You may have noticed that blogday has been missing for a couple of weeks. I have no excuse for this – I wasn’t moving house (thank goodness – I’ve already done that 5 times since starting this blog) or on holiday or ill or anything special at all. Well, I had a few exams and was prioritising revision, but if I am brutally honest with myself the revision was a blessed excuse not to write.
I didn’t write because…I had nothing to say.
Not that there wasn’t anything going on in the world that I could have written about, or that nothing made me angry, or that nothing happened, or either that I didn’t have any ideas to write about. I just couldn’t get my brain in the right space to sit down and write. It all felt too huge, too complicated, too pointless, too much of a struggle. With my mental health history, this sort of thing would normally be a bit of a red flag for me; but it didn’t feel like a bleakening, not in the way I was used to.
When I started this blog it was for very personal reasons. It was to track my progress of giving up drinking for a year, and to get myself used to writing. Most weeks I wrote about my life, baking disasters, my past, what had happened in that week. As the giving up drinking progressed and became easier, and I became more confident a writer, I started to diverge and write about topics more important to me; feminism, health, body shaming, objectification, street harassment. My readership started to pick up, people told me they liked my writing, and my writing became increasingly political. I started taking risks with my writing.
Then I made a throwaway remark about consenting to a cup of tea once meaning you don’t want cups of tea forever and suddenly real people who weren’t related to me or sharing a flat with me started reading my blog, writing to me, sharing my blog and at some point along the way I felt like I had to keep writing about important things. I had to Be A Voice. None of these fabulous new readers want to know about my love life or how horrible I am at cooking, do they? So each week I felt more and more pressure to keep writing about feminist issues, railing against the kyriarchy (it’s like the patriarchy, but it recognises the intersectional nature of privilege so it can be more useful, but it’s less well known so if you use it people tend to look at you funny) which is great, because I love getting up a good righteous anger and having a good solid rant, and hope that at the very least one person will read it and be inspired, or will change their mind about something, or will think about something in a new way.
But for the last two weeks, Sunday has arrived and…I got nothing. Nothing other than an overwhelming sense of oh fuck it. What’s the point. It’s all too much. There’s too much wrong with this world. With this society. Gender essentialism, binary obsessions, pink and blue, institutional sexism, sexual hypocrisy, violence…it goes on.
There’s a running joke that feminists hate fun and have no sense of humour and are just trying to ruin things for everyone else. That we’re all miserable angry harpies getting annoyed all the time about little things. And you know, sometimes it really does feel like that. Because there are just so many fucking little things that people think are ok but they bloody well AREN’T. All these ‘little things’ we’re getting so annoyed about are cultural markers; signposts of a culture which thinks ‘man’ is default and ‘women’ is a special need and that it’s ok to constantly turn these signposts to point in different directions. On different planets. And it’s so much easier to win those small battles too. Getting a sexist sign changed in a shop, getting a company to withdraw offensive clothing. The small battles are winnable, and each small battle sends a message back up the kyriarchy chain that actually this shit is NOT insignificant and up with it we will not put.
These small shitty things, these microaggressions, they don’t happen in a vacuum. All those tiny little battles fought on a daily basis by fucked off feminists (of any gender) happen in a wider context of a society that blithely thinks that they are ok in the first place. Where adverts can go through god knows how many stages of proofing and copy before someone says uh, guys? This isn’t ok. Where a team of scientists can land a robot on a meteor and at no point does anyone think to say mate, maybe change your shirt before you go on TV because it might look kinda bad. The little battles are a fundamental part of the war – and let’s be blunt about this – feminists are in war against the kyriarchy. We want to smash it. To smithereens. (Note for those that struggle with nuance: neither kyriarchy nor patriarchy = men. Feminists are not warring against men. We’re actually, generally speaking, on the side of men too and believe that smashing kyriarchy/patriarchy will make things an awful lot better for men too).
The trouble with being at war, with fighting all these daily battles, with seeing this shit all around us all the time, every day, is that you inevitably get battle fatigue. It just all seems too much sometimes. It feels, well hopeless. You wonder what you can achieve when there’s just so damn much to fix in the first place. Even something really small can make you throw your hands up in the air and go NOPE CAN’T EVEN. For me, it was a trip to Sainsbury’s. Sure, they’ve taken away the “girls” and “boys” signs on their clothing aisle, but they still have two aisles of clothes and one is all white and pink and frilly and the other is all blue and robots and Dinosaurs and Marvel. You don’t need an arrow with the word “boys” on it to get that message. Then I looked at the birthday cards and there was one about ‘things all women understand’ and went on to make weak jokes about shoes and chocolate and shopping because OH LOL WOMEN AND THEIR SHOES AND THEIR CHOCOLATE AND THEIR SHOPPING AMIRITE.
And the thing is I never even noticed it at one point. I was able to turn on the telly and watch a TV show or a film without going OH FOR THE LOVE OF FLYING MONKEYS FUCK OFF. There was a time when adverts didn’t make me want to throw all televisions off a cliff or set fire to EVERYTHING. I’ve heard the same from other feminists; that it’s like someone’s turned a light on when you didn’t even realise it was too dark to see, and now the light is on you can see EVERYTHING and you can’t turn the fucking thing off. Or, as a fellow feminist put it recently:
“I’m so fed up of noticing everything that’s wrong with this fucked up world. I really wish sometimes that I could go back to thinking things were basically okay. It feels like everything is covered with broken glass and the broken glass was always there but I somehow never noticed all the blood everywhere. Now all I see is the broken glass and pain. And I know I should feel all, “Rawr, must change world for better!” rather than wanting to stick my head in the sand, but for the moment I barely have the spoons for a badly-needed shower, let alone changing the world.”
I am quite sure that there are people reading that right now and nodding and going yup. And not just those of us on the front lines of the battle for gender equality either. Political activists, disability rights campaigners, campaigners for racial equality; anyone engaged in challenging the established societal order and trying to make people think actually this shit is not ok will understand that occasionally overwhelming waves of despair and ennui will crash over us and make us wish for a time when we were going through life with the political equivalent of closing our eyes and sticking our fingers in our ears and going LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU.
There’s no cure for Feminist Fatigue, but the good news is it’s not a terminal diagnosis. All you need to cure a bad bout of it is a radical act – that of self care. Turn off the TV. Shut down the internet for a day. Treat yourself to a bath or ice cream or a run or do your nails or ride a bike or listen to your favourite album or read a book. (Or leave your blog alone for a week or two…) For a little while, put yourself first and just do whatever makes you happy. And know that you are allowed to put yourself first. In a culture where women are taught from a young age that women should be caring and kind and nurturing and put others first, even the act of taking a break and putting yourself first is revolutionary. So in a way, taking a break and taking some time out from feminism could be considered a feminist act in of itself. No one can win a war when battle weary.
So having given that advice to my feminist sister-at-arms to take a break, I took my own advice and took my own. We all need some time out from time to time, and that’s ok. Let the other feminists hold the fort until you feel ready take the line again, and smash that kyriarchy.