Fuck you and your accusations of “identity politics”

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I repeat, for those in the back of the room who haven’t heard yet, pointing out gross inequalities (in income, access to health care and clean housing, in all around well-being) that arise out of an inherently unfair and discriminatory system is NOT identity politics. You can talk about “we” all you want and appeal to what “we” supposedly all have in common, but “we” are not all treated the same and therefore don’t all have the same opportunities. And until the folks who are treated “better” by the system work to dismantle that system and the oppression that goes with it, people who aren’t treated fairly will continue to fight. If you don’t want to help, then get out of the way! If this makes you uncomfortable, well here’s a tune on the world’s smallest violin.
 
And yes, I’m fully aware that oppression is multi-dimensional and complex. That’s why any “we” that is to thrive has to thrive on increased understanding of what people with different experiences face in society. Ignoring the different ways in which people are treated in the name of some lofty ideals about “we are all one” just perpetuates the blissful, and sometimes willful, ignorance of those who profit the most from the oppression of others.
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Freedom of what?

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It seems to me that many of the people arguing for freedom of speech these days are:

-fighting for the right to express retrograde views that have upheld an unequal society for centuries;

-fighting for the right to express things that have been shoved down our throats as “the truth” for far too long (white supremacist beliefs, gender essentialist beliefs, etc.);

-expecting their views to be acknowledged as universal truths;

-acting as though views that support a racist, sexist, and so forth status quo is somehow edgy and sexy;

-acting as though people disagreeing with them, even respectfully, is some form of persecution;

-not understanding that it’s often their arrogance and refusal to acknowledge that their truth is not universal or objective, and not their little opinion, that drives people to get angry with them and refuse to engage with them;

-not understanding that their “opinions”, like those of most other people, are based on their own partial view and life experience, not on cold, hard, objective truth;

-not understanding that inserting their opinions in discussions of people’s experiences of an unjust world, as though they somehow know better than those who are directly affected by various forms of bigotry, actually is oppressive;

-and, as many have pointed out, not understanding that people telling them that they are full of shit is not actually taking away their freedom of speech.

Tl;dr: If you want to be taken seriously, do your research and base your opinions on something other than your limited life experience.

Everyone welcome?

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Many years ago, when I was a baby activist, I was involved in a bisexual activist community group. Inspired by other community groups who applied a more intersectional (I didn’t know that word then) approach than our white, cisgender, able-bodied dominant group did, I wanted to add a memo to the poster for one of our social events. It went something like this: “People of all colours, genders, ages, and abilities are welcome!” A couple of people were on board and we tried to tweak the wording (in French, because we were in Montreal) with the knowledge we had at the time. One member with a voice that carried – in the social sense, and incidentally an older cis guy – scowled at us and strongly suggested we just write: “Everyone welcome.” The others, weary of arguments and tired of playing with words, agreed.

At the time, I didn’t have the words to express why it was important to be more explicit than that. I just had a gut feeling. I felt like when I was a child and teen, unable to argue against the seeming rational discourse of older men in my family, no matter how racist or sexist they were, but knowing deep in my guts that they were wrong.

Over the years, I’ve read and listened to the experiences of people whose experiences are not my own. For example, a disability and poverty activist who I consider to be a leather sister has written much about inclusion or lack thereof in leather circuits. Many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) have blogged and tweeted explanations about what it’s like to not know when one is truly included. This led me to reflect on my own prior experience as a woman and being put on my place more than once by men who felt I should have known I wasn’t included even when it wasn’t stated because, “logic”. And now, as a trans person/androgyne, I often question whether someone like me is genuinely welcome at events that don’t specify “trans folk welcome”.

What it boils down to for me is this: if the society you live in renders people that look like you invisible, it’s hard to feel included by default. When you don’t see yourself in depictions of the “default” human being, it’s hard to feel like you are even considered to be human. When people don’t explicitly mention “your kind”, it’s hard to know whether you’re even on their radar.

So unless an event includes a welcome statement that is worded to show that organizers are aware of the existance and are welcoming of the presence of people like you, you’re left wondering whether your presence will genuinely be welcome. You wonder whether people will give each other meaningful glances like: “What are THEY doing here? What made them think they belong here?”

