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When Social Justice and Social Lives meet…

If you’re part of one of these social circle echo chambers we keep being told are unrealistic and unhealthy, you’ve probably come across the odd person who is like me. Black and white thinking on certain matters can put a real crimp on my social life.

I care. I am definitely a bleeding heart liberal snowflake. I’m queer and I’ve been diagnosed with hEDS and Fibromyalgia, but I cared about disabled people before that. I didn’t know much about the chronic illness / disability communities that exist because I either wasn’t part of it or simply couldn’t comprehend life with limitations. But that didn’t stop me worrying about benefits being cut, the impact on people without support who die because their electricity is cut off.

I regret that I’m from a country built on colonialism and slave trade. I regret that poverty cycles and the resultant financial coercion leads to justification for giving up on people, condemns them as criminals. I hate rape culture, I hate austerity, I see so much wrong with the world that I am really not the most fun person to hang out with sometimes.

But the thing is… for every minute we congratulate ourselves on having our eyes open to these problems, there’s always an exception. There’s always the one person who is “alright really” as long as you ignore the rape apologism and racism they manage to convince themselves is just “being realistic” or playing devil’s advocate. There’s always someone who only pins people against walls when they’re drunk and as long as they’re not THAT drunk they’re fine, and anyway, they have problems themselves, you know. There’s always the stealth Tory, the Mansplainer, the condescending Nice Guy. The non monogamists who preach finding what works for each individual relationship but turn round and tell you that YOUR boundary isn’t enlightened and you’re repressed.

In my experience, codes of conduct are often ignored with the same “but this isn’t THAT bad…” logic. DIY Space for London make a point of communicating their accountability policy which is sadly incredibly rare but I think it’s wonderful to have discussed these issues and have policies to back them up, and I feel safer going to events there (like the fabulous sober dance party Choose Your Own Adventure!) than most places.

There’s always a level of hypocrisy. It’s how we wake up in the morning. It’s how we look ourselves in the mirror. We are flawed, we are human. We run on subconscious programming and we misread intentions, we do our best to muddle through. If we’re lucky, we find groups that share most of our values and we get on with it.

The problem came for me when I stopped being able to sit by and let it pass. I read too many outraged columns, I saw too many screaming arguments full of point scoring on Twitter. I bought into call out culture and I became militant.

I’m also traumatised. I’ve suffered at the hands of rape culture, as have plenty of my friends and acquaintances. I’ve been told to lose weight rather than diagnosed with the hypermobility that ended up changing my life. I’ve been kicked out of priority seating because my pain levels aren’t visible. Being vigilant and speaking up can be a tactic to prevent these small acts ruining my life.

Sometimes you can play by the rules, sometimes you can change them, but sometimes you think the rule is one thing and it turns out not to be.

I want to take part in society, contribute and enjoy myself. I want to fight back.

The trouble is, it’s unrealistic and exhausting to be fighting 24/7. It doesn’t feel admirable when the people I’m arguing with or condemning are in positions of power and can be of benefit to my friends. It doesn’t help anyone when professional contacts avoid a table I’m at. It doesn’t help me if I’m too furious to talk to a tutor at college who marks my work.

I may feel justified, but it comes with a side helping of cognitive dissonance that rattles me to the core. Why do these supposed allies not walk the walk? Why do we tolerate what we speak out against when it suits us?

 

I really don’t have any answers here. It’s a minefield. I’ve worked for people I disagreed with, I needed rent. I know the world can’t exist to my specifications, but the wider the gap between what we say we stand against and what happens under our noses, the more confused I am. Letting go of being judgemental is largely a positive thing, but being generous to the point I’m vulnerable doesn’t help either.

 

Have you noticed this happening? What are your experiences?

Talk to me!

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