Monday, 30 June 2014

My feminism muscles ache.

Being a feminist is tiring.

Believing anything to the core of your being is tiring: it has to be, or it wouldn't be integral. It's like a muscle, a part of you, and when you exercise it, it aches the same way as any other part of you does. On a day to day basis, my feminism muscles flex way more than my legs do.

The past week, since starting my internship, I've found myself in a far more tense situation than usual. It's taken a good few years of my life to properly learn how to identify sexism in everyday life, and how to call it out and make a ruckus about it. I was a shy little thing as a kid, you see. I'm quite confrontational in my life now, as I've become more confident, but it's always tempered with the voice inside my head telling me I'm making a big deal out of nothing. I should sit down, shut up, carry on with a smile and be a good girl, a nice girl, try my hardest to be the pretty girl people expect me to be.

In what I assume is a fairly typical office environment - slightly more women than men, everyone dressed in similar clothes, and people working on computers for seven or eight hours a day - I've lost all my spark. I have become passive. Waking up early every day, and commuting to and from my work daily, has drained me. Trying to fit in with a new crowd of people has led me to just want to fit in. So I've been keeping my head down and staying quiet. I'm not calling out the comments that rankle me, but I'm not laughing at them either.

And it's making me like myself even less. A few days ago, some of the staff were disparaging a woman's appearance by suggesting she was transgender - and it made me angry. There's a dying orchid plant on the desk in front of me, which drops its flowers onto my laptop almost daily. I was sat there, listening, ripping the petals off the dead flower and wanting to stand up and explain the many, many levels on which they were being offensive. But I didn't. I had my earphones in, so I carried on like I hadn't heard it.

Educating people is such hard work, isn't it? I have to work at this place for twelve weeks. I didn't want my first week to be characterised by me explaining and analysing every offhand remark. I've grown up in a pretty privileged bubble, at a liberal university surrounded by other bleeding heart liberals who privately admit to each other that the University of York FemSoc page can get way too jargon-heavy, and we never actually finished reading bell hooks. The people are work are from a range of backgrounds, sectors, degrees - and it reflects on them, sometimes.

Mostly, I feel how badly it reflects on me. I'm ashamed of myself, but I am also too goddamned tired to fight it every single time at the moment. It happens every time I see feminism, or racism, or homophobia, and I don't call it out. When I read a review that uses the word "rape" when a hundred others would do. When a documentary misgenders someone. When I find myself somehow priding myself on "not being like other girls" like it's something I ought to be proud of.

We're better than this. And I know, collectively, we're fighting stronger than ever. But reading the Everyday Sexism project, or Laurie Penny's dramatic, decisive calls to action, can be just as tiring as the problems we face - because they are eloquent reminders of an entrenched plight. Even now, I'm writing this blog instead of having a shower or an early night, because I feel like it's important. Somehow. If only a little bit.

But nothing kills resolve faster than tiredness.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Remembered Postcards: Newton's laws of travel.

First law: A body remains at rest only as long as is necessary to recharge batteries; or continues to move at a constant velocity so long as that velocity is enjoyable; and will only start or stop moving when acted on by a force, which is often the internal desire to go see something new.

Second law: The net desire to travel is equal to the rate of change of the passing scenery.The more scenery you see, the more you want to see.

Third law: When one body exerts a force which compels the body to travel, there is an equal and opposite force which compels the body to stay put. Luckily this force tends to only act up early in the mornings, and it easily overcome with coffee.

Wanderlust is like any other burning desire: it is a lawless, endless want that defies science, a thirst that demands to be slaked. Sometimes it is sated, and sometimes no matter what you do, you're still filled with an endless temptation to see more, do more, be more places and breathe more air. I don't get itchy feet: I get itchy legs, itchy lungs, itchy eyes and nose and ears.

Right now I am in an office job, tied to a 12-week internship I value hugely for the experience and yet cannot stand because of its restrictiveness. I'm spending my spare time learning Spanish, Japanese and French so I can get by in more countries the next time I have a chance to go.

Next summer, I have 12 weeks: I will spend them as far away as possible.