Hi all, I am back. Watch this space for some poor-quality content whilst I ease myself back into writing blog posts again, because my situation since I last blogged was completely different, as I now live with my boyfriend and no longer have to travel that *enormous* 15 minute walk to his house, I should theoretically be doing more blogging. Thank goodness the internet finally caught up to me, now I can actually have no excuse for not writing! (…godammit.)
Recap and more new upcoming blog ideas as of right now (yes, the last “upcoming” still haven’t been published, they will get there eventually!):
Amber Heard And Jonny Depp; The (Misogynistic, Historically Relevant) World of Celebrity Break-Up And Divorce
Don’t Have Kids (And Then Be Mean To Them)
Diagnosing Myself vs Being Diagnosed; what’s the point of diagnosis, and is either system better?
When the Enemy is “Right”: Why that doesn’t mean you’re “Wrong” and the Persuasive Power of Nuanced Discourse
You will change your Mind…so does what you Think Right Now even Matter?
How To Actually Get That Crappy Retail Job You Need
Thanks for all the likes I got on my last update, I felt very loved. Here’s to another era of bad social justice meta-blogging!
What’s going on in the Hypocrisy/FreezePeach Argument?
If you’ve ever tried to have a meaningful conversation with a casual bigot on the internet ever you’ve had this conversation:
Them: *bigoted casually harmful thing* Just my opinion though!
You: That opinion is trash and perpetuates stereotypes and harmful thinking towards a group of people.
Them: Excuse me?! FREE SPEECH though!! You’re oppressing my opinion!
You: I’m not “oppressing it” I’m just telling you it makes you look like an arsehole. I’m not stopping you.
Them: But you SJW’s don’t want me to judge anyone ever though, you think you’re free from criticism, so this is #oppression, this is unfair, this is the real tragedy here.
You: You’re aware that you are literally judging me right now right?!?
So what’s going on here? Are they trying to bait you? Are they living on another planet? Is this actually reality and have you been deceived the whole time and good is actually bad and you yourself are in fact worse than Stalin?!? (Probably, probably not, and probably not.)
Essentially, most people start out as whiny babies with no concept of other people outside of themselves. They can see themselves being criticised, and feel hurt, alienated, maybe even isolated and confused, and think, damn this is awful, how is this even allowed? If you’re never challenged on anything or taught to think for yourself, this doesn’t change as you grow up. People who are most insulated by privilege are the most likely to fit this description, because the world around them is quite literally, catered to reflect them. There’s no need to think for yourself if everything around you agrees with your own narrative.
The Moment You Inadvertedly Create a Police State in Your Comment Section
When you come across them online with a contradictory viewpoint, they are threatened on a level they probably don’t quite understand. They know that you’re presenting something different and therefore #wrong, but also that you are quite happy and confident in what you believe, despite your blatant Wrongness! How, when they are Right and you are Wrong can you be so composed?? Clearly, you must be under some illusion that you are perfect and actually Right, and that no one can disagree with you! So bam, look what you’ve got coming your way now, you got some DISAGREEMENT. Some DISSENT. Ooooohh how you going to handle THAT now, come on!
They turn against your opinion in the hope that it will shock you just as much as having their opinion challenged has shocked them. Unfortunately for them the playing field isn’t quite even here; if you’re touting an alternative viewpoint, not only are you used to having your opinion shouted down and disagreed with, but also, you are used to thinking for yourself, and not needing the approval of others to have conviction in your beliefs.
So it’s completely boring. Once you’ve had a couple dozen of these conversations, you know exactly how it goes, and no, you’re not surprised that they think you are an “evil totalitarian dictator from hell”, like you always thought you were the opposite of, because of course you are, it’s obvious and immediate, it’s the easiest possible insult there is for someone who’s trying to fight for fairness and freedom, to try and hit us with the “not fair!” card. It’s simple and its aim is to be paralysing, but you can think for yourself, and know that’s not how fairness works.
Like a child who incessantly shouts this though, the people who call you out on this have no idea how fairness works, they barely have an honest concept of what “fair” is, outside of their own hurt feelings. They genuinely believe that justice is all about feelings, because to be fair to them, they’ve never been taught anything else. They’ve always been taught that you shouldn’t be racist or sexist or homophobic because it hurts people’s feelings; a simplistic model that doesn’t address the greater systematic context of harmful actions but it’s easy to explain to kids and gets them to stop propagating said actions. It’s great for a start, but the problem is that once you’ve learned to shut up about the right things at the right moments with the right people, that’s when most people stop learning about what fairness in society means.
So you are actually Fair…now what?
