Feminist fatigue: how to take a break from the relentless news cycle

By Jessica Philbrick 

In light of the recent Kavanaugh case, which followed Weinstein’s and Trump’s multiple cases of sexual misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement, many people, especially women, are left feeling exhausted and dissatisfied.

One on my own Facebook feed posted, “This rage is becoming exhausting to carry” in response to an article addressing the Judge Brett Kavanaugh hearings, while a commentator on the @femislay Instagram said on Oct 5th, “I’m so exhausted from this week. Men are exhausting. My fellow white women are exhausting. America is exhausting.” Given the circumstances, it seems fair enough. 

In case you’re not familiar with the Kavanaugh case, here’s a quick-fire summary. Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh to be a part of the Supreme Court. When this news broke, Christine Blasey Ford chose to step forward and share her story – from when she was fifteen – that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her.

christine ford
Credit: Ninian Reid

After weeks of back and forth media posts and campaigns swaying indecisively towards each party, Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed into the Supreme Court with a vote of 48/50, one of the closest in history. The full court hearing can be viewed here, if you feel up to it. 

My heart dropped a little at the news of his confirmation, but I also wasn’t surprised. Once again, the interest lay in protecting male power rather than supporting and encouraging a woman who had been wronged.

After the numerous articles, tweets and pictures crowding my media feed with the conclusion of Kavanaugh getting what he wanted (sigh), In the last few weeks I’ve once again been left feeling disappointed and in need of a re-charge.

It’s a big job fighting the patriarchy, and it can be totally exhausting. One of the greatest things I’ve discovered within my feminism is that it’s okay to take a break. I have Clementine Ford to thank for that.

When I need a break, but don’t wish to feel too guilty about stepping back, I reach out to books, positive social media accounts and films. Listening to, following and supporting the stories of other feminists is a feminist act in itself, (without having to do much) and builds a connection to so many like-minded people. It all helps you to feel less alone in this exhausting world.

podcast

Here are a few things that help me to recover from a bout of feminist fatigue.

“I’m a feminist, but…”

It’s important to recognise that every movement and every set of beliefs are ambivalences and hypocrisies. Which is why I’m a BIG advocate for the podcast ‘The Guilty Feminist’ presented by Deborah Frances White. I listen to it on the bus, while I’m cooking, while painting – anywhere really. It’s easy to listen to, they cover a vast range of topics, have incredible guests and it’s funny! This podcast has been my go-to for when I’m feeling a bit fatigued by feminism but I don’t wish to step back completely. A list of other great podcasts can be found here.

Take to Netflix (or other streaming accounts you may use…)

There’s such a range of documentaries and fictional films which promote the female narrative and strong female characters. The list must begin with Thelma and Louise*, followed by Broad City, GLOW, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Sisters and Dear White People. All of which are fictional shows/films embedded in very real ideas. They show many empowering elements of female friendships and address issues which women face daily. A great (dramatised) true story of a female rapper Roxanne Roxanne is a goodie.

netflix

Documentaries

A little heavier to watch, but documentaries are an excellent way to crash-course topics or movements. Some good ones include, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, Audrie & Daisy (this is a sad one), The Testimony, Hot Girls Wanted and Miss-Representation*, just to name a few. Those with an * feature Geena Davis, who has not only been a wonderful actor, but she has been an activist for gender diversity in the media industry. You can read more here and you can find videos of her talks on Youtube (I’ve watched a few).

Shake up who you follow

I’m an avid user of Instagram and there are certainly a wealth of unhealthy accounts to follow. Here are some accounts I’ve found personally positive in my feed: @alokvmenon, @theindianfeminist@bodyposipanda, @theeverymanproject, @gloriasteinem, @feministfightclub, @femislay.

These accounts have kept up great intersectionality, showing how feminism influences people of colour, men, transgender, body positivity and other groups. It’s a great way to feel connected to a variety of ideas behind feminism.

Reading

I often feel guilty about not reading enough feminist texts, but I do have to remind myself that there is only so much you can read at a time! I suggest that instead of compiling a giant list of things you should be reading, simply change your approach to reading. My partner and I often enter second-hand bookstores and only pick up books by female writers. The following authors are some of my favourites:

Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale. I have also read The Blind Assassin and Surfacing. I am currently reading two books by writer Siri Hustvedt. Women Looking at Men Looking at Women, and What I Loved. One book is a set of essays, the other is a novel. But it’s interesting to see her topics and beliefs intertwine between both sets of writing. Other writers to consider are Roxanne Gay, Bell Hooks, or knock back some classics like Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath or Simone de Beauvoir.

reading

Or…. take a full on break.

It’s also a viable option to take a break from your feminism, if that’s even possible. You’ll always have some fight in you, but just turn off for a day or so. Get away from the news, from social media, and do something engrossing for a while. 

It is okay to feel worn out, tired and depleted by the ongoing fight to dismantle the patriarchy and the many ‘isms’, but you can feel positive knowing that many great strides have been made over the past few years.

Social media has become an incredible platform for promoting helpful movements such as TimesUp, #metoo, HeforShe, #LeanIn, #Ibelieveher. Of course, these movements do come with a band of exhausted people (particularly women) keeping them alive. It’s natural to want a break. Take it. You will know when it’s time to check back in, because as evidenced by Kavanaugh’s conviction, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Jessica Philbrick is an artist who has recently moved to Berlin from New Zealand. Her art practice is based around research relationships to femininity through clothing and appearances. Often interviewing and photographing women, her work aims to embrace and explore femininity. You can view her work by clicking here.

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