Posts Tagged ‘Oppression’

It’s a slight cliche to argue that history is written by the winners, but unfortunately it’s true. Admittedly the phrase does imply somewhat more of a martial perspective, so let’s adjust it; history is written by the dominant.

As marginalised people, we only have to look at our own histories to see the truth in that. We are absent from the historical narrative to a very large extent; sometimes there are obscure glimmers of proof of our previous existence, but most often even those of us who achieved a place in the historical hall of fame have been bleached with the ideals of the dominant groups that did the writing.

I am a historian – still studying, and not yet studying exclusively history, but a historian nevertheless – and it frustrates me. Written primary sources were often written by privileged people whose perspective neglects the marginalised. Secondary sources also tend to reflect academia’s skewing towards the kyriarchal ideal. There are ways of finding out about the marginalised, but we rarely find their uncensored voices ringing down the ages.

What effect does that have? A huge effect. Some groups find themselves cut off from their roots, with much about their past lost irretrievably. Others find themselves entering the record only on the terms of their oppressors, with their personhood denigrated and their voices erased. Others find no reflection of their existence.

The neglect of the history of some groups combined with the elevation of that of others has a profoundly harmful effect. People have always looked to the past, for lessons and for inspiration and guidance, and if they find only certain groups reflected there it is very easy to have the idea, already implanted by the kyriarchy, that only those groups are worthy and important validated. It’s also used to denigrate people in the present, implying that they’re making things up because they only came into existence recently when the only evidence we have for that is a void in the general historical narrative with clues generally so small most people wouldn’t pick them up.

It’s important to factor this in as we write our own histories. How will the English Riots of this summer be remembered? Will the memory of the alienation and disillusionment suffered by those who rioted survive, or will they be painted merely as thugs? And the Occupy movement – when protestors say one thing and police say another, who will be believed by posterity? As for the Arab Spring – how will history perceive that?

The privileged classes have always tried to write their history on a higher level than the rest of the populace. Sometimes, just access to the tools of recording ensures their voices are the only ones heard. Other times, restricting access to academia or to certain media spaces is their preferred method. And quite often, they merely rely on their privilege to amplify their voices, as it so reliably does.

Trigger warning – self-harm, silencing

Muddled post is muddled, I’m sorry. If I’ve done a massive fail, the normal thing applies.

It’s happened to most of us at some point or another – being accused of attention-seeking. It crops up in all sorts of contexts, and attention seeking is generally held to be a negative thing.

I’ve seen it used to denigrate (and, oddly, to provoke concern over) self-harm, to stop people seeking help for things, to shut people up who need to talk, to silence people who are actively combatting their oppression. Pulling out the ‘attention-seeking’ accusation is an attempt to trivialise, delegitimise and silence. It’s a ridiculously problematic accusation to make, since it reinforces kyriarchal standards and a culture where honest emoting is discouraged.

It’s also a term that gets applied along kyriarchal lines – it’s rare to see a normative, straight, cis, conventionally able, white male accused of attention-seeking, for example. People whose minds and behaviours don’t fit the kyriarchal standard are accused of attention-seeking for expressions that are natural for them (and then accused of it when they speak out against discrimination based on that). People who are seen as ‘feminine’ are accused of it because femininity is often held in contempt. All kinds of oppressed folks who speak up against their oppression are accused of it.

Point is, attention-seeking isn’t necessarily bad – even when it appears to be about trivial things. Many of us are raised to conceal our true feelings, so we may not feel able to ask for help when needed; that’s where behaviour may appear attention-seeking, when someone is trying to get help without saying it outright because of the messed-up culture that tries to discourage honest emoting. Like most other behaviours, it’s pretty neutral overall.

I’m all right. I’ve been trying to give myself some time out for self-care, but that hasn’t gone too well due to stresses and strains from other areas of my life. I’m going to try to write a decent post now though.

The kyriarchy enforces standards that are very, very rigid, and has produced a culture with Expectations. We are expected to conform to our social roles in the kyriarchy that are dictated by our ascribed statuses, and often that means that the marginalised are expected to be a lot less than they are and treated accordingly. Meanwhile oppressive behaviour is expected of the privileged. This culture also has expectations of people’s life courses and aspirations, and shows a high degree of contempt for those who cannot meet the expectations whether the reasons relate to a lack of privilege, a lack of opportunity or a lack of ability.

