By: Javacia Harris Bowser, Guest Blogger
I recognized the look in their faces. It was a look I’d seen in the mirror far too many times. It was the look of frustration and complete overwhelm. It was the look of feminist burnout.
The two young women standing before me were two students in the 10th grade English class I taught that year. They were two students that – after the school day was done – I had long talks with about feminism, activism, and art.
These two students of mine came to me on this particular afternoon filled with rage about rape culture and feeling helpless to do anything about it or anything else. They began to rattle off all the injustices we women still face and the sexist attitudes that they felt would prevent our society from ever achieving gender equality.
Then they took a breath and looked to me, the grownup in the room, for answers.
I had none.
I don’t know of any simple ways to end rape culture or change the sexist attitudes held by both men and women.
But I do know how to beat feminist burnout. I know how to be a happy feminist.
Stop fighting against sexism and start fighting for women and girls, I told them.
Focusing on what you’re trying to eliminate, whether it’s sexism, racism, homophobia, or poverty, is exhausting and utterly depressing. Instead focus on the people you are seeking to empower. This will be exhilarating and rewarding.
As I gave this advice I could see the light return to their eyes but could tell their burdens were heavy still. Those girls still had the weight of the world on their tiny shoulders.
Don’t try to do everything, I told them. Do what you do best. Consider you interests, talents and skills and then consider how you can use those gifts to improve the lives of women and girls. Make an action plan and then get going!
For me, writing has been my method of feminist activism. Not only do I write about feminism online, for a city magazine and for my city’s NPR affiliate, but I also started an organization and a website meant to help other women find and lift their voices through writing as well. Writing has helped the women of my organization in a personal sense as they’ve used words to work through life’s problems and to develop more confidence. But writing has helped them in a more practical sense as well, helping them to add to their income through freelance gigs and blog sponsorships.
Empowering women through the written word – that’s my thing, I told my two students.
Perhaps you will make a difference through blogging or filmmaking. Perhaps you’ll serve in women’s shelter. Or maybe you’ll tutor young girls.
Just do what you do best and remember to stay focused on people, not problems.
Featured image via mauivents.com