It really does frighten me to hear activists ask me, “Well, once our fight is over and we’ve succeeded, what is there? What does it look like? What do we have when oppression is over?”
It’s a question I was first asked by a very famous activist at an engagement about two years ago, and it legitimately dropped my jaw.
Have the people leading these movements internalized constant dehumanization, being impeded at every step, and confused fighting for existence with fighting as existence to that degree?
Disability without ableism looks like me placing objects gently, quietly, in a line on a flat surface.
Queerness without heterosexism looks like the smell of my lover’s face when they wake up in the morning.
Femme without patriarchy looks like the sensation of touching soft satin with soft fingers.
Being a person of color without white supremacy looks like learning while watching a wrinkled brown hand measure seasoning in its folds.
What do we have? We have ourselves. We have our lives. We have beauty and love and family and friends and songs and food and cats and stories and history and calm interiors and raucous exteriors and vice versa and both and everything at once.
Have we become so divorced from ourselves that these questions are necessary?
Our lives are stories and we are telling them right now.
These facts about ourselves are inseparable from our experiences. Don’t get so lost in philosophy that you forget your humanity, or other people’s.
i feel like a lot of people who ask these “what then?” questions are still operating under a capitalist/colonialist mindset, as in “how can i profit off this magical future in which everyone is liberated and equal?” (profit being whatever the individual in question defines it as) when the reality of it is that there will be no “profit”. there will simply be existence. but we as a species haven’t had a very good track record when it comes to leveling the playing field, which is why some people can’t fathom this, despite the fact that the activism in which they partake is a means to this end that they apparently know nothing of.
the reality of achieving the ultimate goal of activism is that there is no “next level”. there’s no new save file where you can fight the good fight all over again, let alone start over with recycled stats from your previous playthrough. if video games were more realistic, i highly doubt any of the characters would want to go through all that fighting all over again. so, why should we have to in the real world?
also, these “what then?” questions do nothing but tell me that, despite our efforts and despite what we tell ourselves, we (as an activist community) still believe deep down that our worth is tied to our efforts.
who gives a shit what identities will look like outside the framework of oppressive systems? because if it weren’t for oppressive systems, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. femininity was there before the patriarchy framed the label and decided that it was a bad thing. smashing the patriarchy won’t result in total abolition of the terminology and everything it entails, it would just make femininity a valid identity to have. that’s fucking it, and the same goes for everything else.
human beings have been using terminology to describe ourselves since the conception of language and i don’t think these terms that we have been given/given ourselves are going to just disappear or lose their importance once the sky opens up. there is already a long history associated with these terms and just throwing them out the window when our work is done seems counterproductive and downright disrespectful to everyone who sacrificed themselves for a noble cause.
it’s in our nature to stand out and be our own individuals in our own ways so i really don’t know why “what is x without y?” is even a fucking question—because i thought the humanity of x is what we were fighting for, not whether or not they’ll still be valid identities after y is gone.
the thing about linear equations is that x can live independently of y, whereas y needs another variable to function correctly.
(this has been sitting in my drafts for a while so i apologize for being late to the party)
No that’s fine actually because this convo doesn’t really go out of style.
I bolded a bit up there I’d like to address because it’s not necessarily true.
Since you’re framing this in terms of “patriarchy” and “feminism”, it’s important to keep in min that those are post-colonial and white concepts.
Like, first wave feminists got the IDEA of different relationships between the genders FROM Iroquois and other First Nations women. How do your words about “but we as a species haven’t had a very good track record" fit into that? There was life BEFORE patriarchy, and there will be life AFTER patriarchy. That shit was imported and imposed.
I mean, fuck, we’re talking barely even removed from living memory!!!!!
What about the large numbers of indigenous people in the world who are still technically “uncontacted”? I think for them not ending up 90% dead from the flu is probably first order of business.
All I really mean by this is that
1. For some people the fight seems close to over enough that we start asking well “what now?”; for others it hasn’t begun yet.
2. Grouping humanity as a species is way too universalizing a statement; after all, the British Empire is responsible for the deed of the British Empire, and you can’t hold the rest of the world accountable for their crimes by saying “the track record of the HUMAN SPECIES” when talking about leveling the playing field.
Like, for sure my people executed some folks and had some wars, but we didn’t genocide a whole fucking continent.
I mean, you say the question comes from a “capitalist/colonial mindset”, but like…..you can’t just pretend everyone’s going to have the same perspective on that, especially when you want to say the “human species” is responsible for systematic inequality.