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?