part one is here.
as soon as we had all gathered & sat down, i blazed through the notes i took. i included some of my own critiques & weird feelings, because i had written them in the notes anyway. one of the ladies listened & contributed interesting feedback (sometimes in agreement with me, sometimes not) at critique points, which was what i’d anticipated, & i appreciated it. the other lady gave nothing but push-back at every critique point. when i mentioned the thing about emily apparently being under the misapprehension that she invented the term “street harassment,” the second lady, whom i will call kendra (both to protect the guilty, & also because i don’t want to keep writing “the other lady”), said that she had been unfamiliar with the term “street harassment” until two years earlier, & claimed she had learned the term eventually from hollaback literature. she went on to say, “not everyone has had access to the resources you’ve had, ciara, to become so educated about feminism & feminist history. i didn’t have access to those resources.”
i don’t remember if i openly laughed at that statement, but i certainly wanted to. while no one is born knowing the term “street harassment,” & while i certainly don’t expect a sixteen-year-old who just learned about feminism as a concept three months ago to be super-familiar with it or its history, this woman is in fact older than i am & has taught women’s studies classes at the university level in the past (like, more than two years ago, even). she has been aware of & active in feminism in various ways for nearly twenty years. as far as the incredible resources i have accessed in order to become so super-smart, they consist of reading a shit ton of zines & library books, & living as a lady for almost 32 years. that’s pretty much it. i am a high school drop-out. i have no academic feminist education whatsoever. i did not spend ten years pursuing advanced degrees in inter-disciplinary fields that included a lot of emphasis on cultural studies & gender. i have never been a big fan of the whole “you’re oppressing me with your education” argument, because, come on. if i can know some shit, pretty much anyone can. usually “you’re oppressing me with your education” is code for “you’re pointing out some fucked up shit i did or said & it’s making me uncomfortable, so i’m going to divert focus back on to you”. but i am ESPECIALLY not a fan of the “oppressive education” argument when it is wielded by someone who came within a hair’s breadth of earning a doctorate, & it’s being directed at a high school drop-out! are you seriously fucking kidding me?
almost immediately after this, she said, “i’m just gonna say this right now, i don’t want to organize a hollaback group with you, ciara.” okay. cool? i guess it was a good thing i wasn’t totally 100% pumped about organizing a hollaback group then? but i did have to wonder why she didn’t inform me of this before i wasted an hour of my life in some ridiculous webinar. it’s not like we weren’t buds. we had just hung out socially the night before & she could have mentioned something then. i thought about leaving then, but i didn’t want to leave the other lady (whom i shall call natalie, this time to protect the innocent) hanging.
natalie tried to point out that for all of my critiques, i was the only one who attended the mandatory webinar, without which the entire concept of launching a hollaback lawrence group this summer would be an impossible pipe dream anyway. kendra started crying & said, “i couldn’t do it! i had to work!” while that’s cool, & everything, a simple “thanks, ciara,” would have sufficed. kendra elaborated, “ciara could do the webinar because she had the time to do the webinar.” i went back & looked at the messages we had all exchanged about who would do the webinar & as it turns out, natalie had informed us all of the date & time of the webinar, & kendra had replied, “i’m not busy that day, but i have to be very protective of my free time & can’t commit to doing the webinar.” she already knew about the date & time of the webinar when she took the job that conflicted with it. that’s cool, i’m not going to fault anyone for wanting to get paid rather than sitting in a webinar, but i can & will fault someone for crying about it later while simultaneously casting aspersions about the lazy disabled person with all the free time in the world who actually stepped up to the plate & did the webinar you didn’t want to do. because that is what comments about “ciara has time” boil down to when they are said in a bitter, accusatory manner. “ciara is disabled, so her time isn’t as important as mine & she can do the shit work i don’t want to do.” um, NO. i’m happy to do favors for people who treat me with basic human respect. i’m not so pumped about doing them for people who treat me like a dog that can talk (but probably shouldn’t).
i again thought about leaving, which is usually my go-to response when people start moving in an insulting direction concerning my disability status & their assumptions about how it impacts my life (including time-wise). those kinds of conversations pretty much never go in a direction that makes me feel happy & supported, but i really wanted to underscore my interest in starting a lawrence-specific feminist activism group of some sort, & i felt that that might have been getting lost in the mix with all of kendra’s bizarre comments. that was probably mistake #352 on my part. to be continued yet again…