01 May 2010

Leaving people out, as usual

Since pretty much the beginning of feminism (which I assume was whenever some super-BA kind of woman stood up to her husband or quit making babies 'cuz she wanted to, meaning since always), this movement has failed to include all groups in a way that makes the movement itself more powerful, useful, and applicable to a wider range of folks. I know I spent far too much time counting myself as a feminist (which came after I learned that feminists can, in fact, still like the menfolk and wear bras if they so choose) while also excluding broad groups of people from that ideal. Still, I catch myself thinking exclusive kinds of things about feminism, about who can and cannot be a feminist, as if I were the feminist police. I've really worked hard in the last year or two to grow my feminism into an ideal and a life practice that takes into account intersections and differences and provides space for feminists who also identify with things like Christianity or as a Republican. Unfortunately, it was and still is tough to make those changes after being raised in a world where not everybody gets to be the same.

As of late, I've noticed that some of my social justice peers at my University have taken to alienating (or so it seems and feels) folks who do not fight as hard for an issue as themselves. It seems like this alienation comes in the form of incessant badgering and an overload of comments on facebook that address and talk about and work through whatever said issue might be. In the most recent case, I've seen an excessive amount of badgering going on regarding SB1070 out of Arizona. While I want to point out that I don't support this bill in the least, I'm also working hard to recognize the intersections of the ways class or even gender play into it. Certainly, from a feminist POV, it's hard to see it as anything but racial profiling. But, that's aside the point. Some folks agree with the bill, some folks don't. But where ever someone might stand on that issue is not impacted by rude comments or comments that make people feel alienated, judged, or looked down upon for agreeing. I'm a firm, FIRM believer that change comes with excessive amounts of understanding, education, listening, and dialoguing, and not through rude exchanges and covert put-downs. In fact, it really irks me that people get so caught up in being a better activist/feminist that they forget that much of this movement, from my perspective anyway, is about including even those who disagree to have dialogue and to progress from those initial viewpoints...on both sides. I know I have a lot to learn from people on all sides of every issue, and we could probably all move forward with positive social change much more quickly if we didn't get so caught up in emotion.

That being said, I can't stress enough how much I value personal stories as a way of moving forward and creating change. Stories make issues real and personal, and I think that's a huge element that sometimes gets left out of academic work around social justice.

But I digress. I've just been frustrated lately with some of the conversations I've overheard/witnessed around social issues. With folks who lie on the humanist/feminist side of things arguing and battling like war, I don't see us ever moving forward. I want to encourage my peers to really examine how they present themselves in conversations and how they approach the subjects where they most want to see change. It seems so pointless to work so hard for something just to see if break apart before your eyes because you couldn't manage to see the POV of someone who sees things differently.

I need some perspective: is it better to throw your emotions out there in social change conversations, even if it means potentially losing a possible future supporter in the name of talking to everybody about that issue? Or, is it better to maybe not get someone completely on board with your views, but let someone know that you understand their views and want to work together to make change?

Make sense? Whatevs, thoughts and criticisms welcome.


  1. I think it's important to note that you can invest your emotions in social issues AND ALSO avoid alienating people if you can take a step back and consider how you're framing those feelings. Passion and emotion are important facets of any movement pushing for social change and to remove them in hopes of avoiding alienation of potential allies wouldn't be the right thing to do. IMHO.
    However, it's important to note that I'm also an idealist and expect that deep down in everyone is a reasonable human being capable of listening to everyone's opinions and respecting them even if they don't agree. I know my ponies and rainbows world probably isn't too close to reality, but that's where we need to be in order to make progress. It seems to me that so many once great movements have simply been reduced to incessant bitching about this or that issue instead of ACTION. And while I love a good bitchfest from time-to-time, it does tend to get a little old.
    But, before I go off on a thousand tangents I'll just say: I think it's possible to be emotionally invested and state those emotions while not alienating allies. Because honestly, do we really want allies who are going to run away if we get emotional about things? What we need out of allies in any movement is their unconditional understanding so that everyone can express themselves freely.
    The fact of the matter is, if you're really invested and passionate about something sometimes you're gonna get pissed and want to exclude people. What's important is that you check yourself and make sure you don't take this exclusion too far.

  2. well said ixheartxponies. i was thinking the same...i think it's a both/and. it would be a sad world without our passions and emotions and i don't think we would get as much accomplished; that being said, we have to recognize that others have feelings and emotions too. AND tha we can all learn from each other.

    keep up the good blogging! i enjoy your posts! :)