I wasn’t always an internet slacktivist, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I think about my feminism and activism now and compare it to my self and way of being 10, 11, 12 years ago. From age 16-21 or so, I could and did happily and easily identify as a riot grrrl after a few years of already calling myself a feminist. But back then, in those days, my feminism and my activism were different. They were a gnarled, unfurling, thick-barked branch, rough and unhewn. I can still say that the burning desire to live in a world where people are equal no matter how they identify on the gender spectrum is still important to me, drivingly, achingly so. But the look and feel of how I go about things has changed drastically, for various reasons.
We used to rally, get on our feet and walk out our doors and stand together and stomp our feet, demanding to be heard. We used to feed homeless people in the park. We used to dumpster dive for free organic veggies for our vegan pitch-ins. We made our own non-toxic glue and had a screenprint for the posters we would make in our guerilla feminist tactics. We shred on our guitars, abstained from shaving (still mostly do) to eschew the patriarchy, we traded books and talked about them ’til all hours of the night, we picked up and just went. We were reckless, tireless, and always poor.
But there is no ‘we’ anymore. Not the we that I was part of back then. I separated from that we years ago. I’m talking about a group of friends, a cohort, and not a single partner. Though I suppose that when a group is really tight-knit they become like a partner, in a way. When I first started moving away from that group of friends, it was because I felt stagnant. We were a puddle of still water in the base of a tire, collecting mosquitoes in the humid summer swell. The same thing would happen every day without change or inspiration. The talks died out, the books stopped being read, everything became fashion. More importantly, many of them started doing hard drugs. I drink. While I will openly and readily advocate for bodily autonomy, I won’t pretend that I will be happy to sit in a room with people who close the curtains every day after work, get high, fuzz out, and think of nothing else, do nothing else. We were becoming tepid and lukewarm, complacent in our own lives and existence. As I moved away from that group, I ended up with one of those wonky 40hr/wk jobs, and that’s still what I have going on. Those jobs. Once you start, you can become locked in. I feel locked in.
And it is interesting, looking back, to see what kind of a change my work schedule and upcoming university schedule had on my activism. Separating from friends would have an impact, I knew. College and work, however, I didn’t think would cause such a difference. The hours in the day go by and then you go to class at night, do schoolwork, only actively go out into the streets or your community on available saturdays. Being an activist becomes something you schedule in, which isn’t really very active. I received an e-mail the other day asking me some of my thoughts on capitalism and feminism. I am not addressing those topics in their entirety in this post, but the obvious angle is patriarchy, the male gaze, materialism and consumerism. What is also interesting, however, is the effect that operating within our current capitalist structure has on our availability, ambition, and ability. When you look at the ways that patriarchy and capitalism are best friends and yearning, aching lovers, and you look at the goals of feminism (equality for all people, wherever they fall on the gender spectrum), it is immediately apparent that patriarchy within the kyriarchy must be toppled. It is less evident at first glance that capitalism, also, is an enemy of feminism. If the burning flame of that riot grrrl and her life-my life-are still combusting eternally within me, not yet given to embers, what has changed? The jobs that I have had have had a tremendous impact on my availability. I have fallen into the cycle of created need and desire. When the local woman’s shelter needs supplies, I give them money, or the items they need. I do not give them my physical time. Partially that is due to the experience being too triggering and traumatic, and I am not yet personally there. On the other hand, it’s easy for me to donate towels, diapers, formula. When I think of this I always think of Zizek saying ‘It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property’. Though not perfectly, it does relate here. Meanwhile, what am I doing to end rape culture or spread awareness of domestic violence issues?
But does that entirely matter, or, should that be the crux of the matter? I’m blogging now. Writing. I hear at least once a week in my classes a tone of derision toward internet activism, to blogging, to social media. It’s seen as petty, trivial, and small. When I hear that, I don’t feel defeated or unnecessary. I feel that sparking flame ignite within me. If one person reads one thing here and it sparks them to think differently, won’t that have an impact on the people around them based on how they act? I do not think that web activism is inefficient. If a group of people harness their time and energy and strength together to rally and meet in person, they have done a great thing, and I give them credit. If a group of people harness their time, energy and strength together to rally and meet and spread information through the ether, making it easily accessible to many who might otherwise never have found it, they have also done a great thing and I cannot discredit this action. I do not think that either way of communicating ideas and working for social change has less intrinsic value than the other. I think that our world is changing, our ways of communicating effectively and on a large scale are changing, and that the key to effecting social change and doing our part in any way we can is in being adaptable and focusing on what we can do. And though sometimes I may feel like I don’t know where that grrrl is anymore, I’m still right here, doing things in a different way, rioting on these keys.