Why fedoras? See bottom of essay.
Are you tired of endless microaggressions and intentional ignorance disrupting your activism? Totally over the overt racism and sexism levied at you by privileged persons determined to ruin your day? Got a racial tension headache?
Annoyed at the time wasted every day bouncing off derailing comments when you could be advocating for social justice? Yuck. I know I am.
Of course, activists are well aware of the tough resistance inherent to social justice work. Social change is hard. People don’t want to give up their privilege.
But feminists are also aware of a particularly insidious aspect of this work: the frustration, stress, and energy expended in grappling with disingenuous persons who want nothing more than to cause us pain and to block social progress. You know, the doxxers, the cyber-stalkers, the “all lives matter” espousers, the “not all men” proclaimers, and the “reverse racism/sexism” wannabe philosophers. It’s the trolling, the mocking, and the jabs at underprivileged people made by privileged people. It’s the revelry in bigotry.
Certainly, we do not live in a post-racial/post-feminist world, and these attitudes and behaviors are still commonplace in our society. However, it is especially disheartening when they characterize social movements. It’s also especially crushing when it takes place online, where there is little recourse for those targeted. In fact, this kind of behavior especially flourishes in online spaces (male-created and male-dominated) where marginalized persons network and advocate at low cost (which is crucial for us, as poverty targets women and people of color).
Racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, and other oppressions that seem to proliferate and flourish online can leave activists feeling frustrated, sidetracked, and ineffective. And that’s the point. Countermovements and bigots are successful when they keep activists from doing their important work.
Just how to handle this conundrum has been heavily debated. Some advocate ignoring it, while others advocate spiritual recentering and understanding. Some prefer to tackle it head on by publicly shaming and outing abusers to demand accountability. Whatever works for you, it is still important to acknowledge that the negative impact that systemic oppression has on marginalized activists is real. It hurts.
It also hinders.
My wise friend Aph Ko once explained to me that we all know how to break things down and criticize what is wrong in the world, but we don’t seem to be as skilled in building things back up. We don’t nurture our imagination for reconstruction enough. Instead of incessantly focusing on the negative, how can we start to create the positive world we want to inhabit? Can we start to tune out the bad with stronger, clearer, more radiant messages of social justice and equality?
And so, my dear vegfems, this is my resolution to share with you. Every time someone with ill-intentions seeks to bring you down, slur you, scare you, silence you, try this:
Do something positive for Nonhuman Animal liberation (or Black liberation, or trans liberation, or women’s liberation, et cetera).
Can you do that? Try it. It doesn’t have to be major. If someone tells you that Black Lives Matter is narcissistic, bring some food to a feral cat colony in your area. If someone calls you a cunt, send an email to a feminist friend and offer some support and tend to the friendship. Shamed for promoting anti-reformist approaches to animal rights? Go post some leaflets in your community. Received a microaggression on Facebook? Give your dog a nice brushing, or treat your cat to some playtime. You get the idea.
Take that negative energy and flip it. When life gives you fedoras, make social justice.
Keep putting the good out there. It won’t stop the hate, and it won’t stop the violence. But it can help you to cope in a constructive way, and it will move us closer to our goal of peace.
So let’s give it a go, okay?
Why Fedoras? In modern feminist spaces, fedoras have come to symbolize fraudulent “Men’s Rights Activism,” or feminist countermovement activity.