Do you ever feel emotionally exhausted or distressed because the world is so full of injustice and discrimination and all-round grossness? Do you ever feel angry to the point of tears, and then subsequently exhausted because you’ve been fighting the same battle on multiple fronts for a long time?
I do. I frequently feel bouts of distress, anxiety and disgust at the state of world affairs, and sometimes it just takes reading an article on the Internet to rile me up. I can get upset and teary-eyed from reading the day’s newspapers, which is why I avoid them (but this is never a good excuse, and should never be.) The issues I feel most strongly and personally about are women-related issues – gross misrepresentation/caricature of female characters in popular culture, continual and continued institutionalised discrimination, rape culture… the list goes on.
Researching for something at work prompted me today to watch and read a bunch of stuff such as Feminist Frequency and articles about rape culture. I left the office feeling sick, and when I walked my way home, I noticed two guys leering at me. Then, I remembered how I catch at least one man leering at me from the public bus stop every day (because I live right behind a bus stop.) I have come to a point where I have to physically restrain myself from going up to them to tell them off, and I frequently wonder if I should walk around the neighbourhood a little bit more so they won’t know where I live. And then I realise this: how much the fear and sense of danger I feel from male objectification has become a normal part of my daily life that I don’t even think about it or recognise it anymore.
Every battle is personal.
It’s difficult because my friends and family don’t know how to deal with this part of me. Their responses trivialise my feelings of injustice. I do not know how to explain to my parents why these issues can make me feel like crying at the dinner table. I don’t wanna be self-aggrandising or self-congratulatory about this (although I guess posting about this is partly so,) and I don’t wanna be “poor little first-world girl with a Cause”, but I do have these feelings, and I will try my best to act on these feelings.
I think one of the most consistent problems I have with talking to the people around me about gender-related issues is how people think we have achieved gender equality. I have no idea why this seems to be such a prevalent assumption, but it is one I have come to realise exists. This is the reason why feminism is so largely demonised in our culture, why some girls say “I support gender equality, but I’m not a feminist” which is essentially oxymoronic. Frequently when I talk to my guy friends about this, their response will be: “men face discrimination too” or “what about men?” or “you’re only talking about a small section of the male population – the disgusting and the depraved.” But a male sense of entitlement has been ingrained in them since their childhoods, and continues to be entrenched by the perpetuation of the male gaze in our advertising and popular culture. This is not just a problem that exists for a small section of society; this is a problem of culture and mindset, which takes years and years to alter.
Even when they recognise the gravity of these issues, which is a difficult step in itself, their next comment will be: “I can’t do anything about it.” This attitude only makes things worse. You don’t have to take it out onto the streets, you don’t have to start a petition (although those things dealing with real issues will be great, thank you,) but there are very every-day simple ways you can help.
We can all start by being aware, by arming ourselves with an arsenal of knowledge, opinions and statistics, that help us to win verbal battles and change attitudes. Secondly, we can act on our beliefs, we can embody our attitudes, and we can strive to be rid of gender stereotypes/assumptions in our daily lives and activities. Thirdly, we can politely call our friends out on certain attitudes/comments that perpetuate unhealthy behaviours.
It is always the little things that matter.