Gloria Steinem is my idol. She’s a take-charge woman who can write, started an influential she-focused magazine (one that doesn’t include penis-focused sex tips) and isn’t afraid to change her mind and continues to advocate for females.
So, of course, I was excited to read Patt Morrison’s Q & A with Steinem in the Los Angeles Times. Her comments about Facebook (“it’s not surprising that when [they're] young, they think it’s in their interest and don’t realize that employers for 30 years are going to be looking at this Facebook page and not hiring you”) and the (d)evolution of the word “feminist” made me think about how a token woman relates to her female friends.
I’ve always gotten along better with girls. I’ve never had a set clique but the majority of my friends have always been girls. I think my token status makes me non-threatening, and I’m exceptional at intimacy. Girls like to pour their souls out to me, and I like to think I at least offer entertaining quips and satisfying lip service. On occasion, I even provide helpful advice and penetrating insight (usually compiled from shards of Aaron Sorkin scripts and shreds of romantic comedy dialogue). Plus, because I’m wise and closed-off enough to not solicit advice from crazy people (AKA women who are so unhinged that they’ll gladly tell their deepest secrets to near-strangers) I often allow these ladies to participate in one-sided intimacy without fear or guilt.
But there’s a small circle of girls in my life who are funny, smart and loyal to a fault. These women inspire me every day with their wit, charm and compassion. Not to get all Ya-Ya, but I have some really great estrogen-fueled friends. Two of them happen to have blogs, and in the interest of sisterhood and showing Steinem that some Millennials embrace the word “feminism,” I’d like to plug my favorite independent women.
I’ve ever wanted to be: She’s much funnier than I am, knows more about pop culture than I do but never makes me feel like an idiot, and can spit communication studies theories like Jay spits rhymes. Plus, she’s a real feminist who has taken lots of shit (often in the form of nasty comments from online commenters) for being a strong woman. Melea is such a feminist that she doesn’t need to stomp on other women to make herself feel better. Instead, Melea is secure enough to want to improve herself from within, and currently maintains a fantastically funny and motivating blog about her journey to being a better version of herself.
My friendship with Melea, borne of our mutual love for “Daria” and our hatred for girls in classes who can’t stand up for themselves and simultaneously want the opinionated girls to stand down (because this post is all about feminism, I’m not going to link that last phrase and incriminate a fellow female), has actually given me the confidence to try things I fear and know I’m not good at doing, like being a Maid of Honor.
Growing up a token, even in a progressive playground like Ann Arbor, meant being butch. I had a lot of classically attractive girl friends growing up, including a girl named Lily who I haven’t spoken to in over 15 years. Lily had a pretty name, as opposed to a hard to pronounce and possibly made-up one like Meryn, and she wore her curly brown hair in a ponytail. I still remember asking my mom to put my hair in a single ponytail “so it will be pretty like Lily’s.” I had pronounced facial features, short and thick hair, and I was chubby. I also had a dad I adored and an athletic older brother, so I spent a lot of time in my childhood idolizing Michael Jordan and wanting to be in the WNBA. So, no, I wasn’t interested in playing dress up. But I still wanted to be gorgeous. In fact, my first concept of female sexuality was drawn from an En Vogue video.
I didn’t have long flowing hair or a stick-straight frame like my childhood friends. I didn’t go crazy for boys I knew – I was too busy trying to beat them all in basketball – and my parents taught me that women should be opinionated, self-reliant and that I should never need a guy to do anything for me but show me respect. So, as a budding Angela Davis in a sea of Doris Days, I was out of place. Consequently, I outgrew early fixations with my mom’s heels and lipstick, instead favoring a Bulls jersey and light-up LA Gears. This attire led me to often be cast as Dad or any other masculine role anytime us girls got together to play house or any other pretend game based on heteronormative constructs. I think that probably did a lot to my psyche, but my guess is that it led me to this blog, so SCORE.
Anyway, despite my lack of femininity (though I can display my decolletage with the breast best of them), I’ve learned how to embrace my stereotypically female interests and put them to use. I’m lucky enough to have Rachael Lander, the siren in green, to guide me through the craziness that is planning a bachelorette party and a bridal shower, and learning not to hate marriage, love and feelings. Rachael shares my penchant for douchebags and is doing her best to make me feel like anything but a token. Rachael has a blog chronicling her constant feelings as well as her passion for U2. As Rachael’s former editor, I often tried to take her feelings away from her writing, but as we’ve shifted from co-workers to friends, Rachael’s fearlessly unabashed feelings have brought some shades of gray into my emotionally black-and-white world. Plus, she’s secure enough to share the spotlight (even though she’s earned it all on her own). Rachael is currently in charge of my old stomping ground, and she’s doing a great job (with help from two talented guys with the same name).
Steinem is right when she says a lot of my peers have shirked “feminist” as a title. For those of us who haven’t, we’re trying to bring our fourth-wave ideas to the table and attempt to marinate (or Merynate) the word’s definition in social media and other 21st Century conventions.