Saturday, November 27, 2010

Opting Out, Dropping Out, and Why I'm Okay With a Little 101

Bear with me as I attempt to make two disparate points in one post.

K's comment on Garland Gray's post about the now-defunct Privilege Denying Dude meme really made me question why I tend to hang on the periphery of the feminist blogosphere. Of feminist tumblrs, especially, she says:

"In fact, I’m happy to accept photos of pizza and cats from the rest of tumblr with absolutely no complaints. I wonder if it is because feminism is so real, so close to the every day injustices that I experience or bear witness to, that I feel the need for it to somehow be “more.” Regardless, in many ways, it’s patently unfair of me to demand “more” of online feminist discourse as a whole when I so carefully delineate my own boundaries for engagement and often choose not to participate actively in feminist conversations on tumbler... Whether or not I like it, it is a privilege to walk away, a privilege to demand more, a privilege to say that I chose not engage in discussions of PDD or that I chose to unfollow someone without a word because I was unable to identify with their particular brand of feminism."

If having expectations, setting boundaries and choosing not to participate when those expectations are not met is a privilege -- well, there's one I haven't unpacked yet. That's another way privilege works: being unaware of those privileges is, in fact, a privilege. I always chalked up my own reluctance to participate as being not there yet. This is a big one. I keep waiting to find some magical "there" where everything I say cannot be proven wrong. This is also a privilege, deeply rooted in the fear of being "called out" or called upon to defend myself -- if I'm not smart enough or ready enough to engage in "big serious things," I have the option of opting out, and my life goes on as usual.

Regarding the original complaint that feminist bloggers should be beyond 101-level stuff, I'm willing to allow for people being at different places. If someone is willing to learn, I'm okay with a little 101. Yeah, it's frustrating when a thread gets a little derailed because someone doesn't know the meaning of "cisgender" or "kyriarchy," but I'd rather see online feminism accessible to all women, especially those who aren't in an academic setting or have access to the same books, than something overly pedantic and insular. I am that woman, and I still struggling with things that are supposed to be "common knowledge" within feminist circles.

Last summer, Pitchfork's Nitsuh Abebe wrote this about M.I.A., but I think it can be applied here, too:

"...Maya Arulpragasm (M.I.A.) is not a particularly sophisticated thinker... this may or may not be a bad thing. After all, people don't need to be 'sophisticated' to be right. People don't need to be nuanced or thoughtful to say something important. (Sometimes sophistication is a way of keeping people powerless -- ignoring anyone who doesn't speak your dimplomatic language.)" (Emphasis mine)

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