Hi there. If you clicked on this article, chances are, you are feeling some way about it, right now. That’s right, I’m talking to you: a girl who feels way too much, too often. Perhaps also, we should throw in there, a girl who feels like that’s wrong? Or embarrassing? Or uncool?
You love big. You hate big. You have opinions about everything and everyone at all times. You’re the first hand in the air in class when the teacher asks a question, and you’re the last one to leave that event you painstakingly planned for your student organization. You are literally everyone’s worst nightmare whenever you open your mouth because just….no one cares as much as you do, it seems.
My god, it is exhausting.
I’m sure you’ve tried to clamp it down. You’ve tried to play it cool, work through your excitement about the fact that Burger King has the Veggie burgers now, and you can unproblematically stan since they’re the only fast food company that doesn’t support Trump. No one wants to hear about it, girl! Just keep it inside.
One can imagine how irritating and frustrating that level of excitement bottled up can get. Overdramatic, over-emotional girls tend to do well on Youtube and reality TVs– as long as they’re white. Women of color are persecuted for having opinions, told to be “less emotional” so that they are better perceived. This leads to firey women dampening themselves, losing self-esteem– and worst of all– not contributing in whatever space they are. This is harmful to the overall discussion on intersectional feminism, growth, and a woman’s well-being.
We see this in the media, as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is portrayed as a “dreamer” of a woman, accusing her of setting Feminism back for her emotional approach to politics. Public opinion of a highly opinionated, emotional woman is to try to cram her back into her neat little box. People are uncomfortable when women of color are exorbitant, intellectually challenging, and aren’t afraid of expressing themselves. In the most extreme– but unfortunately common– of cases, emotions from WOC, especially black women, can be perceived as dangerous. We consistently hear public opinion turn against the “angry black woman” and “emotional brown woman.” Especially in South Asian circles, we try to assimilate into the white space and are made out to be annoying when we are not poised and quiet. It would be easier to accept us if white people could perceive us this way. Perhaps they could look past our skin color if we kept our mouths shut– and mainstream South Asian diaspora seems to lean into this idea.
While some emotional people turn into artists, we still can’t seem to accept emotions as a valid part of other sects of the world. Hell, I know women who get emotional about financial literacy, but they have to play it cool so they are taken seriously. It gets frustrating for that reason. The more angry, emotional, upset, or loud you are, the less everyone wants to believe you or in you. A calm white Feminist is a much better image than an angry woman of color– so much more pleasant to look at.
But social justice work isn’t about being pleasant. It isn’t about getting people to move without having to pull teeth to get anywhere with progress. Sometimes, it’s about finding a place to match your energy. And sometimes, that place might not be where you are. Sometimes, in order to get things to move, you might have to move first.
I thought I would have to spend my whole life around apathetic people. I don’t. And neither do you. Surprise, surprise: being political is dope! And there are people who genuinely believe so!
But no one wants to be the girl who makes her organization uncomfortable with her big emotions. And while I’m telling you that you are perfect the way that you are, and there are spaces that will accept you, you might not be able to reach them as quickly as you’d like. So, here are five tips on coping with apathetic or supposedly “cool” people, when you’re stuck in that kind of space:
Address the situation
Does the situation call for immediate action? Are you being mocked or bullied for your views? And if so, is there a way to discuss things privately with whomever is making you feel inadequate or badly? Take some time– but don’t overanalyze, like I know you will– to think about this. It’s worth discussing with your trusted friends, allies in the group, and mentors to see what they have to say.
Use systems in place to make things work
As Feminists living in a patriarchal world, we always need to find a way through the systems to do revolutionary action. This might feel like a big sentiment to apply to a situation where you’re made to feel inadequate, but the most revolutionary thing you can do is make small, systematic changes where you are. Are there systems in place which protect you, should you take the reporting route? Does your organization address tolerance and anti-isolation within its structures? Operate within the policies first, and see what you can manage to accomplish. Sometimes, it might just take a quick word with your higher up to achieve serenity between yourself and your teammates.
Call out the behavior
A lot of times, being perceived as emotional can be toxic to your mental health. Other times, it can be a tactic to mask actual violence. We’ve all had experiences with (mostly) men calling us emotional and trying to dampen our voices by invalidating us so that they can mask their own vile actions. This happens so often in organizations, especially with men sitting in chairs of power. It might be in everyone’s best interest if you call out the action. Ask “why can’t I make things political, when we’re talking about politics? It sounds like you’re gaslighting me” or “I hear the discomfort in your voice when you tell me that I’m too emotional. Exactly what about my opinion makes you feel that way?” Strategically block oppressive behavior by calling out this toxic behavior.
As I mentioned, and as you know, being perceived as intimidating, or too emotional, can make you feel invalidated. You might think that you need to be softer, more feminine, less aggressive. No. Practice self-care, journal, take time for yourself to deepen your thoughts and analysis and love yourself for it. No one has a brain like yours. It’s truly a pleasure, and you should take the time to enjoy it. It’s always satisfying to finish up a cute journal full of all of your angry ramblings!
Leave the space
Sometimes, you just have to go. If nothing is working, if you are frustrated all the time, and if nothing is working to ease the tension between yourself and your teammates, friends, or family, it might be in your best interest to leave. Physically leave that space. Because like I said, there are spaces that will welcome you with open arms, whether that be international women’s rights organizations comprised of mostly women, poetry slams, or art shows, there are people who feel just as much as you do. And in those spaces? It’s honestly the coolest thing in the world to be this way.