All of this creates a high-stress, low-compassion environment that negatively affects all of our lives. The marginalised, due to the fact that they are further away from the Standards because of the oppression they experience, are most affected and end up locked in a cycle of being prevented from reaching those standards and being blamed for that ‘failure.’ Meanwhile, the privileged absolve themselves of responsibility and feel justified in oppressive behaviour by the ‘failure’ of the marginalised and the ‘success’ of themselves as measured against the standards.

It’s one of the many ways that the kyriarchy is enabled. We absorb these standards (standards which have almost become separate entities looming in our culture) and ruthlessly impose them on ourselves and others. They are institutionally enforced, inflexibly and unforgivingly with no regard for the toll taken on the bodies and minds of people, especially marginalised people. And the very inflexibility propagates them, since when one is expending all one’s energy on meeting them one doesn’t question the system in which a privileged person can meet them with very little sweat and a marginalised person can work themselves to a standstill and still not meet them.

(This relates vaguely to the causes of my recent stress, which is almost certainly only going to get worse…)

People’s minds tend to run a lot on patterns and associations. When someone says a word, we can generally summon up a bunch of connotations from our experiences and the messages we’ve imbibed from our culture. If I try this with a random word generator and get ‘chat,’ I think, ‘room, little, office, experience of the words ‘wanting a chat’ preceeding a lecture that I will squirm through and not dare speak up in.’ (I think this means that I never caught on to using the word ‘chat’ when talking about ringing someone up to talk…)

This gets really important when the words we use impact on people. Words and the way we use them are really influential when it comes to the way we think, especially as we are growing up and learning how to weave those words into expression. We learn them through communication and connotations, which means that the things we associate with a word will forever have an impact on how we perceive what that word is attached to. I had a slight negative reaction with ‘chat’ because it appears I’ve mostly come across it as a prelude to earnest conversation directed at me that I felt very uncomfortable being a part of. That’s what I associate it with; squirming in my seat and feeling silenced.

So what happens when people-words get bad connotations? Those connotations generalise to the people concerned, and negative, prejudiced attitudes creep under the carpet of people’s minds. Also impacted by negative presentations and cultural messages, these negative attitudes are generally at the root of discrimination. Where inequality is legislated, it comes from the underlying prejudices of the people who created the legislation, the people who passed it, the people who elected them and so on. Where inequality is tolerated, that comes from discriminatory behaviour striking a chord with those same underlying prejudices. Language, presentations, culture – they’re important. There is other stuff to fight for, big stuff, solid stuff – but these underlying currents are where they come from. When the big stuff gets fixed, it’s unlikely to stay fixed until the culture changes, as the underlying attitudes find new ways to mess the marginalised up or push the big stuff back to its original position.

It’s very uncomfortable to see people-words get bad connotations, and yet it happens all the time. ‘You throw like a girl,’ makes ‘girl’ the object of contempt, something to be avoided, something lesser. And negative attitudes towards women and girls and those perceived as such are reinforced. I… may be overstepping myself here, since I’m white, but ‘acting black’ troubles me since I’ve generally seen it used against people who act in a way seen as negative – thus enforcing racism. ‘That’s gay,’ one of my own little hobby-horses, associates gayness with something pathetic, contemptible, useless, bad – thus enforcing heterosexism. Slurs work this way. Longer messages, such as the many that enforce rape culture, work this way.

And the worst thing is, it looks like nothing. It’s hard to correct, because you’re seen as being pedantic and petty-minded. And to be honest, merely, ‘don’t say that word’ is unlikely to work. We need to examine the reasons why we’re saying what we’re saying, and the message that sends out, and consciously work on changing it. It’s definitely important to salvage the stuff floating out of reach, issues that have a concrete impact on our quality of life, but one can’t ignore the little eddies and swirls that show the current beneath the surface, the current that could eventually tear the solid stuff out of our reach.

It’s not unreasonable to expect to be treated fairly, equally and without bigotry.

This is a defence I see all too often, and it’s pretty despicable. All too often in my life it comes up about the little things that make it damn clear that my self is not accepted, things like forms asking for ‘gender – m/f’ and so on. According to this particular defence of bigotry, I can’t expect services to bend to fit me; due to my so-called ‘abnormality’, I should bend to fit them. I should bend to fit with society’s narrow-minded ideals, at whatever cost to myself.

