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Knowing What’s Right, isn’t Always the Easy Part

People say all the time, “The hard part isn’t knowing what’s right, it’s doing what’s right.” Often times, that is very true. People are often selfish and they know what’s right, but it’s just too hard to do it. For me however, that is not what is hardest. That’s not to say that I don’t do the wrong thing and do selfish things, I do. I’m human, but most of the time for me, the hard part IS knowing what the right thing is. If you are a person who is educated on the injustice that plagues minorities of any kind in this country, the path of righteousness becomes clouded very fast. Trying to solve problems without making them worse or hurting someone else, is surprisingly difficult.

Have you ever watched a music video that tried to empower people with a heavy body by shaming people who are thin? Have you ever listened to a rap song that sought to empower black men by saying terrible things about black women? Have you read articles this week that tried to stop suicidal victims from taking their own lives by making them feel selfish about the people they were leaving behind? Have you heard people who call themselves feminists say that they don’t care about how men feel at all? 

If you’ve ever been on tumblr, chances are you’ve witnessed what I think of as “social justice warrior battles,” and more than just a few times. They happen everywhere, but they’re especially intense on tumblr, where people whose identities are hidden but hearts are passionate, regularly fling criticisms at each other.

Often, I find this to be so overwhelming that I just want to scream “STOP IT! Don’t you know who the real enemy is here?! You should all be working together, not against each other!” While some of that is true, I think we waste FAR too much time fighting each other, it is also necessary. We cannot randomly just assume that because some of us are victims (or all of us), that we know the right course of action to take or can therefore speak on behalf of other victims just because we feel entitled, or we risk creating chaos and making things worse. Everyone, everywhere has to check their privilege before you speak out on social justice issues and even with the mindset to be kind, it’s very difficult not to hurt someone. It’s not that your opinion doesn’t matter, it’s that your opinion isn’t based on the whole picture, limited to your own life experiences. It’s also very difficult to make social progress if no one acts. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. Of course, I believe the right thing to do, is to just do something. No one can get better if we don’t try and if we don’t make mistakes. Apologies will happen regularly and hopefully they will be accepted, but even if they’re not, we should all keep trying.

I just find it very confusing when people say that we all know what the right thing to do is, because sometimes the answer is not so obvious at all. I can certainly tell you what the unkind thing to do would be, but the “right” thing? So controversial. I think that the real answer is that there is no such thing as the “right thing.” Just versions of progressive things. There is no path of righteousness, it’s more like a clouded forest and we’re all just walking along, bumping into trees and hoping we don’t get eaten by wolves. But maybe if we stick together, mark our progress and mistakes with little ribbons, we can remember what not to do and what we should do again, without the wolves catching and eating us. It’s just not necessary to treat anyone with aggression, especially if they’re already trying to accomplish the same goals that you are.

Letter to a Friend who is a Cop

I have a good friend who is a police officer. She’s very pro-military and pro-cop and recently posted a Facebook article on the page of friend of hers. The article was written from the perspective of a cop’s wife and the page it was posted on by my friend is also the page of an officer’s wife. I will post it for others to view and then begin my letter to my friend. I wish I could give it to her, but I don’t know that our relationship could be the same if I did. Maybe however, it could make a difference for others. If nothing else, it may simply release the thoughts in my own mind.

http://www.kristineace.com/2014/08/ferguson-perspective-from-cops-wife.html

To My Friend,

I personally, did not actually did not learn anything new from the letter, because I already know that police officers are human beings and that human beings suffer. However, I did feel for the wife and for her husband. And I also feel for you and the hurtful, if not traumatizing situations that you may have been in. I know what suffering looks and feels like and I would never dismiss your life struggles as if they were not serious or irrelevant. I know you do the best you can to be a good person, you don’t have to prove that to me. I’ve watched you sacrifice money, time, and emotional energy for others when you didn’t have to. I have not forgotten how you looked after me the time I had a serious allergic reaction and how you worried about me for hours, checking in on me and carrying me home when I was sick. I know you give your brother and your parents money, because they were afraid they would lose their home. I’ve watched you bravely stand up for teammates who were physically picked on, putting yourself in harm’s way simply because it was the right thing to do. I know you try very hard to uphold your own moral code.

