This Year Has Been the Worst

It's been a while since I've "tackled" my weekly pop culture topic, and that's for one very simple reason: everything is the worst.

And I mean it. Between civilians being killed senselessly by police, comedians (finally) being recognized as the (alleged — I get it, lawyers) sexual predators they are, and Rolling Stone reneging on its investigative report on campus rape, it's honestly hard to revel in anything other than how exhausting it is to be a thinking, living, human person; how dangerous it is to even exist.

And this is coming from me: a fucking writer whose, yes, life has been touched by rape culture as much as any young woman's (so: all of us), but who still has privilege that literal millions do not. I get to sit here and read about these things. I get to sit here, typing a paragraph about how terrible life is, with the option of going back to my day-to-day schedule; tweeting about Serial or some shit (which, don't get me wrong, I do both because I don't know how not to tweet jokes and also because there aren't enough Best Buy jokes in the world). But to simply shake my head and say "That's too bad" while revelling in my own life and/or work is simply unacceptable. The days of burying our heads in the sand because doing the opposite feels too daunting needs to end now.

Shonda Rhimes said it best during her Dartmouth speech this past June: hasthags don't count as activism. 2014 has taught us that the days of looking at the realities of other people and lending only a trending topic to help is over. To choose not to involve yourself or to not be tired, worn out, and sad at everything that's happening every fucking day is impossible (I hope). We should be as tired, worn out, and sad as we currently feel. This year has been bad. And the years leading up to this one? Equally so, and also — depending on the year — worse.

And it's overwhelming. I get that. Looking at only the last two months alone, we're dealing with everything from systemic racism (see: the result of HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF IT) to sexism to rape culture to the patriarchy to abuse of power — and I'm leaving a lot of other things out, too. But remember: this shit didn't just happen. Sexism wasn't invented in 2014. Racism didn't take off in March. These are old-ass, founded-in-the-roots-of-our-society factors. And to obliterate them takes the power of every person, all the time. Not just on days we're all watching the news. 

So what do we do? Well first, remember that it's okay to feel terrible. We need to feel terrible. What we're seeing right now? It's terrible. I didn't use "everything is the worst" as a means of comic relief. Everything really is the worst. So yes: feel that. If you don't, you're not going to feel as compelled to help, and then apathy will take over, and apathy is the grossest thing of all. And then, ask questions. Ask questions and then listen. It's easy for all of us to project our own backgrounds, thoughts, and ideas onto a marginalized group, and that's a tragedy in an entirely different sense. If you are not a woman, you don't know what it's like to be a woman. If you're not a person of colour, you don't know what it's like to be a person of colour. (And if you're not a straight white man? Well, not all of us can be that lucky I guess.)

I've talked before about how the most important thing a man can do when it comes to feminism is to listen and to support, and to ask about things he's unclear about. That rule also applies to all of us, all the time, about other things we might not be familiar with. If you're a white person, you don't know what it's like to be on the receiving end of racism. And to assume that you do, or to think that reading a blog makes you an expert, you're wrong; you're ignorant in an entirely different way, and that's a bad, shitty, entitled look. No one will be angry if you say, "I don't understand this and I'd like to know more — can you please explain it to me?" No one will judge you if you say, "What does that mean?" These problems started because no one has asked those questions. And questions get answers, and answers educate. And we should be asking questions constantly. (ESPECIALLY if it's a sincere, "What do you need me to do?")

It's also okay to get mad. I know it's hip to be chill, but 2014 has given us more than enough material to knock us out of our too-cool-for-school personas (forever). It's okay to make a "thing" out of a CBC radio host having abused women for two decades. It's okay to get upset about a man telling police who are killing him that he can't breathe as he dies by their hands. It's okay to feel broken-hearted by people telling a woman she lied about being gang-raped at a university frat house. These are real, human emotions we should absolutely be applying to these situations involving real humans. Anger is also effective. Not hurt-other-people effective, but that anger signals an urgency; inspiring us to speak up, and to call out what we see when you see it (every day, usually), to lend talents and skills to organizations who need you/me/us, and to educate ourselves. 2014 proved sitting atop any type of privilege throne and peering down to observe the goings-on of "others" isn't going to fly anymore. We're in it now, and we can't pretend we're not. If we do, it will keep going — and it will get worse. (If you can even imagine.) Whether we're talking hacked phones and sex crimes, police officers being acquitted for the death of a teenage boy, or that the first question sex crime victims are asked is, "What were you wearing?" 2014 has only painted the future as a bleak one, unless we act daily. And we can act by telling a Nice Guy not to yell at a woman on the street, or by donating to the Ferguson library. We can act through joining an organization or a group or attending a protest. Or by listening and reading and asking questions — and then helping to educate somebody else. Just . . . something. Anything. Because shit, guys. Everything really is the worst.

[Photo credit: Rena Schild /]

Tags: 2014, Anne T. Donahue, everything is the worst, patriarchy, racism, self help, sexism

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