Tuesday, 14 February 2012

With a little help from my friends

You know what I've found makes coming across trolls and misogynists and anti-feminists and general caca doodie heads easier? Friends.


More specifically, aligning with allies. Someone can be a bff and still fall into the categories above. A lot of people put up with a lot of unseemly bullshit from their friends because of their shared history together, the positive things their friends offer seem to offset the negative, mutual friends that keep them together, or any other of a bazillion reasons.

No, aside from just friends, it has been a godsend for me to have found a solid group of feminist allies. I've been fortunate enough to have gathered a group of allies from all over the world that I've "met" through the Slutwalk movement and other online activism pages on Facebook, without whom I think I would have long ago gone off my nut and set my laptop aflame.

Allies help to reassure us that,
"Yes, that was an extremely sexist comment. You're not over-reacting. Your reaction and your anger is valid. They're gaslighting you.",
or that,
"Yup, he's a misogynistic troll. We've come across him before and have seen him derail every conversation like this, so it's not your debating style that's the issue; it's that he's a jerk."
 or even,
"I know what you're trying to say, but the way you tried to phrase it was quite problematic, so I can see why you got that negative reaction. Let's work out your message here, in private, so we can deconstruct where you've gone off the rails a bit."
Having allies is about getting a group of people together that can help you maintain your sanity in the face of some really horrific issues. Having allies can help you become a better ally yourself by surrounding yourself with people who will call you out when you're making problematic statements but also who can help you understand why your statements were problematic. Having allies can be about getting people together to start GIF parties at trolls to reduce the triggering effects when they descend upon pages dedicated to survivors of sexual violence. Having allies has been one of the best ways for me to learn more about feminism and issues people are facing all over the world.

How does one build their network of allies?

In my case, it's largely been through Facebook, via Slutwalk pages whilst arguing against misogynists who drag out the tired rape myths and try to pass them off as "safety advice", and on feminism pages whilst arguing with dudebros who are adamant that North American women are more privileged than men and if they really want to address inequality they should help women in Iraq, etc.

In the real world, I've also met a lot of amazing allies through volunteering with rape crisis centres. By their nature, most rape crisis centres are set up in a feminist framework, and a large part of their crisis line volunteer training focusses on feminism in order to inform the volunteers about the societal issues that perpetuate rape culture and affect survivors of sexual violence. This is because one cannot adequately support survivors of sexual violence unless they fully understand the societal context in which these survivors are trying to get by - one where police perpetuate rape myths and disbelieve survivors' reports, one where survivor's sexual histories and clothing are used against them in court, one where friends and family all-too-often rally around the perpetrator because it's less uncomfortable to assume the survivor is lying than that someone they love and respect is capable of committing grievous acts of sexual violence.

Learning about those issues is intense. Ripping off the bandaids to resensitize onself in a society that encourages desensitization and rape jokes is painful. Gathering an adequate support system in order to deal with those issues and so many others that come up once the learning process starts has been vital to me and a big part of my self-care.

Other parts of my self-care? Manboobz.com, Icanhascheezburger.com, and Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

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