social justice

SmartAss Recommended Reading (Part One)

When I was writing this post, I talked about some of the web sites I visit. I thought it would be good to share with you some more of the folks that I let into my brain pan whenever I have adequate ability to absorb information (sometimes solid, sometimes that ability can elude me). Here, in no particular order, are more works I enjoy, find edifying, or within find fellowship – you may want to seek them out too!

Unfeminist First

 

Hello, I'm Thursday, the other half of Weekday Blues. Today I'll be talking about bullying in social justice, seeing as I experienced prolonged harassment on the Tumblogosphere recently. Trigger warnings apply accordingly.

 

It takes a tremendous amount of courage for a marginalised person to say something is X-ist. To talk about the structure that kicks them to the ground and walks on them. & a person who stands up does not derive any grotesque pleasure from the callout: it's neither enjoyable, nor entertaining. They rightfully fear retribution.

 

This is even more the case when the person walking on you has a feminist card.

 

This is nothing new: there is bullying in social justice. I've experienced quite a bit of it myself, & so have people I'm close to.

 

Every time I speak, someone twists my voice.

 

Every time my voice is strangled, I must bear the brunt of their denial. Though we are all working for the same ideal so I must bear my burden in patience, no? That in itself is victim-blaming.

 

This is only going to happen again, and again, and again, and again. & again.

 

Every "bugger off" I have snapped in frustration is not without reason: the amount of time we spend fighting "allies" is ridiculous. It is exhausting. It results in worse cultural paranoia.

 

The various kyriarchal structures are not something to be debated. They are established fact. They need to be engaged with critically & worked through without privileged guilt because marginalised people don't need you giving yourself kudos for doing what a decent human being should have been doing in the first place.

 

There is that constant pressure of "needing to take sides" when there are no real sides. Because you know what? It's a continuum. Everyone screws up. It's how you deal with being wrong. & people with feminist cards hate being wrong. It's somehow worse than the apocalypse itself. Yes, some people are more guilty than others, but all are responsible. 

Jaded's picture

Writing Over Bodies

My book obsession is quite well known, in most circles I move and am allowed in; there is a long-standing joke that I don’t need food but just a fresh page to live. So when my student asked me rhetorically whether I ‘ever tire of theory’, he was rather surprised to know I did — can’t entirely blame him for holding this view, after all I did spend the last seven months talking solely in theories and of texts — in fact, I agree with Spivak¹ when she accuses prose of ‘cheating’. We are taught theory in a manner that we will be able to ‘frame our realities intelligibly’ – pretty problematic on its own already — but when it comes to translating words to practice, somewhere we break and falter. I teach English to children of lower caste and socio-economic backgrounds — technically speaking — this is the space I should be unleashing my postcolonialism in, making sure the harmful ideas that say, “Only a person speaking Good English will ever get a job anywhere”, but I can’t. The truth is, they do need a functional level of English to be employed anywhere  and if I start saying, “Forget the Empire’s tongue! Let’s subvert it and smash the system”, I will confuse them and even humiliate them — for subversion happens once you’ve mastered the tongue — and as first-generation learners of English, learning this tongue is hard enough as it is. On most days, the best I can do is not scold them — as the institution ‘requires’ me to — and not shame them when they code switch² to their native tongues.

(Un)Ironically, what I do end up doing is teaching postcolonialism, Said, Spivak and others to my IB students who are at times even more caste and class privileged than I am. We talk of the Subaltern, while when talking to the Subaltern — my code-switching students in this case — we still re-enforce the most heinous ideas concerning them, their languages and perhaps most importantly, routinely erase their Englishes. When this broken pattern of relating to people above and below us in the hierarchy of being is brought to light, the best we do is, “acknowledge privilege” and then hit a dead-end. The only difference is that now we have Shiny Good Activist Medal™. This isn’t to imply that my students — or even the Subaltern itself — don’t know about the neato colonisation thing, or the reason why certain texts are canonised and others weren’t, we’ve talked of those things — but that’s what it really is: rhetoric, words and talk. These words swirl out of my tongue, out in class, they nod and ask questions and we study on. When they see exam questions using standard forms of English — one they haven’t mastered particularly well — and their ‘intelligence’ is rated on how they fare in these exams, that are designed in an Othering tongue, so to speak. Then we hear stereotypes like,” Those damn Dalit buggers! We educate them, but what use? They still fail exams and waste our time and money. They are basically a waste of space and seats, I tell you!”, when we’re making sure they remain in the same position — one step under us.

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