You already know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Being a feminist is freaking stressful. I can’t remember not being a feminist, but I can remember being less of a hard-line, radical activist type, and I know I was a lot less stressed. Of course, I also wasn’t nearly as happy or as personally fulfilled as I am now, and I attribute a lot of that fulfillment to actively practicing feminism. Sometimes, though, I wish I could just take a break from it all.
There isn’t anything stopping me, exactly. I can take it easy any time I want. I can turn away from my Google Reader, delete all of the political commentary from my DVR, and put down my feminist theory books. I can take a week off from volunteering at Planned Parenthood and get away from the protesters shouting the evils of birth control. I can choose to write about style or food here instead of feminism, my (obviously) preferred topic. But then, what is left of Elfity? You see, this is me. I am a feminist. I can’t watch fucking HGTV without providing commentary on perceived gender roles. I can’t listen to the radio without declaring someone a misogynist asshat. It’s what I love to do, but sometimes, it can be too much.
I’m sure at least some of you know what it feels like to get incredibly depressed about the state of our nation just by exposing yourself to the news. When one is constantly fed more and more media about how one is not worthy of health care, deserved to be assaulted, or is less than someone with a penis, it just gets depressing. It stresses me out, personally. All of this information coming at me, telling me that my punishment for daring to be a woman is that I get treated as a sub par human being, it wears on my mind. I see legislation going through Congress about how I can’t control my body, I see my state’s governor defunding Planned Parenthood and effectively ending low-income and uninsured women’s access to healthcare, and it overwhelms me. It overwhelms me because I can’t fight it alone. And even though I know that I am not truly alone, and that there are millions of women who stand by me, sometimes it feels like I’m the only one doing anything, and I know it isn’t enough.
At times I fear that I’m going down the path of learned helplessness. I feel like no matter how many letters I write, how much money I give, how much time I volunteer, or how many protests I attend, nothing will change. We’ll keep going the way we’re going, because nobody is vocal enough and nobody in our government wants to fight dirty on our behalf. In true radical spirit, I believe that we should not ask politely, as good little ladies ought, but we should demand. If our demands are not met, we should take. But not enough people care, and it weighs on me something fierce. When Susan G. Komen for the Cure defunded Planned Parenthood, I saw even some of the most politically apathetic on my Facebook feed come alive. In the three days that Planned Parenthood was cut off from Komen, they raised three million dollars for breast health and care. Is that really what it takes? As awful as the situation was, I can’t even express how my icy black heart warmed when I heard the news. Finally, women came alive.
I’m stressed because I can’t carry this weight on my own small yet strong shoulders. The few politically active friends I have can’t either. Many of you here want to as well, I know. The internet unites us, but it can’t do everything. Activism from the comfort of your laptop and pajamas is great, but we have to do more, and nobody really wants to. I confess to being a laptop and jammies activist myself from time to time. “Rally tomorrow, you say? Well, I might go.” Then I lounge about in bed and don’t bother. Know what keeps me in bed? That defeatist devil on my shoulder, whispering that it doesn’t matter whether I go or not, because my Texas politicians just have so much fun mowing over my rights that they will do it if I’m there or if I’m home.
I worry that there really aren’t enough of us. So many of the internet feminists flit back and forth between the sites that I think we seem to be a larger number than we are. I hear too many young women who say “Well, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist,” but who still care about our rights and embrace the ones our forebearers have won for us; yet, they sit idly by because to be a feminist is, to them, to deny their femininity. I see too many women on the social networking sites beating down other women and giggling about rape jokes (yes, they get deleted quickly). I know too many who fly their feminist flags high, but the second they encounter something with which they are uncomfortable, such as a relative who has raped, drop them in an instant to engage in victim blaming. I personally worry about these things, because this is our present and our future. These are our voters and our lawmakers, and they don’t care.
I bring up this subject because I believe that others feel the same thing. We put on a strong front, but it does get to us. That’s okay. It’s alright to be weary and battle-worn every now and then, because we know that our victories will keep us fighting. The next time you start feeling the fatigue or the stress or the burnout, remember that while you have to take care of yourself first, we’ll always be here, and we’ll always need you. Keep on fighting, y’all. These victories won’t come easily.