Monday, August 5, 2013

What is Real?

WHAT is real? What IS real? What is REAL?

It's a pertinent question to me for two reasons, one because I have a tattoo of this phrase on my left wrist (that's a story for another day) and two because a really interesting discussion was raised over on Tumblr last night about what is "real" activism.

I can't even remember why, but I posted "Huge SIDE EYE to people who think online activism is somehow isolated from 'real life' and that examining patriarchy’s manifestation on social media isn’t important." It's a sentiment that I stand by, strongly. Often people will show up and stomp around asking, BUT WHAT ARE YOU REALLY DOING ABOUT IT ALL? This question is both presumptive and misguided because being a part of online activism IS doing something and these people don't know anything about my personal life.

But despite my post being about this very attitude, a guy came on my page and said things like, "If you only examine and only blog about things nothing is going to truly impact the world. You have to get out there and change it, not examine it over and over" and "I said, if you ONLY do it online, it's not going to do much good in the real world. That you still need to get out and do things when you can. That is not privileged, that is fact" and finally "I'm referring to people who use the internet as an 'activist' but actually do nothing."


Luckily, my followers chimed in made some important assuming that everyone can physically, mentally, and financially participate in marches/protests/etc. is a privileged viewpoint. They also shared their many personal stories of how "online activism" has helped their lives, educated them, or how they are able to make an impact from their computers. It was a really nice counterpoint to the guy's false dichotomy between the online world and "actually doing something." (You can see all the related posts at my blog under the online activism tag.)

So it made me think about that whole "What is real?" thing. I mean--clearly this guy has defined "realness" of activism by how he, personally, chooses to participate in movements (which he never fully defined, by the way.)

But how can you hold your personal perspective as the benchmark of "realness." At best that seems like a self-serving worst, it's ignorant and discriminatory.

What I kept coming back to is that it makes no sense to police the behavior of the people who are theoretically on your side, just because they aren't doing it right according to your standards. Why not just let people opt into things as they are personally able to do? To understand that each person is the expert on their own experience and condescending/shaming them because they don't meet your arbitrary standards is counterproductive?

I like what Tumblr user yourspiritualking said best, "Internet activism is infinitely more productive than going on the internet to complain about internet activism."

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