Where Feminism Falls Short

I’m a feminist. I’m not going to shy away from the struggle for gender equality in any sense of the word.

This means I spend a lot of time hanging out in feminist spaces both online and in  the rest of my life. But feminist spaces, especially spaces that are dominated by women, tend to forget that gender based insults are harmful to the goal of gender equality, no matter who it’s directed at.

Feminists frequently get too comfortable making jokes about fragile masculinity and male tears without realizing that such jokes contribute to the harmful gender roles that society expects men to fulfill.

It’s obvious that women face harmful gender roles, but after a lot of intense activism it’s becoming more and more acceptable for women to embrace masculine things and still identify as women. But fragile masculinity exists because men have not had the benefit of activists for fighting for their right to be feminine, so when men present, behave, or participate in traditional feminine things, they face backlash for not being masculine enough or their sexuality is questioned. This is rooted in sexism (women are inferior so for a man to do femme things is to stoop) and homophobia, but making it acceptable for men to fall outside the caricature of masculinity should still be a part of the feminist agenda, which is why we should not make gendered jokes of any kind.

For true equality, it’s going to take a lot of work, and I understand humor as a coping mechanism for the gendered power structures, but we also need to be aware of how our jokes fit in the power structures we seek to eliminate.

It’s not wrong to use humor to cope with oppression, but it is wrong to prop up patriarchal power structures in the process.

What Ending White Supremacy Really Means

Whiteness- as a subject position, not a skin color- must end.

Whiteness represents racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and discrimination against people who deviate from the normative category of Man as human.

Sylvia Wynter describes the power structures and hierarchies as rooted in the equating of human with Man, where Man is a single genre of humanity, describing only white, cis, straight, propertied men (Wynter, 260-261).

When we talk about whiteness, we mean those power structures established to continue only valuing the lives of Man and ignoring the other genres of humanity. When we talk about ending whiteness, we mean ending those harmful power structures and taking action to ensure quality of life for all genres of humanity- queer folk, people of color, those with different abilities, without documentation, etc.

All categories of humanity matter. So when there are protests in the wake of Trump’s election and people are wondering what there is to protest, the answer is, we are protesting the normalized notion that only cis straight white male lives matter. We are protesting the existence of white supremacy, and its insistence on the exploitation and degradation of those outside the category of Man.

Global industrial capitalism has been designed to benefit a single group of people. What we call for is a radical upheaval of that system and an end to genocide of people of color, queer folks, and people with disabilities.

This is not racism against white people, a blind hatred for all things white-skinned, or a call for killing all white folks.

Our struggles may have different specifics, but we all have one thing in common. We’re just asking that you let. Us. Breathe.

 

Wynter, Sylvia. “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation–An Argument.” CR: The New Centennial Review 3.3 (2003): 257-337. Print. 

Silence is Not Consent

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People make consent overly complicated sometimes, especially in conversations about affirmative consent. There are a lot of arguments that it’s too complicated to ask for affirmative consent, it kills the mood, sometimes things get going and you “just know” when things are supposed to happen.

That’s not how this work. I don’t “just know” my roommate wants a slice of pizza, and even if I did, I wouldn’t force her to eat it.

Instead, I ask her, “hey, would you like some pizza?” and I give her the slice of pizza. At that point, I don’t force her to eat it. Or let her lie back passively as I stuff it in her face. She has to eat it and actually want to participate in this activity.

She doesn’t consent to eating the pizza EVEN IF she doesn’t say no when I feed it to her, even if she chews and swallows when I put it in her mouth. That would still be forcing her to eat the pizza.

It’s the same thing with sex. Someone not actively saying no to sex is NOT the same thing as consent.

This is especially important for people that don’t necessarily feel comfortable saying no or resisting outright; feminine persons are generally conditioned to do whatever it takes to not make someone else uncomfortable, including saying no when they are not consenting. It is also perfectly reasonable for a person to not feel comfortable saying no for reasons of physical safety, if the person assaulting them was their ride, they  didn’t feel safe saying no when alone with that person, if there is some threat to their lives, etc. Imagine the pizza scenario, but I’m holding a gun to my friend’s head. She’s not consenting, even if she puts the pizza in her mouth, chews it, and swallows it, without my doing it for her.

