This post began as a note on Facebook, which I've decided to reblog here as it might help others engaging in social activism online, and facing similar barriers. Recently I've had one or two conversations which have hurt, and added to years of similar conversations which have hurt (a long, frustrating cycle of triggering, upset, anger, and subsequent guilt). These conversations were emotionally, mentally and physically taxing, and they caused me to unfriend and block certain people. So in the interest of full disclosure, here are 10 people I greatly struggle to talk with, and have often blocked / will often block in the future on social media - a handy guide. As you'll notice, when I discuss certain subjects, I willingly expose myself to all of the following in order to teach people:
1. Tory / ConDem apologists: people *I* am reading as defending, supporting, making excuses for, current UK government attacks on the livelihoods of disabled and sick people. When I discuss these issues, mortality rates are at the forefront of my mind. A lot of people have died because of current UK Welfare Reforms, cuts to NHS funding, and rapid NHS privatisation. If you think any of this is debatable and choose to tell me about it, I will block you.
2. People who a) accuse me, my style or methods of activism as "the problem with the Left." b) call me "divisive", erasing any societal divisions which have already been in place centuries before I was born, which I try to push back against in my own small, individual, social media way. I did not cause, and I do not support, these divisions. c) People who say my problem is that I'm "preaching to the choir." If you think I'm preaching to the choir, and you care what I have to say, get out of the congregation and into the choir. Telling me any of these things only serves to explain to me why you're not listening.
3. People who do any of the following (which I regard as ableism if *I* judge the conversation to be pertinent to disability or related intersections of oppression): white / able / mansplaining, derailing, concern-trolling, gaslighting, victim-blaming, erasure and flattening-out of oppression struggle into "hard times" we all face (we do not all face oppression).
4. People who tell me that more people would listen if I was more polite and I shouted less. Do you think I've been in an ableist society for 32 years and never asked anyone nicely to stop being ableist? Judging by the way I conduct myself as an activist, judging by the stories I tell and the articles I link to, do you think politeness has ever worked as a tool against ableism or any other oppression? Rhetorical question. Politeness doesn't work. Politeness is not as near to Goodness or Righteousness as you think. Sometimes it is damn far, even abusive.
5. "Not All" Men / Abled People / White People / Straight People / Cis People: those who deny any personal complicity in oppressions which are caused and reinforced by entire privileged social classes on a widespread, societal basis. If I implicated you in what I said and it stung, trust that I use my words carefully and that the sting is an inevitable and good outcome. You can either use the sting to learn something, or blame me for stinging you, piling your complaints onto the collective onslaught which is my daily oppression.
6. People who "don't like labels", and therefore feel the right to proceed to police the labels *I* choose to describe my life experience and identity. You may not realise you're doing this, but if I have to spend more than one or two exchanges debating the merits and faults of self-identifying labels with you, you are doing it.
7. People who make me spend significant amounts of time personally teaching them about the issues, then forget and dismiss that effort as soon as they get cross or "offended" by anything I've said. Not once did I tell you nothing I've got to say will sting. Not once did I say you are a successful ally simply for caring. There is work to do.
8. People who refuse point-blank to respect and understand the concept of privilege, and then refuse to check their own privilege when I patiently (or impatiently) lay out the reasons they need to.
9. People who scoff at, laugh at, baulk at or undermine the entire framework I do my best to work under as an activist: intersectionality. Calling it (for example) a privileged discourse which requires a university education because it uses "long words" is a denial that it was written by those facing racial, cis/hetero/sexist, classist, economic and disability struggles (among others). Many intersectional activists, primarily Black women and Women of Colour, do their work via a home computer, and access to this assistive technology neither proves their privilege nor erases their oppression.
10. People who position themselves above me by identifying as an "ally" but demonstrably proving to be actively detrimental to my work by doing any of the above. And people who defend others who've done it.
If you have ever been unfriended or blocked by me on social media, it will almost certainly be because you did one of these, not because 1) I'm nasty, 2) had a bad day, 3) "won't let anyone disagree with me", 4) can't engage in civil discussion. I have fabulous discussions all day, every day, with those colleagues and allies who grasp what I'm about. If I'm not having fabulous discussions with you, you need to ask yourself why, instead of assuming I've just ignored how great you are.
You now have been gifted the privilege of clarification. Go and sin no more.