Anne T. Donahue is a writer and person from Cambridge, Ontario. Her first book, Nobody Cares, comes out with ECW in September 2018, and you can hear her on CBC Q every Tuesday morning talking about pop culture. She writes a weekly newsletter, That’s What She Said, and is currently developing a podcast with eOne. You can read her work on Flare, FASHION Canada, Cosmopolitan, The Globe and Mail, i-D, Nylon, and Refinery29 among others, or you can follow her on Twitter where she has opinions about everything.
Pop culture is the biggest gateway/jumping off point into bigger conversations. Anne was a pop culture obsessive freak as a kid/teen and assumed her encyclopaedic knowledge of groups like Spice Girls or movies like Titanic would be pointless (which brought her to panic and force herself into jobs and careers she didn’t want). Anne explains that actually, almost any realm of pop culture can serve as a point of reflection on our social and political landscape.
An example of how Anne may examine this? Looking at how artists like Harry Styles, Justin Bieber, and Drake have redefined the roles of men in pop music and helped usher in themes of vulnerability and inclusivity to dismantle the myth of male masculinity.
With the commodification of feminism and the rise like social media movements like #MeToo, it’s important to re-evaluate our own complicity in the pitfalls of feminism. Feminism has a history of exclusivity in excluding women of colour, queer women, and trans women — a trend that’s continued as recently as the Women’s March. We’ve also come to see feminism as something we can sell — slogan t-shirts, merchandise, #SquadGoals. But real power comes in the admission of one’s own role in maintaining damaging norms — to look at yourself, your friends, your social circles, and to ask what you could be doing differently to check your own privilege. Are you sitting down and listening when women of colour speak to their experiences? Are you acknowledging the systemic misogyny you may have engaged in? We can all spur change, but real changes come from within. Engaging your community and asking what you can do better is more powerful than buying a t-shirt or propelling “feminist” as a buzzword — there’s work to do, and you can do it!
Power looks different for every person, and because of that, the work you can do to help your community will look different than somebody else’s. Power also looks like accountability, and it’s about owning who you are and the best/worst parts of you, but also recognizing what you can do better. “Empowerment” is a watered-down buzzword, but we can reclaim it through acts of power: advocate for yourself, advocate for communities that need you, lend your platform to those who don’t have one, learn to listen, and learn to apologize. Power is pointless if you don’t share it or ensure everyone has an equal amount.
Everything is terrible! Let’s start by acknowledging that! Nothing feels sure, everything feels up in the air, and it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do/like you are doomed to live with your Mom and Dad forever. So let’s acknowledge the reality: yes, everything feels bad because the realities of our world are bad. But if we’re zeroing in on your own experiences, remember: everyone else feels terrible too. The thing about being a living person is that no one has it figured out — we’re all participants in a misery marathon — but that’s fine! It means you’re alive!
So figure out what you want to do — what do you REALLY want to do? Even if it’s unrealistic, remember that the most exciting jobs usually start with a dream. Then, figure out what you need to do to fund it. You’re not a failure if you’re working in a field you don’t love to keep your dream alive. No one is looking at you, no one is judging you, nobody cares. They’re just trying their best. Plus, failure — like success — is a myth! It’s subjective! It’s dangerous! So instead of asking whether you’re successful, ask if you’re happy, ask if you’re challenging yourself, ask if you’re keeping your eyes on your own paper. Recognize whether you’re doing work because you love it or because you’re being spurred by competition (and if it’s the latter, check yourself). You will never have it all figured out, you will keep evolving and changing over time — I didn’t start writing until I was 25, and even this speaking thing is brand new.
We’re all multi-faceted and complex and complicated. Changing your mind is par for the course, and as long as your decisions aren’t hurting anybody (or yourself), own the shit out of it.