storyinmypocket: ([politics] all the oppressions)
[personal profile] storyinmypocket
So there was a kerfluffle a while back in which I pretty much stopped talking to one of my friends and dropped out of a game I was really enjoying, because I did not have the spoons to carry on IC while the OOC drama raged, as the people I was having drama with were RPing people with established relationships to my characters. And since that kerfluffle, I've been being very quiet on social networks in general. There are things I've needed to say for a while now, and the fact that I haven't said them has kept me from being social at all, out of fear of starting more drama. And now there are good things I want to talk about, but first I need to get this off my chest.

Let me start by saying that this isn't meant to accuse specific people. I've been there, I've done that, and I'm pretty sure that horse isn't just resting, or pining for the fjords. It is no more. But as I don't want that drama repeating all over again with someone else, I'm going to make where I stand absolutely clear.

As a writer, I believe, above all, in the power of the words we use and the stories we tell. I believe that words and ideas have real, measurable effects in the world. And I believe we all ought to think about the words we use and why we're using them, because this is powerful shit. It is a big fucking deal.

So when you do something that's reinforcing a cultural story that hurts me and/or people I care about, even inadvertently, I'm going to step up and say something. I'm not going to tell you not to use that word again, ever. That's not my job, and I'm not interested in giving you the list of terrible words you should never, ever say. Fuck that.

But when you use hurtful language, I will mention it's hurtful, or ask if it was really what you meant to say. Not just if it's hurtful to me, personally, because sometimes, I wish someone else had spoken up for me when I didn't have the emotional energy to mention something hurt me. I know too well how much that one little word can hurt when you're already buried under the load of ten thousand more just like it. So if I have the spoons to deal with the potential fallout, I will say something, as gently as I can.

But here, this is the part where you need to listen, and listen closely: I don't think you're a bad person because of one thing you said. I don't think you're trying to hurt anyone. Granted, intent doesn't take away the inappropriateness of what was said, but if you're my friend, I tend to assume you're not actually a bigot.

I'll staunchly defend your right to say whatever the fuck you want to say, but my right to do the same means that I get to challenge your choice of words, and I will. I may link you to things written by other people who have a problem with what you’ve said, and who may have more authority than I do to speak on the issues at hand. They may be angrier than I am. They have the right to be. But showing you how other people are angered and hurt does not mean that I, personally, am angry with you -- it means that these angry people are making a valid point that I wish you’d pay attention to, especially since quite often, the reason they’re angry is because they have to deal with this shit again and again and a-fucking-gain.

To you, it may seem like nothing. It’s one little word, right? No big deal, especially when all your friends know what you really mean. Except that for people who’ve dealt with those words as slurs, up close and personal, it still hurts. It hurts, and then we tell ourselves, that no, it’s okay, that’s just the way this person is, that they didn’t mean it like that. But that’s a lot of emotional energy that we have to expend, rationalizing away our hurt, because we don’t want to hurt someone else's feelings.

Suffering in silence kind of sucks, especially when it’s accompanied by a mental chorus of, “But I’m stupid for feeling this way at all — I know it’s not like that.” Strangely, I’ve never known that line of thinking to actually make things better for anyone at all. Instead, it adds to the misery, every damn time.

And here’s something else — your friends may know what you mean, but if you’re putting your words out on the internet, you’re making it available to the world, and J. Random Internet Asshole doesn’t know what you mean. You’re giving your permission to people who don’t believe that, for instance, gay=homosexual and gay=bad are two distinct meanings (and, FYI, they’re not), but that gay=homosexual=bad, and who use the term with that intent.

Pop culture is not an excuse. Pop culture is, in fact, deeply problematic in a whole lot of ways, and for all that I partake in pop culture as much as anyone else — hell, I’ve roleplayed Gene Hunt and Gregory House, for Loki’s sake, and both of them politically incorrect assholes of the highest order* — I firmly believe in challenging the things that are wrong, while celebrating the good parts.

And really, that’s how you make a better world. Celebrate the good. Challenge the bad.

I’m not perfect. Neither are you. We all fuck things up sometimes. “You’re doing something hurtful and I wish you’d stop” doesn’t mean “You’re a bad person.” It means exactly what it says. However, if you don’t stop, no matter how awesome you may be in every other respect, I’m going to remove myself from situations where I have to deal with you saying hurtful things, much as I would expect any of you to do if I kept discussing things which were hurtful to you. It should go without saying that I’d appreciate it if you said something to me first, so we can try to work through it, but if it can’t be worked through, better to cut things off cleanly and go on with our lives than to keep inadvertently hurting each other.

Life’s too short to waste on that kind of stress. Just because someone has the freedom to say something, it doesn’t mean the other person has to stand around and listen.

So that’s my rant. Defriend if you feel the need — I’m prepared to lose some people because of this, but such is life. If you feel the need to make a comment that could’ve come straight out of Derailing for Dummies, I’ll probably just laugh at it, though.


*Yes, I play characters who I’d probably want to knee in the balls if I ever met them in real life, because fictional assholes are interesting. It’s worth noting, however, that the characters in question are called on their bullshit in their respective canons, and it’s somewhat telling that, as [personal profile] allfireburns once pointed out, neither of them have more than one actual friend. Their would-be imitators seem to forget this a lot.

