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Taking a ‘Feminism Break’? No Such Thing.

March 18, 2012

As a feminist, I’m often angry. But I like to chill out and mindlessly watch television as much as the next person. There came a distinct moment sometime in college when I stopped being able to mindlessly tune out while I tuned-in as much as I wanted to. Even my favorite re-runs of Friends make me cringe with a sexist joke now and then.

The "Fab Five"

The "Fab Five"

It’s taken practice but I’ve gotten better at ignoring myself during late night, much needed, television with friends nights. In my most recent stint of these time-wasting but necessary moments, I was making my way through some re-runs of Queer Eye from back when it still had ‘for the Straight Guy’ attached to the title. As you can guess, it took some extra effort to not ruin the night by starting a discussion about the problematic representations of queer folks on the show. So I muttered my way through it and reassured myself that I can still have a sense of humor (when humor doesn’t involve the oppression of others).
I brushed it off as a growing pain of the early 2000s and went about my way. Flash forward to my sister’s apartment the next day and I’m watching Millionaire Matchmaker with her. On the episode we’re watching the matchmaker has her first gay client and I had high hopes that I could watch without erupting in feminist rage. A joke is made, a stereotype bandied about, and I holler something to my sister in the kitchen about how frustrating the matchmaker is making me. I get the usual reply of ‘Sarah, do you have to take everythingso seriously?!” (read: can you please stop complaining and just watch the TV?)

The Millionaire herself

Well. No. I’m not sure I can.

I empathize with my sister’s (my friend’s, parent’s, random acquaintances’, Facebook friend’s, the list could go on) frustrations, but I’m just not sure I can stop, even when I know I annoy them.
Every time I bring up a commentary on something I check myself because heaven forbid I uphold the image of the “crazy feminist who doesn’t laugh and never shuts up.” But I’ve started caring less and less about upholding that stereotype. Before, I was always worried about making feminism look nice for everyone else so that maybe they’d get on board. But lately, I feel like if they were reading the news or thought about injustices as much as I do on a daily basis they would be a little more forgiving of me talking a bunch about stuff because they would be too!
Unfortunately what this means is that a lot of what I say is discounted. At holiday dinners, should I merely utter the words birth control or sex positivism (I sometimes like to spice up holidays by making my family uncomfortable), someone in the room will usually say, “Oh there she goes again.” And no one really hears or takes seriously what follows.
So readers, do you cave and reinforce the stereotype too? Do you not give a damn about the stereotype (I envy you!)? Vehemently stay away from the stereotype? And on top of everything, is talking about feminist stereotypes even helpful? (A great post by Chally over at Zero at the Bone discusses the potential disservice we do to feminism when we quibble over defining ‘feminism’ and ‘feminists’ instead of just doing feminism) Let’s hear it!

(For the record, if at any moment in this post you were thinking “Geez Sarah, why don’t you just watch better television?” then you must have missed the part about wanting to mindlessly tune-out. I will not apologize for my awesomely tragic choices, you know you watch them too.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2012 11:08 am

    OH GOD THIS. Sigh. I find this stereotype sometimes thrown at me even when I myself am simply not interested in interacting with it. It’s very “shut up we don’t want to hear about your feminist rage nao” shutting-down sometimes. It hurts when it comes from friends and family.

    Yeah, there are definitely times that I shrink back and worry that people are getting frustrated with me… I also empathize with the, “you know, sometimes you just can’t turn it off!” feeling. SHOULD I feel bad that I “can’t” turn it off to just be able to enjoy mindless television? Do I even want to…? Why am I being all judge-y about what kind of television people watch…?

    (This comment is stream-of-consciousness inanity because it’s 6am and I just woke up.)

    • May 13, 2012 3:51 pm

      The most annoying part is I don’t have answers to any of those questions and I don’t know anyone who does!! It kills me, but at least we’re not alone in the impossibility!! You’re awesome, also: get some sleeeeep! 🙂

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