No, you can’t convince them that you are being fair. You can’t convince them that your challenging viewpoint wasn’t built around criticising them and making them feel bad and that therefore it’s not allowed in the constitution or whatever they believe in.
That’s not fun. If they are a troll, they exploit that to try and guilt people into taking it back, or just waste their time trying to convince said troll of their good intent and pure meaning. If they aren’t a troll, they probably will sound the same, but either way, it’s a waste of your time. It’s not truly you who hurt them, it’s the shock of other viewpoints, one of which you happen to hold and you happened to voice.
Now maybe it’s a bit patronising to call it a “shock”: these other views are hardly unheard of, radical ideas like “equal pay” and “stop police killings” are everywhere in media. But the shock comes in realising that other people believe in this, and there’s not much you can do about that except trust in the process of awareness that worked on yourself. No one suddenly became aware of social inequality after one comment by a friend or anonymous message, but equally, no one became aware without those initial interactions. Allow yourself to be that first hurdle, or even the fith or the tenth or the hundredth. You’re not taking something away, you are adding a hurdle, and certain people don’t like being challenged. You could stop challenging them, but does that really help anyone in the long run? You could try and tell them this isn’t a personal challenge and it really shouldn’t be a challenge, but nonetheless, it will still be a challenge to them if they haven’t had to find away around it yet.
Ultimately, the only way people will realise that Dissent is okay, and that it’s not a threat to their Free Speech, is once they learn to think for themselves in the way that so many others have been forced to since birth. It is not your responsibility to do that for them, partly because you literally cannot, it’s in the phrasing “for themselves”. The most that you can do is lead by example, and hope that one day, they’ll find a better way through this hurdle than yelling at it for existing.
*Disclaimer: It is better to publish something than let it sit in drafts forever. xx*
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.
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”.
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.
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!*
their advocates (Katy Hopkins, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson to name a few) are some highly “controversial” i.e bigoted and small minded individuals that only a minority adore
everything’s about immigration; as if the basic person understands anything about whether it’s good or bad for the economy when even the academic community of economists are DEEPLY and PASSIONATELY divided on the subject.
when it’s not directly and explicitly about people’s projected insecurities about the mean Other People taking all of Our things, it’s about RED TAPE.
as if anyone knows what that means
someone shouts something about banana’s
no but seriously if the average person doesn’t know the net benefits of immigration (because no one actually knows the real total) then the average person also definitely doesn’t know or understand the purpose and relevance of regulations and standards. snigger about banana rules and the EU rooting through our shopping baskets all you like, but actually, someone’s gotta write rules, or you’d be first in line with your round-looking banana claiming that it’s inadequate.
for a nation that’s so scared of change like having a *splabour government
(just kidding I am going to do a longer post on this later)
My personal favourite new habit since becoming a financially independent adult (at long last!) is drawing up budgets and calculating savings plans. Working out how much I utterly have to spend, on food, travel to work, and on rent. Working how much I’ll save, and balancing that with how much I’ll allow myself to spend. It’s quite hard to describe the fascination I have with just writing out the numbers and adding them up; I find myself bugging friends and family to let me know their monthly expenditure, their monthly income, how much they could SAVE.
But I’m not as smug as you might think I sound. I know that spending is important to quality of life. Reading this article on why Your Latte Isn’t Why You’re In Debt felt like a personal attack on my budgeting method and general worldview, even though I am utterly the first to defend your right to buy something entirely fun and frivolous and joy-making, no matter what your income is. And that’s not a contradictory statement.
Spenders vs Savers (vs Misers vs Feckless)
In the language of money that we use every day, we have a generic image that spending is desirable, and saving is hard. We all personally know people who spend too much, and people who hate to spend anything above their budget. Sophie Kinsella’s “Confessions of A Shopaholic” is a book that perfectly encapsulates our simulatenous fascination and revulsion with extravagent and frivous spending; we hate it, but damn it do we love pretty nice new things!
Retail Therapy vs Escaping Properly
David Cain explains this irony to utmost perfection in his blog post “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed”. Essentially (and it is utterly worth a read, any summary I can write is far from an adequate substitute!) we spend money to make ourselves happy and relieve the stress of work, which we do in order to earn money, in order to spend it, in order to cope with working, etcetera. Whilst writing this blog post I realised that this is a major factor in my personal spending, but there’s far more to this than “and you too can save tonnes of money!”.
See the irony is that to save money, we first have to not emotionally depend on it. Which is harder when it looks when society can so easily be built on endless consumption, but also far more necessary than we might realise when dependance on material goods, instead of something like meaningful human connections and kindness is at the centre of our worldwide philosophy. Our understanding of saving as a “neccessary evil that no one really does” is a shallow substitute for the real route of money-related misery, because the real solution is so completely different and conflicting with consumerism.
