Chrissy speaks some big truths in her latest column.
I’d like to think that most of you reading this would consider yourself a good person.
I consider myself a good person, but even good people with the best intentions can screw up in some way, and those mess-ups can incidentally hurt or offend people. Today’s social climate is intimidating. There’s a heavy pressure on us to be ‘woke.’ It feels incredibly easy to slip up and say the wrong thing, something that I know I have personally fallen victim to more than a few times.
There are lots of conflicting ideas surrounding the concept of being ‘woke’ as well. We hear words like feminism, but then we also hear terms like white feminism. We also hear ‘cis’ and ‘trans’ and ‘intersectional’, and it can be very overwhelming.
I slipped up pretty badly once. My intentions were good, but I was completely uninformed and uneducated on what I was speaking about.
Long story short, I proclaimed I wasn’t a feminist because I believed in equality for all people. If you know the true definition of feminism, you know that what I was saying was completely ridiculous because feminism is believing in equality for all people. My experience with feminists at the time was unfortunately just a few extremists, the ones who give off the ‘man-hating’ vibe that sadly has given some people a bad taste in their mouths about what feminism really is.
And unfortunately, again, I think that’s a lot of people’s experience with so much of the woke culture on the internet; we hear the loudest, most boisterous opinions first and it turns us off before we can really understand what the root of it all is.
After I made my uneducated declaration, some people attacked me, and they were nothing short of mean. Other people, however, were kind and tried to educate me and helped me to learn why what I claimed to believe in truly was feminism, and that my minimal experience with feminists did not represent the entire community.
However, the damage was done by those who had torn me to shreds, and I pretty much kept my mouth shut for the next three years and avoided having an opinion on anything remotely controversial, because I was terrified of ever messing up again. I think a lot of people have felt this at some point; so fearful that if they speak they could slip up and be ripped apart, and that’s a sad way to keep a very important conversation going.
So let’s talk about this for a minute. Let’s talk about how we can do better at understanding the rest of the world, and what people are really trying to say. Let’s talk about how we can engage with others without being fearful of slipping up. I think the easy baseline here is the keyword of ‘equality’. The ultimate goal is equality and respect for all people, which seems like it should just be a given but apparently is not. I have found that the best way to show people that you respect them, even if you don’t necessarily understand them, is to simply listen to them.
When I decided I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines anymore, and instead I wanted to stand proudly as a feminist, I realised that I still felt very uneducated, especially since I had cowered from the idea for a few years. But I asked people - I asked some of you guys online - I asked friends and I asked strangers about what feminism was to them. I asked about what it means, what is white feminism, am I a white feminist, how do I avoid becoming a white feminist etc. And although sometimes when I was asking I felt stupid for not knowing these things that everyone else already seemed to know, everyone I asked was so kind and simply wanted to help inform me.
So, don’t be afraid to ask. People will really appreciate that you’re trying to learn and that you recognise that there is learning to be done.
Listening to people shows them that you respect them, and I personally have a lot of learning to do. We can’t pretend to understand the battles people different from us have faced, but by listening to them we can better understand what they have experienced, and we can better understand how to be an ally and empower them. A few years ago, being a feminist to me was this man-hating club.
To me now, being a feminist means fighting for equality for everyone: straight, gay, bi, black, white, Asian, Native American, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, trans, cis, asexual, gender fluid… The list goes on forever, because it includes every single person. Show people you care, and just listen to them. Before you speak, hear them.
We’re all in this together.