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Been participating in a comment thread over on shakesville and the comments thread was closed while I was in the process of writing. Since my every word is precious (ahem!) I figured I'd put it here instead. This may turn out to make absolutely no sense out of context; sorry about that.

my snarkiness aside, regarding teachable moments:

It's my experience that when somebody puts their foot in it, it's mostly a teachable moment for the spectators. Many of whom we've seen here in the last two days: multiple commenters have spoken here for the first time & stuck around to learn things in public.

Personally, my own process tends to look like:
  • I screw up publicly
  • I get called on it
  • I get defensive
  • I retreat (or flounce off, if I've gotten *really* defensive)
  • I shut up and listen
  • I watch somebody else screw up in the same way
  • I watch yet somebody else screw up in much a similar way
  • eventually when somebody is in the process of screwing up like that, I can see it coming...
  • ...and then finally I can claim to have learned something from my initial screw-up.

At best, I can say that after 17 years of talking about social justice, I'm better about being quiet when I'm feeling defensive. As it turns out, there's a lot of dignity available, there.
sev: (Default)
I often hear the question, what can liberal Whites do to be allies to people of color? Or the more-generalized question, what can those with privilege do to be allies, not oppressors, in the fight for social justice? A post by Anarchist People of Color regarding actions against Crimethinc. gave me an answer:

"Try to create a culture of calling people out on their shit."

The whole article is good, but I'm tickled to have a soundbite to pass around to people with less patience, too. (is the demand for a soundbite-sized explanations of complex situations a hallmark of privilege? I think the oppressor does live in a simpler world than the oppressed.)
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Well, before I really got down to writing my "what about the men?" posts, Feministing started the conversation for me.

And, as usual, it's a theory-heavy discussion about "men" and "feminists", "allies" and "activism". It's absolutely a good read -- there's important stuff in there. But, I think, there's something missing for me in that discussion, as in most discussions about men & feminism (granted, I have not read all the comments to all those posts, so I may have missed where this gets discussed).

But anyway, I sat down to talk about why the theory isn't enough, and what I ended up with was ... pure theory. Oops. Well, I'm going to post it anyway. Right now, I'll talk some talk ... and next time, I hope to actually walk the walk, once this bit of theory is out of my system!

One of the side-effects of privilege is being used to being an individual, rather than a member of a class. That's often a sticking point, I find, in these conversations -- allies want to be treated like individuals, they want a chance to explain themselves, they want their personal snowflake-like eye-opening experience take the center of their conversations about social justice. And people who are in the thick of working for social justice know that if they spend all that time treating each privileged wanna-be ally like the individual they're used to being treated like, they'd never ever get anything else done.

But. For all that I'm impatient with the demands that male allies of the feminist movement get their recognitions as individuals, I can understand it, too. I treasure each and every one of my little "click" moments, where another bit of feminism slips into place for me based on my very own personal experience of the world. But those moments, rooted so deeply in my personal experience, are exactly how my feminism gets de-egoed. They're where my personal experience leads me to understanding the political reality of oppression. This is where the phrase "The personal is political" comes from.

Consciousness Raising groups aren't everybody's thing. But I do think that the process of coming to believe in social justice is one of personal consciousness-raising. Many women talk about coming to feminism via a personal "click" moment of realization. I think it's important to acknowledge that for many people, male and female, those moments can be traumatizing. And someone's personal trauma needs to be addressed, somehow, before that person can really work towards social justice.


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