Sometimes the antidote is sitting right next to the poison.
Author’s Note: I’ve been commenting here for the better part of a year and in that time I’ve given as well as I’ve taken it when it comes the fire fighting that has gone on around in that time. However as much fun these firefights are they are not going to resolve the issues that are affecting us. It is time for all the fire fighting to stop. And if you’re reading this AB, thanks.
Lately a lot people have been contributing posts on the interactions between feminists, MRAs, their counterparts (anti-x), and those who are neither. For example Tim Pylypiuk recently opened up a space for egalitarian feminists to come and talk things out and Jasmine Peterson made a case for feminists that believe in equality for all people. One thing that a lot of us have certainly noticed is that things can get very tense when these conversations happen. I think I know where a lot of this tension comes from.
Why the dismissal of a person when you find out they are an MRA/feminist when saying you don’t want that done to you? Why try to minimize the experiences of others, in the exact same manner that others have done to you? Why take a defensive posture before determining if the other person is really attacking you? Why take pleasure in hurting someone when you know full well that the pain is counter productive to the conversation?
Because more than likely at some point you were hurt and now you want to hurt others to satisfy a grudge.
I bet for a lot of people it goes something like this.
You interact with members of a group and over time you develop criticisms about that group and some of its beliefs. You try to bring up those criticisms, and things went less than stellar. You try. You try try again. But ultimately you grow tired of trying to make your voice and concerns heard just to get verbally attacked for your efforts. Surely some of those instances may have been justified but that still doesn’t make up for all the times you were on the receiving end of some harsh, uncalled for, unfair, and straight up offensive sentiments does it?
At which time you reach a breaking point. The point where you don’t even bother with trying to be civil anymore right. A point at which anyone that even so much as appears to carry that label becomes your enemy. No need for an attempt at fair and open minded discourse you know that they are “one of them” and you know what “they” do because of the way some of them treated you in the past right?
It feels good to strike them back with the very same hatred they struck you with right doesn’t it? However ultimately it’s useless. Useless for the very same reason their hatred didn’t actually get you to change your mind or give them a fair chance.
Yet you likely won’t notice this because by now you have been poisoned. Poisoned by the very hatred you once fought against. It’s in your mind, preventing you from thinking clearly. It’s in your eyes, preventing you from seeing clearly. It’s on your tongue, infecting everything you say.
But what can be done about it? How can you fight off the poison that has worked its way through your body to the point that you didn’t even realize it was there?
It’s possible but it’s going to take something that you probably don’t want to hear. I’ts going to take something that can only be found by coming in contact with the very thing you’ve come to hate.
You have to find examples of people that are associated with that label that do not embody the things you’ve come to hate. Remember that while you have come to hate everyone that uses that label, it wasn’t the label itself that was the original problem to start with. It was certain people with certain beliefs that carry that label that you have a problem with. It’s going to take putting serious effort into remembering that when it comes to groups of people it is indeed true that they are not all like that.
There is one thing that people (and not just the ones in the cycle of hate I’m talking about here, but everyone) need to recognize. This is not an attempt to convince that hateful person that everyone of that group is all fine and dandy. That would be nearly impossible because remember, they are not all like that. This is about getting people who have closed their minds, eyes, and hearts to an entire group of people to give some members of that group a chance. This is also not an attempt to trying to convince said hateful person that the negative people that hurt them in the first place don’t exist or that the negativity they were exposed doesn’t exist. No this illusion will not work. And in fact attempting such a trick will pretty much backfire.
And also bear in mind that this is not a quick process. Don’t expect a person to go from hatred to fair minded overnight just as they (more than likely) didn’t go from fair minded to hateful overnight. There will be slip-ups, there will be blow-ups, there will be the occasional bit of rudeness. It’s a long and hard road but in the end it’s worth it. How do I know?
Because I’m on that road myself now.
Recently I have been working on breaking from this exact cycle with feminists. I came across reasonable fair minded ones but I also came across some rather nasty ones. I tried to interact with them but to no avail. And even the fair minded one seemed to go out of their way to ignore the nasty ones (and not even in an “Don’t let them get to you.” way but in a “I don’t know any like that.” way). But as my efforts were met with malice I turned it back on them. It felt great to give them a taste of their own medicine but over time I came to despise not just the negativity that existed in the movement but grew to hate the label itself. Meaning at that point it didn’t matter how nice, fair, or open they were. They were a feminist, making them the enemy and were treated as such.
The biggest problem with such negativity that is that my points, which were once mostly strong, civil, and fair, were weighed down by hatred that turned even the most fair minded of feminists off when in more civil circumstances they might at the very least have respected my arguments even if they didn’t agree with them. Not only do your points get weighed down but they get covered up as well to the extent that people won’t even be able to see the validity and only the negativity. There is even a chance that the validity of your points will disappear altogether.
The poison has been identified, so where is the antidote? I’ll tell you that the first good spoonful of it was Joanna Schroeder. Unlike many of the feminists I’ve come across in my day I somehow managed to notice something about her. She was actually hearing out points of view that were critical of feminism and she didn’t respond with the hatred I knew all too well. Not only that but she actually acknowledged the weight and camouflage of the poison coursing through me and my words while at the same time not trying to use them as a way to dismiss what I had to say. I came to realize that coming out of the cycle would actually be worth it if there are feminists around like her. From there I saw another, and another, and so on. As I said above its not that they weren’t there is just that I had lost sight of them in my desire to attack all things feminist.
You may ask why I’m sharing this story and trying to deliver this message. Its because I know I’m not the only person whose view of feminism has been poisoned and I know that Joanna is not the only feminist that’s dispensing antidote. Most importantly if we are to finally get around to addressing all the ways in which the current system of gender roles is harmful to everyone we all have to have a clear and focused mind.
—Photo kevin dooley/Flickr