When I write, or speak, or even think about something that has happened to me or something that I do or have done, it is always in a wider political context.
Sometimes I don’t understand all of the political implications until much later. But if I speak or write or think about it, I do understand that it is connected to something bigger and representative of more than just me.
We are each individuals, but we do not live in bubbles. The things that happen to us, the things we do, are all part of a larger collective paradigm. The more oppressions a woman has to deal with on a daily basis, the more likely she is to realize this from an early age.
(The moment of realization doesn’t happen to everyone, of course, but oppressed people seem more likely to make these connections — “I am poor/nonwhite/female/disabled/homosexual/etc, and people who are poor/nonwhite/female/disabled/homosexual/etc all seem to be treated in [x] ways more often than people who aren’t …” — earlier and on their own. Even if they don’t name them as such or make a connection to a political movement, even if they invest time and energy denying the facts, they do notice.)
So while it’s real and great and necessary to talk only about theory, whenever I bring personal experiences into it, that’s a way of giving examples to theory. Proving it in a small way, if you will. Because I know I am not alone. I am not special. I am not the only one these things happen or have happened or will ever happen to. There is a connection. There is an explanation.
If even one other woman can read or listen to what I write or say, and draw a connection to her own life, and have that moment of realization that she isn’t alone either, then that is why I am here. That is the bridge to theory, which is hopefully then a bridge to further change.
Personal change is also political. Women have written that actions like eschewing beauty practices or purposefully and deliberately foregoing PIV intercourse are “individualistic” solutions, but I really question whether those women know what “individualistic” actually means.
Naturally, we as feminists and radicals should also seek wider change, but smaller changes often make wider changes easier.
For a not-explicitly-feminist example, recycling and “going green” (in the actual sense of the term, not the marketed consumer sense) are personal choices — but they add up to something larger. It’s not the same as dismantling the industries that pollute, but we would still be much worse off as a whole if no one recycled and everyone used pesticides/chemicals.
Even if a woman’s changes positively impact only her own life in the short term (for example, if she stops loathing her natural body, if she reduces her risk of getting cancer from the chemicals in hair dyes and cosmetics and/or cleaning products, if she breaks the cycle of sinking valuable energy into trauma bonding/contraception/illness/potential impregnation/etc), if these changes are in line with larger, radically feminist change, that is still positive, and that is definitely still political. If nothing else, it indicates — if to no one but ourselves — that change IS possible.
And since we do not live in our own private vacuum-sealed bubbles, other people do notice, and it does often become a learning moment. If that positively impacts at least one other person — if another woman learns that she too can break the cycle — then we are accomplishing something.
It might sound like hippie bullshit, but we’re all connected in some way. And just because it sounds like hippie bullshit doesn’t mean it isn’t true.