Your Activism Might Be Bullsh@!: A Non-Definitive Guide
By Jennifer Cie
Before you settle in for the clickbait the article’s title promised you, let me set the background: It’s election season in the United States, and the resurgence of unyielding activism has boiled into a moment of faux solidarity. In a gross summary, this moment, is rooted in freedom from unjust persecution and bias, as well as, obtaining equality that is intertwined with fairness. Right now, you’re having an almost-date at a coffee shop: it’s too casual to be a date, and too predisposed to heated debates to be a meeting with an old friend.Twenty minutes in and instead of vigorous flirtation, you’re at the crux of an ‘I-don’t-want-to-argue-about-this’ conversation, which is code for ‘I-don’t-have-any-real-experience-with-the-social-economic-or-cultural-factors-behind-this-issue-but-I’m-going-to-throw-out-my-ninety-eight-cents-anyway’. Instead of thinking to dismiss the topic in favor of flirtation, your non-date doubles down and tells you that their activism does not align with [insert social theory] current modern wave: they don’t believe in the political correctness, millennial whining/pandering, printing ‘free money’, etc. of it all.
Rather than go about your normal routine of seething quietly, imagining all the fun you’re going to have ignoring any future attempts at intimacy they make, you decide to read them—and I mean the Paris Is Burning type of reading. That, leads to conjuring up a short list of people you cannot date, which boils down into ‘Is-Your-Activism-BS?’ guide like this one:
- Does your activism allow for the deification of a celebrity/political/public figure to the point they are shielded from criticism not for the fact it is unwarranted, but because it tarnishes their brand? Well, then, it might be BS.
- Does your activism or organization include supporting women gaining social/political/economic equality? Awesome! Does that equality only include a select type of woman, ignore the need for intersectionality when discussing how to achieve equality, and/or demean the agency women have over their bodies in regards to reproductive rights/sexual liberation? If yes, then, your activism is BS.
For instance, if your activism/organization only endorses the rights of cis-gendered women, routinely ignores the need to recognize the different issues faced by women of color, relegates non-heteronormative sexuality to the background, and/or shames women for being sexually liberated, it probably has good intentions on paper, but raises one too many red flags of internalized misogyny/heteronormativity/patriarchal views in action…so, you know, it's BS.
To be clear—if you support social/political/economic equality of the sexes, but do not make space for trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary persons, and, those who may be frowned upon by social norms in the general public (i.e. persons often referred to as ‘thots’, ‘whores’, ‘sluts’, ‘fuckboys’, ‘manwhores’), then, your activism/organization is founded on some BS. Equality and fairness ought to be the default. The notion of them being ‘earned’ or given in exchange for ‘paying dues’ is another absurd form of BS.
- Do you have an Equality bumper sticker (you know the one—blue square with a yellow equal sign in the middle), but low-key applaud those who back trans-discriminatory laws (e.g. North Carolina’s restroom policy); only support greater media inclusion of ‘passing’ folks on the spectrum (i.e. femme women or non-effeminate men); and/or use any form of the phrase ‘but you don’t look/act/dress gay’? Then, your activism is swimming in BS—butterfly stroke and all.
If you determine gender solely on physical presentation (e.g. clothing, haircut, tone of voice), but proclaim yourself to be a supporter/ally of LGBTQIA rights, then, your activism is based in BS. Stale bread (gender roles) should not be the determinate of a person’s gender. An ensemble of a crop top and shorts with matching fluorescent nail polish may be a signifier of gender, warm weather, or a cute fashion trend, but is not the defining characteristic of a person’s gender.
Applauding trans men and women who had the means to transition and openly discuss their process in the public spotlight, while mocking the thought of them having sexual partners is BS. Feeling entitled to knowledge of a person’s transition, and/or demanding that they allow their past lives to be open for public dissection, is also BS.
Condemning men, women, or non-binary folks who do not feel the need to transition and/or become more passable in regards to traditional standards of gender expression is also, very much so, BS.
If you feel that supporting marriage equality gives you a say in the frequency, manner, and consistency in which those unions takes place—hopefully you’re watching one of those reality wedding television shows, and yelling at the TV about how they should have chosen the modified A-line instead of the Mermaid dress—your activism is pompous BS.
- Do you preach that all human life is valuable? Excellent! Do you do so only when attempting to quell unrest over the oppression and violence persons of color and other minority groups face? Then, your activism (well intentioned, I’m sure) is bullshit.
For example, if your activism allows for the de facto impunity of authority figures from accountability; regularly states “I don’t see color” when listening to stories of racial profiling/oppression/pandering/stereotyping; and/or uses (irrelevant to the actual conversation) statistics to negate narratives recounting when someone was made to feel their life did not matter equally (i.e. stating the Black on Black crime rate of 90% is a greater problem than police brutality without noting the 82% rate of White on White crimes*), it’s BS.
Furthermore, if you only discuss non-violent minority civil rights leaders after acts of discrimination and/or oppression have boiled over into aggressive acts of protest (e.g. rioting), then, your activism is founded on some BS.
It should be noted that not everyone wants to ‘be like’ or ‘follow the teachings’ of activists/movement leaders deemed ‘pacifist’ (e.g. Gandhi, Dr. Martin. Luther King Jr.). More to the point, it is violent and oppressive to tell persons, especially persons of color, that they should.
- When presented with critiques of your activism and/or an organization that you support, do you take the time to actively listen, and, reflect on the points that are justified and leave room for dialogue on the points you disagreed with? Yeah? Even though at times it can be utterly frustrating and place you in a position of blame or ridicule? Yes? Your activism/organization might not be BS.
Consistently allowing for dialogue, critique, and intentional development of organizing is what allows for the sustainability and growth of a movement.
*Statistics are from the FBI’s 2014 Uniform Crime Reports for Murder
**Statistics are unfounded and biased towards the writer’s personal preferences.
Jennifer Cie is a twenty-something indie author with an undying love for writing short stories about women of color. You can find her sporadic rambling at journeytopaperback.com, or contact her at authorjennifercie[at]gmail.com