Pariah

The thing about being educated on social issues is that you’ll feel somewhat like a pariah.

Suddenly a switch has been turned on and everything matters and everything is problematic and so many things people around you do kill you inside because they are part of perpetuating an unhealthy, unequal or discriminatory cultural consciousness. And suddenly every little joke or comment or sweeping statement your close friends and family make causes you to cringe. And suddenly you see the way people’s choices have been socially conditioned and you want to scream at them to please exercise more imagination and question all their assumptions and critically engage with the world and popular media and just see the things that are plain to you.

You can’t help it; you have to point things out. Don’t use the word slut. Please don’t say all women can’t drive. Or can’t be good bosses. Or that Malays are lazy. Or that Indians are all out to cheat your money. I don’t think it’s in men’s nature to cheat. It’s not the girl’s fault for being raped. What the heck do you mean you are all for gender equality but you’re not a feminist?

And you feel like a pariah because you can’t point these things out without being a downer. Cos you’re not trying to look for an argument. You’re not trying to notice these things. You want to enjoy yourself, have a conversation unrelated to social structures. You’re trying to have a family dinner! But here it is: the products of a structurally problematic society pervading everything and everyone to nobody’s fault.

And suddenly you’re outside of it. You cannot enjoy the jokes made at the expense of someone; you can no longer indulge in the internalised misogyny/racism/classism etc. of all the people around you.

The worst part of it is not the fact that people think you have no sense of humour. It’s more of the fact that your friends view it as some quirky little new Cause you’ve taken up. Oh it’s just your thing! Feminism is her thing!! Any semi-passionate and logical thing you say becomes characterised as: “the feminist speaks.” Some rant. So cute. Which is the worst thing because uh it’s not my thing? It’s everyone’s thing? Please tell me now why you don’t wish for equal rights for everybody? Another reaction is that “not again” eye roll where your friends let you know how much they’re indulging your inability to go with the flow by letting you talk but not truly listening.

The truth is that being socially educated on issues is difficult because you’re combating an invisible poison, like the air that everyone breathes and does not realise have an effect on them. And all the friends and family I’ve mentioned are not evil people. They’re good, decent people. The real enemy of injustice is the unquestioning, unthinking individual.

This whole post stands at the risk of sounding too moralistic, but I’m merely trying to document my everyday experience.

I believe I will always be fighting and all I can do is pick my battles, celebrate battles won and keep the war in mind.

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