The Fatigued Feminist

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.

I feel like this most of the time.

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.

By 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.

49 replies on “The Fatigued Feminist”

Mad props. And I hear you on the fatigue, man.

Lately it’s REALLY REALLY weighed me down. Especially on the topic of feeling responsible to be the one ‘to teach’ everyone. ‘Teach yourself, you fucking ass holes’ is how I currently feel.

And, btw, I don’t mean explaining my position to lovely, attentive ladies such as yourselves, but to the people who come into the conversation waiting for me to drop the ball so they can jump all over a semantics issue.

Seriously, I can’t teach you what you refuse to learn.

It’s exhausting. And this is what I want to do for a living? I mean… I’m so exhausted by the ACADEMIA part, that it makes me long for the days of exhaustion from social activism. I never was active enough (exactly as you’re explaining here), but even THAT was so overwhelming… so I’d retreat to academia for a bit… but… wait… so… that’s supposed to be the SAFE SPACE right? Then why am I exhausted over here, too?

And tomorrow, I get to go be the token feminist in class as Derrida talks about Nietzsche on women. The catch is, I WANT… hell, I can’t WAIT to go and discuss this stuff, but I’m going to be made to defend positions that I’m not sure I understand, yet. Like I’ll be made to defend women, rather than us all talk about Nze’s views on women. It’s just… *mind explodes*

Anyways, this is for you: <3

Ugh, I’m having one of those rage-y moments right now. My local newspaper publishes a weekly section written by teens, and this week’s theme was “Battle of the Sexes.” I knew I shouldn’t have read it. First, the poll question was “Does society have sexism issues?” Every single response (there were about twelve) was either “No,” “It goes both ways,” or “Girls stereotype guys more” (two girls said this). Also, there were articles on how girls don’t care about how they do in gym class and don’t try (written by a girl), how girls are worse drivers (written by a girl), how hilarious “kitchen” jokes are and all guys find sexist and racist (his words) jokes funny, and how girls shouldn’t ask boys to prom because it puts pressure on the boys to say yes (uh, and that doesn’t happen to girls?!). Also, apparently girls shouldn’t be allowed to mow the lawn, either (yes, this is real).

I know they are teenagers, and I certainly wasn’t as concerned about sexism in my teens as I am today (though I was definitely concerned about it and was able to recognize it), it was still frustrating and disappointing to read this. However, it did motivate me to educate my future kids about these things as early as possible.

I’ve only gotten fatigued while trying to be in relationships with guys who personally accepted my feminism, but who didn’t support me speaking out about it. With the last guy I dated, one of his best friends was honestly fucking clueless about some of his sexist behavior. The dude was in reality a really good, nice guy, and honestly, all he needed was a learning experience and he’d be less ignorant. One night, he was driving my (now ex) boyfriend and I home from the bar, and he started cat calling some girls on the street, saying, “Looking hot tonight!” and “Nice legs, baby!” We were all a little drunk, but that sobered me right up because I could see the anger in those ladies’ faces, whereas this guy believed he was sincerely giving compliments that the ladies would love.

When I said, “Hey man, you don’t know those chics, so don’t do that. It really freaks women out, and I know, because when it happens to me, sometimes it even ruins my day.” And right away, the ex was interrupting me, saying, “Hey, stop! It’s alright, it’s alright, ok? Let’s just get home.” All so the cat calling friend wouldn’t potentially be offended.

Oh yeah, I also got in trouble for making another guy feel like he “wasn’t welcome” at the after party, nevermind the fact that he kept following my sister around specifically to stare at her boobs (and making it obvious), and then he told my best friend he would love to fuck her in the ass. I’m sorry, the problem is that he doesn’t feel welcome? Boo fucking hoo!

