I recently finished teaching a course at Elmira College called Feminist Argumentation. I went in to it with the following objectives:
1) Introduce feminist language and history,
2) Encourage a deeper understanding of personal feminism, and
3) Remind them that they don't owe the weight of defending feminism to assholes on the internet.
Despite the fact the class was called Feminist Argumentation, I was more focused on giving them the knowledge to know they can use feminism to defend their ideas and view the world. As feminists, we're often expected to act on behalf of all feminists. This is a power play the patriarchy upholds because they know it leads to discourse among marginalized populations. They know if we nit-pick as feminists with one another, we're not as strong. I'm not saying we shouldn't question any *ahem* questionable strains of feminism (like TERFs, which - to me - don't get to call themselves feminists because feminism is inclusive or it doesn't count as such), I'm saying that allowing the weight of the world to affect the support we can provide each other doesn't help anyone. Fighting - especially online, and especially with strangers - is a massive waste of time. Learning to choose your own battles is certainly part of a feminist journey. Personally, I've made major strides in this area (just ask my mother), but I'm still susceptible to my emotions and my love of a good fight. What can I say: I'm an Aries.
I learned so much from the questions my students asked me, and I desperately hope they learned something from 12 hours of my earnest rambling. They reaffirmed the faith I have in younger generations with the questions they asked, and with a somewhat hated discussion we had on the last night of class.
I am admittedly someone who doesn't mind confrontation, and I occasionally seek out discontent. Whether it's boredom or insecurity or a coping mechanism, I'm not sure. But I know I do it, and I've made a concerted effort to do it less, and I've succeeded but I'm not immune. When triggered (even accidentally), I will attack. I don't always think before speaking. My journey as a feminist (and as an adult human, tbh) has included learning to reign in my temper. A helpful hint: people who are trying to get a rise out of you are often more provoked by an eyeroll than by actually engaging with them. Once you realize this, it becomes so much easier to simply make fun of willfully ignorant asshats than try and have a conversation with them.
Because here's the biggest lesson I've learned on my feminist journey: you won't change anyone's mind, especially via the internet. We're better off speaking our truths to the world and linking arms with our fellow feminists and reclaiming power than we are trying to convince someone to be on our side. They need to have their own feminist journey.
Plenty of people disagree with this idea, and that's ok. That's their choice - and I'm nothing if not pro-choice - but experience has taught me that my valuable time is better spent by taking action with other optimistic feminists than by allowing people who would rather waste time arguing to stress me out. I don't always make the choice to take the "high road" (sometimes it's irresponsible or impossible to stick to the high road) but I usually feel better when I do.
Posted March 7th at 7:46pm