Welcome to something new! Every week (until I run out of questions or get bored), I’m going to field one of the questions that gets put to me “as a feminist”. Roll up, roll up for my first attempt as an agony aunt (n.b. Aunt Battleaxe is not responsible for any life-destroying misery you may experience as a result of following her advice).
Feminist activism can feel so draining. Is it possible to stay positive?
– Tired Feminist
The thing about being a feminist is that, since we live in a patriarchy, we have basically set our faces against the WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD. In theory, the end of gender and the liberation of the female human from the tyranny of the male will be good news for everyone – bring on the revolutionary maracas and pinata shaped like a phallus! Let’s party our way out of patriarchy! In practice, not everyone has yet seen the benefits of this and signed up for the grand carnival of feminism, and so, given the massed forces of the status quo (which, let’s not forget, is internal as well as external, since male supremacy is part of the cultural air we all breath), it’s easy to feel mired in wrangling and stymied in pursuit of our aims.
And then, to make matters worse, when you do accomplish something, there’ll always someone who’ll rock up to tell you the thing you worked so hard for is petty and pointless: Ugh, who cares about that thing you did, they’ll say, shame you didn’t put all that work into destroying the patriarchy. (Please note: the kind of person who says this kind of thing will almost always turn out to be engaged in no actual campaign of their own of any kind, and also have no practical plan for destroying the patriarchy, although they may suggest nipple tassels as a key weapon in opposing objectification. All this is, inevitably, quite wearing. There’s a reason so many feminist biographies end with their subjects A) mad, B) embittered, C) suicidal, D) isolated or E) some dismal letter salad of all of the above.
Perversely, that should be your first source of reassurance. Bigger, braver, brighter women that us have buckled under the strain – and have still left the work that lights our way. If it feels hard, that’s because it is. What we’re trying to do as feminists is something extraordinary: we’re trying to reinvent a world that serves masculinity, and we’re trying to do it from the inside because there is yet no “outside” where we could stand. We don’t know what the world after male supremacy will look like, and we can’t expect it to come into being overnight – or even in our lifetimes. We will lose and lose again, because the odds against us are so huge. But sometimes, we will win, and when we win, the little victories will make up one more stone in the foundations of the world we want to make.
If you have something to ask Aunt Battleaxe, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Dave King via Flickr, used under CC