Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dear Conservatives

Passing references to forced birth and rape culture ahead.

Dear Conservatives,

You know how sometimes you say something innocuous or well-meaning or perfectly ordinary, but it's poorly worded?  And all of a sudden someone takes offense and word spreads and people start jumping all over you, hounding you for a slip-up and twisting your words around and making it seem as if you're a hideous, woman-hating monster of a person when you were really just trying to explain a fairly common political position?  You hate that, right?

Here's why that happens: You've torn your drawers.  You're past the point where we can extend the benefit of the doubt.  When you speak, your words join all of the words of all of the other members of your party and leaders of your party who've voted against women, spoken against women, fought against women's rights, worked to limit reproductive freedom, and on, and on, and on.

Maybe you didn't really mean to say anything harmful or disgusting at all.  Maybe it really was a slip of the tongue.  But it's just as possible that you meant every word that you said.  It's just as possible that your beliefs and your votes and your political efforts are devoted to hateful, garbage ideas.  We've heard from too many people who say those things and genuinely mean them.  They're people in your party, your colleagues, your associates.

No, you say, those people aren't like me!  They don't represent me!  That's good, but then it falls to you to make that distinction.  You have to fight against their ideas and push back.

For example, there are plenty of people who call themselves feminists who say terrible things.  Therefore, I make an effort not to say those things and (this next step is important) to speak up and fight against those things.  That way, if I say something that sounds *ist when what I meant was something else entirely, when someone says, "Ugh, that was really gross, I can't stand feminists who think that way," I can say, "I know, I'm so sorry, that wasn't what I meant at all, I'm sorry that I phrased that so poorly.  I've been working to fight those attitudes, myself."  Then maybe the conversation can continue and we'll have a chance to work through the misunderstanding.

If I hear that a conservative Republican has spouted off about how anyone who gets pregnant should be forced to give birth and women don't deserve to be paid or hired or promoted the same ways that men do because they'll just run off and get pregnant anyway and rape is only really bad under a certain set of very specific conditions, I'm not going to assume that the remarks were taken out of context.  I'm not going to assume that it's all a misunderstanding, all a slip of the tongue.  I'm not going to take the time to contact him personally to find out what he really believes.  I'm going to think, "More of the same," because I've heard all of those things from many, many conservative Republicans before.

But all is not lost!  There is good news!  If you want to buy the benefit of the doubt back and garner some good will so that I can take "I misspoke" more seriously as a defense, there are several strategies you might employ!  If you don't want people to associate you and your party with *ist attitudes, you can speak up privately and publicly against *ist attitudes, behavior, and discrimination.  You can make your voting record reflect your stance.  You can draft and support relevant legislation.  You can donate time and effort to related causes.

That way, instead of the typical "More of the same" response of disgust at your hateful slip of the tongue, I might instead say, "Oh, [Name] said that?  That's a real surprise, he's typically great when it comes to that issue.  Let me delve a little deeper and see what's really going on here."

You'll get the benefit of the doubt back once you've earned it.  It'll take a lot of work, because the rest of your party makes you look worse every day, but it's worth it.

With love,
Frank Lee

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