i have been thinking a lot recently about the desire to be accommodated versus the responsibility to be adaptable. part of it has been part of a progression of thoughts on my post how this blog is not a safe space, part of it has been various things i have read or experienced in my local feminist community in the last week, & part of it is just stuff i have been mulling over for many years. most of it has to do with the reasons why i am a hater.
i don’t know if this is necessarily a trend or a change from how people have always behaved, or if i am just starting to notice it a lot more, but people really love to be accommodated because that means they don’t have to adapt to whatever sub-optimal conditions the world is presenting to them. as someone who has always been interested in social justice issues, i of course don’t think that it’s awesome to criticize someone for being unwilling to adapt to oppression. but what constitutes “oppression” seems to be forever changing & expanding, particularly in the politically radical enclaves in which i spend the better part of my time.
example #1: back in 2000, i joined an affinity group from boston & we traveled together to the canadian border in an attempt to get into the country & participate in the FTAA protests in quebec city. some of us had passports & others did not. some of us had misdemeanor criminal records & others did not. we had heard that the mohawk indian reservation, which is half in the u.s. & half in canada & generally has sovereignty over its border, was inviting american activists to cross through their land without identification or background checks. we decided to go that route. when we arrived at the reservation, with hundreds of other (mostly white, mostly young, mostly class-privileged) anti-FTAA activists, the indians invited us to join them for a special pre-border crossing lunch. i guess it was their way of thanking us for agitating against the FTAA, which they also opposed.
the lunch was actually a big fish fry. the people on the reservation had caught the fish themselves & were frying them up on big open air fires. i am not a big fish-eater, but i tried some & it was pretty darn tasty. but an amazing number of activists that had been hoping to cross through the reservation were grumbling about being served fish, because they were vegan or vegetarian & did not eat animals. i’m not going to participate in forcing a vegan or vegetarian into eating something they have decided not to eat, but i think those folks could have been a little (a lot) more gracious about the situation. they were actually behaving like the indian fish fry was oppressing them somehow, infringing upon their dietary autonomy or something. it was really insulting & embarrassing. this was a situation in which the vegans & vegetarians wanted to have their special diets accommodated in a way that was in direct conflict with the traditional gesture of goodwill that the people on the reservation were offering. vegans, vegetarians, raw foodists, people with imaginary gluten allergies (not to be confused with people with real gluten sensitivities or medical issues that cause them to be unable to process gluten), et al, have always vaguely irritated me with their food-politickier-than-thou ways. food is an incredibly complex issue with intersections relating to ethnicity & culture, class status, gender identity, disability issues, & more. it is a function of privileged entitlement to decide you are a vegan gluten-free raw foodist & then start acting like any other diet is oppressive or unhealthy, & to expect people with other diets to bend over backwards to accommodate yours at public events.
example #2: this ridiculous post from feministe. not that i expect anything non-horrific from any of the big feminist blogs. & in my defense, i did not find this on my own. cheers/jeers to leah for bringing it to my attention.
for those who don’t like to click links, this is basically a post by a young woman who recently moved to brooklyn (which she describes as a “feminist mecca”…WTF?) & started looking for a job with a non-profit reproductive justice organization. she went on several interviews that seemed to go well, until she admitted that she actively blogs & engages in other forms of “new media” (hate that term) under her real name around issues related to what the organizations do (for example, reproductive justice). the organizations then told her that she would have to stop blogging/twittering/etc if she worked for them, or they told her that her published opinions on politically contentious/sensitive topics related to the work of the organizations made her a poor candidate for the positions available.
the author could have used this as an opportunity to talk about the way that non-profits are funded. example: i used to work for a social justice non-profit. my salary was paid with an on-going grant from the ford foundation, & therefore, i was not allowed to make political statements or engage in political activity that had any relationship to the political activities associated with my employer. while i was applying for the job, i had been doing some activism with a local teen organization that was agitating for free bus passes for teenagers so they could get to school. after i was hired, my employer also became involved in this organizing & i was no longer allowed to work on the campaign as an individual & private citizen. i had to shift my focus to equipping the community members involved in the campaign with direct action strategies to win the campaign, because that was the mission of my employer. but a co-worker, who was paid with a different grant that made no political stipulations, was allowed to participate in the campaign through the non-profit work & as a private citizen.
she could have tied it in with the recession somehow & talked about how there are shit-tons of people interested in various political issues that nonetheless are unable to find paying jobs performing activism & enjoying autonomy as private media creators. she could have gone in any number of non-embarrassing directions. instead, she chose to portray these incidents as instances of how the calcified stodgy old non-profit industrial complex is threatened by her youthful enthusiasm & multi-platform activist work & is therefore denying her a job.
dude. really? yet another fabulous example of a person expecting to be accommodated with a paying gig doing what they would do anyway, completely oblivious to the reality of the situation which involves a certain amount of adapting to arcane rules around funding. the comments on the post are a treat unto themselves. someone compares the idea of being asked to refrain from political blogging under your real name while working for a political non-profit to nazi germany (always a classic) & a bunch of people get their panties in a twist over how non-profits only care about maintaining their funding. why can’t they follow the example of all those incredibly successful & world-changing non-profits out there that accomplish so much with absolutely no funding, & which still manage to pay employees a living wage & provide health care?! oh wait, THOSE ORGANIZATIONS DON’T EXIST.
jeebus. clearly i have a lot to say about this issue, so this is only part one. stay tuned for yet more examples of the way a privileged, entitled lack of self-awareness & comprehension of the way reality functions is pretty much rendering radical social justice movements benign. share your own examples in the comments!