Obviously this title could apply to a lot of things, but I’ve been stewing over a particular set of things it’s easier not to do/be.
It’s easier not to be political. See, once you start digging into ideas of feminism and anti-ableism and the like, you start seeing sexism and ableism and racism and sizeism and heterosexism and…fill-in-the-blankism everywhere. Ism ism ism ism ism! And when you see them, they sting more. They make you angry more. They frustrate you more. They make you wonder about other people more. They make you wonder if you can actually make a difference.
To give you a very basic idea, you see them in TV. My boyfriend and I have recently started watching the show Jeremiah though our netflix subscription. Jeremiah is a post-apocalyptic show, set 15 years after a virus that killed everyone in the world above the age of puberty. We’ve watched a grand total of 2 episodes at this point. So far, I’ve been seeing race fail and sex fail. The race fail: 1) the hero is white, the sidekick (who is also the more comic of the two) is black; 2) when they appear to pair off in the first episode, the white hero pairs off with a white woman while the black sidekick pairs off with a woman who appears to be multiracial; 3) the white hero is noble and self-sacrificing and has some higher goals; the black side-kick is clever but rather cowardly and selfish; 4) black characters are supposed to appear ‘ghetto’ but not white characters; 5) people of color have to be saved from white supremacist group by white hero (who is helped by black sidekick and other white dude, but the ideas on how to rescue them belong to white hero); 6) kidnapped woman has to be saved by white hero. The gender fail: 1) both hero and sidekick are male; 2) women-as-commodity; 3) women walking around half naked while men are fully clothed; 4) female sex-workers, but no male sex-workers; 5) (as mentioned in race fail) the woman who gets kidnapped and is going to be gang-raped by her kidnappers gets saved by hero; 6) the only surviving carrier of the virus from 15 years ago is female – she is trapped in an airtight room, a lab, and kept alive in the hopes that someone will learn to make vaccines from her blood and save the rest of the world if the virus comes again – so we have in this instance alone: woman must be taken care of (by a male character, of course), woman as passive vessel for the virus, woman as potential cure for the world, woman who lives only because she might save others.
I’m not even touching the ideas of ableism there, because we don’t meet people with disabilities in the world of Jeremiah thus far. Which is, of course, its own ableism – either the idea that people with disabilities couldn’t adapt to living in the post-apocalyptic world of Jeremiah OR the erasure of people with disabilities even though they make up circa 20% of the population.
It’s harder to just relax and enjoy things when you keep getting bitten by all these little fails and problems. When you keep noticing that advertising, shows, the conversation of people around you, is loaded with -isms. It’s hard to not have reservations about things, because there are so many little twingy things that keep poking out at you.
Life was a lot simpler when I wasn’t quite so political, when I wasn’t quite so aware. I don’t want to shut off that awareness, because I know it’s important for me to see these things and call them out. I just occasionally wish for the days when I didn’t see all of this. It gets downright depressing when you realize that nothing, NOTHING is without -isms and fail.
…even you. That may be the hardest part. When you notice patterns in your own thinking, in your own speech, that are full of -isms. That you have to continually be aware and be willing to change if you are trying to fully commit to the idea of a world without discrimination. It’s hard. It’s REALLY hard. When you notice that the language that you’ve used since you were a child is problematic, you can’t just say ‘okay, so I’ll stop’. It keeps creeping in. And so you call the driver lame, or a spaz, or stupid. And perhaps the worst part is, sometimes you don’t even catch that you’ve said it.