Being the sole Social Justice Warrior

No one wants to talk about how easily hated the genuine well-meaning social justice activist is. In our online communities, we like to pretend like we don’t care about those basic white/cis/straight/male people’s opinions anyway. And on many levels, we don’t. There’s more to life than other people’s opinions. But this attitude is only viable when you’re in contact with the online community. In the real world, being a social justice warrior is only cool in moderation, and there’s only so much patience your real life available “friends” have.

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What it feels like too many of your friends start to think after yet another go off about how feminism is needed in the UK still.


This isn’t popular, but it is the truth, and it’s an under-recognised truth. We don’t talk about it, because that will be weakness, and we seriously don’t want to focus on ourselves when there’s so much bigger stuff out there. The truth is we’re only human, and ignoring this will lead to trouble. In general, people like other people, and want to be validated, not just in cyberspace. It’s incredibly lonely to contemplate giving up all your real-life human approval, just in the name of your politics, and the fact that so many people are prepared to do that, I think is a testament to the strength and conviction of people’s belief in the greater good of activism.

It’s hard when you’ve come this far, and learnt so much, and grown into a glorious socially aware butterfly, to then be forced to choose between standing by as good people remain ignorant, or alienating yourself completely. But the real choice isn’t that cut and dry, and you’ll hurt yourself if you think that it is.

When doing your “best” is woefully unpopular (and possibly inadequate)

The key to drawing the line is making sure you (and the underheard people you are ultimately trying to amplify) are being HEARD. If you become so hyper-critical and aware that it’s “ruining” every conversation, people start to simply blame you, and when you’re the only one in your real life friend group who genuinely gets it, that can be incredibly draining. Not to mention, it’s incredibly risky. When they ask “why exactly are kimono’s racist?” do you actually have a solid answer, white girl born and raised in the UK with no Japanese friends?
No, not really. You do your best, you point them at the nearest blog, and you know that though you’re not the victim here, you’re doing “the best you can”.

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What I looked like as a baby social justice warrior “Minorities are strong independant people..” “..which is why they need me to speak for them”

It’s a fine line. At some point, your privilege and legitimacy as a friend and the person you were “before”begins to run out, and you begin to be seen as a problem, a dismissable stereotype, not even standing up for yourself but for strangers who never even asked you. This is an awfully lonely place. You could say that’s just how it is as someone who stands up for social justice, that it’s just a lonely path and who cares if you’re liked? Resistance was never a popular concept with the status quo, by its very definition. However, if you’re alone and unliked and unpopular, then how exactly are you helping?

The Actual Choice

The actual choice isn’t between selling out and being frozen out. For one thing, it’s rare that you’d actually lose all of your friends and family just for politics, even if it feels very possible. But for another, you do start to change how you bring it up, and it’s not selling out, because it’s simply being more efficient and subtle at what you do, and the awareness you’re fostering. Being hugely unsubtle and having a huge vent at all the problems and systematic cruelty in the world does feel cathartic, but the backlash means you quickly gotta learn to reign it in; there’s no point being right if no one is listening anymore.
But you can still be right ~subtley~, and at choice moments. You don’t have to actively endorse cruel ideas and behaviours, but you don’t have to flame up about them either. The key is allowing people to see what you think without feeling personally threatened or attacked. The phrase “it’s just my opinion” is used an awful lot by people with unjustifiable opinions based in prejudice, but there is no reason that it can’t be used as a non-defensive statement to nullify a perceived threat from a statement of disagreement.
A short “look” or a refusal to laugh are also incredible effective, and in their subtly and lack of theatre, often massively more effective and long lasting than a full blown discussion would have been. There’s no dismissing justice as mere “drama” if you are matter-of-fact about your belief in equality and how you exercise and express it. Your small action becomes easier to palate and absorb as a legitimate way of thinking, rather than a choice to be under the spotlight of justice. Think Eddie Izzard and his small but steadfast refusal to call his clothes “women’s clothes”, and how much more powerful and influential that is than a thousand academic thinkpieces that explain in detail why clothing is not gendered inherently but only through social norms and culture.

