Archives for the month of: April, 2014

But I am sick of the current trend of having them all fit into a single mold of “I am a 20-to-30something middle-class college educated woman who is going to make comedy out of hyperbolic exaggeration of what I think the average woman’s life is. This means I am going to act awkward, talk about how much I hate my body but still pretend I’m some sort of body positive icon when you can feel my self-loathing oozing out of every pore, and get into over-the-top but allegedly relatable situations with my family, my friends, and men (because I am inevitably straight).” 

I can’t tell any of them apart at this point, honestly. 

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Does anyone take privilege discourse seriously anymore? Or is everyone taking that “How privileged are you?” quiz salted heavily with irony and self-awareness? 

I hope that’s the case… 

Either way, I think privilege discourse has basically outlived its usefulness, for a variety of reasons, but most important to me, it’s no longer being used, like it originally once was, to describe ways in which your access to power and your material reality is limited or distorted by structures through the law, culture, society, and other apparatuses of power. 

I think that became obvious to me after I heard about “tall privilege”. 

I’m on vacation visiting my mother in Hawaii. This comes with the unfortunate side effect of having to regularly interact with my mother’s boyfriend, a man I was terrified of during my teen years but now whom I find to be merely pathetic and obnoxious. Adulthood is nice like that. He has a habit of talking at people instead of talking to them, and the topics he picks are as offensive and uncouth as his conversation style, so in less than 24 hours, I’ve clocked in about 15 offensive, racist, misogynist monologues from him. 

But by far the most offensive thing he’s said was in the middle of a rambling conspiracy theory about the missing Malaysian Airline. He claims the plane was hijacked by Iranian terrorists in a plot to assassinate Prince William, Princess Kate, and their infant son. That on its own is just asinine; the offensive part was when he said that if it had succeeded, the death of those three would have been “much much worse than 9/11”. 

I can forgive hyperbole but not at that level, especially since it’s coming from him. 

Do you know what, more than any other hot-button issue, in my experience, is likely to get people into a moralistic rage and have them ram themselves repeatedly against a mental brick wall with the conviction that they alone possess the truth and that everyone else is ignorant, stupid, or wrong? More than religion, more than elections, more than Israel, more than religion, more than society, more than obesity or poverty? 

Food. 

Specifically, what constitutes “healthy” or “unhealthy” food, which foods are going to save the planet/destroy it, which foods will make you thin/fat, and which foods will lead to an early grave or a robust life and libido at age one hundred and fifteen.

This was the only conclusion I could reach after witnessing an outbreak of arguments on a Facebook friend’s status when she “challenged” herself to not eat any foods she was forbidden from by anyone who commented for a month, in order to train for a marathon, and after seeing someone get extremely irritated at me when I pointed out to her that non-Westerners, do, in fact, consume the milk of animals, and without any adverse effects to their health, in fact, it’s a staple of their culture (The Saami and the Masai and Mongolians). 

Introspection is a very important part of becoming an activist; it’s a time when you’re realizing that you have to critically examine and unpack a great deal of your assumptions about the way things “work”, about the state of the world, and why that’s been that way. It can be disruptive, it can be painful, it can be exciting, but it is necessary, because you can’t go into activism thinking that you know best and that your worldview is identical to everyone else’s. 

That said, introspection and self-examination are not meant to be the centerpieces of your activism. In fact, they’re meant to take up a comparatively small portion of your journey, the rest is going to be spent on external action, such as reading, writing, and protesting. If you make your introspection your focal point, it will make you obnoxious, because you won’t be responding productively to a problem, you’ll be flailing over it and focusing more on your opinion/perspective of the issue than the issue itself. This is what leads to people thinking that self-flagellation and writing endless navel-gazing posts about their own privilege is the same thing as activism. 

