Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In my acceptance, I'm too sensitive; In other's hatred, they're standing up for what they believe in

This is something that's been bothering me for some time. I am sure my fellow womanists/feminists in the community will be able to relate; I have been told countless times that I am too sensitive, that I'm looking too much into something. This is the usual response I and others get when we call out racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. As allies, we try to stand up and preach love and acceptance, human rights and equality for all, and instead of being praised for our bravery, our courage for speaking up against a person or group we challenge to think, we are accused of being weak and sensitive. Why does no one acknowledge how difficult and sometimes frightening it is to stand up to someone else, when sometimes that "someone else" is a member of our own family, or a beloved friend? Weakness would be not speaking up in the first place, not challenging the hateful beliefs of others that some people are worthy of privilege, and others are not.

And then you have someone like Carrie Prejean, whose beliefs have taught her that denying human rights to some people is okay. She is exulted for standing up for what she believes in (check out the comments), praised for her unwavering faith. Her faith and beliefs justify denying others human rights. While I myself am not religious, I come from a family that is--but my own mother knows enough that her faith is no excuse to hate others.

Standing by your beliefs is all well and good, but not when it legitimizes hatred. And also, if we're really going to praise people for standing up for what they believe in, then it should apply to me too, and others like me. I am not sensitive. I am not weak. Don't embrace someone else's hatred because she's adamant about a faith that excludes a large group of people and simultaneously charge me with "looking too much" into something. It's a blind sort of silencing dismissal, saying that what we believe and call out is unimportant. It's all bullshit.


Renee said...

The reason Preejan is praised is because her beliefs support the dominant social discourse. People want to have their privileges reaffirmed and when you speak out about injustice you are pointing out how they are dehumanizing someone.

I agree it takes courage to speak out but we must continue to do so otherwise they will never learn that their commentary is unacceptable. I know when someone tells me that I am too sensitive they are trying to silence me because what I am saying is making them uncomfortable. My thought is if the commentary of someone gives you a feeling of discomfort, rather than immediately reacting, take the time to understand why you are troubled. It is usually a sign of unacknowledged privilege.

Unknown said...

I had this thought in the back of my head many times, when talking to my peers about racism. When they were bemoaning the oh-so horrible way that white males are disenfranchised by affirmative action, they were being brave by speaking their minds. When I told them that they were blind to their privilege, I was being "obnoxious", "oversensitive" and "whiny".
Really, these labels are used as a tool to silence well-meaning, intelligent people who may have something new to say. When you make someone uncomfortable, perhaps you've hit a nerve by exposing privileges and unfair advantages. No amount of finger-pointing or labeling can cover that up.

Prudence said...

Yes, I get this a lot, plus particularly women are accused of wingeing and also we get things chucked at us like we're hormonal or it must be time of the month. There are set phrases which can be used for any situation where a woman is saying something which makes the men feel uncomfortable.

I've particularly been someone who doesn't often give her opinions (which is happily being solved by blogging) because I'm always the negotiator and keeper of the peace.

This means I get additional things thrown at me too. Last week I was accused of being selfish and going mad too as well as the usual wingeing etc comments.

It's hard work, but once you recognise that reaction as the panicky animal reaction, that it's growling aimed at shutting us up, but that it's not going to lead to biting - then you get the confidence to carry on.