One of the ways that people derail activism, whether intentionally or accidentally, is to suggest that the person who is pointing out what they feel is an example of stigma, oppression, bullying etc is just “too sensitive,” is “overreacting” etc.
This is sticky because there can be a lot of disagreement about what does and doesn’t constitute bigotry, stigma and oppression. To me it’s not about if we disagree, but rather about how we deal with the disagreement. Someone says that something feels oppressive/stigmatizing/bullying etc. Someone else disagrees. So far so good.
The person who disagrees now has options, some of which are:
a. Note their disagreement and choose not to sign the petition, e-mail the business, etc.
b. Open a discussion asking if the person is interested in discussing it more.
c. Write the person a nasty e-mail telling them that their experience is invalid and their belief is wrong.
We are all the boss of our underpants and we can all make any of those choices, I would ask that we really consider if choice c is the one we want to make, especially within our community. We don’t have to agree with each other, I’m not suggesting that we need to support something we disagree with, I’m just suggesting that we take a pass on tearing down people who speak up by suggesting that we are somehow the Authority on oppression and stigma and that our opinion is the only correct one, or that if it’s good enough for me then it should be good enough for everyone. I believe that we can have respectful dialog about these disagreements without tearing each other down, and that it would be awesome if we would do that.
If you are the person who is dealing with this, know that you are not alone. I doubt that anybody who has ever fought against oppression has avoided this type of criticism. Sometimes the person doing the criticizing is well meaning but has an over exaggerated sense of self-importance. Sometimes they can’t tell the difference between their opinion and actual fact. Some people just like to criticize.
If this is happening to you know that you have a right to your opinion and to be a witness to your experience. One thing I have learned is that the only way to avoid criticism is to do absolutely nothing, so sometimes it helps me to remember that if I’m being criticized, it is proof that I’m doing something.
Somebody left this quote in one of my posts a while ago and I thought it was perfect for this post as well:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
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