If you haven’t seen the YouTube clip of the bird at the Bernie Sanders rally in Portland yet, a) you are behind the times friend, catch up, that was like a week ago and b) here’s a link. Go watch it. It’s 2 minutes long. I’ll wait.
Did you cry? I did. I cry every time I see it. WHY? I don’t know. I really don’t know.
Maybe it’s something to do with how comfortable he is with being interrupted. The fact that, in the middle of an emphatic speech about higher education, he stops cold to find out what the fuss is about. He doesn’t plow on with his speech, trying not to get upstaged. He doesn’t fight to steer the crowd’s attention back to him. He doesn’t throw anyone out for being disruptive. He follows the audience’s lead, and then – then?
He laughs. He smiles and laughs.
Maybe it’s that I can’t imagine any other candidate in the running for presidential nominee this year, on either side, who would stop mid-sentence to just acknowledge and enjoy the absurdity of this tiny little sparrow joining the rally. I don’t think there’s anyone else in this race that would have stepped aside and let that moment happen.
Of course, Bernie is a politician just like the rest of them are. And naturally, as a politician, he starts formulating something smooth to say about it. Something that sounds symbolic and inspiring and probably supports his platform in the process –
AND THEN THE BIRD LANDS ON THE PODIUM.
I just. I can’t. That face says it all. What is happening? Is this real life? Why am I crying?
I think it’s because this year, of all years, is a scary one. Because the last several years have been hard on us all. I remember saying good riddance to 2014, convinced that it couldn’t get any shittier than that. Then came 2015, which upped the ante on Number Of Kicks In The Dick Within One Calendar Year. Personally and politically, those last two years have been eye-opening to say the least.
But 2016 is just utterly terrifying. I have never paid such close attention to politics in my life. Partially because, I believe, I am becoming more radicalized as I age. I am becoming more aware of the endless turning gears in the world and they myriad ways we can all get crushed between the cogs. Maybe things really are getting worse and more unfair than they have been before. Maybe our parents and grandparents did have it easier and they just don’t see how fucking hard it is to get by in this world, so my entire generation tries harder than ever and fails worse than ever and blames themselves for it the whole time. Maybe most of us who live in this country really are getting a raw deal. We’re actually getting taken advantage of, and told endlessly that it’s our fault for being fooled.
And we’re watching a certain orange-hued, combed-over politician bluster and bloviate his way to the top of the Republican dogpile. We’re hearing nothing but hate and oppression and violence, an overwhelming barrage of anger and disgust, and yet his numbers keep climbing. He keeps winning. We’re staring down the barrel of an era in this country that could actually destroy us. As much as we’ve hyperbolized in the past that this or that political movement would “ruin the country,” we’re now looking at a brewing situation that makes the fall of American civilization seem not only possible, but inevitable. And even beyond this one suit with a human-shaped turd in it… there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope out there. We’re wary of hope, now. We hoped before and we were ultimately disappointed. It seems like the best we can hope for is more of the same, that we need to just vote for the safe bet and hope we’re not sold out for less than a song. We’re tired, tired of fighting our hardest for a better future, tired of hearing over and over that it’s a pipe dream. We’re tired of demanding more of our leaders. We’re tired of holding out for something better. Most of the pieces I read from Hillary supporters start out with “I like Sanders and I agree with him, but…” But it’s a long shot. But we need to be realistic. It’s never gonna change. It can’t be done. Those who oppose us are too powerful, too entrenched, too obstructive. We can’t take the risk, not with so much on the line. We can’t dare to believe that the American people could stand together and defend our way of life. It’s over. We’re beaten. Lesser of two evils. Bootstraps. And in the middle of this howling hurricane of fear and heartbreak and anguish –
a little bird lands on the podium.
I don’t believe in miracles. I don’t believe in omens or portents. I don’t take this as a sign that Bernie Sanders is fated to become president and save the country from certain doom. Logically, I know that I’m already reading too much into this. That probably all of us are.
