Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In Which I Talk of Theory and Justice

This month I feel like my brain was stuck an "Intersectionality 101 dishwasher" and run on the "pots and pans setting."  It's a bit like looking into the matrix, or for those for us enlightened enough to have watched every episode of Battle Star Galactica, its a bit like becoming a hybrid and seeing the patterns of the universe.

Feminism, and it causes, seem to run in two circles, and unfortunately mix indiscriminately.  The first is the major emphasis on justice and shedding light on injustice.  I think that it's safe to say, if you're a mildly involved Christian you can can get behind 99% of this.  Justice is a fundamental of Christianity, well accepted.  I mean, if you want to pick a fight with any Christian, or between two Christians simply accuse one of their being apathetic to justice.  It's something of a heartbeat of Christian culture.  I remember feeling shocked meeting non-Christians in school who didn't know about the Ugandan genocides or the child soldiers of the Congo.  I remember a time when the Church also had the corner on sex-trafficking awareness.  Missionaries and food drives are a normal facet of Christianity, or at least it should be.  I realized working at subway I had developed a way to talk to people who were homeless from my experiences in soup kitchens that my coworkers hadn't.  It was a cultural experience.  To bring things back, the intersectionality of Justice sees more than the particular need or situation of a person but the multifaceted causes and correlations to that problem.  That homelessness is not just a person lacking a house, but about job skill, stigma, social prejudiced, race, and the ethics our culture has about work.

Second, here's where it gets tricky, feminism has a fundamentally theoretical aspect.  Becuase theory exists in the golrious vacume of thought.  It's a bit like one of those sciency glove tanks for viruses.  In theory (lol, theoreticly) you add and subtract certian values to creat an outcome you like.  It's problem solving and experimenting.  Theory in feminism is a bit of a homemade social algebra.  Personally, I think it's rather fun.  Intersectionalism in theory looks at the many components of a situation, it's the reinvisioning that gives acctivisim a direction.  Activism in tern lends invaluable data points to this calculation, the real expereinces of people and the facts about their lives.

The trouble with theory and Justice, is that often theory runs down hill...  Terms of Theory get put into practice of Justice and then put out of place.  As one of my professors so clearly described, "once you begin using a self-identified label you don't get to have total control over how others will use it."  Once again, there is something more at play in the dichotomy between Theoretical Feminism and Justice, language is a tool no one has control over.  It is a communal exchange, it exists to express, but that expression is not entirely for the sake of the speaker.  Were language only for the person expressing themselves through speech, we might all speak only to our diaries and private blogs.  Language is an exchange, and there is no way to guarantee the receiver of our expression will receive the message we hope to, nor behave the way we want them to.

It's a fundamental of language and expression, and yet so far removed from the way we view both Theory and Justice.  In Justice activism has prided its self in surprisingly conservative fundamentals.  "Be seen," "be heard," a demand for acceptance, is often more than "live and let live," but a demand to be given privilege within the mainframe of another person's thoughts.  Looking at it from a theoretical lens, and with the premise of language, I have just described this seems quite audacious.  But it's not far from our expectations of activism.

 Living in what could be called the "awareness age" rather than the Information Age, 'awareness' has taken on a different meaning.  To be 'aware' assumes some level of understanding but far too often campaigns have focused on bold, blunt, physical perception.  The demand to see the LGBTQ community visibly, but lacking any verbal understanding for what physically stands before many protesters.  Again we see it with the concept of Privilege and the Theory behind it that is far more complex than anyone is willing to admit.  Privilege is now something to be seen and not understood, a half awareness that weakens the terms and concepts into labels used to discredit the experiences of one group over another.  We have created a sort of pulp-gender-theory, mixing our capitalist American value system with privilege we have a point system for how credible someone's perception is. +2 points for minority, -5 for having a penis +4 for being a woman -6 for being cisgender...  This isn't privilege, this is down right anti-human rights.  A long history stretching hundreds of years simply to prove to political theorists that people have some inalienable equality and should be treated the same.  Privilege was never meant to appose this, if anything, Justice is fueled by this singular belief.  Privilege is a tool of critique towards human equality, not a diagnostic system of less favorable people.  As such we have more to say then "White Privilege!" to cases like Zimmerman, there's so much more going on than one man, and so many messages being expressed, but in the light of so many messages is one man, and that's the difference.  As activists we should never strive to form a world where the messages of the crowds overwhelm the life of the one.  Because while "the Zimmerman case" means so many things, "Zimmerman" means one man.  To fight for the equality of minorities the individual must never be forgotten.

and that was a post about correlation, that turning into intersectionality, and ended in popmedia...sorry

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