Friday, August 24, 2012

Dear Me

Dear Me,

I want you to remember to be a good ally.

I want you to remember that communication is a complex thing and sometimes you'll express yourself poorly.  Sometimes you'll use the wrong words.  Sometimes you'll imply something you never intended to express.  That's unfortunate, but it happens.  Acknowledge it and strive to do better next time.

You want to be a good, progressive, inclusive feminist.  Sometimes you're going to mess up.  You're going to say something gross.  You're going to bump into your own unexamined privilege.  You're going to say things that you'll cringe over a couple of years from now.  That's unfortunate, but it happens.  Acknowledge it.  Work on it.  Dig that chunk of patriarchal programming out of your brain and examine it from all sides.  Poke at what's left and see what else shakes loose.

You're going to piss people off.  You're going to disgust them and alienate them.  You're going to hurt them.  That's awful.  Remember that it's not about you, it's about them.  It's about trying to improve so that you don't do it again.

Sometimes people will take exception to something you've said or written, and you'll think that they're wrong.  You'll think that they're willfully misunderstanding you.  Maybe they are.  Maybe they're right, and you're really messing up.  Take a deep breath.  Talk it over.  Think it over.  Stop thinking about it from your perspective and think about it from theirs.

You know those people you can't stand who say disgusting, privileged things and sound like complete jackasses and act completely self-righteous about it?  You know those people you can't stand who refuse to examine their mistakes and refuse to acknowledge their problems and deflect all blame and imply that there's something wrong with anyone who takes exception to their oh-so-obviously well-meaning words?  Don't be those people.

It takes a lot of work to be a decent person.  It takes a lot of empathy.  But look at the alternative.

With love,
Frank Lee