This past week, Clark Writes held its final forum of the fall semester. Many incredible readers took to the stage, including Celine Manneville. In her essay, she presents a unique perspective on feminism, learned through the love and friendship she has with her brother. Read it below.
Everything I Learned About Feminism, I Learned From My Brother
November 15, 2016
My brother taught me a lot about feminism. You read that sentence correctly. My brother helped me become the strong woman I am today. I learned how to be a strong woman through a man, which sounds hypocritical and ironic, but hear me out.
Before I was 13 years old, my brother and I fought. All. The. Time. We would bicker until we couldn’t anymore. By doing this, he taught me how to stand my ground.
Growing up, we would wrestle. It used to end when I started crying, but as we got older, he would end them at an appropriate moment, before I was crying, with a hug. I would always try to take him down again, but was never successful. Then, these wrestling matches would end mutually, with smiles on both of our faces. I never “won,” but I will never forget the time I almost defeated him. By wrestling, he taught me how to fight and protect myself.
I remember one time, when I was around 12 years old. We were fighting in the car. My mom finally had enough and as soon as she turned into our neighborhood, she pulled over and made us get out and walk home. I started whining, as I used to whine all the time, and he responded, telling me to suck it up and “let’s start walking.” I felt safe walking with him. In this moment, he taught me to take responsibility and own up to my actions.
When I was playing sports in high school, we would always lose, the team was based on politics, and it was frustrating. I like to think I handled the loses better than when he lost his games, but he always knew what to say to me. He would tell me something along the lines of “Show them that you’re the best. Use those emotions to push yourself.” He taught me how to let things go, move on, and push myself, no matter who was trying to hold me back.
And then we got older. We stopped fighting as much. We talked about deeper things: going to college, what we want to do with our lives, relationships, etc. Through these discussions, he taught me to always be myself, have fun and party in college, and most importantly, don’t ever change for anyone, especially a boy. Find someone who loves you for you.
Then we traveled together. We barely survived Rome together and we finally got to Croatia. He went with me to a travelers doctor when I was sick with who knows what; we couldn’t understand the language. Even through the sickness, he told me to live it up; we’re abroad. He got drunk and went on the roof in Dubrovnik, telling me to take photos. He booked a Game of Thrones tour in Croatia and a hot air balloon ride in Turkey; we visited Hagia Sophia in order to learn about the culture. On that trip, he taught me to enjoy life, be a goof, be myself, embrace other cultures, and go off the beaten path.
He continues to teach me valuable lessons every time we talk, even if they are literally “don’t go to the woods with someone you don’t know.” Obviously, some of these lessons are more important and relevant than others, but all of them have taught me to be a strong woman who should follow my dreams and not wait for anyone, especially boys. And I will never be able to thank him enough for that.
He indirectly and subconsciously taught me these lessons, never realizing how important they are to me. And I didn’t totally realize that either, but today they seem more important than usual. Because I will use these values to fight. I will defend myself and my beliefs. I will stand my ground and protect myself. I will own up to my responsibility as a woman and feminist to fight for my rights. I will push myself, no matter what others say, using their criticism to propel me forward. I will surround myself with people who love me, leaning on them for support and allowing them the lean on me as well. I will embrace others, listen to their stories and learn about their cultures. I will be a goof and use humor to heal and move forward. And I know damn well I will be enjoying every minute of it along the way because, as my grandmother taught me, well-behaved women never make history.