Prioritising our selves

[This is a joint post by Secondwaver and Maia.]

We have been talking.

We’ve been finding it pretty hard, trying to fight white male supremacy within the ranks of feminism. We’re not surprised it’s hard, but DAMN! it is hard, for us both.

We started this blog as a way to confront white privilege, our own white privilege, and yet we’ve been finding it very easy to focus instead on other people’s white privilege, on other people’s racism. We have been feeling more comfortable as liberals, as nice white women (thanks, Amy, and thanks, Dark Daughta), so-called feminists whose first instinct is to say that racial injustice and institutional racism are problems over there, somewhere else, somewhere far away from us. We’ve been glossing over the fact that it is also a problem over here, right inside us, even as we claim to be doing radical feminist ant-iracist work. Both are important, yet we’ve very much been struggling with how to find and become conscious of our own location within all this.

We’re drawing inspiration from feminist bloggers we respect, radical feminists with a solid race analysis such as Justice Walks, Feminist Reprise, Dark Daughta, and Fire Witch Rising, who take no prisoners, who speak right out.

Why is this so hard?

Is it a matter of not honouring our feelings and emotions, as Dark Daughta observes?

Wimmin’s primary “work” even in feminist circles is still to stifle, to remain silent, to deny emotion and to live with the effects of this gruelling contructed role […]

My experience is one of observing how distanced the majority of wimmin are still from our own emotions, not just from our rage, but also from a host of whole other feelings that have the potential to ground us, to make us clear, to crystalize not just our analysis, but to revolutionize our interior as well as our exterior lives…holistically, organically making full revolution manifest.

The understanding that emotion is an uncontrollable beast a woman can’t let loose, that she should be disturbed to experience, that she should try to put back in a box, is a hallmark of our domination under a patriarchal system of dominance that counts on us not feeling anything too extreme about the oppression in our own lives and in the lives of the people around us. That we won’t wake up to a realization of our place in the Matrix and start resisting on all possible personal and political fronts, in every fucking aspect of our lives.

Maia has been digging inside herself, to find some reasons for her personal struggle to honor, to even recognise and express her emotions. Maia, you’ve named what so many of us have inside. Fear.

Does it come down to a fear of dying? Are we afraid that if we become conscious, we’ll die? Is that absurd? But no, it’s not absurd at all, because it’s what we were taught, effectively: and whether the death in question is physical or metaphorical it is still real. And now, even decades later, it’s so hard to throw off.

From reading the bloggers mentioned above, we learn that once we do it, we find out we didn’t die, and we continue–if we only will.

What does it take to break through the fear?

It takes women together, knowing that we all were inculcated with the same expectations of niceness, i. e. prioritising others, not our selves. It’s hard for us all–and most especially when we are new at it.

Making our selves a priority means we must stop bowing and scraping to power. Prioritising our selves means giving legitimacy to our own perceptions. It means breaking new ground by allowing our selves the right to feel, to recognise the feelings for what they are, to speak up. It means not having to “be nice.” Realising that self-respect and “being nice” cannot always co-exist.

Making our selves a priority also means that we must stop locating the problem as somewhere else. It means exploring our own indoctrination, our own journey from where we were to where we are. It means letting those newly acknowledged feelings come up and out, not just as something we recognise but as something we analyse. It means loving our selves enough that we don’t have to “be nice,” even when we talk about who we are, and how we came to be that way. Realising that self-love and self-approval are not the same thing.

So this is where we’ve got to, our renewed commitment to prioritising our selves.

We want to engage openly and honestly, to work on abandoning the “nice white lady” so-called safety net, which instead offers only a furtherance of our privilege on the backs of, on the necks and heads of, women of colour.

We would love any interested feminists to join us.

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2 Responses

  1. “Does it come down to a fear of dying? Are we afraid that if we become conscious, we’ll die? Is that absurd? But no, it’s not absurd at all, because it’s what we were taught, effectively: and whether the death in question is physical or metaphorical it is still real. And now, even decades later, it’s so hard to throw off.”

    Most recently I’ve been incorporating an analysis of what it means to have grown up during the cold war…during a time when the threat of complete human annihilation was such a real and present reality each and every day.

    I was speaking to a friend on the phone yesterday about my understanding which says that many people relate to conflict, disagreement, arguments in the micro as having the potential to snowball and go out of control, go ballistic in ways that might lead eventually to a bomb.

    I think there is a way that we were all taught to do our part to avoid conflict in the face of a threat so seemingly uncontrollable that the only thing we really could do in the face of it was to completely control ourselves.

    I’m remembering the fear I grew up with as a child…that I’d be blown up, that I’d die with horrible boils all over my body, that I would get a horrible painful cancer after armageddon and not survive.

    I remember feeling paralyzed with fear. Paralyzed.

    I realize that as I work to throw off various types of silence, as I step into various arguments, disagreements rather than step back, the only thing that really unites the every day human beings I’ve come up against is FEAR.

    They’re all walking with horrible paralyzing fear that leads them to behave in all sorts of ways.

    These are wimmin of power and consciousness whose underlying impulses are still to cover and hide, deny, pretend all is well.

    These are people who are respected and looked up to, who move undercover in ways that say “I am a scared little child”.

    I really do think that all over the globe people are completely terrified of dying if they speak, if they kick up a fuss, if they don’t keep calm and behave.

    I really do think that control has leaked into our lives to such a great extent that we do believe that we will be killed, that everyone we love will be killed, that our communities, our countries our world will be killed if we don’t shut up and play along.

    I think your fear makes a lot of sense. I think your words and this post makes a lot of sense. Thanks Maia and Second Waver.

  2. Interesting. I’ve always thought that fear led people too much. But it hadn’t occurred to me that it was a primary motivator. I wonder how much fear leads me. I’ve always been told how fearless I am. But I know I am not fearless. I grew up with feast or famine and I’m always scared about finances (greed). I could have pursued a degree in my favourite subject, but decided I wouldn’t take on student debt for a degree that wouldn’t be financially lucrative. I am not afraid of upsetting people, I upset people all the time. I am not afraid of pain, I have the scars to prove it. I am afraid of being destitute. Others live in poverty all of their lives. I’ve experienced it in cycles repeatedly. I detest the feeling of helplessness. When I’ve faced an attacker, I had someone to hit and rage against. When I’ve faced going hungry, I didn’t have anyone to be angry at. All I had was just my hunger.

    As for death being a primary fear, I’m not convinced that’s at the heart of things for everyone. I don’t know if I’m alone, but I always thought that if I die, I won’t exist anymore. So I can’t regret or miss life, it would essentially be over in the blink of an eye with only an empty shell to show for it. The only people who might be sorry would be those who might miss me. It wouldn’t be my loss, so what is there to fear? Just be disappointed if it happens early. I think we should really fear losing those close to us. Because we can’t get them back.

    I find when you point out racism around you, it’s really not that terrible. People shuffle their feet, look awkward and at worst, try to turn it on you. I’ve never felt I needed to play along. What’s the worst that could happen? Rejection? If you play along, you have to listen to that crap over and over again! Silence is taken for agreement. Agreement is validation for prejudices. It’s easier to rip the band aid off immediately and face things head on than to give people the wrong impression and let them feel betrayed later. If I don’t agree, I say something.

    Thanks for the post, it was something to think about.

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