Early in my junior year of high school, I fell in love (as much in love as you can be at 16 years old) with someone else’s boyfriend. Long story short, after 2 months and a half of footsies, passed notes, “Almost” by Tamia playlists, stairwell kisses, and one with his girlfriend around the corner of a doorway, I broke up with this boy I was never in a relationship with. The reasoning was simple. Here was a boy who was one more passed note away from ending a two-year relationship (as strong as one can be at 16 years old) for a girl who wrote him poems and held his hand for whole class periods beneath the desk.
This isn’t to say there isn’t any strength in feelings woven through secret, clasped fingers. Or that the fickle love seeds we find at 16 can’t grow trees. Or that successful relationships can’t be found through infidelity. This is to say that at 16, I loved his girlfriend more than he did. I loved his girlfriend more than I loved him. And she loved him more than I did.
"2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength.” - Alice Walker, Definition of Womanism, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose
Sure, in those 2 and a half months, my objective was to replace her. There was no womanism in the way I would see her in the hallways and know where her boyfriend had been before the bell rang. How easy it was becoming. Sure, in the depth of me, I knew that I could make him happier. That my poems and fingers were more powerful than her 2 years. That he was almost mine; that you can’t steal people. Knowing this, I knew what I wanted. I wanted that boy, but not in that way. I didn’t want to be what was left for. Woman to another woman, I didn’t want to be what broke her.
“Since I embraced sisterhood I have cultivated immense love, compassion, and empathy for all women.” - Dominique James
I found womanism early in my junior year of high school. An idea that would reinforce itself again and again throughout the rest of my adolescence. I believe in inherent sisterhood. I love women and know (pardon my temporary disregard for humanism and absolutely unintentional gender-bias and heteronormativity present throughout this post) that no one hurts like a woman does. Granted, I haven’t always upheld this love and now-and-then continue to fall short, placing my womanism on the back burner and giving life to girl-hate and territoriality (blasting Monica’s “Sideline” once too frequently, and crawling down the throat of a woman who was myself circa junior year) I believe womanhood is an obstacle course of growth (human existence in general, is. but I’m focusing on the womenfolk.)
In a day and age of Bad Girl’s Club and WorldstarHipHop, feminism (not the one of white exclusivity) and womanism are only becoming more and more urgent. It’s become so easy to name ourselves this and forget or don’t bother to learn its etymology. I wish that the girlfriend around the corner of that doorway would’ve stopped me in the hallway and told me how I had hurt her as bad as he did. How, woman to another woman, I had to also be held accountable. (Love triangles are triangular for a reason, no?) Karma or not, I have been her multiple times since. Every woman was a lesson. I am a better woman, a better lover, a better womanist, a better friend, a better forgiver, a better apologizer because of them.
I believe that women are born indebted to each other (race and other factors complicate this, but are ultimately growth obstacles to be encountered on the path towards solidarity) That sisterhood is something that comes in the packaging. That as women, as people, we are a city of contradictions and it is the duty of women, of people, to forgive and guide us. At most, it is a step towards a lady utopia. At least, it is a soft voice in your ear telling you to let go of that girl’s ponytail because you gon break a nail.
Kush Thompson, The Lady Church