I already know that police officers are human beings. They are human beings like the rest of us who happen to have a lot of power over life. It’s a tremendous responsibility that I’m sure is difficult for them to carry. As the article indicates, I truly do believe that most officers go in wanting to save, serve, and protect our community. Police officers bleed when they are shot, cry when people die, love their partners and families, struggle, sweat, get sick, die, live, just like the rest of us. They have families that they would do anything for and often take the opportunity to save those whom they don’t even know because it is their job and because they want that to be their job.

But like all people, they sometimes get scared and angry.

Fear and adrenaline can be powerful and useful traits. They are evolutionary responses that help keep us all alive. An officer has the greatest of senses. When combined with their weapons, muscles, and extensive training that they struggled to achieve and be worthy of, they can not only save their own lives, but protect others. However, fear can also blind you, especially if you grow up believing you should be afraid of something your whole life. Your muscles and training make your body alone a lethal weapon, capable of strangling a grown man to death. Your top-of-the-line weapons obey you with immediate response, even if you’re not sure you really want to shoot someone. And I know that you know all this already. But I think that sometimes, you forget that when you remind us that you are human, you are forgetting what that really means. Human beings make mistakes. And when those mistakes are made, I’d rather it not be from a human being who is angry or afraid that is also holding an automatic rifle in S.W.A.T. gear. I know you want to protect people, but your police peers do not need military-style defense and weaponry to do it. Small-time criminals looting stores do not require that kind of equipment to pacify. People looting stores are also not the same as people who are mourning the death of a child, peacefully protesting. You cannot treat them as the same group of people. That doesn’t make any sense.

Just because you are a good cop, also doesn’t mean everyone else is a good cop. Do you really like every cop in the station that you work with? Have you forgotten that because you were a woman, you were unfairly judged and prosecuted by your male counterparts in the office? Because I have not forgotten the months of stress and anxiety that you suffered simply because of who you were. If they are capable of sexism, what makes you think they are not capable of racism? If they are human, they are capable of it. I cannot prove who is and who is not guilty of it in Ferguson personally, (not being a lawyer), but we cannot defend people simply because they are police officers. If you have committed a crime, your job title does not play a role in whether or not you are guilty of it.

The last thing I will address in the article that you posted was the issue of whether or not to trust the media. Being a communications graduate, I may be the first to dissect and scrutinize what every news video and article tells me. I can tell you right now, that I do not personally appreciate the way the media has capitalized on pictures of children holding signs, for example. I am not a simple person. I know that if the news wants to hit viewers psychologically, the first thing they do is try to find a child because in the eyes of the people, there is no one more innocent and no one worst to commit a crime against. I am not arguing that this belief is “wrong” but I do believe they made a conscious and deliberate decision to take a picture of those kids protesting because it would empathetically sway people and make it feel personal. When in fact, the crime was not committed specifically against these children. Yes, I know the media plays on drama and make things appear as they are not. 

However, what concerned me what seeing hundreds of photos from individual people present at the scene, through the use of social media. These people aren’t journalists. It’s true, they can and will also screw information in their own favor, but they are not trained as journalists are to hide things in the same way. It’s also much harder for anyone to lie, when a significant number of witness photograph and give testimony saying the same thing (not necessarily with the Michael Brown case, but with the aftermath of the protesters, journalists, and looters when involving the police).

A unarmed man was shot and killed. We don’t know why having not been there personally, but the fact that he was unarmed is disturbing. It should be seriously investigated. Am unarmed man was choked to death despite having the police having multiple back-ups and the man screamed, “I can’t breathe.” This is just as disturbing to hear. We cannot ignore this and so many other recent cases of racial prejudice. It is a problem. They need to be better investigated and actions taken to re-train officers because clearly, the system is not working the way it should.

I know that police officers suffer scrutiny in the eyes of the public because of their power. I know that police officers are human beings who are often the subjects of trauma. I believe that most officers even intend to be good and selfless servants, but I also believe that human beings are full of prejudice and fear. If you are trained how to find criminals and not on how to distinguish between fear that is reasonable and fear that is prejudice, you will not see it. Your intuition and your training as a soldier will betray your humanity.

The mindset I wish high-ranking officers had approached this problem with would have been “I am feeling that you [people protesting] are upset. How can I best serve you and make you feel safe again?” Instead of asking themselves, “I can see these people are upset. How can I make sure it doesn’t hurt me or anybody else?” Being trained to seek, find, and fight is not really your most valuable asset as an officer. Your most valuable asset is your ability to think, observe, and serve people. Again to my friend, you are a people-person. Serve other people as a person, not as soldier. If you want people to treat officers like the humans they are, do the same for them.

