To The Other Side of Dreaming. Go read this first.
Today I am stating my commitment to be a good ally, a fierce comrade to join you in your fight for social justice no matter who you may be. I promise to never stop educating myself. I promise to apologise sincerely when I fuck up. I promise to never make my support conditional upon your tone, on making yourself less than. I promise to truly listen to what you need and not to provide what I think you need. I promise to never act as though you should be grateful for my support.
This is my commitment to every social justice movement that I am involved in which I do not personally identify as being a part of. I will strive each day to make sure that this remains true.
Sometimes I find blogging and engaging in the blogosphere (even just reading) very difficult.
I really really love Melissa’s concept at Shakesville of social justice activism as being a teaspoon against a tidal wave, but sometimes that tidal wave just seems so huge and my particular teaspoon so small.
My job is in social justice and I spend a lot of my free time engaging in social justice spheres trying to become a better activist and ally. It gets very tiring and so sometimes I just have to leave it all for a while to prevent myself from getting burnt out.
To make myself feel better I think I am going to list all the ways I teaspoon on a regular basis.
I am a fat person (particularly here in Thailand) who does not try to hide my body. I am a fat person that goes clubbing and rocks it hard (you better believe it) on the dance floor every weekend.
I try to gently challenge the body hatred of the people around me
I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full even though this means I seem to eat a lot more than the people in my office.
I frequently challenge peoples assumptions and stereotypes about sexuality and gender
I am a critical race feminist even when this means people around me think I am overreacting or making assumptions
I work out nearly everyday and this to me is a political act.
In my professional life I work to give a voice to women who don’t usually have one
I make sure that the work I do involves a lot of shutting up and listening so I can be a good ally
I try to spread this message as far as I can
I try my best and no one can ask more of me than that.
I have struggled with depression for as long time. I remember being 8 years old and being totally overwhelmed with life and not having the words or concepts to understand what was happening in my head.
To many people it seems ridiculous that an eight year old child with so much going for her can struggle so much. Children have mental health issues and it is not just the ‘obvious’ candidates. I had attempted suicide twice by the time I was 14 and I was from a a middle class family,my parents were still together and did not have any obvious issues. Luckily I didn’t really know what I was doing although looking back I did come perilously close. My home life was far from idyllic but what I was going through simply did not fit neatly into the accepted categories that resulted in broken children.
When I finally tried to talk about my mental health issues with my parents they were dumbfounded. The only way they knew how to react was with ridicule. I had every advantage in life, what could I possibly have to be depressed about? When I realised they couldn’t help me and I reached out to others they were horrified because I was airing my dirty laundry in public.
We have come a long way in the perceptions of mental illness but the underlying perception that mental illness can be overcome easily and is something that only happens to ‘those’ people is plain to see when we look how we think about mental illness in relation to children.
This post was inspired by the controversy that happened earlier this year when the Feminists With Disabilities Helen Keller blogswarm clashed with Juneteenth. One of the comments made was that Juneteenth is a North American/ US’ian holiday and as such only relevant to North Americans US’ian’s.
Slavery is and was not just a North American tragedy. It was a tragedy that is felt by all of humanity. I say this not to diminish the other human tragedies that have occurred throughout history like colonialism, the holocaust, ethnic cleansing etc.. but rather to illustrate how these tragedies are tied together. They occurred for many reasons but they would not have been possible without the denial of the humanity of the groups that were targeted. Denying the humanity of those who are different from us is something human beings are very good at and in my opinion the catalyst for many of the great evil’s that happen in the world.
By claiming that slavery in the USA was only a North American or USian tragedy we deny the cultural factors, the political discourse and the simple othering that is common to the ways in which all marginalised people are marginalised. This is not to say that all opressions are experienced in the same way, only that the process by which white supremacy, or abelism or any other opression operates are built upon the same blocks. Denial of personhood and autonomy, othering, objectification.
I view all opressions as being the symptoms of the sickness of the kyriarchy and so being a good ally is as important as fighting my own battles. This to me means seeing the tragedies of all oppressed people as being my own tragedies because they are allowed to happen by the same system that allows my own. This means listening to people who are oppressed because of different factors to me and ensuring that I am subverting – not reinforcing those forces that make their oppression as well as my own possible.
The other reason that this is so important is because of intersectionality. Oppressions do not exist in discrete boxes and neither to people. We all have many facets to our idenities and can be both privileged and oppressed by many different factors at any one time. Intersectionality not only forces us to take heed of those whose voice have been most erased by mainstream social justice movements, often because they are invisible within them, but to also see the commonalities as well as the differences between our marginalisation.
Solidarity has often meant making some people wait for their rights and recognition so that some can progress now. It has often meant the silencing of critical voices in the name of the movement. What I want is a true solidarity that comes from collaboration, true listening to the concerns of all marginalised people, and a universal rejection of the kyriarchy – not just the bits that affect us as individuals.