This post applies specifically to feminism, but it also applies to other forms of progressive thinking. I'm aware of that. It's good to be aware of that. But right now, for this post, I'm going to focus on this idea as it pertains to feminism and sex/gender issues.
Today, speaking with a progressive friend, I was reminded of a discussion that I had with another progressive friend about the inability to just "forget" about social injustice. That is, you know when your friend didn't like that Avatar was blatantly racist and you told h/er to just relax, stop thinking about it, and enjoy the movie? And s/he said s/he couldn't? It also ties into the idea that these social injustices were once invisible to you, even as they were all around you; it's why that progressive friend of yours sees sexism in commercials when you don't.
Look, it's the Matrix. Okay? Take patriarchy, for example. It's the Matrix! It's a system of control. It's so widespread, that many people can't even see it. Some people benefit from it, and would do anything to preserve it. Others rebel, demand a choice, and refuse to be slaves or participants. And then the system does whatever it can to stamp out, vilify, and discredit those who would rebel and try to undermine the system.
I was just living my life, up through high school, sometimes feeling badly about myself for no reason, sometimes feeling uncomfortable about certain things for no reason. I knew it wasn't okay for me to be fat because then I'd never have a cute boyfriend or have sex, things that I knew were important because otherwise I didn't have much worth as a person. Never mind that this mindset made me unhappy. I knew that I was embarrassed when classmates would grab at my returned tests or homework assignments and say, "See, of COURSE you got an A!" as if it were a bad, shameful thing. I didn't like being a brain, although I didn't know what was wrong with it. I didn't understand why girls who didn't care so much about school and homework and grades were the ones who the boys liked better. I thought it was weird, but I didn't know why it was like that.
Sometime in college, I took the red pill, to continue this Matrix analogy. It wasn't that I'd been TOTALLY happy thus far and then SUDDENLY could see all this injustice. If I had been so satisfied, and I felt as if everything was right in the world, I probably never would have taken the opportunity to be given the choice of the red or blue pill. But I was there, and I made my choice: I was going to take these classes and see what would happen.
It wasn't pleasant. It's never all that pleasant. Plenty of people are proud of their alma maters, but I'm not; I know how they treat rape victims. I used to enjoy watching Family Guy; now I don't find it funny. And while I know that whether or not I have a boyfriend says nothing about who I am as a person, or about my worth to society, or about the validity of my opinions, I'm painfully aware that a lot of other people, and a lot of men especially, think so. I know that rape victims are not complicit in their own violation, and so I live with the knowledge of that helplessness.
Being able to recognize and understand is often painful. But I can't just forget everything. I can't go back to how things were. And I don't really want to. Those of us who've taken the red pill? We're like Neo; it's impossible for us to see the patriarchy as anything other than a construct designed to control people and make so many of them miserable. You might just see a commercial for jewelry, but we can see that the whole thing is made up of patriarchy, in the same way that Neo sees the numbers and symbols of the Matrix.