Response to Disillusioned Leftists

Today I read this article and felt I needed to address a few things.

I do agree with the author that some folks do become pretentious about their activism. These “allies” seem to only be in it for brownie points.
But I disagree with their assessment of marginalized people they’ve worked with. The author claims:

one of the first things you learn is that they usually do not frame their worldviews in terms of academic theories you learned in gender studies classes in University. For the most part, they tend to not analyze their experiences in terms of systemic power and privilege, concepts such as “the patriarchy”, “white privilege”, or “heteronormativity”.

I’m aware that not all people are cognizant of how these forces affect their lives. However, I’ve been homeless, I’m a victim of abuse and I’m mentally ill. I absolutely think of my oppression in those terms. My social circle, which compromises of people dealing with several forms of oppression, also know their situations are due to patriarchy, power imbalances and such other concepts. We absolutely DO bother with policing our language. Marginalized people are capable of perpetuating bigotry. We absolutely do educate ourselves “on the intricacies of capitalism.” We do “sit around pondering the effects of “problematic behaviours” in radical communities.” We are concerned with checking our privilege. For one example, I have light skin privilege. While I do experience racism, my light skin is seen as non-threatening. I can easily find make up for my skin tone.
Yes, I am extremely busy trying to survive and get my family’s needs met. But I know the reason I have such a battle ahead of me with these things is because of systemic inequality.

Speaking of Fascism, there is also a disturbing trend on the left nowadays that involves rejecting free speech/freedom of expression as a core value, because that speech could possibly be hurtful to someone, somewhere.

Because we’d like oppressors not to have a platform to speak their bigotry is NOT an example of rejecting free speech. One recent example is Richard Dawkins being disinvited to speak at the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism. His right to have bigoted beliefs isn’t being taken away. The government isn’t taking away his Twitter account. So, his free speech isn’t being violated. He has a right to his opinions. I have a right not to listen to them.

Freedom of expression and the like does not mean we have to agree with what another person says…in fact, it means that when we do not, we certainly have the right to challenge it. But what myself and many others are seeing is the shutting off of dialogue entirely, for the purpose of “safety”. What could possibly be safe about censorship? What could possibly be safe about a group of people who claim to be freedom fighters dictating who can speak and what can be said, based on whether or not we agree with them? Study any kind of world history and you will find that censorship has never been on the right side of it.

I agree we don’t have to agree with what another person says. However, I do not want to engage with a bigot. And yes, that is entirely for the purpose of safety. My not wanting to speak to a bigot is not censorship. Again, see above for my explanation on free speech.

Now, the ending paragraphs of this article deal with trigger warnings and safe spaces. The author asks that we “stop with the trigger warnings and get serious about changing the world”. I am completely serious about changing the world, and one way to do that is to make it safe and accessible. Asking, for example, that a class syllabus have trigger warnings makes it possible for someone with PTSD to plan around their study time. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. If a college class is then made inaccessible to someone with a mental illness, how is that not violating that person’s right to an education?

We are fully aware the world isn’t always going to be “fun and pleasant”. I mean, we have PTSD so, yeah we are more than aware. I am always scared but I continue with my activism because, pardon the cliché, I need to be the change I want to see in the world.

Author, you seem to think marginalized folks aren’t activists. Your article comes off as ableist because you’re asking for people not to ask for and use an accessibility tool I.e, trigger warnings.
Your tone comes off as condescending because you’re assuming marginalized folks don’t think about their situations as part of systemic oppression. Which is also classist because you talk about “university educated activists” as if marginalized people don’t also attend university. Or that university is the only way to become enlightened of these issues.

Response to Disillusioned Leftists
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Speaking Ill of the Dead

Growing up I was told it was rude to speak ill of the dead. I was told no matter how horrible the person was in life, we should respect them in death. I never questioned this until one of my grandma’s sisters died.

I got the news about my aunt and I felt like dancing. I thought I was being rude but then I thought, this aunt made my life miserable. Any chance she got, she reminded me how ugly and fat I was. She would tell me I would end up “jamona” (a spinster) because of how unattractive I was. I was 12. My grandma would tell her sister about my “bad behavior” and this aunt would say that what i needed was “un buen puño a la cara” (a good punch to the face). I was 7. She would make my school uniforms and I dreaded being measured. She always had something to say. “Oh, you’re so fat. You’re fatter than I am. It’s a miracle you fit through the door.”

