Feminism and Love: We Love as Individuals

“This is her home
this thin edge of
barbwire.” –Gloria Anzaldúa

“Love, excruciating love, let that be the first step”
Mahasweta Devi

Love introduces us to each other and to ourselves. I love because when I speak to another person, or read or hear her or his story, that other person speaks to something within me and no other word seems to fit. In that moment of connection and introduction, love teaches us about mystery and the limits of our own knowledge, and, in doing so, creates our understanding of the world and of ourselves and leads us forward in motion.

Love locates me to myself as an individual, an individual with a swooping feeling in my stomach and an ache in my chest, a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, an individual who sometimes laughs at unexpected times and inexplicably cries. The gift of feeling my own individuality is also innately political, as it directly contradicts assumptions of infallibility.

To be individual is to be fallible, to take up a limited amount of space and to have been touched by a limited number of lived experiences, to be beautifully distinct from a concept of ideal or intangible forms. To be individual is to be shortsighted and misguided, and to have the will to keep moving. Nowhere is this fallibility more clear than in love.

In the all-consuming sharing of oneself, love teaches us what it means to be delineated and outward- looking as finite individuals. To embrace that individuality is to embrace mobility, to refuse the comfort of a universal in order to draw closer to one other.

Through these introductions, we learn that we cannot tell one another’s stories. I have my own stories to tell. Yours are so precious in your voice that I must not appropriate or replicate them through my own narrative. To hear a story – shaped by complexities of structure and influence, memories of love and pain, and experiences of personal and community identity – is to not understand it fully. When I cannot find understanding, I search for love, which serves as a testament to my commitment to the story—the real story, not just the parts that I can grasp.

As feminists, we are not only called to stand for the ideals of equality and opportunity. We are called to commit to one another’s stories and our common struggle. The struggle for justice, grounded in love and guided by our diverse narratives, confronts borders through the immediacy of our lived experiences. It fills the abstractions of equality with the promise of our stories.

It is that embrace of the interplay of stories that defines love as political will. In the realization of these stories’ complexity and the refusal to fragment or simplify them, love becomes an inspiration, a challenge, a comfort, a meeting space, a hope of autonomy and an understanding of injustice. Love teaches us to meet each other, to refuse to be satisfied with a half-hearted appropriation of anyone’s story, including our own.

 

(Image Credit: Feminism and Religion)

About Anne Schwartz

Anne Schwartz is a community and labor organizer, currently based in Louisville, Kentucky.