Saturday, October 21, 2017

Our Self-righteousness Aint Going to Help This World

I remember reading, a few years, back this book or article that talked about how sometimes Australians get so interested in American civil rights issues that they ignore the shit that happens in their own country.

And of course Americans do the same....in the rare occasions that we actually pay attention to Australia.

I think we humans tend to do this a lot.

We avoid our own sins by finding those that are worse than us, or finding villains that we imagine are worse than us.

Israel is another example that I often think about in terms of country issues.  How many Americans, Australians, and other non-Middle Eastern folk label Palestine/Israel as an occupied territory?  How many of these people get passionately angry about that?  How many of them participate in boycotts and protests?  Now out of these people, how many are also living in an occupied country...as part of the oppressor group?  Isn't Australia an occupied country?  Isn't the United States one?  If I'm going to shoot dirty looks at Israeli's, should I not do the same to myself?

Two of the big things on my mind lately are sexism and racism.

In my family, we talk a lot about white supremacy. We hate Donald Trump, We hate Richard Spencer. We hate Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions.  We enjoy hating them, and they deserve our hate.  

But we can't improve the world by simply hating, and fighting against, the worst racists.

I believe we have to also look inward and try to change.

I know I have stereotypes and prejudices about ethnic groups that are systematically oppressed.  Thoughts creep into my head and I feel really awful...ashamed.  

I could look at Richard Spencer and think, well...I don't need to worry.  I'm not as bad as him.  

I'm not even close to being as bad as him.  Still. Comparing myself to Spencer and feeling smug about my superiority helps no one.  I think it's better for us to examine our own weaknesses, and spend our lifetime trying to improve them.

I've been obsessively following the Harvey Weinstein story lately.  The MeToo campaign fucked with my head a bit.  I've never been raped or assaulted.  I don't remember being horribly harrassed in a way that made me nervous about my career.  There were Tweets, though, that declared that pretty much every woman is included in MeToo.  A part of me wondered what the fuck made me so different? Another part of me wondered if I actually could be included.  I started thinking of stuff in my life that made me feel hurt, embarrassed, angry, stressed, pressured, a failure, discriminated against, etc.  I wondered whether or not that counted.  

Well....I still wonder.

A part of me thinks yes, of course they do.  It all matters...big or small.  And small stuff can add up.

Another part of me feels weird adding myself to the same list that includes women who have been violently raped multiple times.

Still....

You know...if a black man is stared at with contempt while walking through a predominantly white neighborhood.  If the experience makes him feel sad, should we dismiss his feelings because at least he hasn't been shot by a police officer?  Or hey, at least he's not a slave!

I think we need to find a healthy balance of realizing there are those worse off than us while at the same time NOT dismissing our own problems.  I have struggled with this my whole damn life.

My biggest MeToo story is this.  When I was in my late teens or early twenties, a relative (won't mention names) took videos that made me feel violated and embarrassed.  I didn't know it was happening when the videos were taken. No, there wasn't a secret camera hidden somewhere.  It was more like this person was zooming in on certain parts of my body without me knowing.  I didn't find out until later when we all watched the video.  I don't feel it was a sexual thing...more of a body-shaming thing. 

Some other women may not have been bothered by the incident. But I was very self-conscious back then.  *-see footnote below.

I told my best friend about it, and he laughed.  LAUGHED.  He seemed to think it was hilarious.

We grew apart years ago, and I've often regretted that.  But after this whole MeToo campaign, I've started to change my feelings of regret.  Now I'm thinking more along the lines of, Good Riddance.

Though that's probably not fair.  My friend was young.  I could hope that's he's grown up a bit.  

I wonder if he remember what I told him.  I wonder if he remembers that he laughed. I wonder if he feels regret.  I wonder if he looks at Harvey Weinstein and thinks, What an ass. I'm so much better than that.  

I actually didn't think much about the video incident through the years.  It's not that I'm a peaceful, forgiving, let-bygones be bygones person.  It's more that my head is crowded with so many other grievances.

But I thought about it after the Donald Trump harassment stories, and I thought again about it with Weinstein and the MeToo campaign.  

 I've tried talking about it, and again feel dismissed. It's not rape. It's not assault.  So...does it really matter all that much?  During these conversations, I end up feeling like I'm making mountains out of molehills.  I'm made to feel that I'm selfish for having these feelings because OTHER women have been raped.  

I feel this post is a confused mess.  

Sorry about that.

I guess the underlying theme...I HOPE it's somewhat apparent... is that we should be not be dismissive— of our own sins and our own problems and bad memories.  

If the men in my life are dismissive of the sexism and body shaming I've encountered, are they also dismissive and/or ignorant of what they have perpetrated towards myself and other women?

What do they think when they look at Weinstein and Trump.  Do they think, what an asshole. I'm so much better than them.  Or, The women in my life are lucky to have me.  They could have it so much worse!  

I really hope they're not thinking stuff like that.

I hope they're reading about Weinstein this week and having some uncomfortable feelings...similar to the uncomfortable feelings that I have when I try to confront my own racism.  I hope they're not feeling too smug that they haven't done big bad things.  I hope they're spending more time feeling guilty for doing small bad things, and I hope they're working on changing.  























*-I think another confusing aspect of the MeToo campaign is there is a wide opinion of what is bothersome and what is not.  I think this needs to be examined and respected.  As I said above, some teenagers might not have minded being videotaped in the way I was videotaped. They might have thought it was funny. Or they might have found it mildly annoying, but nothing to lose their shit over.

I'm not sure if I've ever been catcalled. I can't remember.  It doesn't seem like something that would hurt me.  In some circumstances, I might even be flattered.  But I totally respect that other women might be very hurt and bothered by this.  Their feelings are very valid even if I don't feel the same. 

I've encountered sexually explicit conversations online.  I can't say I find them entertaining, but I'm also not really bothered by them.  One thing I will say is, I HAVE felt like a prude for not being entertained, so all this MeToo stuff has made me realize it's okay that I'm not into that kind of stuff.

That's the other thing.  I've allowed myself many times to feel like a prude because I haven't been amused by certain things. I haven't wanted to do certain things.  I haven't lived up to expectations promoted in women's magazines, etc.  I need to teach myself to accept myself and not label myself as a prude.  At the same time, I need to respect women who like all this provocative/sexual stuff more than me and also respect women who like it even less than me.