By Europe & Me‘s Nicoletta Enria and Friederike Sandow
The term womanspiration, encompasses the magic of solidarity between and inspiration from those who recognise as female. On this occasion, we’ll opt for the more inclusive ‘womxnspiration’, a term that rids transphobic sentiments and embraces the intersectionality of current feminist movements (more on how the term is more inclusive here). Whether it’s a womxn that inspires you, the inspiration you get from your closest friends, or an initiative that supports gender equality and female empowerment – womxnspiration covers it all.
2018 was a rollercoaster of a year for women’s rights, from the appalling Brett Kavanaugh hearing, peppered with accounts of sexual harassment that were brushed under the carpet with his confirmation, to the banning of cat calling in France. With massive setbacks, but also great advances, what will 2019 have in store for womxn across Europe and beyond? What does womxnspiration mean to young E&Mers that recognise as female? We hope this healthy dose of womxnspiration will help get you through 2019 – and continue the fight for gender equality across the world.
Womxnspiration is a term that really means a lot to me. In my professional and academic experiences, I happen to often come across wonderful womxn that help me carry on, whom I can share experiences with and seek solace for the difficulties I face. But I’d say my biggest source of womxnspiration is the embracing of female rage.
I first came across the term on the hilarious female satire magazine, Reductress, effectively compiling together the absurdities faced by womxn, exposing them for their farcical aspects. Here, I found an online sisterhood of womxn who were as pissed off as I was. Pissed off not only at the attitudes of cis-men, but a general system structurally built to oppress and demean womxn at differing levels. So, blasting Rico Nasty’s ‘Rage’ allow me to unload my grievances and explain why this gives me great womxnspiration. (BTW Rico Nasty is one among many amazing womxn artists that help channel female rage, like Molly Brazy, Cardi B and many more – all not entirely un-problematic).
A fresh graduate in 2016 I entered the professional world full of hope and big dreams – as a real stereotype of a young European womxn that pictures post-uni life filled with radical change and unicorns. I was lucky in my first professional experience to be surrounded by wonderful co-workers that made me feel my voice was worth something and despite my age and gender respected my opinions and suggestions. This wasn’t the case for every encounter I had.
With different clients, I felt a constant patronising tone, demeaning my every accomplishment with a simple scoff. This was accentuated most in my return to my studies this year. In the classroom, opinions I had just voiced were taken in higher regard when a cis-male companion of mine uttered them. Roundtables where my suggestions were only implemented once a cis-man uttered them. In a job interview, a cis-man who claimed to have no knowledge on my dissertation, then went on to explain it (more like MANsplain it) to me – you know just a subtle reminder of who’s boss. I felt the rage brewing.
Then, men all around unloading emotional labour on all the womxn around them – then reaping the benefits and going on to succeed. Womxn perceived as dumpsters, with men backing up their ready to unload their trash-load of emotional baggage. The list goes on.
You’re probably thinking – isn’t womxnspiration about getting inspiration from fellow womxn or movements? You’re not wrong. My womxnspiration are the wonderful womxn and men that have and continue to give me the confidence to continue to do so.
Indeed, what I get most womxnspiration from, is sharing the rage of my grievances with my favourite friends, and with activists on instagram. For me, there is nothing more inspiring than getting together with my favourite womxn and just unleashing our rage at an unfair system that entrenches a mis-treatment of womxn and nonbinary people. Thank you to all those who have and continue to listen and empower me, helping me find my voice. But also thank you to Munroe Bergdorf, Mona Eltahawy, Lachrista Greco (guerilla feminist), Rachel Cargle, Liz Plank (feministafabulous), Chidera Eggerue (The Slumflower) and so many more, that help me find my voice, learn about the struggles of different womxn in my attempt to be intersectional and fight for the struggles of all shapes and forms of womxn in the world. And most importantly, to my friends and instagram activists – thank you for teaching me to find my rage – and channel it for some serious Big Dick Energy I hope to swerve into 2019 with.
