May 3, 2017

Feminism: A Word with as many Definitions as there are People who Use it.

“Listen: You are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. The usual I we are given has all the tidy containment of the kind of character the realist novel specializes in and none of the porousness of our every waking moment, the loose threads, the strange dreams, the forgettings and misrememberings, the portions of a life lived through others’ stories, the incoherence and inconsistency, the pantheon of dei ex machina, and the companionability of ghosts. There are other ways of telling.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby


I woke up this morning feeling exhausted.

I didn’t sleep well last night; I’m dog-sitting for a family friend and the pooch snored all night, louder than any lover I’ve ever had, and when I turned on my computer after forcing myself out of bed, I was greeted by a long list of blinking notifications, emails, and voicemails that I had to respond to, plus it’s tax season, which makes me want to pull my hair out just thinking about it.

Oh, and when I went out to grab a latte, a man screamed expletives at me after I failed to acknowledge him when he cat-called me.

But I did all the things I had to do, and then I went to the gym, and I ate a killer vegetarian meal with my BFF, and I read a couple chapters of Franny and Zooeywhich always helps put things into perspective.

This morning I was exhausted because I’m a human being trying to move through the world fed, clothed, and sheltered.

I’m just the same as you, your mother and father, the Dalai Lama, the POTUS (bless his soul)—and it’s exhausting for all of us sometimes.

And there are so many people, an uncomfortable amount of people, who do not have the autonomy or voice to try and gain a little traction—just a little traction—toward having the choice about what causes their exhaustion, about when the next time they get to eat will be, about whether or not they’ll get pulled over when they drive to the grocery store.

Some people are born into a body, into a country, into a religion or cult that silences their voices and cuts off their free will.

No, we don’t all have the same fighting chance when we know what the statistics say about the color and sex of the majority of the world’s leaders and CEOs, about the life expectancy and education levels of various demographics, about how many cents on the dollar women are paid compared to their male counterparts.

And so on and so forth—just pick your demographic, pick your minority.

And it’s exhausting to move through the world in a vacuum railing against the injustice of the system, hoping one day it won’t feel exhausting anymore to wake up in the morning and spend another day grinding it out against undeniable odds that are stacked against us as a woman, or as a person of color, or as a homosexual, transsexual, or transgendered person.

But live in the world we must; live a life being true to ourselves we must.

So what is there to do?

For me, feminism is currently built upon three things I know to be true (at least for me, for the present). These guide my daily actions toward universal higher consciousness:

1. No matter what I do or say, if it’s not done or said from a place of love, it is not feminism.

Shaming, gossiping, judging, condemning, bigotry, intolerance—anything, even if I think I’m doing the right thing by pointing out the fault of someone else, female or otherwise, is not feminism.

Choosing to get Brazilian waxes to please your partner doesn’t make you any less of a feminist than the women who flaunt their natural bushes for the world to see. If you’re doing something from a place of higher love, you’re absolutely a feminist, a Buddhist, a Christian, an ally (a Canadian, a Norwegian, a Tibetan, and so forth).


2. Everything can change and inevitably will.

“Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

If we do not believe that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have and the capacity they have in that moment to act, then it is a long, tedious, upsetting path ahead of us.

Do we not ask and hope for forgiveness when we make mistakes or do wrongly unto others? Should we not offer others the same?

Forgiveness does not suggest that we should condone the negative behavior of someone else. Quite the opposite.

We need to consider that those who act in ways we see as anti-feminist or even anti-human will not be strong-armed into anything, let alone respecting females, if they do not first come to that conclusion themselves.

How can we expect someone to act in the most tolerant, pro-feminist, empathetic way possible if they lack the resources or education to know what that even means?

All we can ever do is work on the quality of our own consciousness in every moment.

“Even in our own lives we regress, fail, continue, try again, get lost, and sometimes make a great leap, find what we didn’t know we were looking for, and yet continue to contain contradictions for generations.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, The New Feminist Roadmap

All we can do is strive every second of every minute of every day for the cause of an equal world, rather than trying to change others through force or ill-will. We can act as role models, put ourselves into leadership positions, or find platforms that allow us to lead (those who are open to it) by example. We can raise our children to be open, loving, and tolerant, but we cannot force anyone into anything.

Constantly seeking to expand our knowledge and understanding of the people around us and how the world operates is one of the best things we can do if we hope for a fully engaged, fully conscious, fully equal society.

I am dedicated and open to being challenged when it comes to my definition of feminism, of consciousness. I am open to debate. I am open to learning. I am open to evolving to account for new information about our world when it comes to equality.

There is no other solution to enlightening the oppressive members of the patriarchy who have muffled the voices of the oppressed with strong, heavy hands, than to continue to educate ourselves and others—in a non-hateful way.

3. Statistically, historically, it is going to take conscious, hard work and effort to find equality—if not just for women, but for all minority and marginalized groups.

This does not mean we shouldn’t try. It means that every day, we have a choice and a vote for what the future will hold.

I often feel a strong sense of anger and shame and longing for revenge when I consider the inequality I feel as a woman and the injustice I witness against other minority groups.

But I know that as a woman, as a human, I want equality! So that anger and fear must be translated into love and consciousness.

The only productive type of change is the change that comes from within and is itself open to changing and evolving over time as new information arises.