Date: 2011-01-23 01:05 am (UTC)
yetregressing: text: everything leaves a mark (even the little words hurt)
From: [personal profile] yetregressing
I don't know if you're looking for any commentary or discussion about this, but know that first of all, I completely agree with you on all points. And I've been working hard to take what I've learned on the internet and apply it to my real life, and it's really hard--and on top of that, in part because I live at a conservative boarding school, I tend to be the only person doing the callouts.

I'm sure you've seen this post about call outs and how careful one has to be in doing it--making sure to turn it into an educational experience, so you don't get that focus on the personal. And that is probably the hardest thing EVER to do, because when you're called out on something, you're embarrassed and it FEELS like an attack. (Another good example is this video that essentially makes the same point, though I have waaaay too much of an intellectual crush on Jay Smooth to not share it with you.)

But like this post explains, you have to do the call out--because if you just sit there in silence, nothing gets DONE and the cultural constructs that build worlds in which people get killed for who they are. And if we can't convince our friends of that, is there any hope whatsoever of convincing the people out there who aren't?

And you basically said all of this. Just... yes. Sometimes we need the PC police, because if it doesn't start on that level, it can end in a much more drastic and terrible place--and that is not the world I want to grow up in.

Date: 2011-01-23 12:19 pm (UTC)
dchan: text: what a shame we became such fragile broken things (fragile broken things)
From: [personal profile] dchan
I'll agree that calling people out is incredibly important, and more people should do it, but no one should feel like they have to be a crusading activist at the expense of their physical or emotional well-being. People feeling guilty for not setting themselves up as martyrs strikes me as a bad thing, especially when the people in question are members of marginalized groups.

*nod* I definitely agree with this bit. Even when I've got a relatively full psychological spoon count that day, it can be incredibly draining for me to try to sit down and explain to someone exactly why that thing they said that was supposed to be an expression of helpfulness and support was actually horribly insulting to not only myself, but just about every other person I've met that also has an autistic spectrum disorder. Especially things like the all-too-common concept that parents of autistic children are somehow more qualified to advocate for our needs than actual people with autism....*eyeroll* I've learned to pick my battles, and save the calling-out and explanations for people that I think will actually listen to what I have to say, and try not to count potential missed opportunities the rest of the time. And yeah, that means that I've had to sacrifice a lot of visible activism in other areas (e.g. trans* issues), but there's only so much I can do without sacrificing my own mental health and stability, so picking my battles is an unfortunate necessity.

***

And for the record, if I ever say something offensive please call me out. I try to keep abreast of the major issues in the various -ism communities, but I don't always have the energy to keep up with events that are happening in areas that don't affect me all that much. So I might miss the nuances of something or the less obvious implications of something I'm saying, in which case I'd be really grateful that someone corrected me. I might not always be able to express a response, depending on where I am mentally/emotionally then, but I promise I am listening.
Edited (HTML fail) Date: 2011-01-23 12:20 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-23 03:20 pm (UTC)
yetregressing: text: use your imagination (Default)
From: [personal profile] yetregressing
No, all of that makes absolute perfect sense. I need to be more careful with the way I'm wording things, definitely. I didn't mean to imply that I thought you should be required to (though I think you understood that), it was more of a--well. Me putting my foot into my mouth kind of thing, because I come from places where the communities were small enough and accepting enough that doing a call out wouldn't put me in any kind of danger. (Hi, various types of privilege coming in to play there. Thanks for joining us. >.>)

I guess part of what I said came from a place where, like I said, I'm generally the only one doing the call out (this is all at school, just to be specific). And a massive number of those people are (or present themselves, pretty loudly, as) white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied/nondisabled, neurotypical people, and they're all teenagers (well, except for few teachers who have said things without thinking) who don't know--and unless I am the one doing the calling out, they don't get called out (except for a few specific supportive teachers who I am so thankful for). And so it gets very frustrating very fast to be the only person doing the calling out. You get marked 'PC police', which is a term I also hate--because that phrase, 'PC', takes the concept of trying not to be hurtful and makes it into a negative thing (probably by throwing the word 'political' in there, because politics is ALWAYS a bad thing, and it's ALWAYS fake, so you are therefore trying to be fake-correct). Like, I don't want to cause harm to another person, and that makes me ridiculous. And so it makes people take me less seriously, because then I become the kid who's the PC police.

So basically yes. I need to be more careful when writing these comments because my privilege shows all over the place (oh the irony. Not really.) and I'm sorry you had to deal with that on top of this whole post. I really admire you for making it, either way, and. Yeah. <3 <3 <3

Date: 2011-01-23 03:26 pm (UTC)
yetregressing: text: use your imagination (Default)
From: [personal profile] yetregressing
'I didn't mean to imply' = 'I didn't intend to' = intent is not fucking magic, self.

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storyinmypocket: (Default)
Jaqui Lokadottir

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I've got a story in my pocket and a bag full of apples; I'm rewriting this fairy tale whether you like it or not.

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