I Do Not Turn Off My Feminism

ElfityFeminism18 Comments

olivemylove

“Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything?”

If you’re a feminist, you probably get this a lot. If you haven’t yet, just wait. It’s coming, I guarantee it. Really, it’s gotten to the point where I keep my social circle very tightly closed (Elfity-speak for “I have no friends”) because I am so sick of dealing with this. Yes, I do have to make a big deal out of everything. Why? Because nobody else is, and feminist issues are important. Weird, right? Women are important! It seems like a novel concept, I know. Well, at least it does to those who whine, whine, whine about how I can’t just relax or get upset when I walk away from a destructive situation. Scared I’m going to take your privilege away, Mr. MisogynisticHomophobicRacist White Guy? Good. You should be.

ALL THE TIME.

I’m firmly in the “don’t shut up, don’t back down” category, at least when I feel safe enough to be. Silence is oppression’s best friend, after all. For the same reason I’ve always thought that sit-ins are better than walk-outs, I would rather talk infinitely and bother the hell out of the offender than walk out contemptuously. But I’ll only do this when I feel safe, because I am just not willing to risk my personal wellness. So, school environment with tons of people? I’m on it. Family gathering? Even cocktail foods and death-glares from my mother won’t shut me up. Bar with a bunch of people I don’t know? Yeah, I’m walking out. I not-so-fondly recall a night sometime last summer, at a gathering with my boyfriend of a few months and his circle of former semi-friends. I’d met most of these people before, but not for long enough to engage in any discussion beyond careers or television show preference. Turns out that was a good thing, because once these people started going with the misogynistic and homophobic bullshit, they didn’t stop. Since my circle of friends is so closed off and I choose only to associate with those who believe in equality, etc., I didn’t even know that people used phrases like the ones I heard last night outside of gaming forums and Reddit. Needless to say, I walked out, with my boyfriend following me and apologizing profusely.

So no, I’m not going to turn my brain off. I’m not going to stop analyzing, stop philosophizing, not even while I try to make nice with people I don’t really care for or watch some mindless reality show. No, I’m not going to stop thinking about how problematic certain popular music lyrics are, and how they help to create a culture which oppresses and harms. I won’t do it. It makes things uncomfortable, sure, but I would personally rather deal with the discomfort than just let things go. It was really uncomfortable to have to have that talk with my boyfirend, newly introduced to the social justice mindset, about the aforementioned situation. It was difficult to sit down and  have that talk about how I do not tolerate listening to people toss around homophobic slurs or referring to women by any variety of vile epithets. I told him then, as I’d told him before, that I do not turn off my feminism. And yet he understood, he apologized. He told me how he let them say things he knew were wrong around him in the past because he was too afraid to speak up. It wasn’t just a difficult situation for me, it was a difficult one for him as well. It’s tough for anyone, to have to deal with situations or friendships like that. You don’t know what to do, because your brain keeps dissecting and you continually have to make  decisions about what you are comfortable with both personally and politically.

In the end, I’m just scared that if I don’t make a big deal out everything, then nobody else will. I’m scared that if I don’t start something, if I don’t call someone out or bring up the -ism in something, then it will never be brought up and thinks will continue to go as they always have. Here in my safe corner of the internet, I can always count on somebody to bring those things up, to call out the misogynists and homophobes and racists and all those bent on controlling the rights of others. I know that somebody will tackle issues that I just don’t have the strength to get to, and I know that they will do it well. But out in non-internet land, it’s usually up to me. I want things to change. I want our world to get better. It’s not so much that I can’t turn it off, it’s that I won’t turn it off. I keep my feminism on every day, every hour, and I like it that way.

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Elfity

Elfity, so named for her tendency to be a bit uppity and her elf-like appearance, is a graduate student and professional Scary Feminist of Rage. She has a propensity for social justice, cheese, and Doctor Who. Favorite activities include making strange noises, napping with puppies and/or kitties, and engaging in political and philosophical debates.
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ElfityI Do Not Turn Off My Feminism

18 Comments on “I Do Not Turn Off My Feminism”

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  1. Avatar of Alice Nevada
    Alice Nevada

    This post reminds me of something I read once, that always stayed with me, though I can’t remember the source – If you see something wrong, but do nothing to stop it, you are just as guilty as those who are doing it.  Everyone who knows me, knows that I am outspoken – that I speak out. I don’t think its so much that I’m a feminist, but rather that I’m a human that strives for integrity.  So you are not alone.

