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Ways In Which We Fail At Being Feminists

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jessica wakeman

Some people might look at a title like “5 Ways I Failed At Being A Feminist” and turn up their noses. It’s a listicle by a woman of ways that she’s not a “perfect feminist,” like how she straight-irons her hair because her crush once complimented her when her hair was straightened. Silly, yes, but haven’t we all been there? I don’t know if that means being a “failure” at feminism, which afterall, is not just one thing but actually many multiple movements all together. Let’s be a little less hard on each other and ourselves. We are all human. We are all learning and improving. Tearing people down is not as helpful as building people up.

I — and by extension, the whole Frisky staff — think bashing other people for not being “feminist-enough” is like eating our own young. In fact, we realize that sometimes the guilt we feel for not being “feminist enough” is just us being really conflicted about internalized patriarchal bullshit. We so often see ourselves as the sole problem, which oftentimes is partially true, but there’s a whole society out there that is also to blame. Baby girls don’t come out of the birth canal thinking they’re fat!

So, after the jump, here are some of the ways I, other Frisky staff members, and a few other anonymous feminists I know have “failed” at being feminists. Oh, how we have failed!

When I was 21, I had a boyfriend who got angry at me and grabbed my hand and crunched it in his own. He didn’t hurt-hurt me, but it was definitely intended to be threatening and intimidating. I wish I had broken up with him or even just called him out on it. But the behavior scared me and I was afraid to speak up about it because I wanted the whole incident to just go away. When we did break up some months later, I regretted that I had “let him get away” with that incident, so to speak. — Jessica

All the hours of my life I’ve wasted waiting for dudes to call. I wish, wish, wish, I could somehow get those hours of my life back: the times I’ve anguished over a dude calling me, rather than just doing the assertive, feminist thing and calling him first. So disappointing. — Anonymous

The number one way I fail at being feminist is feeling whatever it is I feel when I look in a mirror about 90 percent of the time. — Andrea

I kind of think my vagina is ugly. THERE. I SAID IT. — Amelia

Sometimes I don’t interrupt guys who are making sexist comments for the sole reason that I don’t want to be seen as not getting the joke or being a feminist killjoy. I always, always, always regret not saying anything, but in the moment apparently my status as a “fun girl” is more important than speaking up about things that really matter. Ugh. — Anonymous

One of my friends was raped and another one of my friends once made a comment about how she doubted it was true. At the time the doubting-friend said it, I was so shocked that I didn’t say anything. But I wish I spoken up and called her out on it. She could have handled it. — Jessica

At my old job I was in a meeting with a bunch of men I worked with. One of them made a joke about this older woman and how one of the other guys must have gone down on her to land the account. Now, I’ve heard and told so many off-color jokes, I love off-color jokes, but this one really made me feel uncomfortable. I think I said something like “Eww” or “Hey guys,” but I really should have kicked up hell about it. I could have sued the company for sexual harassment. I let something slide that I found disgusting and demeaning to women. — Ami

I legitimately believe that you shouldn’t sleep with a dude until you seal the relationship deal. That’s so unfeminist, but I’ve found it to be sound advice when it comes to not getting too emotionally attached to a guy you’re casually dating. — Anonymous

There are days that I would be perfectly happy being “just” a stay-at-home mom, and let my husband be the only one pulling in an income (theoretically it could certainly sustain our small family). — Anonymous

I will wear Spanx or stockings sometimes, even though I really, really HATE how uncomfortable they feel, if I’m trying to impress a dude on a first date.  — Jessica

As much as I try to deny it to myself and the world, I totally get jealous when friends get more male attention than I do. — Anonymous

Working at Maxim magazine for two and a half years. Yes, I made some great friends there and a lot of the guys I worked with were lovely. And yes, I made it an empowering experience for myself by taking on a management role where I had a certain level of authority over all these dudes. But a lot of the actual content of the magazine — particularly the incredibly low brow interviews with D-list women who were only in the magazine because they would wear as little clothing as we asked — was so anti-feminist it’s not even funny. And I conducted some of those interviews. Sigh. It eventually started to eat away at my soul which is better than it not eating away at my soul I suppose. — Amelia

I taught at an all-girls high school in inner-city Los Angeles. The predominant family value of the population I taught was for these girls either to a) stay close to home and live at home while going to college or b) get married or have kids straight out of college. For my four years there, I gave lectures all of the time about the importance of leaving the state for college and moving away from home. That resulted in one student attending a university in NYC. But that meant me talking to her parents and doing her college application for her, staying late after work to coach and mentor her. We are still in touch and she is very successful. I wish I had been able to do this for more of the girls. — Ami

When I first started doing stand-up comedy, I told a fair few jokes about how slutty I was and relied on a lot of stupid stereotypes–not just sexist ones, but racist ones and ableist and classist ones, to score easy laughs. I reveled in the attention from “successful” male comics who tried to sleep with me, thinking it had something to do with my brilliant jokes (which, again, were occasionally racist and sexist and ist-ish and generally unfunny) and not the way I looked or acted. I’m really ashamed of all that now because I think a feminism that isn’t anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-ableist, anti-all-the-ists, is pretty much bullshit. I can’t even go back and watch videos of my first sets five years ago. It’s so embarrassing. If there’s anything that ever will get me back on stage doing stand-up, it’s the knowledge that the material I would do now would be kyriarchy-smashing as fuck. — Andrea

A few years ago I earned less money than I did now, but I still earned more than my boyfriend at the time.  I was extremely supportive of him and his career (he was trying to get a tech startup off the ground), both emotionally and to a certain degree financially. We were serious about being together in the long-term and we had had many conversations about what we wanted our future to be like. He knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom at some point in the future and that he would financially support me during that time.  Then it looked like I might be losing my job if The Frisky shut down (thank God it didn’t!) which would have meant I would have been having financial problems.  I assumed that I could count on him then and actually, if I’m honest, I EXPECTED him to be there for me like I’d been there for him all along. Perhaps that wasn’t very feminist of me, but I saw it as more of a going-through-hard-times-while-in-a-relationship “tit for tat” thing at that time.  Well, he ended up breaking up with me. He even said when he was breaking up that he didn’t want to financially support me if I did lose my job, which made me so angry.  The irony is that it ended up being a non-problem because The Frisky (obviously) didn’t shut down! However, I had to move in with my parents after the breakup, because I didn’t have any savings tucked away and his breakup caught me completely off-guard. In retrospect, I wish that I had had savings so I never would have had to have asked him to help support me (and then experience the subsequent disappointment). Now I earn more money and am setting aside savings so I can take care of myself and not be dependent on a dude OR my parents. — Jessica

I talk and write all the time about body acceptance, but I still harbor a substantial amount of hatred for my belly and thighs, and when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed with life the first thing I do is fall back on my body hating ways. I still say “I feel fat” even though I know FAT’S NOT A FEELING. — Anonymous

When I was an actress, I felt like a failure every time I went on an audition to play a one-dimensional, stereotype of a woman. But I kept going on them anyway and had to muster up faux excitement for my agents and manager about wanting to land these ridiculous roles. — Ami

At the end of the day, I care way more about becoming a mom than having a “successful” career. But I also think that the way we measure success in this country is, like, not my vibe anyway so maybe I’m just an anti-capitalist baby lover. — Amelia

There. That felt good, didn’t it? Share your own stories in the comments; no judgment here. And, for the love of God, DO NOT BE NASTY TO EACH OTHER. Please. Mama Bear Amelia will get all up in your business deleting shit if y’all can’t play nice in the sandbox.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.

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