Tag Archives: social justice

A Cozy Catch-Up: What’s Complicated?

I’ve been quiet on here for awhile, for a whole myriad of reasons, ranging from my real life getting “in the way” to reevaluating what I actually what to do with this platform, and why I want to do it. I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the blogs that I enjoy reading, and why I enjoy them so much, and the blogs that I read the most often (not necessarily the same as the ones I enjoy!) and why I keep going back to them, and what all of that means for me. I’ve had drafts saved on here of partial blog mission statements, and I’ve found myself disagreeing with my own words more often than I’d really care to admit.

 

Oh, and I lost my at-home internet access. I’m sure that has something to do with the slow-down in posts as well.

 

I’m sitting in a coffee shop today, just finished up doing some stuff for my pretty-damn-decent day job, giving myself some space to think and to write. The music playing on the (I think pandora?) radio station reminds me of being 19 years old. So let’s talk. Let’s catch up and let’s clarify some points and let’s try to understand each other, even though we will ultimately fail.

I started this blog because of two feelings. One feeling was an old one, the desire to write. I identify as a visual artist first, but I’ve always liked and loved writing, and sometimes people tell me I am good at it and that feels good. In the world that I occupy now, blogging is a fairly obvious and easy and comfortable format for me to satisfy that urge. I read a lot of blogs and it was starting to feel ridiculous that I didn’t have a public blog of my own yet (or at least, one that I really used, I’ve dabbled before). The second feeling was one that I’ve been having a whole lot in the last year. I have this feeling after conversations at work and over dinner. I have it after reading news articles and blog posts. I have it when I get off the phone with my mother. I have it when I’m trying to make time to paint. I have it when I’m trying to find a way to buy art supplies that doesn’t involve a corporation (and it is basically physically impossible). I have it when I visit other places and people ask about the city that I live in. It’s the same feeling all the time. It’s a feeling of being slightly overwhelmed and never having time to really explain the nuance of any situation. It’s a feeling of resisting the urge to simplify the world to buzzwords and memes. It’s a feeling of really having to take some time to chew on an idea before I open my big fat mouth.

“I have complicated feelings about that…”

And I kept finding myself saying that to people. To my partner, to my coworkers, to my friends, to fellow artists, to everyone. And I was saying it about all sorts of things. About cats, about feminism, about lgbtq politics, about race relations, about art, about religion. And I barely ever had time to follow up on any of those complicated feelings. And I really really wanted to.

So I started a blog. And I started writing. And then I started to notice things about my own writing that made me uncomfortable. While the issues I tend to gravitate towards, things that feel complicated, are ones that I often have both positive and negative feelings about, that rarely shows. I’m a pessimist, and so I find myself taking it for granted that, for example, y’all will understand that I really did love that genderbread thing quite a bit, and not feeling the need to talk about any of my positive feelings about it. The result is that I talk mostly about my more negative feelings. It looks a little like I am complaining. And that isn’t really my purpose. So that’s confusing, and I’m working on it. This feels almost ridiculous to say, but really, you guys, I like lots of things.
Also, I found myself shying away from writing about certain issues. And maybe some of that made sense, but I still felt weird about being able to talk until I was blue in the face about the importance of feminism, but only making what felt like small nods towards the importance of being anti-racist. Now I am a white lady, so maybe I have more personal experience needing feminism than I do needing anti-racism, so maybe that makes it easier for me to talk about one than the other. At the same time though, I think it is important for allies (of all sorts) to speak out. I’m still human. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to find the best and most respectful ways to do that.

So, rather than a mission statement, I’ve decided to share with you a list of goals for this blog space. Here we go!

1. Demonstrate a more accurate and healthy range of opinions/reactions. That means talking about stuff that I like as well as stuff that I don’t like. That means taking the time to articulate the full range of my opinions on a matter.

2. Tell stories. I love stories and story-telling, but sometimes I hide behind a wall of intellectualism and Discussing Important Issues, because it somehow feels safer.

