Just a little post to say I am currently writing again, and taking it more seriously this time around. I’m keeping track of the time I take, and working on posts regularly, and I’ve found a structure that I believe is going to help me get more interesting and relevant posts out more often.
I’d also like to take this chance to thank everyone who has helped with my blog this past year in 2017, it was my biggest year so far and even though we are still small, every view and comment and like is very meaningful to me and helps me to keep going, and to believe in the vision that this blog stands for, for interesting, topical and relatable content about social justice issues, from someone who has been there, done that, and still wants to keep going.
Hope everyone is having a great 2018 so far, and look forward to seeing what is coming in the other 11 months of the year!
So many people have blogs and opinions.
So many people work in government and in media.
So many people vote opposite to how you would like to vote, whoever you are and whichever side you are on.
For every activist conference there’s a tonne of people at home who don’t care and don’t need to, or who have accessibility needs that haven’t been addressed, or feel disillusioned with mainstream campaigns, or who can’t make it out to London again with the cost of train tickets being so damn high. (That last one is me, sitting inside having a nice day reading and not making a damn bit of difference to the world.)
So what can we do to actually make a difference as an individual?
1, Become the ultimate opinion former.
Like a mighty greek hero, you have fought legendary battles, and you have endless wisdom and talent and grace. From on high, your demands are heard across the land, and no one who hears them can argue against them, persuasive and influential as you are.
Never mind the fact that most people quit, and most people don’t get views, and most people aren’t talented (by definition), even the people with the most influential positions only have a fraction of power compared to the masses.
2. Seize the means of production!
Like a slightly more sneaky kind of hero, you slowly and secretly acquire huge wealth and capital, until suddenly, you have enough to throw off the balance of power. With one fell swoop you give up all your electrical generators and factories and vehicles up to the mass of the people, finally fulfilling the promise of communism, the people rejoice to now own the means of production, and you gracefully bow down and out to return to your common existance, as an equal and a comrade.
Never mind the fact that there’s a reason why no one person owns all these things, chances of infiltrating the capital system on this kind of scale as a fake dash this plan down to nothing, there’s no way you could stop yourself either betraying your “for the people” values or genuinely turning to the Dark Side.
3. No, I meant, literally, seize the means of production, like how Marx actually meant, in a physical revolution!
Ooooohhh. Yeah, nope, we already established this, people aren’t going to follow you, you’re gonna be hugely outnumbered and it’s not going to work.
4. Fine. How about; Make a new system, that people can’t possibly say no to, like Elon Musk!
You look up, sweating, from your desk. It’s taken years of study, months of work, thousands of pounds, everything you’ve got, but you’ve finally done it, at last; you have created a better system than capitalism, one that gets everyone what they want for themselves, and doesn’t need to convince them, and wears the skin of capitalism…surely it will take off immediately, an overnight sucess, change happening in an instant, seamless, joyous, and new!
Until you realise that you’re not Elon Musk, and he’s not even a politician; even he only focuses on one single issue at a time, like climate change, or the rise of AI. And these plans only appeal because they aren’t political, because they don’t fundamentally challenge anyone’s beliefs, they just offer better alternatives, like Tesla’s, that are still damaging to the environment and don’t address the problem of human consumption.
What can we really do then?
As individuals, we probably all go through something like this process when we think about what change we can make, I know I do.
Of course, the depressingly real answer is that individuals, we can’t really do much. We can make big strides, like when Beyonce lit the world up talking about Feminism because of that show, or start incredible movements, like Sampat Pal Devi who started the badass Pink/Gulabi Gang of India, (which if you haven’t heard about you must read more about right now!), but no one individual came make everything happen.
Which means we have to pick our battles, which, we notoriously hate doing!
Picking battles means acknowledging that there are some things we can’t do, some causes that will have to be neglected, and it feels like a failure.
When I started this blog, it was about refusing to pick a battle, using the resources of others to create a cohesive-bullet-proof-one-size-fits-all place for everything, for all the battles.
But over time you have to admit the truth, you’re just one person.
So what are you going to choose to do?
Let me know in the comments if you relate to this struggle, I want to hear from you for the next part in what is apparently now becoming a series, which is going to be about how people make these decisions, and the more voices I get, the better it’s gonna be!
Thank you for reading, if you enjoyed this please “like” to let me know, and also consider checking out my facebook page to stay up to date with my posts and see other articles I post, thank you!
Since the world as I knew it turned totally fascist two Tuesdays ago, I’ve been looking at activism with fresh eyes. No longer for me is it a conscieable option to simply sign the occassional petition and hope for enough money to go to a protest, or choose a career in meaningful inter-personal work and generally be a good example of loving diversity in society, I feel a need to do more.
At last, after a few days of idly scrolling various sites with few urgent UK actions leaping out to me, one landed. You can probably tell by the title which campaign that was.