Love from your Friend,
A.J. Lion

Losing Robin Williams

I think most people have at least one movie where they were moved by a character or message that Robin Williams brought to life. For me, it’s just so hard to pick. In Hook, he helped me to believe in your inner, eager spirit. In Good Will Hunting, he reminded me that all the knowledge and smarts in the world is not equivalent to really living, enjoying, and being in the moment – to loving life. I think, however, that nothing personally compares for me to the last scene in Ms. Doubtfire. 

When I was 13, my parents got divorced. My parents had promised to me many times as a child, that no matter what happened, they would not get a divorce. They would work through their problems and keep our family together. This was Earth-shattering for me, even though I saw it coming. Wanting to lift my spirits, I watched Ms. Doubtfire, having completely forgotten about the scene at the end of the movie:

“If there’s love dear, those are the ties that bond. And you’ll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you my poppet, you’re going to be alright.”

Predictably, it touched me deeply and I carried the message with me into adulthood. I already had heard those things before, but Robin really made me believe it. He made me feel like he understood, so I trusted him. The message too, that families could come in all shapes and sizes and that all that mattered was that we were loving to each other, also helped me in overcoming my fears about being gay. I could be loved, I could still have a family, that everyone is different, and everyone experiences pain, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life again. “You’re going to be alright.”

People are of course, debating once again whether or not what Robin Williams did was selfish in taking his own life. As someone who has experienced real depression, I cannot speak for everyone else who has been sick, but I can say, I do not personally believe that makes him selfish. The act itself has selfish consequences, but honestly, the man was in serious pain. To force someone to do anything simply because it’s what you want, is also selfish. Guilt-tripping people into doing what you want is not loving them, it’s manipulating them. I am not suggesting that anyone who is depressed should give up, but I am saying that when someone kills themselves, they rarely do it to hurt other people. Many of them know they have family who loves them, they know it will hurt them, but they’ve decided that the pain is so terrible that they can’t deal with it anymore. Many times, the people who are in that situation are so selfless, that they feel that they can’t ask for help because they feel that they are hurting others by dragging them down with them. Making them sad by showing them or admitting to them that they’re hurting. And it’d be one thing if you just felt bad here or there, but sometimes you feel bad for a very long time. One of the worst rounds of depression that I ever went through lasted more than a year. I did not want to be depressed, I was doing what I could, but I couldn’t just make it go away. It doesn’t work that way, it’s a sickness. Your brain is stuck in a chemical process that not only makes you feel like crap, but distorts and twists your reality to make you believe that you are worthless.

When we lost Robin, when I lost Robin, I was deeply saddened for knowing his pain. Then I felt angry, because he gave up. Then I was sad again when I remembered how powerless and painful it had made me feel. Robin had serious depression, but he was successful, well-liked, had friends and family, was giving and loving and thoughtful, but none of it was enough because depression is not prejudice. Even the richest, funniest, most selfless man in the world can still break his arm, right? Because he is still human and the human body can get sick. It screwed with my head at first though, because when you’re sick, you look to others who are sick to understand, bond with, give you hope. If such a wonderful, brilliant man couldn’t survive the wrath of the disease, how can the rest of us? I think the reality is, we need to remember that depression, for many of us, doesn’t really go away. It’s like an addiction, especially if it’s genetic depression that you have. You can get better, but you’re still an addict. For many of us, it’s a reality we will face our entire lives and I think many of us fear that one day, we just won’t see enough of reason to keep fighting it.

However, in the way that an addict can surround themselves with support and give themselves tools to help them when they feel sick, so can those who are depressed. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to feel like shit sometimes, that you’re not going to slip into depressive states, but there is hope that you can come out of it again. It’s also not your fault if you do, we’re still not sure why it is people get depressed. But there’s hope that because you did come out of a serious bout of depression once, you can do it again. If you’re careful and take professional help when you can, you can also lessen the severity of those times when you feel terrible, so that they’re bearable. Medical science is also getting better, we’re finally starting to take depression seriously, as an illness. Western medicine is starting to look at Eastern alternatives to mental health and figuring out why it sometimes works better than drugs or can be a helpful addition to necessary medications. Stigmas about depression are being directly challenged, thanks in large part to celebrities who are honest about their condition (as Robin very often was) and doctors who challenge old perspectives. There is hope. Never, ever allow yourself to believe the lies your mind tells you about being alone and not being able to be understood. Yes, to a certain degree, you are so unique and wonderful that no one is “exactly” like you, but depression and mental illness creates these same feelings in far more people than you’d think.

