the amazing oldandmoldy called me this evening, to invite me to his “gratitude potluck” this sunday. yeah, it sounds hippy, but this is the west coast… what do you expect? of course we have dinner parties centered around appreciating all the excellent things in our lives!
i’m stoked, because it reminds me of the old anarchist seders that used to happen every passover in our local activist community… we all were instructed to bring food, a bottle of wine, and something that represents freedom to us. good times, especially for goyish kids like me who don’t generally celebrate passover, anarchist or otherwise, but have often had lots of friends who do. it was a chance to share the magic, and i always left feeling like i was home.
aside from the dinner invite, oldandmoldy and i talked about other stuff, including my thoughts about calling people out on words and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and/or homophobic.
as a way of contextualizing this conversation, i have to tell you: oldandmoldy and i disagree almost constantly. at the same time, we love each other: not despite our disagreements, but because of them. he is one of very few people i’ve ever known who understand and appreciate the incredible value of discussing everything. he exhausts me, but in a good way, because i know that he respects and cares for me even when i’m telling him that he’s wrong. i’m pretty sure he knows that i feel the same for him. we enjoy the challenge that we bring to one another.
oldandmoldy has done a lot of work with non-violent communication and men’s groups, so has a few thoughts about conflict. we seem to agree that a successful confrontation of sexist, racist, ableist, and/or homophobic words and actions is one in which the discussion moves forward into sharing of feelings, ideas, and connections… or something like that. at the very least, it’s a discussion in which participants feel like they’ve learned something new and maybe gained a different perspective, or at least acknowledged that different perspectives exist.
actually, “confrontation” is the wrong word: i think what we want to see is more like a… negotiation.
oldandmoldy’s advice on how to have a successful negotiation of sexist, racist, ableist, and/or homophobic words and actions is as follows:
- own your judgments (even if you know your opinions are the truth, recognize that other people won’t see them that way, because they have their own truths; yours are based in your reality, and you need to take responsibility for this)
- ask questions (find out why people are saying/doing things, find out what their reasoning is, create a situation in which questioning accepted norms becomes a viable basis for conversation)
- speak from the heart (don’t rely on theory or logic to explain your point of view; focus on your feelings instead, and make it personal… for example, try approaching a homophobic remark with “as a queer, this makes me feel unsafe, because…”)
i think these are excellent ideas, and i’m looking forward to trying them out next time i’m engaging in this sort of discussion. obviously, they won’t all work all of the time, but hey: nothing does! it was good to talk with oldandmoldy about this, especially because i know how particularly guilty i am of going against that third item… dammit, i love logic.
for another great strategy for approaching these issues, check out Carmen Van Kerckhove’s “How to Respond to a Racist Joke”. (i’d link to the original article at new demographic, but it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment…).
anyone else got suggestions, throw them in the comments.