Opinion

Healthy Feminism Still Exists. I Found It In An Auditorium In New York City.

“Women are emotional, we’re irrational, and it’s beautiful. Celebrate it, use that.”

That’s what actor Lucie Pohl said about being a strong woman, and what gives me hope for feminism.

Pohl was part of a panel called “The Women of Overwatch: The Journey of Bringing Strong Female Characters to Life.” It was held at Games for Change in New York City July 31 through Aug. 2. Panelists included “Overwatch” actors Anjali Bhimani, Carolina Ravassa, Pohl and Blizzard Entertainment senior casting and voice director Andrea Toyias. Overwatch, a wildly popular, online, first-person shooter game created by Blizzard, has multiple “heroes” you can play as — each with their own story and background.

The panel’s advice varied person to person, but all followed the same basic principles: strength through putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, don’t emulate men and embrace what makes you a woman.

Noticeably absent from the hour-long discussion was any rhetoric that was politically charged or anti-male. It was a foreign experience in a day where feminism has been absorbed into the political sphere as a weapon to pit women against women and paint men in broad strokes as barbaric conquerors.

It didn’t matter if you were Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal or anything in between. They gave advice with no ulterior motive. Their goal was to help teach young girls how to grow into strong women, and it was incredibly refreshing.

“If I boil this talk down very simply: We created strong characters; we found strong women and we let them be strong women,” Toyias said of her casting process for the game’s actors.

But what does it mean to be a strong woman?

“Be a woman, embrace that,” Pohl stressed. “Allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be weak and say, ‘OK, today sucked and I didn’t get what I wanted and it was a challenge to be a woman in a room full of men,’ and that’s OK. That’s real, that’s true: It is a challenge. As probably a man is challenged in a room full of women. Don’t try to suppress that … Don’t try to be masculine and think that’s the way you need to be to be successful. Women are emotional, we’re irrational, and it’s beautiful. Celebrate it, use that.”

Pohl’s advice is for women to turn their female vulnerabilities into strengths, not pretend they have none or are impervious to insecurity and doubt when working around men.

Female power doesn’t have to be the same as male power, and it shouldn’t, because men and women are different — and those differences don’t make either better or worse. In fact, they complement each other quite well, and tend to foster ideas men and women wouldn’t otherwise come up with separately.

“There aren’t a lot of women in the industry, there’s a lot of guys,” Toyias continued. “Don’t be afraid to have a voice. The more women who have voices in the room, the more OK it will be for us to have voices in the room … Don’t be afraid to be ballsy. Having said that, though, as women, there are some women– I know women who want to be ballsy in the masculine way and kind of mimic male energy and I really found that the best way to be a strong woman is to be a strong woman.”

Women are often the more emotional sex. That can be both an asset and a liability, just as a man’s aggression can be both of those things. What these four women conveyed was how to utilize to your benefit the things that make women, women.

Bhimani pushed back against the notion that the goal when creating something — whether it be a movie, book or game — should be diversity, as opposed to inclusivity.

“You, as you, are correct,” Bhimani added. “You are the thing, so just go play with the thing. It doesn’t matter what comes out of it. As an actor, I think our job as actors of color, or whatever we want to call it these days, our job is not to aim for diversity and representation and Noah’s Ark, one of everything, not that. But to aim for inclusivity and to aim for everybody belongs in this world with all of their complexity.”

Give everyone an equal chance to be involved, don’t include people for the sake of including them because of some box they check.

Feminine power is not about pushing men down, it’s about teaching women how to blaze a trail. It isn’t about demanding women be included in everything, it’s about teaching them they are fully capable of being included if they work hard. It’s about having a spot at the table that wasn’t given to you because you’re a woman, but because you have valuable insights to contribute that come from being a woman.

Strong, healthy feminism still exists. You just have to search for it beyond the toxic voices on Twitter and TV.

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