My Fit Feminism Is a Fraud

My “brand” is Run Like a Girl. I’ve written two books about the transformational impact of sports in women’s lives. How physical strength transmutes into empowerment for us elsewhere. And I write for this blog, at which feminism is baked into the very name. Before becoming a writer, I worked as a lawyer and human rights advocate for several years, even doing a Master’s of Law at Ivy League school. I transmuted my own life when I started running and accessing my potential in new ways. The extremely short version is that I left the practice of law. I started to focus on my passion, which was writing. I climbed back down the ladder and took entry level editorial work. I started to climb back up the ladder in publishing. Then, I moved to an educational start up as head of content, which soon head south organizationally and financially.

I liberated myself from my day job and took advantage of the financial freedom offered by my marriage. I worked freelance as a ghost writer and editor, without the daily fear of absolutely needing to make money. Instead, I worked on my own writing projects and followed my curiosity and desire to find work that felt creatively and artistically fulfilling and also of service. I trained in theatre, in Non-Violent Communication and Internal Family Systems, based on which I lead workshops, facilitate learning groups and offer writing, creativity and compassionate communication coaching.

In other words, I have a decent suite of skills.

I should be successful.

By which I mean—financially independent.

I am not.   

Time after time, I made decisions to prioritize the flexibility and freedom that benefitted me and my relationship. We (the team that my relationship was) didn’t need more money. I had the luxury of following my heart. My partner loved his work. He wasn’t resentful that I didn’t contribute my share financially. My contribution was …

This is where things get tricky. Me. Card carrying feminist with the author credits to prove it. What was my contribution to my relationship, if it wasn’t financial?

I paid the bills, even if I didn’t make the money to pay them. I managed a lot to do with the household and our social life. How gendered. I know. It gets worse. There was this: I offered my energy, my creative engagement with the world. I brought home what I was immersed in. A magpie decorating her nest. Would you like to hear the Baudelaire poem I worked on in theatre class? I’d translate it on the fly for my partner, to his delight. How about this demo of the Internal Family Systems technique that I watched today? Or would you come to a rehearsal of my new play and give me some feedback? And then I’d run an ultra-marathon on the side and feel strong and accomplished in the breadth of my life.

I told myself that I wasn’t a ‘50s housewife, setting my hair in curlers once a week and making sure I had on fresh lipstick and dinner in the oven when my man came home from work. But, was I really that much different? That woman offered her energy and engagement to nurturing and maintenance of the relationship. And when the relationship failed. She was lost.

After 29 years, my relationship has failed. I am not financially independent. I am in trouble.

At one point in my life, when I was working as an editor on finance books. I had an author who wrote about the importance of a woman being financially independent. I was a great editor—emotionally supportive, while constructively challenging her ideas and structure, to create more clarity and impact with her message. And I did not take the message in for myself.   

What was I thinking? That I would be safe and secure forever inside my marriage?

I did not even have a credit card in my name. I was the wife on my husband’s cards. Result? The only credit card that I am currently eligible for is cash secured. In other words, a debit card dressed up in a credit card costume. Which I was rejected for when I applied online. It wasn’t until I called customer service to point out that it didn’t make any sense to reject me for a cash secured card that I actually got approved. Having the sense of privilege to even make that phone call is a barrier to entry that made me wonder how many people are turned down and do not feel entitled to call the bank to follow-up. Ending up with a cash secured card with worse terms of use than mine and no possibility of being converted to a real credit card.

The feminist part of me is in a rage against the part who thought she’d be safe and secure. The tension between these two parts of myself, which has simmered for years beneath the surface has burst, spraying all the pus and blood of my misalignment. Bring back the stocks. Lock her up in the public square and allow real feminists to throw rotten tomatoes at her (and not even heirloom tomatoes). Tattoo my shame on my forehead: Bad Feminist! At least the feminist part doesn’t want to stone me to death. That would be against her politics.

Graffiti poster on multi-color wall repeating Feminists Resist by Claudio Schwarz on unsplash

These days, I feel like I’m held together by strings and tape (not even good duct tape, just flimsy scotch tape). I wake up in the morning and have to remind myself to breathe. When I exercise, which I still do, albeit very slowly and delicately, I need to take breaks for dizziness. And over and over and over again, I ask myself, why did I allow this to happen? Who is this woman I’ve become? 

I’m terrified, too, that exposing this truth about my fraudulent feminism will cost me friends and work, neither of which I can afford to lose right now. Yet, I can’t live anymore with the dissonance in my system. I don’t know what the future will be. Except I know it will be more feminist-aligned.

A friend sent me this Rumi quote: As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.

I sure fucking hope so.