Did I Rage Against the Wrong Machine?








Two people I really admire singled me out this week, both within the context of my protest of the PETA fiasco.   As most of you know, the protests worked, and PETA took down the offensive language linking NIAW to their “win a vasectomy” campaign.

If you were to ask someone in my real life what I was like, they would say things like: quiet, shy, sweet and mousy.   Lately though, the main emotion I display is anger.  I’m angry about things out of my control.  And it feels as if many things are out of my control.   A lack of support from family, pre-school problems, the economy, physical exhaustion, the isolation from adults in my day-to-day life, infertility, the observation that my swagger and confidence of my twenties has completely deserted me.  I feel alone and like I am spinning away from happiness.

Except in my bloggy world.   I have a lovely niche of kindly, smart people whose blogs I read and comment on, who often share rich, well-earned nuggets of knowledge with me.  I read on BlogHer that most women bloggers think of their online friends as their “real friends.”  I agree with that.  And we are comrades-in-arms against the world of “just relax, just adopt.”   In other words, the real world.  I am a sensitive person. I don’t like confrontation and the throw-away comments that people say, like “You’re just not tough enough to handle the twins,” and, worse, the comments about my children’s behavior, are eating away at me like a cancer.

It alarms me that I am reacting to this by becoming acrimonious.  My mother said, “I miss my happy daughter.”  I was once so sunshiny.   Now, I’m just pissed.  All the time.

So when the whole PETA controversy erupted, I jumped into the fray.  Finally, a useful outlet for my rage!  PETA acted as wrongly as a villain could act.   It was so black and white, how wrong what they said was.  I tweeted, emailed, signed petitions and COUNTERACTED.  In solidarity with a lot of other folks. It seemed a good fight.  And we won!  Infertility makes me feel powerless.  It was a change to feel powerful.

Esperanza, a thoughtful wise soul whose words always make me weigh my own actions, wrote an article called “To Rage or Not to Rage” and included me in a list of those who acted against PETA.  She ultimately concluded that the fight was fair, and protest was valid.

Stirrup Queens had a different view of PETA.   She was much better informed than I about PETA’s long history of vicious stunts, and had chosen the high road.  She thinks that PETA pick and choose quarrels with groups who will publicize their anger, thus bringing PETA into the spotlight.

She quoted one of my comments as a counterargument (I said our fight against PETA showed that the infertility community could be organized and powerful), but ultimately she concluded that PETA was a bully and she was pretty sure that any victory against them would be hollow.

Advocacy is so complicated.  I read a compelling, and yet totally depressing book called “A Short History of Women” and it followed the path of the descendants of a suffragette who starved herself to death to try to protest the fact that women couldn’t vote.  Her reasons for doing this were not entirely noble, and sort of flighty, and somewhat selfish.  She left two young children behind, and their lives were pretty grim because of her choice.  But she makes a huge DIFFERENCE in the lives of all future women.

Our reasons for protest and fighting “good fights” are complicated and in my case versus PETA, I was channeling a rage I felt not entirely related to their comments.  But it felt pure and strong.

There are many other causes I believe in and could support full force.   But the path to protest is complicated, filled with conflict, ambivalence and would/ may take me away from being the mother I need to be, which seems to require most of my time: teaching my children to respect others, to show others kindness not rudeness, realizing the overriding importance of education, learning that there are rules in the world.  And making sure they have a routine to make them feel safe.

Yet, the PETA event has taught me that I have a voice.  When can I best use it?   When can I use it and not sacrifice myself to a cause to the detriment of my kids?   And not “starve”?

Please tell me your thoughts: Where is the middle ground between being a suffragette martyr and a do nothing?   How are you able to balance activism with your own life activities and not lose yourself?  Or is losing yourself necessary to being committed to a cause?


Filed under Family, Infertility, Parenting After IF

11 responses to “Did I Rage Against the Wrong Machine?

  1. Esperanza

    This is my last post before I step away from blogging for a week (you can check out my blogs to see why) and what a great post to end on. So many great thoughts. I have been thinking so much about this lately, wondering how many people will take the rage they’ve felt this past week over the PETA controversy and direct it towards Washington (as Mel suggested). My guess is not many will and not because they don’t care, but for all the reasons you mentioned in your post.

    I for one am not so great about standing up against the people I know are wronging others. It takes incredible energy to do that and I don’t have incredible energy. I barely have enough energy to get through my day, let alone take down someone else’s.

    If I did decide to rage against someone, how would I even choose who to fight? The amount of things I want to change is endless. And since I can’t do them all, I don’t do any of them.

    A lame cop out to be sure.

    I think I’ll add this to my project. I hope to simplify my life and part of that will be finding really meaningful ways to spend my time. Activism should be one of those ways, I just need to find my cause.

    When I do, I’ll let you know.

    PS – Thanks for the shout out! And congrats on being quoted by Mel. That was an AWESOME quote, by the way.

  2. I didn’t know much about PETA before and jumped on the train writing about the campaign to get more people to sign the petition. I don’t know what’s right or wrong, I guess everyone has to do what feels right for themselves. Yes, PETA got more publicity but we are obviously a strong community when needed. That I think is awesome!

