By Kirsten Chen
I think it’s safe to say it’s been a jarring past year. For feminists, it can feel – even more than usual – as if each day presents a shifting obstacle course that requires us to ask ourselves “How do I handle this now?” There’s always a new issue or opinion waiting to incite, sadden or confuse. Regardless of which of those emotions is produced, we can be certain that one thing is for sure: all of them command our time and energy.We could talk about Trump and sexual assault or Hillary and gender-bias. We could talk about Linda Sarsour and Sharia Law. We could talk about Dior’s seven-hundred dollar “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt, and we could definitely talk about the need for intersectionality. But first, let’s talk about… talking; or, more precisely, how we talk among ourselves and to others regarding the important – and often nuanced – issues that surround feminism. It may seem like a patronizing topic, but it’s a vital one to consider – that is, if our goal is to change people’s minds.
If the point of engaging in conversations about feminism is to progress the movement forward, then it makes sense to encourage one another to direct our energy in an efficient way.Social media is the perfect place to start. Instead of posting angry (though often justified) statuses into the public void, maybe share something that includes information on how to become part of the solution. Next time you scroll past a close-minded thread, instead of piling onto the argument, think about privately messaging the person – you’d be amazed how much more open people can be when they don’t feel put on the spot and are no longer performing for an audience – after all, that’s essentially what most social media is. Also, keep in mind: not all offenses are created equally. Many people are in the midst of waking up, both socially and politically.
Depending on how far along they are, it can be more effective to replace an opportunity to argue or blame with the opportunity to teach. It may seem like hard work and that’s because it is. It’s a lot easier to just talk to those we agree with or sound-off as a release (and yes, that’s important too in its own way) but it’s much more impactful to put in the work to change people’s minds.Now, I know everyone has that one person on their newsfeed who spouts his politically and socially heinous opinions out incessantly, trolling-skimming for a fight. Those people exist in real-life and real social situations too.
Avoid them; avoid the too-far-gone and save your energy for someone who you may get more of a return on the investment of your time from. I realize sometimes it feels too difficult not to call someone out who you feel really just has to be told, and I’m not here to claim there isn’t some value in that. perhaps. Unfortunately, more often than not it’s just an exhausting time-waste that changes nothing. I speak from experience.Think of it as a self-care issue, too. Our time is precious and our emotional and mental health is, too. Easier said than done, but we should practice assessing a situation before simply reacting, and then identifying where it exists on our own internal response spectrum. We should value how we spend our energy and conserve it where possible.Basically, ask the question: is it worth it? And how worth it? Ultimately, it’s for you to decide.