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Getting a touch burned out on social justice issues right now. Since I graduated I made a real effort to become an educated feminist, and you really can't responsibly study feminism without various other intersecting issues, so these things are my main form of informative reading these days. I care a great deal, want to learn as much as I can, and do what I can to live responsibly in a world with so many problems in these areas, but there's so much badness that it's been a bit overwhelming lately. I feel bad saying that, since as an extremely privileged person I can avoid dealing with any of it if I want to, when so few others have that choice, and since it hurts me personally so much less than many others I should have more strength to deal with it. But in the interest of self-care, to enable me to participate positively at all, I think it's okay if I acknowledge when I'm getting overwhelmed and need to recharge once in a while.

The one thing I am struggling with right now that I'm not so sure how to handle is how I feel like I can trust my own judgment so little when it comes to evaluating the situations and the best course of action in social justice issues. As I said, I am an extremely privileged person, a straight, white, cis, het, educated, Christian woman from a rich background who has but rarely even encountered a lot of sexism personally directed at her. All my life I've lived in a status quo that serves me, and has made me comfortable in it. And I worry that it's conditioned me to be resistant to ideas that challenge the notions I'm comfortable with-- like, how much or little racism there is in me, or how much I benefit from my privilege versus my own hard work. Or, worst of all, how bad/racist/homophobic/whatever any given behavior and situation is. So it's made me afraid that however I assess something, I can't trust that assessment because it might be too influenced by my privileged bias.

I know the basics. I know I am the sort of person who just needs to shut up and listen in most conversations (concerning queerness, race, poverty, et cetera). I know I don't get to speak for people in different circumstances, or decide what their reaction should be. I'm pretty good about those. But sometimes I run up against something that doesn't sit right with me. It doesn't sound like the assessment made of the situation is actually correct. Here's a fairly mild example. There was that nice Coke commercial during the Super Bowl where I think America the Beautiful or something was sung in a dozen different languages, many of them not your standard western-European ones. I thought that was very nice. But then one of the blogs I read reacted to it with how meaningless it was since Coke is a capitalistic imperialist company that benefits from unjust labor practices in third-world countries. My first reaction was, "Oh, come on, for Christ's sake! Representation matters, that commercial's diversity was a seriously good thing and it's not fair to devalue it just because it doesn't fix all problems." But is that because I'd rather enjoy some nice feel-good lip-service rather than take a company (who I have given probably THOUSANDS of dollars to over my twenty-seven years of life) to task for things that seriously hurt disadvantaged people?

I don't know. I have a really hard time telling if, when I react negatively, it's because there's something genuinely off about it, or because I'm a privileged person who doesn't like threats to the status quo that might paint me in a light I don't like. It's not that I want to have my lily-white privileged feelings coddled so I don't have to feel bad about my participation in the corrupt system. If my impressions of things are influenced by that ingrained part of myself, I want to know, so I can do what I can to stop reacting based on it. But I want to be able to trust my own judgment. There isn't always going to be a proper authority there to tell me what's problematic and what the most responsible course of action for me to take is. It's frustrating. I don't want any reassurance or anything that I'm doing okay or whatever, so don't worry about that. I'd like to develop the skills to identify that stuff on my own, plus to identify when I'm dealing with a bias that is clouding me.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
contradictacat
Feb. 7th, 2014 05:48 pm (UTC)
wrt the coke thing, I feel like that's the difference between "social justice" and "leftist politics" and also an exercise in "good, but". Diversity is awesome, and the sheer number of shits that were flipped about the ad daring to have many non-Western cultures in it is a sign it was doing /something/ good. That's the social justice angle, to me. The whole "Capitalist imperialist company" thing is leftist stuff. The two often overlap, but they are not the same thing. It is good that the advertisement promoted the idea of a multicultural America. BUT they can also have some shady stuff. This is not to take away from the goodness of the ad, though- just to remind that everything is not sweetness and light anymore. A sort of memento mori, if you will.

wrt the other stuff, I get where you're coming from. I mean, I'm fairly privileged myself in a whole lot of aspects, and I do still trip up and have to check my judgement and worry and all of that. The key is, I think, in having faith in your judgement to do/say the right thing but also to be aware that you might mess it up and to take it gracefully. It's not "I know everything!" vs "I know nothing!"- it's more "I have a pretty good idea, but I'm open to being wrong...but also to being right."
breakinglight11
Feb. 7th, 2014 09:50 pm (UTC)
This was a very helpful comment, thank you for making it. "I have some idea, but I'm open to being either right or wrong" is a very useful formulation for my brain.
lillibet
Feb. 8th, 2014 01:51 pm (UTC)
My experience is that being ready to be wrong is a huge clue to have. Not that you doubt your judgment all the time, but you're ready for new information and different perspectives. Being wrong is something I spent a lot of time thinking about a couple of years ago--it's not something that most of us are very good at, even though we get a lot of practice. Being ready to say "ok, I seem to be wrong about that," and to apologize when your words and actions have hurt others, is a powerful stance. It doesn't mean that you walk around worrying that you're probably wrong, just that you accept that it's part of the human condition.

There was a good blog post recently (I can probably dig it up if you're interested in more than my summary) about how vicious people in the activist community can be toward those who aren't politically correct (I use that term not in its pejorative sense, but in the sense of au courant with current issues and preferred vocabulary) on every issue. The post reminds readers that we have all had to learn this stuff, none of us learned it growing up, we learn it through experience and exposure. Judging others because they say the wrong thing, or have the wrong attitude, is not only cruel, but it ignores both the intention of the perpetrator, the cost of shunning potential allies, and the opportunity for education and widening of one's message.
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About Me

My name is Phoebe. I'm Boston area theater professional and English professor focused in writing, acting, directing, and modeling. I'm known for having lots of interests, lots of opinions about those interests, and a very high estimation of the value thereof. This blog is for talking about whatever's on my mind, from my daily life to my activities to musing on any number of abstract topics. Thanks for taking the time to read.

My productions:

Upcoming Productions:



MRS. HAWKING part 2 and 3


at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016

presented by The Chameleon's Dish

Vivat Regina
by Phoebe Roberts

at 2PM

and

Base Instruments
by Phoebe Roberts

at 6PM

Saturday, May 13th 2017
at 274 Moody Street, Waltham, MA

Other Achievements:

"The Tailor at Loring's End" screenplay
Quarter Finalist in the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition 2013

"Adonis" screenplay
Top Ten Percent in the Bluecat Screenwriting Contest 2015

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