Dear Organizers of Bucks County,
I struggled personally with even considering writing this, because so much of my life has been spent on being in the very shadow of white cisgender able bodied men that I often feel like my voice does not matter or is not as refined and full of “logic” and “facts.” Many times in my life growing up I was dismissed for being too emotional or not rational enough. I now understand within an anti patriarchal framework that those statements were based in gaslighting and maintaining white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy. For those of you who are just new to these words and terms, that’s fine. I will break them down and I will also provide examples of how those genders who face oppression encounter scenarios in organizing where we often feel silenced or unqualified in the face of whiteness, cisness, and patriarchy.
Disclaimer-I would not know any of this if it weren’t for Black and Brown Queer and Trans Disabled Folks who have taught these important things to me and I am not an expert and relaying knowledge to help dismantle cisheteropatriarchy in our spaces.
Quick Glossary of Terms for you to be mindful of
Cisheteropatriarchy-Cis (cisgender meaning gender congruent with gender assigned at birth), hetero (referring to “straight” ness and heteronormativity) patriarchy (a system of power which dominates genders oppressed by men and elevates men to positions of power while marginalizing others)
Gaslighting-When an abuser uses manipulation, minimizing, and other invalidating tactics to convince a person that their reality and recollection of events is false.
Impact over Intent-the acknowledgement that what you say and do is what you are held accountable for and not the intention behind them.
Tone Policing-when an oppressed person tells you how you should respond better to a micro or macro aggression or how to respond in a “respectable” or “kind” way when you are being dehumanized
Metonymy(Punching Up)-Statements oppressed people can make as a way to combat an oppressor or oppressive language
Ex. 1 all men are sexist scum = men benefit from the patriarchy and need to unpack that
Ex. 2 all white people are racist = white people benefit from white supremacy and need to dismantle that
Ex. 3 all cis people are transphobic = cis people benefit from binarism, cissexism, and heterosexism and need to make the world safer for trans people
Ex. 4 all able bodied non mentally ill people are ableist = disabled, neurodiverse, and mentally ill people need able bodied people to make the world more accessible-these statements are used to validate people who are oppressed by power structures and have specific meanings
Ex. 5 all thin people are fatphobic = fat people who have been marginalized by medical invalidation need thin people to not take up space and center themselves when they should uplift and validate fat people
Microaggression-a statement that is said by the oppressor that impacts an oppressed person regardless of the intention behind it
Ask yourself the following questions
1a. Are you taking up too much space in meetings?
White cis men if you ever notice if there is a lot of you in a call on a meeting, be extra aware of this. If many of you are talking but Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous and women and non men are not speaking, ask yourself are you really making space for others or shutting people out?
Many marginalized people often have feelings of imposter syndrome from being invalidated due to the oppressions we face. We often experience gaslighting and manipulation from white cis men in our lives whether they are our partners or friends or coworkers or bosses. We are surrounded by a society that favors you and your opinions. The consequences of this society are to keep the boot down on as many of us that don’t fit societal standards by design.
1b. Are you giving space to others in meetings?
If marginalized people aren’t speaking up or offering ideas, they don’t feel safe and may even leave the space you are in, fearing that their input won’t be conducive to the opinions and directions validated by other white cis men especially. “What do you think?” “What do you want to do?” “let’s try that.” are the things you should be asking more than stating “here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what we are going to do. We know this will work.” If we’re going to work within an anti oppressive framework, white cis men especially have to deconstruct their need to be the center of attention.
2a. Are you a self proclaimed leftist “expert?”
Maybe you’ve read some texts by Bakunin, Kropotkin, Marx, Lenin. Maybe you might be collecting up a treasure trove of authors and theoretical texts that you like to talk about what you’ve learned from. Maybe you even use those texts as a way to discredit or weaponize a point against a marginalized person for your own gratification. Newsflash—no one cares how much you’ve read or what you think you know. Doing that is just projecting your oppression on others without even realizing it. It’s also classist and ableist too.