Ugh, since I’m on a roll with examples, here’s one more: the one that pissed me off the most is that this ex of mine had a friend who was a blatant misogynist, didn’t even try to hide it. He’d brag about date raping girls, post naked photos of girls online without their consent, talk about how any girl who doesn’t wax all her pubic hair is a disgusting butch lesbian, and yet all girls are whores desperate for his attention, etc. I HATE THIS GUY. And yet my ex and his other friends would hear him say something super sexist and laugh because “that’s typical ______!” His misogyny was a fucking joke to them, whereas for me, it was just one more incarnation of the shit that I’ve had to live with as a woman. So when I would say, “That shit’s not funny, it’s fucked up,” they’d be all, “Well his ex girl friend really screwed him over, she broke his heart, he has a reason to hate women because of what she did to him.” She cheated on him, and I was supposed to feel sorry for him and be like, “Oh yeah, his actions are totally understandable now!” WHAT THE FUCK.

This ex of mine are still in contact, even though I broke up with him. There were a lot of things that led to our breakup, but the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was me catching him making sexist, douchebag variety remarks about me to one of his friends who doesn’t like me or my feminist ways and has been a constant thorn in the side of our relationship. He said he didn’t mean it but felt like he needed to impress this asshole friend of his. It was especially hard to break up because I thought at one time this guy was the love of my life, and instead he drained me of everything I had :(

Anyway, since we’re back on talking terms, I’ve been taking this opportunity to educate the shit our of him on feminism. I wrote a bunch of long e-mails that explained how important feminism is to me and how it’s a part of me, and why all of those examples I listed above are so problematic. He agreed with everything and apologized emphatically. Then I took it a step further and sent him some books based around feminism and masculinity. The one he’s currently reading is The Macho Paradox, and he’s even taking notes and wants to talk to me about what he’s learning. And a couple weeks ago, he confronted his asshole friend who played a part in our break up with a super long e-mail that basically boiled down to, “Hey man, women deserve respect, too, and I regret everything I said. I hope we can still be bros.” That friend turned down his request to remain bros, which says a lot.

Now, if only I could turn my sister on to feminism. She’s of the “women are already equal, so feminists are just bitching now” variety. I tried to get her to read It’s a Jungle Out There: A Feminist Survival Guide because it’s a funny, entertaining read, but she wasn’t having it. I’m going to try Full Frontal Feminism next. Wish me luck!

The scary thing about guys like your ex’s friend is he thinks that’s normal. “They’re laughing, they know what I’m talking about, they do it too!” Not standing up to guys like him is a contributor to normalising sexual violence and misogyny. I’m so glad your ex is starting to realise that.

You know, your ex-boyfriend’s gonna thank you, if he really dives into what you’re giving him and see how it can help him grow and evolve as well.

I think you’re kinda awesome, too. The sad thing is, these guys are too ignorant and brainwashed to even be able to experience their own humanity. Right wing christians are the same. Girls like you teach them things that open their eyes to their own humanity. You’re doing the world some good, girl!

I think the thing that gets to me the most is being made to feel, on a regular basis, that I’m just being the “PC police.” I feel especially conflicted among my friends, who pretty much know by this point that when they say things like “I think it might be a good idea to separate boys and girls in school, because boys get really distracted by girls’ short skirts” that I’m going to have to respond. Fortunately, they don’t ever make me feel like an asshole about it. However, it’s still weird to run up against attitudes like that, when they’re so deeply wrong-feeling to you.

That said, I can remember what it was like not to identify as a feminist and not to take those things so seriously, and it’s definitely like turning a switch on in your brain that you can’t ever turn off.

My father is a hard core misogynist. Sometimes, I tell myself it’s because he’s old. (He’s 67). He was raised in a different time etc. But boy, does it get challenging. Its is a daily constant battle. Not allowing my brother to cook, even after he volunteered, because cooking is lady business and I should do it. I had to be a mother to my dad and my brother ever since I was twelve when I came to live with him. My brother is older, I always figured he should take care of  me not the other way around. He tells me its just practice for when I marry and have to take care of my children and husband. I am a lesbian. Also, children, shudder. Needless to say, I haven’t come out to him because I know he will not me live. Serious. It would have to be over his dead body. It’s sad all around. I work with a bunch of dude bro frat boys, who currently have a contest going to see who can come up with the most horrible rape/girlfriend assault story. I can’t even complain because the whole establishment is full of dude bros. Women make up less than 5% of the workers. These assclowns at my job have me grinding my teeth so hard I feel like I might need dental surgery before I turn thirty. It’s exhausting being a feminist.