To have enjoyable, consensual sex, it is important to check in with your partner, asking if something is ok, if they are comfortable, enjoying what is happening, etc.

Not saying no, is in no circumstances the same thing as saying yes.

Paths to Processing Privilege

This week, I got the opportunity to spend some time with a rare woke white, cis, straight (I’m assuming) dude, who arrived at his knowledge of systemic racism from a path that is very different from my own.

I learned about systemic racism, sexism and antiqueerness from a combination of personal experience in the instance of the latter two, and theoretical knowledge through reading academic works for the former.

He learned about these things through friendships and connections, spending time with people of color and listening to their struggles.

Both approaches are equally valid, but both have one important thing in common: white people who shut up and listen, be it to academics, friends, or some combination of those things.

If you’re white, and don’t have any people of color friends to listen to, then you should probably start reading, do the work to educate yourself.

It’s the job of people in positions of privilege to educated themselves on the struggles of women, queer people, people of color, people in poverty, or the people who lie at the intersections of those identity categories. And getting that education requires shutting up, and listening.

Sanctuary Schools and Stepping Stones

Post-election, there are a lot more people wishing they could do something. There is a wave sweeping across the nation, rolling, undulating, washing over us, gaining strength with every divisive event that happens. It’s a storm that won’t stop, and the storm is the best opportunity for us to make change.

There are more people willing to make change, but few of these people are stepping up to get organized, and that’s the key to start the change.

One mission that a lot of universities across the nation is the creation of sanctuary schools; schools that decide as an administration and as a student body to defend every student’s right to education regardless of national origin, and regardless of a student’s documentation status.

I and some of my close activist friends have started a petition like this on our campus, and we’ve seen this tend spread to other campuses in the area. The movement to create sanctuaries for undocumented people is one concrete, real thing that we can all push for to show our most vulnerable members that we care about them, that we will take risks for them, that they matter. It’s a reasonable demand to be making of our institutions, and one that we cannot live without.

This storm will keep raging until we have fully dismantled the oppressive systems that created these injustices in the first place.

Feeding the Fire

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To all of my friends and loved ones who are, like me, struggling in response to these results, remember, you are not alone. The movements that we are a part of and the love that we share are so much bigger than just us, the oppression that we experience, or the bigotry of some of our acquaintances.

You are more than this election, we are more than this election.

I love you, all of you who participate with me in this fight against homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and racism.

One positive thing that might come out of this is that we now have a more visible symbol to revolt against. Rather than arguing systemic, hard-to-see oppression of minorities,  we can just point to our rapist president-elect to prove that there is a problem. This should just add fuel to our flame, the more he speaks, the hotter and more righteous our flame.

We have the fuel, and the spark, to burn the institutions of white supremacy  down, and instead of being the fire extinguisher they want Trump to be, white supremacists will just sit back and watch him fan the flames.

National Coming Out Day: Storytelling as a Source of Healing

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There is a lot of power, healing, and strength in finding a place to tell your story. The key here, though, is doing the work of finding a place to tell your story. Some people spend their whole lives looking for a person or a community to do their own form of “coming out” to- not even necessarily as gay, bi, trans, etc. but as their true selves.

Coming out is admitting to the world, or at least selective, safe parts of it, who you really are, committing to being yourself.

I am fortunate enough to have a large group of friends, peers, classmates, and professors that I can be unapologetically myself around- at least the invulnerable parts of myself.

My journey of coming out involves searching for people that I feel OK to be vulnerable with- to let them see my anxiety, tears, pain, sadness, basically anything that isn’t anger or happiness.

For other people, they’re still searching for a place to be out about their gender or sexual identity. National Coming Out Day isn’t just about being “here and queer” or “out and proud,” the sort of stereotype image of being out. It’s about celebrating people in all their beauty, and wishing them well in finding places, or people, with whom they can truly be themselves.

Best of luck to all of you, looking to tell your story. Stay safe, and stay beautiful.