I didn’t know anything about being “politically correct” when I was a teenager. My friends and I called things “retarded”, we called girls we didn’t like “sluts” and “whores”. I don’t want to pull the it’s how I was raised card, but I just truly didn’t know any better. Between the name calling and body shaming that were constants in my house, and the teenage boys I surrounded myself with, the line of decency was quite blurred. I don’t think I even knew what a feminist was other than hearing them being bashed on television, talking about “those unattractive, man-hating, non-shaving, angry feminists.” Those constant stereotypes that lead women into saying “well I’m not a feminist, but…” just to be sure they weren’t going to be grouped together with those feminists. Those comments that make you think, “well I’m definitely not one of those…”
Eventually I wised up. I got older, I moved to more progressive cities and made friends who were like-minded, and who wanted to grow and change and educate themselves. I learned that feminism is simply the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. That is all that it is – wanting equal rights for women. And any other stereotype is just that – a stereotype, because we are all completely individual people going about it our own way. I learned about misogyny and how those constant comments were just another way to oppress women, a way to make men continually remind themselves that they are superior to women. I learned about girl on girl hate, and how outstandingly detrimental it is to feminism. I started paying attention to what is happening to our country and all the ways the men in power try to take away our basic human rights.
All was going smoothly, fighting the good fight, until I moved back to my hometown a few months ago. Then it was history repeating itself, where I was constantly around men who have yet to recognize their privilege and why it is not okay to say and do these things. I try to pick and choose my battles, I really do, but it is hard. I had a friend who would constantly bash every single person, right down to her own family, on anything she possibly could – their looks, their weight and eating habits, deep rooted issues – nothing was off the table. I had another friend who was always talking about being “such a nice guy” but couldn’t get a girlfriend because “women don’t respect themselves and all act like whores these days”. Both of those sentences start out with “had a friend” because there are some things and some people just not worth trying with, when they are so full of misogyny (internalized or not) and aren’t even aware of it and refuse to hear anything you say.
Then there are your friends who you don’t want to lose despite their harmful comments, the friends that get slapped with a feminist rant about why a rape joke isn’t funny when one in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, or trying to explain what white privilege is to someone who has no idea that they would be considered privileged just by their skin color or gender. It gets really frustrating always feeling mad or offended by things, especially when you have spent your whole life being easy going and not being offended by much. It is frustrating always having to explain yourself and having people tell you to stop being “so uptight” or “turning everything into a sexist/racist issue”. It isn’t about turning things into those issues, it’s the fact that those issues are right in front of your face, coming out of your mouth, and you have absolutely no idea how or why it is wrong.
It is hard to not want to explain (in great detail) to people who aren’t getting it, but we have all been there. We have all been the person who says something ignorant, not understanding what was so wrong about the comment. We have probably all rolled our eyes at someone trying to tell us why we are wrong when we don’t see the problem, trying to educate us on something that we may possibly never fully grasp, but need to accept it anyway. Just as it isn’t always our place to do it, and some people just don’t care to hear it, which feels stifling.
A lot of the time I think about how much easier things would be had I just stayed in the dark, stopped reading my feminist blogs and books and ignored how little we have actually progressed despite what we tell ourselves, what is going on in the United States, but I just can’t. I can’t go back. I don’t want to go back, I don’t want to be a part of the problem. I will never solve it, I don’t know if it is a problem that will EVER be solved, but I want to be a part of the movement. I want my voice heard. I want to SMASH THE PATRIARCHY.
Written by Sarah Pires
Check out her blog, Adventurously!