Same goes for dating profiles. When people say they are “open to everyone”, that doesn’t tell the reader who this person considers to be human enough to be included in that everyone. Heck, it doesn’t tell us whether they know we exist.

In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be a question. Everyone would mean everyone. But we’re not in an ideal world. So while we continue to strive for that, those of us who want to make sure people on the margins know they are actively included should be as explicit as we can. Without resorting to tokenism, let’s listen to what helps people feel genuinely welcome and appreciated in a space. Let’s not assume that “everyone welcome” says anything beyond “whoever is deemed normal by mainstream social standards is welcome”.

And most of all, let’s go beyond mere words and follow through with our actions. Let’s not assume that people will just trust that they will feel welcome just because the sign explicitly said they are. Let’s listen to what people need and accept that trust takes a long time to build.

A Series of Newsflashes

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Pointing out social divisions and disparities in access to material and social well-being that exist because of systemic discrimination is not being divisive.

Acknowledging that people have different experiences in society because of prejudice and stereotypes based on skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, mental and physical ability, size, age, or socio-economic status is not a game of identity politics.

Standing up for respect, dignity, and well-being for all is not about political correctness.

Being in favour of social progress only so long as it’s done in a way that preserves your own personal comfort and wealth is not solidarity.

Patting oneself on the back for throwing money at charities does not fix the problem of how some people have more access to wealth and material well-being in the first place.

White Supremacy and American/Canadian Values

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I’m a bit confused when I hear people say white supremacy goes against american or canadian values. Both of these nation states were built on the blood of Indigenous peoples and folks taken by force from the African continent. And lest one think that this is “in the past and we ought to get over it”, remember that these nation states continue to amass riches on the backs of Indigenous peoples and that white supremacy is built into the entire system. We see this in many, many ways ranging from the eurocentrism of our educational, political, economic, judicial, and medical institutions to the systemic discrimination that is evident in these same institutions. Tell me again, then, how white supremacy goes against american or canadian values. If all you can say is that “we” built these nations based on values of respect and freedom, I will ask: “Who is ‘we’? Respect and freedom for who?” and invite you to read some history from Indigenous and Black perspectives and from the perspectives of other peoples here and elsewhere who have been exploited in the building of these “great” nations. Canada, in particular, likes to pay lip service to openness and “tolerance”. But these are superficial words accompanied by great photo opps and just enough action to make it look like “progress” is happening. At the end of the day, though, the people in power, who get to decide who has rights and what the speed of acquisition of rights and human dignity should be, are overwhelmingly white. And their decisions are based in the eurocentric ideologies engrained in the above-mentioned institutions. So tell me again….how is white supremacy against american/canadian values when these values are seeped in white supremacist systems to begin with?

I must acknowledge the many, many writings and presentations by Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour activists and scholars for helping me shape these thoughts. I didn’t make any of this up.

Free speech, huh?

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I have SO MUCH to say about the anti-SJW and anti-PC crowd’s antics. It would take blog post upon blog post. But I was feeling a bit creative tonight, and I think this little skit sums up a lot of what I have to say on the topic:

Person A, exercising right to free speech, exists publicly as queer, trans, Muslim, Indigenous, female, fat, Black, or another marginalized identity.

Person B, exercising right to free speech: That’s gross/indecent/immoral/against nature/ disturbing! You should hide/die/kill yourself/get raped/have your clothes ripped off!

Person A and their friends/allies, exercising their right to free speech: That’s really fucking oppressive. Why don’t you leave us the hell alone and mind your own business? We’re not hurting you and we have the right to exist!

Person B and their cronies: How DARE you tell me what to do?!?!? What happened to free speech in this country?!?!?! You SJWs are such fucking bullies, trying to control us with your political correctness!!!!!!

People with any sense of reason and decency: WTF?!?!?!

Summer Bodies & Revolutionary Acts

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It’s summer time and thus bathing suit weather here. So it’s that time of year when I see a lot of posts by people who are embarrassed or ashamed of their bodies. I also see posts by people making fun of other peoples’ bodies. Makes me sad. No one should have to deal with shame or have it get in the way of enjoying their life.

