It is no fun being a Feminist Killjoy (as the name would imply).
It is no fun being the girl at the Seahawks party who asks the friend-of-a-friend that she just met to stop yelling the word “raped” (“DID YOU SEE THAT? WE JUST RAPED THEIR DEFENSE”) when there are other perfectly good words like “dominated” or “wrecked”, only to realize that:
- When you attempt to propose alternative words for “raped”, most of the following suggestions will feel unnecessarily sexually violent and,
- When you interrupt to a dude at a sports-watching party to unwittingly (I swear!) define “rape” via synonyms, when two seconds earlier he had been inhaling hot wings and yelling at the TV in 12th man bliss,
You have officially begun your transmogrification into a Feminist Killjoy. Congratulations. Here is your complimentary cross-stitch lapel pin from Etsy that says ironically (or not? I can never tell) “male tears” with a pair of ovaries making a cute little Feminist-Killjoy-ovary-heart-frame around the edges.
The last time I wrote and published a blog post was May 21, 2015, 2:48pm PDT. Well over a year ago. Or 11,544 hours / 692,640 minutes / 41,558,400 seconds, depending on how you want to think about it.
Well-meaning friends and coworkers have asked me if I am still writing, or when I am coming out with a new blog post, and I wouldn’t really have a good answer as to why I had stopped writing for so long – only that I had.
Perhaps I could have said [Dr. Evil voice + pinky] “I am spreading my devious feminist seeds of mind-control via inception in my friends’ brains, rather than to the masses via blog.”
The truth is that righteous outrage is exhausting. Being fully aware of the extent of the dehumanization of women – both in your own little bubble and around the world – on a daily basis is simultaneously maddening and draining. I wake up, wait at the bus stop and lean against a wall so my backside isn’t available for the occasional brush (or grope) of a passing hand. Then I read the news about how ISIS has established an official system of sex slavery of kidnapped Yazidi women, complete with menus of the going rate per age range, starting at age six (source).
A few years ago, feminism was the movement that finally helped me figure out how to put into words the vague notion of “something here is not right” that I felt deeply in my bones, yet despite my impressive vocabulary, could not articulate. A few years ago I discovered something fresh and shiny and new and passionately heartbreaking. A few years ago, I would have written 3000 words about the Yazidi women and children, and maybe researched how plausible it would be for me to fly to Syria and hypothetically, singlehandedly kick ass à la Liam Neeson Taken-style with my nonexistent retired-special-ops-skills from a past life and rescue all of them (even though Liam Neeson only cared about rescuing his daughter and none of the other trafficked girls, because most men don’t give a shit about women other than the ones directly related to them).
But I didn’t. Because, as Angela Dworkin says, “it is an agony to be fully conscious of the brutal misogyny which permeates culture, society, and all personal relationships”, and agony every day, all day, for several years will wear you down. And I am only in my twenties. I’m a fresh peach! I have many, many more years to spiral down into the agonizing descent that is the Feminist Killjoy staircase. But I am already exhausted.
If I were to be completely honest when someone asked “why don’t you write anymore?”, I would say “because it doesn’t make a difference. Because the world is a terrible place for women. Because about 3-4 women are murdered a day, the vast majority (94%) by people they know (source). Because one in five women experience rape or sexual violence at some point in their lives (source), but that doesn’t take into account the multiple assaults one woman may experience in a lifetime. Because I am tired of providing a multitude of sources and surveys that confirm the wage gap is real, and campus sexual assault is pervasive, and sexism exists, only to wake up the next day to the news headline “56% of men believe sexism is over“. Because no matter how much I write, it won’t stop the tide from coming in, or the flood of violence from happening. It won’t stop the daily sexual intrusions I navigate like an obstacle course I never signed up for. It won’t stop the ebb and swell of the whims of powerful men who dislike the concept of female autonomy, tossing around the right to control my goddamn reproductive system like a rowboat in a tsunami. It won’t stop the never-ending news feed of women being photographed, stalked, hacked, raped, stabbed, kidnapped, beaten, and murdered. My blog is not a tampon, it will not stem the flow our blood.”