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That’s not to say rants and thinkpieces aren’t valuable! You know I’d love to read that clothing one, and this entire blog is a place where I can one-sidedly rant and monologue about whatever I want; but this is for people who Get It. If someone doesn’t Get It, then they aren’t going to be forced to by someone else — you cannot Give It (the understanding of systematic inequality) to other people! It has to be an active process, and you can be a small part of triggering that learning curve in other people, as opposed to trying to BE that learning curve for other people.

 

*Note: I wrote this ages ago and have now edited it, cos I wanted to get it out there, but it’s still not perfect and I will write more on this topic soon!*

 

Pick Your Demons in Mass Shootings

(Alternatively: Did It Take A Village To Create The Orlando Killer?)

Homophobia, mental illness, religion…. all different motivators. Does it matter? Is it more important to focus on gun control or the shooter’s incentives? Ultimately, micro-aggressions turn into macro-aggressions which turn into the worst kind of record breaking for american citizens.

All the debate at the moment can be summed up as a conflicting mess of who to think of; do we think of the victims and of the future; homophobia clearly matters right now and gun control matters because it was lgbt+ people being murdered with guns, the whole community is shaken, the line towards open bigotry because clearer and closer, people do not feel safe and perhaps they actually aren’t.

Or do we think of the shooter; of mental illness and religion and race? Because the shooter shot people so they must have been aggressive  and therefore mentally ill (by “definition”), and the shooter claimed allegiance to conflicting religous islamic groups despite not being described as particularly religious and this being during ramadan, race because he wasn’t white so it must be factor and white people never murder people ever.

Or as less mainstream media sources say, shall we think on what we’re not being told; how the shooter was an authoritarian into police work and security and beating up his ex-wife…and why we aren’t being told it by the mainstream media? Is it, as many suspect, because it looks like a far larger number of people than limiting it to the mentally ill and muslims, both targeted groups in their own right.

“An inspector kills calls”, and who killed these people? What incremental steps were taken in each of these areas?

Cops have been consistently glorified for bravery in killing innocent people who were charged with no crime (because they were already dead by then), perhaps there aren’t enough people protesting that..

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(Looping) Gif of Millions March NYC In Protest of Police Brutality in 2014

And even before that, there’s thousands of movies and media glorifying violent stories of battles of strength and blood, and there’s generations of women are blamed for making their men angry, what kind of culture around conflict does this make? One that produces mass murderers on a practically regular basis maybe?

Muslims are alienated and of course it’s nothing to do with with the oil in muslim countries and the battle for power in the mess that remains after colonialism (sarcasm; of course it is.).
Then 9/11 happens and overnight Muslims are completely transformed into simply “pale brown skin with beard maybe” plus “headscarves are bad for women” and a vaguely threatening “Other” because the confusing faith and the confusing attack are now linked forever.
And because the link is so vaguely defined, and the middle eastern tensions that caused both the attack and the initial alienation are so poorly understood, anyone now feels free to claim Islam as a whole as as a scapegoat…even the people who aren’t victims but victimisers. It’s a solid outsider scapegoat with a clearly targetable face, so  hatred against it grows to the point where expressing Nazi-esque deportation dreams are not instant death to a political career. (and don’t challenge that narrative with the truth because it simply won’t get heard).

Mentally ill people are defined as dangerous. Dangerous people are defined as mentally ill. Again, it conflates and conflates and so now of course dangerous people don’t get treated with compassion and treatment, and so mentally ill people don’t either because they aren’t dangerous so they can’t be mentally ill and mental illness treatment is increasingly hard to come by and stigmatised. Now we have a constant scapegoat available just in case the muslim terrorist one doesn’t apply. Illness transcends all boundaries and demographics; what a perfect solution.

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Celebrations after Supreme Court Marriage Ruling

Homosexuality is winning, America has gay marriage! People delight. Now homosexuality is fine but don’t let weirdo trans gender-benders in my bathroom, because they don’t need to pee, they must only exist to scare me (because they do) and therefore that means they are dangerous to me (see mental illness above), I’ll do whatever it takes to find evidence of this.  Homosexuality is accepted but you can fire them for it if you want, you can refuse to serve them if you want. homosexuality is accepted but if you’re a gay character you are tragic and need to die in my show because real people need to know that they will never be gay and happy in this world where it is totally fine to be gay. america is a free country and does not endorse homophobia.

Gun control is too soon to talk about. It’s too soon but  it’s also too late for these now dead people. But look at all the other issues hat it could be! Maybe more guns will fix it and the good guys with guns will never get killed only bad guys. (Police have guns and they kill people and they are the Good Guys TM, why can the rest of the world not be like this corrupt system which has systematic control over who is seen as good and bad, we see no reason why not).

Maybe he was a closet gay man! Fantastic, we can pin it on this aspect of the case, perfect! case closed, it’s circular like an Ouroboros, the fact that there is a closet definitely doesn’t come from the fact that you still have entire churches saying that gay is a sin , entire churches in multiple religions, and entire systems and societies casually endorsing and condoning homophobia and treating lgbt+ people like second class citizens and alien creatures who shouldn’t be seen.

So pick your demons

Who do you think it was? Was it homophobia, gun control, islam, mental illness, being gay, being an authoritarian who loved the force? It won’t bring the 50 people back. It won’t stop the hundreds who have yet to die in the future mass killings, not unless something changes.

Can you get rid of an entire religion because of someone who conflated two different sects whilst they committed their mass murder and who didn’t practise the faith? Can you get rid of people who want to live their lives and don’t want to kill people? Can you stop glorifying violence and force and start respecting love and peace, stop demonising mental illness and start treating it instead (how it needs to be), stop conflating danger with illness in a way that lets dangerous people off the hook?

Respecting the innocent dead is a good sentiment, but respecting the innocent living would be an even better start. Whichever demon is the one stopping this from happening for you, you pick that one, and then go change it.

The Dangers of Label Stealing

This is a very quick post about the dangers of label stealing, because I’ve written a fair bit about how great/uncomfortable it is but not very much about why it’s uncomfortable and why sometimes you’ve gotta hold it back to just yourself and your own internal life.

1.Diluting the Label

Labels are precious. They mark out often the rare spaces and people who do not belong to the status quo, they give them legitimacy and they protect them from standardised judgements. They mean you can expect certain things, and the most famous example of dilution of the label and a harmful effect is part of rape culture (as is everything really). It’s as follows:

Lesbians are not, by definition, into men. So in theory, telling a man that you are a lesbian should tell him one of two things; first, that you are legitimately not into men ever and therefore are not into him so he should stop, or second, that you are legitimately not into him and are therefore lying about being into men ever in order to get him to stop, in which case, he should stop.

Unfortunately, that went backwards. Instead of making more men stop, it just means more men stop even seeing lesbianism as a legitimate thing, not helped by endless bisexual erasure and fetishistic porn selections.

*End of example*

So don’t borrow labels when they don’t fit, because they ruin it for the people they genuinely do fit.

2. Invading the Label
So now you’ve got everyone’s favourite label problem; the interloper. You’re a faker, a trick, someone dressed as something they’re not. Now this can be a biased or even bigoted fake fear, most notoriously the fear of trans women for not being women, a topic for another day. But it can also be a genuine thing. Who doesn’t remember Rachel Dolezal, infamous black lady impersonator?

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You don’t wanna do that. No, you’re not diluting the label, it still means the same thing for everyone else, only you’re on the wrong side of it. In Rachel’s case, it meant having a heritage of white-ness (though she’s adopted), an upbringing free of racism, but the treatment by her adult peers as someone without any of these things. It’s all of the “perks” of belonging to the club, but without any of the membership fees. Relating to me and my feelings of fringe-belonging personally, it’s using the word stimming but being bought up with expectations of sucess suitable to a neurotypical, for example.