And the thing is, I cant turn it off. I have tried to not let things bother me so much, just not be a feminist today but I cant, because it’s as much a part of me as my ear. Watching the news these days is an impossibility, I can feel my blood pressure rising. There no escape. Sorry for the rant.

I think people are born feminists. You either are born one, or not. I just can’t turn it off, it’s such an integral part of who I am.

Sorry to hear about all the misogyny in your life. They deserve to get their asses handed to them by you someday.

I know. Sometimes I just want to not be a feminists for a day but I can’t. I kind of dream that one day, my family will sit me down and tell me how much they love and support me and think it’s okay that I am gay. I keep hoping they have been trolling me all along but alas, that’s not to be. But, I hope to fight to my very last breath. Misogyny will not be tolerated!

My mother raised me and my sisters to be kick-ass, stand-up-for-yourself, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar feminists, but then, that good-old-time religion seems to have sunken in its claws and she second-guesses many of my choices. Case in point: I have a big plastic file box that I have plastered with stickers, because, why not? She saw it on a recent visit and asked me (re: one of the stickers), “Why do you want to “Keep abortion legal”? I replied very simply, “Do you think we should go back to back-alley abortions?” She had to say no. Why would she even ask that? She came up during the invention the Pill, and Roe vs. Wade was the year before I was born. I think now after the fact that she was fishing for a personal story, but sorry, Mom, I’m not going there with you.

This is a woman that once wanted to join the Peace Corps, but married my “birth father” instead.

Oh, I’m so sorry about that. I imagine that’s hard to deal with. My ex had a father like that, who apparently used to be all hippie cool until he found fundamental Christianity. I wonder if there’s any research on this sort of thing, as it seems to happen to a lot of people as they get older.

I inherited ALL of her coulda-shoulda-woulda hippie sensibilities, but I’m a little sad that my name isn’t Moonflower and that I didn’t grow up on a commune. Kidding. We were “raised in church” but one of my sisters and I have trouble with things we were taught–it was all very fire-and-brimstone. Mom’s (and my stepdad’s) church now is more progressive, which pleases me for them; I don’t believe in leading people by fear (in church) as we were brought up. Mom’s become less judgmental in the past few years, and I think maybe being in that church, as opposed to a “fundamental” type like we went to all my youth, has helped her with that.

Oh, do I feel you. It’s exhausting. I just want to crawl back in bed and hide from the world when I go online every day; there’s always a new bill trying to take away our rights, a new fb comment of victim-blaming or body-snarking or rape jokes, and I just can’t. But the alternative, to just laugh it off and pretend it’s ok, well, that’s not acceptable either. It’s hard to know where to draw the line sometimes as to what’s worth the effort and what can just be ignored. I’ve been irritated all day by a friend who dressed her twins up for Dr. Seuss’s birthday because she put her son in the Thing 1 t-shirt and her daughter in Thing 2, even though I’m pretty sure the girl is older. Why does the boy get to be number one? I feel ridiculous that it’s been bugging me all day, but it has. Thank goodness for PMag and my other feminist friends; I don’t know what I’d do without y’all.

I’m glad (kind of ) that I’m not the only one that gets enraged by misogynistic asshats on the radio. I say ‘kind of’ because it’s also depressing to think of how prevalent it is. I know I make my husband’s eyes roll nearly out of their sockets in griping about how sexist something is, and occasionally he tries to counter with Ye Olde ‘But Then It’s Sexist Against Men’ argument… it is disheartening how oblivious he is to his privilege at times.

