I’m working on a book right now. Yeah, yeah. I’m 28. I have no grad degrees. I don’t know anything. But whatever. Younger, dumber people with less to say have written books. I’m not letting any of that stop me.
It’s tentatively titled Free-Market Feminism. When I go around promoting it, I’m going to quip, “Because I want everyone to hate me.”
I’ve been thinking about that lately. For a while now I’ve felt such pride over the iconoclastic stances I like to take. Oooh, I’m such a badass. And it’s true that I could get a lot more encouragement and adulation if I did more telling people what they want to hear and a lot less telling people that they’re wrong. But that’s dreadfully boring to me. And I think that telling people what they already think is true is ultimately completely and totally pointless.
However, today I got in one more Twitter fight about feminism. What a terrible brand, right? Why have I taken up a banner pretty much everyone hates? And I suddenly remembered that this has always kind of been my thing. First I was a hardcore Evangelical Christian. Then I grew out of that fervor and got a little more niche and into something even more people hated: I became a libertarian. Then, when that was just too mainstream I became an AnCap. Then when that got boring I decided to re-up on my feminism and add sex-positivity into the mix.
It’s hard to for me to keep in mind about myself, but the reality is that there are less-than-flattering reasons all this appeals to me. Part of it is me not feeling like I’m smart/informed/talented enough to compete in the mainstream. I’ve got big fish, little pond syndrome. I feel like I have so little power. I can’t do anything about the GOP, so I try to make libertarianism more appealing to women and minorities. I can’t do anything about the sexism in the culture at large, so I try to make feminism more useful and appealing.
I dismiss efforts to be liked with lacking courage, integrity, or intellectual rigor and pat myself on the back for doing the hard work of taking all the hate I get for my stances instead of getting lauded by the masses for telling them what they already believe.
But it’s not generally actually that hard for me to let criticisms roll off my back and speak my mind on what I believe. I’ve never been one to cave to social pressure. I’ve never much sought popularity.
And how lazy is it to lump all attempts at likability into the same category?
There are difficult, useful, important methods of message packaging of which I really need to consistently avail myself. Positive framing, humility, patience, kindness, self-control, giving people the benefit of the doubt, assuming good intentions aren’t lazy or useless. For me, they’re incredibly difficult a lot of the time. For me, I too often snap to cynicism, condescension, impatience, judgment, and negativity. And for someone trying to do something as difficult as changing hearts and minds, they’re absolutely essential.
It’s like, almost too painful to think about the fact that I’ve made it my mission in life to package and sell ideas and yet I’m still so bad at it. How do you look yourself squarely in the eye, see everything you do wrong, how often and badly you fail, and still be able and willing to get up and try again? That Evangelical Christian I used to be? I absolutely hate her. She was completely and totally unaware of how her preaching to others about how they should live came off, and how many people she alienated with her holier-than-thou attitude. And to top it all off, she was wrong! She had no idea how others should live.
It’s a difficult thing to face that if I’m lucky enough to survive, and lucky enough to grow as a person, I will likely hate who I am now. There are lots of things I’m likely totally wrong about, and lots of people I’m alienating for no damn reason. Newsflash to me: That I was a stupid, racist, ignorant asshole when I was a Republican does not necessarily mean they all are too. I’ve got a holier-than-thou attitude a lot of the time and guess what? At the end of the day, I still have no idea how others should live.
Libertarianism was supposed to fix that preachy impulse in me. The best part about it is the humility it gives us to admit that we don’t know what’s best for anyone else. But then I decided I knew how libertarians should live. The irony is not lost on me.
Self-awareness is fucking hard, man. I’m working on a book right now, the purpose of which is to advise people. But if I sit down to think about it, I remember that I have no idea what anyone should do, least of all me.
And yet, I do have a few things to say. I did learn something from my journey. And if I don’t get started on putting those lessons to some kind of use until I actually know what I’m doing, in ten years instead of hating who I was, I’ll still be her.
And fuck that shit for sure.