“My friends think you are a bad influence.”
“Is your husband happy?”
“Do your children read your articles?!”
“My guess is you won’t gain too many friends with this one.”
“Yours is not sound feminist rhetoric!”
These are some of the comments I receive from my friends and readers.
So what is this dangerous and subversive thing I do that causes suspicion and irritation in people around me and compels them to worry about the well-being of my own family?
I teach women self-love.
I also practice what I preach.
When I speak of self-responsibility and how I have turned my life around into a more fulfilling one by attending to my own needs, I get asked whether my husband is happy, as if his happiness is somehow paramount to mine or that my happiness automatically excludes his.
When I write that women’s lives matter beyond taking care of children and their fathers, that we are here to love, create, and contribute as free, fulfilled, and happy individuals, I get asked whether my children read my articles, as if valuing my life beyond my role as a parent is shameful and incompatible with deeply loving my children.
When I teach women self-love through being generous and accepting of ourselves, respecting all of our emotions without judgement; when I state that we are sovereign and complete, free to love who we choose, and free to question what we were taught by family and culture, I am judged as a bad influence.
When I ask women who point blaming fingers and aggressive rhetoric toward men, to turn their attention to their own shadow and where we give our power away voluntarily, perpetuating some of the structures of patriarchy that we strive to dismantle, I am told that I am not a good feminist.
But, as Toni Morrison articulated in her mobilizing manifesto for the writer’s task in troubled times: “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
So I go on with my mission to teach women self-love, true empowerment from within, and self-reliance—tools to bring about meaningful change in our own lives and society as a whole.
And today there is more reason to do this than ever.
The Supreme Court nomination vote that left many of us in outrage and disbelief, stepping up hateful rhetoric on social media toward men in power? It actually was tipped to the unfortunate outcome by women. Women who occupy positions of power, but are reluctant to use it to affect change, because true empowerment comes from within.
Here are some statistics that speak for themselves:
Women constitute majority of population in the U.S.A.
In every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of female adults who voted has exceeded the proportion of male adults who voted.
In recent elections, women have cast between four and seven million more votes than men.
Trump got 44% of the vote from women in 2016. He got 52% of the vote from white women. These women clearly have no issue with the president’s openly misogynistic behavior, his demeaning of female reporters, and his repeated public mockery of women, of which there are many examples.
Last week, a parade of republican female senators voted for Kavanaugh. If moderate Republican women either cannot or will not stand up for what is right, who will? Certainly not Republican men.
Twenty eight years ago, during the debacle that was the 1992 Anita Hill hearings, there were only a handful of female senators. Today there are 23. A woman has been nominated for presidency. More than 30 women head Fortune 500 companies.
Six Republican women, who are in the majority, had the power to stop Kavanaugh and reject a troubled nominee with a horrible sexual scandal hanging over his head. Only one, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, stood up.
Ultimately, the vote was about preserving the status quo of keeping women “in our place.” And it is women who tipped it in this direction.
Eve Ensler, in her letter to women who stood behind Trump and cheered and laughed while he mocked Dr Ford, draws a parallel between them and her own mother who sided with her father, while he sexually abused Ensler as a child.
“She sided with him because he was the breadwinner. She sided with him because of her need to survive. She sided with him because the reality of what was happening in front of her was so terrible, it was easier not to see. She sided with him because she was brought up never to question a man. She was taught to serve men and make men happy. She was trained not to believe women.”
Women who support Trump and the establishment are in denial. I echo Ensler in saying, “I do not believe you want to have to choose your sons and your husbands over your daughters. I don’t believe you want the pain that was inflicted on us inflicted on future generations.”
One out of three women in the world has been raped or beaten. As I cited this UN statistic in a conversation this week, I was questioned by a woman as to the validity of these numbers. She found it too improbable.
In my conversations with women from vastly different cultural backgrounds, the majority disbelieve other women’s stories of male violence. When I say that I personally know two women who have been raped and never dared to report it, women I speak to cite the cases when women’s reports have been discredited.
To quote Ensler again, “to believe another woman means having to touch into the pain and fear and sorrow and rage of your own experience and that sometimes feels unbearable.” To speak the truth risks upending the comfort of our own carefully constructed lives.
The truth that sets us free is sometimes the hardest truth of all.
The fact is, there are still plenty of women who are attached to the crumbling structures of patriarchy. As we process the significance of this most recent political setback, women activists demand that men step up their public support for our cause. I ask that we pay attention to our own ranks. There is work yet to do in liberating women who still hold on to male power for safety, and compete, judge, and criticize other women when their stories risk disrupting the status quo.
Here is where my message of self-love becomes particularly poignant.
“Love” without self-love is a tool of patriarchy. It keeps us negating our own needs and value, dependent on the conditional love of men that shapes us to their agenda.
The more women hold on to the structures of patriarchy, the less men see the need to become our champions, defenders, and partners in the fight for new societal structures. As the status quo is perpetuated, we continue feeling like disempowered victims—betrayed, disappointed, and abandoned by the masculine.
When we end the innocence of giving our power away, we get in touch with the sovereign, self-driven, empowered feminine, ready to stand up to benefit our tribe.
This is self-love.
It has nothing to do with a narcissistic, self-absorbed “love,” but is a tender and accepting one.
When we practice self-love, we are in our integrity. When we feel sovereign and complete on our own, we can think freely and independently, which helps us break out of what is familiar and replace the ways that things were always done before.
As we break out of the old structures of behavior and thought, the old, fixed dynamics get cleared to make room for new ways of relating.
As we dare to question our prejudices, beliefs, and discriminations, we are capable of supporting what is just, balanced, and fair. As we free ourselves for authentic self-expression, we are capable of appreciating an opposing point of view, refining the lost art of social skill and diplomacy.
It is precisely self-love that will usher in the new, future society. When we are independent and sovereign, we no longer have to adjust our selves to the agenda of those on whom we depend. This will allow us to discard prescribed outdated roles of family and society.
Until we learn that, nothing can shift, because women will continue voting for someone else’s interests and not their own.
Women need to become more self-reliant and move into more cohesive coalition with other women.
Until we stand united it will be hard to win this battle.