"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Friday, April 25, 2008

Embracing the Enormity

One reason that I've stopped posting regularly was that the enormity of the various tasks at hand are sometimes overwhelming. Fighting sexism? Ongoing, huge battle. Fighting classicism? Ditto. Fighting racism? Yet another seemingly impossible task. All the while, finding a space to do this as a white, middle-class man? Sigh.

Add to that a growing understanding that communities of protest, communities that seek justice, often aren't very good allies, well, that makes one take a few steps back, reassess and rest.

But of course, 'resting' can be privilege-driven, can't it? I can stop posting, sure, but here I am, living in the US as a white, middle-class man...putting down my pen (so to speak) just means I get a break, to a large degree (though I would claim that men don't get a break from the hardships that patriarchy places on them, either). When BFP stops posting, and takes down her site, because she's understandably fed up, she still has to face a racist, sexist world.

So I'm starting to feel like my hiatus here, while fueled by understandable concerns for my own mental and physical health, is also a way of letting my white/male/able-bodied privilege win out. And, while I think that shutting up can be a lot of what an ally ought to be, I also think that there are ways that I can raise my voice without shouting down those-who-I-would-be-an-ally-of.

So, to start off, howabout a little checklist for myself, to combat the desire to take another break?

1. But it's hard to hear that one isn't being a good ally.
Yep. Sure is. Getting called out feels like shit, especially since people are much more likely to blame than praise in the world o' blogs. You work really hard on trying to bring social justice, and you get called out for what, to you, might seem like small things. But you know what? You don't get to judge what counts as a 'small thing'. These are communities we're talking about, and we're all in it together, so if enough people call you out and say it's important, then it is.

2. There's just too much work to do.
Also true. But keep in mind that you're not doing it alone, and you're not even facing the most daunting challenges--others are. You post about comics and men & feminism, for goodness' sake, not systematic rape in the congo. Maybe you should be posting about other, more important things, but to claim that posting about comics and gender is too daunting, as one of your tasks, is to embrace your privilege. Fight that.

3. But I'm Not Welcome.
Not in every community, not all of the time. That's why this space exists, in part. And there are those who value your voice, and who value what you say. Seek them out. Nurture them. And continue to understand that it's ok that you're not welcome some places. Keep the righteous indignation at a minimum, because it is so often a reflection of your privilege.

There's more, of course, but this is a start.


Hugo said...

Terrific post, excellent points. And though we all need a break from time to time, those of us who can ought to stay in the work of blogging (and sometimes it really is work). And hey, I learn a lot about comics here, something I know nothing about.

donna darko said...

white, middle-class man...putting down my pen

This comment has nothing to do with you but it would be great if A-lister men and women put down their pens for six months, a year, or whatever, and let woc and women take over for a while!

jeff said...

Thanks for the words, Hugo.

jeff said...

I've been thinking a lot about what you said here. What would that look like, I wonder? I don't, of course, have to make such a decision myself, because I'm so far from A-lister that I think I'm off of the alphabet altogether. I worry that there is another aspect of all of this that wouldn't be altered by such a move -- the entire community has to be involved in such a change, and not only by shutting up. We need communities that build on everybody getting a voice, and all voices being heard. This means, in part, that people whose voices have historically been more or less silenced get some priority. But I also think that stepping aside (only) is avoiding some responsibility, in some ways.

Hmmm. I've been thinking about this all weekend, and now I see I need to think about it even more.

Bach-us said...


jeff said...

Thanks, Bach-us. Cheering is generally welcome and encouraged here. :)