I’m Voting Yes?

[Note: This post was not written with the idea of proselytizing. I am not interested in trying to police others’ political choice in this respect. The issues are not black and white, and I respect people voting either way. There are so many factors to weigh up and how each person prioritizes these issues will be different.]

With only one month to go until the independence referendum, and after a while of being firmly in the No camp, after a long, long time weighing up my options, I’ve finally decided that I’m going to vote ‘Yes’. After a while, the increase in grocery prices and the decrease in research grant money couldn’t make up for the shitstain on humanity that is the Tories, and their increasingly Toryish competitor, Labour. The choice of Tory vs. Baby-Tory governments isn’t something I would like to continue, if I can help it. And there is a way I can escape it, so I will take the chance.

I’m tired of the history of Scottish votes being meaningless (we would have had a Labour government up here a lot more often if we’d had our way). I’m tired of disabled people being treated like shit on the government’s shoe and effectively being murdered by the anti-benefits system. I’m tired of the anti-immigration and racist rhetoric that spews like vomit from more and more politicians’ and citizens’ mouths. I’m tired of living in a country that doesn’t seem to want to do much to champion equal rights. I’m not putting all my faith in the Scottish government to sort out all these problems miraculously post-independence, but at least we’ll have a chance.

I’m still not absolutely sold on the idea, I must admit. The burgeoning problems that are bound to arise in the wake of a massive political decision like this will most likely affect people like me first and foremost, i.e. those of us who already struggle with money. It will be a tough time immediately after the plans are all put in place, and maybe at first it might not even seem worth it. But in other aspects of my life, such as when I was debating leaving a job when my prospects were unclear, or when my twin brother and I were deciding whether to live separately or together when we went to university, I tended, although anxious and afraid, to take the “well, you never know until you try, even if it turns out bad” sort of attitude, so in its own way I’d feel a bit hypocritical if I didn’t adopt the same mentality with this. Those two plans went wrong, incidentally — I quit my new job after two weeks and went back to my old one, and after spending night after night calling my brother crying that I missed him we ended up living together again anyway — but I can’t regret that I made the decision to see if they worked out. I wouldn’t have wanted to play the “what if?” game the rest of my life. Of course, the independence question is a whole lot bigger than those examples, but the principle remains the same.

There’s a lot I haven’t appreciated during my decision-making process. Those who have not entertained even for a second the notion that it’s not been a easy, snap decision for all Scots. Those who have not only acted like someone voting No — because of uncertainties or because they feel it’s too much of a risk in this current climate or that we’re simply not ready — is a turncoat, but those who have actually deigned to call me one when I was explicitly voting No. Now, I’m not a hardcore patriot, but my pride at being Scottish doesn’t mean I thought we were ready to be independent, particularly when I didn’t have many facts coming from the Yes side at all. When I say (like in the above paragraph) that I’m not 100% sold on the idea, it’s not that independence as a notion is something I’ve never fancied. Even when I was going to vote No, it wasn’t the idea of independence putting me off completely, it was other factors. I wasn’t going to ignore the risks I felt were present. Hey, I’m not a gambling person, clearly.

But now that anti-immigration, anti-Europe, anti-anyone who isn’t a rich, white, cis, straight male Eton-educated politician, basically, sentiments are all on the rise within the UK, and now that Labour have determined to be just as stringent if not more so than the Tories have been on welfare cuts, and now that I’ve discovered that the PM did not allow the SNP’s proposed 3rd ballot option — more powers, or something along the lines of devo-max, which is something as a No voter I was supporting as a kind of compromise — well, I can’t quite make the remaining risks feel worth it when everything a good country should be is simply not present in what the UK (or more specifically, London) is offering.

It’s not been an easy ride, and I’m not looking forward to the problems that will inevitably present themselves (particularly for us poorer folks, not really for the big rich politicians who are selling us the grand idea), but if I don’t vote Yes, I’ll be asking myself “what if?” for the rest of my life.

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“Not All Cis People”?

Something I’ve noticed cropping up more recently, particularly on Tumblr, is sayings resembling and in the same vein of “not all cis people!”, “not all white people…!”, “Tumblr hates you if you’re cis, white, and straight!” Now, this is not anything new, and it’s certainly not a concept feminists don’t recognize — “not all men!”, anyone? — but that’s the thing about this; I largely see people who do identify as feminists replicating this ridiculous cry.

The nuances between all these intersections differ in myriad ways, but the principle by and large remains the same. It really is heartbreaking and disappointing to see otherwise supportive feminists fail to realize that their “not all cis”, “not all white”, “not all straight” messages serve them up as a direct equivalent to the “not all men!” men that they strive so hard to condescend and invalidate. What I can’t get my head round is their inability to recognize that every single member of an oppressor group IS complicit in the oppression that that group lords over a marginalized group.