  2. Avatar of Jamie
    Jamie

    Man, this is really true.  Although I probably fall more into the ‘chill’ category most of the time, I often find myself analyzing (and sometimes getting upset) about things that other people tell me aren’t all that important. (Commercials, reality shows, flippant remarks or jokes, etc…)   It’s nice to feel a little validated in that respect.  One thing that bugged me lately was the double standard for violent song lyrics/videos that seems to permeate everything.  I’m sick of listening to people make a huge stink about some Rhianna video and its violence towards men, and then turning on some bullshit supposedly wholesome country station any day of the week and hearing mysoginistic rants set to twangy line-danceable tunes.  Honestly, I don’t like either and neither are a society I want to build for myself  - but let’s not kid ourselves that our whole culture isn’t steeped in this bullshit and it only becomes noticeable when a woman turns the tables.  To say otherwise is basically dishonest.

    Ugh, there I go.  Gettin’ all emotional.  Sorry, ladies.  See?  Well, at least I’m not the only one.

  3. Avatar of Tina
    Tina

    This was so nice to read today. I’ve been researching the pay gap for an article I’m writing, and just reading comment after comment from MRAs denying that the pay gap exists (or saying that it does exist, but only due to women being lazing and not working enough, and not institutionalized sexism) has made me so sad, frustrated, and angry. Sometimes I do just want to give up and stop reading about inequality and the sexism that pervades every aspect of life in the US (especially knowing that the situation is a million times worse in many other places). It makes me so angry that so many people I know, men and women alike, don’t believe that feminism is something worth standing up for. It can be exhausting at times to try to keep fighting for equality and trying to help those around me understand why certain things are unjust. I’m glad there are other people out there who share this belief and are passionate about women’s equality.

  4. Avatar of nonsensikel
    nonsensikel

    Great piece.  I feel like the attitude I get the most when I go off is, “Oh that’s so cute, she’s a little feminist.  Let’s sit here and humor her.”  So irritating.  That being said, I do sometimes have to REALLY suppress my feminism.  At work, going off on doctors, families, fellow nurses and etc. is not really an option. Well I suppose it is, but I don’t really want to muddy up my work life. Instead, I’ve mastered ‘the look’ for work and I know who it’s safe to vent to when something happens.

    Then there’s the future in-laws.  My FIL baits me a lot.  I get the whole isn’t she just cute with all of her little opinions attitude from him.  And with him, it is always 100% best to ignore his crap. He’s pulled me into a few arguments and there is just no winning.  Even if I sufficiently make a point, he will conveniently forget it because it doesn’t fit into his worldview and will re-bring up the issue a couple of visits down the line.  His personal favorite has to be telling me that nurses should go back to wearing dresses and caps.  No. No we really fucking shouldn’t.

     

  5. Avatar of Lauren
    Lauren

    This, right here, is exactly why it is so hard for me to spend long periods of time around my family.  Not necessarily about traditional feminist issues.  But…ugh, they all buy into racial stereotypes, and my brother thinks racist jokes are okay.  I call them out every time, and somehow, I’m attacking them, and they are victims, and I should just let them say terrible shit whenever they want to.  I’m too sensitive.  I should just get over it.

    It’s exhausting.  But I refuse to be bullied into silence.

    1. Avatar of nonsensikel
      nonsensikel

      My brother does the whole racist joke thing to get a rise out of me.  He LOVES to argue.  He will argue the shit out of something that doesn’t even make sense just to see me get angry about it. So I’m always torn between remaining calm so he doesn’t get what he wants and arguing back.  Then again, being calm never works because he just says something more irritating and I end up going off anyway.

      He works with roofers.  He has a lot of material to work with.

  6. Avatar of hayduke
    hayduke

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. Danke. Gracias. I owe you a drink; I owe you a whole bunch of ‘em. What I’ve found the most frustrating about this isn’t even the “OMG, you sound like a broken record, can’t you calm down, why do you always have to…” type stuff. No, what wears me right the fuck down, the main reason that sometimes I don’t bother, is that I get so tired of explaining “101 level” stuff. Especially if the discussion is in a place where some participants already know their shit. I’m supposed to hold back the whole class because you’re a lazy little fuck who didn’t do the reading? Because you actually need it spelled out for you why anti-choice legislation and using “… like a girl” as an insult are woman-hating? These explanations are made all the more frustrating by the fact that deep in my gut I know, I just know, that it is 101 stuff: it’s not that these people haven’t been exposed to these ideas, haven’t had the opportunity to learn, hell couldn’t figure it our for themselves by the simple expedient of applying a little common sense and human decency. Nope. More likely is that they have simply chosen to reject it. Which to me makes about as much sense as rejecting evolution but, gasp, there’s a lot of over-lap, huh?

    Even cocktail foods and death-glares from my mother won’t shut me up.”

