Exploring my spirituality & preaching the word of ethics-guided liberal politics via writings on feminism, sexuality, spirituality, fandom, and more.
Sheikhah Muslema Purmul (via partytilfajr)
Back in the first part of 2013 (and maybe still today), in the Ingathering for the CLF’s online worship services, Rev. Meg Riley would say:
We come together for a moment out of time in a place that is nowhere but holy to celebrate what is deepest and most true, to honor the beauty of our own hearts’ longing, and to care for each other.
Lovely words, but the part that really struck my heart was “in a place that is nowhere but holy”.
I often attended services on my beat up old Hackintosh laptop in the cramped and messy living room of my old apartment.
Being unable to clean up is a part of my disability. I become overwhelmed by a little clutter to the point of inaction and anxiety and fear, and I can not pick it up, so it just gets worse. My inability to pick things up and put them away has been a source of shame for me my entire life.
So to have a minister tell me that my messy house was a place that was “nowhere but holy”… oh. It always made me cry.
Perhaps every place is a place that is nowhere but holy. I mean, anywhere you can watch the online services from is potentially a place that is nowhere but holy.
So, then, what defines a holy place? (I guess we could also ask what defines holy?) And what meaning does this have for people who lean more humanist/non-theist/non-spiritual/non-woo? How do we reconcile holy with a lack of supernatural? CAN holy be reconciled with lack of supernatural beliefs? Perhaps that’s the very definition of holy… something that is beyond the natural.
But Rev. Erik once talked of “the super inside of the natural”. I really liked that deconstruction. And I think we can use it here. Holy is that super, that special, that sacred (if we can use sacred outside of traditional religious/spiritual/woo). Maybe sacred and holy here means “special in a way that holds deep emotional meaning”.
So, then, a place that is nowhere but holy. And all places can be nowhere but holy.
I was about to say “well, I have no answers, but let’s leave the questions out there, because they’re important and perhaps they can answer themselves.” And then I remembered something that Neil deGrasse Tyson said tonight on Cosmos.
He was talking about space and time and spacetime, that combination that can’t be separated because the laws of physics have them inexorably intertwined with each other. And I was just thinking “well, does the place become holy because the time is holy, because we’re setting aside this time to be a holy time? But that’s conflating space and time. But they’re separate things.” And then Neil’s discussion around spacetime came up in my head… how they’re not.
So I suppose it’s all about intention. It’s about setting aside time from our ordinary lives to create wonder, mystery, introspection, reflection, inspiration, love, goodness. By declaring the time as set aside and different, we are creators of our holy time. We can manifest that intention. (And that is very woo, actually. It’s a very common thing in Pagan/Heathen/ancient/ Earth based paths/religions. I’m willing to take a good idea where I see one and use it, with proper attribution, of course.)
(More thoughts from this: does this, then, mean that psychotherapy is holy/sacred? We set time aside for introspection, reflection, talking about & figuring out our selves, our thoughts, our feelings, our relationships with others, philosophies on life. Not that different from some forms of religious/spiritual practice. (The REALLY funny thing about this is back in the day, I’d find myself working on something in therapy I was also working through at The Sanctuaries, or vice versa. And I made a note of this to Hirsch, my old therapist, who was a person of faith. I think he could appreciate the comparison.) )
And any space where we do that then becomes sacred. Many Pagans do this by performing a ritual called Casting a Circle. They start their services/rituals by calling in spirits or deities of various compass directions (trad: North, South, East, West, sometimes Above & Below) to join those worshipping and help make their worship space holy & sacred. Those in charge of this part of the ceremony may actually draw a circle either in the air or on the ground around those worshipping. Many Pagans very intentionally create that sacred space. But others do it in a way that isn’t as direct or outward.
So I suppose my mess is, indeed, a place that is nowhere but holy.
NOTE! This post may be controversial. It has some unpopular opinions in it. You have the right to disagree with the below. But you DO NOT have the right to verbally harass me, treat me badly, or call me names over it. Remember, at the end of the keyboard is a person with feelings, and this particular person has a mood/personality disorder that makes them feel things much more strongly than your average person, and they are VERY easily triggered into shame spirals that sometimes end in disaster. Be civil and kind with your disagreeing.