Spending Money Is A Political Act
Without our endless earning and spending cycle, the world would be a better place for the environment and people who can live directly from it. But that’s probably not going to happen, and if it did, it would be a terrible waste. We have technology to make amazing things, it only becomes a problem when we let go of our lives in order to make them, and sacrifice the worlds resources and our humanity for them. The more that we rely on external material sources of happiness alone however, the less joy we get from them; it’s basic diminishing marginal returns. Millionaires, billionaires and trillionaires aren’t that many magnitudes happier than any other person who can afford basic healthcare, shelter and food.
But it is billionaires and the owners of capital who we make richer every day when we spend money. On anything.
With this in mind, spending becomes a political act. Not in the sense of boycotting specific companies or brands (though that’s totally a topic for another day), but in the sense of limiting our interaction with capitalism AS A WHOLE. Yeah, I need to buy tights occassionally, but I’m not going to be happy about it, because I know what that represents and what it means for the wider world as a whole.
Watch out for Part 2, where I’ll explore several alternatives to our current material lifestyles ^_^
The end goal of these disgusting conversations, filled with anxiety sweat and wasted adeneline and furious typing and screenshots and links and speedy-reedits, is normally something really worthy and important to everyone involved.
Normally everyone just wants everyone to get along, normally about something like demographic differences. However, even in this very conversation, we’ll then fail to get along, and that’s when we’re all meant to be conciously thinking about it! Instead we battle about our sides, exhaust ourselves, exhaust everyone involved, and all go away feel unsatisfied, misheard and misrepresented.
The solution, as I wrote before, is to fight for a better goal, without egos and with a tangible end goal. Act like you what you want has already been achieved, like the radical new idea that you’re posting is already accepted and you’re helpfully sharing the word. Because you have accepted it for a reason, and it’s proven itself to you, so why wouldn’t it prove itself to others?
Ideally, with everyone being aware of their own humanity and weakenesses, we’d have far shorter conversations. No fights to the discourse-related death, no petty-back-and-forths and blockings and private messages and frantic damage control apologies before slamming the laptop screen shut, sitting back in a now-darkened room and wondering what your life has become.
It’s important to note that not everyone can take part in these conversations. Some people don’t know anyone who vocally has a different opinion to them. Some people don’t have time. In fact, most people don’t have time. Some people don’t think it will really make a difference, and there’s some people who think it will make the world of difference. I fall somewhere on the second half. I don’t think I’ll convince anyone in a single conversation, but I know that I’m not the only person who believes in my brand of solution. I know that there are other crazy feminists out there who will repeat my philosophy, who understand it, and over time, when you see enough of them, you have the chance to understand it yourself. Same way we all did.
So be patient. Give people time. Don’t take the responsibility to change the world all at once on your shoulders. Allow yourself to be part of a larger scheme of things, or else you’re going to burn out your keyboard and all your energy.
This doesn’t mean it’s not okay to be impatient sometimes, you’re only human. But sometimes, you can choose to be different to human. You can choose to be a wheel of change, to provide another opinion, another way. Human’s are very social creatures, we learn from the people around us what is acceptable. If everyone who says they think something is unacceptable states this, and doesn’t try to defend it or argue about it but solidly states it as an unconditional fact of their viewpoint, that’s far stronger than one person taking on a crusade against people who think it’s a fight. It’s not a fight. We don’t need or want to “beat” any one, because that’s not helpful. All that does is force racism and sexism to be more hidden and stealthy. We want people to be convinced. And that’s not something you can force or rush. You can only encourage, and the strongest form of endorsement you’ve got is your own steadfast belief.
That probably doesn’t sound very strong. That’s right, it’s not. But it’s the strongest thing you’ve got, and once you realise this, you’ll find everything a lot easier to handle. It doesn’t convince anyone overnight. All it does is provide another way; the rest is up to people to choose for themselves. All you can do is trust that they are rational, just like you are.
And if they are not convinced?
Then you don’t need everyone. You only need enough people. And if you don’t even get enough people, then perhaps it’s not that great an option you’re offering. That’s something everyone has to decide for themselves, whether their hill is worth dying on or if it’s better to join someone else’s idea.
People are simple social creatures. We like to communicate with eachother, and we’re not very good at understanding nuance; we often have to simplify stuff just to fit it all into our heads. However, this does mean that we’re pretty inaccurate a lot of the time, as anyone who’s spent any time in Social justice circles will know all too well.
