Yesterday was weird. Really weird. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and got online. The first thing I saw was a tweet about Occupy Oakland, and my immediate reaction was to just start sobbing. This inevitably led to more of that-- half an hour of it, exactly.
Then I made a pot of coffee. After I drank it, I attempted to start my day over again, so crawled back into bed for a bit and pulled my four-month-old kitten close to me.
Back on the Internet: Read, cry, rinse, repeat. So much for starting over.
One of the things I found was an article in USA Today titled As NOW marks 45 years, is feminism over the hill? Never mind that Shelby Knox, now 25, was the subject of a documentary on the importance of comprehensive sex education. Or that Katie Stack, 23, who won this year's Speak Out for Choice Award from NARAL, is the president of a chapter of NOW which consists mostly of young women. Or that my good friend Stephanie Sutton, 22, was one of the main organizers of SlutWalk Chicago & then traveled to New York City, where she bravely shared a poem she wrote about her sexual assault in front of ~4,000 people gathered there for SlutWalk NYC. And if I may connect this to the subject of OWS, my friend Stef--who lives in Brooklyn and can't find a job even though she had a master's degree by the time she was 22--has been actively involved in OWS and sent me a text message yesterday that said, "I'm running Occupy Student Debt on FB and @OWSDebtDay on Twitter to help have a Generation Debt rally on 11/12 at all OWS events!"
So here's the thing: I actually think that the USA Today article is directly linked to what happened in Oakland earlier this week. If people truly think that no one really cares and it's all just a game, then yeah, cops are going to get away with sneaking up on people and beating the shit out of them. It's not that no one's working hard to change things. It's that it's simply more convenient for people to say that no one gives a shit so that they can continue to uphold the status quo.
Anyway, by that point it was well after 10 a.m. I decided to get some homework done. I actually tend to do better on schoolwork when other stuff is stressing me out, because I use it to keep myself distracted from reality. Except um, I'm a women's studies major. So basically, I'm getting a degree in not turning away, in caring too much. "Distraction" really isn't part of my vocabulary these days.
I had to babysit at 3:30-- pick up the girls (ages five and eight) from school, help them with their homework, feed them dinner, bathe them, and put them to bed before their mom got home. So on my way out the door, I went to grab a book to bring with me; I'd have time to read it after they fell asleep. And I have tons of reading to do for school, but I couldn't decide on anything. My options were to read about this kind of oppression or those other people over there who are being discriminated against or all this other heartbreaking shit that's going on in the world.
And that's when I lost it. Sat in my car outside of the elementary school and cried until the dismissal bell rang. During that time, I used my cell phone to post the following to Twitter:
I really can't cope with shit today. I don't know what my deal is, but I feel like all the work I'm doing will amount to nothing. #mope
Between my women's studies classes & the news & other activism, everything is disheartening. Idk. I don't feel very strong today.
Other thoughts that were running through my head: Why do we bother? History just keeps repeating itself; this obviously is not the first time that there's been news of police brutality at a peaceful protest. And not only that, but it turns out that if we do care and we do work hard and we refuse to give up, PEOPLE WILL STILL FAIL TO ACKNOWLEDGE US.
And then I think of the kids I work with, and how I can't deal with the fact that they're growing up in a world like this-- where they're told that they can be anything they want to be when it flat-out isn't true. The government doesn't give a shit about them. They can grow up and work their asses off and, like Stef, have master's degrees by 22. But then what? They could, like so many already have, realize they've been lied to all along. And then they could protest and raise hell but it won't matter. They'll just be ignored.
I'm posting this because I think that if you deny that you feel helpless and desperate, you'll never be able to work past those feelings and make something good out of it. And, if I'm going to frame this as a response to that USA Today article I read yesterday: Maybe people are failing to recognize that we're here because they're looking for burning bras and rage but THERE ISN'T ANY LEFT RIGHT NOW because feminism has changed over time and currently takes the form of despair.
I'm a young feminist. And I'm angry. But I'm also profoundly sad. The problem isn't that young people don't know what's at stake. All you need to do is take a brief look around to realize that. Instead, I think that because of the current political climate, compassionate people who believe in equality are, in some cases, shamed into keeping their mouths shut. And those who are brave enough to speak out just aren't being heard over the noise of those who insist on holding all the power.