Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My In-Group Kerfuffle

I'm sure by now most of you have seen much more about the SB5 stuff and Wendy Davis, both of which have rightfully blown up the national (and international) media. Yesterday evening was a pretty amazing experience that I was so proud to be a part of, but I will spare you the details of the overall night. Needless to say, it was an important event, but one which is now behind us and we're got more work to do.

What I actually want to talk about is one appalling situation I encountered with another person who is in opposition to SB5. I've named it my "in-group kerfuffle."

As I mentioned in my previous posts about this topic, the people who have risen against this legislation are very diverse. As such, we're not even all of the same political ideology. It became clear pretty quickly that many of the protesters didn't identify as Democrats or liberal necessarily, but rather socialists, anarchists, etc. This is fine, of course, because we had a united purpose and everyone was generally kind and respectful.

As I've also mentioned before, one of my good friends does a ton of the community organizing for Planned Parenthood at these events. One of her main goals was to ensure that our presence was welcome throughout the process so that we could be strategically present during the most critical moments (like the last 10 minutes yesterday evening when we delayed things past midnight.) This friend, being in a leadership position and involved many more hours overall than myself, was confronted a few times and screamed at because she was "trying to control" people's activism... simply making them aware of the legislative rules of decorum. Eye roll.

When I arrived to meet my friend yesterday, she asked me to help her keep an eye on a few people, including one particular guy (I'll call him "the guy.) I must emphasize, this was about 4 hours into Senator Davis' filibuster and the big goal was to ensure that she was successful. So kept an eye on the guy's Twitter feed in case we needed to be aware of anything that might jeopardize the filibuster.

[Here I'd like to mention that I have chosen specifically not to name this person, not because I am trying to be passive aggressive but because of privacy for him and I'm still processing this all as I write and I'd prefer not to re-escalate things.]

Anyway, the guy comes down to the capitol, the PP crew keeps an eye on him and all is well. No biggie.

Later I notice that a journalist I follow has retweeted a message from a female protester at the capitol which says something to the effect of, "If things go south for us remember to keep calm. There are a lot of kids here." The guy tweets back: "Stop telling angry women what to do. It's disgusting. If people are angry, they have a right to be heard."

And at this point I'm tweeting things a mile a minute and I see this in my feed so I send him what I think is a fairly innocuous statement, "we should also keep things SAFE. Anger is understood. Hurting others is not ok."

So controversial, right?

He retweets me adding, "Of course. I do not condone violence ever. But people have been telling people to be quiet, not chant or protest all wknd." Still no biggie. Two of his followers tweeted "Haven't seen any mention of violence or hurting others - why try to frighten people Speaking up is not violence." and "from afar I'd respectfully submit these folks are quite capable of expressing anger without hurting anyone."

I clarify that I'm fine with yelling, that I'm one of the yelling people actually here and all I'm saying is watch out for kids and knocking into each other, etc. and that I didn't mean to suggest violence.

Still no biggie.

But then came today. Ah,, I was greeted with a gem of a tweet to myself, the journalist, and the woman who made the original suggestion of being calm. It seems to have since been removed so I'm paraphrasing, "If people had followed your suggestions last night, SB5 would be the law of the land today."

Listen. I lost my shit. I couldn't help it. As I ferociously tweeted in a string of replies:
You totally misunderstood my advice. I wasn't talking about not yelling (I was yelling!) I meant things like being conscientious of knocking into others (like the many kids there.) I truly don't know what I did to be so thoroughly demonized by you. I have been at the capital totally active for around 32 hrs of the last week fighting on this issue, while holding down a full time job at a feminist nonprofit. I tweet one reminder about safety and now I deserve to be accused of almost standing in the way of SB5's defeat? You have got to be kidding me. Fun fact. If ppl had started yelling SOONER than the 10 min countdown yest, we would have been removed w/time for it to have been voted in. You can't approach political activism w/o strategy.
I realize that wasting time getting pissed at someone on the internet is INCREDIBLY pointless. I mean, I definitely should know; I brush off several anti-feminist trolls every month. But there was something about this particular situation that set me off. Maybe it was the fact that I've worked so hard--the equivalent of two full time jobs this past week and am certainly sleep deprived. Maybe it was the fact that this guy was shitting people who actually feel the same as him about SB5. Maybe it was the sheer smugness of how I read that tweet. Maybe it was the fact that I felt like all of my hard work was invalidated. Maybe it was the fact that he totally ignored that it was our strategic approach to the process that actually paid off (the screaming was encouraged by the people he called out...when it made the most impact.****) Maybe it was the fact that, as my friend Danee pointed out, "I guess he's not okay with telling 'angry' women what to do but IS totally cool with telling rational women what to do."

But whatever the case, I wasn't having any of his crap.

Fortunately I did receive a semi-apology and feel much less kerfuffle-d about it all, but still.

Listen, I understand that there are people who feel differently than I do about this kind of thing. I'm not saying that my way is the only way. I'm not saying that people shouldn't raise hell, but I am saying that there is a time and a place and that all things need thoughtfulness and strategy to be successful. And truth is, it is my inclination is to follow the rules and recreate systems from within (concrete sequential, guardian, y'all!).

That can be both a blessing and a curse. I know.

Some people prefer a more riotous way of tackling these things, and that's their prerogative. But if you want to have a philosophical debate about how we should approach social change when our viewpoints converge on a common "enemy" ---just don't do it by starting out with any implication that I'm less dedicated to this all than you.

Because at this point, I'm far too tired to take that message gracefully.

****That is not to say that the outburst at 11:50 was planned in advance, at all! It was simply a reaction to Senator Leticia Van De Putte's very important, pointed questions. And it was the appropriate, strategic moment for the organizers to let the crowd continue audibly reacting and was encouraged at that point.

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