Different factions of the internet believe enormous simplifications about each other, like we’re all disgusting caricatures who exist purely to antagonise each other, in a horrifying ugly yet elegant relationship of mutually assured destruction, many people wasting days of their lives (literally, if you add it up, you’d be surprised how many hours those trash conversations on facebook stole from you) both contesting these caricatures and simultaneously re-inforcing them.
“Feminists aren’t angry! but actually I am angry about this issue for a legitimate reason though”
“4chan users aren’t obnoxious! but actually I do find this offensive thing funny though but”
“Fat people aren’t lazy! but actually people should be allowed to be lazy though”
These examples are far from perfect, but you get the idea.
The problem comes from the combined problems of ego and communication.
When we talk about anything that stems facebook messes (those conversations that go on for far too long, and you either love the drama TOO MUCH or you despair of it, but either way, it’s still be hours since you left the screen), we’re normally talking about stuff that’s really close to people’s hearts, that’s close to their identity and understanding of who they are as a person.
There’s a lot of defensiveness here, and it really gets in the way of actual communication, and what’s worse, is that it’s normally really unoriginal, like “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” which even typing out felt bad, because it’s been said so many times in the exact same way in so many of the exact same conversations about racism with someone who only has a basic level of understanding of the word.
This unoriginality begins eventually to grate so hard that it becomes its own meme, and illicits hostility from the moment it’s uttered, like “Not all men” has become its own red flag for a man who knows nothing about how structural sexism and rape culture operates. But predictably, being met with sudden hostility doesn’t exactly decrease someone’s defensiveness, and they still don’t understand what you’re talking about, just because you do and you’re bored of having the same conversation.
Now I’m not saying humour them and say, no, it’s okay, you’re one of the good ones and do not worry! But we’ll get to communication in a bit.
Another specific instance I’ve noticed is with autism, perhaps because it is a more hidden or private trait, often when it’s spoken about on the internet in casual circles it will be with relatives of autistic people. Not only is this uncomfortable because leaving someone out of a discussion about them is inherently dehumanising, whether on purpose or not, it also greatly increases the levels of defensiveness involved. Now it’s not only about being potentially seen as a bigot (a big part of most people’s lives revolving around not being that blatantly unpleasant) but also about their worth as a parent/sibling/cousin etc. It’s a particular brand of nightmare fuel.
We get a bit lost with all the understandable human ego messes flying around these topics, there’s the warrior in each of us that wants what’s right, and a scared little person who wants to look good too, and part of us that doesn’t want to fight at all. No wonder we miss the point sometimes, we get waylaid with insults, or pedantry, survival tactics, damage control, or simply soapboxing our own beliefs.
There’s actually not a lot of talk left inbetween about how best to communicate across these issues, and that’s not surprising. Who wants to spend the little energy they have left at the end of the fray on working on communication with the “other side”? Tribalism is deep in our bones, and when stuff doesn’t work out, it makes sense that our instinct is to blame each other and flee the scene. And there are times when that is simply the best thing you can do; remember those people who love the mess too much? Definitely a running-away situtation.
But the answer is actually pretty clear with the benefit of hindsight; it’s in stepping away from our egos. Now this is hard, and it feels dangerous, because our egos are what fuel most normal interactions just fine, they are what help us to know if we’re going over the line, being offensive, or if we’re improving our relationship. But it’s not normal communication at all when we’re talking about social injustice, which is why it trips up so many of our ego defences.
Communicating without Ego but with Respect/Dignity
Thinking of egos like trip wires, we can see how to avoid them. We can avoid a lot just by focusing on statements and facts, on sources written by other people about people in general of a certain social demographic, or even sources written by people who belong to that demographic; it takes the sting out of any perceived insult and it reduces the degree to which you personally are part of inflicting said insult.
Another handy way to get out alive is to remember your own relationship to your ego. You will want to be right, and you will want to be understood. The other party probably won’t be trying to avoid tripping you up, especially if they think this is a personal conversation, so you have to be the one with the perspective to step away from the ego in order to communicate what you need. And then get out; because you cannot make up people’s minds for them, and people need time and the (illusion of) choice to change their worldview.
This doesn’t mean just be a doormat. You still have an ego, you’re just putting it away temporarily in order to achieve a realistic goal, like providing an alternative view point. It doesn’t mean that when someone insults all feminists for example that it is okay for them to do, and that you always have to shrug it off, and that it isn’t structually harmful to discredit marginalised voices that speak out. But what is structurally harmful and what is personally constructive are not always the same thing; letting a bit of ignorance slide is the only way to change that ignorance into potential knowledge and another agent of change in the world.
This blog is about my journey growing up with an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder, my struggle to overcome my disabilities, and the many angels I met along the way who have made me the person I am today.