She died when I was in my teens. I remember calling my grandma to offer my condolences. But I lied them. When I went to Puerto Rico, I visited my grandpa’s and another aunt’s grave. I left flowers for both of them. I didn’t ask to see that one aunt’s grave and grandma didn’t push me. I told my mother I was happy tia was dead. I would never say this to my grandmother. Not out of respect for that dead aunt, but for respect to grandma. That aunt never showed any respect to me, so I don’t see why I should respect her because she finally dropped dead.

I firmly believe it is OK and even cathartic to be happy someone died. If that person made your life miserable? Pop open a bottle. That person abused you? Merengue on that grave all you want.

My tia didn’t have any influence over legislation. Her opinions and ideas didn’t have the power to sway a population. Scalia on the other had opinions which hurt a lot of marginalized people. I will not judge anyone who is glad he’s gone. I’m sure no one is going to his family and saying they’re happy he’s dead, and I would never advocate that. But I don’t care for the for the posts I’ve seen chastising the people who are happy he’s dead.

“No hables mal de los muertos, que no pueden responder”. Don’t speak ill of the dead because they can’t defend themselves. Well, when she was alive I tried defending myself from her verbal abuse and I was told I was disrespectful.

Death doesn’t mean that person’s bad deeds are forgotten. Death doesn’t magically erase the pain that person caused. But death does guarantee that I’ll never have to listen to her opinions ever again.

Speaking Ill of the Dead

We Don’t Respect Children

I came across this meme on Facebook today. I was going to repost with some commentary but the commentary turned into this blog post.
CN: abusive parenting

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(image description: black text against white background reads: My 8-year-old just talked back to me. While she’s at school I’m logging into Minecraft and destroying her fucking village)

 

Look, I don’t care how annoying your kid’s behavior may be. I get it, I really do. But you DO NOT under any circumstances, destroy their things. Destruction of property is a sign of abuse. And yeah, I would count this as destruction of property. The kid spent who knows how long building the village and you’re going to destroy it because you can’t handle your kid standing up for themselves? There are ways to correct behavior that doesn’t involve hurting your child. Think of it this way, if I disagreed with my spouse, would that give my spouse the right to destroy something of mine?

Plus, behavior deemed “bad” is usually caused by some distress to the child. Figure out what it is and work through it. Talk to your kids. Don’t fucking do this. It disturbs me the amount of people sharing this on Facebook and commenting that this is something they’d do. We, as a culture, don’t see children as autonomous beings with fears and dreams like any adult. Why do we think treating children like this is OK and then act surprised when those children grow up to be maladjusted adults? Lots of parents think they own their children and treat them like property. Then when those children are adults who want nothing to do with their parents, those same parents act hurt. I see it every Mothers’ and Fathers’ day. I see children who feel pressure to talk with their parents. I see people shaming those children because we refuse to see parents as people who make mistakes. Some of those mistakes are too awful to forgive.

I get that that this is supposed to be humorous but honestly, where is the humor? Is it funny that I’m threatening my child with violence? (yes, violence, see above), is the humor in the fact that my child is supposed to be afraid of me? If I want my child to not talk back to me, how is doing this going to change that behavior? I’d like my child to respect me, but that won’t happen if I don’t respect her. And you know what? Sometimes kids will do things that will annoy you and down right anger you. It’s your job as the adult to set the example and regulate your emotions. If you feel you can’t handle the behavior at that moment, excuse yourself if possible. Take a breather and go back when you’ve calmed down. You can’t expect your child to exhibit certain behavior if you don’t model it for them.

This meme may seem innocuous on the surface but the people commenting how they’d do this reveal a deeper societal pattern. We just don’t respect kids. If we did, no one would find this funny.

We Don’t Respect Children

Family History

I come from a large family that I have never met.

My parents moved to Canada before I was born, leaving behind everyone. In Canada they knew nobody. My grandfather had 6 brothers, and 7 sisters. Most of them got married and had children. In Poland, we count our extended relations a lot more closely than they do in other places. My father’s cousin is my aunt, my ciocia, she is also my Godmother and her children are my cousins. My cousin’s baby daughter is as much my niece as much as any potential future niblings from my sister.

Growing up disconnected from all that, I felt the lack of family in my life. I was obsessed with having a sibling. I secretly wanted it to be a boy so that someone could continue the “Bula” line in Canada. When my sister was born, I made the decision then that I would keep some form of my name forever. For my father. The hilarious part is my dad has never cared. When I mentioned it to him once, he was confused about why that would matter.