But it feels like a genuine moment of magic.
And, I dunno, that just makes me cry a little.
It also confirms my suspicions that @ProBirdRights on Twitter is real.
My brilliant friend Caitlyn posted this on her blog last week. It essentially posits the question, “Would more people be open to feminism if we simply called it something else?”
And I think… maybe? But is that really a good thing? Or more to the point, does that really mean we should call it something else?
Maybe this is a tinfoil-hat moment for me, but I think the hesitance to identify with feminism as a movement is an indicator of oppression. Think about it. Much in the way that a Muslim fears to identify as such in our society, for fear of being lumped in with terrorists and extremists by the average ignorant ass, so too do women fear identifying as feminists to avoid being lumped in with “a bunch of angry, unshaven man-haters.” I can almost hear the patriarchy going, “But you’re cool, right? You’re not one of those angry women, right? You’re not, like, one of those feminists who has a stick up her ass about rape jokes, are you?”
Why is it a bad thing for a woman to be angry? For that matter, why is it a bad thing for a woman to be unshaven? Or to have a stick up her ass, provided it’s her stick and she wants it there? Feminism, among many other things, is about a person’s right to not conform to stereotypes and expectations. And yet that nonconformity is used against us somehow, as proof of the invalidity of our stance. An angry, unshaven woman simply cannot be taken seriously.
So women who want to be taken seriously distance themselves from that image. And if the word “feminist” conjures up that image, then she’s not a feminist. Oh, no. That would wreck her credibility.
This is bullshit. Not because there are “I’m not a feminist – but” women out there; they are entitled to their choices, and frankly I can fully understand why they wouldn’t want to identify as a feminist if, for instance, it means she won’t be taken seriously in a professional setting or that she’ll catch hell from her male friends. The bullshit part is that there’s even a possibility she won’t be taken seriously, or that she’ll catch hell from her friends.
I mean, really. A majority of the population believes that there is an all-powerful man in the sky who personally created the universe and can’t wait to invite us to his really awesome party once we die; but it’s the folks who believe women and men should be treated equally that get the side-eye. Seriously?
As the article points out, we are “bending to the societal pressure that feminism is gauche.” Why? Why is feminism gauche? Why does it make so many people so uncomfortable? Is it because the word “feminist” conjures up images of angry, unshaven women, waving picket signs and shouting slogans? Is it because a feminist woman, by definition, will almost certainly not conform to your expectations of her? Is it maybe because a feminist woman breaks the rules, and we’ve been told that’s bad?
All this doesn’t even take into account the problems with being a feminist man. Is it really any wonder that society sees a feminist man as weak, effeminate, somehow lesser than his fellow man? Take a good look at the systematic way patriarchal society oppresses women, and tell me it’s a coincidence that those who speak out for the rights of women also get oppressed, laughed at, degraded, dismissed, made fun of. It’s all part of a system designed to keep the oppressed under the heel of the oppressor.
Right now, I am reading what I’ve just written and thinking to myself, “I sound like a loony conspiracy theorist nutbag.” And I think that’s part of the problem.
It’s like gaslighting, on a widespread societal scale. We’ve been conditioned not to trust ourselves; conditioned to question our anger, to mistrust our emotions. We abuse ourselves to save our abusers the trouble. We tiptoe around those in power, afraid to upset the status quo; afraid of the backlash bound to come our way if we stand up for ourselves. And when others point out how fucked up the situation is, we defend it. Oh, it’s not that bad, we say. Society’s just having a bad day.
Or century, maybe.
No, I don’t think we need to change the label. I think it’s more important than ever that we stick with feminism. I think it’s more important than ever that we stand up, have our say, make our voices heard – in the name of feminism. The more we fear to be connected with it, the more power we give to those who wish this whole feminism thing would just blow over. The more we hesitate to join ranks, the more power we give to those who believe women should “know their place.” Maybe they won’t take us seriously now… but if we don’t fight for equality, they won’t take us seriously ever.