Friday, March 05, 2010

Another blast from the not too distant past...

This is an older post from my archives. No one goes there right now. But I thought I'd bring a post out to play...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Patriarchal and racist relations...or how I became scary and intimidating...

I got a comment today and I did what I try not to do much anymore - I responded.

I try not to respond because I've noticed that often blogging seems more about being social than about ideas and politics.

I've wanted people to come and read just because, not to get a shout out from me.

I can see that some people don't come back because I'm not following the rules of engagement. I have my own rules of engagement under which I will communicate. So, I'm not completely opposed...just really reticent.

I got a lot of comment from (name withheld) about one of my posts. I don't know who you are,
(name withheld). When I followed your link back to what I thought would be your profile and a link to your blog/brain/thoughts/ideas, I found nada.

Nonetheless, I felt something, thought about lots of things when you wrote all that you did. So, I figure a response was in order.

This is some of what I wrote:

One of the things I've been trying to engage with wimmin around is what people mean when they say a woman is scary and intimidating.

In my experience, it's mostly wimmin not men who agonize over whether they'll be seen as, labelled as, received as scary and intimidating simply by virtue of having a take no prisoners politic...or more to the point for speaking clearly in a forthright manner rather than obscuring what they believe or think in circular/indirect conversation.

I go to anarchist websites and blogs by men and they're not over there wringing their hands over using no holds barred language, direct language, straight up language to get their points across.

They don't knock each other out of the politricks game over not being accomodating enough or courteous enough. They definitely don't get ostracized for being rude. I find they have a lot more leeway in terms of the kinds of personal narratives they can use. I call that unearned privilege associated with patriarchy.

When people want to talk about a woman, say a Black woman being scary and intimidating, they need to google racism, black wimmin, angry, scary. It's textbook oppressive stuff.

I think peace and love is necessary and definitely part of struggles for change. I share peace and love with my children. I speak to my counsellor in gentle tones, unless I'm dumping stuff in her presence (not on her). I speak to my partner gently...unless he insists on behaving in oppressive ways and won't process or claim his actions and keeps on going and invites me to participate in his denial in ways that harm. Then he gets hard baby mama...but I prefer to be smiling and friendly.

I think being smiling and friendly is really different than colluding with one's own oppression. If people behave in oppressive ways and won't engage and reflect and I'm experiencing harm because of their unwillingness to examine their ways, I get surly.

This puts me in mind of a longstanding feud I have with two wimmin of colour who are prominent in blogland. They did something I wasn't cool with. I emailed them and wrote in courteous language explaining my situation and asking for them to accomodate and consider making a change.

They said no, they would not. Futhermore, they said they would not write of what had transpired between us on their blogs, but that I was free to do so on mine. And so, I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote...on my blog...still writing.

They ignored what I wrote. From what I can tell from the fallout shit that hit me and this blog, they emailed each other and other people, MANY other people some of whom I was attempting to build alliances with. As a result I was labelled unforgiven, pariah, evil, not nice, irrelevant.

I lost a whole lot of (potential) allies trying desperately to get people to look carefully at what was happening. I was defined as scary and intimidating, while these wimmin of colour were my "victims", poor delicate, defenseless creatures who were just trying to do good political work. Why was I being so mean and angry and intimidating?

Loaded language designed with a particular outcome in mind. Mission accomplished.

(Of course this ability to go into denial when people perceived as leaders are challenged is at the root of why American's have the president they do. People who should know better make provisional, situational peace with bad situations because the people who are making the decisions are liked and followed by many.)

Now, how does one do peace, love and happiness with that, in that sort of situation?

So, I need to think carefully about what peace and love actually mean when I may just be stepping back from challenging someone because they have the power to oppress or exclude or ostracize if I don't use kid gloves on them, if I don't play along, don't play the game.

In that sort of situation, I need to ask myself: Who am I laying down with? When will they roll over on me? Should I wait until then? Can I afford to wait until then and try to process any perceived acts of oppression once their inability to understand who they are has finally touched my life?

If I choose to engage forthrightly, it is because I understand that a person has the ability to be a strong ally to me.

If I choose to level a critique, it's because I understand that someone has said they have the moxy to receive it and survive and think and transform and grow alongside me.

If I ask for accountability and for someone to apply a critique to their own actions, it's because I believe them when they say and write that they can.

This has been horribly disappointing. I understand myself as less of a scary, intimidating blogger and more as a fucking Polyanna who needs to stop taking people at face value.

Check, check: Rage and cussing not for you. It's just pain and a general state of frustration, disappointment, impatience.

This is me saying:
What if Morpheus had offered Neo not a choice between the blue pill or the red pill? What if Trinity had said to him: Now, Morpheus, don't you go getting yourself all worked up and scary looking. No one is going to want to listen to you if you're going to be unplugging them and taking them away from the nice shopping on Matrix Boulevard to eat oatmeal, wear rags and live underground. What if Morpheus had agreed out of worry over not being considered nice and gentle. What if he had simply shot Neo full of methadone and left him plugged in hoping he'd wean himself somewhere down the road? Hee, hee, hee.

For me the choice I make to be forthright is about being seen and recognized by perhaps one blessed, powerFULL person before I die who can stand (or sit) and face me power for power, word for word, intellect for intellect, truth for truth, vulnerability for vulnerability, courage for courage and not balk or back away or label me terrifying or see if they can shut me down.

Before I meet the Goddess or the Creator or whoever has been laughing at me all these years, I want to have done with people who offer themselves as allies, get close and then can't actually match me or watch my back because they don't even know who they are.

Feminists talk a lot about doing hard, uncomfortable work that takes courage. When people talk about themselves as freedom fighters who will go the extra mile to resist...I actually expect them to do what they say: resist like there is no tomorrow, struggle as if their lives depended on it, speak even if they get boxed across the mouth, stick to the path even if it's full of rock stones that hurt their feet, move even if no one will move with them.

Then I get people who look at me quizzically as if to say: Well, that's politics and academia and my NGO job...that's what I play at doing, that's what i get paid to do, that's what I get attention and popularity cred for doing.

But, c'mon dd, this is real life. You don't actually expect me to live like that. Do you? People won't like me and I don't want to end up like you headed for being a cat lady, no doubt about it.

Yeah, relationships are hard for me when I purposefully set ground between me and people who move like this on fire so they can't get closer. :)

They call it burning bridges. I call it saving my life and clinging to sanity for all I'm worth.
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So...yeah...being able to speak to what amounts to a stoopid mess of perceptions, ideas and commonly held values that have caused no end of mess where alliances and possible alliances for darkdaughta are concerned? priceless...but still annoying. :)

1 comment:

Shannon said...

You are beautiful. Thank you for posting this.