Michelle Obama gives zero fucks. Emma Stone gives zero fucks. Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones” gives zero fucks. Abolitionist Sojourner Truth gave zero fucks. Pinterest is filled with skinny models wearing “Zero Fucks Given” tanks. Even the women in historical paintings give absolutely zero fucks. We have reached peak lack of fucks given.
There are things we should give fewer fucks about for the sake of self-preservation; certain times where one should hold up the phrase as a mantra to avoid being subsumed by other people’s bullshit. “Give zero fucks” functions like armor, sending a message to the world that we can handle anything that gets thrown at us.
A mob of men harass you on Twitter. Give fewer fucks.
People tell you you’re not qualified enough to do your job. Give fewer fucks.
You grow up learning that you are nothing without male sexual approval. Give fewer fucks.
The world tells you to be skinnier, prettier, better dressed, more “classically beautiful.” Give fewer fucks.
But it also can be deeply exhausting pretending not to give a fuck about everything -- and at times, it may prevent us from fully embracing the fucks we do need to give. The simple fact remains: to affect real change, and feel anything deeply, you probably need to give quite a few fucks.
Police gun down an unarmed black man? Give more fucks.
Your right to reproductive health care is still being questioned? Give more fucks.
You got passed over for a promotion you deserved? Give more fucks.
You feel hurt or insulted or overjoyed or loved by another human being? Feel free to Give. A. Fuck.
The Internet-ified version of giving zero fucks seems to be embodied by female celebrities like Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence, women who are so chill that they float through the world like icebergs. These are badass women to be sure, but their public personas are built around the embodiment of the "cool girl" as defined by Gillian Flynn and Anne Helen Petersen. They eat burgers and flip off the paparazzi (seriously more power to them on both counts), while still maintaining a seemingly effortless ability to be funny and conventionally desirable.
We might be closer to embracing "strong women," but we also want those “strong women” to have an uncanny ability to "let it go." Express messy emotion? Probably don’t. Show just how hard you try? Ditto.
Amy Schumer is the queen of giving all the fucks. The comedian and burgeoning feminist icon has put her insecurities, triumphs and political values on display, mining them all for (damn good) comedy. In her May 2014 speech for the Ms. Foundation for Women gala, Schumer described a terrible sexual encounter she had in college -- and how easy it is to be stripped of all one’s painstakingly built confidence, even as a successful adult, something that I would wager most human beings can relate to:
I can be reduced to that lost college freshman so quickly sometimes, I want to quit. Not performing, but being a woman altogether. I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, "All right! You got it. You figured me out. I'm not pretty. I'm not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice. I'll start wearing a burqa and start waiting tables at a pancake house. All my self-worth is based on what you can see." But then I think, Fuck that. I am not laying in that freshman year bed anymore ever again. I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I'm beautiful. I say if I'm strong. You will not determine my story — I will. I will speak and share and fuck and love and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it. I stand here and I am amazing, for you. Not because of you. I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you, and I thank you.
Since when did caring the least about everything -- or at least convincingly pretending to -- become the most attractive quality a woman could possess? The only way you’re going to be able to rise above and give fewer fucks about the bullshit is if you actually give a fuck about something else.
So I choose to bow down to the women who give all the fucks. Shonda Rhimes. Cheryl Strayed. Janet Mock. Oprah. Lena Dunham. Laverne Cox. Mindy Kaling. Hillary Clinton gives a ton of fucks -- she wants to be president. I salute these women and all the others like them who have an unabashed willingness to care -- and show it.
Instead of giving fewer fucks to arm ourselves for the bad, let's give more fucks so we change the bad and better embrace the good.
"The fuck is your life. Answer it," wrote Strayed in what is arguably her most famous Dear Sugar column.
Give all the fucks you want. You'll be better for it.