Sunday, July 12, 2009

So, What Now?

Allies promoting the voices of people within the groups they are trying to be allied to.

If we agree with what they say one day but don't on another, do we simply never support them? If we've supported someone in the past, do we owe any kind of loyalty to them?

If we do support what someone is saying on one day, are we accountable for that support on another day when they say something we don't agree with, or perhaps that's outright fucked up?

Does it matter if we like them or not? Is support of their good ideas contingent on if we always agree with them? Or if we always agree with the way they conduct themselves?

Do we have to choose a side and just stick to it?

This is how I started a rough draft of a post on a topic that's been in the back of my mind for a long time actually, but which really started forming in my head when I found out I'd been unfollowed and blocked on Twitter by someone I thought I was on good terms with.

There were many things I was thinking as I stared at the screen, wandered off to read or play Sims, and came back, over and over; how much do I want to navel gaze? How much information do I want to give? Do I even mention this Twitter discovery or keep it to myself? Does the post make sense without it? If I mention it, do I start divulging names? Do I talk about the tears of surprise, sadness and frustration I shed that evening? Would divulging that be honesty or is it childish and "guilt tripping"? And just how vulnerable am I willing to be?

And as I'm letting these things stew in the backburner of my mind, I read this post: Ad hominems, etc. And suddenly I'm seeing, in conversation, a bunch of people talking in specifics about exactly what I've been trying to figure out for myself in a more general way.

Now, before I go any further, I have to say upfront that the content of voz's post, as related by piny, I find rather repulsive. For a trans person to attack another gender non-conforming person based on cissexist body norms strikes me as horrifically ironic. As little light says in the thread:
I don’t care how angry you are at someone, reproducing and reinforcing oppression in order to “get them back” isn’t helping protect any of us.
But, full disclosure, I wasn't particularly thrilled with piny's first comments, calling voz "an asshole," either. AND, I think there's a lot of truth to this statement:
You’re making an example of voz in a way that silences trans people who are angry and legitimizes cis privilege as a weapon.
Just like with NOWHC, I'm unsure of my place in this discussion. Clearly there's a history between piny and voz, which I am not a part of nor have I observed except for recently. And there's going to be a whole lot of personal stuff impacting the way both of them deal with the other. Like, defensiveness and pain from years of being shit on, or decades, as the case may be. So, I want to acknowledge that, and acknowledge I know little to nothing about the details of such. Just as with NOWHC there are issues here I'm not comfortable speaking to, but I'm also distinctly uncomfortable being silent.

So let's get to this thread and the conversation that is taking my personal thought processes in a very concrete direction with a specific example.

Belledame reads my mind:
Look, just because someone’s an asshole doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have a legitimate point.

Now I’m saying: the reverse is also true. Just because someone has a legitimate point...doesn’t mean they can’t also be an asshole.
And so does RD by expressing discomfort in the "public shaming" aspect of having a whole thread basically calling voz out. I'm very wary of tactics like that. They feel too much like hegemonic enforcement to me. Like we're putting her in the stock in town square, each with our own tomato to throw. But then, unfortunately, so did the swarming that took place at bfp's at voz's request, which also made me distinctly uncomfortable.

I am expressing regret that I didn’t say anything about my discomfort with the way she’s been talking, and that my silence there made it look like I was condoning it.
And I definitely have some of this as well. I try hard to avoid personal attacks, I've seen where they go and it's ugly and unhelpful. That doesn't mean not calling out problematic behavior or actions, but it does mean that I cut people some slack. We're not perfect, we do fuck up, and then, hopefully, we learn from it. But we need space to do that. Swarming people or hauling them into the public square doesn't give the targeted person room to breathe, that room needed to grow.

Which isn't to say that when someone does something fucked up it should go unremarked. That doesn't work either. Some of our best personal and community growth happens because someone made us uncomfortable, angry, or sad. That's just the truth. And it must be acknowledged that as we've all been indoctrinated into hegemonic codes of conduct, we will probably all at some point end up being the person who
uses the “master’s tools” (sexism, transphobia, racism, etc) to try to take down the master’s house (kyriarchy).
And when we are, we need to be called out on it and we need to be able to be called out on it.

How I fucked up in the discussion around the NOWHC was in not acknowledging the personal nature of some of the criticism bfp endured, and that the swarming made me distinctly uncomfortable. What I wanted was to concentrate on the issue and what was getting done or not done, and I feel ok with how I handled that, but I am afraid what I didn't say in the process might have spoken an unintended message. Assuming that is the case, I also want to apologize for it, specifically to bfp, but to anyone it might have hurt.

So I guess, coming back to my original questions... Nezua posted a few days that something that really resonated with me:
chances are that we are similar. i mean, out here in this struggle. we are all these types, these certain types, the types who want to fight, for justice, for our people, for ourselves, for our families. certain personality types, and we all get together and sometimes we work together and sometimes we argue. sometimes we can’t even stand each other, all cool, all expected. especially when you put a bunch of these types together. its expected from any group, but when you get a bunch of ACTIVISTS, forget about it! let’s just accept that. let’s be strong in that we roll with that punch.
but even if we don’t work it out, or want to, i think it’s fine to not be friends or even like every other activist or ‘progressive’ type soul. it may hurt, but don’t go and try to enlist the entire cause to help you fight an individual. yanno? you ain’t no monolith!

Today, maybe, I'm doing good. But tomorrow I might piss you off. I'm willing to be called out, just as I'm willing to do the calling out. But in the process, can we try and remember that we're all people struggling together? I mean, that's what we are, at the end of the day, isn't it? Maybe today you don't like how I'm doing it, how I'm participating in these struggles, but does that invalidate my contributions tomorrow that you think are brilliant (read: at least mildly thought-provoking)?

I dunno.

I just feel like, as many personal things are there are in this picture that I'm sure DO need to be addressed, well, what is the bigger picture? What larger purpose did swarming bfp serve? What larger purpose does publicly (in a cis-space) chastising voz serve? Where are we going with this stuff?

Are we doing inner, needed, work? Or are we forgetting about each others humanity in favor of demanding perfection from each other?

*update* In the meantime, bfp has written her own post that I think brings up some important stuff.