Is it normal to sometimes feel tired of reading/discussing feminist goals and problems of oppression? It's not like I stop caring, it just stresses me out after a period of time and I start to feel kinda hopeless like nothing will ever change. It's like I need a day off from fighting. Is that okay?
Thank you so much for this great question! Full disclosure; This is a question I had asked myself a number of times in the past because I thought that as a feminist and someone who cares very deeply about social justice that I should have a never ending well of energy for this work. That my need and drive for justice and equality was SO powerful that I could power through any amount of criticism, abuse, discrimination, and oppression and keep on with the good fight. But of course, no matter how much I tried, I always succumbed to my fatigue — my humanity.
But last year, after the Oscars in which Seth MacFarlane did that “We Saw Your Boobs” song, something pretty great and freeing happened. I came upon this article in Jezebel by Lindy West. Here’s my favourite part:
What are you supposed to do when someone asks you to “prove” that feminism isn’t a massive conspiracy theory in a country where we’ve only had 39 female senators in the nation’s entire history, and 20 of them are serving right now? What kind of a stupid fucking question is that? What are you supposed to say when the 8,000th faux-incredulous jackass throws you the same argument about the wage gap or the draft or bumbling dads in Tide commercials—as though holding each of their hands individually through the empirical facts of the world around us is a worthwhile use of my time. As though feminist academics haven’t filled books (decades of books) with answers to that shit already. As though they believe that if they can keep you occupied refuting their flimsy trump cards over and over forever, they can stave off any changes to the culture that keeps them on top. I am so fucking fatigued by this anti-intellectual repetitive shell game that all I could do on Sunday night was write jokes about Barbra Streisand’s hella goth choker.
But. I couldn’t quit doing this any more than my cells could “quit” processing oxygen (or whatever cells do! Us girls aren’t so good in the sciences!). I’m not a feminist by choice, I’m a feminist because this is the world. And if my fatigue sounds defeatist, it isn’t. It’s the opposite. It’s an internal rallying cry that reminds me how bad things are. If you pay attention to and comment on everyday inequalities—immense and tiny—if you let all of it filter through you and you hop around and eyeroll and groan and drive your boyfriend crazy because he just wants to watch the IT Crowd but you NEED to talk about what Pat Robertson said today, this is what happens. Seth MacFarlane will go on the television and make a joke about George Clooney having sex with a 9-year-old girl who is sitting right there, and your first reaction will be, “Well. At least he didn’t literally say she should get raped. Pass the cheese.”External image
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That’s bad. A famous man making sexist jokes on a primetime awards show watched by millions of people is so banal and status-quo in our culture, that to me—a woman professionally committed to detecting and calling bullshit on sexism—it just feels like a drop in the bucket. Luckily, there’s nothing better than a depressing dose of apathy to remind you to FUCK THE BUCKET. If I’m not fatigued, I’m not caring enough. So fuck that stupid bucket.
You can also check out this link I published just before this response for more SJ-fatigue support. All of this means then that sexism (or SJ) fatigue is a very healthy and very normal feeling. So please, do not feel bad at all about your fatigue. It is a direct result of your caring, daily encounters with injustice and oppression, and your nearly relentless efforts to educate and be educated about social justice. It is an impossible and extremely tiring job and there is NO SHAME in taking a break from time to time to rest your weary head and recharge your batteries for the next wave of antifeminist onslaught. Personally, I turn to cartoons!!! YAY ADVENTURE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3
I hope that this response helps you and others to “feel better” about SJ-fatigue. I also hope that this knowledge becomes a validating source of strength in your daily battles (and necessary breaks) for social justice. And when it gets REALLY tough, please feel free to call on me again!