A Follow Up: “Why This Radical Leftist is Disillusioned by Leftist Culture”
After my first post, “Why This Radical Leftist is Disillusioned by Leftist Culture” (https://medium.com/@UptheCypherPunx/why-this-radical-leftist-is-disillusioned-by-leftist-culture-63419aa85a58#.ddgyzvq17) unexpectedly went as viral as it did, I was overwhelmed by the feedback, both positive and negative. Countless people told me that I had expressed exactly what they were thinking, and some even said that they were AFRAID to express these thoughts themselves. For this exact reason, I do not regret making that post regardless of how many were offended…there is something seriously wrong with people being silenced before they’ve even spoken. Thank you to everyone who has read, shared, commented and encouraged me personally on this, and thank you to everyone who reacted with anger and insults that only proved my points further! Having said that, some incredibly uninformed assumptions were made about me personally, my life experiences, as well as what exactly I meant in my criticisms of PC culture and defense of free speech. This post is meant to clarify some of those things and debunk the misconceptions around my ideas. Oh, and several people have also asked if they can re-print my last article and/or translate it. Feel free to do this with anything that I write. I don’t even need credit. Information is power, after all!
One of the main things I was attacked for is the fact that I’m a “rainbow haired white girl” dissing political correctness when I’m apparently not the one who needs it anyway. I found this very interesting because part of “PC culture” that I actually believe in is the idea of intersectionality, or the need to recognize how various aspects of a person’s identity shape who they are and their experiences…things like race, gender, class, age, disability status, sexual orientation, and basically anything that makes a person who they are in relation to the power structures that exist in the world. It was assumed that because my skin is as white as it could possibly be, that I have no other challenges in this context. So, humour me for a second and let me tell you a bit about myself: I am a white working class queer female with a history of trauma. I have experienced intimate partner violence in many forms and I have been formally diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I’ve been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and struggled with drug addiction in the past. I’ve been stalked, harassed and had the shit kicked out of me by police. Until I landed my current job, there were times when I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from, or if I would be able to make rent that month, or pay off the bills on time. While I’m doing better now in a lot of ways, and I am definitely not claiming to win the “Oppression Olympics” (spoiler: it’s not a competition to begin with), it is not only ignorant, but simply incorrect to assume that I am nothing more than a privileged white girl refusing to check herself. I have “checked my privilege”, if you will…and I recognize the ways in which I benefit from being white and able-bodied among other things (ex.I do not experience racism)…but I am also much more than that, as we all are much more than our labels, and the reactions to my piece really illustrated one of my problems with today’s activist cultures: that it is somehow ok and helpful to ASSUME things about other people and condemn them for what you see them as and nothing more. If you are fine with doing that, then go for it. Just don’t expect them to empathize with your experiences any more than you’ve empathized with theirs.
Of course, I can only speak to my own. And part of that is witnessing alleged social justice warriors ignoring the homeless people on the streets and those who have actually fallen through the cracks of society, while talking shit about those exact people because they don’t perfectly understand the right ideas or aren’t up-to-date with modern terminology. This is an epic fail on our part. It is also in direct conflict with what we understand as “intersectionality”.
In addition to all of this, many SJWs seem to believe that it is not their role to educate others. While it can be condescending, and creates an inherent power imbalance when one takes on the role of teacher in order to educate the masses on oppression, as if they know nothing about it…those who are asking questions and wanting to learn are getting shut down, and this is not beneficial to anyone, certainly not social justice causes! That approach pushes people away. It makes them feel attacked by those who should be doing the opposite, making them feel welcome and supported regardless of who they are and what baggage they come with. If we really want to tear down structures of oppression, such as racism, sexism, inequality, you name it, we have to communicate these issues in terms that are accessible to all people whether or not they’ve graduated university with a women’s studies degree or left school after grade 8. There is no other way people will receive this information, let alone join our movements. And we wonder why there’s no unity on the left, why right-wing movements are more attractive to the average person? Not only have we become unbearable to be around, people are afraid to have their hearts ripped out over what are usually misunderstandings. Again, if ya’ll are fine with that, keep doing your thing. Personally, I am not.
This is probably the biggest criticism I received, but many people really do not understand the concept of free speech and that no, defending it does not mean that I think it is ok to be a hateful bigot in whatever form. Defending free speech for everyone, even those we wholeheartedly disagree with, is simply an acknowledgement that we do not hold power or authority over others. Let me ask you this: who gets to decide which ideas and words are acceptable and which ones aren’t? Who gets to enforce the rules in this sense? Is it us? The lefty social justice warriors? But that means that we hold some kind of power over others, based on our beliefs. In my opinion this is not acceptable, and is essentially a thought-control tactic. Having good intentions does not mean that it isn’t thought-control. Our ideas cannot be forced on other people, but must be adopted voluntarily in order to genuinely grow. This requires patience, a willingness to work with others as they explore themselves, answer their questions and take a sort of scientific approach of “no question is a stupid question”. We are not always going to enjoy the process! But without freedom of thought, speech, and expression, no other freedom can exist. Bigots and hateful people in general will make fools of themselves, and again, our freedom to speak means that we can and definitely should challenge them and outsmart them! But the idea of being so self-righteous that we think we deserve to be authority figures in all of this is soul-crushing.
Lastly, let me just say that if people want to create “safe spaces” to organize, they certainly have the right to do so. But it is extremely naive and problematic to think that we can just walk into a room, declare it a safe space, and expect it to magically become one. Unless you and your safe space enforcing friends plan on isolating yourselves from the world rather than engaging with it, it is not realistic at all and pretending it is will only hurt you further. Sorry, but it’s the truth. I used to love the idea of safe spaces but eventually realized that they did not protect me from humanity’s flaws and that we can’t change the world by hiding in our own. Escapism is nice and even necessary once in a while, but at the end of the day if we are serious we need to avoid hiding behind ourselves. As for trigger warnings, as a rape survivor myself and someone who deals with PTSD, how is writing something like “TW:Rape” not inherently triggering? I simply don’t get it. Literally anything can be triggering to someone, and there is no way of knowing what that will be. Personally, I think we are better off working out how to support someone who becomes triggered in a given situation rather than triggering them ourselves in an attempt not to. But again, that’s just my opinion.
So there you have it. I don’t expect the critics to open their eyes, and they don’t have to. But hopefully I was able to clarify some things about my own intentions and character. I do not have all of the answers. I can only speak of what I understand. It is my understanding that we have major struggles that need to be fought, and we cannot afford to let interpersonal issues get in the way of the larger picture. We need to stop turning on each other and isolating our own people. That is setting us up for failure and we will definitely fail if it keeps up. Are you prepared to accept that? Personally, I am not and I know many other people who are not. So let’s get over ourselves and get to work.