How Feminist Fear Feeds Feminist Guilt

Feminism is the word of the year, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, but while the movement has been having its moment, for me, 2017 has been a year defined by Feminist Guilt and Feminist Fear. Yes, with capital letters and everything.

This year, while women have been speaking out about their sexual assaults and the ingrained societal misogyny and toxic masculinity which allowed said assaults to flourish, I’ve stayed silent.

I posted no #metoo messages on my social medias, although my #metoos played cyclically in my head at every turn waiting to be spilled out onto paper, put into words, spewed forth into the world. One day, maybe, but not today.

After all, what’s the point when women who did decide it was their day to come forward are shot down at every turn, cynically accused of grasping desperately for their fifteen-minutes of fame? Because, of course, rape accusations always lead to burgeoning careers and riches.

During a year in which I was growing in practically every other aspect of my life—my writing career developed, albeit not as stratospherically as I’d have hoped, my relationships strengthened and my goals for the future came into sharper focus—my feminism was suffering a bout of rather worrying inertia. An inertia that grew into an almost all-consuming Fear.

I was frozen by Feminist Fear. (Uh-oh, it’s those capital letters again.)

It was a fear spawned from a constant desire to always Do The Right Thing…whatever that may be, as well as a fear amplified and multiplied by not having the time to sit down and figure it out. Maybe it was a fear of what I’d uncover if I tried to figure it out, too.

Even so, this has been a year during which I’ve tried to grapple with and nix my White feminism, it’s been a year in which I started to question my feminism in ways I haven’t before, but at just the time when I’m far too busy to fully effect the changes I want and learn the lessons I need. Because being a feminist can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, one with the power to consume your every waking moment as you try to figure out just what you think.

And, hey, never let anyone tell you that thinking is easy. Bullshit. Thinking and figuring thigs out is time consuming and energy draining and, while the amount of Buzzfeed listicles I’ve read may say otherwise, that was not time I ever felt I had this year.

Contrary to the vibe I like to give off, I do not know everything. That terrifies me.

And working on that ignorance and insecurity sometimes terrifies me even more. I don’t want to ask the wrong thing in my efforts to educate myself and, ultimately, do the ‘right’ thing. I’m scared of the backlash and the pride-swallowing nature that all forms of learning have a tendency to necessitate. After all, intention is not enough.

I have felt disengaged and uninformed, developing as I was a rapidly worsening feeling of Feminist Imposter Syndrome.

Enter stage left, my Feminist Guilt, which is fed by the Fear in an insidious vicious circle of tail-eating Midgard serpent horror. (I knew that Old Norse course I took at uni would one day pay dividends in the form of an apt mythological reference.)

I felt guilty for not putting myself out there, opening myself up to be vulnerable, to swallow my pride and to learn. I feel guilty for feeling like a Bad Feminist and guilty for staying motionless when it comes to rectifying that. Ugh.

But then again, and in the far more compelling words of Roxane Gay, we are all bad feminists, aren’t we?

Feminism has never been a movement defined by perfection, but by struggle and tolerance and teamwork. It’s a movement about listening and opening up, but most of all, listening. And only then, speaking.

There is no sense in shooting for perfection in a movement, and a world, in which it simply doesn’t exist. Yet there’s no harm in trying, as long as you’re willing to suffer a little ego bruising along the way.

My Feminist Fear is on me (and, OK, a little bit on a movement which can eat you alive if you don’t conform to what members sometimes arbitrarily decide are the Most Important Things).

Even so, I’m the only one who can get me out of my semi-self-imposed stagnation.


1 comment

  1. Jessica 24 March, 2018 at 02:34 Reply

    I extend grace to anyone valiantly struggling with white feminism. Hell, I extend grace to anyone nominally struggling with white feminism. I struggle with my knee jerk reactions to criticism, even if it’s constructive. All we can do is give it time and space so we can integrate it and be better. It takes as long as it takes.

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