Bad Activist

Monday, September 3, 2018 - 6:00pm

Originally performed at Yoni Ki Baat.

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The existence of a woman of color is in and of itself an act of resistance.

These are my words. Sound nice don’t they? Sound… empowering?

Or maybe it sounds like the faux-deep mantra of a girl who’s trying to convince herself that she’s a good social justice activist.

It may sound like beautiful words that give an accurate reflection of what it means to be a woman of color, but to me… it sounds like an excuse.

It was my excuse when my parents commented on how I was leaving a STEM field when I switched majors, a field that is historically unkind to people who aren’t male or white. In retaliation, I showed them statistics about the number of non-white female producers in television and film. Shonda Rhimes and Mindy Kaling are big names, but they are still only two names, I said. I’d be helping to pioneer a path for other girls if I pursued my Communication Studies major, I said.

It still didn’t stop me from feeling like a hypocrite after all the impassioned speeches I’d given about women in STEM.

The existence of a woman of color is in and of itself an act of resistance.

It sounds like a way to allow all women of color to participate in social justice without some of the pitfalls of the “social justice” community, but to me… it sounds like an excuse.

It was my excuse whenever someone asked why I wasn’t attending a protest or signing a petition. I’d explain how there are many different forms of activism, and that I participated in what I could when I could. I’d explain how I wasn’t really a ‘slacktivist’ because I was doing the little things in my day to day life like instigating dialogues with people who are unaware of their privilege. Or engaging in conversations with my white male housemates about issues women of color face.

It still didn’t stop me from feeling like a fraud every time I was too burnt out to educate and advocate.

The existence of a woman of color is in and of itself an act of resistance.

It sounds like a lovely way to support women of color with whatever they choose to do but to me… it sounds like an excuse.

It was my excuse whenever a friend asked why I engaged with anything problematic. The Marvel movies don’t have great representation, but Tess Thompson just showed up in Thor 3, I’d claim. My favorite K-pop group getting international fame is breaking cultural barriers, despite the occasional cultural appropriation, I’d insist. Wearing makeup isn’t for anyone else, but for me, I’d cry. If I can only participate in things that are ethical and moral and just, then I won’t get to enjoy anything at all, I’d argue.

It didn’t stop me from feeling like a liar any time I’d get called out for my interests and hobbies

But as much as I may feel like a hypocrite, a fraud, a liar, I resist white supremacy and the patriarchy by choosing to exist and learn and grow and thrive.

The problem with the existence of a woman of color being an act of resistance is that it is my very existence that is questioned and policed and entirely undermined. My existence does not only reflect my own self but is then forced to reflect anyone who looks remotely like me. I am not allowed to simply exist, but I do anyway. I take up space, physical and vocal. I smile when I am happy, cry when I’m sad, rant when I’m angry, eat when I’m hungry and rest when I’m tired. I support other women of color. I try to be a good ally and a better activist.

The existence of a woman of color is in and of itself an act of resistance.

It’s not an excuse — it’s my battle chant.

Because I resist to exist.

Because I exist and I have no choice but to resist.

Because I am a woman of color.

I exist.

I resist.