Posted byat 27th April, 2009
by Chanel Dubofsky – Woodhull Alumna
There are things that I know because I live them: new shoes are uncomfortable the first day you wear them, I have to fix that ball thing so the toilet will stop flushing over and over again. Then there are the things I’ve forgotten that I know, and in a singular, beautiful moment, I relearn them.
The other day, I was on a conference call, listening to my colleagues discuss another colleague involved in what had become a controversial situation. “She’s pushing the envelope,” someone said, and inside me, something went off. I thought, what’s wrong with this person? Why does she have to make such a big deal? Can’t she just go with it?
I am often the envelope pusher, the one who won’t just “go with it”, who says the status quo itself is the problem. Still, on the phone, deep in my socialized, genderized guts, I flinched.
As women, we live in a world that demands the following of certain rules. Shave your legs. Do not take up too much space with your body or your voice. Look pretty, even if it’s uncomfortable or dangerous. Do not ask too many questions. Find a man, no matter what. It is your job to make sure things turn out well Do not protest if it’s not fair. Do not be a troublemaker. If you are, people won’t like you. Then, who will you be?
Everything about being an activist requires that women break this mold, push back against the messages we’ve heard our whole lives from media, religious institutions, academia, family structures and politics about how and who women are supposed to be.
Once you see the world for what it is, you cannot unsee it. The choice then becomes one of whether to live a genuine life. The work of building a more just world, in which everyone can fulfill their potential and be their authentic selves, depends on action, on raising our voices, on thwarting the dominant paradigm, on reclaiming our strength to build the coalitions and communities that will act to create change.
We can’t simply erase what’s been written on the chalkboard of our brains, but we can grapple with real stories and create new truths. What we can’t do is allow ourselves to be scared away from the task at hand.