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Semiformalishmaybe

Another way for Movements to Fail

A bit ago I grumbled loudly about a small cluster of ways for movements to fail. Today, Jen McCreight (someone I very very briefly met many years ago at a secular conference; I barely remember her and I doubt she remembers me) posted an entirely orthoganal but also entirely valid criticism of the way movements (in this case, the secular movement but the criticisms are not specific to it) can fail people. It's worth reading; it's an entirely different type of failure involving a different notion of rot, it doesn't exactly leave the movement itself unsalvagable but it (like in my criticism) makes it undesirably harder for some people to participate.

She is talking about a side of people that I haven't seen a lot in social movements I've taken part of. I imagine this is partly because a lot of the ugliness happens between one man and one women rather than in public, or possibly because I'm generally known to get very grumpy at genuine sexism/racism/etc so people don't let down their hair around me, or at least theoretically because almost all the complaints about sexism/racism/etc come from the flavour of liberal where they can't lift a rock without finding someone to call out. I *have* seen enough actual racism/sexism/etc in my life to be fairly skeptical of the third; the hypersensitive respect-obsessed people exist (and they are irritating and should not be humoured), but I also know of a fair number of otherwise-decent people who in their pursuit of the opposite sex will use any level of manipulation to get them into bed, and people who are otherwise fine liberals who really prefer/try to create male leadership hierarchies. This stuff has perfect parallels in race and on a few other topics.

I am aware that possibly with her (and with some of my readers), we may not quite agree on the list of -ists that are worth fighting against. I am not ageist against old people, but I am happy to believe that generally youth have less life experience and are usually less-potentially-qualified in many areas than older folk. While I'll call people by their preferred pronouns I don't recognise the deeper aspects of transgenderism and find it pretty weird. Regarding ablism, I do think that it would be better if disabled people were actually able (the parts of the "deaf culture" movement that have been known to occasionally deafen children strike me as reprehensible). And yes, while I may like many people who are fat, I think it would be better if people were not fat, so I'm not so bothered by the idea of fatphobia. There are probably several other -isms and -phobics where I'm not entirely cool with the broad-liberal-norm that these things are awesome. That said, we're all people, and none of these people nor anyone else should face constant harassment or live in fear. One attribute does not make a person, and if you know someone well enough, even to the point of a lover, there are a few things about them you won't like. We need to be able to work with individuals and groups in an atmosphere where people feel safe and broadly respected as humans; even if my notion of respect is the thick-skinned and playful, free-to-mock-and-be-mocked-back, no-trigger-warnings, no kid gloves, and no newspeakish paranoia about language that might embody ideas that I don't entirely agree with, it's a standard I hold for everyone and there is kindness behind it.

The only thing I'd hope Jen does more is actually blow the whistle over people who misbehave. Whether that leads to a conversation (for cultural problems) or to schism (for individual problem folk) or something between, it's the only way to reign in problems of this sort. I recognise sometimes this really is not possible, either because one is *very* worried about schism, or because it's too exhausting, or because it'd require too much context for anyone not already aware to reasonably come to any opinion. Still, for those of us who want to see our movements achieve their ends, it's at least a strong intuition. Of course, I should temper this by saying that I don't know (much of) Jen's specific situations as I've been distant from the SSA for a bit.

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