So, those of you who follow me on various streams--Tumblr, Twitter, etcetera--will probably notice a bit of a change in the coming months. I'm giving up on formally trying to pursue activism. I'm currently taking a week of (mostly) blacking out social media, and it's really helped me articulate a few things.
I'm twenty four, and I'm tired. I should not be this tired and exhausted at the thought of interacting with people I like, on platforms I like, about topics I like. I still care about diversity and signal-boosting alternative authors. I still plan to write about queer people and people of colour and the disabled. I still care about environmentally sustainable lifestyles and humane, fair treatment of animals (tasty ones included). I am still going to write about women doing things that they aren't supposed to or 'allowed' to do. This stuff does matter.
But I had to ask myself, as I stared at my Tumblr feed full of people arguing that Joan of Arc might have been bigendered, people tossing around the word 'patriarchy' as an insult, and the endless links on Reddt featuring people complaining about Muslims and women and basically anyone other than themselves--is all this negativity doing anything? Is screaming at people really going to get us anywhere?
|Source. I love you guys too much to put actual screenshots from The Human Centipede up.|
Who gets to speak?
There is a time to scream and there is a time to pick up your sign, write some letters, and take a stand. Screaming can be good. It's important and necessary. But there's too much of it going on. Add to the fact that a lot of the people doing the screaming are--like me--privileged, white North Americans. That also got me thinking--do I know enough to adequately represent the stuff I care about in public forums?
The answer was, frankly, no. I don't want to misrepresent people from other cultures, the trans* community, or anything else when it comes to issues that revolve around them. I can lend my support, but I can't speak for someone else.
The problem is that people (like me, admittedly) pick up a cause or choose to slam a celebrity for making a misstep without realising the importance of their actions. And then others fight against them, often saying pretty horrible things (the subReddit "Tumblr in Action" is a pretty fine example of social commentary gone awry, and let's not talk about "TalesofPrivilege", which is irritating and misogynistic enough that I don't want to link to it.) Is arguing with a bunch of neckbeards on The Escapist forum going to actually get more diversity into mediaeval settings? And furthermore, do I know enough to really talk about these subjects the way I'd like to?
Source. Opinions, on the internet.
What's the point?
Sure, on issues of mental health or sexual preference, I can speak, but I have professional experience on the first one and personal experience with both. And it's not a matter of being 'not strong enough' to take the endless feces-flinging from both the privileged masses and the hyperaggressive activists. It's about how I want to spend my time.
I am a writer. That means I need to write. I'm also an editor, which means I need to help make other writers' books better. Will an essay on pop culture, the internet, the teeth of Neanderthals, or sci fi help me develop the skills for making good art? In short, yes. Yes it will. Will screaming at people en masse or clicking reblog on a hundred posts or wandering through the endless crap swamp that is Jezebel help me make good art? Nope.
So, what's going to change? There's going to be more phuquerie. I'd rather laugh than scream, and I'd rather comfort than kill. When something matters, I'll still be there with sword drawn and banner flying, but I'm going to save that for the occasions where it's really merited. I'll reach out to people, not just shout into a void.
Here's the raw version of what I was feeling, before I could articulate it more clearly, previously published elsewhere.