ARE YOU HEARING ME? YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU MATTER. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

And regardless of anything you’ve done or haven’t done in this life, you deserve love and attention for the things that hurt you, because you are a human being. You don’t need another reason.

I will leave you with a last bit of advice from my two favorite authors, both of which suffer/suffered from depression.

“What are we holding onto Sam?”, the tiny hobbit, Frodo asks Sam in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Tolkien answers through Samwise Gamgee-

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

What is “good” is subjective to each person, but I promise that it does exist for you in some way, some where in the world. There is goodness in the world, and good experiences still waiting for you, should you choose to claim them. You also have goodness inside you that can contribute to this world. If there’s darkness in this world that haunts you, it also haunts others. If you don’t like it, band with those who agree with you and stand together to destroy it with love. Help bring that light into the world that you so desire to see. You’re not the only one who wants that, I promise.

Second, turn to love from others.

“Listen, dementors are among the foulest creatures to walk this earth. They feed on every good feeling, every happy memory until a person is left with nothing but his worst experiences. The dementors affect you more than others because there are true horrors in your past, horrors your classmates can scarcely imagine. You are not weak, Harry. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” Rowling tells us about her fights with depression through the metaphors of dementors. Her answer for us, comes through the loving words of Albus Dumbledore -

“It’s not in the nature of a dementor to be forgiving. But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Depression is a vicious, aggressive, merciless liar. Vanquish it with the strongest thing you have, love. That light that Harry fights the dementors with is love and happiness. Let people tell you they love you and believe them. Trust them. It’s the kind thing to do, both out of respect for their intelligence, and for your own health. Focus on the words of kindness, the happy memories, the looks of love and admiration in the faces of the those you love. To be clear, this is not about making you feel guilty, this is about focusing on what makes you feel good and loved. After you focus your thoughts, turn and look your depression in the face and stay “Expecto patronum! Eat shit and die, you heartless, lying, bastard of a parasite!”

Response to the Mother Who Does not Teach her Children to Share

Many people have been reading and posting this article on Facebook and I’ve got to say, I’m sick of it:

http://www.sunnyskyz.com/blog/365/This-Mom-Perfectly-Explains-Why-She-Does-Not-Teach-Her-Kids-To-Share#ZmuZ1BsmXabMkMG4.01

“Diligence, patience, and hard work,” yes I agree with these things, however, the stage is not set the same for everyone. Racism, sexism, homo/transphobia, xenophobia all exist too, and they stem from one thing – people who were concerned about keeping the power that they have as their own. The real world is a cruel place, but it doesn’t have to be as cruel as it is. What if we instead taught our children that sharing feels good and is just as rewarding if not more so, than having things? Tell me, do you actually like that these are realities that exist in today’s society? Because they all come from a place of greed, from being taught that this thing is MY thing, and to come up with reasons why you deserve it more than everyone else. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t deserve it more, but why should you have to waste time deciding that when we could all share the thing? And YES, we could. There are enough resources for everyone. We should all be taking care of each other.

Maybe you should also ask both toddlers why it is that the thing is so important to them? It’s a toy, the toy isn’t going anywhere. This could be a good exercise for both children to learn that if they share the toy, it’s not going to disappear, they will get another chance to play with it. We should be teaching our children not to be obsessed with material things. What about teaching them instead, that it feels good to share? To help someone else? Teach them that it’s more rewarding to interact with someone in positive ways, like to give them the car and see them smile, or better yet that it’s more fun to play with the car together than it is to play alone? Sometimes you just can’t share the car, or the kid might want to play alone (in which case, maybe they shouldn’t be around other kids at that time), but if they are going to be around other kids, they need to learn how to be kind to other children while they are around them. Teaching them in general not to share simply because that’s the way the world works sounds like you’re doing the kid a huge disservice to himself and also to everyone else’s kids in the future.

It’s true, when little Bobby grows up, he’s going to have a real car entitled in his name (hopefully), but that doesn’t mean he can’t lend the car to a friend for the weekend right? Or carpool to work with his co-workers right? And on the flip side, what if Bobby grows up and can’t afford his own car? In which case, you’d better be damn hopeful that your peers (other parents) taught Bobby’s (now adult) friends to share their cars as children. That way Bobby can now carpool to work or borrow the car from his friends when he really needs it. It’s easy when it’s your stuff to say that no one should ever have to share, but what if it’s Bobby that doesn’t have what he needs? Just because we “own” things as adults does not mean there are not ways to share them or be generous with them.