3. Be open to feedback and input while maintaining my individual voice.

4. Be aware of, and own up to, my own position of privilage.

If you have any thoughts on any of these goals, you know what to do.

 

In the meantime, those of you who have an interest in my wedding plans might be interested to know that I am (along with some other folks) doing a little guest-blogging over at the wedding blog LoveintheD.

 

Thanks for this chat. I feel better now. Stay tuned.

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What Do You Do With Your Struggle?

Lately everything I write seems to have the same theme. It is all about activism and oppression, and it is all about empathy. What do you do with your struggle? What do you do when the powers that be oppress you and you have to fight for your rights, what do you take away from that at the end of the day? Do you feel that your position is so hard won that it needs protecting, even from other oppressed people who are fighting for their rights? Do you feel that your position, your tiny amount of power you’ve carved out for yourself, is precious and sacred? When you see other people struggling against the same forces that held you down do you say “well, it’s not my problem, I’ve my own battle to fight.”

What do you do with your struggle?

Or do you learn empathy from your struggle? Are you fighting for a world where you are less oppressed than you once were, or are you fighting for a world where oppression can’t take root? I want to be the second kind of person. I want to be as outraged about racism as I am about sexism, because it isn’t about what affects me directly, it’s about struggle. I don’t just want to live in a world where I’m not a second-class citizen, I want to live in a world where there aren’t second-class citizens at all, where we don’t have create all these false hierarchies of who is the MOST human. I want to take my struggle and learn from it, and grow, and challenge others to learn and grow as well.

There is a great David Rakoff story about the Log Cabin Republicans… (in the book Don’t Get Too Comfortable) and this isn’t a direct quote because I don’t have the book in front of me, but he basically comes to the conclusion that gay republicans make no sense to him because he cannot separate the idea that he should have the right to exist as a gay man from other ideas, such as that women should have the right to choose and children should have the right not to starve to death. (It occurs to me that I wrote that entire sentence in present tense, and David Rakoff passed away this past summer, but I can’t go back and change it now.)

I can remember reading it and audibly shouting “YES!” alone in my tiny studio apartment. I don’t come to all of the same conclusions, I don’t think voting democrat is the answer, but I do think that a lot of these ideas are, and should be, wrapped up in each other. And I’m surprised when they aren’t for other people. It makes me think about history class, and I remember what I learned about slavery and reconstruction and Jim Crow. Essentially, one of the biggest factors in keeping African Americans disenfranchised in the South was the anger and racism of poor white people. These were not the plantation owners, these were poor people who had to struggle to make a living, and were held down by the same unfair class system that was built upon the enslavement of brown skinned people. But when the slaves were freed, they were so engrossed in the hierarchy that was keeping them down that they couldn’t deal with the idea that there might not be anyone below them. So they colluded in the oppression of others, which of course preserved a system which was unfair for all people, including themselves.

That is what I think about when I hear people say that the struggle against racism isn’t theirs because they are white, the struggle against sexism isn’t theirs because they are male, the struggle against homophobia isn’t theirs because they are straight, the struggle against transphobia isn’t theirs because they are cisgendered. The idea that everyone deserves a few basic human rights may take on more personal urgency when it is my rights that are on the chopping block, but ┬áit should never be at the expense of the rights of others. Equality, if it truly is equality, isn’t a limited resource, and we need to stop acting like it is. We will not get to be somehow more equal by not allowing some people to take part in the equality. That’s not equality, that’s scarcity mentality and scarcity thinking, that’s capitalist logic applied to basic human rights, and it’s ugly and mean and we all know damn well it’s not right.

So what do you do with your struggle?

Today is MLK day, and quotes are being thrown around and they will continue to do so. There’s one quote that you will hear used to justify all sorts of things, but I want us all to take a minute and think about it.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

It will continue to be used to justify wars and global bullying, but I still think they are important words. Think about it. Think about how your struggle is the same as everyone else’s struggle, and think about how we don’t gain anything by stepping over them. Think about how much more powerful we would be if we all struggled together, for equal rights for all people, instead of separately, to carve out a more comfortable existence with a few more rights for ourselves.

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