If you let your introspection consume your activism, it ceases to be useful. Work on ways to keep it contained so that you are interested in growing as a person, instead of stymieing that because you’re more interested in your own guilt than the real problems at hand. Write about your feelings in a private journal or a private blog. Work through them on your own time. Don’t turn them into a performance piece that is meant to show that you’re a Good Person. 

Today, I saw an article on The Voice of Russia interviewing a Mohawk elder, which I’m not linking because that site is puerile propaganda. I’m very cynical about Russian news media’s interest in Indigenous people in North America, I have a feeling that their interest can mainly be articulated as “How effectively can we use their struggles to smear the U.S and the West?” and the intro to this interview didn’t help with this suspicion:

“She underlines the fact that Russia and Russians never took part in the genocide of the native people, unlike the rest of Europeans.”

I could go on and on about the abuses Russia piles on Indigenous populations within its own borders and the way that it torments sovereign nations outside of its own borders, including ones where there are Indigenous populations who have well-established historical reasons to fear Russia. But I don’t need to resort to that to counter such a bald faced lie, a rebuttal to this nonsense can boil down to one word:

Alaska

On Monday, I’m meeting with my favourite professor to talk about doing a directed research project, focusing on two-spirit chosen families and intimacies. 

Projects like this delight me because they combine my two greatest loves: academia and storytelling. 

My biggest problems with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Or the TRC) or, the effort of the Canadian Government are twofold. I am humbled and amazed by the resilience and strength of survivors of the residential school system who have come forward with their stories and been brave enough to take part in the TRC and find relief in breaking their silence, but I still feel there are a few things very troubling about the process as it’s been practiced. 

First of all: 

1.) The onus largely appears to be on Indigenous people who survived the residential school system or their descendants to take part in this. At every single TRC event that I’ve been to, it’s been majority Indigenous peoples at these events, most of whom have a personal connection to residential schools. What’s the problem with this? It allows the majority of non-Indigenous Canadians to absolve their responsibility to be aware of this history, acknowledge it, and work through it. Ordinary, non-Indigenous Canadians need to know this history and be aware of the impact. This wasn’t something that happened ages ago; the last residential school in Canada closed for good in 1996. 

2.) The intention of the TRC appears to be based on that rather annoying Western concept of receiving Closure (with a capital C, yes) and being able to “move on” and have things be better. Closure as a concept isn’t very helpful here; after the TRC is complete, there will still be people who were wounded by residential school system and the Canadian government and Canadian population’s responsibilities towards addressing this genocidal legacy will not end with the TRC. Closure is also a very hilariously Western concept, which does not translate to Indigenous worldviews that see events happening in a more cyclical, ongoing fashion. Promoting the TRC as the last step is an absurd lie. It’s step one on a long journey that doesn’t end any time soon, and may very well not have a concrete ending, period. 

I didn’t ever really understand why so many mainstream feminists have this deep, omnipresent anxiety about having their most innocuous and far-removed-from-politics personal decisions not being validated and celebrated constantly. I’ve noticed that if you offer anything less than a rousing “you go girl” and a pat on the head for certain feminists, in particular, white middle-class ones, you’ll be met with a humongous tidal wave of resentment and tears, followed by a rousing defense of their personal choice and how it is a proud feminist action which is Good and Virtuous and Empowering. 

Then it occurred to me: So much of these anxieties are basically an extension of the need for approval from a patriarchal father figure; in this case, constantly seeking approval of every choice from a patriarchal society. The goal here isn’t to challenge or disrupt what is valued, it’s for themselves to gain approval and sink into it (to borrow Sara Ahmed’s language). 

This is not only excruciatingly boring, it’s just plain ineffective. No wonder I hate it so much. 

As it turns out, an effective way to keep weight off when you are a student is to adopt a very haughty food snob persona, so that when you are on campus, the various campus dining options turn your stomach so badly that you’re only interested in bringing food you prepared yourself. 

That said, this does require you to have the foresight to create time to bring food from home. It becomes less and less easy to be a food snob when you left the house with only coffee in your stomach.