I’m very scared and disappointed in the direction the movement is headed today. It’s headed down a dark path, using Right as an excuse to do Wrong things.
We have our politics, but we’ve forgotten what we need to temper them. Politics alone are not enough, because politics doesn’t tell us how to treat people. It leaves ethics completely alone. (As seen in national politics and the way they operate there.)
Studying social justice isn’t enough. Studying feminism & oppression politics (queer/(dis)abled/racial/etc.) isn’t enough. When someone says “do your homework”, that’s usually what they mean. But there needs to be more homework done, and that’s learning ethics and adopting an ethical framework for our social justice activism. (some might go so far as to call said ethics “morals” or “spirituality”, but I tend to shy away from those words because of how loaded they are. One does not require a religion, a spirituality, or anything like that to do these things or to believe these things are important. One might call them Secular Humanist values, but I’ve gleaned them from Unitarian Universalism (which has a lot of Secular Humanist values). But they hold true for all people, regardless of their beliefs.) Social justice talks on a greater scale, but says nothing about how to treat or interact with the individual, or even individuals within a group.
Obviously, above I’m starting with 2 assumptions. 1.) it’s important to be a good person. It’s important to be ethically right in our actions and interactions with others and the world around us. 2.) Hurting other individuals/people is not ok from an ethical standpoint. It’s important to treat others with equity, justice, and compassion. (in this case, we’ll be talking a lot about verbal and emotional abuse & violence towards people or towards an entire class of people) (yes, one can still fight strongly for their rights within this framework.) Another way to put it, to tie it into point 1, is that hurting other people is what bad people do. If you don’t feel this way, well, then, I don’t know what to say to you. You only want good and justice when evil and oppression are affecting you, and don’t care about the greater good and right action towards all.
So we start with the problems of our current definition of oppression. Oppression, as I know it, is currently defined as systemic and pits people into 2 classes… oppressor and oppressed. The oppressor has privilege over the oppressed. Most people have at least 1 form of privilege, and possibly one form of oppression. But oppression as only systemic leaves the door wide open for all sorts of egregious things being done by the oppressed to the oppressor, and it’s seen as ok, because it’s not happening across the entire system. Things like emotional and verbal abuse (or abusive language directed in general if not at a specific member of the class), and, theoretically, even physical abuse.
The other problem is that currently, social justice uses “oppressed vs. not oppressed” or “oppression vs. not oppressing” as the ONLY yardstick for right/wrong, good/evil. It doesn’t take in account the many other ways people can hurt other people. If the oppressed can’t oppress the oppressor, and we don’t see the other ways that other people can do wrong AS wrong, then it gives the oppressed carte blanche to hurt people within the oppressor class, and it’s even seen as ok. Sometimes it’s even seen as a good thing, because people are confusing it with “fighting back for our rights.” (It is our duty to fight back for our rights in the least harmful method possible. More on this later.)
With the current system of “politics only values”, it’s ok to hurt/insult my friend who happens to be hetcis because he’s part of the oppressor class but not ok to hurt me because I’m queer & genderqueer. And, obviously, this is wrong from an ethical standpoint.
If the oppressor class is “hurt” by our fighting back for our rights in ethical manners (notice the emphasis on ethical), that’s not being “hurt”. However, we use “fighting back for our rights” as an excuse to cross the line (sometimes WAY over the line), to harm people, to verbally abuse or to use verbally abusive language. It’s a fine line, but I know you all are smart enough to see the differences if you stop to look and if you stop and develop your senses for seeing it. (As you have with other forms of abuse against us. If something as small as microaggressions against an individual in the oppressed class aren’t ok, why is it ok to do an actual full on aggression of personal insults and verbal abuse against not just individuals within the oppressor class but sometimes to everyone of the oppressor class as a whole? It’s having separate standards on how it’s ok to treat people, and these certainly aren’t equal.) I keep seeing time and time again explanations on why this behavior is ok. They almost all say “it’s not systemic oppression, because those in the minority can’t oppress the majority, so it’s ok!” And they’re all wrong. Well, if we keep the current definition of oppression as something that’s systemic that only happens by the majority against the minority (which, btw, I have issues with this as the only definition for oppression), then they’re technically correct. But they’re not RIGHT. They’re not ethically right. Yes, it might not be oppression, but oppression isn’t the only way one can do wrong in this world. Lesser forms of violence, hurt, and harm do, indeed exist. Systemic oppression isn’t the only one, and by saying “it’s ok, because it’s not systemic oppression” is like saying “sexual abuse is ok, because it’s not rape!” or “physical violence is ok because it’s not murder!” Ok, not fully accurate, but we’re saying that because we’re only doing it to one person, it’s ok because it’s not happening to ALL people. Or if we’re directing it at the entire group, it’s ok, because that group has done wrong things to us, so doing wrong things back somehow doesn’t count.
