On giving up (short essay)
So I have this friend who sometimes makes comments about the time when i first discovered feminism and was just so very angry about everything. The comments she makes aren’t flattering–I don’t think they’re meant to be cruel, either, but they’re generally in the vein of “I’m glad you got past that phase, that’s for sure..”
Thing is, I think she’s mistaken my current state of total exhaustion for a state of complacency, or maybe a mellowing out about such things, and this saddens me for two reasons. One, it saddens me that she saw my anger as something negative and terrible and somehow ruining my ideas. I had and still have a right to be angry; this shit sucks for a lot of reasons, and there’s no reason it should reflect badly on me to get actually genuinely angry and loud and yell about things that aren’t right in the world.
But I’m not going to go into my relationship with this friend and why, despite the fact that she’s not trying to be mean, it’s a dagger in my heart when she talks that way. The thing that I want to change more is the second reason that her comments make me sad: that I’m too tired to fight, that I exhausted myself the moment I had the language and the tools to recognize the fucked up shit that goes on, and that I let myself get shouted down into obscurity, not just by the douchebags and the trolls who took it as an opportunity to inflict further harm and cruelty, but also by those friends who thought my angriness was a detriment to my character, and the only way to not alienate them was to slink off and stop talking about such things.
That’s hard enough to admit. That I stopped overtly talking about racism and sexism and privilege not because i’d said all I had to say, but solely to avoid conflict. I’m not an aggressive person by nature, and I know my first response to confrontation is to run away. The thing is, I spend most of my time on the internet, and the internet makes it really easy to run away. I can block people on twitter, block them on google plus, block them on tumblr, and mostly refrain from saying anything too controversial and by this manner keep myself “safe”. By creating an echo chamber where the only people in it are people I agree with, I create a space safe from conflict. This may make me feel good on the surface, but there’s some part of me that’s ashamed of myself for not speaking up anymore, and for regretting it when I do.
So…maybe it’s time I toed the line a little. Because I do want to talk about things like race and gender and privilege. I do want to add to the discourse, I do want my voice to be heard in support of the things I believe in and in opposition of the things I think are wrong. I do feel like that by sitting down and shutting up I’ve done far worse than if I’d continued being loud and angry and alienating the fuck out of my friends.
But I’m still afraid. Afraid of the conflict, afraid of the hate, afraid of the stress and duress of enduring dissent and trolls and douchecanoes, afraid of the shit I’m going to fuck up and how some people will take my fuckups as an example of how the whole discussion is invalid because I wasn’t flawless the first time I presented it. Truth is, I don’t have all the facts, all the tools, all the experiences, or even all the words I need to sit atop this mountain and deflect every criticism. And that’s scary as hell.
But sometimes scary as hell is exactly the reason you gotta try.