Settling into Feminism (and my adult brain) – IWD 2023

Four years ago I wrote a blog post for International Women’s Day entitled ‘Celebrating Angry Women‘, where I encouraged everyone to embrace the rage of feminism, to not be shocked or embarrassed but emboldened by it. At the time I was studying in my 3rd year at University and was in the process of discovering feminism properly. By that, I don’t mean I was walking around at 21 years old and suddenly a pin dropped and I thought ‘wow the patriarchy exists’, but that I was finally reading and engaging with texts that put into words feelings and experiences I had since I was a child. Moreover, they were texts that didn’t just describe them but openly rebelled against the systems that created them and called for change. And it was mindblowing to me. Everything from serious texts on sexual assault and rape convictions, to something as seemingly insiginificant as the power of female friendship (I still love you Dolly Alderton) completely altered my life. I had words and arguments to fill me up, to take with me and shout from the rooftops anytime I witnessed an injustice or a victim of the patriarchy. I was changed and I was better for it.

And though I still believe the words I wrote in that blog, and though everything I learned during those years sits in me, I’m not really angry anymore. Now, this is something that I say with a lot of trepidation, it is not easy for me to admit that my early rage has diminished because it is something I defended so dearly. I remember arguments with my parents where I swore I would always be angry, passionate, and outraged until the world sorted itself out. On one occasion my mum told me about all the activism she did at University, the marches she went on and the petitions she signed, she and my dad both promised me I would ‘grow out of it’ and ‘calm down’, both things I was adamant I wouldn’t do. And they weren’t right either, because ‘growing out’ of something, or ‘calming down’ both imply that what you are doing is wrong or too much and feminism cannot be defined as either of those things. Being passionate is a good thing, but, I have found in the last few years that whilst I still have all these beliefs inside of me, and whilst I still care deeply about these things, my feminism has settled within me. It is not as loud and exuberant as it once was. I don’t post about it all over social media every day, I don’t read something and want to cry and scream (mostly), and I don’t feel as angry.

Now there are two reasons for this, one of which is quite bleak so I shall deal with that first and move on. A part of me knows that my reactions and approaches to feminism have changed, simply because the shock factor has worn off. I sometimes simply do not have the energy to fight quite as hard as I used to because it can feel like nothing is changing. And that sounds sad and defeatest and I don’t mean it to be, but it is the truth. I think as people engage with feminism they go through this cycle of discovery-outrage-acceptance, because injustices have been happening to ALL DISADVANTAGED GROUPS, not just women, for centuries. Though things are getting better and positive change is possible, it is slow and it is draining and sometimes outlooks change, in order for stamina to remain. I know some feminists can keep up the rage their whole lives, they are the best and the loudest of us and they enact real change, but it is also okay to care and fight in quieter ways and that is what I am learning.

The other reason why I have transformed the anger is that I truly don’t need it anymore. It is not just a defeatist act, but one I would like to label as an adult decision post-full frontal lobe. And if that sounds insane, it’s because it is, but STICK WITH ME. I was listening to Katherine Ryan’s podcast a few months back and she was offering some advice to a young woman who had written in, and said to her “you’re not even 25 yet, your brain hasn’t developed, your frontal lobe is not fully formed until you are 25 years old so anything before that doesn’t matter”. I am paraphrasing, but that is basically what she said, and honestly … I couldn’t agree more. I’ve felt a shift in me over the last year, and though that can be down to circumstance and overall mental health and a number of other factors but I also believe it is because I now have an adult brain. And this is something I have discussed with my friends of the same age, all of us have felt a shift or at least a settlement. We are more self-assured, more able to reason with our own emotions and most importantly, more confident in who we are and what we stand for. I love getting older, it means entering spaces where I meet new people who influence me, I am constantly expanding my understanding of different narratives and arguments, and I now have the tools and mental capacity to form my own ideas, beliefs and boundaries. Most importantly, I can approach these things without my anger taking over in a negative way. Now, anger shouldn’t always have negative connotations in regards to feminism, but for me it sometimes did. Channeling that anger into more productive approaches has been so positive personally. And I truly believe this capacity to think and feel with integrity is (at least in part) due to my lovely adult brain.

In essence, over the last 4 years since my first IWD blogpost, I have settled into my feminism and learnt to replace the anger with an established, deep-rooted and permanent set of ideals and beliefs about the world and how women fit into it. The anger is not gone but transformed. I am grateful that I get to change and grow, and so happy this platform has tracked that change so well. I love thebiasedhistorian and I love that I get a space to share all my feminist/queer/silly thoughts! I hope this IWD, everyone can identify a safe space where they get to share and explore their own values and beliefs just like I do.

*Feature Image by artbabyandco on Etsy*

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