This guest post was written by Suzannah Weiss and originally published at her blog, DWF (Dating While Feminist). It is republished with permission here because we think it’s awesome. For more cool posts, check out more of Suzannah’s work here!
After Scott Aaronson’s confession of the isolation and shame he felt as a male nerd and Laurie Penny’s response about the social isolation of female nerds, I thought I’d add something to the discussion about the isolation of being a feminist.
As I’ve gotten surer of my feminist beliefs and feminism has become a greater part of my life, I’ve felt a progressively stronger need to censor myself. When coworkers ask what I’ve been doing outside of work, I leave out anything about my feminist book club or other feminist organizations I’ve been involved with. If my writing comes up in conversation with someone I don’t know too well, I say something very vague about what topics it addresses. I am always on guard, fretting over how much information to give out and how to spin it to avoid being coined the Feminazi.
Let me tell you how I developed this fear of the Feminazi label.
I developed this fear over the course of many scarring interactions that made it clear I could not expect my relationships to be the same after I expressed my feminist sympathies.
It comes from the college friend who told me “You’re not going to become an angry feminist now, are you?”
It comes from the boyfriend who told me feminists have an anger complex that usually comes from being abused.
It comes from an extremely liberal friend I assumed was a feminist until she said “No, I’m a people person, so I don’t want to associate myself with a group that antagonizes anyone.”
It comes from the boyfriend who told me I was “aggressively wary” for pointing out a double standard in a movie.
It comes from the Tinder user who responded to my unsuspecting “hello” with “Are you feminist? That’s mean. Do you not like boys?”
It comes from the OKCupid user who said, “You don’t want a man with balls, do you?”
It comes from the commenters who left threats when I published an article about sexists on online dating sites.
It comes from the coworker who turned to me and said “Come on” when I called out another coworker for advocating pickup artist tactics.
It comes from the coworker who said “I’m not having this conversation” and left the room when I tried to point out that something he said objectified women.
It comes from the crush who laughed when I told him about my feminist book club.
Cumulatively, these experiences have taught me I am not safe expressing my views. They have taught me to bite my tongue. And they have taught me to be careful about the people I trust and the people I choose as friends and romantic partners. When I was younger and less developed as a feminist, I could befriend or date anyone reasonably progressive. Now, I need people I can be myself around – and that’s not everyone.
It has been comforting to hear from others whose feminism has distanced them from people they once depended on.
As feminism gets more important to me, I’m learning how to craft a community intentionally rather than following whoever recruits me to their friend group. I’ve sought out meetups, clubs and organizations where people share my values. It’s less convenient but ultimately more rewarding.
If you’re experiencing the loneliness of being a feminist, know that others are feeling the same way, and maybe reach out to them. So many of us are feeling this loneliness, you wouldn’t think we’d be lonely. But the people who have cut off the reach of our feminism have also made it harder for us to reach one another. It’s difficult for feminists to meet when we don’t identify ourselves.
The best solutions I’ve found are to be deliberate about who I spend my time with, to treat this collection of people as my support system, and to listen carefully for others who might want to be a part of this community. It may take a while for the topic to be broached, but if I slowly ease into the conversation, listen for signs of feminist sympathies, and get increasingly specific as these signs accrue, a huge wave lifts when I finally feel safe to use the word “feminist” and the word is met with welcoming and acceptance rather than shaming and rejection.