If I could ban the phrase “go educate yourself” from the world I would.
The argument “the oppressed should not have to explain their oppression to their oppressors” is stupid. Sure, but (some of) the people who know that the oppression is happening certainly need to explain that it’s happening to people who don’t. Otherwise how will the people know? Well, they’re supposed to ‘educate themselves.’ Occasionally the suggestion that they Google it will be provided.
Even beyond the recursion here (I mean, someone had to explain it at some point for the information to be available on Google), how the fuck is someone who has no idea supposed to figure out which people are sensible and which people are full of shit? Hell, I encounter this problem in educating myself about race all the time. Is my “that’s bullshit” reaction towards, say, “mohawks are cultural appropriation!” because I’m a white person and therefore kinda racist, or because it is actually bullshit?
(Sometimes I wonder how certain sections of Tumblr expect that people learning about oppression is going to work, given that they are against marginalized people having to explain things, but also against privileged people taking the leadership/spokesperson roles you get for being really really good at explaining things.)
Look, you don’t HAVE to educate people. There’s such a thing as comparative advantage. For some people, their comparative advantage lies in explaining Social Justice 101 to people. For other people, their comparative advantage lies in organizing, volunteering, going to protests, fundraising, donating money, doing research, developing theory, or just generally being good people.
Even if you’ve decided you want to educate people, you don’t have to educate everyone. Everyone needs time off and you are hardly a failure at social justice if you’re like “nope, don’t have the energy to explain why this person is wrong” (and it is incredibly entitled of people to expect you to do so). Personally, although I quite enjoy explaining social justicey things to people, I only do so via blog post or one-on-one face-to-face conversation with people I know are engaging in good faith and whom I can learn from in return; other forms of argument, I’ve found, tend to make people angry more than they make people agree with me or make me question my beliefs.
A corollary of the “education has to happen but not everyone has to educate people” belief is that not all blogs are about educating people. In fact, I can observe about four categories of social justice blogs. Most of the categories aren’t pure, and nearly every blog is in two or three. Still, I put representative examples (which I do not necessarily endorse) in parentheses:
1) 101 spaces, intended to teach people the basics of social justice theory (i.e. Finally a Feminism 101 Blog)
2) Spaces to develop theory, discuss research, or argue about implications, nuances, and consequences of current theory (i.e. Radical TransFeminist)
3) News aggregation services that tell social justice types about news stories they need to know about (i.e. Shakesville)
4) Entertainment/comedy sites (i.e. Manboobz)
Most sites are combinations of a couple different types: for instance, The Pervocracy has some 101 stuff, some new theory, and some pure entertainment. The problem is that three of the four types are really not open to educating people. For news aggregation and entertainment sites, educating people is kind of a derail from their actual purpose. Many of the readers neither want to educate people nor are they good at it. While “does rape culture mean all men are evil?” is a new and interesting question for many of the people first learning about feminism, to most of the readers of and commenters on these sites it’s been discussed to death. And even worse many questions may be asked both by honestly curious people and by people whose goal is to explain to the feminists why they are WRONG, dead WRONG, about X thing that feminists are actually right about. That means that honest questioners get hit with a burst of hatred.
Theory sites are, if possible, even more hostile, because educating people runs directly counter to their actual purpose. It is extremely difficult to have a conversation about, say, whether good consent best practices are actually protection against abusers, given the history of some abusers of using them to pressure people to have sex, if you continually have to stop to have the conversation about whether good consent should be practiced in the first place. In fact, there are several conversations– off the top of my head, the “there is abuse in the BDSM community” conversation and the “porn is sometimes kyriarchal” conversation– that have been delayed for decades because people were so busy with the “BDSM is not abuse” and the “porn should not be banned” conversations. ETA: In the comments, Zhinxy says this is not actually true. Sorry everyone!
Of course then we get into the problem that most of the sites that do 101 also do theory and news and entertainment stuff, and “where does education happen?” becomes a serious problem.
Honestly I think the best thing people can do, if they have honest questions and don’t know how to answer them, is email/Tweet/otherwise contact not in blog comments feminists that seem open to answering questions and explaining things. (Hi! Here I am! I am really much nicer when I’m not moderating!)