It’s not about forcing kids to share the toy, it’s about teaching them, instilling in them, a desire to share. To encourage them to share so that they can experience the far more rewarding joy of giving and loving. Why would you want to rob your child of that fulfilling experience? If nothing else, why would you feel the desire to rob everyone else’s children from that? Life isn’t about figuring out how to keep everything to yourself, it’s about figuring out how to live peacefully and with tolerance for others. You really have no choice, we are social people and we live with, near, and around other people. We can’t reach more responsible social behavior for the general population if everyone teaches their children that when they acquire good fortune, to cling to it with all their might. Having things is nice, but having someone to share it with is much nicer.

If life was a party, would you invite only yourself? Who’s going to help you eat all that guacamole?

One last thing – it’s also cuter when kids share.

Another Point on the the Debate About Equality of the Sexes

This is another one of those blogs helping me work out in my own head how to explain to others my thoughts on the word “feminism,” so if you’re not interested in ramblings or some repeat information from my other blog posts, go ahead and skip this one.

So yes, to recap in other recent posts, please don’t go jumping on me with why I should or shouldn’t want to label myself feminist.

1) I am not the enemy of feminists or the feminist movement in general, in fact I consider us friends.

2) I think the “feminist movement” has done great things for us (all sexes) and is still important in dismantling Patriarchy, so if your concerns are limited to trying to prove to me either of these things, you can stop reading now, because I agree.

3) Yes, I understand that “feminism” has many definitions but that the most popular one is “fighting for or pushing for equal right of the sexes” and this does not mean superior privilege for women. Yes, I understand that.

However, I don’t agree that using that definition alone justifies feminists saying to other people, “see, you’re actually a feminist and you just don’t know it or are in denial.”

To use a metaphor, I’ll talk about religion and religious labels-

I believe that there may be a “God.” I believe in a higher power of sorts, but I limit it to saying I believe that this power, which I choose to call “love,” is powerful in ways that we cannot yet explain or fully understand and has some control over the world in which we inhabit and our lives. However, by my definition, many, many Christians could and do claim that this makes me a “Christian.” No, no it doesn’t. Because I chosen not to describe myself that way. I’m not doing it to piss them off and I’m not doing it to be “unique”, I’m doing it because I don’t agree with their definition, I don’t like the idea of being trapped in a label, and I don’t agree with the amount of restriction it would confine me to if I joined the Christian religion. It’s not that I hate organized religion, or even Christians. I don’t think the entirety of their worship is useless nor do I think it’s necessarily bad for society. I simply don’t agree with enough of it to call myself a “Christian.”

This is the same thing. I think the feminist movement is doing good things. I am more than happy to work with feminists toward dismantling Patriarchy and by many people’s definitions, I am a “feminist.” However, I believe that it is no longer useful or productive to use the word “feminist,” or at least not for me. The reason being, I believe that by calling ourselves “feminists” we are continuing the use of patriarchal labels, therefore reinforcing gender ideas and undermining our own goal(s). Long ago, we wanted to push the idea that being feminine did not make us less worthy of equal rights. This is no longer relevant and most feminists agree, because what is “feminine” varies from woman to woman so much that there is no staple definition of what makes a “woman” anymore. However, society does continue to call us women and the fact remains that those called “women” are still oppressed systematically (if not lawfully). You cannot simply undo thousands of years of oppression in a few decades, though we are doing much better, in my opinion.

My ideas of people who are oppressed has gone beyond that of just women when I started taking Critical Gender Studies and exploring my own sexuality in the LGBT community. Trans men and women really opened my eyes up to the fact that gender is something that hurts everyone. It even left me wishing myself that I didn’t have to pick which gender I wanted to describe myself as. I think that if we’re going to help trans people, and everyone really, we need to stop reinforcing gender labels so much, especially ones like “feminine” and “masculine.” Feminism = feminine. I don’t support what is considered “feminine” nor do I support “masculine” because I feel that it are both made-up, nonsensical and harmful. I know the word has evolved and transformed to mean so much more than that in “modern/post feminism,” but I still feel that hanging onto the word is not helping us but hurting us. It is a fundamental disagreement strictly about what the word means to me, not the major ideals. I simply look at the way to dismantle Patriarchy differently than “feminists” do.

