I'm An Independent Woman Who Struggles With Owning My Independence

by Alexia LaFata

When I was a senior in college, I was the president of my sketch comedy group. We were a small but fun group of college kids who performed two live shows per year consisting of original sketches and weird improv games.

I'd been a member of the group since I auditioned as a freshman, so when I was elected to serve as president for my senior year, I was excited to finally have the chance to give back to the people I'd loved so dearly. I was honored the group trusted me to lead them.

Prior to my leadership, the group was led by two senior guys who were lovable and well-intentioned, but pretty lazy about deadlines, budgets and other important political things. They left me with a bit of an administrative mess to clean up.

So, at the beginning of my presidency, I set some ground rules about how the year was going to go: I wasn't going to put up with bullsh*t, I told everyone, but I wasn't going to be some insane dictator. We were, after all, a comedy group, which meant our priority was laughing and having a good time.

Throughout the year, I booked our show dates, set our deadlines, made sure we got our sh*t done at practice and stayed on top of everyone with email reminders about everything, all while trying to balance the fun light-heartedness that we were used to from leaders past by having the group over my apartment to drink and hang out, or by letting us goof off occasionally when we should have been working. Everyone seemed really happy that we were acting responsibly for once.

But then, one night before a show, we were all having dinner together when one of my group members went on a vicious tirade against me about how much of a c*nt leader I was.

Yes, a c*nt. He turned that c-word on full blast and yelled it, pointedly, right in my face. In front of everyone.

The whole table froze. To say it was uncomfortable would be the understatement of the century.

But I was a strong, independent woman, right? It wasn't going to bother me. A guy called me a c*nt because I wasn't allowing people to step on me, because I was being a proactive leader and helping the group reach its full potential? Fine, I'm a c*nt. Whatever.

For months after it happened, I joked about it to all of my friends. "Hey, remember when I got called a c*nt?" I'd say, over and over again, with a touch of wicked laughter.

I complained about it using some kind of feminist rhetoric, as if keeping it academic could distance me from the situation. "He would have never said that if I was a man," I'd say. "Never."

Then, finally, I cried. The sadness I'd been repressing finally won. What if I really am a c*nt?

I got plenty of words of reassurance later from the rest of the group about how false that was, and how much everyone loves and respects me as a leader and how the group wouldn't be the same without me. But it was hard to believe that, since the things I tried to do as president are the same things I try to do in my everyday life.

I'm an independent person. And I don't just mean in the "romantic" sense, like I don't need a man (cue finger snaps) -- I mean I have independent ideas, independent points of view. Most of all, I'm not afraid to talk about them.

I've always been a natural born leader. For the majority of my life, I was always that kid in school who automatically took charge in group projects because I knew people wouldn't give enough of a sh*t to do it themselves. "Just let me do it" is kind of my life motto.

I'm the furthest from rude or pushy -- I'm aware of the fact that if you're opinionated, you'd better be sympathetic and respectful too or everyone will hate you -- but I know I have thoughts and I say them out loud. It's just what I do. Sometimes, though, I wish I wouldn't. Sometimes I wish I could just shut up.

When I got called a c*nt, I couldn't help but doubt myself, both as a leader and as a person. Because it was just another moment in my life when I wished I wasn't as, well, independent as I am.

This is hard to admit, but I wish I could be one of those passive girls who don't have a lot to say, who don't offer their opinions on politics, or sex or literally everything all the time. Those girls are so unassuming and mysterious. They giggle at bad jokes. They insist on keeping everything simple, and breezy and non-confrontational. And they're probably introverted. Christ, they're definitely introverted -- and everyone knows the Internet f*cking loves talking about how great introverts are. Let me just say that every article that glorifies an introvert simultaneously silences me and makes me hate myself a little more.

In my darkest hour, I become upset when I realize I'll never be one of those girls. I'll never be this tiny ethereal woman everyone appears to admire so much, who doesn't talk to anyone, and takes dainty pictures, and reads fantasy books and wears little dresses.

I can't just sit on the sidelines of my own life. I can't withhold my thoughts. I can't keep my mouth shut or let other people "do it."

Believe me, I've tried. I've tried to silence myself to get people to like me. Sometimes I do it without even realizing it. But once, after an ex told me I wasn't an opinionated person, I started panicking. I'm one of the most opinionated people I know! What the hell was I doing? Had I been this heavily indoctrinated to shut up and not be heard that I could do it without even noticing what I was doing?

I've also silenced myself for other reasons, like when I just don't feel like being independent for a second. Sometimes I want to be loved, and taken care of and, f*ck it, paid for on a date. Treated like a goddamn lady. Dominated.

But then I feel too guilty about sitting back and enjoying being dependent on someone. I always ask myself stupid questions, like if I'm "allowed" to enjoy this or if I'm just acting like a pawn in society's plot to further oppress women.

It's exhausting. I'm exhausted.

People look to independent women as beacons of strong, inspirational, feminist light. We're supposed to be constantly "on."  But I'm not. I'm absolutely not. And I think admitting that, admitting I have weaknesses and experience crippling self-doubt is one of the strongest things I can do.