Blog Archives

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!

Some thoughts on obsession

There are so many things I’ve wanted to blog about – so many! – and regrettably just no time. My last semester of law school is proving no easier than the earlier ones, but fortunately I’ll be done at the end of June and back into the regular-blogging swing. I will try to provide a report on the symposia and conferences I’ve been to recently, as well as other thoughts, soon.

However, on my walk home today I was thinking about obsessions, and it raises an interesting question. Do adolescent obsessions disappear when we grow up? Or do they just fade into something more “mature?”

In my late childhood/early pre-teen years, I was obsessed with that paragon of literary merit known as the Babysitters’ Club. Then around the age of twelve I moved on to the Backstreet Boys, followed by NSync and lesser known boybands. Around fifteen, I shifted out of that (and started liking girls – coincidence?) I had a dearth of obsessions for a little while, which perhaps had something to do with getting better in school, and then at the start of college became obsessed with a local band, some of whose members became friends. They broke up a few years later, and my obsession became Lord of the Rings for a year or two. All of those obsessions came with corresponding friends, and sadly I lost touch with a lot of them as the obsessions themselves faded. However, I do note that the older I get, the more friends seem to stick around.

On my walk, I was trying to see if I could think of any current obsessions. I think you could say that early in law school, food was an obsession, considering how important it was to check my favourite blogs, stay current on recipe-copying, etc. I now have a database of thousands and thousands of recipes thanks to that obsession. Now, though, that’s dwindled a bit. I suppose you could say that I’m obsessed with law school itself, or at least my GPA, which is a little depressing (but would kind of make sense if you consider the lack of obsessions in the part of high school where I was more engaged with learning). You could say that I’m obsessed with feminism or LGBT issues, but that’s also depressing in that I certainly hope those things are lifelong interests, seeing as how I’m planning to make a career out of them. Or maybe it’s reading – I’ve become almost compulsive about trying to finish books, keep track of what I want to read (kind of like the recipes), and read more and more and more.

I’m curious what others’ experiences are, especially those my age (24) and older. Do you still have the kind of obsessions you did when you were a teenager, just more “mature” ones? Do you become obsessed with things like work, school, or family instead? Or do those obsessive tendencies fade over time?

The power of collective memory

For some reason, it’s really bugged me how all the news people keep saying that 2008 was a really crappy year.  Of course, the last half of the year has been filled with financial doom and gloom, which is fair, but was it really that bad?  Or more importantly, who has the right to tell me what my year was like?  Even in the very worst of years (and I don’t think this is it) good things happen.  There are surely people who had a really good 1933, or 1929.  People got married in those years, fell in love, had babies.  People enjoy personal triumphs every year, no matter what happens to a nation as a whole.  But collective experience is a powerful thing, and so I do hear a lot of people walking around saying how crappy 2008 was, without (I think) really examining what happened this year.  As for financial issues, yes, there are many people very directly affected by this, whether they were laid off, experienced bankruptcy or foreclosure, or couldn’t get a new job.  But I think the worst is yet to come, and there are plenty of people who haven’t experienced any financial difficulties yet.  For me, I think it’s been a decent year, if nothing to jump for joy about.  I’m not looking for a job until next summer, I’m financially stable, and in fact there have been some good things going on financially – flights got way cheaper and the price of milk even went down a bit.  Personally, the second half of the year has been hard just because there have been no holiday celebrations and I haven’t seen my family since this time last year, but it’s not all bad.  I’m having a friend over for New Year’s Eve dinner and we’ll have some nice food and I’ll go to bed way before midnight like the old lady I am.  So happy new year, everyone, and remember – you are not your own country.  Live your own successes and failures, and enjoy your own agency.  It’s a beautiful thing.