Interview With Tracy - Author of Girl Rebuilt

I love talking with women and listen what they have to say, I naturally find things in common between us and find really fulfilling to see things in a completely different way and learn from them. International talks, intergenerational talks, women that don't know each other at all and end up spending an hour just exploring things together. 

This is what happened with Tracy, we spoke about countries, and different points of view, and what feminism was for each of us, and our different growth journeys. 

Who is Tracy Shields, the woman behind Girl Rebuilt?

I am Blogger, author, activist and giver of relationship advice. I have written extensively on the topic of love addiction and recovery since 2008, appeared in the documentary Love Addict, by Pernille Rose Grønkjær and I am the author of, Girl Rebuilt: advice on how to ditch Mr. Unavailable and become the girl of your dreams. The blog is my story about a few bad relationships (and one super good one), and their transformative power to heal and rebuild.  I am a member of NOW (National Organization of Women), and a supporter of local shelters for women and children victims of domestic violence.

What is the biggest impact on what you do?

I can’t often see my impact unless someone writes to me or comments on my blog. But I do calculate impact by feedback I receive, which usually includes someone thinking differently for the first time about something, or learning a new behavioural approach, or simply realizing they are not alone. When I started to formulate a plan to write a book, I began saving testimonials. They can be found here

What has been your biggest learning since you started?

The “biggest” mental and emotional moment of growth along a human timeline is very hard to pinpoint. Except when looking back. Then it becomes quite clear. I was learning all along. I was growing more self-assured and stronger after my divorce (in 2004) but I think, I had once again, overlooked all that growth for the sake of a new relationship that I hopped into. In other words, I did it again. I failed again. I got involved with yet another unavailable guy. But this last relationship and how it ended was different than the others that came before. It gave me the gift of a different learning experience I needed, the last piece of the puzzle if you will. It crushed me and raised me up. This time, the guy left me. And not only did he leave me, he said he never loved me to begin with. This threw me at once into a horror movie and a coming-of-age movie at the same time. I collapsed; but then, I also shot up and out with a strength I had not ever seen in myself before. It was at this moment, at the most painful, I learned the most. That I didn’t NEED a relationship to survive. That I was OK, because of just me. I was enough. To this day, telling this story still brings tears of joy to my eyes.

What is the goal? The big vision of what you would like to achieve?

Uff. Good question. When I was taking leadership seminars for women in business they told everyone to always set goals and have a big vision! But, my wimpy self is showing when I admit I really haven’t envisioned anything past re-publishing this book via a publisher. And since that is a pretty big step for me, I’ll just leave it at that. Maybe sell 10,000 copies????

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And now, our feminist questionaire

 

What is Feminism for you?

I have had a very complicated relationship with feminism and what I believe it represents. For many years, I resisted accepting my responsibility to be a feminist and live more in alignment with feminist values. I thought if I did, I would have to “give up” all the things I loved (men, sex, lust, traditional gender roles, etc.) I thought, How can I be a stay-at-home mom, whose husband financially cares for her, raise my kids and be a feminist? I couldn’t. How could I divorce, and then date a guy who treated me like crap and be a feminist? I felt like a sinner who couldn’t with clear conscience claim to be religious. But that, of course, was faulty, toxic thinking on my part, mixed with a whole lot of immaturity. What I really didn’t want to give up was the comfort and safety of remaining stuck in my miserable life. Heck, at least I knew what to expect!  But, when I finally hit my lowest point and came to the realization that I needed to change, to grow up; part of that process was to become an advocate for my better self, to make better choices, and to communicate through my values, not my lusted-after outcomes. Feminism, to me, therefore, is the direct result of making healthier choices. When women decide to make healthier decisions for themselves and their loved ones, I think they are naturally, whether they know it or not, feminist.

Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?

My current husband (my partner of nearly 13 years, who is also my best friend and probably more feminist than I’ll ever be), back in the early passionate days (!) would every once in a while say, “Well, it must be that time of the month (for you)” when we would argue. That, of course, would set me off even more and then, a thrown pot or two might be a reality.

But, that kind of comment no longer bothers me. For one, he’s not wrong. I genuinely am more agitated during that time of the month, and two, I have been able to detect that he too has a “time of the month.” It’s called The Day After a Night of Drinking Scotch. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, he’s irritable and miserable, and I get to call him out on it. And so, we have both learned to respect each other’s chemical imbalances and lack of tolerance at certain times. And for the most part, we laugh it off.