    Ok, so I’m working on this one, too. My mother knows how awful they are on this stuff and just doesn’t want to deal with their nastiness. One of these days maybe I’ll figure out a way to be sure their ire is directed at me without putting her in the line of fire. On that day? Watch out!

  7. Avatar of freckle [M]
    freckle [M]

    I do, sometimes. Not only feminism but realism and a refusal to take off my rosy-coloured glasses as well, because sometimes I just want to lay down my head and not know. To not be the only one in some (work-)environments to know when a line is crossed. Which makes me feel bad, because I should now better and just like you ‘If I won’t speak up, who will?’.

    Luckily I know people near me who will catch what I can’t or won’t catch, so that I can lay down my head sometimes without feeling like I’m helping the ship with making water.

  8. Avatar of DrMrsJamesCole
    DrMrsJamesCole

    Love this! Do you find that you get it more/less/the same with women? I have few friends as well, so my (not coincidentally estranged) husband is my usual sounding board. Like Dr. Song’s friend, he’s of the “I’ll listen and be supportive for as long as it’s convenient for me” school. Oh, this is a problem for YOU? Well I don’t have the luxury to turn it off. Ugh.

    He is also the KING of the ‘can only tolerate so much not being about him.’ At some point he’ll start whining about how something I’ll say re:feminism is ‘so sexist against MEN’ and ‘what about MEN’ and it is infuriating. I wouldn’t even be bothered if it was one of those ‘yeah, this is a legitimate issue for men too’ things, but no.

    I decided a while ago that this summer I’m going to start a blog that goes through the day in the life of sexism. Just noting all of the little things on the radio, on TV, in conversations, online, that I see every day that are sexist. I have NEVER had a day where I didn’t think I’d have enough material for it.

    1. Avatar of Michelle Miller
      Michelle Miller

      Yes, I get this, too, from time to time.

      My husband just snaps and says something to the effect of, “You’re propagating the same thing against men that you feel men do against women!”

      And I’m like, Do not even with me, Mister Privilege, who can speak with candidness, utter honesty, and even complete annoyance to his coworkers and bosses and never have someone accuse him of being a bitch. I once explained that if I just said, “I really don’t like your idea” to a coworker or boss, I’d be the office bitch for life.

      He didn’t understand it.

      You can tell he and I have had words about this recently. :)

      1. Avatar of DrMrsJamesCole
        DrMrsJamesCole

        Grrr! I haven’t found a guy yet who gets that:

        a) Women have to tip-toe around in society to be accepted in way too many places. The second you don’t automatically go along w/a guy’s idea, look out!

        b) Women have to prove themselves professionally in so many ways that men don’t, and still get paid less and get criticized more. And I’ve been through the ‘sorry, they want a MAN’ speech more times than I can count for jobs that I not only was qualified to do, but in several cases ended up doing anyways (they just didn’t give me the title/money).

        c) Women are ‘lucky’ when they can find professional atmospheres where they aren’t subjected to sexism; it’s a rarity, not the norm.

        d) Men who are oblivious to privilege get by just fine. Women who are oblivious to it get taken advantage of. Women who are not oblivious to it are ‘propagating the same thing against men.’

        I think most men can learn how to be more supportive of these things if they’re able to not make it/everything about them, it’s just hard for some guys to get over their lifelong belief that they’re the default and they’re the ones who matter more. Hopefully your husband is willing to listen! I’m not holding my breath for mine…

  9. Avatar of MJ
    MJ

    Yes, I do have to make a big deal out of everything. Why? Because nobody else is….

     

    This comment in particular stood out to me because it says very succinctly what I somehow never manage to say.  It’s appropriate not just for feminist issues but for other topics I find important that don’t seem to bother many other people.

    I’m committing it to memory.

    “Why are you making a big deal of this?
    Because no one else is. ”

    Truth.

  10. Avatar of Dr. Song
    Dr. Song

    Actual sentence that came out of a dear (male) friend’s mouth the other night: “I’m sorry I needled you, but sometimes I get sick of hearing your opinion all the time.”

    Oh, SORRY you find my feminism inconvenient. I’ll just shut up now. OH WAIT.

    Srsly, great article.

    1. Avatar of Michelle Miller
      Michelle Miller

      I’ve heard that from male friends, too.

      LET ME POUR SALT IN THAT WOUND YOU LIVE WITH BECAUSE I AM REALLY GETTING TIRED OF YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT HOW MUCH IT HURTS HAHAHAHA.

      I try to remember that they are so far up privilege creek (and who am I kidding? I’m white, so I’m pretty far up that creek, too) that they really don’t see what enormous assholes they are being.

       

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