“Men are gonna be afraid to say or do anything now,” he lamented, hearing the news of yet another high profile sexual harassment case. This man, a dear friend of mine, one who abhors all things Trump, greed, and violence, sensed that new and powerful tides were sweeping in. A sensitive man who shares poetry and likes to have breakfast every morning at the restaurant I manage. Every day he tells me that I should run the place. I enjoy his company and his propensity for honest conversation, even at 8 a.m.
“I disagree. I think they will have to start to consider how to treat women as full human beings,” I replied, as matter of factly as his daily black coffee.
The gravity of my response sat heavy in the air around us. I could breathe it in and hold it in my hand. I paused, intimidated by the power of it and how it flowed from me so freely. Intimidated, briefly, by the idea that this unfiltered tenacity might have offended him.
But above all, what electrified the air in that moment was my own spirit. Me. My own bold feminine energy. My own voice echoing in his brain and bouncing through things that he thought he knew. Things I felt to be true.
We had both been taught to fear this power and to be offended by it.
I am 26 years old and work two full time jobs. The first, managing an inspiring restaurant in Venice Beach. The second, manifesting a life as a film director of my own food documentary series.
My passion for food and film has led me to face two Goliath industries historically dictated by masculine power and taste. Patriarchy reigns over each of them, still.
Every day when I wake up, I understand that I’m walking into a game that will be exhausting to play. A game where some men explain to me what I already know. A game of being painfully aware of my body’s vulnerability and that my boundaries may not be respected. A game called trying to keep my dignity and my job and fair pay. A game of knowing I will get a laugh or an angry huff when someone demands to “speak with the manager!!” and I reply firmly, with grace, “I am the manager.”
But I am the manager. I am the director. I am a woman. And so, I am empowered.
The greatest thing I can manage and direct is how I see myself. I can dictate the words I use to describe myself, intimately and out loud. It takes dedication and exercise to lift off the weight of generations that have been told women should sit down. That women should be grateful because to take up space is a gift. And that women who want to be treated with equal respect are asking for a favor.
So, every day, I re-decide my worth and that I am capable. I re-decide to shake the shame and reclaim the time, space, and respect that I deserve as a human being. Like playing dress-up as a young girl, I continue to choose my character and my role. I play my own heroine. And some days, my strength is to have an honest cry and show compassion. Other days, it is to say No and Enough. My strength is not to yell at someone or publicly shame them, but to outsmart them and look them straight in the eyes when I speak. My power is to persuade with peace, not aggression. My power is creative and empathetic. I create life. I breathe, I bleed, I eat, I nourish, I love, I am. My resistance is confidence in my honest existence, and in that I will stand my ground.
A PROFOUND TECTONIC SHIFT OCCURRED IN MY LIFE WHEN I STARTED SEEING MY FEMININITY AS POWER INSTEAD OF WEAKNESS. I IMPLORE YOU TO DO THE SAME.
It is something we do not see often in the movies, so it takes imagination at first. Like a baby smiling at itself in the mirror, all people need to see a reflection of themselves for validation and encouragement. Men have a lifetime of it, perpetuated every day for easy emulation. The trouble is that our own cultural storytelling has fooled us into believing that power is a caricatured version of masculinity: loud, brute, big, physical, and un-fuck-with-able.
My greatest daily rebellion is to not be fooled and to believe in my own strength. My greatest act of defiance is one of self-love, because with that I have begun to combat the misogyny that has kept me down until now. The internalized misogyny that convinced me I was sort of powerful, but that I was flawed. The glass ceiling that I am fighting is also inside of me. It is the barrier that keeps women from loving themselves—and therefore each other. Misogyny is not about Us vs. Them. Misogyny is more pernicious. It divides us amongst ourselves. Compassion for myself as a woman has grown into the courage to be truly vocal and present, and to give and receive support without shame. It has released me from operating out of fear and insecurity. Above all, self-compassion empowers me to show up every day for my community. Today, I speak out for others and support them more than ever.
Thanks to the brave work of the bold women before us, we are at a unique point in history where we do not have to resort to the old “If you can’t beat’em, join’em.”I don’t want to be in a boys’ club. I don’t want to be a boy. I want to be whatever my soul is pushing me to be and I am on standing at the door to a future where that is a real possibility. And, if I have learned anything from my daily practice of self-love for my femininity, it is that my power does not come in like a wrecking ball. Instead, it is fierce and fluid like the ocean, rising up with waves that erode even the toughest structures. It cannot be calculated. It is raw and real, alive and radiant and it is about to crack the glass within me wide open. Those who fear it tell me to sit down, they call it witchy, bitchy, sassy, or Crooked. They laugh and condescend. They say I’m emotional and to shut up. But they are the critics and I am the director. I am not overreacting. I am existing.
So, where do we go from here? We start a daily practice of embracing our magic and telling our truth. If you already have, dig even deeper. Write an even better story and love even bigger. I’ve met a lot of feminists who were all too quick to throw a passive punch or pretend they didn’t see me standing in front of them at the same table. We need each other. We need to be better about embracing that. There is no shame in it, only strength.
Be honest with yourself and re-decide who you want to be. Tell it to yourself every night and every morning. Live it. Own it. Do not fear it. Then, shine for each other, with each other. If the story isn’t up on the screen, then create the space and the stage in your classroom, your kitchen, your home, your office, your gym, your heart…
Do you see me? I see you.
I feel you. I hear you. I know you. I love you. You are my reflection. You are my heroine. And because of you, I am not afraid to say or do anything now.