OpEd: The Activist's Guide to Putting Aside Our Differences to Fight for Our Differences

Tree of Life - As Above, So BelowA while back, a friend made the comment that she had seen my Facebook status, and it made her think about that particular issue I’d brought up, saying, “You have so many causes, I can’t keep up.”

Wrong.  I have ONE cause — Human Rights.  All other rights issues stem from this central trunk of the rights and issues’ family tree.  Women’s rights, LGBT, genital integrity, workers’ rights, children’s rights, and more — ALL are branches of the primary concept that roots us in our basic right to self-determination, autonomy, and our humanity.

Today provided a perfect example of how different experiences color our activism.  Usually, this is a good thing, but occasionally, our pain from our own experiences clouds our words, resulting in our message devolving into a war of emotion.  It becomes a contest of “my pain is greater than your pain”  — a competition no one wins.

My morning started with me checking my Facebook and Twitter while I made breakfast as I hurried my daughter to get up, get ready for school, and catch the bus.

I try not to spend all day on Twitter, but tomorrow’s Full Moon seems to have kicked up people’s crazy cycles a day early.

First, on Facebook, I responded to a friend’s comment about his neighbors’ loud sex last night.  As the conversation progressed to sex positions (okay, I brought it up), I mentioned that the reason the original missionary position is the only position ever condoned by the Catholic church was because it provides the least pleasure for the woman.  It puts the man in the superior, stronger, aggressive position while the woman is inferior, at the mercy of the man, and passive and submissive.  Another chick chimed in saying some women “love to be ‘conquered.'”  As a woman who has spent most of my life fighting NOT to be conquered by men, I disagreed, but I did not linger since I had to get some real work done.

I spent a couple hours working my day-job (Thursdays are a day-off for me), and what followed was an entire day on social media in one activist role or another.  And I have preserved some of those exchanges in the photo gallery below. (To view them at full size, click the box on the lower right of your screen.)

The second round of today’s activism started out simple enough — me talking about orgasms, specifically, mine, and how I cry when I orgasm.  I followed that with a comment that men crying during orgasm is perfectly natural.  Twitter being a public forum, a random guy jumped in the convo with a rude comment ridiculing how it would look with a “he man blowing his load and crying.”  This began a series of tweets back and forth as I tried to explain that a man crying during orgasm is perfectly natural.  After all, men are human beings, and human beings have feelings.

Apparently, men are still not allowed to be full human beings in our society.

The third and most exasperating exchange occurred with a man who, it turns out, is also an activist — an intactivist, to be precise.  An intactivist is someone who fights for ending all circumcision — on males and females — because genital mutilation is a human rights violation of a child’s bodily autonomy and is sexual assault on the child.  This guy had tweeted the following comment:

“The sexual urges of women in our society are more important than the pain of a baby boy.”

After a morning of hearing that some women want to be conquered, men who cry are not masculine, and a few other ridiculous notions that are proof positive our society is still sexually repressed and almost entirely mentally unbalanced, I could not sit by and let this tweet go without standing up for women’s right to be sexual and not be shamed for it.  Did I do it the right way?  Could I have handled myself better?  Should I have called him a moron so many times?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The thought I had toward the end of this Twitter war (that lasted over a couple hours) is that this guy is reacting and projecting because of his own pain with his circumcision.  Just as I possibly was too harsh in earlier altercations today. 

Hearing a woman wants to be conquered made me think back to when I was molested as a kid, my rape when I was 21, and my Steubenville-esque experience.  Talking about the horribly unsatisfactory missionary position brought to mind my own status as one of the 70% of women who has never orgasmed during sex — a statistic for which I still feel shame for myself and anger at my partners for not caring enough about me to ensure I had pleasure, too.  It reignited my distaste for the porn industry that created a caricature of women as hyper-orgasmic nymphomaniac slut-bunnies — as opposed to erotica that presents sex and sexuality in a beautiful, honorable way.

I was reminded yet again of the hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of women who have been raped, tortured, killed outright, and burned at the stake by the Christian church who has feared women’s sexual power since Peter stole the church’s high seat from Mary Magdalene.  As a pagan witch doing research for my stage writings, I spent years reading witch trial transcripts, scouring historical documents of witch hunters, Inquisitors, and missionaries in Europe and in colonial America who were obsessed with exorcising the natural sexuality of women.  This does not include the women who were beaten, raped, and killed for wanting the right to vote, or the right to fight alongside men in the modern military.  Too many thoughts and memories swarmed in my mind.

Hearing that a man can’t cry when he experiences pleasure infuriated me because so much of our patriarchal, imperial, testosterone-driven culture still carries the gender-role prejudices of religion and hierarchical misogyny and misandry that does a disservice to women and men.

Today’s activism was about shame.  And pain.  And how, even when we mean well, speaking up for one issue cannot happen at the expense of demeaning other people who are probably also in pain.  After all, the oppressive culture that says mutilating a child’s genitals is okay is the same repressive culture that says a woman is to blame for her rape because of how she was dressed, or two people cannot love each other because they’re the same gender.

