Monday, May 28, 2007

Blogging Will Save the World!

Blogging will not save the world.

I'm going to say that again: screaming on the internet will not save the world.

But it can be a good place to start.

Blogs are great places, but I see them more as testing grounds - as initial steps, as consciousness-raising - more than I see them as real, solid activism. They're a form of, maybe, virtual activism. It's where you go to find your voice and speak to others who've shared some of your experiences in the world and want to converse about a common cause or interest.

The trick is to then use this voice you've found online and speak out in the real world. If something is fucked up, you need to be able to say it's fucked up just as easily in real life as you can online.

Because you'll find that it's a fuck of a lot easier to rip into the latest asshattery published by the Washington Post than it is to point out your coworker's blatent sexism during a morning meeting. It's a lot scarier to actually do than to talk about (like most things).

I remember standing around with some coworkers waiting for a meeting to start and having one of the guys make a "joke" about how one of our coworkers must be "shooting blanks" because they found out his wife was having "another" girl. For the first time in a long time, the not-coolness of it struck me deeply enough that I spoke up and said, "Wow, you've just offended every woman here."

And I spoke up in part because of the voice I'd found on this blog. How could I be the writer of a blog called "Brutal Women" and be too terrified to call out a simple example of blatent sexism?

He laughed about it of course, and there were efforts made to move on to another subject, but I remember how difficult and terrifying it was to say that in the workplace to people I had to work with every day. Nobody wants to lose their job or get shunned by everybody else and have their job made horrible because you're that fucking Nazi who "can't take a joke."

But nobody wants to live in the fucked up beat-you-down-somebody's-gotta-be-top heirarchy either.

I got tired of people saying they "just didn't know" something was not cool, offensive, abusive, etc. If you *tell* them they're being sexist, at least you can take away that particular excuse, and maybe your courage can give other people courage. When enough people say no, you have a movement. Behavior changes.

While at Wiscon this weekend, I had somebody introduce me to somebody else as another writer's girlfriend.

One sentence. Full stop.

I laughed out loud and said, "Wow, I can't believe you just introduced me that way at a feminist SF con when I have a story coming out in a Year's Best SF on Tuesday."

I tried to be very good-natured about it, and she was actually a little embarassed about it I think, because it was something she did without even thinking about it. It was a funny thing, too, to be at a professional con and have the entirety of my writing career erased and my identity boiled down to "that chick who's sleeping with so-and-so."

These are all little things, of course, personal things. But if we let these sorts of things go, what else will we let go? The first step to altering behavior isn't to ignore it or smile at it or make excuses for it. The first step is to change your own behavior and call out those normalized behavior in others.

I love to babble online, becuase it is, largely, safe. I can delete comments all I want. I can choose to share or not share things with certain people. I can control whether or not there are comments at all. I have yet to be fired from a job for something I said online (knock on wood). There isn't a lot of danger in it.

What's dangerous is speaking out at the office and confronting harrassers on the street.

It takes courage. It's fucking hard. And terrifying.

But it's the only way we'll ever change anything.

The alternative to speaking out is not speaking out, and that's worse. Silence in this culture implies consent (however fucked up that fucking fucked up idea is). By not speaking out, I am consenting. That's how it's read, no matter that I'm not speaking up because I'm afraid to be beaten, raped, harrassed, fired, etc.

It's going to be read as consentual, because the means of oppression in this society are just so damned normalized.

And you know what? I want to live in a world that's really different. And in that world, the sorts of sexist, oppressive people-like-me-are-better-than-you-and-we'll-force-you-to-fuck-us-to-prove-it stuff that people say everyday is *not* normal, and it's *not* OK, and if I can wrap my head around this idea - that the language of equality, of valuing individuals based on their humanity and not on their race, or class, or gender, is the *norm,* then when I hear these things spoken, they're all the more shocking. They're missives from another world where somebody's got to be on top. Where a woman's value is based on the man (always a man!) who she's attached to, and if you can't beat somebody else into submission then you'll be the one who's beaten.

That is not the world I want to live in. I have to speak from somewhere else.

Sure is a good thing I'm a fantasy writer.

Makes it easier to believe it can be different.

7 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Gwenda said...

Eek. This happens to me fairly regularly and it always completely enrages me.

Kameron Hurley said...

Which part? :)

Susan said...

Hey! The bit about blogging saving the world was a -joke-. (At least in the Future of Feminism panel. That's why everyone in the room laughed every time it came up.)

Gwenda said...

Oh, you know, people are always dismissively introducing Christopher as "Gwenda's husband" -- :)

Kameron Hurley said...

Susan - it was one of those comments where I think the panel might have thought it was a joke, but it was a joke cause people have heard the idea so often. "We should all blog more!" I think even on the panel somebody was like (Meghan maybe?) "you know, blogs are great, but we need to actually *do* things."

It's why I didn't mention the panel in my rant. I didn't see you guys as advocating blogs as the "best form of activism" at all, but it was something that came up a lot around the con, particularly because so many of us interact with one another most of the year primarily through blogs.

Kameron Hurley said...

Gwenda - oh lord. And you know, I was thinking, at a social gathering among family or co-workers, I could see that introduction as being somehow relevant. But at a con...


I think I had a vague idea that that sort of introduction might happen at some point outside of a family dinner, but not at Wiscon.

Kristin said...

Even if you weren't a writer, that introduction would drive me crazy. I'm sure there's many a writer's S.O. who just wants to scream every time someone introduces them that way.