Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Apologies and a thought on educating others

As I've mentioned a million, billion times, early-mid November is the most busy time of year for me professionally. And this year, I went MIA for much longer than I usually do. So sorry to fall of the face of the earth, but not sorry that I've been taking sometime to recharge, rest my brain, and not write.

All that aside, the event I was helping manage for work brought up an interesting mental debate for me (one which I always return to.)

I was running a session where a panel of high school aged young women were talking to funders and sponsors about the real issues they and their peers experience. It's a very unique thing my organization does, where instead of "high profile" and very "important" adults constantly lecturing, educating, and "inspiring" youth...youth tell them what's really up. I love it.

One activity we had going while people arrived asked the adults to write positive messages for girls. This morning I was reading back over the answers and I saw one that made me think a whole lot of things all at once. The statement was, "Boys can be your allies, but they need to be taught how."

My first reaction was YES, AMAZING! followed quickly by, "But wait, boys should educate themselves. We can't put the onus on girls all the time." followed quickly by "No one owes anyone an education!" followed quickly by "But the default of our society is so misogynistic, that we all must actively unlearn it. Why not help boys do just that, if you can?"

It's something I think about a lot. I go back and forth on the concept that marginalized people bear a responsibility in educating the privileged. On one hand, the privileged should undoubtedly be held responsible for their own thoughts, views, and prejudices...and changing them. On the other hand, the dominant culture so regularly preferences whiteness, malenesss, straightness, cissness, able-bodiedness, thinness, (etc.) that if we don't specifically listen to the marginalized, the status quo will be forever maintained.

I guess what I keep coming back to is the conclusion that individuals do not bear the responsibility of educating anyone (but themselves), but if and when we feel up to it, we should try. So if someone wants to tell girls to take the opportunity to educate boys on issues of sexism and misogyny, then GREAT, so long as we don't ever hold girls responsible for the continued presence of sexism and misogyny.

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  1. Great post. Nobody gets to demand that any member of any oppressed group educate the privileged group. I also think it's important to recognize the difference between someone who sincerely doesn't get it, but doesn't know where to start educating themselves and someone who demands links and sources and endless amounts of 'proof' instead of, you know, listening to a person's or multiple person's lived experiences.

    1. I agree with you.
      When someone is entirely clueless and really doesn't know where to start, I have no issues with pointing them in the right direction, giving them some reading material or blogs to have a look through, usually they will go off with what you've given them and find more on their own. That kind of education I personally can get behind (however, I choose to educate, so I don't mind doing it) but those people who will just constantly demand proof and sources and endless explanations without doing any of the work themselves... those people, in my experience, don't even want to learn. If they wanted to learn they would at least do some of the work, they'd take what you say and build upon it. But they won't do that.

      I enjoy educating people, but there are some people who really just aren't worth the hassle. I know it's bad to write people off because "Well they won't change until you show them!" but really, it's not my job to educate others, not until someone pays me for it at least.


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