In defense of labels like “egalitarian” and “humanist” which I can better relate to, they are also encompassing a larger definition of people who are oppressed and no, not just men (as women feminists seems to be pretty considered about it helping) but also people who are oppressed because of racial inequality, classism, physical/mental handicap, and many others. I’m sorry, but I am so busy worrying about all these issues that “feminist” just doesn’t cut it for me anymore, because I see the problem as being much bigger than just women’s rights. Women’s rights are really one part of a very big problem. They are absolutely valid, but not the only issue and may not even be the biggest issue. Most feminists tend to agree that these issues also matter, yet they insist on calling themselves feminists and saying that feminism covers those issues when really I think one word like that, which specifically and historical points only at what is “feminine” and oppressed, is not enough. However, they all (all oppressed people, at least in America) have a common oppressor, Patriarchy, and it’s systematic oppression that is deeply rooted in our daily lives, most notably in our speech and labels.

Calling me a “Christian” just because I fit your definition of the label, does not make me a Christian. Calling me a “feminist” does not make me a feminist. The word no longer feels either accurate for me generally speaking nor  when speaking very specifically. It’s not a big enough word. It’s just not enough for me.

If we really want to dismantle Patriarchy, if we really want to help those who chose neither or both genders or a gender they were not assigned at birth, I believe we need to stop making ourselves an other. I am not against teaching our struggles and history and I feel that we still need the word to help us continue to move forward, but I don’t feel that the word “feminist” describes enough of “me” anymore.

Selfless is Still Selfish

I was reading this excellent article from Psychology Today called “Why Doing Good is Selfish” and I recommend you read it as well:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201406/why-doing-good-is-selfish

Both my title and the title of the article are going to sound deceivingly negative but bare with us.

I’m going to add to this article because I feel that while the author did an excellent job of saying why it’s actually beneficial for you to do inherently selfless things and also beneficial for others, it did not actually answer a deeper question for me or many others…the fact that it is still selfish.

When you are a very giving, morally-driven person, you want to sacrifice something of yourself, so that others will be happy – to act on what you’re doing not just because it will make you feel good, but because it will make others feel good. The problem with this is, assuming you’re being genuine about your wanting to make others happy, that it also makes you feel good about yourself. This isn’t actually a “problem” per say, but it’s something that I’ve worried about in the past. Doesn’t that undermine the whole idea of being selfless? That you’re doing it because it makes you feel good to sacrifice for others when in fact you actually are getting something back?

I’ve thought about this a lot and I finally realized, that absolutely no one does anything without personal gain of some kind (even if that reaction is an involuntary reflex, which is your body trying to preserve your well-being/life). If we must pick a selfish reason, let that reason at the very least be one that is also helping others. Let yourself have a little of that credit because as the article pointed out, it makes the people who are grateful to you feel good about making you happy too, if not, you are actually being unkind in not allowing them that same happiness.

This doesn’t mean that you should run around bragging about the good things you’ve done for others because then you’re doing it purely for self-glory and also looking for reassurance from others instead of being self-assured that you did the right thing. If you need a reason to respect yourself and give kindness to yourself (and you do, or you’ll have no sense of reason to live), let it at least be a reason that benefits society. Even in the cases where people are doing charity work purely for praise, at least they’re doing it. I’d rather they’re helping people while boosting their own ego than investing their time into doing something that either hurts others or benefits only themselves (which often, you cannot do without actually hurting someone, even those who do not act are not truly neutral, they are simply allowing evil to happen). I would just be careful to make sure it’s only because it makes you feel better about yourself as a human being and not because you want praise or reassurance from others.

This is another reason why I believe no one person can be completely good or bad. It just can’t happen. No act in itself is completely pure of morals or personal gain, but we all must choose, knowing that we can’t be perfect. We are doomed from birth to make selfish mistakes, it is the nature of survival. Yet it seems that even in our selfishness, we often help each other. Let our helping each other be done intentionally instead of by accident or by indirect consequence.

My Relationship with “Feminism”

Some of this is going to be repeated from a previous essay that I wrote. I just wanted to clear up a few things because it may not have been clear what it was I was arguing before. It may also help me personally, put into words for myself, all the thoughts and positions that I have circling inside my head.

