Friday, March 29, 2013
Tougher Skin, Please
I've been thinking of the message of that very old song recently. The way people in various social justice movements or on blogs or elsewhere on the Internet pick up their toys and go home after a big debate or a quarrel or a row. And that's it.
If you hang around anywhere long enough you will witness such angry and hurt departures, and some of them seem very justified indeed. Others, however, look to me to equal that proverbial tossing of the baby out with the bathwater. But then all that is subjective. Who am I to judge when such divorces are correct and when they are not?
Except that such reactions are pretty bad for any collective movement, especially when they are often based NOT on what the movement does or doesn't do, but on what one or a handful of people inside the movement might say. In the comment-groups of blogs the quarrels are usually between very few people, but the ones who leave judge the whole blog as a hostile place and perhaps even what it represents as wrong. Because of that quarrel, which in meat-space would have remained a private one and not linked to a whole place or all of its many participants.
I have often read comments on the net which tell me that some person (supposedly) is no longer a feminist because of what some other feminist said or did. Those comments could be a form of trolling, but if they are not the person is throwing equal gender rights and lots of other stuff out of the window simply because of a personal disagreement.
Is it a search for perfection that motivates this? Or a search for a comfortable ideological nest where one is completely accepted by all? Or something else altogether?
The title I picked for this post isn't quite right. I'm not asking people to have tougher skins, really (even scales don't cover all the sensitive bits), but to try to wait until the anger and hurt dissipates to see what it is that is really important. To accept that most allies might be partial allies, that most people have some ideas which differ from yours. Or at least to ask whether what gets thrown out isn't, after all, worth keeping, worth gritting one's teeth and hanging on there.