Blog Archives

White House Conference on Bullying: Creating Community

The President is giving an address now to kick off the White House bullying conference, and I was pleased to hear him say that fighting bullying isn’t just about discouraging violence, but also about building a sense of community in schools.  I would add to this that it is important for schools to provide safe spaces and community-building opportunities for students around identities such as queerness, race, religion, etc. and to educate the student body at large about these communities in keeping with the general lesson of respect.  I would wager that most students who belong to a minority or an often-bullied group do not have such a safe space or community available to them in school.

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Emotional & Social Support in Activism

I’ve been thinking about activism since a number of you commented to my last post expressing your interest in queer-movement building.  One of the ideas I have actually comes from my reading about pregnancy and childbirth in preparation for possibly one day becoming a doula (childbirth support person/advocate).  I was thinking about some of the functions of a doula as caretaker–providing massage, food, tea, helping the pregnant woman move around and bathe, etc.  It occurred to me that not only pregnant women need this kind of support!

When is the last time someone held your hand, prepared you a meal, or gave you a hug?  This question may sound kind of hokey, but I think a lot of us who are involved in activism tend to be very go-go-go, without ever slowing down and considering how to best support ourselves or ask for help.  Activism can be draining work, particularly when it runs parallel to our own self-discovery or processing.

Those of us who are interested in building a queer movement may encounter questions about our own gender and sexuality in our work.  Online community can be a great way to do this processing–through blogging, supporting others in forums, etc.–but it’s also good to have an in-person support system and think about how activists can blend social and emotional support with activist work.

I’ve been resistant to suggestions like this is in the past because they tend to come up in a gender-essentialized framework.  For example, when feminists encourage other feminists “not to deny your feminine side” or to “accept the natural desire for nurturing and care,” I tend to shut down.  This doesn’t fit into my concept of myself as genderqueer, which is separate from the gender binary.  My self doesn’t have “masculine” and “feminine” “sides.”  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t need support.

I’ve talked about conscious-raising before when blogging about third-wave feminism, but I think that it’s worth bringing up again in this context.  Part of queer movement-building can be coming together in small groups for a potluck or game night, getting to know fellow activists, and talking about our own processes.  Many of us (myself very much included) could use some development of our listening skills if we want to meet the ten points I proposed for a queer movement.  Sitting down and just sharing our stories can be a valuable way to do this–without interrupting or analogizing to our own experience, or thinking about what we’re going to say next.

I also think that one way to encourage a more body-positive and sex-positive approach to activism and to life is to start in small groups.  Being aware of other perspectives and open to them is a crucial skill for activism.  Talking about our own bodies, sexuality, and queer experiences can be one way to open ourselves up to the diversity of the queer movement and to begin to flush shame and guilt about our genders and sexualities out of our lives.

If anyone in the Baltimore/DC area would be interested in some sort of potluck group or queer games night, feel free to get in touch with me at judithavory [at] gmail [dot] com.  Or if you want to propose such a circle in your area, leave a comment!