Monday, December 31, 2007

Obsolescence and a Wish for the New Year

All right, we certainly cannot call this a comeback. I have not been able to get into the swing of things, into the groove of regular posting, and the more I try to wail and whine about that, the more I realize . . . it's for the best.

So many people say it better and earlier.

I will have to use something Theriomorph said as a jumping-off point, but please, do read her whole post. It is one of those lovely posts you can look at with the narrow view and say, "This is about just this one thing, about which I do not care," and brush it off.

Or, OR, if you have any sense at all, you read it and you say, "Oh, this is initially prompted by this one thing, but then it becomes about so many other things, I cannot take them all in."

That is, it is my very favorite kind of post: One you can think over slowly. But to return to my point, this:

One of the largest tools I came away with was an understanding of the notion of ‘gatekeeping’ I mentioned earlier. The notion that as a white woman, I have basic opportunities others do not.


I have less privilege than many people, and more than most; and the privilege I do have I can use - to put it in comic book terms - for good or evil.


If I have power (to hire, fire, incorporate the ideas of others, supervise, train, teach, support, mentor, speak in public, disseminate ideas), I can use that power to challenge racism and create opportunities for people of color who were not asked to speak or lead, as I was.


If I am given the opportunity to be the gatekeeper, I can, very simply, hold that gate open instead of closed.


I can do this without loss of personal benefit.


Everyone gains if I do this. Everyone.

Right and exactly. My feeling (and I'm betting Theriomorph's, too) is that ideally the time comes, sooner rather than later, when privileged white women don't have to hold open that gate because we have any number of cisgendered/"disabled"/of-color/queer/working class women clamoring to hold open that gate themselves. And my hope is that it goes exactly this simply:

"Hey, let me hold that open for a few."

"Sure thing!"

THE END.

I am thinking that will be the best day of all.

Yes, hold it open while you have the power to do so! That is better than slamming it in another woman's face. But if someone else steps up to say "Here, let me get that," then me personally, I'm more than happy to get out of the way. And lately I've been feeling as though I may as well just get out of the way.

Now DON'T, for the love of humanity, feed me a bunch of reassurance that my voice is still important or any such crap. It will not have the intended effect, because (1) I selfishly do still think my voice is important, or at least, important enough to spit onto a free blog (and how important is that relatively, mmm?), and (2) I am not feeling sorry for myself, honest I'm not, and you would know if I were, because of all the ear-splitting WHINING that would be going on.

Listen: I am pleased as punch to have my sense of self put into perspective--and here I didn't even have to pay for it! Who can complain about free? My sense of self is something I struggle with and something I often inflate. I get into more trouble thinking that I am very important, or that people depend on me, than I ever get into from thinking "Eh, maybe I'm not all that," or "Someone else will handle it, and probably do a better job of it besides." I realize that can sound like a beautiful excuse for plain laziness, but all I can say there is, if you've ever known an obsessive-compulsive, you know all too well how relieving and peacemaking it can be to hear one say, "Maybe I don't have to do this job."

Maybe I can do a different job: Maybe I can play a supporting role, maybe I can simply cheer on those who say it better.

There is something else Theriomorph said in her post that speaks to the post I thought I would write at year's end. That is:

. . . to practice the simple, simple solution of shutting up and LISTENING to what people are saying, and incorporating that feedback into the work.

Ai ai ai OUCH! Ow! There!

Why do we, feminists and pro-feminist allies, not DO this?

Because I had this whole ramble stored up in my head about how abstraction is going to kill us all--or rather, misuse of abstraction is. But the idea that one can--

--read a book about

--read several studies about

--watch a film about

--attend a seminar about

--take a class about

--and know, really know in one's bones, how life is for those whose lives are not ours--well, it's offensive. Don't get me wrong: Books, films, classes, these all help. These are all necessary. We'd never have any idea what any of us were going on about without tools like those. Shared symbols, shared languages, shared concepts all ideally lead to shared understanding. But it's ultimately incomplete, and this is the question I asked myself for all of 2007:

"Why don't we believe each other?"

