This is an open letter of sorts for everyone wondering why I’ve changed; “everyone” including my friends from various churches, bible studies, and small groups. You don’t “get” me anymore. You think I’ve “backslidden.” I get it. Not too long ago, I’d have thought the exact same thing.
But I must digress.
In many ways, my awakening as a feminist has parallels to my spiritual awakening as a Christian. I remember, as a sophomore in college, when dorm neighbors would ask me to go bar-hopping with them, and I had no interest (which had more to do with being introverted and preferring to stay home and read on Saturday nights than any faith-related objections, but I pretended otherwise).
I remember shaking my head in disgust when October was turned into “Sextober” on campus, and flyers about events featuring sex-positive speakers were everywhere, making my commitment to abstinence feel weirder than it needed to be.
My interests, attitudes, and beliefs were changing, and everywhere I went, it seemed there was something or someone eager to mock or challenge them. And yet this new frame of mind was something I couldn’t just take off because it was inconvenient and kept me from having a good time.
Becoming a feminist feels the same way: opposition and small annoyances are everywhere from beer ads to song lyrics, but there are bigger challenges too, like “locker room talk” and newspaper headlines that refer to Brock Turner as “Stanford Swimmer” rather than “Accused Rapist.” Things I can’t un-see or un-hear now that I know better.
There’s a popular Onion article called “Feminist Takes Day Off to Enjoy New Episode of The Bachelor,” but I can’t take “days off” anymore; I can only ignore. And I can only do that for so long.
“Once you’re woke,” said my Women’s Studies professor on the last day of class, “you can’t go back to sleep.” And it’s true. There’s just too much to be done.
Awakenings aren’t convenient. I’m not nearly as much fun anymore. I can’t enjoy songs for their melodies and catchiness anymore without commenting on problematic lyrics (I’m looking at you, Shawn Mendes). I’m annoying to watch TV and movies with because I can’t turn my brain off from “Does she have any purpose other than being a sex symbol?” or “Why do these characters have to talk about women that way?”
“Angry feminist killjoy” is not an undeserved or untrue stereotype. There is plenty to be angry about in this world. Anger, in my case, is the fuel that motivates me to march, protest, or call my senators. As for being a “killjoy,” well, I hope that things I advocate “killing” deserve to die anyway: things like love scenes on TV in which the consent of one partner is sketchy at best; the myth that alcohol is responsible for rape on college campuses; or the automatic assumption that women who accuse powerful men of rape must be after their money.
I don’t know how to keep quiet about these things anymore – believe me, my life would be easier if I could. But you can’t really choose to “be woke” any more than you can choose what happens to you. Life often hands us narratives we never dreamed of, so I’m making the most of mine.
I hope you can understand, even if you disagree. I can’t be the same as I was before, even if I wanted to, because I can’t stay asleep any longer.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.