So hear this:  No bodies are ugly! Skinny, fat, young, old, tall, short, smooth, wrinkly, saggy, scarred, black, white, brown, able bodied, disabled, gender conforming or non-conforming, inked, pierced, or not….doesn’t matter…all are beautiful and valuable 🙂

If you feel bad about your body, I know it’s hard, but try to ignore all the media that tells you your body is ugly so they can sell you things 🙂 If it helps, see the act of putting a revealing bathing suit on that body as a revolutionary act. Take back the pool and the beach with other people who don’t fit the bogus mainstream norm of what is beautiful and your friends who love you the way you are.

If you like to make fun of other peoples’ bodies, try to think about where that attitude comes from, why you feel entitled to pass judgement on other people, and how you hurt people with your stares, your laughter, and your disgusting memes that make fun of people who don’t match your shallow definition of what looks “good”.

You don’t decide for us

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As a bisexual and a non-binary (I don’t like this word but it’s all I got right now) person, I’m really tired of being asked to be “patient” while the rest of the world learns to “accept” that I exist. If you are straight or gay, or binary identified, you do NOT get to decide when the world will be “ready” for folks like us. You do NOT get to decide the length of time that it takes for us to expect a full recognition of our humanity and the right to dignity, respect, and inclusion.

Oh, and by the way, this goes for all forms of oppression and power dynamics. Settlers don’t get to decide when Indigenous people have rights. White folks don’t get to decide when People of Colour have rights. Non-intersex people don’t get to decide when intersex people have rights. Able bodied folks don’t get to decide when People with Disabilities have rights. Men don’t get to decide when women have rights. Need I go on?

If your precious “opinion” is hurt because you feel like we are “shoving things down your throat” when we demand rights and human dignity, and you feel offended when we point out how your actions hurt us . . . in the words of Suicidal Tendencies, “…if I offended you, Oh I’m sorry
But, maybe you needed to be offended
But here’s my apology and one more thing…Fuck you!”

Savage

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I’ve been hearing a lot of youth at work use the term “savage” to refer to things that are bad-ass. It bugs the shit out of me considering the history behind this word. Fellow teachers, please help me educate our youth about how this word was used to put down Indigenous peoples and justify exploitation and genocide. The past is not “just in the past” – it has shaped the present. The attitude that Indigenous peoples need Euro-Canadians to “save” them is still embedded in our social institututions – ESPECIALLY in education. Let’s change this together!

Broken Cup

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I don’t know why drinking coffee from this broken cup makes me so happy. But it does.

When I was ready to pour my coffee this morning, I looked at the cups in dish rack that had dried from yesterday’s batch of dishes and it wasn’t there. Wanting to maintain hope for another few seconds, I averted my gaze from the small pile of dirty dishes next to the sink and opened the cupboard instead.

To my delight, my broken cup sat there, first in line, waiting to be taken and filled with steaming hot coffee. I really did smile, all alone in the kitchen. The kind of smile when I find the book I want/need on a library shelf. The kind of smile I get when I get out of bed and see that I diligently left my moccasins by the bed so I can slip my feet into them and avoid the cold floor. The kind of smile I get when I walk into a café and see the friend I’m meeting already there in advance (like me). The kind of smile I get when I see someone/something I can depend on.

True there are other cups, other books, other footwear, other friends. But that ONE stands out from the rest.

16492175_10154083753482352_1424857580_oThe other 5 cups in the set would hold my coffee equally well. But this one – this one with two little stubs sticking out where there used to be two connecting ends of the cup handle – the one that most other people would have thrown out after they accidentally dropped it a few years before – it diligently sits there among its handled peers and calls out to me. “I will hold your coffee for you even though I’m broken. I may lack a handle, but I’m there for you. You simply need to hold me closer and feel the warmth of your coffee radiate through me and into your hand. Yes, that’s right, hold me close. I’m there for you.”

My friends, this is who we are. We are broken cups. Some of us lack handles. Some of us have chips on our rims. We are broken, but not destroyed. Damaged, but not defective. These cuts and nicks and wrinkles don’t remove our effectiveness. They give us ways to be closer, to hold each other closer, and to be there for each other better.

Closer.

Warmer.

Stronger.

I love my broken cup. I am a broken cup. I love my friends who are broken cups.