Oh, my brother is the same. He tells me how you can enjoy it and not have to believe it. Right. Funny thing is, he would be furious if the misogyny is replaced with racism. I forgot who said it but society seems to not tolerate racism but misogyny seems to be okay. Seinfeld and Mel Gibson guy goes on a racist rant, they no longer have a career. Chris Brown beats a woman, he gets a number one album and  a grammy.

Yeah, it feels more and more that hating women is socially acceptable and even rewarded many times over; I think that’s why so many women are misogynistic (aside from many other reasons, like a lifetime of being told female = bad and so on). It IS interesting once you start swapping the misogyny with something else. I distinctly remember one conversation w/my husband when I was furious about some stupid sexist things said on the radio while we were going out for lunch. I mentioned it while we were eating and his helpful reply was ‘well, just turn it off then and don’t listen to it.’ I explained that turning it off wasn’t going to solve anything, that there were no women voices on the radio that gave any other perspectives (the station I listen to is all men except for a two-minute news blurb they sometimes have from a woman who seems to try too hard to fit in with the guys, and probably feels she has to). He shrugged, said it was a non-issue, blew it off essentially. I was just so furious because these guys go unchecked, and spread their attitudes like kudzu everywhere. On the way home, we passed by an ‘Occupy’ tent and suddenly he starts going on about how he wants to volunteer and camp out or ‘do something.’ So, women’s issues aren’t worth doing something about, but sitting around in a tent is okay? I said ‘well, just don’t go to a big bank and problem solved’ hoping he’d see the irony and how glib he’d been to my concerns. I’m sure you can imagine the ‘whoosh’ that went over his head.

Ugh, one of the guys in my friend group is a radio DJ, and at times he can be very witty and hilarious. But no kidding, a good half of his jokes are rape-related. And everyone just laughs it off and are like, “Well, that’s _______, he’s just a boundary pusher!” He also says racist things every now and then, and although people laugh less, still nobody calls him out on it.

In a way, it’s hard to do anything because he’s a very strong personality and has a following, so to call him out would be to basically get attacked by a mob. However, one time, when we were all sitting around a bonfire in the backyard and he hit his 10th rape joke (yes, I was counting!), I got up and walked away and ignored all of the, “Hey, what’s up? Where are you going?” which then turned into, “Well, I guess somebody doesn’t have a sense of humor!” Ugh.

That’s usually what I do in such situations. I never know who will support me and who will turn on me, and I don’t take my chances in groups of men, especially when I’m one of the few women. I just get up and leave. It doesn’t happen often, ’cause I’m not all that social, but it happens more than I’d like.

Girl girl girl.  I feel you. It can be so overwhelming. I also saw folks activate on my facebook with the Komen debacle.  Lots of non-political women have gotten care from PP and they weren’t having any of it. I want to bottle that.  Sometimes I feel like it is so outrageous the attacks from the GOP right now that we should all be out on the goddamn street saying fuck no.  But then we have to go to work…But hopefully that movement will be fashioned into something lasting.  Senator Boxer here in Cali has been super vocal about and has started organizing.  We need more of that.

I try to stay current, educated, and active on social justice issues in general – in the spirit of “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit” – but sometimes I just.can’ It’s not even my job, and I’m a white able-bodied straight cis woman, and sometimes… just no. There is just so much still to be done.

I am in awe of you, my dear, and I used to believe that since I could not change the system on my own, that I should just put up with it. But as I’ve gotten older, it sat less and less well with me. What I eventually decided is that even little ol’ me in the middle of nowhere can make some sort of impact just by speaking up. I may not have the resources to donate much money to causes, I may not be able to get to larger cities for rallies or protests, and even though I vote for the most women-friendly politicians that I can, they are few and far between in this area, a well-known bastion of conservatism.

But dammit, I can and do speak the hell up.