So many marginalized people are turned off by leftist spaces because they don’t feel they know the “lingo.” This is an accessibility issue and a major one. Anyone and everyone has the power to change the material conditions around them. Even a meme/zine can get across the message of anti oppression just as much as a novel/anthology. Both are valid and none should be made to feel unwelcome about what they don’t know.
2b. Are you ready to be a student of marginalized people around you?
Chances are if you’ve lived the life of a white cis man, people are going to consider you more believable or more inherently good or intelligent. You were probably praised for being smart and successful by your parents. You were probably given favoritism compared to your non cis or non man siblings. No matter what profession you end up in, doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc, you will most likely be higher paid than employees who are not your demographic. The last thing you need to be doing is teaching or professing being an expert reading texts from texts written by white dudes who validate your experience of radical ideas. You are better off allowing the experiences of others to dictate how you should move forward. Read articles and find books and podcasts from anyone who isn’t you. Encourage the more marginalized members around you to write and create content rather than speak on their behalf. Offer to be the editor or the note taker and not the author or leader.
3a. Are you gaslighting and manipulating others to believe you at the expense of marginalized people?
This by far is the most dangerous and damaging behavior that can be done in organizing spaces. White cis men do this all the time. They create a following or build up clout for their campaigns and issues where they become popular and often untouchable. They often know how to shut people out of discussions or make people feel like they don’t matter. They become their own CEOs of organizing spaces and discredit anyone who doesn’t fall in with their tactics. They engage in micro and macro aggressions, perpetuating oppression to maintain power rather than deconstruct their patriarchal upbringing and tendencies.
3b. Are you being accountable and willing to own up to harm as a result of any level of behavior you engage in?
White cis men, you screw up all the time but no one bats an eye because you are seen as the default. After all, marginalized people often jokingly say “Lord give me the confidence of a mediocre white man” as an intention to help get us through something that is stressful. If you screw up, be willing to say sorry and leave a position of power or cede space and voice to others. The last thing you need to do is go on the defensive and build up ammunition to take down others more marginalized. The impact of that is devastating and it happens too many times to count. How will you hold yourself accountable and say a true apology, not, “I’m sorry if I offended you,” but, “I’m sorry that I said and did the things I did and I will do the steps you deem right to be held accountable?” How can you dismantle the oppressive patriarchal power dynamic in your own life and organizing circles? How can you step back and let others lead and dictate how you should follow through?
4a. Are you expecting the labor of unpacking your behavior to be done by marginalized people for you?
I’ve had a lot of hours-long arguments with white cis men. Whether it be in person and people coming into my DMs to explain to me why something I said or did bothered them when I called out something problematic whether it was related to them or not. This super charged need for white cis men to be “right” rather than to be in “right relationship” with others is a major problem. Everything in the way you’ve been raised hinges on your ability to dominate. When you put the labor on marginalized people to teach you to not dominate and demand our labor without putting in the time and effort yourself to teach yourself and make yourself safer, we often are the ones carrying your burdens without you even seeing us holding emotional space for you.
4b. Are you willing to do emotional labor for others and unpack your “facts” and “logic” to favor feelings and experiences?
No matter your lived experience, you will never see the kinds of things that people who aren’t white cis men have to go through. Can you work to not try to fix everything (that you most likely broke yourself) and work to listen and learn and be attentive and emotionally receptive without resorting to violence or dismissiveness? Are you willing to be someone a person can trust to vent to and be open and validating to someone about their needs and feelings? Are you going to deconstruct the toxic masculinity that tells you not to be emotional or to show any other feelings except anger or nothingness? Are you also going to get your own therapists so that your partners, coworkers, and organizers aren’t your therapists for you? Will you show up and do things for marginalized people without expecting anything in return?
Get it together white cis men. We know you’re in all of our meetings but are you really listening to us?
An angry trans person