[Image taken by me in July 2007 – wild raspberry found in a garden crevice.]
This moving post at SecondWaver (and comments) got me thinking recently about my own experiences of feminism as therapy.
When I found myself disappointed in marriage – understatement of the year to date – I was left with feelings of failure, bewilderment, anger, guilt, pain. I found the courage and spirit and self-belief I needed to recover from it all because I found feminism.
Feminism gave me what I needed to turn all that raging twisting savage pain outward, to locate the blame outside of myself. It helped me to understand my experiences not as a personal failure (I chose the wrong man, I didn’t work hard enough at it all, I didn’t handle the relationship well, I made too many mistakes) but as the unremarkable, routine suffering of many wives and mothers in a social and political system that dishes out this sort of thing to all sorts of people: not just me, not just me. Not just me.
Feminism gave me righteous anger. And let me tell you that, after even the briefest brush with post-natal depression, I will take righteous anger as therapy any time. Calming it isn’t, but at least it doesn’t make you want to disappear. It makes you want to exist. It gives you reason to exist. It helps you make it through to a time when, finally, days pass by and nothing much seems to hurt and your small corner of the world seems safe. Righteous anger saved me, if not from anything so dramatic as serious illness or death, at least from misery and self-pity and from being doomed to make the same mistakes all over again.
Oh yes. Feminism has taught me that, although I am not to blame for the mistakes I made, I can avoid making the same mistakes again. It showed me that having a man is not compulsory, it gave me the strength and self-love to stand alone in a world where aloneness is seen as failure and weakness and a cause for pity. It showed me that I do not need to compromise, to accept a relationship in the hope of being loved, if in despair of happiness. It gave me what I needed to enjoy freedom instead of craving union.
So the idea of political analysis as a tool for survival and emotional / mental health is one that has been in my brain ever since I found feminism and caught hold of it as my own personal lifebuoy (lifeguirl?!), something to help me pull myself out of the swamp.
And surely I am not the only one who has been saved by feminism.
Miserable because you’re fat? Don’t try dieting, try feminism.
Miserable because you’re ugly? Don’t try beauty “treatments”, try feminism.
Miserable because you like women? Don’t try exorcism, try feminism.
Just plain miserable? Don’t try self-loathing, try feminism…
Of course I’m not suggesting that feminism is a magical cure-all. But equally, I firmly believe there are plenty of women out there who would be a lot happier, and healthier, if they had the opportunity to learn what I learned – that we aren’t the problem.