Or, another place it crops up is around terminology. Apparently we can’t expect language to change to acknowledge our humanity and our experience, and we can’t expect people to change their language so as not to cause us pain because we’re apparently not ‘normal.’

Normal is constructed as something people should aspire towards, so as not to cause trouble and disrupt the social order. It’s not. If the social order cannot serve all people, regardless of the demands of meaningless ‘normality,’ then it needs to be disrupted. It is not unreasonable to expect society to change to accommodate all its members, and to be honest society should want to.

No matter how much it seems to be, society is not a monolith that exists independent of the people in it. We construct society around us. Yes, the scars of history lie heavy on us and on the society that has evolved down the generations – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. It evolved through the actions of people – a lot of bigotry can be traced back to historical roots that were instigated by people – and that means that we can steer it away from the broken-down mass of kyriarchal pressures riddled with bigotry and violence that it is now.

To do that, though, we need each other. We need to look around us and realise that the kyriarchy is hurting and killing ourselves and each other. And then we need to realise that defeatism will only defeat us.

It’s not unreasonable to expect society to change to accommodate the people it shoves to the margins, and for a person to say this about an axis they have privilege on is harmful. The privileged’s words have more weight anyway, and the more this is said the more the immovability of society is constructed, the more privilege can shore itself up by thinking that it can’t change and shouldn’t have to try.

It’s not unreasonable to be hurt, and to demand that people stop hurting one. It’s not unreasonable to demand one’s rights.

We are all connected, and frankly we have no reason to deny others decent treatment, fair, equal and without bigotry. That is an attack, and so is defending others who hurt people in the name of kyriarchy with the feeble cry of ‘it’s unreasonable.’ There is no excuse for bigotry, and the only slight justification is genuine lack of knowledge – but that can be cleared up with a short conversation, a quick google. There is no excuse for denying people the things granted without thought to others because of who they are. There is no excuse for services meant to help us refusing to acknowledge our selves. There is no excuse for people who bear us no ill-will beyond the poison the kyriarchy has dripped into their brains from birth to refuse to stop using words that hurt us. Once the problem is brought to light, it is not unreasonable to expect that solving it should be the next step.

Slow process? Well, yes, it probably will be. But it’s not an unreasonable demand.

Trigger warning – discussion of common silencing/denial-of-oppression techniques.

My apologies for the unofficial hiatus; I’m trying to recharge my batteries but sometimes it feels like the charger just isn’t working. EDIT – changed post title to reflect the fact that defences of bigotry seem to be a Thing of mine at the moment.

Anyway. I’m going back to an old hobby-horse of mine – tone policing. Along with the accusation of oversensitivity, which oddly enough are often found coexisting. Not only are both infuriating, wrong and kyriarchy-enforcing on their own, but in tandem they become increasingly illogical.

The reason for this is simple. Tone policing, simply put, is the dismissal of a person’s argument (generally a less-privileged person in social justice discourse) because of their tone, which may be perceived by the bigoted more-privileged person as ‘too personal,’ ‘too emotional’ or ‘too angry.’ Meanwhile, the oversensitivity argument basically amounts to the bigoted more-privileged person telling the less-privileged person to suck it up and deal with the abuse the kyriarchy deals out. Put together, these things add up to a massive display of double standards. ‘I shouldn’t have to deal with your [justified] anger/pain, but you should just sit back and take my [unjustified] bigotry.’

Which, conveniently, is just the way the kyriarchy works. Hence, it’s perfect for enforcement of it.

The attitude is wholly reprehensible. Not only are the less-privileged (along whatever axis of privilege being discussed) subjected to kyriarchal abuse which is seen as normal and acceptable, but they are also condemned for responding. And there’s really no limit to the tone argument. It can be invoked even when a person is deadly calm; when a bigoted more-privileged person decides to silence a less-privileged person, there is no tone that is exempt. Often even the act of quietly making a point is an attack upon the more-privileged person, personally, and they see it as unprovoked because they are privileged enough to be able to ignore the shrapnel-sleet of micro- and macroaggressions the less-privileged experience every day.

It is a function of privilege to be able to see oneself as an objective speaker, and to expect detachment in the discourse. Many of us can’t detach ourselves from the oppression we scream under; it’s burned into our bones and our bodies, into our selves and our souls, while the privileged (on whichever axis) can ignore it and pretend it doesn’t happen.

