On Feminism: Me Too

It’s Tuesday. I’m sitting here after a particularly draining session with my personal trainer. I told her I needed to work so hard that my brain shut off. I’ll feel my abs until Saturday and my brain is still going.

I’m tired. Exhausted is actually a better word. If there a word more severe than exhausted that’s actually the right word, but I don’t know it. Physically yes, but also mentally and emotionally.

It comes in waves. The frustration. With the “boys will be boys” and the “that’s just who they are” and the need to put on a smile and go about life as if everything is just perfectly fine because it’s easier if you play the ostrich.

I volley between angry and heartbroken and scared. Sometimes I feel all three. Mostly, just heartbroken and scared.

I see things I didn’t see a year ago. I’m more tender to them. I react differently. I don’t laugh at the unfunny jokes. Sometimes, when I’m brave I even say I don’t find them funny. Occasionally, I open my mouth and say more. I wish I didn’t regret it, but often do.

I don’t want to be that person. The stick in the mud. The angry feminist. The raging voice that grates and annoys.

But I am angry. And I am a feminist. If only because I realize now how it’s still necessary to be one. We still live in a world where men find assault or the bragging about it okay, or worse, funny. Women who still blame the victim. We still have bullies who haven’t been taught our personhood is a right not because we are someone’s wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend but because we EXIST.

And I don’t know what else to do with my voice. I’m tired of swallowing it down and smiling and running away and keeping peace. Maybe people need to be annoyed? Why aren’t more people annoyed? Why aren’t more women just PISSED?

I don’t know how to find the balance yet. I don’t sit well in tension. I worry, I fret. I want people to like me. But I don’t know how long I can want that because as much as I want to be liked, I want things to change more.

I’m angry and heartbroken and sad. I’m more than exhausted. I’m absolutely terrified and uncomfortable and I don’t know if any of the things I do or words I say are going to matter one tiny little iota.

But I won’t be quiet.

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  • I think ALL our voices matter — every single one. And I think it’s more important than ever to speak up about the things we see that we know are wrong. (Because, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing”.) I know what you mean, though, about not wanting to be “that person. The stick in the mud. The angry feminist. The raging voice that grates and annoys.” Because I grew up with THAT person (ie. that was my mother, and I kinda sorta swore I would never be like her…). But here’s the thing: I think there’s a HUGE difference between standing up (speaking out) for something you believe in versus just being a miserable crank. And if your “standing up” words are taken as “crank” words by some intractable asshole who refuses to understand, well then, they can just fuck off. (I can say that here, right?)

    • Yes, Marian, you can say that here. In fact, it gave me my first big smile of the day. So, thank you. I needed to hear it.

  • Marian said what I was thinking. She’s right, of course. No one wants to be perceived as a crank, but better to be known as a feminist crank that to be known as a pretty doormat. Good manners & citizenship no longer mean being passive, they mean doing what’s right for the right reasons in a way that makes a point.

    • Oh, I love your comment because it reframes the whole thing. . It’s much better to think of myself as a good citizen than a feminist crank. Even if I’m actually a bit of both. 🙂 Thank you.

  • Oh, Kate. All of this. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone. So much seeing things I didn’t see a year ago. Sometimes I so long to return to that state. I understand the whole “ignorance is bliss” thing in a different way now. And I think I know just how you are feeling–what you describe is how I was feeling through all of the spring and much of the summer. (Part of why I dropped my reading project.) Just so weary of the world.

    I made a decision to stop being quiet. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to insert my voice. I don’t require of myself that I become an activist or write essays or volunteer for every thing I might do that will make a difference. I don’t have to share every worthwhile thing I read on social media. I gave myself permission to drop that reading project. What I have committed to is speaking up and leaning in when the opportunities present themselves in the course of my regular life. When I see some “joke” or something harmful on FB, I speak up. When I hear teachers say things about “those kids” at work, I push back. I’m learning how to do this in different ways. I don’t have to be strident to be strong. Don’t even have to be humorless (sometimes). What I’m finding is that more people like me this way. The right people. People respond to authenticity. And I’m feeling more and more comfortable in my own skin. My insides are matching my outsides a whole lot more than they used to. And for those who don’t like the real me? As Marian said (to my total delight), they can fuck off.

    Sending you and your heart a lot of love.

    • I like the balance you describe. Not going out of your way, but speaking up and leaning in when opportunities present themselves in everyday life. Honestly, I feel like that’s *the* most productive way to handle it, though in my experience, the most scary because the second part – the part where we just let them fuck off – that’s the hardest for me. I’m pretty sure I’m moving in that general direction because it doesn’t stop me from saying the thing that needs to be said. It’s the after part where I worry I shouldn’t have said anything (despite knowing it was definitely the right thing to do) that I’m ready to jettison. I think I’ll get there, just not as quickly as I’d like.

      Thank you for the love. I’m taking all I can find these days. I think we all need it.

      • I think it (not caring what others think) gets easier as you get older. One of the few perks of that business. Wish I’d cultivated it much sooner. 🙂