“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.
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.