And it’s a function of double-thinking to be able to simultaneously tone-police, and demand that less-privileged people become less ‘oversensitive’. Not only is ‘oversensitivity’ a pretty ableist concept (especially in the way I’ve often seen it applied, with regards to trigger warnings), it’s also a direct result of the fact that the privileged are able to ignore oppression and so interpret people’s entirely natural responses to it as oversensitivity.

If anyone is being oversensitive in a conversation such as this one, it’s the [bigoted] more-privileged person demanding that the less-privileged person suppress their justified pain and anger for the more-privileged person’s comfort. (They’re also being entitled, which is another basic function of privilege.)

I get so fed up of this pair of problems that so often occur together. We have a right to our feelings about our oppression, and as long as we are being non-oppressive and not actively harming others we have a right to express them. We have a right to talk about our oppression and to try to end it. That means that in situations like this, more-privileged persons (I include myself in this group as well as the other, since I have privilege along many axes) need to listen and allow less-privileged groups to lead the discourse.

The riots are spreading fast, and all the mainstream media can find for it is condemnation and demonisation of the riots as thoughtless thuggery, the breaking tide of feral youth upon the shore of respectable society heralded with fire, a force to be met with force. They’re being taken out of context, out of time, judged as an island of humanity when the contexts and explanations lie elsewhere upon the landmass.

Violence, especially violence of this type, is not something I can condone. It is – as so much else – hitting the less privileged more as their houses and lives burn around them while the more privileged sit in their white towers and play dice with the lives of the rest of us, demonising us as they go.

But I can understand. The shooting of Mark Duggan was a match in a flourmill, where the flourdust of alienation, poverty and hopelessness had long clogged the air, anger unexpressed, rage battened down. We should not have been surprised. Of course there is anger – people have been pushed into the margins, further and further, clinging to the edges. The rich have taken as theirs everything their sweet-tongued lies and economic tyranny can exact from everyone else. The sovereignty of the police has gone unchecked even as hundreds die in custody and our children are kettled in the streets. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and the tunnel grows narrower every day until the daylight is cut off from a glimmer. Racial divisions fester in the heat of an economic meltdown, with young POC seeing themselves burned in effigy as demons in the mainstream discourse.

Of course there was anger! And when that was expressed peacefully, in marches and petitions, it was ignored. It is always ignored. Sometimes I think that if the whole country came to London and camped in Parliament Square, we would be ignored until someone threw a stone. It seems that our ‘leaders’ believe that the only time they need to pay attention to the existence of the non-rich populace is around election time, when they can throw us a bone and our starvation will bring us to heel.

So anger turned to violence. And violence is, as I have said, not good.

But there are other forms of violence. There is the violence of what our leaders are doing to our futures, there is the violence of contempt for our anger, there is the violence in ignoring our needs. There is violence in every dram of money-blood being taken from us to pay the debts we did not incur, and there is violence in entrenching the inequalities that divide our society like lightning in the stark midnight sky.

Besides that, we must look to the sweet poison capitalism has dripped into our ears from the cradle to the grave. Is it any wonder that looting is going on, when we have been raised from birth to believe that status is in capital? And is it any wonder we have been raised like this, when all the power is in the hands of the few who sit on thrones of banknotes, elevated above the rest of us with the power to match?

I hate that destruction stalks our streets, since the kyriarchy feeds upon destruction and the only way I can see to fight it is to build. I hate that some of this is communities lashing out against themselves. But these events cannot be looked at outside of the grim context they were born in, and in that context it is hard to argue things could have turned out otherwise once that match was dropped. I stand against violence, whether the violence of the powerful state upon the populace or the violence of therelatively powerless people – but I also understand the explosive power of bottled-up anger.

*    *    *

I’m pretty privileged in this issue, being lower-middle class, relatively economically secure, provincial and white, and while I can’t be certain I doubt the rioting will spread to where I live. But I’m fed up of seeing all the one-sided mainstream reportage, and I don’t think it’s all that difficult to hold the dual thoughts of ‘this is violence, and violence is bad,’ and ‘I understand why this happened,’ in one’s head. Basically I wanted to put in my two pence. And yeah, I’m aware I waxed poetic. I do that sometimes.

