This is a call to action.
I'm so over the #Oscars and other awards shows. I'm so tired of terrible men getting rewarded when they should straight up be in jail. We get so excited every time a small handful of women and POC get nominated for something as if it signals real progress and if we should be satisfied with so little.
I want more diverse and inclusive representation in my films, tv, music, and pop culture as a whole. People cannot be rewarded if they aren't given a chance. White (cis, able-bodied, straight) stories have been told again and again and frankly I am bored.
I am much more interested in the stories of those who are different than me, but with whom I may still share universal truths and values; or more importantly, from whom I can learn something new. Stories are what make us human, what keep us alive long beyond our years on earth. Stories matter.
Representation matters. What we see reflected in the media can either inspire or dishearten us. It's the difference between a child saying "that can be me one day" or "someone like me could never do that."
Time to move on from these antiquated awards shows that are behind society as a whole.
Since the election, I've been very interested in and absorbed by the many ways this new President has impacted our thoughts, feelings, and worldviews. One thing I am most excited to see is privileged people waking up to the reality of injustice in America.
It started in my babywearing group on Facebook. I am more of a hobby baby-wearer, and by no means on the level of many of the women in this group for whom it is a lifestyle. I enjoy seeing the beautiful wraps, cool finishes, the cute carriers, and occasionally add one to my Pinterest board Wear all the Babies.
Recently, women of color started sharing their experiences about being discriminated against or otherwise treated in racist ways while babywearing. Naturally, some white women in the group took offense to these revelations and asked that they not talk about race and keep the group "just about babywearing." There was a lot of tone policing (as if asking nicely is going to end oppression). The thing these women fail to realize is that for people of color, race is not separate from anything they do, think, or experience. That is the failure of whiteness and white privilege - we do not see the water in which we swim. Our race is the default and therefore devoid of examination and self-reflection - and that needs to change.
For the next week, the hashtag #youcantignorethis sprung up. Many women shared their experiences of racism while babywearing. I found them brave, refreshing, and honest. The topic of cultural appropriation while babywearing came up as well, which was also fascinating to read. It's something I didn't realize, being new to babywearing (and also being white as can be) that babywearing has been colonized and columbused to death by companies and white people in general. From taking traditional indigenous and African patterns and re-naming them things like "tribal" to the co-opting of the entire practice itself - these women were calling it all out on the table. I reluctantly (it's really very pretty) went to my pin board and removed one such wrap by German company Didymos which was called "Indio" - a racist slur used against Zapotec Mesoamerican indigenous culture. (To learn more, read here.) The term, which I had never heard before may not mean much to me, but to the people who were harmed by it, it's very upsetting. We should respect that. Furthermore, the company has since renamed the wrap to "Prima" due to public outcry. I'm not sure if that means that it's okay to continue using it, but that is an area for further learning and development on my part. My gut feeling tells me that I want to avoid this company altogether if they want to profit off of indigenous cultures and use insensitive language in naming their wraps. I can't stomach companies profiting off of indigenous people at the same time that indigenous Americans are being oppressed in real life, as they always have been.
That whole experience taught me two things:
1) Educating people is a LOT of work. I saw women of color get fed up really quickly and get justifiably angry. I also saw white women step up and and do some educating as well and was moved to do some myself. I immediately got tired of repeating myself and literally copy/pasted the same thing over and over just to keep it moving. I actually had to take a break. But I am privileged to take a break. My mental exhaustion and frustration is a scintilla of the lived experience of people of color. I have a great respect for those who continue to do the free labor of educating people but I also respect those who choose self-care and bid them adieu for their own sanity.
2) Some people just don't get it. I saw a lot of defensiveness, resistance, and hurt feelings. Everything from "I'm not racist" to "Bringing up racism is what causes these problems - we are all one." If anything, they made it about them and denied WOC's actual experience in favor of their hurt at being called out (the phenomenon known as white women's tears). You know, the typical. Very few said "Wow I didn't know. I will try to better" or things like "I am listening and learning."
It made me reflect on my own racial identity development and how far I've come. I do have some (some) empathy for those who are simply ignorant, haven't been exposed to other viewpoints or haven't taken the time to examine their own privilege. Not everyone went to a liberal college with diversity workshops and leadership training. I am very lucky and grateful for these opportunities to unpack my privilege and dismantle my internalized white supremacy. I still make mistakes, I still screw up - but I am trying.
So that brings me to the point of this post. We need to do the work. Many are finally starting to do the work, thanks to this election. We white folks need to take responsibility for our part in keeping white supremacy alive. We didn't ask for this but people of color didn't ask for racism. Anti-racism work is only half the battle - the big one is within. It's examining everything you think you knew and turning it upside down. It's both listening AND believing people when they tell you there is a problem. It's trying not to make it about you, but to make it about how you can work to fix it. It's recognizing that the concept of whiteness is a lie (both my Irish and Italian ancestors were not considered "white") and that our subconscious worldview that whiteness as the end all be-all is what is holding us all back. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere - I do not enjoy living in a world where I have special unearned benefits and others have unearned hardships. The only way to empower others is to relinquish power, and the only one who can do the work is you.
If you are ready to start doing the work, don't expect a free education. Google is your friend. Start here with this awesome introductory post on Intersectional Feminism. Keep working at it and assume that the work may never end. But we sure will get a lot further a lot faster if you get on board.
It's no secret. I love drag queens. I'll never forget the awe, wonder, and complete and utter inadequacy I felt standing next to a gorgeous Amazon in a beautiful hat at Beauty Bar in NYC in the early 2000s. Her glamour, her style. I could barely speak, only stare. I thought "This person is the epitome of cool and I am but a mere mortal with bad bangs." Drag is an art form and to see it up close was utterly breathtaking.