Let me start by saying, I’m not speaking for everyone here, be they women, men, inbetween or not at all. There are many people who are going to disagree with the statement that I’m going to make here, but honestly, I think many of us actually have the same goals but are calling them different things or advocating for them differently. However, I am a stickler for specific definitions, because I feel that using a word that is less an correct over a long period of time is harmful not only for the individual for us as a species.

Before you go assuming I’m some uneducated slob who never studied feminism, let me assure you, I took three terms of Critical Gender Studies in college, all of which included feminist issues at length and one of which specifically focused on defining feminism and the history of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd wave feminism. Yes, I got good grades and my professors liked me as I had good attendance and was an avid, eager participant in all discussions.

I don’t think the “feminist movement’ is “wrong.” I don’t think feminists (in general) are my enemy at all. I also don’t agree that (in general) feminists hate men or are angry liberals. I think most feminists are looking for equality of the sexes and to dismantle what is left of the system of patriarchy.

The problem that I have with this, is that I don’t agree that “sex” as in gender specifically, exists. The line that would be drawn between what is a “man” and what is a “woman,” is so blurred, yes even medically/biologically, that I just don’t believe it exists. There is nothing (mentally or physically) that a man or a woman can’t do that they “other” can, and where any limitations seem to exist, they can be easily taken broken down with surgery and hormone replacement. The second problem that I have with “feminism” is that the word has the root, “fem” in it, implying “feminine,” “female,” etc. This is further reinforcing the idea, that this is such a thing as “feminine” to begin with, when in fact, the term is so subjective (and growing more and more so everyday), that I can only conclude what I have already stated: there is no such thing. There is also no such thing as “masculine.” The only thing about the word(s) that’s real, is the idea we insist on constructing and reconstructing in our society. Just more rules to follow.

Yes, I believe feminists understand this and aim for many of our same goals, but the word they’re using, unfortunately, undermines the goal. At least, it does from my perspective. I personally find, that this word which used to mean to me “equality of the sexes” now only reinforces that there are two sexes, differences. There aren’t. Not in my opinion.

There are however, real limitations to the people of which we insist on forcing labels onto, and thanks to thousands of years of oppressive patriarchy, those labeled as “women” still get the shit end of the stick more often than not. I believe the gap of oppression between the societal defined “sexes” has closed considerably, in first world countries, but it is not gone and is definitely prevalent in second and third world countries. I believe the now modern version feminism is correct in saying that we cannot ignore these issues or they will never get better and/or we risk repeating history by not continually teaching, looking back on it, and comparing it to our modern situation.

However, I am not always going to agree with the terminology the causes use nor the strategies. I don’t call myself a “feminist” anymore, not because I don’t respect what the cause has done or even is still doing, but because the word “feminist” is simply not big enough for me anymore. It’s too limiting. The term which used to be all about women’s rights has expanded to really mean “human rights” because how can one even define what a “woman” is? Or a “man”? Yet we still insist on using the word “feminism”/”feminist”, even though it perpetuates the ideas that we disagree with. Patriarchy hurts everyone, not just by assigning us roles, but by trapping us with names and labels which then re-assign us roles.

The word “feminist” is just not enough for me anymore, and I feel the word needs to be replaced for something that looks at the bigger picture, especially once I started addressing issues about what makes someone “gay” or “transgender.” Again, I know that feminists care about those issues too, but I simply do not feel that this word, “feminist” really covers those issues, all those very important beliefs that I hold. It’s just not a specific enough or big enough word. It’s neither small enough, nor big enough to cover the things I really care about. I feel that “women” cannot truly earn their equality until we are no longer an “other,” basically, until we are no longer called “women” but “people.” And again, I understand that this is simply how I, personally feel. It is a debate topic, but I believe that separate is never equal and that better together, (called the same name) is the way to go.

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” we were labeled “women” by the system. This word means nothing to me anymore, just as the system of Patriarchy itself also means nothing to me. It is a system of lies that unfortunately, I am forced to live in and, to a certain degree, follow along with until we as humans can find a better solution.

Yes, I respect “modern feminists” and “modern feminism,” no I do not call myself one. And if feminists truly do respect a “woman’s” right to chose, they will not speak for me nor call me something I don’t call myself. And I certainly do not appreciate the constant suggestion that the reasons I have for that would be because I am not educated on feminist issues. Yes, I understand, we’re fight for the same things (or at least many but not all of them), no your word is not the perfect description for my personal beliefs. I respect and am happy to work with feminists toward bigger causes. I respect you, now I’m asking that you respect me.

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