Strength and value

Posted: June 30, 2011 in Health, Kyriarchy
Tags: ,

Sometimes it feels like one has to be strong all the time. For the marginalised of this world, even existing in a world that wants to squelch us into submission can feel like a fight that we must be armoured for at every moment. It can be even worse for those of us who have made pushing back at the system our business – we feel that we must make that call-out, we must stick our heads up above the parapet.

But we have to remember that we’re people. And people are unbelievably strong, but people have needs too. People are vulnerable. People have limits. People are worthy of having those needs met, and that includes us as well. We have to take time out for self-care.

Sure a lot of us would like to be the tireless warrior, calling out every piece of kyriarchal bullshit that shows up on our radar – I know I would – but it’s just not possible. And it’s not practical or useful to push ourselves beyond our limits, into unsafe territory on trembling legs, fighting on even when we’re exhausted. We deserve to take time out for self-care, to spend time recharging the batteries – and we must not feel that we have to apologise for that.

Many of us have been socialised into thinking that our worth lies in what we can do for others. It does not. Our worth lies in our existence. What we choose to do with that existence should be up to us and us alone. To repeat the old mantra, self care is a radical act; and personal autonomy and a sense of personal worth is the very thing the kyriarchy most fears. If we are caring for ourselves, we are showing that we believe we are worthy of care – and that is anathema to the kyriarchy. It will twist and lash out, trying to force us into again driving ourselves into the dust, but we must remember that we are worthy of care, and that the fact that we place a value on our own wellbeing is a finger stuck up at the kyriarchy’s definition of us as worthless.

The biggest battlefield in this fightback against the kyriarchy is the hearts and minds of people, ourselves included. The kyriarchy is incredibly hard on our hearts and our minds, and we must not feel guilty for retreating when we are wounded even if it feels as though our absence will allow the kyriarchy one more stronghold. There is always another day, another battle, and it is better to curl up in the dark and lick our wounds out of existence before facing them than continuing to fight and burning out.

We are worthy – of care, of peace, of rest. We should not be shamed for retreating, for falling, for being wounded. It is a mighty, terrible foe we face, and we are brave and strong for facing it. We are people, and people have needs. We do not have to be a tower of strength all the time, and our very retreat to care for our marginalised, oppressed, wounded selves is resistance.

Mr MacMaster, you should be utterly fucking ashamed of yourself. You think you can speak for the marginalised? Over the marginalised, making their lives more fucking dangerous while you carry on with your absurdly privileged life? And you think that’s okay?

It’s really, really not.

You wrote a story, constructed a fiction. You did not have to live that reality. You had the privilege to disengage. And you thought that doing that was acceptable. You thought that wearing an internet mask for a few posts on a blog could even approach the real experience. You thought wrong. Other people don’t have the luxury of being able to take the mask off – because for them, it’s their true face.

You appropriated people’s experiences, overruled the voices of those who actually had those experiences. You’ve made their lives more dangerous. You could have caused people to put themselves in truly dangerous situations, while you were sitting safely mired in your privilege. You’ve inserted your straight, cis, white, Western, male self into a discourse where you have no business being because you simply know nothing about the issue. I know nothing about the issues you attempted to write about, but I sure as hell know that it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance and imperialism, it would be totally and utterly wrong, to appropriate an identity, such as the one you took on. Rather, the role of those of us who have no place, in the discourse is to listen. To accept the conclusions of others’ discussions about their selves and try to aid them in their goals. Not to elbow our way in under false pretences and speak over others’ voices. Not to mention, you’re now the blogger who cried wolf. And that could
have serious consequences. You took people’s compassion, their trust, and you betrayed it.

We all know that online interaction is hard because there’s no way of knowing the exact truth. But that’s why, especially in internet
spheres that rest on people’s accounts of their experiences, it’s vital that people do not appropriate identities. Doing so is unethical, appropriative and deceitful. It’s made everyone’s online identities easier to attack, too. I can give no proof but my word that I am a young, queer, agender person from/in the UK. But how easy would it be for someone to claim that my writing was invalid because they thought I was someone like MacMaster? Very easy. And how could I disprove it? I couldn’t. The fact that I really am who I say I am is unprovable – but I swear that I am, and I don’t break oath.