Guess what folks? Wrong. That’s like saying it’s ok to be bullied because it’s only happening to one person instead of every member of the class, or even only certain members of the class. In fact, that’s exactly what we’re doing when we use that kind of language. We’re bullying for Good. And if that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it IS. Because one can’t bully for good. Bullying is wrong, regardless of why ones does it.
Also, I see “well, I wasn’t speaking to an individual, I was speaking to the class itself, so it’s ok!” Well, how many individuals from that class will read this? Also, is it not better, ethically, to take the ethical high ground merely for the sake of being a Good and ethical person? It may inconvenience you (more on that later), but it’s the Right thing to do… right? (And, I mean, that’s why people do social justice, right? To make things more fair, to do what’s right, to be a Good person?)
So why does no one want to follow this rule, this call to fight fair, fight clean? Because it means fighting will be harder for us. We’ll have to fight fair. No more low blows. We’ll have to watch what we say. We’ll have to take care to express our (very correct) anger in appropriate, healthy manners. (Notice I did NOT say to not be angry. One can express anger in healthy ways. And if tone policing means “no verbal abuse”, then fine, I’m all for “tone policing”. But people have used “no tone policing” as an excuse to be verbally abusive to people for FAR too long now.) It means we can only fight with the truth, and not with words that hurt. That we have to manipulate emotion with sympathy and empathy and with good and righteousness and not with pain. But here’s why it’s important.
Behind every person in the oppressor class is exactly that. A PERSON. Just like you and me, with feelings and thoughts and a heart. (People play the “downplaying differences is another form of oppression” card, but it doesn’t apply here, because this IS something we ALL do actually have in common and it’s the key to our humanity.)
We like to dehumanize by calling it “the oppressor class”. We’ve stripped all words that refer to individuality or humanity from that group. We’ve completely dehumanized a group of people. (and we’re upset at them for dehumanizing US!)
The oppressor class has always been and will always be a group of people. Of individual persons. ALWAYS.
We’ve gone so far out into theory we’ve forgotten the reality of the situation. We talk about individuality for our class, but remove it from the other one. And this is wrong.
So much of this boils down to “they did it to us, so we’re going to do it back and then tell them they deserved it because they did it to us.” Folks? It is NOT OK to do to us what they did to us. It’s not ok to do it back. Come on, folks, we learned this in preschool. If they hit you, it’s not ok to hit back. It’s ok to say “stop hitting me”. It’s ok to tell a teacher. It’s ok to walk away. It’s even ok to block their hits, or duck. But hitting them back just leaves 2 hit people. (In fact, the anti-war movement understood that retaliation wasn’t the answer. Remember “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”? Have we forgotten these values we had years ago when fighting the Iraq war? Or perhaps you were too young and weren’t around then and wasn’t “social justice raised” in that environment.)
And you’re going to be like “so it’s not ok to do it back because we’ll hurt their feelings?” As if hurting their feelings is trivial and ridiculous. And the answer is… YES. It’s not ok to overstep the lines because of people’s feelings. We seriously need to start differentiating between fighting fair and fighting dirty, and it’s something we haven’t done so far. I’ve seen people say the equivalent of “so it’s not ok to fight because we’ll hurt their feelings?” And that’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m not saying it’s not ok to fight at all. I’m saying it’s not ok to fight DIRTY. One can fight fair for our rights in a way that doesn’t harm anyone else on the way to our establishing justice. (And many who say that know that’s not what we’re saying, but they’re twisting things so that they can win, so that they can continue to justify their bad behavior, their verbal & emotional abuse.)