Feminism is but a word with as many different definitions as there are people who use it.

Solidarity must transcend gender, race, age, education levels, marital status. I argue that in the collective striving for consciousness, no one should be left behind.

What can you do today to help make the world a more conscious place?


Author: Chloe Cotter
Image: With the permission of thekittenlife.com
Editor: Callie Rushton

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Adam Blois Feb 12, 2018 8:36am

Short sighted is an individual who thinks tyranny and abuse are the best way to maximize a families well being. Everyone suffers from our eras bias towards the yang. masculine, hard, light, action, strength, height, wealth, material - superficial in nature thus easy to worship. Humankind desperately needs to remember yangs sister: emotional, thoughtful, passive, yeilding, soft, feminine, patient. the qualities of our current neglect and lack of respect towards woman suggest a more fundamental lack of respect of all feminine qualities, independant of woman. quick fixes and profit driven regardless of future cost and consequences. a husbands gift of strength, when abused, condemns his wife and children alike. ironically this abuse ultimately stiffles and undermines his own kingdom, losing the wisdom of his wife and leading to underdeveloped children. In this light, the subset of feminist who think equality means woman should become like men, to gain male dominant positions in a corrupt and abusive male dominant culture, tragically supports the yang dominant system, simultaneously failing miserably in promoting actual respect for woman and feminine qualities. I'm glad that your view and definition of feminism recognizes love as fundamental. Your thoughts on feminism are encouraging. I could only imagine the diffulculty that these common encounters of abuse impose on properly understanding the situation. I'm sympathetic to those caught in the cycle of abuse as we're bred to mimic behavior, bound by our innate biological makeup. Never has it been more evident that the mind, through thought, can effect the material. Once requiring faith but now fact, I'm grateful that the chain of reflection can end: remarkably your mind remains focused, and your will steadfast. Much respect for your strength of intellect, hopefully for mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, and all of humankind, it helps diagnose, recognize, and treat this toxic yang obsession. #forUsAll

Chloe Cotter Jun 3, 2017 10:24pm

Hi Andrea, thanks for your comment. I absolutely agree that being complacent, passive, or expected to be compassionate towards misogyny is not a useful response for anyone to take. Being an energy container of consciousness is the only way forward! And being steadfast in your consciousness, as it changes and evolves, is incredibly difficult as we're often faced with incredible anger, hatred and intolerance - not just as a woman, but as a human in line at the grocery store, or trying to merge onto the highway during rush hour. But flipping off the person who cuts you off doesn't lead to a solution, just as taking a "tough" stand against an ignorant male colleague won't help him find the light. We have to forgive them their trespasses and model positive behaviour either by leaving the room, or engaging them in a meaningful debate if they're open to having the conversation. But they have to be ready for the change, and if we work every day to raise the collective consciousness, it'll hopefully one day seep into them and others.

Andrea Going Green May 16, 2017 8:09pm

Thanks for speaking your truth. It's important. I used to feel this way- to always address oppression with love and understanding. I idolized nonviolence and the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I have years of experience in a career directing nonviolent protest for environmental concerns, in fact. Then as I got older and experienced years and years of more sexism in the work place, in my family, and in my relationships, I realized I couldn't make kindness toward others my top priority any more. My first priority had to be sticking up for myself with every injustice I experienced, especially with new people in my life so they knew exactly where the line was with me. That's how I found respect from people. They can later earn the nice from me. I think Gandhi and MLK were noteworthy because they were men leading by example of compassion. And men don't often lead that way. Men often lead and frankly rule with an iron fist. Women are expected to give compassion at all times, to do emotional labor and a lot of times people emotionally dump all over us because this expectation is taken for granted like a given that we want to perform emotional labor for people all the time. After years of dealing with it, Irealized that frankly I don't always want to give of myself to people and sometimes I resent people - especially men- who demand support and compassion of me that I know they could never offer me themselves. So I think women leading and feminism looks different than men leading for social change. It involves being tough and learning when to draw the line and listen to your gut about when love and compassionate are appropriate and when people are about to walk all over you because they have come to exec to it fro me you no matter what and drawing a line even by being overly blunt to let them know they can't. I'm 35 and I've mostly got it down but still sometimes struggle about when to do what. But there's a great book called The Nice Girl Syndrome about how teaching girls to always be kind and nice is detrimental to us. I highly recommend it. I think being tough will get us further as women than will prioritizing love and compassion alone because compassion is often what's expected of us and taken for granted. And I wanted to share to say compassion is great- most especially to people who offer it to you. But don't be afraid to change your mind and be tough with people in certain situations and stand up for yourself if someone bullies you and then demands compassion of you when they hurt you. Some people do that and we will never achieve equality by letting them. Also, MLK and Gandhi cheated on their wives and it made me pretty angry to learn that.

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Chloe Cotter

Chloe Cotter is a writer from Vancouver currently kittening around Montréal and preparing to publish her first novel. She’s a perpetual wanderer, wine and cheese fanatic, foster cat mama, French enthusiast, and consciousness-seeker. Chloe’s learning and writing is motivated by curiosity and an eagerness to become more deeply connected to the world around her. Her prose centres on the human experience and seeks to further unpack the answerless question: Why?

You can read more of Chloe’s work on her websiteFacebook, and Instagram.