The Internal Revolution with Jahan Mantin
By Allison Rapson
Last night was a groundbreaking, history-making moment for women in this country and for women everywhere. Hillary Clinton has officially become the first woman to receive the democratic nomination for president of the United States of America. This is remarkable even if it is overdue.
Kassidy and I have had the privilege of working closely with the HRC campaign — we’ve even created original content with the vision of showcasing this powerful coming together of women. It has been amazing to witness this moment; to see so many of our female friends, allies and core tribe members (many of whom who are currently in Philly) showing up and turning it out in a way that is uniquely celebratory of what is possible for women and for all of us.
Perhaps one of the greatest forms of abundance that has manifested itself since we launched We are the XX is our female relationships. Kassidy and I are constantly being introduced to other brilliant women who are out there doing the work. This is precisely how we came to know Jahan Mantin and Boyuan Gao, the female founders behind Project Inkblot. A mutual friend connected us and we immediately scheduled some time to meet for our go-to date: coffee with a side of solidarity.
Women supporting women is a revolutionary act that fosters exactly the kind of energy we need to keep shattering ceilings. Our conversation with Jahan and Boyuan quickly covered the topics of our complimentary passion points and then moved more squarely into the heart of the matter: perseverance, resilience, tenacity and our shared power of stick-to-itiveness.
Here’s the thing: Revolutionary Road is rocky and you can’t go it alone; we need each other and we need to bear witness to one another’s stories. This is what The Internal Revolution series is all about and, today, I am honored to share Jahan’s personal account of her own Internal Revolution. Stay tuned next week to hear from her co-founder, Boyuan.
Q: In your journey to where you are now, did you have a “dark night of the soul”?
A: I’ve had many dark nights of the soul — I think we all have — that’s part of the experience of being human. I went through a dark period while my father was ill. He had cancer and my family and I were active caretakers. For those who have had to care for a dying parent, it can be hard to articulate how heartbreaking the experience can be and all of the conflicting emotions that come with it. I felt both present and grateful; both resentful and angry. I was also nearly 30, at the time, and going through my own sort of “Saturn’s Return,” wondering what to do next with my life and feeling profoundly stuck. It was a curious space of wanting to progress forward and feeling obliged to stay put.
Q: What are the soul sparks that propelled you forward?
A: My dad was the best! A supremely brilliant, humble, hilarious, present, powerful and open-hearted human. What pushed me forward was his indomitable spirit, his humor, his vulnerability. He retained his sense-of-humor amidst unimaginable physical pain, while also grappling with his impending death. I don’t know what that must be like, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to deeply admire my father — even more than before — for how honestly and gracefully he moved through the process of dying. I don’t know that I made a conscious decision to move forward, I just remember feeling like I had no choice but to go forward. It was either build character and resolve or completely lose it. I wasn’t going to lose it — so my family banded together to keep one another strong. My father was also a writer and asked me to help edit his work during the last year of his life. We spent a lot of time in those last months going through the editing process together and that was inspiring and fun for both of us. We always loved talking through character narratives and storylines. My family is also hilaaaaarious and that really helped. I’m always teasing out the joke and the funny story throughout the harder times in life because if you can’t laugh through the pain, you’re screwed. I remember thinking, after my dad died, that I really didn’t have a reason to smile or laugh again. I felt like I had died, too. In a way, a part of me did die — but I was reborn and I laugh all the gotdayum time. So, that was a revelation, that humans are stronger and more durable then we think and it’s normal to die and to be reborn many times in one life. And, I also know that I’m always learning and I don’t know shit. It’s a nice balance; feeling wiser than ever before while also open to the mystery and conundrum of life.
Q: Why is feminism personal and important to you?
A: I’ll say that I believe feminism should be important and personal to everyone. To be a feminist is to be a humanist — there is no separation. We all want to be seen, heard, acknowledged, valued. We make it so complicated. Feminism is not complicated. It’s simple. Feminism is important to me because feminism operates from the notion that women are whole, valuable and complex beings — just like men. We all want to be free from our own constraints. I believe part of being liberated is having the freedom to live in the world self-expressed; free to educate yourself, to wear what you please, to feel safe, to work, to choose to raise or not raise a family…and I believe that a world that values women would have profound and positive economic, idealogical and global effects.
I grew up around very powerful, strong, capable, smart, loving and resourceful women. I was constantly surrounded by examples of women who valued themselves and who stood up for what they believed in. When I was a girl, I was so mystified by what I believed womanhood to be; it was mysterious and beautiful and sensual and captivating and powerful. I couldn’t wait to be older so I could join the club. I wanted to know all of the secrets! Uhhhh, I still don’t know all of the secrets of womanhood or whatever — but that’s the beautiful thing about becoming an older woman; secrets are revealed through your life experiences, it’s not something that can be rushed.
Q: Are there any Goddesses / matriarchs / historical female leaders that resonate with you?
A: Oh hell yeah! There are so many — too many to list! I’ve always been captivated by free, independent, loving, beautiful women with strong minds who live boldly in the world, who are grounded in who they are. I have to shout out my grandmothers; I was fortunate to have two fantastic grandmothers who were all of the above and really set the foundation. My aunties are just wonderful — two passed on — and I have two who remain who are both so resourceful, present, unbelievably generous, strong and brilliant. And of course, my mom who is the cutest 70-year-old woman you’ll meet. She’s so naturally beautiful and young at heart; she has a vivaciousness and vitality that’s sort of astounding. She’s the first one up dancing and the last to sit down. She’s constantly going to concerts, eats super healthy, practices tai-chi each morning, travels. She’s 100% supportive of all of her children and always there when you need her. She’s the kind of mom everyone wants to adopt. I don’t think I’ve ever once heard my mom cry a “woe is me” song, even after everything she’s experienced in her own life. She’s an OG. My siblings and I are supremely fortunate to have been born from her. I also gotta shout out some of my other favorites: Frida, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Rosie Perez, the Broad City gals, Constance Wu… there are so many — but I’ve always resonated with women who are beautiful in their own way, who are strong and rooted and who stand for something. I’ve always wanted to be that type of woman.
Q: What do you know now that you want other women to know, too?
A: There’s this incessant programming via mainstream media, and social conditioning that dictate this narrative that women peak when we’re like, 25 or something. Or, that competing against one another is our natural sensibility. What I know is that that is straight up bullshit. Growing into a woman is a process of discovering and unfolding and shedding and coming into your own — however you define that to be. I’m 36 -years-old and I see my circle of girlfriends, some of whom I’ve been friends with since I was 14-years-old, and they’ve never seemed more beautiful or stronger and it’s because we’ve got some experiences under our belt. We’ve lost people, we’ve loved people, we’ve failed, we’ve succeeded and the truth is, is that wisdom looks good on people. So, what I want other women to know is that supporting one another is a revolutionary act in a world that tells us this is not the norm. It’s natural for us to look out for one another. It is the norm. We make it the norm.
Here’s to you. Here’s to sisterhood. Here’s to The Internal Revolution.