ANAHEED: I think we need to leave each other room to make mistakes sometimes. I think it’s OK to be naïve and just figuring things out, and I think that saying anyone who isn’t a PERFECT FEMINIST—anyone who has ever offended anyone or been ignorant about some issue at some point—isn’t allowed in the club is a good way of making sure that no one will ever be a feminist, and, beyond that, that no one will ever learn anything or feel like they have support for widening their worldview.
SADY: Well, I mean, I would love for us all to be on the same team. I think we can hurt each other pretty deeply, though, by not getting each other. I’ve done that. I’ve hurt people by not getting their stuff. And I can’t blame people for being hurt a lot by privileged ladies and then expressing their anger.
JENNY: There is SO MUCH underlying privilege in these discussions about “anger.” And if you are someone who every freaking day has to deal with that ignorance, has to be one who TEACH others and EXPLAIN to others or deal with other people’s gaze at you, then who do you get angry at? How do we get angry at a system? I think it’s important to remember that the crusade against cultural appropriation is also a crusade against real violence and real violations that continue to affect people around the world. And for those reasons, I really have no problem with someone who is struggling with these feelings to be like HEY THAT BINDI IS RACIST or like HEY THAT INSTA PIC IS IGNORANT, even if that comment really does not help to advance the progress of human compassion and does not really eradicate the thorny problems of racism—because it’s at least an attempt to articulate something, to acknowledge that your feelings are valid, that racism exists, that racism is bolstered and upheld by institutions and policies and globalism and capitalism. It’s an attempt to point out to people, “I know you never have to think about this, but I cannot choose not to think about it, and I need for there to be a place where I can go to just be like AAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH STOP. And then maybe I will get to a point later where I can be articulate and thoughtful. But first I might just need to be like AGAGGGGGHHHHHHH.”
It’s really the responsibility of people with privilege to be willing to listen. If you have privilege and you are always going to follow your knee-jerk, gut reaction of being like LOL YOU THINK A WHITE PERSON CAN’T WEAR BINDIS AND THAT IT MAKES ME A RACIST? then maybe the issue is that you are not open to considering what it feels like to be a person of color living in a racist world.
ANAHEED: Ouch to that. You’re right—my knee-jerk OH GOD WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL reaction is something I can have only because I’m privileged. There is also a gross part of me, also made possible by massive piles of privilege, that is like: STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO THINK ABOUT THINGS! Or, even worse: STOP TELLING ME TO THINK ABOUT THINGS!
JENNY: The thing is, I really want it to be possible to wear a turban just because it looks good, or to wear a bindi because it’s cute. I don’t want to live in a world where that stuff causes infighting amongst feminists. But, still I wonder: Who is fighting for Muslim women who wear headscarves to be treated the same as white women in jeans and a T-shirt? Who is fighting against the fashion industry stealing ideas from other cultures and then being hailed as “edgy”? Who is fighting against awful, ridiculous caricatures and stereotypes of Asian people or indigenous people in movies and on TV? When all groups of people have the privilege to wear something for frivolous reasons, when all groups of people are truly not criminalized or policed for the way they dress (and I’m talking about the actual police not the TUMBLR PO PO), that’s when that article of clothing ceases to be harmful and becomes a thing of pleasure and beauty, which is what we all want fashion and clothes to be anyway.
SADY: I want to get back to what we were talking about before, about intent. I think that when you’re just looking to vent about some random thing that hurt you or angered you, the intent isn’t as important—yours or theirs. You don’t care why it hurt you, and it doesn’t matter why you need to vent, you just do. But if you’re talking to a friend, or a peer, and trying, in good faith, to understand each other, intent matters a ton. If a person you know says, “Hey, I think what you’re doing right now is fucked up; maybe you want to think about it from this angle…,” and you know that this person knows you and has invested in you and cares enough to have this uncomfortable conversation with you, because they believe it might help you both, you can’t close yourself off to that. If you do, that’s fucked up, because it means you don’t want to communicate with a friend about something that’s bothering them, which is just selfish.
ANAHEED: You want proof that conversation among friends works to change minds? This conversation changed my thinking! Like, going into it I knew that cultural appropriation was “wrong” but I think I harbored some vague and dumb idea that it was about RULES and the PC POLICE and what you are ALLOWED to wear or not, which is so ignorant of me. So thank you, everyone, for making me a less ignorant and terrible person! And for taking so much time to hash all of this out together. ♦