Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lessons from Blogging. Part II: How To Fight For Your Cause

This is the second post in the series that commemorates (!) the seventh anniversary of this blog. It's all about the lessons I have learned and how they might help you, too. It's not about the technical skills one needs for blogging. (So don't worry, I won't tell you how I write a post I wish nobody will read but which has to be written anyway.)

The topic of today's post is encapsulated in this cartoon:

Perhaps not quite encapsulated but hinted at? I like it because of the snake...

What this post is about is how to be a fighter without being a predator, how to fight for yourself as well as for others and how not to be so easily silenced when someone whines: "What about the children/menz/whatever?"

I thought that all other women by now had those skills but I have learned otherwise on the Internet. Even strong feminists can be turned away from their goals by being told that someone else's suffering is worse, or that they are selfish to work for the group they themselves belong to.

Or in simpler terms: Others will push your guilt buttons, because they work excellently when it comes to many women. The culture tells us to feel guilty about so much (did you have a glass of wine when pregnant?) that it can be difficult to gain the necessary distance and to notice that often the very people who accuse you are the ones who should feel guilty (did you start a war?).

That the accusations of selfishness and the guilt buttons work so very well for so many of us is the reason for the message of this post:

It's not necessary to choose between selfishness and kindness or between being a marauding monster or a doormat. Hillel said it well a very long time ago:

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?

It is that balance I aim for. It is also that balance I believe we should all aim for. Only introspection will tell you what your own corrections should be. But I see more women bending over backwards to care for others and not for themselves, despite the fact that one cannot keep giving without replenishing that what is to be given. I also see both men and women assume that it is women who should bend over backwards.

So how does one become a fighter under these circumstances? Remember what Hillel said, remember that when you fight for, say, feminism you are not fighting just for yourself or for the uppity rich white women of the United States but for all our daughters, all the young girls you read about in Afghanistan, all the young girls you read about in South Africa, all the women of the world. You are fighting to stop an injustice, an unfairness, and that cannot but make the world a little bit more bearable. To be able to do this you must also take care of yourself because you are both the fighter and the weapon.

A bit hi-faluting. But that's what I learned.