Continue reading “Family History”

Family History

Two fucked up sides of the same sexist coin

TW/CN: descriptions of childhood verbal and physical abuse, sexist and misogynistic, homophobic, fatphobic, ableist language, domestic violence, rape

I grew up in a pretty fucked up environment. It was macho, and sexist. The people in charge of raising me and the other people who came in contact with me, did a number on me. My self-esteem was so bad, I hated myself just for the fact that I was born. I was constantly told I was too fat, too ugly, too stupid to live. That I would never be as smart as my brothers. That I would be so much prettier if I wasn’t so fat. That no man would ever love me. My plans for going to school and having a career were belittled. I wouldn’t do any of that because I had a duty to get married and have kids. That all my plans would go down the drain once a man “dominated me”. I was called a whore and a slut because I refused to clean up after my brothers. I was seven. I was called a lesbian because I preferred to play with the boys and I didn’t like dresses. I was called a whore and a slut because I only hung out with boys. I used to draw a lot and make new dresses for my dolls. I was told it was a waste of time. I wasn’t’ creative. I was being silly. No, girls don’t play video games. Go clean. No, it doesn’t matter that you did it yesterday, it doesn’t matter that your brothers haven’t. Why are you talking back? Then the beatings would come.

I excelled in school. But nobody ever told me they were proud of me. My teachers praised my work but at home all I heard was how I wasn’t good enough.

I grew up into an insecure, scared, unsure teen. A new country would help me, I thought. I can be a new person. No one will know how horrible I am because I won’t let them see what my family saw. But the bullying happened anyway. It bothered me but I was so used to it, it didn’t make much of an impact. No one would ever be as cruel as my family.

I ended up with an abusive boyfriend at 19. Everything I ever heard from my family; I heard from him. It was just confirmation that, yeah, I was too ugly and stupid to live. That my family had been right all along. I didn’t deserve happiness or respect. He abused me, he raped me, he broke down what ever little bit of self-esteem there was left.

*************
(I have two brothers, but I’ll talk about the youngest one since he was the one I was closest to)

My brother grew up in a pretty fucked up environment. It was macho, and sexist. The people in charge of raising him and the other people who came in contact with him, did a number on him. His arrogance was so high, he thought he could get away with anything. He was constantly told how smart and handsome he was. That his older sister wasn’t worth looking up to, but his older brother was. That he had the choice of any woman he wanted. It was OK that he didn’t have any plans for his future. Just make sure you got a wife that cooks for you!  You don’t want someone lazy like your sister. He was seven. He’d risked being called a f*g if he showed any emotion. He’d risked being called sissy if he touched his sister’s dolls. Play video games! But make sure your sister doesn’t play. She needs to clean all the windows. No, don’t worry about it being your chore, she’ll do it.  Don’t interfere when your sister is getting beat with the belt buckle.

He did well in school. If only your sister was as intelligent.

He grew up into an insecure, scared, unsure teen. A new country would help him, he thought. He can be a new person. He won’t have to hear the horrible way they treat his sister. But the bullying happened anyway. It bothered him. It ate him up; left a huge impact. He wasn’t used to being targeted for being himself. Wasn’t he perfect? No one would ever be as cruel as my family.

So he became cruel, and people left him alone. He became a bully. He ended up being an abusive man. Everything he ever heard from my family towards me, he directed towards others, and I too, became a target of his abuse. And no one said anything. It was just confirmation that, yeah, he could do what he wanted and there would be no consequences. If there were, it was time to change the people around him but not himself. So he continued to hurt with his words and his fists. He had been broken down.

I’ve had to learn how to undo all the damage done by my family and by the abusive ex. It’s been a long and painful process. I’ve had to “re-wire” how my brain works so that the first thing that pops in my head about me is NOT something negative.

I am a good person. I have friends who love and respect me. I deserve respect. I have a child who loves me and needs me at my best. I deserve happiness. I’m not that little girl anymore. I’m an adult and I define who I am.

My brother hasn’t had that chance. Well, he’s had the chances but he lacks the insight to take them. He has friends that care about him, he has children that love him. He has family that loves him. I love him. But he doesn’t see that. He just sees that he must never break down. Must never show his emotions. He must never be anything other than “a man”.

Two fucked up sides of the same sexist coin