Feminists and other social justice advocates have been saying for ages that we don't have time to cater to privileged people's feelings or tone-police ourselves, but it's especially true now. There are simply so many things we don't have time for under Donald Trump. Now that the rights of marginalized people are even more at stake — and now that privileged people are even more privileged — our attention needs to go toward those who need it most.
During his first week in office, Trump has already made a number of drastic changes to our country and the world. He has prohibited the use of U.S. government money to fund any organization that could potentially make abortions accessible (even just providing information about the procedure), ordered the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, issued an executive order to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and banned people from entering the United States from seven Muslim majority countries, to name a few. And this is just the beginning.
During this time, it is imperative that we stop worrying about non-issues and instead devote our time and energy toward organizing, protesting, and supporting the people most in danger. There are tons of ways to do that, from calling your representatives to mounting boycotts.
In the meantime, here are some things we need to stop worrying about, because we simply do not have time for them. The urgency of our era is far too great.
1Protecting Men's Egos
As long as you live you'll never see a photograph of 7 women signing legislation about what men can do with their reproductive organs pic.twitter.com/dXjfVjnRiX— Martin Belam (@MartinBelam) January 23, 2017
Everybody already knows that "not all men" are intentionally sexist (although, I would argue, we can all be sexist unintentionally from time to time; that's what happens when you're immersed in patriarchy all day, every day). But the men in charge of this country are advocating policies that hurt women and LGBTQ people. The Mexico City Policy, which limits abortion access for 27 million women, was signed under the supervision of seven white men, for example. Instead of awarding gold stars to men who aren't undermining women's rights, we need to be fighting those who are.
2Assuaging White Guilt
Yes, it can be hard to get called out when you're being unintentionally racist. But you know what's harder? Being a victim of racism. Since Trump was elected, hate crimes toward racial minorities have increased, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report. The recent ban on immigrants from Muslim countries can only exacerbate that. White people need to understand that, intentionally or not, our microaggressions and complicity may have contributed to this political climate. The majority of people who voted for Trump were white. He's our problem to fix.
3Worrying About "All Lives"
As I mentioned, the lives of racial minorities are particularly at risk right now, and talking about how "all lives matter" only detracts from this issue. Same goes for talking about "egalitarianism" instead of feminism when the rights of women and gender-nonconforming people are disproportionately in danger.
Still need some clarification? This comic perfectly explains the problem with saying "all lives matter."
@abbyosity so stop tone policing & calling for peace and love when this country has never shown that to marginalized communities— a-bee (@abbyosity) January 20, 2017
The Trump administration has left us with many reasons to be angry, but our anger is not the problem. The things that make us angry are the problem. So, instead of trying to voice our concerns gently so that privileged people won't feel guilty or offended, we should focus on just getting the message across. People need to be called out; how we call them out is less important.
5Educating Privileged People
The next white person that asks me to educate them on oppression has to paypal me $2 per paragraph. Our emotional labor shouldn't be free pic.twitter.com/FVQHbMVz7Q— moonlight fan accoun (@Succubish) November 8, 2016
Asking marginalized people to explain society's problems to privileged people is yet another way of demanding free labor from them. If you're a man who wants to understand feminism, a white person who wants to learn how to be an anti-racist ally, or a straight, cis person who wants to support the LGBTQ community, do some research and refer to the many, many articles and videos on these topics that are free for you to read before asking your friends to explain them.
6Making Social Justice Seem Relevant To Privileged People
I was asked if I see sexism in 'Women are our mothers, wives & daughters' when said by men. As usual, context is everything. pic.twitter.com/exjyVCrBKS— Helen PIuckrose (@HPluckrose) October 13, 2016
Many white women who participated in the Women's March haven't been as active in Black Lives Matter protests and other efforts geared toward helping women of color. This needs to change. It's our job to care about all oppressed groups, because they don't have the time to make their issues seem more relevant to us. Similarly, we shouldn't have to tell men that their wives or daughters could be affected by a sexist policy in order for them to oppose it. Look where that's gotten us.
Trans-exclusionary women's spaces, cissexist language, predominantly white feminist groups, and other things that exclude people have no place during a time when inclusion is extra important. Once again, making a privileged person more comfortable isn't worth it if it stops us from fighting the system that gives them privilege in the first place.