Sorry again for not being around very much – I’ve finally got something vaguely resembling a routine, and for the foreseeable future (i.e. until Christmas) it looks like my weekly blog post will be published on Wednesday evenings. I’m mainly telling you this in order to peer-pressure myself into actually publishing a blog post every week.
I’m one month into my year abroad, and it’s been absolutely incredible, but absolutely exhausting too. I’ve had to re-adapt to a different kind of unfamiliar-and-overwhelming environment, and I’m finally starting to get there – I’ve got most of the administrative stuff done, I’ve getting the hang of Super-Serious-Grown-Up-Having-To-Look-After-Myself-University-Mode again, and I’m starting to get the hang of studying here too. But I’m not there yet. Never mind being there with leftover energy to spend on other things. There are lots of old and new habits that I want to get (back) into, just as soon as I can fit it into my head on top of everything else, and until then I’ll feel bad about them. Above all, I feel bad for not blogging enough.
Sometimes, I’ve briefly delved into Twitter to read a few things and internally get angry at the world – notably this fantastic article by Reni Eddo-Lodge on that pervasive housework-imbalance issue which you should go and read. Well, go on then. This post will still be here when you’re done. That is precisely the sort of thing that usually sends me running to a blank WordPress page in frustration, and because ultimately I hadn’t – because ultimately I couldn’t – I felt like I was being a bad feminist for neglecting the blog, especially as I still haven’t worked out where and how I can do offline feminist stuff around here. And then I realised that, aside from the internalised ableism in that thought process, the patriarchy’s existence is obviously not due to my failure to blog about it.
Anyway, this all got me thinking about how any vulnerability shown by one woman is perceived as evidence of some inherent weakness in all, and this often leaves us ashamed to be anything less than Wonder Woman as opposed to the human beings that we are.
(Image from XKCD)
I’ve felt guilty for all the times I’ve felt overwhelmed, helpless and in need of a rescue (TARDIS not necessary but highly encouraged), because it feels like the stereotypical damsel in distress which I would then be assumed to be at all times. I’ve felt guilty for all the times I’ve relied on others, just in case it’s taken as evidence of some innate inability to be independent. I’ve felt guilty for all the times I’ve been, in hindsight, overly emotional. I’ve felt guilty for making silly mistakes. I’ve felt guilty for being absolutely awful at sports. I’ve felt guilty for liking stereotypically “girly” things. You get the idea. I’m sure I’m not alone.
And we shouldn’t feel guilty. Firstly, men are not seen as a hive mind of clones where any random individual represents the whole, so why should we be seen as such? Secondly, these stereotypes have been imposed on us; we did not create them, and the onus should not be on us to eliminate them. Thirdly, the problem with current gender stereotypes isn’t just that women are seen as perpetually vulnerable when of course that isn’t true; that vulnerability is also seen as an awful thing because it is associated with women.
In fact, as humans, we all have moments of weakness. We all occasionally need a helping hand. We’re human. We’re vulnerable. At the moment, it feels like men struggle to admit this for fear of the backlash of contradicting gender stereotypes, and women struggle to admit this for fear of the backlash of reinforcing them. Neither is healthy.
You’re allowed to be human, and have human emotions. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad feminist.