My Dearmost Beluga Best Friend
I wonder what your thoughts are on the cannibalistic nature of social justice dialogues? I dont know any other more diplomatic way of putting it. I mean, people, with the best intentions can sometimes be really unkind with eachother! It reminds me of that song from Hair, Easy to Be Hard.
I get that its the internet and therefore, much like the ocean, it’s mostly uncharted territory and its rules are still an evolving mystery to humans. I dont really expect you to know WHY people can be such hysterical shaming jerks, but my question is more about how you, my jolly, smooth faced pal, manage to stay do dang jovial and above the fray as it were? I dont see you launching random personal attacks or ascribing motives to people or parties that may or may not exist, you dont seem to let the turkeys get you down! Im fairly new to fat/body acceptance circles, and even in the real life groups Ive tried to access, Ive been confronted by huge amounts of anger; ranging from trembling rage to one-uping pissing contests, from the very activists who I believe do sincerely want to effect positive change…
For myself, I believe that changing myself is the best way to change the world and although I long for a strong community either online or irl of people who share my desire for a better world, and I know that can and should be challenging, I find it sad and upsetting to be confronted with other peoples rage unleashed on people who are themselves struggling to be allies or working through the same issues themselves. How do you not let it get under your glossy luminous skin?
Also, you totally rock.
There is a huge pressure for solidarity within any movement. Social justice movements of all sorts are almost exclusively populated by angry people, because we join them as a result of anger over injustice. Not everyone expresses their anger in the same way, and lots of folks find ways of working that angry energy into more publicly palatable forms, while others like to keep a-ragin’ with all the tender loving care of a hurricane.
Anger is good! Anger is motivational. But it can make us edgy. We’re so used to having to defend ourselves on our own that old habits die hard, even in groups of otherwise-supportive people.
I try to remember that differing opinions do not automatically make us enemies (even when they come from belligerent puffins), and differing experiences do not throw up impossible obstacles. Ignoring these differences does not strengthen a movement but rather weakens it. The strongest movement is one that can withstand criticism from within, and one in which critical conversations are not one-sided affairs. No one learns from that. We learn when we have room to flounder and talk and stumble and grow. Yes, leaving space for internal criticism of a movement makes a hard task even harder. But better to do a hard task well, than to let an easier approach disappear the experiences of the people being marginalized even within this marginalized movement.
Finally, I assume that everyone has good intentions. Always. In other words, I tell myself that not every polar bear only sees me as a potential meal! I know the worry is that this approach makes one gullible, but my experience has been the opposite. Assuming good intentions makes me happier, and more optimistic, and a better builder of bridges. Usually when comrades are shouting at one another it’s because they expect not to be heard. It’s not an aggressive posture; it’s a defensive one. Such conflicts can pretty much always be solved if all parties can agree to listen to each other with the same attention and respect with which they’d like to be heard themselves. We are all in this ocean together, after all.
Love, Your Beluga Best Friend
Joyfully gesticulating BBF drawing by Flo, who blogs at http://proclamationsovertea.blogspot.com/ and arts at http://flodickerson.weebly.com/! Send your BBF drawings/cartoons/doodles to lesley at twowholecakes dot com.