Everything about this (and the Bill Graber/Lez Get Real thing) stinks of privilege, massive, unchecked privilege. Thoughtlessness,
entitlement, imperialism, appropriation. It stinks. I don’t even have a sense of smell and I can tell that. It leaves an utterly bad taste in the mouth, and they should both be ashamed of themselves.

I get really angry with hetero/cis/binary/sexual folks complaining about Pride. I’ve never been to one – and will be missing my local one this year because of an out-of-town trip – but that’s besides the point.

A common complaint is that we’re ‘shoving it in their faces’. If I may put it crudely – bullshit. My heart bleeds. Not.

For one, it’s pure hypocrisy.

Apparently they believe that the hetero, cis, binary, sexual norm is not shoved into everyone’s faces daily. I suppose that the fact that every compulsory primary school reading book features only normative characters is just coincidence, is it? What about the abundance of normative PDA? That’s just an exception I suppose. Oh – and the media emphasis on normative relationships? I guess that’s just representation. And surely the stigmatisation of non-normative identities has nothing to do with it? /endsarcasm.

Most of us had normativity shoved down our throats from an early age. We sung songs about normative relationships, watched programes, read books, saw films about normative relationships. We saw only the normative represented positively. Often we never even saw the non-normative at all.

That is having an identity shoved into your face. Not a group of people coming together one day of the year to celebrate who they are and try to cast a bright flare through the dark clouds that hover over their path.

For two, they’re complaining about something that has grown up as a reaction to oppression – oppression perpetuated by them. Really not their business objecting. Objections from within the community are fine, but from without?

Oh hey there kyriarchy, I saw you a mile off.

People within the gender and sexuality norm do not get to interfere. Simple as. How hard can it be? If your privilege has made you think that people being themselves are shoving stuff in your face, you need to examine your privilege rather than their motives. It stinks the whine of the privileged person who just can’t accept that the oppressed people have needs too. We need to be recognised as the equals of anyone else. We need to resist our erasure at the hands of the privileged. And one way we’re doing that is through Pride. Is through throwing up a light to our youth so that they can find themselves. Is through taking the aspects of us that the kyriarchy hates and celebrating them defiantly. Is through sticking a finger up at the dominant norms and saying ‘We exist too!’

So if the privileged people think we’re shoving it in their faces, they need to examine why they think that and why we need to do what we do in the first place.

Something of the same applies for any situation in which the marginalised – on any axis – are accused of shoving their selves into the privileged’s faces. In a lot of those situations, though, there’s the additional point – if the privileged are allowed to do it, the marginalised should be. If you don’t object to hetero-perceived PDA – don’t claim that gay-perceived PDA is bad. Because that’s just perpetuating oppression.

One key function of privilege is that the actions of the privileged will not be taken as representative of their group. They will be seen as abhorrences, as lone figures, as individuals. The marginalised, meanwhile, are generalised, the actions of one taken as representative. It is the difference between, say, ‘You can’t play football’ and ‘[group you belong to] can’t play football.’

This is, rather obviously, not good. No group is homogenous, since they are made up of people often grouped together by a particular trait and people are infinitely varied. The kyriarchy’s view of all who are the Other as an amorphous Other, a great beast of one mind with many bodies who are indisinguishable, is inherently oppressive. It’s fairly obvious why. People are individuals, and what one person does should not reflect on others. That particular manifestation of kyriarchy allows people to be dehumanised, reduced and held responsible for other people’s actions.

Why is it that when members of the dominant groups commit crime, it’s seen as an individual problem but when members of less dominant groups do so, it is painted as a cultural problem (with the spectre of terrorism often added, in many cases.)? It’s because of the kyriarchy, generalising groups and demonising them while normalising those it privileges.

It can be hard to fight this, because we are taught to think in words, to label things instinctively, and if the only previous information we can use to process new information is kyriarchal it means that we will tend to think of people in words and ways that are oppressive. However, there’s many ways of getting around that. As always, education is key. Since we tend to think in terms of our previous knowledge and experience, adding to that with more non-oppressive stuff will mean we have more open minds that can process more things in non-oppressive ways. We can also try to stop ourselves categorising so easily, taking people as they come and accepting what they present of themselves without adding our own ideas on.

Look at virtually any protest or protest movement, and you’ll find a trigger mechanism. That’s just the way things are.

