I was always a "guy's girl."
In my younger years, I gravitated toward the boys.
I climbed trees and cut my hands and scraped my knees.
I collected turtles and frogs from Grass Lake and carried them back to my house to creep out my mom.
I spit and forgot to wear underwear and cut off all my hair.
I was the first girl to play baseball on the boys' team for Minneapolis parks, and I was awesome. I loved it so much that I barely noticed how much they hated me for it, or how they made fun of me daily. I just wanted to play and do the things that came freely to them.
By trying to access all that male privilege, I happened to build up some internalized misogyny.
I thought my older sister was confusing. 11 years my senior and spending hours getting ready in the morning - drawing on her eyebrows and spreading mousse through her curly hair which she washed in the laundry room tub because we had way too many people in one house, with one bathroom. I would sit next to her as she applied cream after cream to her face in the marquee style mirror she had, decorated with pictures of her equally confusing and gussied girlfriends covered in frosted pink lipstick and plastic pearls. I just didn't get it.
My mom did her best, but she was always tired and never really played with me. I assumed that this is what it meant to be a woman - to be tired and maybe a little boring and to possibly hate imagination. To cook the food and go to work and go to bed. To do the laundry and pay the bills and say "I'm tired" a lot. I rejected that. I rejected being a woman.
But I'm a woman now.
And this accumulation of internalized misogyny and a rejection of how society paints women has resulted in the last 20 years having been nearly void of female friendships.
I had a very best friend once, who I loved and cherished above most people. We always seemed to be experiencing the same BIG LIFE CHANGES at literally exactly the same moment, and we could commiserate about them and feel normal for a while. We got fat together and then we lost weight together. We fell in love with men and lost them for reasons for which we probably still blame ourselves.
We had a falling out last year and it felt like my life was ripped away from me. My anchor, my rock - the thing that kept me steady was the same thing that bashed me in the head and the heart - leaving me confused and feeling alone.
This only exacerbated the feelings of distrust for women. The drama. The games. The cattiness. The lack of trust. It was all so well illustrated there, but now I had no one to process it with, to stay up late and complain about it to, and so I had to sit with it and really dig around in there.
I had to deal.
And what I found is that I had learned to hate women in the same way that society devalues them. Despite my being a real-live-woman, I couldn't stand them and didn't trust them. As I began to learn what my feminism really looks like, intersectional and inclusive, I had to learn to dismantle these feelings.
Clearly, 30+ years of learning is not undone in a day just because you have an A-HA moment.
So I've been working on this, and allowing women to come into my life and be what they are. To step in and help them when they need me, and back the fuck off when they don't. To drink together, walk together, work together, plan together, be together. And it has been marvelous.
I'm learning a lot about what it means to be me, as a woman, and I was really really wrong about the imagination thing. Women are SO creative (my Mom especially). We walk through life daily having to invent ways to fit into a world that rejects us. To prove ourselves when we've already done so, to try to see our own inherent worth when we learn so early that we're worthless. To decide whether to buy into certain things or reject them - either equally valid so long as it's a conscious choice.
Women are intentional.
For the last year, I've been trying to delve deep into circles of women, trans, and Femme folks I admire after some years of associating with some of the most toxic women I've met. In order to unlearn my misogyny, I need to be surrounded by examples of women who are queering the prescribed package of femininity, and shoring up that intentional being I believe women to be. The kind of women who lift other women up, believe in them, trust them, and celebrate them. Empower them, not tear them down so that they can take that tiny step closer to the top for themselves.
I believe it would be truly difficult for those who consider themselves feminists to continue operating under these misogynistic principles that drive the patriarchy. We must practice dismantling this socialized behavior and to stop seeing our women, trans, and femme friends as threats, and instead understand that our cooperative work is changing the invisible nature of this very problem.