When you live in a world that you perceive as outwardly hostile to you...your opinions, lifestyle, and identity, it can be really, really easy to become jaded. To be extremely cynical. To give up on caring.
Especially when you read shit like this (trigger warning.) I mean, if an 11 year old girl can be brutally raped by 18 men and boys and then be BLAMED for it, what hope can I hold in this world?
Then, every once in a while I get a reminder that I should have faith in people. That I should be open to talking about my feelings, thoughts, and opinions with others who might not share them...because ultimately, we might learn something from one another.
All too often, I take the passive aggressive route. People say, do, write, or joke about offensive things. And my response is a nervous laugh and eye roll...a vague status update...a conversation behind their back.
These behaviors on my part get us no where. And they push me further into cynicism. "So and so's just another straight, white, male asshole...fuck him." Sometimes these thoughts are legitimate. And sometimes they are a cop out. By alienating people who might be open to learning more about how I feel, I unfairly lump them in with those who are truly ignorant.
I know there's a lot of talk in feminism about "Go educate yourself!" when someone of a privileged group essentially demands but that the marginalized person has "a responsibility to educate people who mean well." I totally get this viewpoint, as I can see how utterly exhausting it can be to constantly explain your identity/viewpoint/experience. However, I've realized that assuming the worst in others and keeping them at arm's length is not contributing to my overall well being.
I am someone who loves to talk about feminism and all the many, many sub-categories of it.
I am someone who wants to educate others about what feminism means to me and how I think it can affect our lives.
I am someone who thrives on healthy debate.
To assume that everyone I encounter won't "get it" is to deny myself these opportunities and sink further into cynicism. Sure, when I engage in discussions with people, I stand to expose myself to criticism and even hatred. But I also stand to gain respect and understanding from others. Plus, I get the opportunity to perhaps, even once, change someone's mind. And that's an honor, when you think about it.
I'm going to end this with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people. Conan O'Brien on his last night of the Tonight Show. Great words for my generation to hear:
All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.