I’ve been feeling troubled lately by the number of aggressive articles circulating the web. There seems to be a misunderstanding in regards to the meaning of opinion… Aggressively sharing an opinion and activism are not necessarily synonymous. I’ve read so many articles whose messages are muddled in the writer’s hate. Their point, in the end, loses power by the writer’s inability to refrain from swearing, bashing or satirizing. These methods hold their place. Satire, for instance, is certainly a prevalent mode when interacting with, say, politics. But I firmly believe that if one’s message is powerful, it may be expressed eloquently, strategically and comprehensively without relying on the word “fuck.” Swear words, it seems, are equated with power. There is a belief that these words infuse work with a certain level of intensity and thus, in turn, demand more of the reader. I disagree. I am not against swearing, admittedly I have a tendency to cuss myself, but I try to avoid using these words in my writing. Occasionally they appear in my fiction, but strictly within dialogue as a mean to develop character. To sum these feelings up, I believe that “People need to listen,” is as powerful or perhaps more powerful than “People need to fucking listen.”
I felt infuriated the other day upon reading an article about Beyonce’s pregnancy. This blog post is going to be tricky to write as it may inspire debate. I ask that you hear me out before forming conclusions. First of all, as a history major, I am deeply aware of the historic impact events hold, on the way they continue to shape cultures in the contemporary world. I also believe that, when using these events in an argument, one must remain aware of their significance and carefully choose when and how to discuss these events so as not to dismiss their weight. But even though I am aware, to the best of my ability, I can only, truly, understand my own world. I am a twenty-two year old white female from a middle class family in Calgary, Alberta. This detail does not “define” me, but it does contribute to my identity. I cannot change that fact. I am proud of who I am. But today, people are condemned, in a very general sense, for belonging to one ethnic group or another, to one class, religion or gender. So we’ve started to push back. We’ve started to analyze our differences. I do believe in equality, but I also recognize that right now, even if two individuals claim to believe in universal rights, many are held back by hate.
The following is an excerpt that breaks my heart not because it is true or untrue, I believe the following contains valid and invalid points but because it relies on such aggressive language to convey what is, ultimately, an issue grounded in an intricate and wounded social history. The following was published by theestablishment.com
I’m going to need white women to shut the fuck up with critiques relating to black women and pregnancy in general. When it comes to the Beyoncé and the artistry of those photographs, your whiteness and lack of awareness kept you from understanding the cultural references and the importance of Oshun. I don’t expect you to understand, but I honestly need you to stop and break down why misogynoir seems to be a pervasive theme for your shitty think pieces.
I recognize a lack of awareness but let’s be real, it’s impossible to remain completely aware and engaged with every social issue impacting this world of ours. It’s also impossible to truly step into another’s shoes and even if we say we understand, we probably don’t fully understand. This is okay, it’s human, we can only do and process so much but what I don’t understand is the lack of patience. I consider myself an open person, I want to hear and learn why certain situations are important, why they matter more to some than others, but I can’t do this if the first response following my “ignorant” questions are responses stemmed in hate. Meanwhile, I cannot tell if words like “fuck” and “shitty” used in this piece are supposed to cause me to more deeply consider the cultural relevance explored in this writing. What I do see is hypocrisy. In an attempt to call out one group for making ignorant assumptions and generalizations, this writer is in turn generalizing and perpetuating the hate problem.
I certainly recognize, though cannot understand, the experiences of individuals who have faced unfathomable injustice but how are we to proceed, how are we to make progress, if our writing is divisive? As writers, we are granted power and that power may be used to unite or divide. I hope to see a world in which writing aims to inform, educate, inspire, compel and focus on progress rather than dividing, condemning, generalizing and demeaning. There is a balance between calling attention to important matters and perpetuating an issue. Racism, which is inherently tied to deep seeded ignorance and fed by cultural conditioning, is important subject matter. It’s subject matter that should be written about! But if in writing about one issue is going to, in this case, condemn an entire group of women, I see but sad, cyclical writing that relies on the very issue of which it is disapproving to make its point.
The point of this article has nothing to do with whether white women or black women are “right.” The section of writing I chose to quote was chosen not because I am a white woman, nor was it chosen in an attempt to justify or defend, but rather because I believe that it clearly outlines how divisive and angry certain writings have become (though if you get digging, many archival writings have reflected hate too.) My point, in sum, is that we must learn to write in a way that demands the reader’s attention, that demands change where needed, that inspires cultural growth and oneness, that recognizes and appreciates history, but that is written in a way that not only holds the reader, but makes them want to change and learn.
Please feel free to comment and share opinions!