This was my first time being late on a post! When I finally realized I had passed my due date, I settled down to write my post. I usually have so many things on my mind or have read an interesting article I want to share, so I usually have no trouble putting together a post!
But this time I really struggled (so be prepared for a bit of a ramble).
A large part of this is because I feel like right now there is SO MUCH feminist stuff happening! Celebrities are talking about feminism (Shailene Woodley, Pharrell) and feminists, I think, are having less self-consciousness in responding to those celebrities who (intentionally or not) are using their global media platforms to open discussions about feminism and defining feminism. These ‘outcries’ sneak these issues and the discussions around them into more mainstream media platforms.
Also, more people are talking about women in film and the general representation of women, especially in regards to Belle, the Cannes Film Festival (go Jane Campion!), and of course, Maleficent. Then there are the negative things, like the silly discussion around Hilary Clinton and her daughter’s pregnancy, or the misogyny-fueled violence in Santa Barbara, the YesAllWomen hashtag and the varied responses to that . . . I have so many tabs open in my web browser marking the many many articles I want to read about all of these things and more!
A big part of me is just really pleased that so much discussion is taking place, faster, and with less inhibition and apology from the feminist and feminist-ally communities and individuals.
But another part of me is really discouraged because as great and insightful and well-rounded and well-written and well-executed all these articles are, when one reads the comments there still seem to be the same onslaught of vitriol and hate and closed-mindedness shouting down these feminist or just feminist-leaning voices. You might think it is foolish to look at the comments, but as it seems like women are starting to defend themselves online more and that these discussion are becoming less anomalous, and that we might see this reflected in the comments sections (and being a regular Jezebel reader, I am used to occasionally finding really interesting and insightful discussions).
But rather (as one might expect) it seems like no matter what feminists do or say, there is still going to be the huge group of people that refuses to recognize the equalities and abuses against women and refuses to even listen. They will just remain entrenched in their hate and their disrespect and their aggression and their bias and their abusive behavior FOREVER, and there really is nothing one can do to reason with these people or change their minds. My only hope in these situations is that these commenters are really all just bots.
I have also been reflecting on our (read: my) inability to confront the casual sexism and misogyny and patriarchy in daily (relatively privileged and empowered) life. It is still really hard to stand up to people being casually sexist or culturally supporting misogyny in my life. I, and I think most others like me, am constantly weighing the cost and benefit of ‘saying something’ and then having to deal with others’ negative, unsympathetic reactions . . . rolling their eyes (literally or figuratively) because I’m ‘making a scene’ again or going on another one of my ‘feminist rants.’ When people do these things, they are fundamentally not interested in actually listening to what I am saying or even admitting the reality of the situation (that I am just calmly and politely offering my countering view on something). Is it worth it to ostracize myself from my coworkers, my friends, my family by challenging or criticizing something they do or say? Am I willing to experience the disappointment and hurt/insult I’m going to endure when my coworkers, my friends, and my family belittle or disrespect me because of what I believe? Am I reinforcing the negative image they have created of me as an ‘angry feminist’ or ’emotional female’ by speaking passionately on a feminist issue, and thereby undermining myself? Is it worth it to spend the emotional energy on people who are very unlikely to actually listen or be moved by me?
How do I express my disappointment and non-participation when at a family gathering, multiple people make fun of a male celebrity for calling the police when he was experiencing domestic abuse? In that situation, how do I express how damaging it is to reinforce the idea that he should have just stayed silent and taken the abuse, rather than ‘admit to the shame’ of being beaten by a woman?
When a facebook friend continually posts things on her status about making herself pretty to attract boys or being boy crazy, how do I explain to her that she (and others) should value other things about her than her physical appearance? How do I ask her to promote other measures of self-worth for her and her friends than attractiveness and attention from boys? How seriously should one respond to such posts that are intended to be light-hearted, funny, and cutsey? How do I express to her that this ‘cutsey’ persona is built off of and broadcasts rather negative stereotypes and objectification of women? Should I just leave her be and let her figure this stuff out on her own?
How do I express my outrage to my boss when she automatically hands me a tissue box every time I am defending myself against disrespect or just disagreement in the workplace (even though I never ever EVER cry at work because women just can’t do that)? How do I ask her without ‘making a scene’ to stop making jokes about me being pregnant (I’m not pregnant) in front of my (mostly male) coworkers and clients, when she thinks ‘it’s ok because I’m just joking’? How do I get her to see the gender bias she is propagating when she constantly describes the management style of her only female project manager with words like ‘control freak’ and ‘aggressive’ when the manager does things like implement a security plan for expensive equipment or reprimands people for missing deadlines? How does one address these issues with ‘making a big thing’ out of it? Is it worth it?
It seems like we have a lot of freedom to discuss feminist issues and ponder over them online, but we still have a lot of difficulty figuring out how to deal with them when we encounter them in our actual lives. How much good is it doing us to ‘start the conversation’ and/or join the conversation, when we still can’t seem to get from the conversation to the action? when the risks are still too high to take action? and when we don’t believe the people and systems who matter will support us when we do take action?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and your suggestions.