“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.


Escaping the Post-Graduation Funk: part 2.

Okay, so I have completely failed to update this blog as a whole, and especially this series that I was so set on doing, for quite a while! Yeah, I know; let’s all pretend we’re surprised. Here’s what’s going on in terms of my “being an adult and moving up in the world” strategy:

The most accessible plan, and the one I’m going for, is that I’m going to apply for some postgraduate courses at a smaller university that’s closer to home, so they won’t be classics courses, but it’s a chance for me to branch out a bit. One is the MLitt in English Language and Linguistics, which subject I briefly mentioned in my last post; I’ve been in touch with the admissions because I wasn’t sure whether I’d be completely out of my depth jumping right in, but I’ve been encouraged by them to apply! I’m not 100% sure what I will want to progress onto with that, whether stick in the field or branch out again, but this is getting to be my hallmark – taking another turn on the humanities path and see where it will get me! Not the most useful, but I’m a great believer in doing what I want to do providing it doesn’t leave me too high and dry.

The other course I know I’m applying to is Gender Studies. There’s a choice between the MLitt and the MSc, but I’d be taking the MLitt route. It’s an applied course, which means I’d do a research placement module and it makes that professional world a lot more accessible. As an enthusiastic feminist, but as of yet having not made any real mark in that world as a whole, the thought of doing the course really excites me as it will consolidate my thoughts and thinking on various topics and present many opportunities for a job in that sort of thing.

So, those are the two I’ll definitely apply to and see what happens. I’m thinking about applying to one or two more, like the Gothic Imagination one – a classics degree definitely puts you on the right track for writing English essays! I plan to commute through if I get a place, and continue working at Debenhams for the time being, or if another job opportunity comes up that is flexible and right for me, I would consider jumping ship. Depending on how busy I get/how much I can afford to do it, I might consider cutting my hours a bit, but I’ll push myself through as much as I can so that I can keep earning as much as I do while also making progress on the ‘career’ path.

The other ideas I brainstormed in my last post, like the YouTubing and novelwriting, are of course still milling about in the back, and I continue to keep those up (the YouTubing isn’t exactly happening right now, actually, but it will!) in the hope that one day they might provide opportunities too.

The next post in this series – I feel like if I pick a topic and mention it here, it will mean I have to make the commitment! – will be about having to move back home and trying to stay organized in that respect. Maybe that one will be a bit more useful for everyone! But as ever, thank you for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed this. And, as ever, I apologize for the huge time lapses between posts!

Until next time,
Sascha x

Four and a half months later.

I’ve been out of action for quite some time now, on all of my creative outlets, really; both my blogs, both my YouTube channels, and my novels are going at a snail’s pace. I’ve been active on Tumblr, plus the usual Facebook and Twitter, but that’s it as far as things go, so life’s been pretty dead around here. I’ve been busy with my newish job, but I’ve still frittered away lots of my free time, although in the past week or so, I’ve been feeling creativity slowly flowing back to me, so it’s only a matter of time before I’m back filming for YouTube too. 🙂

One of the first things I want to mention is that while I’ve been AWOL, I’ve become quite active in feminism groups – I’ve always felt feminist, but up until a few months ago I thought of the label as a sort of dirty word, a stigmatized word that I didn’t want to be a part of. Now I proudly embrace the label, and feel I must heavily apologize for what was my last post on this blog – The Burden of YouTube Popularity. I failed to recognize that the YouTubers I mentioned are victims of the patriarchy too, and that they are just as influenced by that and the media as we all are. It was unfair of me to put them on pedestals and forget that they are human beings like the rest of us. I rescind most of what I wrote on that subject, though I will keep the post up, especially as there was a comment left on it that I think people would appreciate if they read the post with their nostrils flaming.

I’ve made a lot of lovely friends through my feminist presence online, and as much as having my eyes opened to a worse world than I realized, I’ve enjoyed the journey. I still have so much to learn, but I am willing to learn, and I am never going to stop fighting for every single one of us, that we may be free of the shackles of patriarchy.

As I mentioned, I’ve been working a lot, but since it’s in retail, it’s been pretty soul-destroying. No, I do enjoy my job a lot, but in terms of productivity and creativity, it really doesn’t offer much. I have agreed with myself, and my brother since he’s doing the same thing, that by the end of the calendar year, we shall have a game plan – whatever it is. I know my working there is temporary, and I need to push myself so as not to end up settling for less. My 23rd birthday is at the very end of the year – the 31st, in fact, so quite literally so – so I feel it’s good timing. My brother as part of his therapy is setting aside certain time each week for making progress on a sort of ‘life to-do list’, and he’s involved me in that, at his psychologist’s suggestion, so options will be carved out quite soon. I know that without my own input, life cannot change, and go all the awesome new ways I’ve always hoped it would, so I’m making a massive effort from now on to get myself where I want to be.

