Face it: we are all problematic in our own way
My Twitter stream is a megastorm of offended people today. And the main reason that is so is because of an unwillingness of people to acknowledge they are problematic themselves.
Let me be the first to tell you: I am problematic. I say problematic things. The key difference is that when I realize I've said something completely asinine and someone calls me on it, I take the time to analyze what I've said and why another person might have a problem with it.
Let me give you a great example. I found this photo in my Twitter stream this afternoon:
I've lived in New York my whole life. I saw this picture and before I read the caption, realized it was in response to the proposed legislation regarding which bathroom facilities transgender individuals use, and thought -- due to that big black hat -- "this is a good ol' boy saying it's not okay for men to be in the women's bathroom.
And yeah, that's exactly what he was saying, but not in the way I interpreted it. I approach things with my own biases: hat = Conservative; Conservative = transphobic; man = possibly violent toward women, more potentially violent toward transwomen.
My viewpoint is that of a woman. One who grew up with a really wide variety of people in my life in an era in which we "weren't supposed" to talk about things like sexuallity or gender or race.
MY REACTION WAS PROBLEMATIC. I made assumptions. Probably not the assumptions Mr. Hughes intended when he took the photo, but assumptions all the same. Based on my beliefs and point of view.
Where are the problems, you're probably wondering. I'm a woman. I erred on the side of women, right?
No. I responded with a knee-jerk cis-normative viewpoint. A knee-jerk political viewpoint. A knee-jerk regional viewpoint. All bad. All wrong.
The thing is, I'm self-aware enough that I knew immediately what I'd done. I had to sit and think about it. Now I'm writing about it so I can process it further. So I can think about how I react to things, because even when I react to things in a way that tends to favor a known marginalized segment of society, it might be the WRONG segment. As it was here.
So why am I blatting on about this? Because we need to acknowledge that we are ALL problematic. All of us. In some way. We all stereotype. We all forget to be inclusive at times. We all revert to instinctive biases without thinking.
And it's not enough to say "Yeah, I don't know any Conservatives/trans people/black people/women/red pandas" and keep doing things and saying things and creating things. It has to be a concerted effort to DO and not say. To FIX and not proselytize. To acknowledge and take actual steps. No one gets a pass for helping in one place but not another.
So no, it's not enough to use hashtags on social media and not follow through in execution.
I'm problematic. And next time, I'll read more closely and think more inclusively. And then maybe I won't have to confess my inner prejudice about men in cowboy hats in a public way.