But I didn’t say that. Because a few years ago I may have been a sprightly, vivacious Feminist Killjoy, but now I am a droopy Feminist Killjoy.
Like getting a tattoo, after the adrenaline and excitement wears off, being a Feminist Killjoy is painful.
In the 481 days since I last wrote a blog post, a lot of things have happened. Beyonce (I LOVE YOU!!) orchestrated Formation during the SuperBowl, in Black Panther outfits no less, and sent white america into a tizzy. Then she dropped Lemonade, an ode to “the women expected to never air our grievances in public. We are the women expected to stay loyal to our men by staying silent through abuse and infidelity… When our love and commitment and struggle is met with disregard and disloyalty, we are not expected to be angry” (Ijeoma Oluo). Lemonade was not an ode to women, but to black women – the women that white feminism so frequently (conveniently) forgets, yet Lemonade is unforgettable. Speaking of white feminism: Taylor Swift got a new love interest, then became disinterested, and a whole generation of new, young, budding feminists had to reconcile a lifetime of unconscious bias and the knee-jerk reaction to call her a slut with their newfound respect – in theory – for a woman’s’ sexual decisions.
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign heated up and sexism reared its ugly head again: A female politician’s favorability drops dramatically every time she must campaign (source). People have theorized it is because we have been socially conditioned to dislike women who assert their claim to power, which is, may I remind you, a prerequisite to public office – and for the second time in nine years I am reminded quite viciously as to why I have never felt personally compelled to become a community leader and run for office.
In the past 481 days, a good friend of mine excitedly called me to tell me about some skeeze at work. She is a waitress, was carrying full trays in both hands, and a man at one of her tables waved her down and tried to pay his bill by shoving cash into her little boob pocket (to be clear: the boob pocket is little, not the boob).
“I usually would have laughed it off and let him do it,” she told me, but this time she turned away and said “FUCK YOU, CRUSTY PERVERT” (just kidding, she is a waitress, I am sure she said something polite but firm), and didn’t let his hand anywhere near her boob pocket. To some people, this story is very inconsequential. To others, particularly women in the service industry, it is a feat of resilience in an industry & employment situation that is constantly shortening your skirt, denying you paid sick leave, taking your tips, ruining your holidays, and making you bend over with the motto “the customer is always right” while the customer tries to stuff cash in your crevices. My friend recognized inappropriate, entitled, sexualized behavior, identified it accordingly, thought to herself “this is not right”, and stood up for herself by refusing a sexual intrusion by a customer who had the upper hand in the power dynamic, all while holding two trays and handling the entire situation with class and aplomb.
Then she called me to tell me about it, because she was proud of herself, and I was proud of her. And proud of my feminist-inception-mind-control skills. Take THAT! rude, sexually aggressive customer. Sophia here, to thwart your boob-grabbing attempts via feminist rhetoric.
I have a lot of stories like these. I have become the go-to person for friends’ sexism-based grievances. I know you guys are all super jealous, because being the designated Feminist Killjoy means that every time a friend (goddesses, all of them) gets groped, or hit on by a coworker twice their age, or followed down the street, or had their contributions dismissed at work, I am the first to hear about it.
Maybe what I meant to say was that I haven’t written in 11,544 hours because I have been watching the girls and women of the world unfurl and demand space, and I have felt less alone. I am no longer yelling into a black hole, because the black hole is filling up. (I know that’s not how black holes work, but you know what I mean). Other women have raised their voices and so did President Obama and Justin Trudeau and Hillary Clinton and Jimmy Carter. And fucking Beyonce.
Does writing on this blog help stem the tide of misogyny that washes over us every day? Maybe that guy will say “dominated” or “wrecked” next time he’s sportsing. Maybe I won’t have to stand with my backside against a wall to fend off opportunistic butt-grabbers in the future. Maybe I will see a woman President in my lifetime.
It is no fun being a Feminist Killjoy, but it is definitely worth it.