At its heart, I believe feminism is – or, at least, should be – about convincing women they’re good enough. Isn’t it? It’s the affirmation that a woman’s thoughts are good enough to be heard; that a woman’s work is good enough to be compensated; that a woman’s sexuality is good enough to be respected; that a woman’s body is good enough to be beautiful; that a woman is good enough to be a person. Many of the most terrible injustices of the world spring from that place of not-good-enough: if your thoughts are not good enough to be heard, you are silenced. If your work is not good enough to be compensated, you go hungry and homeless. If your sexuality is not good enough to be respected, you become an object for others’ pleasure and not your own. If your body is not good enough to be beautiful, you are scorned and denied legitimacy and opportunity. If you are not good enough to be a person, you become a piece of property, an object, something to be used or abused by those considered good enough to be human.
The insidious thing is, this message of not-good-enough is all around us. It’s in the ads that sell us things, the movies we watch, the magazines we read. It’s reflected in the eyes and attitudes of our family, and our friends, and our lovers. It seeps into the soul of who we are, until we accept the message and begin to oppress ourselves. Society doesn’t need to beat the average woman over the head to get her to accept that she’s not good enough; she’s already come to terms with it. She already believes it. Not-good-enough convinces you to become your own jailor.
In high school, I wanted to be an actress. Truthfully, I have craved being onstage since I can remember; whenever there was a school or church play, I always envied the kids who got picked (seemingly at random) to dress up in costume and read their lines before the crowd. I always wanted that. Does it matter why I wanted it? Nope. I’ve just always wanted it. And I was good at it. And I enjoyed it. (Isn’t that what they tell you to look for when choosing a career?)
Somewhere in my high school years, though, an absurd and horrible thing began to happen. Somewhere, the doubt crept in. I wasn’t pretty enough, not like the actresses in Hollywood. I wasn’t talented enough to make it into the main parts in many of the shows I auditioned for. I didn’t have the right body type. I didn’t have the right face. Maybe what I thought was a good performance was overacted. Maybe I was too subtle. And goodness knows I couldn’t sing well enough.
Late in my junior year or early in my senior one, a friend invited me to star in a movie he had written and was filming. The script was about a depressed and suicidal young woman who finds love in an alternate dream world. It becomes more and more difficult for her to distinguish reality from fiction, and eventually she is committed to a mental hospital. As she sinks deeper into despair in her real life, she turns more and more to the love she experienced in her fantasy life. Eventually the worlds blend indistinguishably, and the viewer is left questioning which version was reality, and which was the dream. Even by eighteen-year-old standards, the concept and scripting were quite good.
My boyfriend at the time was less than thrilled about my position as the main character – especially because the script called for a kissing scene. He was jealous, manipulative, and controlling… and so it was that the only way I was “allowed” to take the role was if he played the romantic interest.
He was also, as it turns out, a terrible actor. The film made it halfway through production before it all fell apart – mainly due to the fact that he could never remember his lines, constantly criticized the other production members, and never managed to show up on time to anything. He also hated letting me spend time with the friend directing the movie – since this friend and I had dated in the past.
That was more than ten years ago. It is only now, as I sit here writing it out again, that I realize what a ridiculous position he put me in. It was never up to him to decide who I could kiss, or why. It was never up to him to decide who I could or could not spend time with, nor how I spent that time. I was good enough to make those decisions on my own. I was good enough to choose my friends, and I was good enough to not allow some childish jerk to derail a project I found meaningful and important. I just didn’t know I was good enough at the time.
So this is me, taking that step out into the world. This is me believing that what I have to say is good enough; that there will be people to listen and read, people who agree and think I have something worthwhile to say, people who are interested.
I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and darnit, people are gonna like me.