Disengaging From The News Cycle Is A Privilege I Don’t Have

I've always considered myself to be someone who's tuned into culture. Growing up, I watched the evening news with my parents diligently and read everything about every current affairs topic I could get my hungry little hands on.
With the dawn of social media, my connectedness with local and global events as a teenager increased tenfold, much like everyone else my age. I prided myself on being someone who knew what was happening, when and to whom. And then, as much as I could, I would try to do something about it: Repost. Write. Discuss. Share. Read.
But as I grew up and moved further into adulthood — and into womanhood, more specifically — something started to change. Whenever I saw a depressing news headline as I scrolled on my phone, my first instinct was to shy away from it.
I couldn't face the fact that more women were dying at the hands of their partners. My heart ached for the female Indigenous voices that are continually being silenced. That trans women were being vilified and threatened. I didn't want to see, hear or feel any more pain than I already knew women face every day.

As a young queer woman of colour, I've gotten to the point where I expect to hear so much heartbreaking news about my communities, why would I want more?

When I shared this with my friend, she asked me if it was because I was experiencing compassion fatigue, which is something that young adults have become more susceptible to. The mental exhaustion that comes from hearing one bad news story after another means that many people stop wanting to engage with it altogether to protect their peace.
I thought about it. And while I'm sure my weariness with the news cycle doesn't help, I've realised it's deeper than that. As a young queer woman of colour, I've gotten to the point where I expect to hear so much heartbreaking news about my communities, why would I want more? The narrative never changes: Assaulted, mocked, or dead. Sometimes I just feel helpless hearing about the atrocities and injustices that don't seem to ever end differently, despite people reporting them over and over again.
But where exactly is the so-called 'peace' we get from ignoring the terrible things that happen to women? Is it lurking in our denial, safe until the terrible thing we're trying to ignore happens to us? What happens to our peace then, when we become the headline? Does not staying in touch with other women's problems make us bad feminists?
Where I've come to is that if something makes any woman unsafe, then it needs to matter to me, too. There is a perceived luxury in being able to turn off the news or avert our eyes from the headlines, so they no longer have any hold over us. But, ultimately, we can't run from the reality and challenges of being a woman in this society, and it is a privilege we need to check if we are able to turn off the news and still feel peace.
Not only does staying on top of what is affecting women in society serve me and my values, but it also helps me to inform the men, and other women, in my life who might not be as in touch as I am able to be. My digital literacy and my presence in youth culture mean that I'm in a special position where I can impart knowledge and understanding to the people in my life — particularly those from different generations.
Just the other day, I phoned my Dad and brought up a news article I had read, and it became a beautiful moment of learning for him about the female experience and our daily struggles. It's a topic that he wouldn't have otherwise known about, and at the end of the conversation, he sincerely thanked me for letting him know and promised to pass that knowledge along to others whenever he could. My heart swelled with gratitude and pride.
I've also learned that there is a difference between getting comfortable with being uncomfortable when reading about hard (and often horrible) things, and being completely burnt out. One of the many things we should be concerned about is our mental health — and if certain news stories are distressing us to a point where we are no longer serving others or more importantly, taking care of ourselves, then we absolutely need to take a break and put anxiety management techniques in place.
The difference between taking breaks for our sanity and ignoring reality altogether comes down to the fact that we're living and breathing it every day. Watching the news is exhausting, yes, but we're even more tired from experiencing it.
It's certainly taxing; the feminine urge to stay alive and well. It is messy and painful and disheartening, but I believe it is our responsibility to not turn our backs on the things that make us uncomfortable. I say, let's feel the sadness and follow it to the rage, and then the rage to the action, and never let it up.

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