Are there safe communities?
January 30, 2012
So… I’ve been thinking more about my posts on WM these past few weeks and a thought occurred to me while looking it over…
The whole notion behind a common umbrella term as a means for political organizing and solidarity is not only in danger of creating a hegemonic notion of identity but also just plain lazy. This is a slow realization that dawned on me the more I thought about it.
How and why is it lazy? Well, if I pick on feminism again, we can point to what we know of it’s history. Feminism, more or less, was used and intended to be used as the umbrella term for all women fighting for liberation and equality. Now, we already know that in the early 80s (or thereabouts) that Black women, among other WoC, began to speak out against this. About how the notion of ‘woman’ constructed and centred in feminism was white (and middle-class and cis and TAB etc). And, to this very day, any non-white, disabled, nuero-atypical, poor woman who criticizes feminism will get called out for being divisive. For splitting the movement. (btw, I’m not linking to examples, because there are too damn many and y’all can educate yourselves if you don’t already know).
And all of this makes me realize (along with what I’ve been posting on Womanist Musings) that I don’t want to be part of a movement. Like, at all. Seriously. Having been watching various movements online (and some in real life) I’ve realized that movements are not what I want.
Movements often (or always – depending on how pessimistic I’m feeling) always seem to be predicated on some ephemeral and changing identity. So many of them seem plagued with infighting resulting from the (admittedly often necessary) policing of their boundaries. I don’t want to say that infighting (or however you want to frame it) are bad things because it often arises out of need to protect oneself. Out of a need to feel safe.
And, as we’ve noticed, some people’s need to feel safe can directly result in others not feeling safe. But… when we are talking about one marginalized group protecting themselves from other marginalized groups something starts to fall apart. Because who gets to be safe? This question is often answered by who has the most relative privilege. And it seems a poor way to answer it since this simply contributes to oppression and prevents solidarity. Nonetheless, the question is important: who gets to be safe? One function of community building is creating a space where those who belong can be safe. The unfortunate thing? I’ve yet to see any community construct itself in a way that includes all the people it should include and that makes all those people feel safe.
Moreover, as I continue to work to decolonize myself and get to know myself better and better, I’m quickly realizing that there really aren’t any communities that I feel safe in. There are some that are safer than others, but this safety feels fleeting and highly dependent on how much I agree with the dominant speakers or how much I silence my own feelings/thoughts about how things are being said. These feelings are exacerbated by the fact that confrontation (of any kind) causes me a great deal of stress and anxiety. I want to agree with everyone so that no one gets angry with me (note: I’m not saying that they’d be wrong to be angry with me but that I do my best to avoid all anger).
And still… I don’t want to be a part of a movement. This isn’t why I write. This isn’t why I volunteer. And it certainly isn’t why I care about social justice. I simply want to add my voice to the beautiful cacophony of voices able to express themselves on the internet. I care because I want to feel safe. In or out of my community. I want live without shame. I want to be free. I don’t care about the language used, the terms, or who is or isn’t part of the movement. I don’t want movements. I want freedom and I want everyone else to be free. That is all.