I’ve been a grassroots activist for 27 years, and I’ve seen in-fighting in every single rights group I’ve ever worked with — religious rights, American Indian rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights.  Who’s a real witch?  Who’s a real Indian?  Bisexuals aren’t really discriminated against.  Women don’t need full body autonomy or equal pay.  Conservative Democrats aren’t real Democrats. And it’s all bullshit.

My motto has always been, “Human Rights are non-negotiable.”

I love that there are so many of us, each working in a niche that is important to us.  Yet, that does not mean one corner of activism outweighs another.  We can’t all work for all causes at all times.  We have to split up into different groups to cover all the bases.  Remember that equality does not mean we are the same, but rather, though we may be different, we are of the same value as human beings.  Our human rights family tree is rooted in and celebrates our differences, with roots deep in the soil of our humanity, echoing the ancient axiom, “As above, so below.”

However, if you only care about one group who is hurt or exploited and not another, then you’re not working for rights issues, you’re a special interest asshat who is no better than the elitist oppressors who mock human rights activism while making fortunes off the masses’ suffering.

So I may not know the full extent of pain that another person has experienced, just as they won’t know the full extent of mine.  But we can try to listen better.  We can forgo the pain-game and stick to the work at hand.  Don’t allow the oppressors’ need to stuff us into boxes and categories or divide us into opposing sides hinder our work of coming together and doing the work.

We are better than that. Do the work.  Be the Change.

We Are All Connected.



Further Reading:

0 Replies to “OpEd: The Activist's Guide to Putting Aside Our Differences to Fight for Our Differences”

  1. I agree with you on so many levels. However, I gotta make one caveat; for meaningful improvement, we must be mature enough to own our pain, to work through it. Mr. MoMo makes an argument to the absurd to mask his own pain and worse, turn it on you for having the audacity to work through your own and find your happiness. Growth, improvement, and happiness is possible, your work here has helped people like me achieve a better, more open and giving relationship, but personal responsibility is key. There are still aspects to intimacy I’m not capable of but I’ll be damned if I hurt my Mrs.–or deride someone else over my lack of maturity. Don’t lose heart, Sis. Your work has helped so many. This little boy wouldn’t make the emotional height requirement for the relationship roller coaster.

  2. “Talking about the horribly unsatisfactory missionary position”

    My spouse of 24 years does fine by missionary, because it makes it very easy for her to combine penetration and masturbation. Thus she has climaxed every time we’ve come together.

    “…brought to mind my own status as one of the 70% of women who has never orgasmed during sex…”
    A generation ago, Shere Hite and the like reported that American women were 25% regular orgasmers, 50% erratic, and 25% seldom or never. There was a lot of talk in the 1960s and 70s of women faking orgasm. 70% strikes me as high, but I hasten to grant that many American women have difficulties enjoying penetrative sex. Male indifference and incompetence is a fair part of the problem. This baby boomer grew up with a lot of bawdy teen talk. But one subject that was almost never discussed was the clitoris and how to play with it. I am not confident that the typical American male is all that skillful at foreplay. It is true that there isn’t a lot of talk of cunnilingus on the net. Most cunnilingus depicted is woman on woman.
    Circumcision is part of this picture. I think that a major reason why American women are angrier about RIC than men are is that a growing fraction of women suspect that circumcision is the deep cause of their boring or bad marital sex.

    ” — a statistic for which I still feel shame for myself and anger at my partners for not caring enough about me to ensure I had pleasure, too.”
    This Catholic baby boomer from the midwest did learn one thing from high school and college bawdy talk. The point of sex is to thrill women, is to bond a woman to a particular man. A man indifferent to whether the woman next to him in bed climaxes or not is not fit for purpose. This is why I cannot conceive of trafficking with a prostitute. She would be quite put off by my insistence on getting her excited, because she would have no desire for an ongoing relationship with me.

    “It reignited my distaste for the porn industry that created a caricature of women as hyper-orgasmic nymphomaniac slut-bunnies…”
    More and more erotica is made by women and is grounded in female pride. So many women have used digicams and broadband to photograph themselves nude that the ability to charge money for softcore porn may vanish: there is simply so much free and “amateur” stuff out there. 40 years ago, to publish a photograph of the vulva outside of a medical text was borderline legal. Now hundreds of thousands of women around their world have spread their legs on camera. I am surprised at the number of women who do pose while doing nothing to conceal their faces.

    Too much of porn strikes me as penis worship, and the high heels, sex toys, and semen on the face do nothing for me. I do not like the ability to reblog and clipboard images at will. Each person willing to be depicted naked on the internet would have password-protected “locked cupboard”. The manager to the cupboard would verify age. The owner of the password could delete some or all images at any time. The owner could decide whether the images could be reblogged or not. If they were reblogged, deleting the image in the cupboard would automatically delete all versions of that image everywhere on the net.

    The internet has given rise to a massive assault on traditional female modesty. It remains to be seen whether this tidal wave of explicitness is truly sex positive. I wish more women felt comfortable showing pubic hair. I want to see the age of consent raised from 18 to 21. I do agree that to tell a woman past her 30th birthday what body parts she can and cannot reveal on the internet, or in an indoor pool or on a quiet beach or on a wilderness trail, is patronising and demeaning. In other words, there should be an age limit on indecent exposure. By the end of this century, I predict that no part of a fully adult woman’s body will be taboo. No one will pay money to view a nude woman.