I've been ruminating on this topic for a while, but I haven't quite known how to put it in words. I still don't, actually, but I figured I'd at least give it a shot.
I'm someone who tries as hard as possible to be really self aware. As such, I've taken every personality test available to me. That's led me to learn very clearly that I thrive on order and structure (for example, I'm a "concrete sequential," ESTJ, and my Strengths Finder results are: Achiever, Discipline, Input, Learner, and Communication.) And I have a hard time with things being "half assed" as it were. I like it when stuff's wrapped up neatly, tasks are complete, and work is thorough.
Of course, life doesn't play out that way and almost everything we encounter in "real life" has a lot of ambiguity and messy edges to it. This is especially true of social justice and feminist endeavors.
What I mean specifically, is that I want everything to be as inclusive, equitable, and justice-oriented as possible, but it never is. It's the whole, "your fave is problematic" thing. Even people/pieces of media/companies that are awesome about one topic are horrific at another. And I can't ignore it. Once your eyes are opened to various intersecting oppressions and privileges, you can't turn it off...my brain has become rewired to bristle when people use certain language or invoke certain concepts. So I can't overlook when an awesome feminist does something shitty. It sort of taints the whole thing for me and I'm not really sure what to do about this.
Let's look at a few concrete examples:
1) Texas' new pro-breastfeeding campaign:
I couldn't be more excited that the Texas Department of State Health Services WIC Program is sharing all kinds of helpful resources regarding breastfeeding, from the fact that it is legal to do in public, to learning the right positions, to the benefits to be gleaned from it. All great stuff.
But then there's this:
|[Image text: Picture of a baby and mother. Caption reads "Slim faster. Breastfeeding burns calories." Source: breastmilkcounts.com]|
As someone who is specifically focused on body positive work and ending fat shame and stigma...I can't get behind this angle. It's not helpful, in my mind, to tie weight loss to a "positive" benefit to be gained from breastfeeding. So when I see this, I get frustrated as hell.
But on the other hand, their goal is to promote breastfeeding. Society is already really fatphobic, so if touting weight loss as a desired outcome from breastfeeding gets people to breastfeed, then can I blame them?
2) Playboy's catcalling infographic:
This "should you catcall her?" infographic was apparently featured in Playboy and it's garnered attention in feminist circles. It was even submitted to my Tumblr as a positive example.
Of course, I agree with the general premise of this flow chart and its message (basically: stop catcalling women) but I have a really hard time just accepting this as a positive item. I agree with Tumblr user Feminish when she said,
If modern feminism has become “let’s not be critical of Playboy anymore (and forgive every terrible thing they have done to support our rape culture), because they did one thing that’s not terrible” then I don’t want to play, mmkay?I just can't get down with a just be happy they published it perspective about Playboy producing this stuff either, given the publication's and the founder's disgusting track record.
3) Laci Green:
Oh Laci Green...someone who I think I might actually consider the holy grail of "says some awesome stuff and then fucks it all up by saying really awful stuff."
In my line of work, people ask me if I know who Laci Green is fairly frequently. She's certainly gathered attention for spreading relatively good information about sex in a way which many young people can easily access and learn from. Being active on Tumblr, I'm all too aware of her--both for the good stuff she's put out there that ends up crossing my dash, but also the backlash against her for things like being cissexist or fatphobic.
Often the defense of her is the classic, at least she's trying!
Can you blame them?
Just be happy they published it.
At least she's trying!All of these phrases used to dismiss the criticisms against these examples are the real core of what is so tricky for me in my personal activism right now. I want to see things done right and social justice exercised to the best extent possible, so I'm not OK with the breastfeeding campaign, Playboy, or Laci Green.
But when you compare someone like Green to so much of the general population, she's at least moving the needle in the right direction, so can (SHOULD) I totally discount her work? Should I give her more credit? Should I *shudder* applaud Playboy for doing something right?
I don't know. I don't think so. But I don't know.
I mean, the thing is...we're all problematic time to time. I can't pretend that white, neurotypical, able bodied, cis, (etc.) privilege don't affect my life, views, and work. Striving for a perfectly oppression-free social justice practice should be the goal, but in reality, we are all bound to fail.
How we fail and pick ourselves up is very telling.
But certainly there is some point at which failures are too numerous, egregious, or flippant. What is that point? When can or should we denounce someone/some piece of media/some company/etc?
Unfortunately, just like what I don't enjoy, this blog post has no neat and tidy conclusions. I don't know if I'm even making any sense anymore, I just wanted to get this out of my head. Do y'all ever wonder about this too?
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