Specifically, it was this article in the Guardian that popped up and made me take notice; titled “Restricting niche porn sites is a disaster for people with marginalised sexualities”. Hardly the most high-brow cause to catch my attention, but the connotations of this bill are worrying, even when they make for tacky-sounding, eye-catching headlines. I had known about part of this since 2014, when there were campaigns about banning face-sitting in paid-for porn content. I don’t actually watch porn, but even at the time that sounded unfair, and difficult to enforce. I don’t recall actually doing anything though.
Not this time however, I was going to follow through with my feeling of unease at dubous moral-sounding censorship and find out exactly what was going on. Cue this monstrosity when I look for the actual bill:
Armed with this excessive tool for research, I tried to dive deeper into the questions of censorship this article raised, and what possible reasoning there could be for it getting so far in parliament.
It turns out, it’s framed as for children, that’s what the costly age-verification requirement is about, and this bit could drive independent sites out of business according to the owner of Dreams of Spanking and author of the guardian article, Pandora Blake. It wasn’t clear to me if that cost would fall to producers, and it wasn’t made clearer by the helpful-sounding “Age-Verification Provider: Designation and Funding” section, because with all the referrals back, there’s barely anything in each actual section. The line (terminology leaves me behind, apologies) labelled 6 states that: “The Secretary of State may pay grants or make loans to the age-verification regulator to cover expenditure incurred in the carrying out of its functions.“, which to me reads as it being state-funded, at least in some part, and at least state-provided.
But I’m no expert, and I began to question if it would not be a better solution to check age as part of a ISP function, like with parental controls…struck by the fundamentally bizarre logic that the government is assigning itself as everyone’s parents, and forcing everyone to have parental controls on their provider, without a choice or other option, and that does seem very wrong.
Other individuals seem to have had this thought too, if you’re going to meddle in censorship, do you even have a workable plan, UK government? Business Insider thinks not “The UK is banning ‘non-conventional’ porn and it could censor huge swathes of the web“,and raises a lot of good points about mixed social media sites, with a wide range of age ranges and content available. Someone, somewhere in the policy rooms, has either already thought up a detailed answer to this or is thinking it up right now, but it doesn’t mean much if we in the general public have to wait until this bill is realised in order to see how it will work. This was the first part that I decided I needed to ring someone about…and then wrote my blog post before doing that, but stay tuned for when I do, coming sometime next week!
In my travels, I found further interesting points about this bill for example WebDevLaw in “Idiocy By The Back Door” considers its huge scope, and how its structure allows a lot of significant issues to be ignored; which is worth mentioning before I continue to contribute to ignoring significant issues and focusing on the porn.
My solitary excuse for this is that personally I agree with the view presented by many, including Sex and Censorship that porn is the canary in the mineshaft of personal freedoms. There’s a distinct feeling of pearl clutching in the specific acts affected by this law, coming directly from the 2014 law in which paid-for online pornographic content became rated by the BBFC same as DVD’s . Sex and Censorship did a good job in pointing out what a lot of mainstream reporters failed to pay attention to at the time, that it wasn’t to do with even subconscious sexism, even if it sounds like it, and has that effect. For example, face-sitting. Hysteria ensued when it was described as unnrateable by the BBFC, and therefore could not be available in paid-for online content in the UK, but looking into the logic more thoroughly than you would normally ever want to in Myles Jackman’s incredibly thorough guide, you can see that dick-sucking to the point of risking breathing is also unrateable, and that facesitting is allowed as long as airways are clear. Again, at this point it is acceptable to sit back again and wonder why on earth the government cares this deeply about what’s going on in our respective knickers, and doesn’t this all feel a bit invasive?
The excuses, which I am finally getting to, lie in obscure old laws that do provide a decent service on the face of it; The Obscene Publications Act of 1959 and the amendment of 1964, protecting the general public from bestiality and necrophilia, for example. The confusing part is the subjective judgement required in judging whether material is likely to “deprave and corrupt” those likely to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it. The BBFC heavily leans on this act in order to create its ratings, which means items viewed as violating the OPA are refused ratings, and somehow, this has got twisted to the point that anything that could be significantly dangerous in pornographic material will be refused a rating, when a simple “do not try this at home or without professional training” disclaimer would surely be sufficient? This is phone call number two, that I *still* haven’t made yet, and you should still stay tuned for, not to say that the answer doesn’t exist, it’s just impossible to find for the average blogger (i.e me).
The Digital Economy Bill is a monster of a bill in every respect, and so it is complicated in many facets. It doesn’t only concern porn, but copyright law, and internet provision too, and this is how politics takes over, by being so huge and intimidating that we cannot understand it, let alone provide reasonable rationales against it. But slowly, I will be trying to uncover more information for my own purposes in the next few days, and maybe it will make sense, or it will be even more outrageous. Either way, fighting starts with knownledge, and damn, I have a lot more respect for lawyers and bill-writers and policy-makers etc. than I have ever had before now!
Until the next time, good luck and happy interneting!
*publishing this less-than-perfect both as a support to my argument and as a way to something, anything, published and hopefully get back into the groove.*
So I haven’t blogged in a while now, so I’d thought I’d write about why I even bother.
I knew I wanted to write something general about how stuff getting done is good, about how the value of practise is in the doing, expressing yourself. How activism is good because it is good, not because it makes the world perfect. Hopefully this will inspire you, if you feel like you need it, to get out and get doing your terrible terrible talentless hobbies, because it’s worth it. Here’s why:
1. Getting stuff done is good. The act of having “done” something has an outcome, which sounds obvious but it really can’t be overstated. It’s really important to value what we can do, and what we have done. Not in qualititive or quantative terms, but in inherent meaning. That you are alive today is a good thing. That you did something that you wanted to do is a good thing, regardless of whether you did it well. What matters is that you did it.
2. Getting stuff done encourages you to get more stuff done. We are free, mostly. But we can easily act like we’re not, convince ourselves that it’s not worth starting anything, be it a change in career path or a creative project, because we’re not good enough yet.
But when you’re paralysed with fear of failure, you’re going to do nothing, and that’s far worse than making something terrible. That’s worse than making a monstrosity of a project or a terrible awful truly just bad all round choice; because you’re stagnant. You’re not learning from that. You’re frozen, what kind of a life is that?
By contrast, when you do stuff, you start to fail. And you generally, live to paint something awful/write a terrible post/sing badly another day. Generally, you keep living through your failures, and after a certain point, you realise that there’s no shame in failing. I failed constantly to be cool, and popular, but here I am still. You get tougher. You can do more and more and more things, because it’s good to do things, and it gets more fun.
3. Doing stuff makes you better. Everyone knows that practice makes perfect, but does anyone believe it? And does it even matter if we do if we then interpret it wrongly? The people who are the most successful in life are not people who forced themselves into practicing an activity because they wanted to become good, they are people who did an activity enough that they became amazing because they enjoy the simple act of that activity; for what it is, not for the potential status symbol their talent would eventually become.
We think that doing stuff badly isn’t worth it, but that 99% perspiration that’s talked about? Bad stuff is what that’s made of, “bad” stuff is the seeds of good stuff, and not only that, it is valuable and good in its own right, in an expression of freedom and in the choice that you made to take that action. Don’t aim to be great, aim to have fun, and then if greatness comes, it’s only a perk that came of the main aim; to have fun and be a human who does things because it is good to do things.
4. Doing things sends a message and makes a difference.
Activism is often held to a similar backwards standard; we can’t achieve perfection, so why would we even start? But again, the value is in the meaning of the actions we choose to take. “Someone”‘s (actually Bree Newsome‘s) action to take down a violent Civil War flag isn’t just that action, it’s a statement, with meaning beyond any larger picture. It tells people, she was brave enough to do this. She believes in this. This was done, by another person, who I could be like. Newsome’s action has value in how she inspired others, and in the story that her choice tells.
It’s not her only contribution to politics, she was arrested in 2013 about voter rights, but she’s simultaneously not an activism legend. She’s another person trying make this world a better place. Her personal inspirations for taking that leap into activism come from simply existing as a black female horror film creator; nothing magical, just something human and natural and most importantly, ordinary. Not perfect or unnattainable.
Each part of what you choose to do is valuable both on its own, and as part of a bigger picture, of personal development, of a part in the continuing civil rights movement, or whatever it is that is among the things you care about (and are about. Typos are fun!)
It will inspire you, and maybe others, to become more than what you currently are. It matters *because* you did it.
5. Doing things promotes personal growth in general.
Something that is “bad” is actually something that is simply new. Something that scares you, something that challenges you. This isn’t bad. This is an opportunity to learn. Every hurt is a lesson, every lesson makes you stronger. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
We should REVEL in our bad talents. Our talents that aren’t actually talents yet, just good, just projects, just growth. Even when they don’t get any better, there’s still value. There’s value in learning about yourself, about how you handle frustration, how you deal with it, in seeing a hurdle, and reaching it. How hard this is to do and how long it takes for you to master it, gives extra beauty to how incredible the works of other people are. It teaches you how you handle jealousy and envy, it gives you humility in knowing what you cannot do (yet, or ever, it doesn’t matter).
A girl I know hates her art. Doesn’t everyone know this girl? Either that, or you are that girl. She looks at her art, that others admire, and hates it for not being what she wants it to be. She can’t see anything else, and even if she does, she can’t admit it, because it’s not perfection, or even good by her own standards, to like it would be a failure.
Ultimately, can we reach a better way?
But what if instead we revel in the boring “progress” part of the journey? The part that is beautiful because you made it, not because it’s perfect. The part that reflects that you love this, and you’re succeeding in doing this, purely driven by love and expression. Alternately, we could all decide tomorrow to have low standards; so we’ll always exceed them and we’ll never be disappointed again. Nihilism, “shoot for the stars and if you miss you’ll die in space which is pretty cool” style. Learning to revel in the mediocre, the fabric of everyday life. Choose your shitty hobbies and run with them, learn from them and enjoy them. Fill your home and your life and your time with rubbish, your very own carefully selected and lovingly nourished rubbish.
To finish off; here, have a song that I love because it likes to relentlessly jolt me into activity the moment I start playing it:
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!*