Certain things I’ve massively procrastinated with – even getting my room redone. I’m needing to drastically reduce my belongings, and get my walls painted, and make my room a wonderfully creative space in which to work. I need to get back up and running with both my YouTube channels, since I’ve had lots of plans for them for a long time now. I need to restart the Cover Version Tuesday contest that I was posting each week on this blog. I need to move a lot faster with my novelwriting, and write more poetry.

I can’t keep calling this a post-graduation funk, nor can I let another funk keep me away from all the things I love for so long again. Here’s to hoping I get back on the wagon for good 🙂

The burden of YouTube popularity?

It’s 1am so I hope I’m coherent enough to say this! I frequently watch makeup tutorials on YouTube – I mainly have certain subscriptions and stick to them. A lot of the women’s main demographic is young, teenage girls, and they know it, so their content is often adapted to fit that (One Direction-esque things, dating advice, etc.), but I see so many problematic things in them – things that might seem casual or subtle to another eye.

The women perpetuate the notion that a bare face is ‘OMG the horror!’ I believe you can run a makeup channel and introduce teens to makeup in a way that doesn’t suggest you MUST wear it constantly and God forbid anyone sees you without any on. The latest video I watched actually said “thumbs up for bare face bravery!” While this might be a sad commentary on the individual’s insecurity about her looks, I don’t think it was solely that, and however it was intended, it still perpetuates the message that you can’t have a positive approach to being seen bare-faced, that your natural face is something you must be ashamed of and want to cover up pronto.

I have so many problems with these videos, not only makeup and beauty ones – they’re very heteronormative, reductive in the views of variety in humans, and often casually sexist in other ways. One of the guys I watch is a lovely guy, but seems a bit dim when it comes to the possibility of things being sexist. He’s one of those “I love chocolate – I’m such a girl” people – and that’s a paraphrase of something he ACTUALLY said. His videos involve a bit of ‘dirty’ humor, and he has no problem with the word ‘penis’, but he seems to be unable to use the word ‘vagina’ – it’s all ‘vajayjay’, ‘lady bits’ and, urgh, ‘lady penis’. I shit you not – ‘lady penis’.

What worries me about this is that these YouTubers are actually very influential in their circles – there are so many young girls out there who actually idolize these people. I’ve seen their Twitter accounts and videos of meetups they hold, and they’re worshipped like any other celebrity. The fans hang on to their every word, and instead of being introduced to makeup as something fun you can add to your life, they’re instead having it drummed into them that it’s wrong to go bare-faced, that they must use 10 million products to cover dark circles and spots and mimic sharp cheekbones (with expensive products no less), and to subscribe (almost literally) to an ideal of beauty that they shouldn’t feel obliged to agree with. They end up internalizing comments such as “I’m such a girl” as if it were true and natural for them.

The fans are young, so I want to say I hope they ‘grow out of’ the ‘brainwashing’, so to speak, but in fact, it’s sad to use the moment that should be ideal for getting young people involved in feeling independent and not about conforming to ridiculous notions about beauty to instead indoctrinate them into an even casually sexist, always-made-up sort of world. Instead, I pity the droves of young girls I see Tweeting these YouTubers with comments such as “I’m so jealous, you’re so gorgeous”. The YouTubers have a platform with which to shout out that it’s important for people to feel happy with themselves, and show that they can have makeup channels without putting insecurities into girls’ minds as to whether their cheeks are too ‘fat’ and need contoured or their eyebrows need filled in before they even think about leaving the house. It’s the way tutorials make certain things seem horrorful and almost disgusting that I find disagreeable. There’s not enough stressing that these things are a choice.

I’ve started to leave comments here and there nicely pointing out some specific problems I see in the videos, rather than going all out on their channels like “OMG YOU’RE SO PROBLEMATICALLY SEXIST AND BRAINWASHING YOUNG GIRLS WITH EVERYTHING YOU DO.” That’s ineffective, for starters – no one’s going to listen to that. I believe that by beginning to point out little things, hopefully they and their fans will begin to take notice. I think the YouTubers are rather unaware of the harm they might be doing, so it’s important to educate them directly rather than throwing out insults they’re going to deem as nothing more than ‘trollish’ comments.

Anyhow, this was just a bit of a ramble after I did some browsing of my YouTube subscriptions. Apart from these little things (and actually, they’re not just ‘little things’), I do enjoy the videos I watch and like the people who make them; I just feel that it would be good if I use the opportunity to let them know that certain things they say or do are not harmless. It still feels like a losing battle these days, but I hope some of the young fans will see my comments and others like mine and realize that they don’t have to feel embarrassed about their makeup-free face.

Keep in mind that I say this as a fan of the makeup tutorials. I personally don’t wear much makeup myself – simply mascara and lip balm most days – but I’m not criticizing those who wear makeup so much as those who are, admittedly rather inadvertently, pressuring young people to subscribe to their problematic beauty ideals.