(photo by me. Central Park, 2011)
Last Saturday, I drank sangria with Fat and the Ivy on the Lower East Side before we went to hear Dean Spade speak at Bluestockings. The whole night was pretty remarkable, which made up for the fact that I’d gotten out of my bed at 4 pm that day.
I’ve been feeling kind of haunted lately, at the same time as my political brain is surging forward and everything is becoming unraveled and simultaneously raveling into something else. I’m thinking mostly about the little voice that nags, that says things that I don’t actually believe. It’s important to remember that it’s not that that voice is right, so much as well fed, rewarded, validated and consistent. At Dean Spade’s talk, he remarked on the fact that people seem to really believe that change on a certain scale, or towards a certain end, is impossible (i.e. the legal system, the corporate media, gender “norms,” capitalism.) To paraphrase Spade badly, of course the system is telling us it’s impossible, because within the system we’re operating in, it IS impossible. The point is to keep things the way they are so certain classes, races, etc., keep benefitting. The answer is to create new systems, which we can do and are doing. (See Wall Street, Occupy, etc.)
What I’m trying to do, perpetually, is to decolonize my brain. Last weekend, S and I went to a fancy brunch fundraiser for an abortion rights organization. (The tickets were free, as were the drinks, so I had two mimosas. WHO AM I?) One of the speakers who addressed the almost exclusively white, well coiffed crowd was a woman who told the story of her abortion, which she had at 32 weeks upon learning that her very much wanted baby had a horrible, irreversible brain anomaly. She and her husband traveled to Colorado to have the abortion, and as she told us her story, she cried.
I just kept thinking that this is the story we have to tell to make abortion palatable to others-the government, each other. If a woman is white and married and straight and has financial means and has other children, her abortion is acceptable. A woman who very much wants a child and has an abortion because of circumstances like the ones described, she will be asked to tell her story to move others. If that woman is of color, poor, young, not married, doesn’t want a child, etc., her abortion is unacceptable.
When I talk about decolonizing my brain, I mean confronting thoughts like, well, just don’t have sex. See how that works? That trope, of who gets access to birth control, who should be able to have control over their reproductive capacity, who “deserves” sex, who deserves to have sex without getting pregnant, is alive in my head, it’s alive in all of our heads. The racism and classism and sexism. etc. has snuggled itself deeply into our brains after years of living in a world that rewards that shit. The task is to dig and unearth where it came from, and then it’s the shaking off of it. It’s sticky, though. It doesn’t come off easily. It’s scary to lose it, because then you have to figure out a whole new way to live and think. Keeping my brain in line with all those racist, sexist beliefs has not only kept me safe, it’s kept me buoyant.
It’s also kept me fucked up. Example: I am surrounded by folks who are really radical and smart and powerful. If we all combined our power and our energy and our brains, we could put a nice, big, quivering hole in the patriarchy. Instead, I find myself hesitant about sharing space, jealous at the accomplishments of other women, feeling badly about myself because I am not where they are. It was during a workshop at the CLPP conference that I had this revelation-the reason I feel this way has a lot to with capitalism. In capitalism, you don’t share. You get as much stuff as you can, because you deserve it, and you don’t give it away, and that includes credit for things you’ve done, made, etc. If you share, or redistribute, you lose what is YOURS. People who try to take away your stuff are doing so because they can’t get their own, and because they don’t deserve it. They didn’t work for it. They aren’t good enough, because clearly, the system hasn’t worked for them. (Remember that the premise is that the system is supposed to work for everyone, because it’s Fair.)
And in the meantime, the student loan debt in the United States has hit one trillion dollars, some of which is mine, and the existence of which is supposed to make us feel shitty and irresponsible and not good enough. That is another blog post all together. In the meantime, you’re probably tired. Take a day off.