Rules of Feminism 10: Eternal Vigilance

Nov 10, 2013 | Opinions

So here we are, finally at the end. Thanks for reading this series. I hope it’s been interesting for you… I’ve saved this for the last, because it’s so important to me.

The price of truly being an ally is eternal vigilance.

Everything I’ve said already means nothing without self-reflection.

You may think that you’re not sexist, racist, whatever, but that’s not possible unless you grew up without human contact. The world is racist, sexist, prejudiced, bigoted. You are a part of a society that has soaked you in its own set of oppressive norms, and just because you know they exist doesn’t mean you are free from them. It doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes speak or act with their influence.

Because you’re not completely egalitarian, no matter how much you want to believe you are. There is no shame in admitting this. There is shame in how you deal with it – whether you run from it or face it head on. You will make mistakes. You will say things or do things that are bigoted without even realizing it. Sometimes, the people who suffer from bigotry will call you out on this, but they’re under no obligation to do so. Your education is your own responsibility, after all.

The most dangerous delusion that you can ever fall victim to is that you are without fault, and the oppressed are wrong.

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.

-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

This is where social justice begins, along that line. And the price of moving it is eternal vigilance; to analyze ourselves, to find our faults, to strive to be better, and to prove ourselves worthy of trust. And yeah, it may be hard to break your way of thinking or speaking or acting, but it’s worth it, because changing the world begins with changing ourselves.

It’s worth it when gay people can get married, and women can work where they choose, and having black skin is no more notable than having blue eyes, and men can cry without censure. We will have this world someday. I know we will.