I have watched every single season of RuPaul's Drag race. I get a pure dopamine rush from watching the queens size each other up, read each other, transform into myriad creative interpretations of feminine beauty and stomp the runway. The Snatch Game always has me cracking up - a favorite being Jinkx Monsoon's Little Edie. I love the tender moments with RuPaul. I love when they become vulnerable and share their fears and anxieties. I envy their sickening contour.
But why do I love them so? My own life and experiences couldn't be farther from theirs. As straight, white, cisgender middle-class white woman, I couldn't possibly appreciate all that drag is in its rich tapestry and culture. I couldn't possibly identify with what they have been through and what they have overcome to be the confident, radiant human beings they are on the show. So why the affinity? Why do they speak to me? What follows is a rather unscientific list, garnered 100% from my own experience.
Disclaimer: I understand that straight women's love of gay culture can border into appropriation and exploitation, not to mention a complete disregard of their own privilege in taking over gay spaces. I by no means wish to contribute to such nonsense and hope I have treated this subject with respect. Please let me know if I haven't - I am eager to learn.
Full disclosure - this may get political. But don't unfriend me just yet!
So we are in a tough election season. Our two less than ideal choices are giving me flashbacks to the Kerry/Bush election in which I donned a pin that read "Kerry Sucks Less." We hoped for the best and we got Dubya. Many years later we're now faced with a historic win for either a first woman president with a questionable vagenda or a first rich idiot president (first?). I can't say I have studied their platforms in detail as the mere act of reading the 24 hour news cycle is enough to give me a panic attack. I will say that I can't help but notice that it stirs up some strong feelings in many of my friends and family, especially given our climate of police brutality and protesting footballers.
Often the frustrated exclamation of both liberals and conservatives alike is "if you don't agree with me, then just UNFRIEND ME!" We are either #BlueLivesMatter or #BlackLivesMatter, as if the two were mutually exclusive. As if the solution to all of our problems is to isolate ourselves into distinct tribes in which we only speak with those whom we agree. I can't really blame people for being exhausted and feeling as though talking to their brick wall opposites has simply become unproductive. Everyone is just fed up.
But if all of our social media feeds are simply two opposite viewpoints howling into the void, garnering attention from only like minds, and pushing us further and further into opposing camps... how are we supposed to function as a society? Is our sole purpose in life only to be surrounded by those who think and feel exactly as we do? Or perhaps is it better to be challenged by a fresh perspective, forced to justify your own thoughts and feelings with facts and research, and perhaps consider changing your mind upon learning something new?
If I only surrounded myself with people who agreed with me, I would have no family and I would not be married to my husband. I often questioned my choice to date and then marry a conservative when my heart so clearly bled for the liberal feminist cause. For many years it's been "agree to disagree" on some issues and to find common ground in our shared values - the things that really matter and are non-negotiable. But when it gets to be this tough - a moment in history when we are all on the edge of breaking - agreeing to disagree is no longer good enough. To avoid discussing these big ideas would be detrimental to our relationship in the long term. And as we raise a child together, we seek to model compassion and respectful communication. So why stop there?
We must seek to understand each other, even if we can't agree. Instead of being defensive, we must be curious. Surely there are people on either side of the aisle who are out of their minds and make the rest of us moderate, level-headed folks feel wary and hold grudges against the group at large. The media loves to feed us sensational headlines that make both sides look like idiots and make us further want to defend our position (because we sorta agree with those idiots... but we're not idiots... are we?).
This is not to say that anyone should continue to endure any type of abuse or outright hatred directed at them. I would never begrudge someone to zealously unfriend a bigot, racist, sexist, xenophobe or other hateful person. I also understand how exhausting it can be to explain the same things over and over again to those who refuse to listen, learn, or budge even one bit towards returning your generosity of spirit and openness. By all means - maintain your sanity and wellbeing by disposing of toxic relationships. For those that you do love and trust, and ultimately feel you can both teach and learn from, be sure to give them a chance.
I can go on and tell you why I'm voting for Hilary even though she's not perfect and I can try to convince you that Trump is a terrible, terrible person. But I probably won't. Because like you - I'm scared of how hard it will be to disagree with you - someone I care about. But I won't tell you to unfriend me. Because maybe, just maybe - we should talk about it and come together instead of turning our backs on each other. Because maybe now, more than ever, we need each other.
Unless you're living under a rock you've probably seen about 15-20 iterations of lists detailing "Things not to say to <moms/teachers/pregnant women/etc>."
You may have also seen many hilarious videos featuring "Shit <White People/Girls> say to <Black People/Latinx/Asians/Gay guys>"
Essentially these lists and parodies boil to the well-intentioned but actually quite ignorant and harmful microagressions faced by groups of people who are discriminated against, or otherwise put upon by society in one way or another. Those in the privileged majority can take advantage of the fact that they don't have to question or even consider that they are being treated a certain way because of a characteristic they may possess that is completely beyond their control to change. Such a privileged person, free from the scourge of constant self-analysis, may indeed be genuinely curious about someone's "otherness" and in an attempt to satisfy said curiosity, can often cause harm to that someone. Let's return to this thought shortly.
I eagerly consume these blog lists and videos in an attempt to both assuage my white/middle-class/privileged guilt, but also to make sure I'm not unknowingly saying any stupid crap to anyone. Surely, in my 31 years on the planet I surely have said things to offend others purely due to my own ignorance. I don't pretend to be an expert on every culture, religion, sexual preference, mental illness, disability, you name it. I have a lot to learn and imagine I always will. In fact, some of my most eye-opening experiences have resulted from being made painfully aware of my own ignorance. As one of my grad school professors assured me, however, there is no need to beat myself up about this - nobody is perfect. Yet, it is important to learn from these experiences and simply do better next time.
Nice to meet you!
I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!