Long before I became an activist for feminism, a very good friend of mine was already an activist for veganism. I remember her publications on Facebook with links to videos of animals being slaughtered or tortured, or articles that questioned our eating habits. I used to roll my eyes and think ‘here she goes again, this is all she can think about, leave me alone eating my burger’.
And then I put on my feminist lenses and started walking on my friend’s shoes: feminism is in everything I talk about, online and offline. There is hardly an interaction or conversation that doesn’t make me think about everyday sexism or misogynistic habits that are ingrained in our lives. Being an activist has taught me to join the dots, to make connections between things that I used to see as individual incidents.
I am sure that many friends, relatives and colleagues now roll their eyes in the same way I used to when I spotted my friends’ veganism posts on social media. I became that person that people go to for either of these: to ask a legitimate question about feminism and know my opinion or to try to prove me wrong. It can be exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. There are moments of joy as there are moments of frustration. It is great to become the person that so many people see as a (good) reference in a subject that is now a central point in my life, but it’s horrible to be a target for those who are just too comfortable using their privileges and scared of losing their power.
Being a feminist activist doesn’t mean of course that I have freed myself from sexist habits. But it does mean that I can spot these habits faster and, instead of finding excuses for them, I simply try to change. From simple actions such as sending a tweet to a radio station that insists on playing Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, to participating in rallies and marches, donating to women’s rights organisations and even writing here, I know I go forward with each step. Being a feminist activist means that I am not only a feminist when I use my ‘The Future is Female’ or ‘Fight Like a Girl’ t-shirts, but also when I go for a run by myself, when I refuse to erase my maternal surname, when I question society’s obsession with being young forever. Being a feminist activist means that I exercise empathy all the time, even when I am on the receiving end of hateful comments. It means that I am more aware of the power of my voice and opinions, and sometimes it is more important to listen and learn than speaking up.
As Sarah Ahmed says, sometimes being a feminist, especially an activist, means that we are the killers of joy. I proudly wear my Feminist Killjoy badge, but, most importantly, I recognise that the path is not as clear for everyone as it is for me. After all, I am already my lenses.
Words, Heloisa Righetto