You may have noticed but I haven’t been writing much lately. In fact, I haven’t been writing at all. I’ve been hanging out with my kids, riding my bike, running as fast as my little legs can carry me and climbing stuff. In other words, I’ve been burying my head in a mound of metaphorical exercise sand and trying not to think too much.
There’s a perception that being a feminist is somehow empowering. That those of us who embrace this political philosophy are confident, assertive feisty women who take no shit and hold no bars, juggling kids, housework, jobs and partners whilst smashing patriarchy with our one free hand. And some of us are. Sometimes.
Most of us however are probably a bit like me. We are busy, run off our feet women who commit ourselves to too much and end up feeling like we achieve little besides shouting at Nigel Farage on the telly. Embracing feminism doesn’t always feel like something that helps me in my daily life at all in fact. Sometimes it just feels like another thing to feel guilty about – how can I relax when I can see so much injustice and inequality everywhere and why aren’t I doing more?
Having an awareness of patriarchy and the myriad ways it oppresses everyone doesn’t make it any easier to navigate. Every time I don my red lipstick and decide I really should shave my armpits if I’m going to wear that top at a job interview, I understand that I am still not strong enough to be the change I want to see. My consciousness can be as high as the Empire State Building, but it still doesn’t mean that I am always brave enough to go against the grain.
So much of my feminism is theoretical and so much of it takes place online. This is syptomatic of the atomised nature of our modern world. Anybody who has ever tried to organise a feminist meeting knows that actually gathering women together in the same room at the same time is a phenomenally difficult task, so we gather in virtual spaces and give our Twitter sisters virtual hugs. Although I find these spaces vital and nourishing, they are not without their drawbacks. To engage in feminism online is inevitably to engage with nasty trolls who call you a cunt because you have the audacity to write about breastfeeding. And sometimes this gets tiring too.
Each time another man tells me how I should be doing feminism if I want it to succeed, my heart sinks just a little bit more at the seemingly insurmountable task faced by us all. These men usually tell me that they are feminists too, but are oh so very keen to point out that if we just made it all just a bit more acceptable to them, then perhaps we would make some progress. The irony that their very stance communicates their own sense of entitled power, thus highlighting the need for the very philosophy they are criticising, is usually lost. They rarely realise that feminists constantly have to defend themselves from Everyman and that eventually it just gets oh so very tiring. So tiring in fact, that I have diagnosed myself with a serious case of feminist fatigue.
I don’t want to write something twee about taking care of ourselves and each other ( I am a trained counsellor so trust me, I could go there), but I do want us to acknowledge that it’s not always easy. Being aware of the awful ways that women and girls are still treated every day in this world is not an easy task. Add to that the world’s seeming indifference to this, then you have a recipe for a severely done-in head. I’m not afraid to admit that this is how I’ve been feeling lately, hence the need to disengage for a while. If I’m not careful, feminism can turn into another thing on my ‘To Do’ list and then into another thing I’m never quite ticking off which is great at inducing more guilt. This is just a reminder to give ourselves a break from time to time. If you need to run obsessively like me, or read trashy women’s magazines, get a facial or a manicure, or dance around your kitchen, then so be it. Do whatever it takes to shake all that misogyny and misery out of your hair. And don’t forget to wear red lipstick while you do it.