The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. Now, I’m not much one for the heaven and hell crowd (see, it worked), but I am one for metaphors. So the devil’s grand trick can be played in numerous, really incalculable ways. And one of those is convincing us the struggle (all of our struggles no matter what –ism or –phobia or combination of –isms or –phobias we fight against) is over. Civil Rights Act passes in 1964, so naturally racism is over. Title IX passes in 1972, so naturally sexism is over. DOMA seems poised to be struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, so naturally homophobia must be almost over. Etc. etc. So on and so on.
But here’s the thing about progress, we fight and fight for so that by law or by conventional wisdom we may be deemed “equal.” But even afterward, by practice the struggle continues every single day in every single way. Which is why the infuriatingly brilliant essay by author/photographer/producer Deborah Copaken Kogan posted on The Nation (and reposted on Jezebel) this week hit so hard. It’s a brutally honest look at the realities of “post-feminist” culture. Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to read it here.
The thing about this piece, besides confirming what so many of us feel in so many ways, is that it while her points are specific to women – the sentiment can apply to almost any group that has not truly reached the parity which society superficially perceives them to have reached. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, the disabled, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people. Any and all people who face the death by 1,000 paper cuts of everyday injustices we are expected to just brush off because, hey, we’re all equal now.
But the thing is, we aren’t. We just aren’t. And we won’t be until we all realize this. Now, as a woman, a gay woman and a minority gay woman, these things naturally weigh heavily on my mind. Yet I in no way want to launch into an Otherness Olympics. It’s why I find it frustrating when people say things like, “Gay is the new black.” Because it isn’t. Black is still black. Gay is still gay. We both have a way to go and shouldn’t make a contest of equality. We should all just realize the dream lives on, and so does the struggle. So let’s work together and fix this shit.
The real enemy, or devil if we’re carrying forward the metaphor, is the assumption that we’re post anything. Post-feminist. Post-gay. Post-race. Post-gender. This is not to say that you cannot aspire for a world where we are post those things or live your life in a way that negates the need for them. It just means as a society – whoooo doggy are we not there yet. We’re so not there that there are ridiculous songs like “Accidental Racist” released for real by mainstream artists who should know way the fuck better. And the Out 50 Power List features only 11 queer women, four people of color and zero trans people. It’s why there were 73 shows on TV last season that employed either no women and/or no people of color as writers. Why a National Medal of Technology and Innovation winning female rocket scientist can have her New York Times obituary lead with talk about her beef stroganoff and being a good wife.
So when people say, “oh, get over it” or, “oh, that’s unnecessary” or, “oh, stop making excuses,’ my blood boils. Because these complaints are nothing of the sort. It’s us demanding our right. Some things just make sense. When you’re hungry, you think about food. When you’re tired, you think about sleep. When you’re underrepresented, you think a lot about representation. You think about it because it matters to you. And you want to be represented fairly. Conversely, it is the inherent privilege of the majority to not have to think about the experience of the minority. But just because it’s your privilege doesn’t make it right.
In a world where everyone expects us to be post everything, it takes (non-gender specific) balls to stand up and call bullshit. One of the best lines of the piece is this, and it can be applied to any and all –isms and –phobias and still hold sadly true:
“This is what sexism does best: it makes you feel crazy for desiring parity and hopeless about ever achieving it.”We are not crazy. We are not unworthy. We are not equal. But we sure as fuck will keep fighting until we are. Thanks for the pep talk, Deborah. Happy weekend, all.