Monday, 31 January 2011

Give the feminist a helping hand (cigarettes also welcome)

One of the hardest bits of Feminist Activism is just talking to people. Holding a placard, donating whatever money you've got to spare, volunteering your time, writing to your MP, are a lot easier than you might think. These are the times when you're Doing Activism, and no one - at least no one whose opinion means tuppence ha'penny - is going to make you feel silly for that.

But even among those people, those nice good people who agree with your politics and support what you're doing and maybe even help out from time to time, there seems to be an expectation that you'll give it a rest now and then. It's the weekend, we're having a drink, we're repeating half-remembered dialogue from bad 90s sitcoms, don't go dragging feminism into it, even if someone comes out with something ridiculously sexist, and your choice is to quietly accept that you are less than human, or to raise a wry eyebrow and say, "uh, excuse me?". "Swallow shit, or ruin the whole afternoon."

It's scary, and it's hard, because you're making yourself a target: risking the disapproval of your friends. But I sometimes think it might be what makes the most difference, in the long term. Immediate activism is still vital - sexist jokes are annoying, but Rape Crisis needs money right now; guys abdicating responsibility for sexism is infuriating, but abortion is still unobtainable in Ireland/NI right now - but I hope that challenging those tiny, stupid, irritating instances of "haha, women" does some good. Plants a seed. Gives someone else the courage to speak up.

And it would be really nice if guys would help out. Or at the very least not groan and roll their eyes and act like it's nothing to do with them. The Good Guys have such unimaginable untapped power to make sexism unacceptable in the mainstream - one "dude, that is messed up" from them is worth twenty from us; their perceived objectivity gives their words weight - so please, fucking well use it. We can't do this all on our own.
"I tell sincere white people, 'Work in conjunction with us - each of us working among our own kind.' Let sincere white individuals find all other white people they can who feel as they do - and let them form their own all-white groups, to work trying to convert other white people who are thinking and acting so racist. Let sincere whites go and teach non-violence to white people!
"In our mutual sincerity we might be able to show a road to the salvation of America's very soul."
~ The Autobiography of Malcolm X 

1 comment:

  1. I wonder what prompted you to write this - something specific? I hope not, but it does happen that even our best friends expect us to give it a rest - especially in the pub. Fuck that. I'll ALWAYS be with you.