3. Ruining the Label

This goes far beyond borrowing it, or slumming in it, this is completely wreaking havoc on the label. This is a dodgy area for a lot of labels we don’t want to get into just yet, often no one can decide how to do it or whether it’s a good thing or not; do we want to destroy the meaning of race and gender already, or do we still need those things in order to look after ourselves; define ourselves in the face of prejudiced society; and ultimately break down these prejudices whilst still maintaining a use for them as constructs and concepts? This can be in the form of slumming in labels and borrowing labels, but it’s a bigger onslaught, it’s what happens when everyone is doing it.

(I was going to stop at 3 but then I ironically remembered the last hazard around labels)
4. Erasing the Label
Not using the label, like bisexuality, means it starts to sound weird and clunky. It coincides with the dilution of other labels, like gay, and it leaves people left largely underdefined. This happens when there’s not enough knowledge around the label, or there’s a lot of stigma around, so essentially an entire community of an identity becomes closeted by language. There’s no way to express it in language, thus the identity doesn’t exist. This could theoretically also happen in a positive way, like the use of the word bastard falling into misuse because there is no need to describe a difference, however people worry about using the wrong labels mainly when there’s still a need for said labels in some form, normally in the form of bigotry.

Thank you for reading, and that concludes my short three part series about labels. Thank you, and please subscribe if you liked what you read! 😀

 

 

 

The “Real” Problem (feat. The Horde and the Commies)

intersectionality or notUltimately, people who think that feminism isn’t needed are wrong.

Of course I think that, I’m a non-binary AFAB feminine-presenting and female-passing person; in the words of Caitlin Moran: “Do you have a vagina? Do you want to be in control of it? …Congratulations, you’re a feminist!”…so OF COURSE I’m a feminist! It’s only logical, right?

Or is this really it? Is it really this simple? Is everyone who claims to be calling for justice really just advocating for themselves?

If you are part of the third wave of internet feminism happening for the past few years, you’ll know there’s a heavy emphasis AGAINST this above mindset. It’s called intersectionality, the idea that if you support one social justice cause, you’re kind of a hypocrite if you don’t support all of the others. (Notably, this term wasn’t coined by people like Caitlyn Moran, but by the American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, one of many black women who found themselves torn between a sexist civil rights movement, and a racist women’s rights movement.)

For outsiders however, this has the effect of appearing like a slippery slope of shaming and counter shaming: “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” etc; creating a never-ending pile of demands and conditions that simply must be met unless you are No True Feminist TM.

And even with the clearest mind, anyone who only experiences one aspect of social injustice clearly is tempted to see intersectionality in this overwhelming and impossible and irrelevant task too; “I just want to own my vagina, what do you mean I have to care about #BlackLivesMatter TOO?!”

But actually, the internal logic is crystal clear: for example if you are a white cis heterosexual middle-class able-bodied conventionally-attractive woman, and you only care about the one aspect of your personality where you are discriminated against, you’re erasing a lot of other people’s struggles comparative to you in other aspects of your identity, and pretending there is a level playing field outside of gender. Hence the baying crowds of redditor MRA’s (aka The Horde) who like to pit imaginary straw feminists who are wealthy, white, able-bodied and free against straw victims in the form of homeless black war veterans being accused of being privileged.

Keeping intersectionality in mind is the antidote to spreading this kind of ignorance, and actually, it’s the key to being better at ANY social justice.

“The Horde” are right, but also, so wrong.

So the Horde is that overwhelming presence on the net, populating and driving humour websites like 4chan, reddit, imgr, all the way down to more trash sites like funnyjunk and 9gag. It’s made up of that recognisable stench of self-righteous political apathy that still somehow manages to be pretty darn political in its own right, like South Park and Family Guy, and more concerningly, major motion pictures like American Pie and anything starring Seth Rogan. They are overwhelmingly male, white, straight, cis, abled bodied, etc, and essentially face little institutional prejudice as a whole community.*

Yet nonetheless they see entire communities about institutional prejudice, and feel, somewhat…left out? Tumblr In Action is a subreddit with nearly quarter of a million subscribers, on a platform with a primarily Horde mentality. I promise you now, that I can predict exactly what you will find if you are to visit it in the next five minutes. With depressing certainty, lurking at the top of the comment cesspit beneath someone’s grassroot feminist campaign against the latest tyrannical dress code, will be an impassioned plea to “please, just for once, why can’t we think of the REAL victims, the homeless men!”. I promise you.

