Summer Slow Down

I have plans to run a half marathon in September. I had an elaborate 12-week training plan set up, because I don’t have a history of adding mileage slowly or safely and that’s how you knock yourself out with unnecessary injuries.

The training plan is in the can and I’m down with an unnecessary injury. I broke my toe. It wasn’t a running injury; I caught it on an old cedar chest and felt the bone crumple. I had no idea such a little bone could hurt so much.

There’s not much to do for a broken toe other than to RICE it– rest, ice, compression, elevation. I’ve been propping my foot up under my desk, with an ice pack balanced on my foot. But walking hurts. I have to go slow and hobble around like a brand new duckling.

Slowing down, especially against my will, has made me reflect on the great privilege and gift of my ability. I’m so lucky to have a body that lets me run, to live without chronic pain, illness, or disease. I am able-bodied and I don’t spend enough time thinking about how much that informs my life experiences.

I’m thinking about it now, and about the ways my prescribed and adopted identities align me with a population I’ve resisted. The county I live in was recently named the least diverse in my state. As I watch housing prices soar, see interesting construction and business changes, and observe various political shifts, it’s clear that my city caters toward wealthy white liberals.

And increasingly, I’m realizing that I’m one of them. There’s nothing wrong with being affluent, or white, or liberal. But there is something wrong when one such privileged group eclipses all others. To help stabilize my toe, my doctor told me to buy a pair of hard-soled sandals. She gave me a list of brands, all expensive and very popular where I live. I didn’t own any, and I hadn’t wanted to. I’ve resisted buying into (literally, monetarily) the dominant culture of this place. I worry about who gets erased as the Wealthy White Liberals take charge.

I bought the shoes, and they’re helping a lot. But it’s not lost on me that I could buy that pricey pair because I now have a graduate degree that helped me find a job with a stable income. I can pay my bills, work on my student loans, and save enough to have a Shoes for Broken Toes fund. I had to buy a new (used) car this year, and I chose a zippy little hybrid. I work in a nice office, in a tech job that provides me fancy gadgets and expensive software. When I’m not injured, I’m out running on trails and visiting microbreweries. All these external indicators place me solidly in this yuppie bubble culture. I worry that I’ll get sucked in and lose sight of the world.

Even now, I feel like all I’ve just done is write a Poor Little Rich Girl story. And what purpose does that serve? Now, more than a year out of school, I find myself still struggling to bridge the gap between student activist and autonomous, isolated, workforce citizen. I didn’t expect the change to be so dramatic, and for the most part, I’m infinitely happier now than I was as a student.

But there are aspects I miss so much. Like the community of bright, and diverse people who challenged this city and me. And even that feels complicated because I’m the one responsible for doing my personal work, not my peers. I need to consider my feminism and how it’s evolving within me, and how and to whom I’m engaging in this new life phase.

As I slow down this month, I hope to think more, challenge my innate and chosen identities more, and to find a way to validate my space without encroaching upon and erasing the people and cultures and communities we so very badly need.

Origins, Approaches, and Ongoing Life

This blog is celebrating its first anniversary! Running this blog has been both fun and frustrating. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done and the community we’ve built together… even if the comments are still on major lockdown. (Thanks, MRAs!) Today, Angry Feminist Killjoy won the English Department’s Outstanding Writing Award in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy. First place!! That’s crazy and exciting and I’m so grateful to all the incredible women in my graduate program, family, and larger life who helped build this. Here are a few reflective thoughts about, as Dr. Sue Doe would say, the origins, approaches, and ongoing life of Angry Feminist Killjoy.

When I was trying to conceptualize my final project for Autoethnography, I was struggling to strike upon where I really fit in, where I had Complete Member Researcher status. I felt myself caught in a lot of liminal stages. For instance, I was a graduate student but I was (at the time) 22. I was an ‘academic’ but I was first-generation. I approached my schoolwork with a no-nonsense kind of seriousness, but I had a heart for comedy. I was a feminist but didn’t fit into any of the accepted waves. The connection may not seem immediately clear, but Angry Feminist Killjoy emerged from all of those liminal stages I felt myself inhabiting.

I wanted to write about feminism in the way that I was experiencing it— a kind of Millennial Feminism, if you will. (I don’t know if that’s a real term; maybe I should copyright it.) I wanted to find a way to translate my academic, theory-based knowledge into something that was accessible and meaningful people who aren’t given the opportunity to pursue higher ed. (ie: If I can’t take this home and make it meaningful to my family, what’s the point?) I didn’t want to produce alienating work, but I wanted to produce important work. The blog then, felt perfect. This outlet suited my in-between identities. It is freely accessible, uses technology to reach an audience outside of the Academy, speaks to the experiences of young feminists, and gave me the space to combine academics and comedy. I could use humor and satire to talk about social justice issues. By bringing a comedic voice to Foucault and Bourdieu, I was able to make academic theory relevant beyond academics. That was really important to me.

As for my experiences with the blog… it grew into something so much bigger than a final project. Almost immediately my posts began circulating around the web in really wonderful and truly awful ways. The worst parts are when Men’s Rights Activists pick up my blog and start harassing and abusing me. It’s exhausting and disheartening to know that so much vitriolic stupidity exists in the world. But then, every single time a make a post, I’ll find at least one message that makes it all worth it. Sometimes there are debates and we both learn to reach a middle ground. Sometimes it’s a thank-you for publishing these experiences, for starting a discussion. I hear stories from people who have experienced the kinds of abuses and harms I write about, and the messages almost always say, “I thought it was only me. I thought I was alone in this.”

Doing this kind of work can be emotionally draining. It’s hard to write about the many ways our world is constructed to enact violence against us. It’s hard to hear from people who both agree and disagree with my posts. I’ve taken a months-long hiatus more than once, just to keep myself sane. I certainly don’t think I’m changing the world with my little blog, but I know that I’m able to start conversations, the kinds that we don’t have often enough. And when starting those conversations makes folks feel less alone in the world, lets them know that there are people out here who will love and support them… that’s why I always come back from hiatus. (Also, someone once contacted me about my blog and referred to me as “a feminist thought-leader.” That really frosted my cookies.)

And that’s where we are now! As I wrap up my graduate education (!!!) and head on to new things, I’m looking forward to continuing our conversations here. There are some fun things in the works. If my Girl Gang and I can ever manage to organize, there will even be some Live Action Feminist Fun coming your way. So stick around, my angry feminist killjoy friends. There’s still a whole patriarchy to deconstruct.