August 29, 2015
This is based both off of a discussion I recently had with a friend and something that happened with a certain group of trans women on tumblr. This post, ultimately, is about survival. And what that actually means.
Ppl who’ve been following me for a while probably know, by now, that I’ve literally spent months lying in bed bc of depression. Hours every single day. I’ve listened to over a hundred m/m audiobooks. By and large, it is a shitty, oppressive genre of books.
So why am I listening to them? Bc they’re what I’m into right now. That’s it. I’m not going to justify my consumption of this problematic media any further. Sure, I could. But I won’t. I also won’t apologize for it. Or feel ashamed. Or stop talking about it openly. But there is a very specific reason why I don’t do any of this. This reason is that I want ppl who read my writing to understand that I am not, nor am I trying to appear to, living a life of ideological purity.
What do I mean by ‘ideoligucal purity’? Perhaps the best examples are in the mainstream (usually white) feminist movements. Literally every single time a movie or whatever comes out the question is posed, “Is this feminist?”. When mad max was first in the theatres I saw soooo many different articles, tumblr posts, tweets along these lines. And I’m not talking about meta or analysis of the film, I’m talking about the ppl trying to explain why mad max was feminist and, thus, worthwhile for ppl to view.
Feminists are also super big fans of interrogating each other’s levels of ideological purity. Which, coincidentally I’m sure, tend to follow lines of multiple oppressions. It is an accident, for certain, that white/mainstream feminists continue to ask and debate whether or not Beyonce is a feminist, despite her outright self-identification as one. They ask, “Can Beyonce be feminist and hyphenate her name?” “Can Beyonce be feminist if she wears this outfit?” (of course, what they really mean is “can Beyonce be feminist and a Black woman?”).
Essentially, the message being sent by these feminists is that in order to be a feminist or participate in the movement, one must have a certain level of ideological purity. One cannot simply call themselves a feminist, one must demonstrate their commitment by only watching feminist movies or tv shows, by only listening to feminist music, by only supporting feminist actors, by only eating feminist food, by only reading feminist books, and so on and etc.
For me, I always take this as one of the biggest red flags for identifying toxic communities. Run, don’t walk, screaming from any community that is this invested in controlling your actions. And, yes, this is what it amounts to. A constant threat that unless you meet (often unspoken and always changing) criteria for ideological purity, your access to the community will be revoked. Often permanently.
Worse yet, is that the ppl who are the ‘taste makers’ and ‘leaders’ in these communities usually are outright abusive (how could they not be, given their interest in controlling you and what you do?). These are the ppl who’ve built up social capital via manipulation and bullying so that they, ultimately, get to decide who is ideologically pure enough to remain in the group/community (of course ‘ideologically pure enough’ begins to mean ‘controllable’ in this context).
How do you avoid this? Well… don’t get involved with any community that makes you feel like you aren’t good enough, as you are, to belong. Any community that shames choices you’ve made (or that others make) to survive. Don’t get involved with any community that consistently tells you what you should and should not be reading/listening to/watching/etc. Don’t get involved with communities that try and tell you who you can and cannot associate with (ie, by having lists of ppl they’ve deemed too ideologically impure to be in the community).
Why does this matter? Because survival is a messy fucking business that can make you ideologicall impure. When ppl say that ‘there is not ethical consumption under capitalism’ it isn’t intended as a carte blanche to consume and do whatever you want. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that the economic system we exist in constantly forces you into making shitty decisions that ultimately harm someone else. It is an inducement to turn away from looking at individual choices and testing for ideological purity and to look towards the system and how it forces ppl to survive.
And… I’m too pragmatic, at this point, to even try to state that ‘survival is resistance’. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. But who the fuck cares?
I want to live.
And I’m not going to apologize or feel shame over this. I will, absolutely, make the best, most ethical choices available to me whenever I can. But what I won’t do is martyr myself for a movement/cause/community/world that ultimately isn’t invested in my survival as a person.
So yeah. I’m not ideologically pure. I make decisions that hurt other ppl (although, I usually try to make decisions that mostly hurt me, in order to survive). My mere existence is problematic bc I live in a system and world that ensures that my existence hurts someone else. I make problematic choices and I do problematic things all the time.
While I’m not willing to be shamed over this, I’m also not proud of it. It is what it is. The only other option is to die. And I’m not willing to do that. At least not yet.
I do what I can to challenge these systems that constantly make me choose between my own survival and harming others. I try not to be complacent about my complicity (or ignorant of it). I try to minimize the damage and harm when I’m able. I try to make up for past harms when I can. I do what I can.
And I know that, for many ppl, this will never be enough, so long as I continue to live.
But my message to ppl who do believe in ideological purity: I’ll only be convinced of your convictions if you go first. You think ideological purity is worth dying over? Go die. Be a martyr. Give your very life over to the cause.
And yet… so many of you are still here.