Feminist High Horses

Here it goes, some self-reflection and brutal honesty:

Being a Women and Gender Studies major, working in the Women’s Resource Center, and being a loud advocate for social justice sometimes leaves me without a sense of reality. To me, it is not enough to be progressive, I better be deconstructing, problematizing, criticizing (the non-liberals, less–than-liberals, and latte liberals) questioning my own privilege, and of course articulating all of my perfect and unproblematic feminist opinions with brilliance. It’s no wonder that I’m exhausted all the time, because obviously, this is not possible. And obviously it’s alienating.  I am always trying to be a better feminist, a better advocate, a better organizer. But in doing so, in always trying to be inclusive, intersectional, and sensitive,  I run the risk of becoming too politically correct and too intense—please, fellow feminists, forgive me for saying that .

I learn all sorts of theory, and that theory becomes a stepping ladder for my feminist high horse. Yes, I have a feminist high horse. Her name is Gloria Butler-hooks-Halberstam and she is badass, but I have to be really careful when riding. I wish she came with a disclaimer: “Ride and appear to be a pretentious, self-righteous man hater at your own risk.” I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to explain Judith Butler’s theory of gender performance and the discursive recreating of the closet to an unsuspecting dinner party, but I have, and I wasn’t ever invited back. I understand, I wouldn’t want to have dinner with me either.

This education of mine, this amazing education in critical thinking, offers a lens that the majority of the world doesn’t get. Most of the time, I love that education, but someday, I wish I could turn it off. I wish I could watch Sex and the City and laugh, or go to a chick flick with friends and not be the buzz-kill that I normally am. I wish I could watch television, read a magazine, or even attend a party without finding something to get mad about, but now that I’ve been exposed to feminism, I can’t go back. But it’s exhausting some days to always have my critical lens on.  It’s a hard balance to strike: when do I deconstruct and criticize and when do I let it go?

To be honest, my feminist side is ashamed by the number of times I let one of my friends call a woman a bitch without correcting them. I tell myself it’s silly to get mad every time, but really I’m just afraid that one day my friends will find me intolerable to spend time with. It’s a fine line. I recognize that most people don’t think the way that I do, or to the level that I do. I also recognize that people do not like to be criticized or ridiculed, especially for socially acceptable things, like calling women bitches. So the entire world needs to become feminists, or I need to resign to having only feminist friends. I don’t like either option—the first is unrealistic, and there are actually some cool people who do not choose to identify as feminists or are not feminists (yes, it’s true).

So I’m stuck, constantly in this place of wanting to be the perfect feminist, not wanting to be alienating, and not knowing when I say something and when I don’t. It’s a really hard balance. I am a staunch feminist, but I am living in a world that is not feminist at all, so I’m not sure where I find my voice when most disagree with me.

I have no answers, I think it’s part of my larger attempt to find my feminist voice—in appropriate frequency and volume. That is an on going process for all of us feminists, and I’m sure the answer to what is the most appropriate will change, often. I will try to accept my lack of balance and listen to my gut.

Despite all of my questions, riding my feminist high horse is fun. So, I will ride Gloria Butler-hooks-Halberstam, just with caution, and not at dinner parties.

Join the Conversation