It cannot, however, be said that the trigger mechanism is the cause of it. The cause is the long-running grievances that underly everything, that often underly every facet of life. Perhaps, say, a riot was triggered by a single arrogant authority figure’s action – but it could never have happened without, say, poverty being a grinding force in the rioters’ lives. Anything that looms large in the collective consciousness can be an underlying factor for a movement, a factor that is more a cause than the trigger.

And those factors are big issues in the lives of those they affect, and to see only the trigger and argue that the movement was an overreaction is an essentially privileged point of view.

Underlying causes are often oppressive in nature. The oppressions themselves and the way they manifest – that’s something big and meaty to form a movement against. But they can still be invisible to the people who are privileged along those particular axis, and so the privileged still argue that it was an overreaction. Let me tell you, it’s hard to overreact to a kyriarchal system that breaks and kills. It’s really fucking hard. It’s hard even to react, since the system delights in turning groups against each other and themselves.

To have a movement against those oppressions is not an overreaction. There’s a great danger in generalising the response to one trigger to other areas where it’s not as relevent, and in the heat of the moment the movement itself may – often does – become poisoned; but the response is not disproportionate. It’s just that a trigger mechanism is generally needed.

There is so much wrong with our damn kyriarchy, with our world. It doesn’t help that there’s many people who have been shielded from many or all oppressions from birth, and who are too afraid to push aside the curtain and thus react to those trying to broaden their worldview with hatred and bigotry. Sure, you might only see one little action – but that doesn’t mean there’s not a whole lot more awfulness going on outside your line of sight.

When you hold the blinkers on yourself, don’t complain when you don’t get the scale of the problem.

Yesterday was the Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (referred to henceforth in this post as Misohomy and Transhatred, because oppressiveness =/= phobia), and I didn’t do a post. Now, there’s three main reasons for that and two of them are incredibly prosaic. One, I have basically given up on blogging for these ‘days’ because I can never think what to write other than ‘yeah, this oppression is bad, uh, yeah,’ and two, I had… other stuff going on that was sapping my energy. The third reason is that it’s just another day. I imagine most people affected by oppressions that have ‘Day Against’ events going on think this – for them, it’s not just a single day. It’s every day.

For me, it’s every day because along with binarism, misahetery/misohomy/heterosexism and transhatred/cissexism are the oppressions that crop up most in my life. I don’t have the privilege to dedicate a day to fighting them and then take most of the rest of the year off. I fight the damn things whenever they pop up because if I don’t, guess who they’ll end up hurting? That’s right, me.

I do it by existing. I do it by challenging oppressive views – not just against those few oppressions, if something bigoted pops up I try to tackle it, even though I do sometimes mess up. I do it by insisting on being recognised for who I am. I do it by eradicating oppressive language from my vocabulary, and tackling the oppressive attitudes in my own head that caused that oppressive language to surface. I do it by trying to lead others towards doing the same.

This is a constant, ongoing battle. It’s not something we can win with a day of positivity and condemnation of bigotry. All that will do is drive the kyriarchy underground for the one day, around the people who do it, and it will resurface very soon afterwards to continue its oppressive regime.

It’s not easy. None of this is easy. None of us can do everything. But we can all do something, and that something isn’t lip service on one day of the year. That something is work on our own minds. The great thing about anti-kyriarchy activism is that we all have that one area in which we can be incredibly successful, because our minds are our own. Each mind for us is a mind against the kyriarchy. Each mind against the kyriarchy is one brick gone from the wall, letting in one ray of sunshine, one glimmer of hope.

No condemnation on those who did blog yesterday – these days can be good times to get our thoughts in order about the ongoing struggle. The problem is the idea that one day – not just this day, any day – is going to fix all the problems, make our kyriarchal attitudes go away and make the oppression stop. Because it’s not. There’s things you can do that might make a difference on that day, but that’s really only as a catalyst for long-term change.

I claim my identity because if I do not, a label will be forced upon me. All words are merely a concept given shape, and the words I use for my identity are no different – except, they make sense. The concept they have been formed from is one that resonates with me, and the words themselves feel right.

While they are there, I have the weapons to fight being non-consensually labelled. I can say, ‘No, I am not [assigned gender]; I am agender,’ and the word I use will be a shield to protect me from the assumptions and the labels others slap on without thinking about it. While I have those identities, the labels that I have chosen, the socially-assigned ones cannot cling to the stuff of my self and twist it to their own will. People may assign them – but I can cast them off because they never fit, and they cannot stick to the shield of my own self-identification.