But let’s talk about 3 of the elephants in the room. And it’s the fact that fighting dirty sometimes works better for the end goal. But then we’re saying the ends justify the means, and so many times throughout history, this has been looked back on with sadness at the reprehensible actions that were done for a noble cause (or a supposed noble cause). (Or maybe this is the first time a good cause has used bad means. I’m not fully sure.) But good causes can not elevate evil means to goodness… evil means can only drag good down with it.
The 2nd elephant in the room is that it might take us longer to win if we don’t fight dirty. That it’ll take longer for oppression to cease. Nothing comes without some kind of price, and sadly, this is the price we must pay for being Good (and it is, indeed, important to be Good). It’s the only way we can get out of this unscathed by history, by those looking back and judging our ways. I truly believe that Good does not need to resort to Evil to win. Good will win in its own time in its own way, because I believe that Good is more powerful than Evil in the end, or maybe that humans want to essentially be Good in their heart of hearts, and that will come to the surface. Perhaps that’s just a belief. But I think it’s the only belief we can work off of to keep us from doing Evil in the name of Good.
And the 3rd elephant is the room is that part of fighting clean is being honest and giving credit where credit is due, and that sometimes means admitting or conceding to things that do not support our position. That hurt our cause. That make us lose a battle. But remember… the battle isn’t the whole war. And would you rather win a war using sneaky underhanded tactics that harm others, or win it through fighting fair? The latter allows us to hold our heads high, knowing we fought clean. The former will bring the judgment of history down upon us.
It is time for social justice to drag itself out of the mud and clean itself off. It’s time for our movement to restore itself to the fully good it actually is. It’s time for social justice to evolve. Because we’re heading down a dark path, and who knows where it will end? Even if we don’t go any further, how many will we hurt simply doing what we’re doing? I’ve coined a term for this evolved social justice. I call it social repair, taking off of the Jewish idea of tikkun olam, more accurately translated as “the repair and renewal of the world”. And it’s time that social justice becomes social repair.
Of all the blogs I keep, this one may be my favorite. :-)
- people take advantage of your niceness to exploit you as a “source” of information - bombarding you with questions/requests with no respect for your boundaries/limitations
- give you backhanded compliments on your niceness at the expense of less nice “unreasonable” feminists/activists/others in your group
- use your nice statements as arguments against less nice activists/ people in your group or to excuse/justify oppressive behavior
- take your niceness as an invitation to enter your space even if they have a bigoted mindset because they find your space comfortable/safe (making it less safe for you)
- use your niceness as the basis for creating a false “middle ground” on issues of oppression and/or painting oppressive behaviors as mere mistakes or as a “gray area”
- the things we are upset about or denounce are usually upheld and praised and we are working to counteract those messages and create spaces where those things are unacceptable/not upheld as ideal
- lastly, niceness in the oppressed is usually defined by the privileged as being docile/acquiescent- basically being complicit in or enabling oppression and activists are by definition not these things. see [x]
I am a nice social justice blogger. Maybe civil’s a better word for it. I insist on being fair. I insist on not being verbally abusive. I insist on expressing anger in healthy, constructive, civil manners.
1.) Yes, this can happen. So I set my boundaries, and then I uphold them. If someone asks me questions I don’t want to answer, I don’t. If I don’t want to answer it now, I wait, or tell them it’s going to be a bit. This isn’t not nice. This is me respecting myself.
Also, if we didn’t want to be sources of information, why are we blogging? To be sources of information. It’s part of the thing. (I wrote on this previously. How we do set ourselves up for this, but that it’s still ok to have boundaries.)
2.) Frankly, there are other bloggers that need to learn how to be civil and not be mean with their fighting for justice. There ARE bloggers who go too far. (I have an article on this in the pipeline.) Nice does not mean pushover. But it does mean not abusive.
3.) This is wrong. But it’s also wrong for us to use their being oppressive or mean as an excuse to be abusive or treat them in kind. It does, indeed, go both ways. Oppression isn’t the only form of wrong out there. (Article on this in the pipeline.)
4.) One can still set their boundaries while being nice. One can even kick/ban someone, after following proper procedure for educating, warning, etc.
5.) Sometimes oppressive behaviors ARE mistakes. You give someone the benefit of the doubt on that specific behavior. Once. Not everyone learns as fast as you do. Not everyone has the ability to draw conclusions or inferences for behaviors the way you do. (I certainly don’t always, because I have mental and learning disabilities.) Someone might not know because X is wrong, that also means Y is wrong. Sometimes you have to spell it out.
