college based off of a boy, no I don’t want a sexual relationship, no I don’t want to be quiet about my period pains, no I don’t want to listen to your political views, no I don’t want to hear about your religion, no I don’t want to be lady-like and no I don’t feel like not wearing heels because it makes you feel short. You get the point, right?
- Be single, date, fuck
Making your own decisions about relationships that you do or don’t want to be in is very important. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship (or forcing yourself to be alone) because of something that someone else wants, your happiness level is going to seriously decrease and you’re probably going to end up in a situation that you don’t want to be in. Society is going to try to tell you what to do anyway, and so is your family, so the strongest thing you can do is just put your foot down and say “Hey. My business is my business. If I want your opinion, I’ll ask.” Other than that, follow your instincts and enter/exit relationships at your comfort.
- Be conceited
You deserve it. Feel beautiful. Recognize your achievements. You’re cool as fuck. I often post various personal recognitions on Tumblr praising myself and tend to receive lots of hate over it and I don’t understand why. I never put other people down. There’s nothing wrong with lifting yourself up, it’s healthy, don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. If you are comfortable and confident in the fact that you’re a good person, society can’t tell you otherwise. You’re an independent human who won’t fall into their deceptive pit of self-hate.
- Put Yourself First
In high school I dated a lot. Too much. I was in 3 different “long” relationships throughout high school and I never got to experience any alone time, so when my last boyfriend and I broke up, I was really confused. I didn’t know how to act. I remember getting out of the shower and reaching for my phone because for years I was so used to always having to text someone back or talk to someone. I always dreaded family time or outings because I knew that meant I couldn’t talk to “him” (whoever “him” was at the time). I now realized how much I missed because of that. So I put down my phone and thought to myself “what will make ME feel good right now?” then acted accordingly. Putting yourself and your wants first, is a huge punch in the face to people who think you shouldn’t.
- Know When You’re the Expert
This one is pretty simple so I’ll try not to bore you too much with the details. Know when you’re the expert. If you’re better at something: emotionally, intellectually, mathematically, artistically or athletically, don’t be afraid to take the wheel. There’s a huge issue of women not taking enough leadership roles and know a large part of this is caused by the seemingly immovable boulder that is patriarchy but little steps such as declaring that you are indeed more proficient at something than a male, will help to beat down the thorny branches on a path for future women leaders.
- Make noises
Don’t shut up. Ever. If you have something to say, say it. Never let anyone tell you that what you’re saying isn’t worth saying, because I promise you that they are wrong. I made a video recently called “Who am I” and it was entirely based around this idea that women, including myself, are expected to sit quietly and not talk about much (especially political or taboo subjects). The bottom line of the video was that I decided that I am the girl who won’t shut up. The video got a mass amount of responses (for something that I’ve made) especially on Tumblr and especially from young girls saying that they wish they could be as brave as me, and it broke my heart because they CAN. I spent years worried that if I spoke my beliefs that I would be unattractive, unwanted, or even unloved but I soon realized that it’s better for people to hate me for who I am than to tolerate a silent being that they can control. So speak up. Every time you say something that’s on your mind you get a little stronger and they get a little weaker.
These few subtle tips, slowly being incorporated into your life, will give you a stronger sense of who you are and what you deserve. For centuries we have been oppressed and treated less than, we are taught dependence and shame. So it’s time for us to take our lives back, to realize that we can do or be anything. I understand that certain societal “rules”, “norms”, and “prejudices” based upon sex, gender, ethnicity, age, handicaps, etc can severely limit your political and financial capabilities but that is something that we can all choose to fight every single day by making decisions for ourselves. So we need to fight. I’m not going to lie; it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be bright and it’s going to burn and it’s going to be every day but it’s going to be beautiful and it’s going to be worth it. We need to start being our own people and making our own decisions. Whether it be our political views or even just what we want for breakfast. Every little decision we make and every little word that we speak that isn’t decided for us or pushed onto us by someone else’s idea of who we should be, we make a wave, we cause an uproar, and we put a little more fear into their hearts.
You can find Jenna on https://www.youtube.com/user/jennatalherpes/featured and https://twitter.com/jjtalkz