These are the words of one of my dearest friends, Katrina Sudman. Her passion and transparency are lovely to behold, and she has an unbridled passion for people and their value. If you have any questions about anything you read, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I’ll never forget the feeling.
My anticipation rose every Wednesday night. I hurried to finish what homework I could before 7:50 graced my evening with its presence. I always had unfinished work, some due the next morning. But I left it- even huge final papers the week before finals. As a recovering workaholic and perfectionist, this was big and always worth it.
The time came and I left my little apartment. I headed down Alosta Avenue,
combat boots clicking a rhythm, hands pushed in my pockets, face bent towards the sky, searching for stars amidst the smog.
I felt as if I was on a mission and what some might call being “on top of the world”, but I don’t like cliché phrases, and besides, it’s not quite accurate. To be on top of the world sounds somewhat condescending if you think about it, and I felt very much in the midst of the world- alive, passionate, searching, human.
When I was younger, I mastered the delicate art of both compromising my safety and having a fabulous time on roller coasters. When I first got on the ride, I would sit in a ridiculous (and yet subtle) way that allowed my stomach to stick out to be about twice its size, and pull the lap bar tight to that inflated distance. The attendants carried out their haphazard safety check by tapping the bar, and once the ride began I sat back down normally. This left inches of what I called “fly room”, which meant that while whizzing down every hill I would fly up in my seat, almost standing sometimes, arms up and laughing.
Years have gone by, and I’m not a roller coaster person anymore, but that feeling of being dazzlingly free with a pinch of rebellion showed up in my life again in the form of walking to these feminist discussion group meetings.
Inside, white Christmas lights glowed and I drank tea and my life changed. Those women transformed me- becoming something I carried with me, embracing my unbridled honesty and enriching my mind and life.
We talked about our own stories, the stories of trailblazers, visionaries, dedicated workers and inhabitants of the world not yet even born. We laughed and got angry and really listened, and we let our ideas and questions flow freely, one inspiring the next. We talked about historical/cultural gender roles and rape culture and patriarchy and the history of feminism- its triumphs and failures. We discussed the ways feminism changed and empowered our day-to-day lives and those around us.
As we read and watched and empathized and analyzed, I began to put together pieces of my life and understand why I had felt powerless or belittled of afraid in certain situations. I began to be stronger and braver and more excited about my life, and I felt like I finally met a part of me that had been ready to breathe the air for years.
I first heard about these meetings from a piece of paper on a door around campus. It advertised a feminist book club/discussion group, and said the only requirement was an open mind. Since I was already greatly interested in feminism and was certain I had met the prerequisite, I went. As a major introvert, introducing myself to a roomful of strangers is very far out of my comfort zone. Not only did I introduce myself, but I came back every week, and I participated. I shared ideas, questions and stories that were vulnerable and risky. And I didn’t regret it once.
In a nutshell: according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”. It is about equality of opportunities and treatment. It is not about hating men, making men the enemy, believing women are superior to men, or demeaning women who choose to be stay-at-home moms or wives. The goal of feminist work is to benefit everyone; the belief is that some current social structures are damaging to everyone, and that different ideas/laws/societal messages would change the world for the better.
I know, I know. Feminism is a very controversial thing. This is partially because of some real issues in the movement historically or currently. It is also due to inaccurate and stale caricatures, which people promote out of ignorance or fear. Normally I am quite private about my beliefs and would not have chosen to write about this publically. However, I didn’t write about this topic to share my opinion, but my story. I was honored that Hannah asked me to write something, and this story and what comes out of telling it matters to me. If you have questions or concerns about feminism, I’d be happy to discuss it with you.
If you’re open to some advice, this is what I’d tell you: Break your rules and give yourself some “fly room”. It’s a little dangerous, but nothing compares to feeling truly alive.
**All photo credit goes to the fabulous and stunning Kim Schwaar.