That’s why neoliberalism primarily targets women. If you don’t stay positive, and neither do I, who is going to maintain the order?
I haven’t written in a while. But today, I am jumping back into writing because I must write on this subject. I want to stop this show that keeps repeating itself daily and reclaim my right to be unhappy.
We are living in an era where the sole objective in life is to be happy, and unhappiness is seen as a disease or a disability; where it is advised that you give all you’ve got to be happy as the self-help books are crying out “you and your feelings firstttt”. Recently, unhappiness has been outlawed until further notice. It’s mandatory to show off my possessions, experiences, food, accomplishments until I drive others crazy. I am beautiful every day, and I smile every day; I share photos of me and my colleagues having coffee. My hair never gets static, I couldn’t have cared less about my gas bill, and I don’t go crazy at the sight of the incomprehensible order I see in the world. I am sticking to the best diet for myself, staying fit and keeping up with my training schedule, and consuming the ideal amount of protein. Injustice? I don’t care about that, keep the negative thoughts away. I am in a perfectly stable relationship full of love. Fighting? Never, we never raise our voices, soulmates don’t yell at each other. Our unique relationship is free of all the roles assigned to women and men in this world that is steeped in gender inequality to its bones. We are equals for sure, he is a great father; he will be the ideal one when he starts throwing his boxers in the laundry basket.
You didn’t expect me to be happy on my own, it is a full-on performance that stands the daily affirmation of others. Everyone is a warden of another and tells what needs to be done to be happy. In hundreds of cells lined up next to each other, everyone is the warden of their neighbor, everyone is an overseer, but in fact, everyone is a prisoner. It is a massive dictatorship of happiness.
We, the women −modern society’s favorite minority to lay down its burdens− are at stake in this dictatorial regime. I don’t think that men are as concerned to be happy, to love themselves or to be fit. On the other hand, to fulfill a fundamental need such as loving ourselves, women must travel a lightyear’s distance. This dictatorial regime of happiness not only diversifies methods of oppression but also adds an uncountable number of items of what/how we need to be. There is another thing we must keep up with, the feeling of adequacy is a goal that we strive towards but never can reach. The feminist concepts theorized to pave women’s way to freedom are modified only to blur the image of a classical women. They enter as a new item on our never-ending to do list.
I should be a “strong woman” but I should be in a relationship that is proof of that I am still a woman; I should be heterosexual –that’s not even up for discussion–, my relationship should always be full of love (ups and downs are for those who cannot manage their relationships); I should make a conscious decision to become a mother (and not over-want to become one) and praise all that made me capable of feeling this unworldly sentiment. If not? No matter if I have conquered the world, when I return home, I am criticized for not having found the one, someone to open the door to my house, and considered unsuccessful. Therefore, society’s to-do/to-be list for us is ever more extensive than what it used to be. I should not only make my own yoghurt at home but also focus on my career; not only have a firm body but also have enough inner peace to stop me from complaining. I should buy the cheese from the organic market, give a good blow job to my husband, and spend “quality” time with my child and, naturally, be happy about the agglomeration of all this. Did I just say I am not happy? Then, the “problem lies with me” or, at least, it’s none of their problem.
I don’t know about you, but the “idea of an undamageable perfect life” where unhappiness, anxiety, melancholia, or depression are not allowed is insufferable to me. The rule is to stay positive; you have to say the glass is somewhat full even when you are staring at an empty one. The current order puts an empty glass in front of you but surrounds you with people who do not want to hear that the glass is empty. Did I see the glass empty? There comes the feeling of inadequacy; why don’t you try to improve yourself a little, read those books recommended, set your boundaries. OK, have you set your boundaries? Then, love yourself, the world; look in the mirror, you are unique; but don’t forget to lose some weight or earn money well.
This is the working principle of the vicious circle. It’s as if we are running, running, running like hamsters in a wheel, but reaching nowhere. We try to move forward in the linear narration of life of the modern era, but we don’t really think about what that way stipulates or where it ends. We believe that everything is related to our personal efforts and everyone else (except for us) is very happy. It is repeated over and over again that our unhappiness is rooted in us, and that’s why we are constantly failing to learn how to live a happy life, fall short from reaching the ultimate goal of being happy (due to our own shortcomings) and try to survive in this dictatorship where unhappiness is like a one-way ticket to one’s death socially.
Truth, causality, context, dialectics and meaning dissolve in this delirium for happiness. These days where pursuing happiness is the sole meaningful act, we are desperately trying to replace meaningful things with being happy, question ourselves each day but find no answers, and get exhausted from this void of meaning. Perhaps it is a brand-new act of resistance (that I found) to think about granting meaning to life, recognizing its multipolar and relative nature, its capacity to contain multiple realities, and to stubbornly belabor the point that happiness can only exist alongside unhappiness. I have grown tired of pushing myself to fit in the “endless happy days” portrait instead of owning unhappiness.
That’s why neoliberalism primarily targets women. If you don’t stay positive, and neither do I, who is going to maintain the order? Who can keep up with vacuuming the floors, doing the laundry, cooking, earning money, attending to the children and “drinking coffee as a reward”? Is it really possible “not to continually praise life for all it has given you” and not revolt against a world where you are not safe at work, on the bus, in traffic or on the street? Can we “pretend we are equals” in this world owned by and designed for men, where we are taunted with the notion that we are not their equals, terrorized and intimidated on a daily basis. We make the world go round here, therefore we need to be convinced that we are happy above anyone else.
Loudly vocalizing unhappiness implies the responsibility to own the truth. Unhappiness is the clearest indication that things must change. That’s why Virginia Woolf positioned herself on this truth from the very beginning: “A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life.”
I want to reclaim my right to be unhappy. I am advocating for a virtuous unhappiness against a mass of people who run away from me when I talk about unhappiness – as if I am stricken with the plague. I refuse to digest, look on the bright side or ignore the irrationality, injustices, atrocities, and wrongdoings of the world. Perhaps sustained happiness is the disease, and unhappiness is the courageous choice. I can reinterpret unhappiness as an emotion that is warden of sensibility; unhappy people are more open to sense the pain, unfairness, injustice, wrongdoing humans feel and to make space for cooperation and comradery. Every idea that threw a wrench in the works of the world order, or every work that left a mark in history was born of a kind of unhappiness. World history is not written by those who kicked back and watched the world through their rose-tinted glasses, right?
Yes, happiness is something, but meaning equals a lot more.
Pop art prints of Marilyn Monroe on bags look nice, but she has taken a handful of tranquilizers one morning. They would have pitied her today.
I don’t pity her because this world bored her [to death].
Translator: Deniz İnal
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan