True Life: I was a SJW University Student

Hi there.

Back in university, I managed to become the president of the feminism society. I’ve told people about it so much since then it feels like a meme, but in reality I was mega-stoked. It was one of my proudest moments, I felt relevant, I felt empowered, I felt challenged.

Flash forward to today. It’s 4 years later. My university events and “debates” we organised feel like distant irrelevant memories. At the time we were so proud of ourselves, making feminism bigger on campus, meeting with the Student Union to talk about fighting Lad Culture by reaching out to the sports teams, pre-emptively.

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Image from YouGov’s Report on Lad Culture. Seriously.

Then I left. I worked in retail, then mental health. My feminist empowerment days appear to be over now, left for the young people, the people with the time and the energy and the freedom to follow their interests.

In retail, no one has time to discuss gendered clothing, or unhealthy body expectations. You can try to wind it into conversation, but shit, it’s too late, they noticed you haven’t shaved your armpits! All must halt until we work out if you are one of “those” feminists…

Spoiler alert: Kinda, yeah. Cue downtime discussions about simple basic repetitive grade-one style feminist issues. Enough “but aren’t there differences for a reason though?” and “I don’t hate men :)” for the matchsticks to snap from the strain.

Facing the Music

My complex web of sociological knowledge was wiped away, paled into insignificance against the stock targets for this week. I hadn’t realised until I left how much of an echo chamber and a bubble I’d been afforded in university, just by being outside of the work environment.

I still didn’t want to leave it all behind. I wanted to build on what I knew, stay woke, stay in the loop. Didn’t want to become right-wing, bigoted, lazy, small-minded like people believe is natural as you mature, because I knew I didn’t have to be.

I started this blog. I still had so much to say about the basics, about current affairs, I wanted to get it out there in an accessible no-nonsense way, to more people than my bored semi-curious co-workers.

Reality, I was adding to the same echo chamber, and not even on a large scale. The information is out there, for people who need it or want it, there are entire blogs about the smallest part of feminism or racism or ableism. Speaking up is important, yes, but was it my job?

“Feminist” is not a job. When you’re young, like I was, and looking for direction, like I was, it can seem like it. You can see into the matrix at last, and now it feels like you can escape it:

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More at http://skepchick.org/2012/02/seeing-the-patriarchy/

Yet, when you care, you can’t just switch it off. It feels like a double life, a shit superhero. Activism gets called out for being either inaccessible, or ineffective, or both, because it is. My university activism was tiny, but felt huge, because my university world was small. Tweets are tiny, but easy, and can make a difference if enough people join in, but mostly you’re shouting into the void.

The Liberal Elite?

Activism is inaccessible because it needs money, or to be able-bodied, or to be neuro-typical, or to have time off work. It’s ineffective because the media doesn’t report on it, or because people write you off as a loony before you even speak.

Activism is only a tiny portion of the Real World TM. It’s hard to get your head around when your world has only just expanded from school to a university campus and almost unlimited free time; you feel almighty, unbeatable. Education feels like the way forward, debates are a regularity, everyone thinks you are the future.

Like-minded, educated, soft. The definition of the Liberal Elite TM. The irony being that “elite” implies actual power; not just an insular illusion. Some graduates go on to be powerful and influential, most don’t, by the law of averages. Not everyone is in a pipeline to government, most people are there just to get degrees and then jobs. There’s more liberalism than the general public, but there’s plenty of outrageous right-wingers too. At my university liberals utterly dominated the student union; the right wingers simply didn’t bother with it. Perhaps the union seemed too cuddly and cloying for their take, or perhaps they were outnumbered.

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Detached Millenial Students. (From Humans of Remuera.)

Coming Down From The Ivory Tower

Real world politics is different. There are actual stakes, not just a debate about union policies, but people’s jobs, homes, safety, wellbeing, towns and communities. Real world politics is a houseful of people with mental illness, all living off benefits, almost none of whom believe in voting. Real world politics is working a job that doesn’t mean anything except numbers in a foreign bank account and cheap clothing on people’s backs.

You can’t access real world politics from the ivory tower, no. Once you are forcibly ejected from the tower, you can’t scramble back up and continue to pretend the world is simple and misinformed. In the dirt, you have to find a way to be relevant again.

Perhaps you will be relevant by starting a realistic blog about issues which will be written off with all the other lefty online nonsense (and adds nothing original to the topic anyway). Perhaps you will be relevant by using your role to encourage education and liberalism; in a role not built for that. Perhaps you will work in your community, to recreate that little ivory tower of hopes and dreams and equality, and make a difference to some peoples’ realities.

The Wilderness?

The real issue with student Social Justice Warriors is where they go afterwards. That keyboard warrior you battled for months, the opinionated youtuber, that bizarre blog with a fixation on manspreading. People who are against SJW’s worry about what we will do, but it’s time we do too. We need to worry about where we go from our ideals. How do we drag our ideals into reality?

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People believe that the judgemental SJW they laughed at once is a one-off, lamentable, ridiculous. Sometimes, that’s true. Sometimes, it really is a phase, and real life gets that person down off their high horse. Or maybe it’s an anxiety condition, and that person really does need to chill out and stop. Or maybe its genuine belief that the world can be a better place. If that last one is true, we need to commit. Take action that doesn’t reinforce the echo chamber, action that engages the public, doesn’t just create shock value or alienate ourselves from society.

The Future

To be a social justice warrior but not make it your job, to weave it into your action. What does that mean? I don’t know yet, but I hope I will. I no longer often call myself a social justice warrior. I climbed down off the high horse and gave up on the endless internet debates, and realistically, at the ripe old age of 24 I’m too old now to legitimately embrace the identity…I’m not even sure if anyone else does at this point.  Perhaps by now I need to go by political label; socialist, communist, leftist, etc. I’ll get around to reading Marx at some point, but until then, labels feel too small and counter productive.

If social justice is deluded from reality, perhaps the answer lies in reality; in being kind and being fair and standing up for people’s rights in the real world. That’s not as easy as it sounds. It isn’t always achieved by blurting facts and stats at people, but by whisteblowing, using the law on your side, by being brave. This kind of activism is what stops atrocities or enables them, what reminds us of our humanity and dignity, or doesn’t. The decisions being made in the UK around welfare are being made by people, who just need to get their jobs done to make the UK a better place. Why do they make evil choices with awful results? That’s where we need to look.

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(image source)

I’m going to try and update more regularly now, talking about reality. I work in mental health and I live in the UK, so I’m going to write more about the reality of this, and the ethical issues at play, and moral responsibilities to handle.

Stay safe and thank you for reading. I’m not going to release the second half of diet culture yet, because I want to focus on this realistic blogging future instead for now. Thanks. ^_^

 

 

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2018 Blog Maintenance Post and Update: Thank you

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.

T-shirt saying "If it involves feminism, social justice, or equality, count me in""
You could say I have seen it, done it, and bought the T-shirt. But I didn’t, so this T shirt is just pulled from Google Images; sorry Zazzle.

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!

Thank you

Name change and new direction

Hey’all. It’s been a while, because back in June, after I thought and sat about why the hell I was even doing this, I realised I had no idea what had happened to my original plans to lay bare the SJW mentality and bring humanity and dialogue and nuance to the whole special snowflake narrative.

Hopefully, adding “Journey” to my name is gonna get that all cleared up and done now.

I’m hoping to post more openly and honestly about the processes and growth I’ve been going through and have seen happening in the social justice culture, the hopefully #relateable struggles and realisations of what it is like to be constantly trying your best to be fair in a world that sometimes feels like maybe it wants to beat the shit out of you for that…

(Obviously, that last sentence couldn’t sound more “out-of-touch smug leftist” if it tried, but if you’ve ever said the word racism to other white people, hopefully you know that feeling and it’s not just me!)

So thank you all for bearing with me and hanging on, I hope you continue to hang on and I’m looking forward to trying this ever-so-slightly different tack on the coming months, so thank you for sticking around for it.

Obviously updates to the about page are pending, my initial utopian uber-equal resource plans were WAY over my level, and it’s unlikely a mere mortal could have ever achieved them in one lifetime, but that’s a whole other topic, so keep watching all these spaces for my thoughts on that, coming soon as usual.

 

 

 

You’re a Hypocrite! What about MY free speech!

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Again, I’m borrowing from the amazing NaoiseDolan, this can be found at naoisedolan.com/freeze-peach/

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!

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Actual image of what Mra’s and other casual to semi-pro bigots think they are dealing with

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.

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Don’t shove your opinion down my throat…let people get over the stage where they are just yelling variations of this at you.

 

*Disclaimer: It is better to publish something than let it sit in drafts forever. xx*

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!*