Social Justice Thoughts

We Can Do Better – Part 2

Hi everyone. Here is round two of things we can work on to build a stronger women’s movement.

Stop using ableist language.

I struggle with this, and I have been trying to get better. For more information about ableist language, you can check this out. Something that has been helpful for me is to make a list of words to use instead of the ableist words I could default to. I sat down and thought of the words I say a lot. Now when I feel like I want to describe something as “crazy,” I practice saying what I mean. We don’t live in a society where direct communication is encouraged, so we don’t get to practice using those skills often. I like the challenge. If I am describing a situation where someone was saying something I didn’t agree with, my brain might default to “they were dumb.” Instead, I challenge myself to say, “They were saying some stuff that I didn’t agree with, and it makes me think they didn’t understand the thing we were talking about.” That takes only slightly more time, is clearer, and it isn’t ableist. It also allowed me some space to reflect on how I choose to describe things.

As someone with a non-visible disability and a mental illness, I need to think about why I use words that describe my body to identify things I don’t like. We should all analyze why we do this. When we are building movement spaces, we should hold ourselves accountable for language that is unwelcoming to women with disabilities. And we should treat it as a gift when we get called out for using it.

Give your money to organizations that aren’t run by white, straight women or men.

I’m serious. Planned Parenthood is so important, but I promise if you give that $20 you have available to donate to a reproductive justice organization to your local health clinics, Planned Parenthood isn’t going to close their doors. Organizations run by women of color all over the country are in fear of closing their doors. There are lots of complicated reasons for this, but mostly it has to do with privilege. White run organizations, across the board, tend to be better funded and that is bullshit because they tend to do work that benefits mostly other white people when we know that no matter what social justice issues we are looking at, people of color are more negatively impacted. Stop giving your money to white people; they will be just fine without it. Instead look to donate to organizations that are lead by people of color. I have some options at the bottom of this post.

Get Familiar with Anti-Oppression Principles.

Learning the principles of anti-racism and anti-oppression changed my life. It gave me a language to talk about all the things that were frustrating me and allowed me to have productive conversations with people around me who were fucking up. It provided me with a way to hold myself accountable. I have been privileged in getting to learn more about these principles and help share them with others. Every time I facilitate an anti-oppression or anti-racism training, I learn something new about myself and identify places for improvement in my work and relationships.

Anti-oppression is a process, not a destination. Unlearning history, as taught to us through white supremacist founded systems of education, is part of that process. Anti-oppression practice gives a new lens to view the world and our place in it. I’ve often said that in all my years of social justice organizing I’ve never done anything more helpful than when I teach someone how to identify privilege and oppression within themselves, others, and institutions.

The work of convincing someone that our liberation is bound together goes so much smoother when anti-oppression is a shared language. Below is a list of some organizations that offer training, but if you don’t have the money to attend a facilitated training, there are also links to free online resources so you can start laying the foundation. (also, I’m always available for hire to facilitate an anti-oppression and anti-racism training in a town near you for a very affordable price #hireme).

Organizations Offering Training:

People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond

AORTA

Race Forward

Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training

Resources

Training for Change

Organizing For Power  

Beautiful Trouble

Learn the different between race, ethnicity, and nationality

This is for all my Chicanas, Latinx, Hispanic, folks out here. We have to do better. The anti-blackness and white supremacist shit within our community are the fucking worst. It took me years to fully understand the difference between race, ethnicity, and nationality. I used to get bugged when people pressed me on it because I had worked hard to embrace my identity as a Chicana and wanted everyone to see me the way I was finally seeing myself. But it is impossible to change how someone is going to see you, we can’t always give people the 15-minute explanation of our intersections. Sometimes we are just going to the fucking corner store. Catch me in the winter and you might read me as white. Catch me in the middle of summer and you probably won’t read me as white. I’m still learning about the ways that I can leverage my privilege of passing to fuck shit up in spaces where white folks have their guard down because they think I’m Team Mayo. There is a difference between being white and practicing whiteness. 

Saying, “I’m a woman of color because I’m Latina” makes no sense. Latina is an ethnicity. Saying I’m a person of color because I’m from Colombia makes no sense. Colombian is a nationality. You can be Latinx and white; you can be Mexican and black. You can be any combination because race, ethnicity, and nationality intersect with each other, they don’t determine each other.

Learn where you fall in those things. Especially if you a light skint latinx person, you need to start acknowledging the privilege you get from passing. If you are calling yourself Hispanic still in 2017, you need to ask why you are so into identifying with colonizers, especially if you think you aren’t white or embodying whiteness. Do better to Chicanx and Latinx people of color by getting up to speed on how all that melts down within you and how that affects the way you move in the world because I’m tired of fighting with y’all about it. And here are some screenshots of the best thread ever from one of my favorite people on Twitter (Donate money if you learned something from him).

                               

 

Stop protecting shitty men (also stop dating them, but this is to be addressed within the gay agenda)

You know at least one man who has sexually assaulted someone. I’ll say that again to let it sink it: you know a dude who has sexually assaulted someone. The sad thing is that they might not even know that what they did was wrong. That is because we fail everyone when we don’t start talking about consent at an early age.

Quick story: my daughter is four. I let her pick out what she wants to wear to school so this past summer she decided on a dress.  When I picked her up, she had shorts on under the dress. I wondered about this, but I thought maybe since she was playing in the playground sandbox her teacher put her in shorts so she wouldn’t get a sandy butt. I asked my daughter why she had on shorts and she said that her teacher told her it was so the boys wouldn’t lift up her skirt. I was angry in that mom lifts up a car kind of way and naturally went to the teacher and said my piece. That teacher was teaching my daughter, and all the other girls in the class, that if a boy touched them in a way they didn’t like it was their fault. Instead of teaching the boys not to touch girls without asking or to keep their hands to themselves, she was teaching them that if they wanted to touch someone without asking they could, and it was on the girl to prevent the unwanted touch.

This is just one example in an ongoing story of how we don’t teach boys that girls aren’t their property. It is situations like this that quickly turn into boys thinking it is ok to pop a girls bra strap, to sending unwanted pictures of their genitals, to coercing a girl into making out with them at a party, to having sex with a girl who was too drunk to say yes or no. These are all related to a lesson as simple as, “don’t touch anyone without asking if they want to be touched. If you want to touch someone, even if it is just for a hug, you need to ask them if that is ok first. If they say no, don’t touch them”

I know a lot of dudes who have grabbed a girl’s ass at a party or kissed a girl who was too drunk to say if they wanted to be kissed. These guys, guys I have known for years, don’t think their behaviour counts as assault because no one ever told them it counted. These same dudes get defensive when you say that kinda shit isn’t ok because so few people send the message that it isn’t ok, the patriarchy protects them. Stop being part of that protection. You are putting your community at risk. Stop protecting them. Tell people in your community that they can be dangerous. Don’t worry about embarrassing them or ruining their reputation, if they are a danger to the community they shouldn’t be protected. We all deserve to make informed decisions about who we spend time with and our own safety. When you hide someone’s abusive behavior for them or excuse it, you aren’t letting people make a choice. 

K, that is all I have. I am recommitting myself to all this and more as we move on from women’s history month. I promise to be less patient when I see fuckery in our movements, and I hope you will join me in that.