After the Red Pill

by Shaker Esme, a sociologist with legal ambitions who spends her days selling comics and her nights fighting crime with her saucy wit and amazing super powers. She is also a huge nerd. In her spare time, she yells at the television for perpetuating the patriarchy.

Some days, I really hate being a feminist.

For a start, it's hard on my social life. My loved ones, my most trusted confidants, people whose opinions I care about don't always make being a feminist easy for me, in ways that will seem familiar to many people reading this. I have been accused of being too critical and too sensitive and too negative. I have been told to lighten up. I have felt like Captain No Fun Pants Feminist more times than I can count. I have had my opinions, criticisms, experiences, and perspective blamed, by people I trust, on everything from my weight to my mental condition to not getting enough sex.

When I've not spoken to friends for weeks on end because they said something and, it seemed like I was the only person in the world who could recognize what they said as profoundly idiotic, or when I've cut people off entirely because I got worn out with feeling like The Bad Guy for pointing out when they were being offensive, it's always viewed as my fault.

Another problem is that it can get so overwhelming. It's the same way you can't think about where each and every one of your toes is at every moment without standing still forever. If I stopped to think about how every item I buy from a Western company larger than 10 people feeds into Wallerstein's theory of peripheral nations and exploitation but still needing to buy some damned underwear, while at the same time thinking about agribusiness and the death of the American farm but needing something quick and easy for dinner, while at the same time thinking about my class privilege in even being able to choose where I work instead of working at McDonald's but needing a job to pay student loans and chip in on rent and buy groceries, while wanting to go see a movie but at the same time not because it's yet another fucking movie about how two white skinny middle-class heterosexual cisgendered American non-disabled people fall in looooove, my head would explode.

Part of the problem is that Knowledge, understanding of concepts and the world around you, is dangerous and addictive. You start with a Sociological Images post and before you know it you're snorting lines of Audre Lorde off Emile Durkheim's sweet, supple suicide statistics. Next thing you know you're yelling at the pixels that make up Keith Olbermann's face on your laptop screen while feeling guilty inside knowing women are casualties of war in the battle for land to mine the shit that makes your laptop connect to the internet.

So sometimes I hate being a feminist. I do. I hate being a sociologist too. I hate fat acceptance and I hate Junkfood Science. I hate The Beauty Myth and Karl Marx and my Gender Studies classes. I hate trans theory and having met Kate Bornstein. There are times, countless times, where I want to shut my brain off, want to beat myself senseless, so I can make the tiny screaming feminist sociologist in my head who can't let it go SHUT THE FUCK UP so I can enjoy this movie/tv show/video game/comic book/song, so I can interact with my family without wanting to scream "NO YOU ARE WRONG STOP BEING SO WRONG AND FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST TURN OFF FOX NEWS." I yell at the TV because it has the decency not to yell back when I'm not in the mood for an argument, just for the assholes to go away.

But as hard as all that it, it's harder not to be a feminist.

For all the times I wish I could shut down the constant whine in my ears that I need to stop and think and consider and discuss and speak up, there's more times that I've welcomed the scream. I've spoken up in classes and earned professors' respect, better grades, letters of recommendation, and some really great conversations. I spoke up in meetings and got funding for a Jewish Student Organization and a great anecdote to put in essays. I spoke up to my father and earned his undying hatred. And I couldn't be more proud.

I read my diaries, from back when I was in junior high school, read my livejournal circa 2002, or listen to my mother talk politics and remember when I used to nod my head in agreement, and I wish so hard that I could time travel back to my birth and hand my infant self a link to a Feminism 101 blog. I wish I could take back what a misguided human being I was for so long.

When I was in 8th grade, I asked for information about tryouts for the water polo team, and the cantankerous male coach told me that he "discourage(s) girls from playing water polo, since they're delicate and might get hurt." If the Esme of now heard that, you can bet she'd have made him give her the information, then she'd file a complaint with the administration, and then she'd be out asking all her friends if they wanted to try out too.

In high school, my lack of exposure to queer culture meant that I couldn't cope with the fact that I was only attracted to girls. I thought I was a lesbian until somewhere around age 16, but I had no support system for that, so I dated boys and tried to be just like every other straight girl. The Esme of now would have been running the Gay-Straight Alliance and making out with that hot, geeky girl who didn't confess her crush on me until almost 4 years had passed.

I ask myself almost every day, how different would I be if I'd been exposed to feminist philosophy and sociology at a younger age. One thing I know is that an understanding of the world in which I find myself makes me a better person than I would be otherwise. I know that accepting the way my father has treated me in life, how so many people have treated me, would be infinitely harder if I didn't understand their behavior the way I do now.

There are a limited number of progressive feminist socially responsible fat accepting pieces of media in the world, because there are also a limited number of progressive feminist sociologically minded fat accepting people in the world—and precisely zero of them are related to me, and none of them are friends of mine living in the same town as me. The reason I am crazy in love with Melissa McEwan and Kate Harding and all the other bloggers that I read constantly is that they let me know that I'm not alone in having my enjoyment of the world around me seriously messed with by assbags who insist on putting all their assyness into the media and assing up my ability to suspend my disbelief and enjoy an ass-free 2 hours of sitting in a dark room eating over-priced fake-buttered popcorn.

They make it easier to accept that I can't unsee now that my eyes are open.

And the one thing I know most of all is that I've always wanted to help, and to make a difference in people's lives, to change the world. And without understanding it through a feminist lens, I wouldn't begin to know where to start teaspooning.

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