I’ve been ‘out’ as a feminist for at least the last 4 years, although I’d held feminist values for a lot longer than that. For me, being a feminist has become one of the most important aspects of my identity. I’ve actively involved myself in student feminism and most people know me as ‘that feminist girl’. I like that, for the most part. Feminism is incredibly important to me. Without sounding too much like I’m giving myself a pat on the back, talking about and learning about women’s liberation and equality is something I spend a lot of my time doing. That’s the thing about being a feminist. It’s not a hobby or a part-time thing. It is a 24/7 commitment to constantly reconsidering the way you’ve been taught to think about things. It is constantly learning and relearning because it is a movement that is incredibly multi-faceted and constantly changing. It is being called out and eating humble pie, a lot, and not complaining about that because that’s how you learn how to be a better feminist. It is realising that your favourite TV show is really problematic or that the song you can’t stop humming degrades women and the lyrics actually make you incredibly uncomfortable.
Being a feminist is also dealing with people’s reactions to your beliefs. You find yourself having a lot of the same conversations with people, constantly clearing up the same misconceptions about feminism, and answering the same questions over and over again. A lot of the time, the people who ask these questions mean well and want to learn about feminism, they just don’t necessarily know any better and may not have much experience of feminist rhetoric. We all start out somewhere and asking these questions is another part of becoming a better feminist. That isn’t to say it doesn’t become frustrating. Sometimes the people posing these same tired questions do not care whether you answer or not. Sometimes they just want to tell you they disagree with you and don’t care about your rebuttal. A common example is the conversation I have had with people more times than you’ve had hot dinners: Isn’t feminism all about hating men and women becoming more powerful than men? Sigh. No. No, it simply is not.
In the end, you form your own standard go-to answers. The questions become so frequent, you memorise it like a script. And then there are other times, when you just don’t want to answer at all. Because you are tired and you’ve been asked this a million times before and the person doesn’t really care about the answer anyway, and that’s okay. It is no one’s obligation to educate anyone about feminism if they don’t want to. In involving yourself in the equality movement, you did not also sign up to be a teacher and life coach after all.
Generally it’s fairly easy to take it all in your stride. It’s part of talking about your politics. You can’t please everyone or expect everyone to agree with you all the time. Sometimes, however, it can all get a bit much. The questions wear you down, people’s ignorance and rude comments don’t slide off your back like they usually would, and sometimes it all just seems a bit futile. I like to refer to this feeling as feminist fatigue and I am no stranger to it. There have been several occasions recently when, personally, the fight for equality and the backlash I received about my beliefs left me exhausted and demoralised. I found myself wishing I could just forget about everything and curl up in bed and watch a lot of crappy TV and avoid everything.
Of course, it’s not that easy. Turning off the part of my brain that’s wondering whether this romcom would pass the Bechdel test (probably not) or why it isn’t socially acceptable to eat my body weight in Doritos doesn’t work like flipping a switch. As I said before, being a feminist is a 24/7 thing and you can’t just opt out and choose to ignore the inequality everywhere because you’re a bit tired. Being a feminist is bigger than me and it doesn’t matter if I’ve had a hard week and a few people I don’t even know said nasty things about me. Deciding to give up because of those things is ultimately just me being selfish and making everything all about me, when really it’s about doing the right thing, whether it’s difficult or not. So while feminist fatigue sucks, so do inequality and oppression and prejudice and my bad day kind of pales in comparison to those things.
Ultimately, being a feminist can be tough. People will disagree and sometimes it will sting and things will be difficult. No one said it was an easy fight, but it is a fight worth fighting. So when feminist fatigue hits, and it will and that’s okay, the best thing to do is to take a step back and a deep breath and reassess for a moment. Pick your battles. I want to make the world a better place in whatever way I can, but I also know that some things are just not worth the battle and will leave me worn down and discouraged. Surround yourself with positive people who’ll pick you up and remind you that not everyone is against you. And remember that while everyone is allowed bad days, not everything is always about you and that’s okay too.