I have been actively involved in social justice for a little over a year and in that short time, I have had extremely rewarding experiences. I’ve met some of my most cherished friends, found part of my purpose and expanded my worldview. I want everyone, regardless of their life’s path, to have the same opportunity. I don’t think social justice work should be limited to “educated” people with disposable incomes that have vocabularies full of fancy words. I’m not a liberator that is going to swoop in and save the “unconscious” people. I want to work with them as comrades, not as a savior. Sadly, a lot of people seem to take up the latter position and therein lies my issue with many social justice spaces. Intersectionality is a major buzzword among activist circles but it seems like that concept isn’t practiced at its core. Unless you know all of the jargon and manage to snag some e-fame, these spaces can feel alienating. So, I kind of get where Luvvie, of AwesomelyLuvvie.com, was getting at in her Twitter rant about the “over-policing of words.” There are times where I’ve been smothered by the fear of offending someone and having the internet hounds released into my mentions. Sometimes, it seems like every little thing is something phobia, shaming or triggering and it can be very daunting because it seems like there is no room to fuck up without being publicly humiliated. Luvvie gave examples of “over-policing” like calling someone stupid being ableist and a retweet of someone saying breast feeding was an offensive term because every mother doesn’t have breasts.
In her rant, Luvvie mentioned there were bigger issues to fight over than words and while there are definitely instances of hair-splitting, words do matter. Privilege blinds people to many things that don’t seem like a big deal because they don’t affect us directly, including words. A major example of this is the recent controversy over the use of “tr@nny” and how it affects trans women, especially those of color. Trans women are still majorly stigmatized and the t-word is a part of that stigma. The same can be said of other slurs. We have to have productive conversations about these words an their relation to oppression. Tr@nny may not be a big deal to a cis person but transwomen are being executed and abused like animals across this country and the problem is barely being addressed. That word still has power and lives are at stake because of it. Nonetheless, someone is gonna fuck around and use it and other slurs anyway and we need to figure out what to do when someone slips up. Mistakes are inevitable, even from people with the purest of intentions. The advancement of social media gives us an opportunity to find productive ways to handle mistakes but people are too wrapped up in being right to find solutions. I believe that is what Luvvie meant when she said she “feels like we’re creating [a] generation of overly politcal[ly]correct people who are no less sensitive to the plight of others but hide it better.” Calling someone out doesn’t always have to be a spectacle especially since every major social media platform has private messaging. If you’re face-to-face with someone, pull them over and find a civil way to bring it up. There are many times when people speak out of sheer ignorance that has never been corrected. We’ve all been there an sometimes a swift kick in the pants is needed. Everyone has room to learn. However, if that person is just an asshole, you have every right to turn up on that ass.
If you are the person being called out, listen and reflect on what is being said. Don’t go on the defensive and demand an explanation because Google is a thing that is at your finger tips. No one is required to explain anything to you, especially if you’re acting an ass. Tantrums are things flame wars are made of and at that point, no one wins. When you know better, you do better. So, let’s do better.