Discouragement and wisdom from @feministhulk
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Just recently posts from me (and thoughts in general via Twitter etc) have been a bit thin on the ground. Much of the time this is down to life getting in the way of writing but over the past few weeks I've been experiencing motivation issues.
Motivation issues of the sort which happen when despite all the things you have to be positive about, the inspiring books you've been reading, the upcoming conferences you're really excited about attending and the events you can't make but are still really pleased are happening, things just get you down.
Those times when people you know discover the little corners of the internet dedicated to being viciously unpleasant about them because of the activism they do. Those times when it seems like everything is destined to end in call-outs and privilege olympics at the expense of anything productive. And when each day seems to bring a new wave of hatred and drama, often from below the line on a news story so you can't even be bothered to read comment threads any more.
For me it started with 'the Slutwalk debate' and the fact that so very few people seemed to be looking past the misinformation and the media hype and that word, whatever conclusion they ended up coming to, until it was even happening among the people hoping to attend the marches. It continued through discussions over Nadine Dorries and something called 'sexualisation' and ended up with rape apologist after rape apologist after rape apologist and arguments about Ken Clarke and Roger Helmer and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The news has been full of it to the extent that someone only has to mention it and you hear people on public transport or in the office saying: "The real problem is all these women who ruin decent men's lives".
That's before you get to the rest of the world and the stories about virginity tests in Egypt and rising sex selective abortions in India, trafficking in Nigeria and access to women's health services being used as a way of political point-scoring in the USA - more reasons this fight needs to continue.
You start to wonder what the point of wading in might be because you know that as soon as you say something, someone will pipe up with a smug comment about 'hysteria' or 'rational discussion'. They'll make smirking asides about 'moralising' or 'jealousy' or 'catfights' or 'choice' because groups of people have decided to speak out against Girls Gone Wild or the Playboy Club coming back to London. But back to 'hysteria' and 'rational discussion' for a moment. You know that the minute you talk about anything from personal experience or try to relate the stories of individuals or - God forbid - show emotion in the form of anger or outrage at injustice those who just want to silence you and belittle you will pounce on it. You silly, irrational, emotional woman. They'll either pounce or you or they'll pounce on the people you're talking about and trying to defend.
"You're talking about the experience of a handful of people. Where's your evidence that it's widespread? You could be making all this up!"
"You're just overreacting."
"I'm sure your intentions are honourable but the fact is, these women just bring it on themselves."
In an introduction to her 1969 essay 'The Personal is Political', Carole Hanisch said:
“...they belittled us no end for trying to bring our so-called 'personal problems' into the political arena.”
That was 1969 and when you look at things from that angle we haven't come a long way, baby. The personal experience and anger at injustice and oppression which motivates much of the activism we're seeing, the blog posts and the things we say on Twitter shouldn't have to make us targets for the sort of people who only want to silence, intimidate and patronize.
That's why I've had some motivation issues in recent weeks and why, over the past couple of days, I've had to keep reminding myself that the fight is worth it and although I may not feel the urge to wade in with whatever I feel needs to be said in the form of a blog post or a 140-character smackdown, that doesn't mean the same as 'giving up'. Sometimes it's just called 'having a break'. You know these people are always going to be there but wearing yourself out engaging with the hatred isn't always helpful or productive.
Let's remember the recent and very wise words of our esteemed friend @feministhulk: FEELING OVERWHELMED NOT A SIGN OF FAILURE. FEELING OVERWHELMED A SIGN OF HOW IMPORTANT THE FIGHT IS. KEEP ON SMASHING!
Edit: and it's not just @feministhulk, I feel like I should maybe be quoting Samwise Gamgee in the epic motion picture Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when he says:
"I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something...That there's some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."
Check that out.