We all make excuses for our behavior, particularly if we know we’re being just plain wrong. Whether under the guise of being ironic or sassy, I’ll cop to some jokes that I’d rather not be known as part of my public repertoire (except for anything to do with Sarah Palin because I really do hate that skank). I call it “political backsliding.”
In the church tradition I grew up in and have since renounced, backsliders were those who’d been baptized in the blood of the lamb, but were not being vigilant about how they trod the path to heaven. I think backsliders can always return prodigal-like to the fold. I’ve appropriated the concept and applied it to the discriminatory things I think (often) and say outloud (sometimes and in select company). Initially, I chalked it up to feeling confined by feminism: women, not girls! People of color, not minorities! Oriental is a style of home furnishings, not people! I felt like I was in a straightjacket of propriety, but unwilling to blame political correctness (which I think it an utterly bullshit way people try to continue with foul behavior).
However, it wasn’t feminism that was confining me, but that I was confining feminism and any other political struggle that tried to transform our social and political landscapes. Sure, there are some annoying doctrinaire edicts around language, but I voluntarily signed on to feminist ideology. What I was rebelling against was my own interpretation of feminism and what it should mean for my life.
So, I’m coming back to the fold language-wise and trying to get myself in check. Sorry to be all “everything I need to know I learned in kindergardten,” but rather than constricting my free speech, I’m actually valuing the fact that my words have power to hurt other people even if “I really don’t mean it” or think I’m being hipster-cool and in-the-know.
This article from Feministe on trans-phobia and non-transpeople using the word “tranny” made me re-think some things. Lengthy for a blog post, but a good reality check. Can I get an amen?