This is a really amazing piece because it reminds us about the limitations of labels, it reminds us about the importance of actions, especially the everyday actions, and it reminds us that community is essential. Really thoughtful piece. Spectra writes,
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I’d rather experience people–and their politics–through unlikely, awkward, strained, challenging, beautiful relationships built over time. That way, when we do clash or differ, we love each other enough to express the full range of our raw emotions – cry, yell, storm out – and always return to build the deeper, more intimate connections we need to take on the world together, truly united.
When someone fights for me, I want them to do so because they care about me as an individual – or as someone who reminds them of someone else that they care about – not just as some abstract theoretical concept. I’d rather that the “white allies”, the “straight allies”, the “male feminists” of the world do the work to build authentic relationships based on real love and respect, not just politically correct lexicon and rhetoric.
So, despite starting off as an activist who was really excited about the concept of “allies”, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found less use for words and definitions in social justice; labels like feminists, anti-sexists, radicals, allies etc simply don’t mean much to me anymore. Though I certainly see these ideas/concepts as a way of connecting with others initially, ultimately, relationships that last aren’t sustained by what you are to each other, but how you treat each other.
Falling back on words and phrases that are intended to convey some sort of ideological purity won’t ever trump the transformation you’ll experience within yourself (and others) if you truly put yourself out there — if you dare to be vulnerable, admit wrongs, take responsibility for your blind spots, hold your damn self accountable, an not for show, but for real.
So, screw the definitions; let’s experience the ideas and world views through the relationships we build with people. Let’s commit to living in principle, and remain mindful of the core values that help us navigate our lives in the gray. Let’s embrace ambiguity, and its potential for unearthing surprise and disappointment in equal measure, because only through the natural bombardment that arises when we converse with strangers, can we learn more about the world, and about each other.
Read the entire piece at Spectra: Straight Allies, White Anti-Racists, Male Feminists (and Other Labels That Mean Nothing to Me).