Like Nicoletta, my rage empowers me. I have found my rage – finally. Or maybe it has finally found me, I don’t know. I think it found me a little late, later than I wished it had. But I am so glad it is here. And there are so many things to look at and be enraged about. And I am raging for younger me, younger me who was wearing rose-tinted glasses and who, growing up in a progressive household (which, to the standards I now have, seem slightly antiquated) never thought she was affected by sexism. I was though. Also partly by my own. But also – and this is new – I do not need to be entirely perfect in my feminism. I strive to be, but it’s a learning curve.
The thought that encompasses it and which helps me decipher if I am overreacting or underreacting is this simple mantra from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s manifesto:
“I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only’. Not ‘as long as’. I matter equally. Full stop.”
There was this long-term ex-boyfriend who was very uncomfortable with the idea I could ever earn more than him. Shockingly, that was not the reason we broke up. But I matter. I matter equally. I think it should have been the reason to break up though, in hindsight.
There was this moment a couple of years ago when I was spending time back home in the house I grew up in and I found my old report cards from school and they said, black on white, that I was really good at math. All throughout school. And I had been convinced that I was better at languages and literature, hence my choice of field of study. But it turned out: I wasn’t. And when I showed my Mum, she was also confused. And it dawned on me: I did not trust myself to be good at math. I wasn’t supposed to be good at math. But I should have, because I matter. I matter equally.
Then there are also the messages on LinkedIn where men ask you out on dates. They really shouldn’t. The question during a job interview that I had of whether I was in a relationship. It was such a nice conversation; I only noticed weeks later that this had been outrageous. (I had gotten the job, I was single.) But I matter. I matter equally.
With my newfound rage I can prepare myself for the future. I can be more courageous. I can speak up for me and for women around me. I speak up when I cannot sit down on public transport because the men are man-spreading. It disgusts me, this self-entitling possession of space. I do not care if this is ‘more comfortable’, I care about the message it sends, no matter if voluntarily or involuntarily, and that is: ‘I am here, I am big, I need space and I make you feel small.’ But I matter. I matter equally.
I rage when women in leadership positions are being praised for ‘always having an open ear and being like a mother to all’. And I also rage when someone describes their female superior that lacks this ‘motherly touch’ as stone cold bitches. They matter. They matter equally.
During the holidays I went to a really, really fancy restaurant. It was Christmas, it was an invitation, the family gathered and it was so very chic and classy and beautiful. And I had a great evening. But only because I had to swallow my rage. My rage about that fancy and chic still means that no womxn is asked to taste the wine. That the bill is automatically placed in front of the man. That there is a wink and a shush by the waiter when the womxn excuses herself to go to the bathroom. That the laughter should be laughed at an appropriate volume.
I talked to some friends about it. And I got the reply that ‘it’s nice. It’s nice to be treated nicely. Are you going to hold it against a guy if he opens the door for you? Or wants to pay for your drink or meal?’
I ain’t fooled by this Feminism Lite. “The troubling idea in Feminism Lite is, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to ‘treat women well.’ No. No. No. There must be more than male benevolence as the basis for a womxn’s well-being.”
I don’t want to be treated well because I am a womxn. I want to treat everyone well because we are human.
And I want to further my rage, and I cannot wait what feminist rages I discover in 2019, and I cannot wait for the day when I discover less and less.
And until we wait, I need to leave you with just one plea: grab your brother, your father, your friends, your mum, your housemates, your class, your teachers – and watch Female Pleasure.
This article was originally published in Europe & Me (E&M), with which A Tribe Of Women (ATOW) collaborates.
This article sparked the feminist series, Female Rage, where E&M’s Nicoletta Enria and Friederike Sandow exchange what has made them quite frankly ‘rage’. They believe that in speaking up about feminist issues that womxn experience daily, womxn empower each other: no one is alone. And we all have a lot to learn and to teach about how to become better feminists.