Last weekend, as I was sorting my clothes to give some away, a navy blue J. Crew suit buried in the back of my closet threw me into an existential crisis. Rationally speaking, I knew there was about as much likelihood of me wearing that suit as Paul Ryan suddenly donning my Stop Stop-and-Frisk pin. As a freelance writer focusing on social justice movements, my daily wardrobe includes only four items: jeans, underwear and a T-shirt for the days I leave the house, and my pajamas for the days I sequester myself and my coffee maker in the closet to write.
On the other hand, the suit was more than an outfit; it was a three-piece metaphor for a high-powered career path. To discard it meant coming to terms with never being the first female president of the United States, never click-clacking up the corporate or government ladder to make my crack in patriarchy’s glass ceiling.
I’m not sure how I ended up feeling terrified that I’m turning into a “bad feminist.” Up until this point, my life has been a near caricature of women’s empowerment. By 12 I was karate chopping through pieces of wood (and suburban sexism) as black belt in tae kwon do; by 16 I was wrenching boys (and bigotry) into headlocks on the wrestling mat. I wrote my college thesis on obscure riot grrrl zines. I launched my journalism career at Ms. magazine. Inspired by Hollywood ceiling smasher Kristen Wiig, I flexed my feminist humor last May by sending a Happy-We’re-Not-Mothers Day email to my childless female friends congratulating them on another year of successful birth control use. (“And if anyone became pregnant, congratulations on taking advantage of our totally legal and awesome abortion rights!” I cheered.) From sports to snarks, my feminist resume seemed to have it all.