What bothers me far more than that, is in corporate America, there is an assumption among men you’re familiar with that it’s OK to kiss women upon seeing them. As I have worked in corporate board rooms, and am well acquainted with how men greet other men (hand shake, and the occasional “bro hug”) it was weird how they’d soften when approaching me and then lean in for the kiss. I want to clarify that I never (and still don’t) consider this sexual harassment. It’s a greeting. But it’s not how I would prefer to be greeted as one of the owners of a company. Let’s stop that, shall we?

Do you remember when you started identifying as a Feminist and why?

Yes. I was in college, arguing with my professor over the The Kreutzer Sonata by Tolstoy. At one part of this drama (where a Victorian husband kills his wife in a jealous rage), the protagonist goes off on a tangent that women have far more power over men because society is almost entirely geared toward women’s pleasure. He adds too how much (sexual) power women have over men, in general. Back then, I took his side and agreed that this was true! But, years later I re-read the short story and was horrified at how poorly I interpreted this story of a clearly misogynistic character who not only hates women but sees them as his possession. Superficially women may have sway over men’s actions, may live in a society geared towards their pleasure, and yet, at the same time, women did not, nor do today, have one-tenth the power men have when it comes to basic human needs, control over our own bodies, and political control. But it took many years for me to “get it.” And only through suffering, education and age did I actually learn.

Who is your biggest feminist role model?

Aside from my mother? I would have to say my undergraduate English Lit professor, at Rutgers University, Dr. Carol Singley, who was instrumental in helping me to discover the feminist within me. She introduced me to a slew of feminist lit, and encouraged me in ways no other teacher had. When I told her I wasn’t a feminist, she said, “yes you are. You’re educated yourself. You want better for yourself. Don’t sell yourself short.” It was a duh moment, but an important one.

What is your favourite Feminist quote?

“In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.
But now I know the things
I know. And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”
Dorothy Parker


What is your proudest feminist victory?

Aside from getting out of a hugely abusive marriage, while graduating from college magna cum laude, while raising a baby and a toddler at home? Hmm…. I think my proudest feminist victory was finally bringing myself to the point where I realized I was happy being alone. I write about it in the book and on my blog under The Break-Up Journal. But, in a nutshell, it was years after my divorce. I was in a relationship with a man whom I fell in love with (and who said he was in love with me too), who one day, broke up with me out of the blue and said he made a mistake. He never really loved me. Huh?! I was dumbstruck. I rage-cried for days, and then, sunk into a very deep depression. My whole worth was wrapped up in him. I mean, here I was at age 40, thinking I had secured my future with this guy, and then, boom. I was completely alone. I felt helpless. I felt useless. And I felt angry, at myself mostly. I had done it again. I had gotten into a relationship where I became extremely dependent. And when it was taken away, I fell apart. It took some seriously miserable nights and some super deep soul searching to come to terms with the fact that I could not put myself into that kind of situation ever again. I had to be OK, with me, no matter who came into my life and no matter who left it. And to this day, despite a very loving, healthy and happy second marriage, I still go off on my own and get some “me” time so that I can continue to exercise that strength.

What are your feminist recommendations?

  • Book (Lots!) White Oleander, by Janet Fitch; The Book of Ruth, by Jane Hamilton; The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros; Riding in Cars with Boys, Beverly Donofrio; The Lover, Marguerite Duras; The Color Purple, Alice Walker; Diary of a Wife, Anaïs Nin…
  • TV show I don’t really watch a lot of TV but I’d have to say The Queen’s Gambit, Unorthodox, Big Little Lies, and probably Orange is the New Black, Las Chicas del Cable…
  • Film Erin Brockovich, The Color Purple, Thelma & Louise, The Shipping News, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Danish Girl, Sandstorm, any film or documentary on Muslim women,


What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading?

One of the most important lessons I learned when I “rebuilt” myself was to communicate clearly. To mean what I say and say what I mean. Let me give you an example: as a feminist, I thought it was important (like most of us!)  to teach men that “No means no.” And yet, there I was saying no, but my actions were saying yes. I would say, “I refuse to date men who treat me like garbage,” but then, I would date men who treated me like garbage. Or I would say, “I do not tolerate that behavior.” But then, I would tolerate that behavior. This became very confusing to whoever I happened to be dating. And worse, it taught men how to treat me. It taught them that I couldn’t be taken for my word.  Strong, empowered women have a responsibility to communicate clearly. We teach people how to treat us

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