I also claim my identity to allow for community – to signal to others like me that we are alike, we face similar things, I have your back. I claim it so that others know my standpoint, but first and foremost I claim it for my own self, my own piece of mind.

Some people choose not to ‘label’ themselves, not to claim the words for their identity, to allow it to go unnamed. That’s fine. But it’s not okay to police people’s choice to use them. I have claimed these words as a shield against non-consensual labelling, and that works for me. Some of us need to claim the words, shout them out or treasure them in their heart. We are not ‘fencing ourselves in’. We are ships seeking anchorage in a storm, and the identity is a place where the waves are broken before they can break us. Or we are merely seeking a way to describe our experiences, words that will not erase or oppress us, and when we find those words we are using them, settling down among the blankets and creating a nest with them, using them to carve ourselves some space of our own in a world that would much prefer us not to exist. We can expand the words, use them as they are or define them for ourselves, in line with our own experiences. Or we can choose not to use them at all. And that’s something only the individual person can know; what words, what usage they will be comfortable with.

Uh-oh. The group of overprivileged capitalists who are supposed to be running this country wants to relax the rules on redundancy, thus making it easier for employers to fire workers. They are also concerned about discrimination compensation, because apparently the ‘high levels’ of it mean that people are filing speculative or ‘vexation’ cases in the hopes of a big payout.

Juust when I thought they couldn’t get much worse. Notice that all the concerns are coming from the employers? At least we know who they care about. But so it has always been, with them.

This is an all-out assault on those who work for others, for money, and it’s directly related to profit. If you can hire and fire workers easily, you can say, ‘Don’t like the wages/conditions/other? You’re fired!’ and get in someone else who will settle for those wages/conditions/other. That’s exploitation. This kind of idea culminates in job insecurity and oppression as workers find themselves unable to speak out against this. And it’s especially awful in the current economic climate, where many people are unemployed and benefits are being cut, making people more and more desperate. In a capitalist economy – which this is, and getting more so with every piece of legislation introduced by this Government – money confers the ability to live. Which means that people will be forced to cling onto any way they can of getting money, even if that is an insecure, badly-paid job in bad conditions with no long-term prospects, and thus employers’ power over them is increased.

That is wrong. Every bit of power to exploit awarded to the capitalist employers is an erosion of the rights of the worker. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights talks of the right to ‘work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and renumeration, equal pay for equal work.’ Free choice of employment? Can we call it that when benefits are being cut below a livable level and people find themselves having to take any job/s they can to survive? Just and favourable conditions of work and renumberation? Can we say we have that, when people are being fired and then brought back, but forced onto a lower wage, and when our Government plans to make that even easier?

And what does this Government know of discrimination? Predominantly white, rich, male, cis, straight, conventionally able, educated, etc – who are they to decide that the people who bear the brunt of the kyriarchy’s wrongs under capitalism are being over-zealous in their claims? They are closing their minds to the fact that discrimination happens, that it is widespread, and that it has a major effect on the already-marginalised. They are closing their minds to the fact that we marginalised are human too, that we have the right to be free of discrimination, that we have the right to live.

We are seeing this culture of oppression-shaming step up its assault, and the opening shots across our bow have already been fired. Benefits claimants are being accused of being too lazy to work while there are no jobs for them to work, and those who are not conventionally able are having their abilities redefined for them so that they too can be demonised as lazy. Women are told that their struggle for equality is holding back equality, and people suffering from discrimination based on race, sexuality or any other factor are told that their struggle for compensation is an attempt to get rich quick. This is the typical view of the capitalist class, who reduce every action to monetary greed rather than monetary need, projecting their own values upon those who do not share them and erasing all problems they themselves do not face.

We are looking into the face of terrifying, blank contempt for us and our lives, our happiness, our health. They coat it in woolly statements about a ‘happiness index’ while they snatch our warmth and security from our desperate, clutching hands. They pretend to know our pain when they fly cheaply, when the very idea of flying is beyond more and more of our pockets. They claim that we are all in it together, when in fact they are the vampire with their teeth clamped to the people’s neck, draining us dry while they shed not a drop.

This is not a trivial matter.