That is THE question I'm left with: Why the fuck don't we listen to each other? Why the fuck don't we believe what we each have to say about our own lives? If this woman says "I had a bad day at work," why do we have to go into all the ways her story proves that her work itself is wrong? Why can't we say, "Oh, that's horrible! I'm glad you're okay?" Why does there have to be this whole "See, I told you! I told you no good would ever come of stripping--" why's there got to be the same useless shit I used to get from Mormons twenty years ago? Why? Why, exactly? What purpose does this serve?

And if women of color say, "This is my experience trying to participate in discussions on mainstream white feminist blogs," why's any white feminist got to argue with her that--

--no, wait! White feminists don't even do women of color the courtesy of arguing! In fact, the hard ugly truth is that, as a group and in general, white feminists pay more respect and more attention to wingnuts, men's rights activists, Christian fundamentalists, and other avowed antifeminists than we do to women of color. Oh but YES, yes we do. And there's no other word for that besides sickening.

I know the name of the guy who founded AutoAdmit, I know the names (or at least the handles of) the guys behind 4chan. But the women of color you disagree with, the women of color who speak up because they care about women's rights, because they share a handful of beliefs and principles with you, because they actually think you might listen?--They get labeled "some critics." Or they're referenced obliquely with "it has come to my attention." Or they're alluded to with a billion shitty little dodges you wield like so much internet Wite-Out, brand-name reference intentional.

My meager hope for 2008 is that we will learn to trust each other to speak the truth about our own experiences. My meager hope is that we will listen to each other the same way we demand men listen to us. My meager hope is that we will model the change we want to see in the world. If we can't do that, we can't do anything. I don't CARE how many states have anti-abortion laws on the books just waiting for the repeeal of Roe v. Wade; if we can't even trust each other to tell the truth about how life is for us, we can't do shit.

4 comments:

Theriomorph said...

I have an overwhelming urge to call you 'sweet pea' and give you a huge hug right now. Which is kind of forward, I know, since we don't really know each other, but I just thought I'd let you know. : )


"Hey, let me hold that open for a few."

"Sure thing!"

THE END.


Love this. Yeah. Imagine.

Also love reading your writing, ilyka. Do what feels good, of course, and hooray for that, but the simple companionship of reading people telling the truth, funny and fierce? Food. Necessary food. Good food.

Have a great vacation! I hope your new year has epic and ridiculous amounts of joy.

bfp said...

the funny thing is, i try ignoring them, and nobody notices a thing. haha.

aw well.

we can all just through our own party, right?

:-)

ilyka said...

the funny thing is, i try ignoring them, and nobody notices a thing. haha.

"Since Brownfemipower finished school, she's churned out four pages of blog posts--but none of them have much to do with white feminism, so zzzzz[click] OH LOOK JEZEBEL UPDATED! I HEART MOE!"

I'm remiss in congratulating you! Anytime anyone completes school, I'm impressed. Anytime anyone completes school while parenting, I begin to suspect she's immortal.

Magniloquence said...

I am dancing and singing and bopping along at my desk from this. Especially the righteous-making bit here:

White feminists don't even do women of color the courtesy of arguing! In fact, the hard ugly truth is that, as a group and in general, white feminists pay more respect and more attention to wingnuts, men's rights activists, Christian fundamentalists, and other avowed antifeminists than we do to women of color. Oh but YES, yes we do. And there's no other word for that besides sickening.

I know the name of the guy who founded AutoAdmit, I know the names (or at least the handles of) the guys behind 4chan. But the women of color you disagree with, the women of color who speak up because they care about women's rights, because they share a handful of beliefs and principles with you, because they actually think you might listen?--They get labeled "some critics." Or they're referenced obliquely with "it has come to my attention." Or they're alluded to with a billion shitty little dodges you wield like so much internet Wite-Out, brand-name reference intentional.


I think "making pointed comments" and "tossing up the best fightin' words out there" are great skills to add to yer cheearleading repertoire. I have a hard time distilling What's Going Wrong to anything less than a page, and you always get it in a paragraph. Soooo cool.