This entry was originally written and published by me to my previous blog on June 21, 2016. A friend and I are considering a sort of series about dating whilst feminist. Consider this the first installment.
I was talking to one of my girlfriends the other day about she and her girlfriends circus bombing public places (they pull out their hoops, silks, and other apparatuses, and do flips and climbs and other super creative stuff that I’d never be able to do in public spaces). At one point during the conversation, she told me that people tell her it’s intimidating when she and her friends do that.
Two days later, I was having coffee with a new friend when the intimidation theme came up again. She strikes me as a strong woman who has been through some recent changes in her life and is finding her way to what she wants out of life; what she deserves. People find that intimidating.
Over the last four years, I have heard more times than I can count that I am intimidating. I’ve heard this mostly (but not strictly) from men. I also occasionally hear it from women who are 20 or more years my senior. I never hear it from women in and around my age or younger. I never hear it from men who consider me a friend and their equal.
It took me quite a while to suss out why this adjective kept creeping into descriptions of me, but I think I’ve finally got it.
Here are some of the words I would use to describe myself (though, not in all contexts of my life and not all the time):
- funny (mostly, it’s just me who finds me funny)
There are probably more, but that’s a good list, I think. Now, whilst I am a mother all the time, for instance, I am not powerful all the time, or at least I don’t feel like I am. Whilst I am vegan all the time, I am not passionate all the time, as there are some things about which I really couldn’t care less. Of course, as noted above, there are other descriptors I’ve listed that I don’t feel apply to every aspect of my existence. Sometimes, I am very weak. Sometimes, I do dumb things. Sometimes, I’m not very compassionate. These are all things that are inherent in being human. None of us is perfect.
But, back to my point.
Or as I’ve come to understand it when that adjective is applied to me: a smart woman who speaks.
I am intelligent, passionate, assertive, and vocal.
When something strikes me as wrong, I stand up and I say so. When someone makes a racist or sexist remark, I address it. When someone says or does something to one of my children or a friend, I do what I can to make the situation right. When I don’t like the way someone is behaving toward me, I don’t stand for it.
It took me many years to find this woman in myself. I spent a very long time being quiet; being accommodating; and not making waves.
Following some significant changes in my life, I slowly came into my own.
I found my voice. I talked about life experiences that I’d had. I started pushing myself to do things I never thought I’d do; that others didn’t think I was capable of doing.
And I wouldn’t change a single thing.
Sometimes, people tell me that I should stop being intimidating, and – for a while – that bothered me a lot. I didn’t think I was being intimidating at all. I was being myself.
What I came to realize is that there is a colossal difference between someone feeling intimidated by me and me actually being intimidating.
Let me say that again.
There is a colossal difference between someone feeling intimidated by me and me actually being intimidating.
My behaviour is absolutely my responsibility. Other’s people’s perception of my behaviour is 100% their responsibility.
And for those who say, “Oh, but you’ll never find a man if you don’t stop being so intimidating,” I direct you to the quote above from one of my favourite feminists Chimamanda Adichie. (And I’ll even leave alone the whole issue around people’s presumptions about me “find[ing] a man.”)