Now that sounds dismissive, doesn’t it? When I describe the inevitability of discussions about homelessness, I sound like a shitty and ignorant person. I sound like exactly the kind of ignorant “first world” (there are PLENTY of third world feminists) feminist that they are talking about. Homelessness IS a real and legitimate problem. I sound shit for complaining about how they talk about. No wonder they feel big and important and self righteous for constantly pointing it out.

But the irony is, that in using this problem only as a blugeon against what they view as smaller problems, because they hate righteousness and anyway they are the winners at righteousness anyway so there, is that they contribute to the marginalisation of capitalism as a social justice dialogue. Classism and poverty are often ignored or marginalised by the mainstream social justice movement, in favour of more partisan questions like feminism that are more obviously unfair and more clearly discriminatory, at least to the people who experience it.

And that’s the key. The pervasive nature of capitalism and it’s saturation in the media. It’s hiding in plain sight, and because it’s always there, few people notice its presence in a meaningful social justice narrative. It’s like a force of nature, like rape culture is to women, but there is no clear absence to compare it to. The rich aren’t absent from it, they are just those who manage to escape it, through whatever means. If it’s meritocratic then, and fair in a sense, why fight it? And even if it wasn’t fair, what alternative would there be?

The Commies Are Right

There’s a growing community of semi-ironic communists amongst social justice circles, using the word comrade and waiting for the inevitable and eventual heroic uprising of the working class and the socialist utopia. It looks like a joke, but for many, it’s a genuine conviction that there must be a better way than the current capitalist system. And they’re not all naive idiots either; speak to any serious communist and you’ll find they have answers for everything (Russia wasn’t real capitalism so it doesn’t count!). They may sound like excuses, but these answers do actually reflect the teachings of communist forefather Karl Marx, from whom Marxist Communists take their name.

It’s no coincidence that most, if not literally all, of these communist sympathsisers are also everything else the Horde hates. They are feminists, and environmentalists, and pro-LGBT+ rights, and anti-racists, and anti-imperialists. Because it comes back to practising intersectionality; if women’s problems are real, then so are people of colour’s problems, and lgbt+ people’s, and disabled people’s, etcetera. And if you look at all of these problems, together, in a disgusting mishmash of oppression, underestimation and devaluation, the “real” problem becomes depressingly clear.

Horde vs Communists

This is what the Horde doesn’t realise. That actually, that school dress code is the real problem. In fact, it’s part of the SAME real problem. In fact, it’s ALL part of the same real problem. The whole darn thing.

When people are valued as things for productivity, it creates all the inequalities we see in society**. There are huge numbers of homeless people, but they are disproportionately made up of those who are disadvantaged in other ways: the mentally ill, the addicts, LGBT youth, etc. And if you back up a little into the figures for unemployment data, it becomes even more obvious on a larger scale, with the wage gaps against people of colour and people assigned female.

Countries colonised by European powers were valued for their riches and their people were dehumanised, women lost their rights as feudalism began and their wombs became more valuable than their humanity, disabled people suffer socially and practically for being seen as extraneous to a society built on productivity, and even the most basic Horde-level labourer faces constant fears of utter dehabilitation if they fail to be lucky enough and productive enough to “earn” their living.

So yes, homeless men are the real problem, insofar as they are reflective of the ONLY real problem in society, and that is valuing people only so much as they contribute to a one-size-fits-nearly-none orientated capitalist society. Capitalism’s tyranny affects us all, and this can either keep us silent about all the other ways disadvantage manifests within it, or it can be the SOLUTION to joining together against a cohesive force. We are not things, we are human beings, and we ALL deserve more than this.

 

(*And even if individuals are black, female, trans, gay, etc, they are very rarely more than one of these things, and almost never understand the concept of internalised prejudice. More on that later.)
(**It’s actually the inspiration for my love of my blog avatar image, “We Are Not Things” from the miraculously both popular and feminist capitalist dystopia film Mad Max Fury Road.)