Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Difficulties of Alliances

I want to tell you that I'm going to post regularly. The fact of the matter is, I can't do that. I can't do that because I want to make sure that what I post has value, to me (let's be honest, a blog is basically a public diary) mostly, but also that it'll be worth your time to read. If I don't feel like my thoughts are collected enough, I won't write one. I will, however, keep sharing links on FB, IG, and Twitter so people can read it if they'd like. I appreciate everyone who takes time to look at these.

The entire idea for this blog comes, basically, from Chick-fil-A. Let's be clear about something, I friggen love their food. I would eat there regularly if I wasn't such a relatively healthy person.

However, due to circumstance and social circles, I have quite a few people who I consider friends in the LGBTQ+ community. So you can see the conflict there. While I don't know that the company's founders have changed their tune on gay rights, they have stopped donating to organizations who openly oppose gay marriage, so that conflict has softened a little bit. On the flip side, as one of my friends pointed out the other day, their sauce packets make a rainbow, so...?

Now I've floated the idea in my head for quite sometime about posting a blog relating to privilege because as a 6'7" fit white male in his 30's, I know it, but I haven't quite yet compiled all my thoughts on the issue. I do not subscribe, however, to the idea that others gaining the same rights and privileges I have in any way lessens my own. That's ludicrous.

So, here's the thing, I fancy myself as an ally. I'm trying, admittedly not as hard as I can, to stand up for marginalized groups. I also think that one of the best things I can do to do right now is raise Everett to do the same, but better than I do. Maybe it's a symptom of the culture, or an effect thereof, not sure how to define the difference, honestly, but I know I mess up doing this constantly.

If I'm truly going to be an ally, I have to admit to past wrongdoings. Chief among those is cracking or laughing at jokes where people of color, LGBTQ+, women, or countless other groups are the punchline. I did it. I'm not proud of it. It was stupid and I'm sorry. I am trying constantly to do better and, even though I know I have setbacks, I am confident I am.

The dilemma that often rises for me (and I'm sure others who fancy themselves allies) is when that desire to help faces off with things that we've long enjoyed, used, or participated in. The Chick-fil-A example is just one. What if a favorite artist or actor gets caught in a controversy? What about when a local business, which may be the only one you can easily get to for some essential, gets nailed for being bigoted? What then?

I haven't stopped eating at Chick-fil-A, so I'm glad they've begun changing, however incrementally. While the opportunity to eat at Jimmy John's doesn't come up all that often, I'm mostly avoiding them because of the founder's obsession with trophy hunting. I prefer Papa Murphy's to Papa John's, but there's a guy who seems to have no interest in redemption.

Above all that, the group that I have the hardest time really being a good ally for is women. The reason is simple, I have to overcome a certain level of systemic... training?

See, so many things that were considered chivalrous really are kinda demeaning. It's not that we shouldn't do things for women, it's that it shouldn't necessarily be limited to women...I think. Again, this is where I don't really know. As mentioned in a previous blog, I do consider myself to be a feminist, but I'm not always sure how to do that well. It upsets me when what I think would be a good-intentioned gesture by myself or someone else, gets reprimanded as misogynistic.

Realistically, I suppose that the answer has more to do with dialogue than anything. We all likely need to be more open-minded to people's intentions and reactions. I should know that. Perhaps the most valuable thing taught in communication courses is that the message is never really up to the sender, but rather the receiver. While I would never intentionally demean a woman's intelligence, ability, or worth, I'm sure I do it unintentionally.

Yes, the idea of open-minded dialogue is a microcosm of something that has to happen in the world as a whole. I am absolutely guilty of closing my mind off when people start talking about certain topics or topics from certain perspectives. I am working on that because I believe it's not enough to talk the talk, I need to walk the walk.

As always, I appreciate you reading this. I have to share an anecdote I thought was really funny that relates to this. Back in early fall, one of my fourth graders told me I throw like a girl. I, of course, knew he was kidding, but I asked, "Why would you think that's an insult?" He wasn't sure what to say, but I didn't expect him to say, "Because I assumed your gender?" WHAT?! I really wasn't sure what to say so when I finished laughing I told him I'd let him tell the softball players and volleyball players that he thought throwing like a girl was an insult. He didn't like that idea.

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