Confessions of a born again feminist

By Nicole Chinery

If not for anything I am glad for the series of unfortunate events that have led me to this point of realisation- an epiphany, an ‘aha’ moment, an awakening or whatever phrase seems most suitable to describe the awareness of the fact I do not have to live my life by the standards of anyone else and especially not a man’s. As liberating as that sounds, there is a crippling fear that accompanies daring to live beyond the limitations of the patriarchy. Hence, the essence of truly knowing oneself. What began, for me, as relentless efforts to heal my broken heart soon became an endeavor to uncover ways in which I had centered men in my life. And to my utter dismay, I was not the liberated woman I thought I was. I realised a thread of thought patterns and behavious that were geared towards making men comfortable and approving of me. Somewhere deeply embedded in my psyche I felt the need to be worthy of the male gaze and this was not just limited to my constant critique of my appearance but moreso about the suppression of myself lest a man deems me “too much”. In the first place, what do we define as “too much” and by whose standards do we measure this adequacy? Why do us women feel the need to make ourselves small in ways unbeknownst to even ourselves? I’ll admit, perhaps I got lost in this rabbit hole of questions, obsessed with trying to understand why I felt the yoke of the burden of being the one responsible for the progression of a conversation with a man, for instance. Or why I censored myself because I did not want to seem too feminist, too ‘hippie, too passionate, too smart. What I realised though was that girls and women for centuries have been given the impossible mandate of having to be beautiful but not too beautiful that it threatens a man, of having to be eloquent but not too smart that it undermines the mans intellect, of having to be interesting enough to attract and sustain a man but not so much so that we become so sufficient in ourselves that we do not desire to attract a man in the first place. This measure of adequacy is such that it keeps a man happy and comfortable and in a position where he feels safe in his masculinity and ‘authority’. Now why I regard this as an impossible task for girls and women is that we cannot satisfy the requirement for this adequacy without the betrayal of ourselves. And for 18 years, I had been betraying myself. But it gets better, it gets less scary living by my own standards because now I can look at myself through my very own lens and know exactly what I want and what makes me happy, the comfort of men be damned- respectfully

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