I wrote the following blog post for the National NOW Blog, Say it Sister. www.now.org/blog
Although I am happily married, seeing hearts on store windows still annoys me. I associate the commercialization with feeling angry or depressed on past Valentine's days when I was single. I am reminded of all those years when I felt envy – instead of happiness – for co-workers who received flowers. The whole day is another patriarchal attempt to make singles – especially women – feel bad about singlehood.
Everywhere in the media, especially in beauty magazines, women are told in page after heterosexist page: how to get a man, how to please him when you are lucky enough to have one, and what to do if – gasp – you lose one. Too many of us engage in unhealthy relationships because we are made to feel inadequate without one. The rates of intimate partner violence would decrease if women and girls' self esteem weren't tied to our ability to have a significant other.
Our families, friends and the outside world all teach women to put ourselves last. A successful, feminist friend credits her kindness, strength and feminist ideals to her mom, but also states, "I learned many values through my mother's examples, including how to put everyone else first and neglect my own needs."
A few tips to increase self esteem:
- A friend once said, "I wish you could see yourself the way others see you, and love yourself as much." Ever since then, I started an exercise where I write down the best compliments I receive. When I feel self doubt, I read the list. I recommend you do the same. Include a few of the best compliments in your phone as a text message to yourself, or in the notes section. Keep the list in your email, so you are never far away from it.
- Write yourself a love letter as if the person of your dream was sending it to you. Read the letter to remind yourself of why you are a great catch and should never settle.
- Start a grateful journal, where you write down things you are grateful to yourself for each day. It could be as small as combing your hair that day, or as large as standing up to a family member who puts you down.
- I know the hardest place to apply feminism is our personal relationships – especially in the bedroom. It is much easier to go to a rally or work on feminist legislation. I am lucky to have a feminist husband who reminds me when I give in to patriarchal ideals. Only keep people in your life who are supportive and feminist – it's detrimental otherwise.
This Valentine's Day, I challenge all of us to reclaim the day of love for the most neglected person in our lives – ourselves. Let's give the care and love we would give to a daughter or young child we care about. If it's difficult for you to gather the love for yourself, think about the effect your self neglect is having on the people in your lives. Let's make every day a Happy Feminist Valentine's Day for ourselves.
N. Jerin Arifa
National NOW Board of Directors
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
National Organization for Women (NOW)
Bella Abzug Leadership Institute