Have you ever experienced the unnamed phenomenon when you first learn about something, be it a new genre of music, or a trending buzzword, or something – and suddenly it’s everywhere you look?
For the past two months, I have been experiencing this with the term “hetero-normativity.” Wikipedia defines this as ” the body of lifestyle norms that holds that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It asserts that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes.” I see it as the mindset of seeing the world through gender binary lenses – ignorant of identifying as trans, genderfluid, genderqueer, and the multitudes of other identities. I now see the world as an incredibly hetero-normative place, something I’ve never noticed before – probably because as a heterosexual person I’ve never needed to see it as anything but.
I’ve also, at every turn, found a new chapter regarding pro-sex and/or pro- sex work feminism. When I first starting reading about sex work, I was ignorant of the fact that “prostitute” is considered by many to be a slur, and that victims of sexual trafficking and rape are not always the same as a consensual sex worker.
This all started with a well-meaning blog post about politics and policing women’s bodies that depended greatly on junk-science regarding fetuses and pregnant women. At some point I made an uneducated and confusing statement about fetal gender, and was…well, called out by another blogger regarding that statement. While the blogger and I exchanged a few words about her initially less than kind words about me, in hindsight she made a good point about my ignorance about the trans movement and how gender identity is a moving target. Regrettably, I didn’t really know what I was talking about, and I am willing to own up to that.
Furthermore, I have an online correspondence with a fellow-forward thinker who has completely re-vamped the way I look at the world and feminism as a whole – she is a pan-sexual, disabled, poly-amorous sex worker. She was kind enough to offer her thoughts when I approached her regarding sex work and pornography (I initially had a firm stance that sex work was harmful and bad – this was based on the writings of an exited victim of trafficking who staked the claim that all prostitution is abhorrent) and she helped me realize the two different spheres of sex work – sexual trafficking is abhorrent. Naturally, a victim thereof would believe that all sex work falls into this category. However, consensual sex work is something else altogether. Furthermore, she and the Miley Cyrus incident helped me to realize that mainstream feminism is going through life with blinders on. White heterosexual women are supported, but anything that breaks the mold is categorized as “other.” To see what I mean, Google “solidarity is for white women” and see what I mean.
Evidently, when someone missteps or says something that is hurtful and/or ignorant, the proper thing to do is apologize and not try to explain away your initial intent – your intent means less than your effect. This video speaks volumes:
I do feel like it is important to say that being uneducated or ignorant about something is not the crime; the crime is choosing to remain ignorant. I want to speak as a voice for all women, all genders, everyone – my goal is to be an ally for all. So, in order to fix this problem and educate myself on these matters, I plan on embarking on a quest for knowledge, so to speak. I am going to read articles and blogs by people who know more than I do, have conversations with people who have lived vastly different lives than I, read books that I have never picked up before. I plan on taking a women and gender studies class at the local community college next year. Updates on this blog may be farther and fewer between as a result, but I’m determined to better myself as a feminist and an ally.
To sum up, I want to say to all of my readers and all of the people out there; As a white, heterosexual, able-bodied cisgender feminist woman – I am sorry. I am sorry for any ignorant and hurtful things I may have said or blogged or commented. I am sorry if inaction on my part at any point only condoned and perpetuated unjust or hurtful thought or action. I am sorry for my own hetero-normative behavior and conclusion-jumping. I am going to educate myself, and I will continue to stand by you as best I can.
I know initial intent is meaningless, but my intent now is to make things better. Isn’t that the goal, at the end of the day?
“We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names from bed to bed: Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.”
-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale