“Isn’t Camile so modest?” said my friend to the same audience of four people whom, just seconds earlier, I had been trying so hard to enlighten on how hot—real fucking hot—it is for a woman to be smart. Her subtle sarcasm made me want to apologize almost immediately for having used “nerd” instead of “very intelligent” to describe myself. I had used the word in a positive context as I contrasted the pros and cons of having beauty vs. brains.
This essay, however, is not about my personal intelligence or lack thereof. What happened in that brief moment reminded me of what women do constantly, just because they are women: they explain themselves all the time. However pretentious I was sounding after my two glasses of vodka and club-soda, a remark from a close friend (or anyone, for that matter) should not send me scavenging for ways to apologize for expressing myself. Ever.
That happened on Sunday. Today is Tuesday (and ten minutes short of being Wednesday).
There is no doubt in my mind that we are living and witnessing a huge shift in humanity. Not one devoid of its own trials and tribulations but, nevertheless, a slow gradual shift is occurring and I’m so excited to be alive, NOW. I’m so hopeful about the future of my daughter who I vowed I would teach to never let the ‘V’ between her legs make her feel like a Victim, only Victorious. Yet, during a family barbecue in a very safe place (my own house), I still felt the need to explain and apologize for acknowledging how smart I am because of a silly joke. I won’t lie… I’m disappointed in myself. Old habits die hard.
After so many years, I felt I had finally begun to balance all the areas of my life. I celebrate everything that makes me a woman. I love being part of a movement that empowers other women. I love to be around women who are not living for the next anti-aging miracle, but who embrace the changes in their bodies, minds and spirits as an organic process of growth and evolution.
Another confession: I was one of those women who sacrificed her inner power by trying to present a perfect version of her physical self. But, that was prior to my spinal cord injury (SCI).
The SCI has been a huge teacher in my life. What I’m most grateful for, having acquiring this injury, is the ability to fuel my passion of being an ultra-feminist. To revere parts of me that I kept hidden or dormant while I focused on conforming with my body to the societal standards of perfection. I woke up my inner she-wolf. The she-wolf that made me a curious little girl and told me to question everything I learned. The same she-wolf that has guided me towards loving books, numbers, science, philosophy, cosmology, and humanity as a whole. Yet, on Sunday afternoon, I put the she-wolf back in her cage because I felt I was out of place to boast.
Before I wrote this article, I checked in with the person who made the joke and told her about its effect on me and how it had inspired me to write this. I’m thankful that she said what she said, when she said it because it made me realize I still have a lot of work to do if I want to teach my daughter, through example, that being a strong, confident woman does not mean having to tell people what you are. One simply shows it. The mere fact that I needed to even talk about my self-proclaimed intelligence was put into question. Why did I feel the need to do it? From the perspective of being in a wheelchair, I can come up with at least twenty reasons right off the bat. As a woman in 2015, I come up with rationally fewer, but as a girl who grew up in the 80’s in a patriarchal household, the list gets immense.
Enough of that, though. I’m writing this in the sincerest hope that another woman out there gets what I’m trying to say regardless of ability or disability. Being a woman is not a disability, it’s invigorating to wear the scarlet W on our chest. In today’s dynamics, I would like to clear out the negative constraints of my patriarchal past and to fully live as the feminist that I feel I am deep down in my soul. No excuses, no shame. Obviously, after Sunday’s experience, I still need to do a lot of work and, I guess, this is my first step along that road of betterment. As we often say in the writing world: it’s time I began to show, not say, what or who I am.