  3. What a thoughtful post. Though I somewhat agreed with what Mel said on Stirrup Queens, I still felt the need to vent on them, just for the sake of venting.
    In general, I’m not quite an “activist”. I used to be, but I’ve become quite cynical about it, and I’m no longer the type of person to go to rallies (though I admit, if I lived in the states, I would have totally gone to the “rally to restore sanity” and would be protesting to protect planned parenthood).
    I guess I’m just tired of activism in my own neck of the woods, but that is not to say that I don’t do it.
    I just do it in small bursts and random acts of kindness. Quietly, with volunteering my time when I have it, my advice when I have it, and a shoulder to cry on always for whoever needs it.
    I think that’s the balance. I think It’s important not to lose sight of what matters to us. No need to be martyrs. But I think we do need to be engaged.
    There’s a lot of “armchair” protesting going on in this day an age, and truly, I think that does nothing. When I do finally have my kids, I plan on instilling in them the spirit of social activism, at least to a degree, so that they understand that they can be vehicles for change.
    I think that if anything, use your activism as a way to instill values in your amazing kids, this way, you are not making those things mutually exclusive, and you are engaging your children in things that matter to you.

  4. Thank you for this post. I have been mulling over a lot of things since Mel’s post last night and I find your post a middle ground b/t the length to which I took this fight and what appears to be the other extreme as Mel sees it (was this in fact, worth it?). Still wrapping my brain around it all, but wanted to thank you just the same for posting here.

    I think as a community we get the “pick your battles” message, but at least from my perspective, yes – this is one of those battles to pick. And then capitalize on that energy to take those battles to our legislators. For a community that’s constantly feeling like we’re getting kicked while we’re down by the media, I think it’s good to have a confidence-building/awareness-raising movement like this. It inspires us to fight harder for the bigger battles.

    I’ve got more to say on this, but I need to think it through a little more. Great post; bookmarked to mull over more later today.

  5. Mel

    I think you raged against the right machine because you raged against the machine you needed to rage against. Does that make sense? It wasn’t about PETA entirely — it was a release of your anger. Could you have directed it otherwise, sure. But your gut didn’t tell you to do so, and you’re also standing in a place of retrospection.

    Living in DC, it is very easy to get swept up into the activism, sometimes at the sake of other things — work, family, etc. I tend to jump into activism when I can see the clear benefit — when if I do X, Y might happen. It’s easy for me to give up work time or family time and go to the Hill to talk to lawmakers for Resolve’s Advocacy Day because there is a clear benefit if we’re successful. I am more on the fence with something like PETA because I didn’t see the clear benefit. They removed the wording — but how did my life change? I still don’t have insurance coverage. I still have a messed up body. People still think ill-thoughts and hold misinformation about infertility. My life doesn’t look any different today than it did before this, mostly because I don’t think PETA really changed their mind about how they saw infertility; they merely took out the wording.

    BUT, I’m also stating the personal. I’ve already felt very powerful in speaking out about infertility. I don’t think there is any greater rush than sitting down with lawmakers and trying to change the world. I wasn’t going to get that feeling of power from this — and I knew that about myself personally. If I didn’t know that about myself, would I have made a different choice? Perhaps — because I feel that wresting back control and power is just as important as changing someone’s mind. I think it is healthy — emotionally healthy — to protest the PETAs of this world. It provides a release.

    So… yeah! A lot of complicated thoughts. But in the end, I do think you raged against the right machine.

  6. When I read this, and all the comments about it, I walked away to think about how I really felt and the question I came up with was,
    “Does anger have any value?”
    And I think the answer is yes, but only as a source of energy for change, not as a real mechanism for change. Anger is never what changes the world, because quite frankly anger is always the problem so more anger isn’t going to make the problem go away, no matter what the problem is. You can make people “stop” doing something but that doesn’t change them.
    What anger can do is get an individual to a point where they feel the “Enough!” feeling and begin to fix the real problem, communication/teaching.
    If people understood, really understood what it was like to want to have a child, from your body, from your history, from your dna and not be able to, they would never say the wrong thing, because they’d know in their bones what that pain was but they obviously don’t so “we” have to be willing to keep teaching it until “they” get it.
    The same is true of animals. If we knew what it was to feel what they feel, we’d treat them better. The same is true of gays and lesbians, of blacks and whites, of Jews and Muslims, whatever.. pick something that elicits anger. If “they” truly knew/felt/saw what it was to be that “other” thing, it would stop and all that would remain would be, “Oh. ” and “I love you.”
    The battle, if there is one to be fought, is one of convincing people to let the pain of “others” into their own hearts so they’re inclined to heal it, not scream at it.

  7. I so so relate to your comments about the loss of confidence and swagger and the loss of sunshine. ( could it partly be maturity?) Im sorry you feel this but so glad I’m not the only one. As for your advocacy question, I struggle with that as well and wish I had the answer.

  8. chhandita

    I feel that you need to feel about passionately something to be an activist. And who says you can have passion about only one thing?(I still havent read your PETA post, so cant comment on that) I believing in doing our bit. I gave up eating meat for 10 years (I started again when I lost too much weight after D’s birth) I taught at an orphanage before marriage. Mahatma Gandhi said something which has become my mantra “the power of one is to do something, anything” Thts the extent of my activism!

  9. chhandita

    Sorry about the typos ***sheepish grin***

  10. Pingback: My Adventurous Spirit: Channeling it into Advocacy | Too Many Fish to Fry

  11. GREAT post.

    I think the way to be an activist without “losing yourself” in advocacy is for it to be part of your life, rather than something you do on top of it. The things I am most active about are the things that I am living anyway, and in the communities where I live. And they are things where I involve my children, so that I’m teaching them my values as I’m acting on them. Environmental stewardship and local eating (we belong to a CSA where I took my son, and we are passionate about recycling … I’m also helping to start a charter school focused on sustainability), awareness that we are part of an interconnected web of human existence (my son and I did fundraisers for tsunami victims in japan), etc.

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