Please Don’t Get Lost In Fiction—People Need You
While it might feel like the election was ages ago, it’s been just over a month. Time can feel exaggerated when one is dealing with the wide spectrum of thoughts and feelings surrounding not only the implications of men like Donald Trump and Mike Pence winning the election, but also the rising normalization and acceptance of state propaganda, fascism, and white supremacy as some “other side of the coin.” In this reality, unfortunately, there is no one correct answer for where we go from here. This sort of quasi-hopelessness, particularly for those immediately terrified for themselves or others, is often dealt with through escape into fictional texts. It’s a healthy way of coping, until it’s not.
TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, collections of books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and nostalgic, colorful animated movies (Disney or otherwise) have become increasingly popular in our new reality in which Trump is President-Elect of the United States. People use fiction to cope with anxiety and depression all the time, so it should come as no surprise that people would do the same after the still-shocking election results.
Escaping into fiction is just one of many ways to practice self-care, which, across the board, is so important! That last part can’t be stressed enough. As Anita Sarkeesian said in a video posted shortly after the election:
“Waking to a new day, after a long and sleepless night, many of us are still in deep shock and in a deep state of mourning. And we must give ourselves permission to grieve.”
It bears repeating that it’s been a month since Trump won the Electoral College. Activists and marginalized people, in particular, need to take time to care for themselves. In the immortal words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”
There should be zero shaming of people who are utilizing fiction, or any other healthy coping strategy, as a means for healing—because what could have possibly been organized within this short timeframe that would strategically have been able to deal with Trump and Pence, their team, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and uncritical, dependent mainstream media? Better yet, what would punishing ourselves have done for the movement in the long run? Would our pain, sadness, fear, and anger have helped or hindered us? Ultimately, we’ll never know. But, in the meantime, there’s certainly no evidence to suggest that people taking time for themselves has become either excessive or reductive.
So enjoy all the books, comics, anime, manga, TV shows, movies, video games, albums and soundtracks that you need. You can take self-care many steps further, beyond consuming media, and you probably should. A particularly great list of self-care advice comes from Everyday Feminism. They suggest the following: disengage from social media when you need to, “Treat Yourself Like You Would Your Bestie Who’s Going Through A Breakup,” get rid of any triggering news apps, stay home from parties that might feature extensive political/sociological conversations, and give yourself permission to say “No.”
There’s much more, though, and many self-care practices require little more than a drop of self-love and compassion, and some effort, scheduling, and commitment. Turn off your Internet for a set amount of time. Give yourself free time. Go for walks. Spend time with people who make you happy. Eat regularly and drink lots of water. Get plenty of sleep. And most importantly, let yourself be a person, not just an activist, and let yourself feel.
“But once we grieve, then we fight,” Sarkeesian continues in her aforementioned video. One of the tragic realities of life as a marginalized person is that it’s mostly up to you and people who look like you and come from the same backgrounds as you to fight for your rights and lives. You’d be hard-pressed to find any movement for equity that was for one community but was led and powered by people from another community. If we retreat to fiction and self-care, and never come back, we miss out on our potential to participate and make change. While there are some of us who are unable to participate in activism because of ability, lack of resources, etc., the rest of us must try and do what we can—not only for ourselves, but for those who need us.
It’s an unfair burden, and yes, I mean unfair—because the whole “life isn’t fair thing” usually only applies to people complaining about inequalities that literally make life a living hell. But unfortunately, our choices are slim. We can join the fight, watch from the sidelines and hope for the best, or check out entirely. While joining the fight can be anything between inconvenient to intimidating to life-threatening, there are, thankfully, countless ways to help.
It’s also worth noting that at some point, we should transition (partially, but not fully) to non-fictional work in times of oppression. It’s the work produced by and about the people who will be most affected by a Trump/Pence administration that can help us understand best. That means going out of your way to buy and partake in creations by marginalized people.
There are mountains of texts about the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, the Holocaust, and other global oppressions that we’re not accurately taught in school—or are taught only through white supremacist, Eurocentric lenses that avoid and skew the truth. There’s Assata: An Autobiography, the story of Assata Shakur—a Black Panther, target of J. Edgar Hoover, and prisoner in a white nationalist society that attempted to silence and destroy her. There’s Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a heartbreaking letter from a black father to his adolescent son which explores awakening to the painful, bigoted realities of living in this world when you’re not white. There’s The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, which explains how white supremacy was never defeated as history would have us believe, but instead has evolved with the times. There’s Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, which offers a look at 21st century, intersectional feminism that is not perfect, pretty, or white, and does not only concern itself with issues of sex and gender. These are only four among a list that could go on nigh-forever.
It’s understandable that people would turn to meaningful fictions in a time of mental, emotional, and spiritual need, but seeking comfort in these media has to stop somewhere. Using fictions can help steel your resolve when you feel defeated or hopeless. But it’s all too easy for people to forget in the warmth and safety of adoration for their favorite stories that very real work has to be done. And we don’t want to lose you.
image via Shutterstock
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Jayson Flores is: Gay on a Budget founder & editor, Aries/Taurus cusp, bigender, Latinx, vegan, femme person, and the biggest Buffy fan you know. Now writing for Bustle, PRIDE, Everyday Feminism, and The Rumpus. Passionate, deeply feeling, sometimes angry, mostly emotional. Wants to make people feel less lonely in the world. Follow them on Twitter @gayonabudget.
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