There was a time, when I was young and irritating, when I refused to make my New Year’s resolutions in time for December 31st. Not for me the cleansing strains of Auld Lang Syne, I used to make my New Year’s resolutions on June 30th: the end of the financial year. There was something about looking over my bank statements (weeping, usually) that was a great grounding in What To Do Differently Next Time.
In thinking about alternative New Years, it struck me that feminist New Year is really March 8th: International Women’s Day. Long after the first day of the year, long past when it’s socially acceptable to put air quotes around the “new” in “Happy ‘New’ year!”, well beyond your fading memories of that not-so-great New Year’s kiss, this is the perfect time to take stock and prepare for the fight ahead of us.
Because, let’s face it, the burnout is real. I once started seeing a psychologist, ostensibly to deal with some nagging anxiety issues, and spent nearly every session talking about feminism, feminist journalism, other feminists, drama in feminist Facebook groups… you get the picture. Who on earth is ready to set the tone for the year ahead by January 1st? NOT ME.
So, with that in mind, here are some suggestions for your Feminist New Year’s Resolutions when the clock strikes twelve on March 8th:
Read And Listen Widely
In this era of easy access to think pieces and hot takes, it’s very easy to fall into a feminist echo chamber where a handful of loud voices dominate the conversation. (She says, loudly.) The information age is no excuse for becoming intellectually lazy: attend readings, go to conferences, borrow books from the library, scour zines and listen to podcasts in order to expose yourself to a diverse range of feminists and feminist opinions. Mass media liberal feminists prefers a monolithic feminism (typically middle class, white, straight, able bodied and centrist); don’t let them win. Engage with feminisms that confront, excite and challenge you.
Don’t Erase The Past
As certain texts become “problematic”, it can be tempting to expunge them from the record. “I’m never reading/watching/listening to [x] ever again!”, we cry as we toss them onto the slag heap of history. But if the Bad Texts disappear… how do we explore what makes them bad? How do we move forward in attempting not to repeat the mistakes of the past?
Be A Feminist Filmgoer
If you’re going to complain about things like #OscarsSoMale, make sure you back that up by seeking out films written and directed (and shot, and edited, and designed…) by women and gender diverse filmmakers. It’s too easy to talk the talk without walking the walk into the box office and handing over $10-25 (depends on the day of the week) to support films that aren’t tales of Great White Men made by Average White Men. Consider pledging to feminist film crowdfunding campaigns. Let your Netflix queue, iTunes rentals and eBay shopping sprees reflect your mission, too, and support independent film festivals with a focus on diverse filmmaking. Sign up for a Letterboxd account and set yourself a weekly viewing challenge, like #52FilmsByWomen.
Embrace The Mess
Next time you eat a microwave dinner, watch a crappy reality TV show, or enjoy a hair metal track, do so without stopping to ask yourself “Is this okay to like, As A Feminist?” Choice Feminism (the idea that anything becomes a feminist act if you, a feminist, do it) is exhausting and unhelpful, and it is also so yesterday. Life is complicated; just go with it.
Question Consumerist Feminism
You only need to visit your local high street chain to know that feminism, or at least feminist catchphrases, has become a big seller. From t-shirts to tote bags to pencil cases to lipstick names, Feminism™ is on sale for $19.99, but what are the implications of fast fashion chains pumping out gear that carries a feminist message? (And don’t start me on the ideological issues inherent in putting a newborn baby in a “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” onesie…) Extend your feminist values to include ethical fashion, and let your politics do the talking, not your glitter-stamped t-shirt. Buy your slogan tees from small businesses online, or better yet, get a blank t-shirt from an ethical supplier and make your own!
Exercise For Fun And Strength
For women especially, the gym –or pool or running track or bike– can be a charged space; it can be so hard to see exercise as anything other than what we are socialised to understand it is (i.e. a way to reduce ourselves). In your Feminist New Year, find ways to reconnect with the joy of exercise as play: join a netball team, try a self-defense class, go for a stroll or roll around the park, put on your flippers and goggles and swim underwater like a mermaid. You don’t need me to tell you about the mental and emotional health benefits of exercise again: take the stress and burden of feminist activism and leave it on the basketball court.
Why not take the money you save from not buying chain store femmo slogan tees and put it towards a good cause? Helping feminist organisations—like the Victorian Women’s Trust!—organise, publicise and advocate for feminist causes isn’t just a way to get a tax deduction come July 1st, it’s a great way to ensure the good fight can be fought until Feminist New Year rolls around again in 2019.