But, but, this is obvious and repeated time and time again when it comes to patriachal ideas — many, or even most, feminists realize that while there do exist tons of genuinely nice guys, supportive men who don’t believe in their superiority over women and make no effort whatsoever to ever oppress women in any way, but we also tend to take it as a given that all men are complicit in the system that serves to oppress women, because, their own personal views on women notwithstanding, society does reward men in this patriarchal society.

Yet when it comes to seeing white supremacy or cis privilege in the same light, these same feminists struggle to see the comparison. “But I’M not a racist!”, they cry. “I’m NOT one of those white/cis/straight peoplee you keep decrying!” Quick little tip: as soon as you want to focus the spotlight on just one member of those oppressor groups, i.e. you, and turn the conversation into how you’re such a nice person and you’ve never oppressed people of color/trans people/LGB people etc., that makes you one of *those* people. Derailing a conversation that is discussing systemic oppression from one group towards another to turn it not only personal, but to appease your own misguided sense of morality and alleviate your guilt, is contributing to that oppression, because the voices that matter, and the necessary discussions thereof, are not being heard.

Look, I know it’s a tough and bumpy road coming to terms with the fact that you hold privilege in this society. Feminists are so used to the fact that women as a group are a marginalized, not an oppressor, group and so sometimes this feels like you must lack any privilege. But patriarchy, i.e. how all men oppress all women, is not the only power system of oppression that operates in today’s world, and the sooner it’s realized, the better for everyone. Women can be oppressors, but they are never oppressors *because* they are women. Trans men do have male privilege over cis women, but cis women have cis privilege over those same trans men. A gay white woman still has white privilege over a straight black man. Privilege does not mean your life isn’t difficult. It doesn’t mean you actively oppress marginalized groups. But it means that society does favor white, cis, straight, able-bodied men over everyone else, and so if any of those refer to you, you have privilege over people who do not. Privilege is not a one-issue matter. It’s not “you have it or you don’t”. You can have various privileges and lack various privileges, and they might not even have a tangible effect on your life, but they exist, and they are, whether you like it or not, complicit in the oppression over the marginalized group that you have privilege over.

The derailment of important conversations is disgusting and damn irrelevant. Do you, my fellow feminists, tolerate men who try to derail every conversation with “not all men are like that”, “but I’M not like that”, “why are you generalizing men?” etc. etc.? Largely, no; you realize how the situation is being dealt with and you try to make these men realize that. So, don’t be that person in a conversation about transphobia, or racism, or ableism, or any other issue that discusses oppression. Yes, disparaging jokes on Tumblr are, at first, hard to take, but the retaliation and coping mechanisms of marginalized groups do not exist to make you feel comfortable. You are bound to feel “othered”, generalized, uncomfortable, at first, because as a member of an oppressor group, i.e. a group that holds power in society in its own respect, you are not used to having that part of your identity attacked and disparaged. You are not used to the members of an oppressed group being able to speak up and have their voices heard about how being oppressed affects them. You realize how unaccustomed you are to being included in a generalized group that is not the one being oppressed. If Tumblr is the only place you feel oppressed, chances are you are not oppressed. For many oppressed people, Tumblr is one of the only relatively safe spaces for them, but you are changing that for them. You, by derailing, are making it unsafe.

It maybe takes a while to get past being personally offended by things like that, but hey — making jokes on Tumblr does not give societal power to the marginalized. Stop acting like being the butt of an internet joke means you receive daily hate from most people every day and you can’t function ideally in a society that condemns you. Never should it be necessary to see a certain concept in your own context to realize exactly how it functions, but, if you are a woman, see what men say to you and apply it to what you say to groups that you marginalize. Think of all the men offended on Tumblr at jokes about men and think about how it’s ridiculous to you that of all things, that’s what they focus on. That’s what they take offense at. Think about your reaction, which might be something like this: “wow, men, it must be so frustratingly difficult being the butt of jokes all the time. Yeah, being a man is so hard in this society”, heavily laden with sarcasm, of course. Don’t you realize you are the “man” in all those other scenarios? If being joked about like that is so difficult to cope with, think about what the system actually does to oppressed groups, and how you’re wilfully refusing to recognize that in favor of focusing on that little bit of hurt you feel at being told you contribute to that.

Listen to marginalized groups. Stop taking offense at being grouped in with an oppressor group, because that’s your reality. See past the jokes they tell, because much more important things are being loudly shouted, and you keep ignoring them because you are so desperate to not be in the wrong. Realize it is not about you, adapt accordingly, and start supporting people. Because as long as you pull the “not all…” line, you are *not* any kind of ally and you are not supporting the groups that you claim you are supporting.

Something to take away from this: whenever someone says, “ugh, humanity”, no one ever pipes up “not all humans”, right? Because we know exactly what it means to say “ugh, humanity”; that even though there are perfectly wonderful people out there who’d never hurt a fly, the discussion is not about those people, it’s about the wicked people who do hurt people. And focusing on those good people and saying “but they’re not like that!” helps no one. So stop it.

Tumblr hates you if you’re cis, white, and straight? Society still hates you if you’re anything but.