I’ve spoken about the importance of language many times before and it feels the appropriate time to bring it up again. When you are working for a cause, there is a certain way to go about getting people to support you and see your side. I am an advocate for equality, no qualifications or exceptions. I’ve been following a lot of feminist advocates and I’ve been edgy about what they’ve been saying. I don’t like the expectation that we know something. I’ve read repeated demands saying that they “aren’t here to teach us anything” and it’s “wrong to demand they do anything” and that “we have to do the work”. I’m not arguing for a second that work needs to be done, but if I am asking specifically what you need and I need clarification, it is absolutely your job to specify. If I don’t know what context you’re speaking of then how can I possibly help you get what you need?
The truth is there is nothing I “should” know. My experience is not yours and vice versa. What I DO know is from my experience. What I want to know is my choice—and if I trust you enough to ask you what you need or to clarify something for me, then don’t pull the “You should know” card. What I will know is what I act on—including asking for help. No matter what your cause, don’t ever put yourself in position of “you are less than me” because someone is still learning. And don’t make demands of them their experience can’t keep up with or integrate unless you are going to help them. It doesn’t solve the problem in the former case.
We have to know where we’re going and why you want us to go there with you—and ultimately, we need to know what your goal is so we can work toward it together. It’s lazy to make demands with no explanation. Your demands of what I must do to appease you don’t speak to the whole truth of the situation. You’re perpetuating your misplaced anger and demanding I do the work without even qualifying what you want. Because the system as it is doesn’t work so replacing it with a different group of people and still doing the same thing won’t fix it either. We have to understand each other—and that is what communication is for. It isn’t about putting power over someone or making them feel bad because they didn’t know better and didn’t know how to meet your expectation.
The bottom line is that we all know there is work to be done—more than can be done in a lifetime. But beyond who did what and why we feel the way we do, it’s more important to focus on where we are going. Speak up, make your voice heard so we know we aren’t done yet. But if someone is willing to help in any capacity, then don’t criticize when they get it wrong. They’re still learning too.