When I hear some ignorant jackass making stupid comments, ignorant assumptions or completely inappropriate jokes, I speak up. I didn’t do that in the past, and I should have. It’s my responsibility as a woman – and all women – to say something. I think it is especially important to do when I’m in the company of teenage girls and little girls – I feel it is my responsibility to set the example that it is not all right, and it is perfectly fine to say so. I probably won’t ever be politically powerful or wealthy enough to make huge strides for feminism, but I can make a difference – as can everyone – simply by not letting misogynistic bullshit fly in my presence. It is doubly important that people who know you, work with you, and love you know how you feel – often times, when people realize that their comments directly hurt someone they love, even if it was not their intention, they stop. They think about it. Some change their minds. And that’s damn important.

Oh lord, do I ever relate to this. Not only do I blog about, volunteer for, and talk about feminism all the time, but I’m also what I call a career feminist. I work for a girls’ self-esteem building nonprofit org. When I get activist fatigue, it feels like there truly is no escape…both my home and work lives feel futile. I’m just without something else to pour my soul into and distract myself for a minute. Luckily, I don’t tend to stay in that mindset too long and my fabulous feminist friends keep me motivated.

But yeah, some days I just want to bang my head against the wall for a couple hours. Or not even bother to roll out of bed. And that is totally normal and we should be talking about it!

We’re like the same person! Well, I don’t actually work, but my studies revolve heavily around educational psychology and how it relates to adolescent girls, so it seems like every paper I write is in this focus. But I guess we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t love it! Having friends to keep you motivated really is key, I think, and it’s part of why I love the feminist blogosphere.

You know, I don’t think I allowed myself to feel how truly fatigued I am until I read about how fatigued all of you are and that makes me very sad. :(  I am still “in-training/in school” in my line of work, but I do everything from a feminist framework and after only maybe a year of working this way, I am exhausted.  Although I suspect my fatigue is a mixture of compassion/activist fatigue.  I am constantly having to defend my work against co-workers who would discredit feminist theory in some form or another and thereby my work as well.  It can be like hitting my head against a brick wall and then I tend to get all ragey because I just can’t believe my co-workers view the distress of people who are being oppressed the way they do.

 My family is no refuge because they are all stuck in their little mystical world of privilege. My partner does try a lot though, and honestly, this article really changed his perspective and opened his eyes a ton  Highly recommend it if you have a partner willing to read this stuff.  Really the only place I feel safe to be me is with my supervisor (thank god), some of my peers/friends who support me and are also feminists, and in this community and others like it where people actually understand/agree/empathize with me!  <3

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I get so tired of seeing and hearing the same misogynist things over and over. I really love pop culture, but sometimes it just becomes too much. As a college educator, I read the most atrocious things occasionally in student papers, and they make me want to beat my head against the desk. A colleague of mine had a student paper about why women who are mothers should only be stay at home mothers from a female student. Or when I had a student in class tell me about how she made her stepson participate in sports so he wasn’t a “sissy”. It does make me tired. I also am tired of having to censor myself for fear of provoking an argument or making someone horribly uncomfortable. But goddamn, I’m tired of being told I don’t have any choice about my own body. That one gets me way more  than I let on at times.

Ah, the self censorship is the worst! It’s really tiring to always have to think “is this a safe place to share my opinion?” or “would talking about this w/ them even be productive?” or “if I open this can of worms, will I just end up even angrier?”

My ultimate goal is to be a college professor, so it’s nice to know what I’ll be getting into! And by nice, I guess I mean a little depressing. I see these things happen with my fellow students, but at least as of now I can call them out on it.

My best friend’s son has two sets of blocks that fit inside one another, kind of Russian-doll style. We were paring down his toy collection and she said to get rid of the “girly” set, i.e., the ones with watercolor-type decorations instead of the primary-colored ones. I nearly lunged at her throat. Why, yes, let’s indoctrinate your nearly two-year-old with ye olde gender roles.

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