cross-posted on www.shaungatagore.com
I feel blessed and honoured to be a part of the anthology, Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex. (Also see the follow up event here!) Not only because it gave me space to put down in print and solidify forever my XTREME-RAGE-AGAINST-GRAD-SCHOOL, but for many other reasons as well. As editor Jessica Yee has stated many times, including in the book, it is not a “hate-on” feminism or academia. To me, it is exactly the opposite: in deconstructing all the things that feminism far too often tends to be (ie. oppressive!) what’s revealed is a love for all the beautiful and powerful things feminism is and can be FOR REALZ. I think that one of the reasons it means so much to me to have been a part of this project is because of where I realized my tumultuous relationship to feminism has brought me.
I’ve had my (un)fair share of emotionally intense, be-all/end-all uber-dawson’s-creek-stylez dramatic love relationships. And feminism is right up there with them. when i first met feminism it was like fireworks and stars exploding in the sky. It was passionate, energetic and exciting - the kind of all-out love where you would gladly spend all night awake talking online, confessing your undying love for each other. “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden playing in the background on repeat. (You might have noticed by now that yes, I was once a teenage girl growing up in the late 90s.) It was like the kind of relationship that gives you the oxygen you didn’t know you were missing.
And it’s impossible for that same life-giving relationship to oppress you to the point of suffocation, isn’t it? There’s no place in your imagination where you can understand how they could do such a thing (to YOU, of ALL people!). But unfortunately it happens all too often. Feminism is no exception.
It’s the most confusing kind of devastation. You can’t tell the difference between when they’re being the air tank or the knife that cuts off your supply. You don’t know when or if they’ll show up with a sweet smile and your favourite childhood movie or another bruise. You fear to walk into the place that you were so sure you made your home, knowing that you might spend the night bombarded with lashes and backlashes. You keep trying to go home anyway, you try and try to make it work. Not because you’re weak, but because you knew that you felt something real and you need to get it back.
If I’m talking about feminism, I’m also talking about anti-racism. You saved my life and changed my life when I found you, but I don’t know why you keep hurting me. Why is feminism so relentlessly racist? Why is anti-racism so unapologetically sexist and homophobic? Why is it so easy for either of you to be ableist, classist, and box people into cold categories of “good activist” and “bad activist” without any consideration for all the diverse ways people survive, cope and resist trauma?
This is why this book means so much to me. Because I’m still not any less confused or scarred from any of my big love-big pain relationships. But this book reminds me that I’m not alone, and that despite the ways oppression invades our homes and most cherished relationships, I still know how to see love, for real; and to be in love, for real. I know that so many others who appear in the book, so many who will read it, talk about it, support it and live it still know a feminism that they’re in love with too. It’s an amazing thing to be reminded that there is a community out there who will never stop calling attention to abuses within our movements, and also will never stop valuing the joy and significance of what is empowering within our movements. We are people who keep trying to make it work - not because we’re weak, but because we won’t give up on falling in love with what matters most. For real.