As I said earlier, this is part of teaching the world. We are social justice bloggers because we want to be heard and change the world. This is part of changing the world. (Yet again, healthy boundaries are ok.)
Some things ARE gray areas. Just because 1 person or even a group says it, doesn’t make it right. It’s called theory for a reason, folks. because it can be updated and changed. We’ve had 3 waves of feminism… why do we think there won’t be a 4th, 5th, and 6th who change the game yet again? (Of course, if someone says “don’t do x to me”, that means you respect that.)
And I’m not sure what you mean about the false middle ground. I’ve never heard/seen that one before. Example, please?
6.) I’m not sure how 6 isn’t nice?
7.) This one I fully agree with. But they’ve obviously hijacked the definition of “nice”. Or maybe the original definition needs to be changed. The true definition of the word sits above anyone’s attempts to hijack it, and I think being nice in social justice means not using personal insults against a person or group, expressing anger in constructive, healthy ways, not being verbally abusive, taking care to be kind with other people’s feelings at the same time we fight against oppression, amongst other things that aren’t coming to mind right now.
Sound hard? Yes. It IS hard. No one ever said it would be easy. Sounds like too much work? Well, them’s the breaks for being in the world. It’s the same breaks for everyone. We all need to be nice. Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations is important. SJ alone isn’t enough. We need ethics, too. (And I write SO MUCH about all of this in the post in the pipeline.)
I think it’s important to keep our integrity at the same time we fight for our rights. Losing it will only make history look down upon us and our fight and how we fought it.
So, yes, it’s a very hard row to hoe. Not everyone is up for it, and I understand that, so perhaps those who can’t do it should focus their efforts in some other related manner that doesn’t require them to have to do it. And, yes, we don’t always succeed. So we apologize and ask for forgiveness and try again. Admitting fault or wrong doesn’t make us weaker (even if they try to hold it against us). It just means we lost a battle. It’ll take a little longer.
But we’ll still win the war.
But see, in a lot of ways, this is the best I’ve ever been. Sure, maybe I haven’t been leaving the house or socializing much in the past few months, and I haven’t been particularly productive or able to keep my house clean or my hair cut, but. I’m happy, damn it. I’m not hiding from people, convinced I am unwanted and unwelcome. I don’t hate myself, even a little bit. I feel only the mildest of shame at my physical appearance. I’m happy but not complacent. I have plans to better myself that have nothing to do with dieting. I’m making friends. I love my wife, without reservation. I have the best dog. I live in a great city where the skies turn purple for no good reason at all except just to make everything even better. And finally, finally, finally, I am able to appreciate this life
I take it as a sign of my advancing age that I’m growing more interested in my wife’s portions of the bookshelves than my own. She has all the real books; Mine seem limited to sci-fi, comics, pop sociology, and whatever dark contemporary lit-fic novels that got made into movies over the past ten years.
I remain unsure, though, of whether I’m trying to experience something of more substance, or merely act in a way that I, for whatever reason, believe that I’m supposed to act. Reading the grown-up books and drinking scotch because I’m too old for vodka.
Interesting introspection from a new follower.
Jesus was a homeless Palestinian anarchist who held protests at oppressive temples, advocated for universal health care and redistribution of wealth, before being arrested for terrorism, tortured, and executed for crimes against the state, now go ahead and explain to me why he’d vote conservative. I’ll wait.
Theodore Roosevelt, from his speech “Citizenship In A Republic”, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910
I’ve very upset by the number of people seeking to score points with me by telling me they aren’t feminists, by badmouthing feminism, discarding it as a whole. Did you miss the part where I am still a strong, out spoken feminist? I criticize it because I want it to get better. I don’t think it’s bad. People, especially women, who go out of their way to explain how they aren’t feminists because feminism is bad, right after reading my comic about one problem in feminism. Sure, there are more than just that one problem. There’s more than one problem in anything good that you like anywhere. Stop proudly telling me how you aren’t a feminist. That makes me not like you.
Word. I am so critical on feminism because I want it to fix itself so bad because it’s such a good thing that just needs some help.