Essay: Army of Women

Oct 6, 2016

With the first female candidate on a major party ticket, people have been reassessing the state of feminism in this country. The term “feminist” itself is socially charged - with differing opinions on its true definition. For Lake Effect essayist, Jacey Powers, an interesting encounter with friends led her to reexamine her own rocky road to becoming a feminist.

Two weeks ago I was walking down the street with a couple friends: Jenny, Becca, and Becca’s new boyfriend. It was all pretty normal, until OUT OF NOWHERE Jenny swoops over and punches Becca’s boyfriend in the groin....

I was shocked. Becca was mortified. And Jenny skipped off. I caught up to her and asked, “Sooo, what was that about?”

Very casually, she said, “He’s going to do something to deserve that eventually.” She’s probably right.

The thing is, I like boys. I’ve always liked boys. I’ve been very interested in the opposite sex from the moment I was told which sex was opposite. When I was little, I had one or two close girl friends. The rest of the girls I knew were, in my mind, a generic sea of slap bracelets and side ponytails. Boys were way more interesting.

Every day of Kindergarten, I would play with mostly boys at recess. We would play The Kissing Game. Here is the basic premise of the Kissing Game: Jacey - that’s me - gathers a group of aforementioned generic girls who chase the boys on the playground. Typically, a gaggle of girls forms and isolates one member of the boy herd.

Once the ladies have found this lone gent, they tackle him to the ground… Oftentimes kicking him “in the weiner,” so that he is defenseless and able to be kissed on the lips. Then, the kisser (always Jacey—no one but Jacey did the kissing), would kiss him. Then, we’d set him free and catch another.

I should note, that the boys were able to opt out of the kissing game. It was not uncommon for a boy to announce, “I’m playing kickball during first recess. I’ll play The Kissing Game at lunch.”Although… a few were probably too afraid to admit they would rather hang on the jungle gym than be forcibly kissed by a girl who still sucked her thumb...

Looking back, I am very sorry for terrorizing the boys. The irony is, that I did this because I loved the boys so much. I wanted to kiss them, and I was too small to get the job done without the help of many other girls (who were shy about kissing, but totally down with wiener kicking).

The Kissing Game sort of faded away by third grade, and even though girls had been in my corner for years; I still would have told you: “I do not like most other girls. Girls are so dramatic. Boys and are so much easier.”

Friendships with men are easier— according to various studies, relationships with men are generally less intimate and based more on doing stuff together than on sharing personal information. Other studies have shown that a person’s happiness is greatly increased by friendships with women… whereas friendships with men affect a person’s happiness much less. These friendships bring greater rewards; but require more work.

In middle school, I joined the cast of The American Girls Revue. All at once, I had 40 new female friends. These women gave me an intense crash course on female friendships. They all hugged a lot. There were tears, and secrets, and an emphasis on trust—both when it was kept and when it was broken. We would gossip about each other and roll our eyes behind each other’s backs. We were competitive, but we were also a team. We would squeeze each others hands onstage, and sing together in the dressing room.

It was wonderful… and sometimes it was terrible, but it was always enriching. These women always challenged me to feel more and be more.

The thing is, once you open the door to these kinds of friendships, it’s very hard to close It.

I was at American Girl until I was 16. In high school, I made many wonderful, girl friends. And in college, I opened the flood gates. I joined a sorority, I directed The Vagina Monologues, I screamed from the rooftops: “I am mostly friends with women! I like being a girl! I like other girls and enjoy their companionship!

We spend so much time on this idea that “Girls are so catty. and Guys are so chill.” It’s supposed to be cool to feel that way. There are whole essays on whiskey women and so-called “bro-girls” that address this idea. For my own self, it took me a long time to realize that one of the best ways to be a feminist is to love and appreciate other women.

None of this means that men are the enemy. I mean, so far Becca’s boyfriend hasn’t done anything to deserve that random groin punch. But, recently my boyfriend did.

I spent the better part of last Sunday afternoon hanging pictures in my living room. Pictures of my sister and me, with sorority sisters on Halloween, standing next to friends in big white dresses, and laughing on beaches in bikinis.

My boyfriend came by in the evening and sat in front of that wall of pictures, and he told me the truth about a lot of lies. He said so many things I wish could be unsaid. He did so many things I wish he hadn’t.

The sordid details aren’t that important. Suffice to say I wish that groin punches were transferable.

But while he sat there, breaking my heart, my eyes were not cast downward. They were fixed behind him, at the photographs of the many women who I knew were behind me. I spoke to him carefully knowing that I could draw on their strength, their grace… Knowing that if I failed in that, they would still be there.

When you learn to love and accept other women, you find new deeper ways of loving and accepting yourself.

I stood there and realized that is why you build an army. Not to fight against an enemy, but to help you fight for yourself.

Jacey Powers is a writer and Wisconsin-native, based in New York, as well as the sister of Lake Effect producer Joy Powers. A longer version of this essay was originally posted on #BeA12, and more of her essays can be found on her blog, Jacey Powers Does Stuff