Everyone is Talking About What Kind of Girl, Nobody is Starting a Riot

11 Aug

Having taken the summer off from school and all of the required reading it entails, I am knee-deep in books for fun this summer. By far the most poignant and touching to me personally – and I can’t recommend it enough to everyone on, basically, the entire planet – is Sara Marcus’ Girls to the Front, her history of the Riot Grrrl revolution that shook punk and politics in the 90s. I promise, if you read this book, you will be shocked at how little has changed, how 20 years, two decades (and yes, friends in their 20’s and 30’s, that does make me feel old too) after the events took place, we are right back in the same position, with a far-right supreme court in place, a pervasive fear that Roe will be overturned, and women’s rights and very lives under attack. (If you think that’s an overstatement, I fucking beg you to remember Congresswoman Giffords. Every day, please. I do.)

This book makes me angry, and as a very practical girl who has been working in progressive politics in very practical capacities for a very long time, those who know me only from my writing, particularly on this blog, would be shocked at how rarely I get angry. My 18-year-old-self was furious, consumed, driven, with a passion I can barely recall. But that burns out, it eats you up from the inside – you either find a way to live with the anger and bury a lot of it, or, in my experience, you go a little crazy. The kind of anger and passion the Riot Grrrls story inspires within me is invigorating, and I have been thinking about how to incorporate that movement, its history and its meaning, into my work.

At the same time, here in the present, I work in a movement that has roots in both traditional and radical feminism, and I wonder where we will go, what we will do, what we will have the courage to demand, what we will fight for and what we will compromise. With that in mind, a quote from the book struck me particularly in relation to Abortion Gang:

“Riot Grrrl is about destroying boundaries, not creating them.” (198)

What I love about this blog is that I do not agree with everything everyone writes, nor does every writer on this blog always or necessarily even EVER agree with me. That doesn’t mean my posts don’t go up; that means I get edited into a place where my opinions are 1) clear and 2) mine and only mine. We speak from the “I” here at Abortion Gang. We do not, as individuals, speak for the whole movement or often for anyone but ourselves, yet our collection of experiences IS the movement.

Which brings me to the first thing my Riot Grrrl history has given me to move forward with in my work: consider how you speak and where you speak from. Writers on this blog share intensely personal experiences. Don’t judge. Not, “Hey, try not to judge!” or “Be accepting and open!” Fuck that. Don’t judge. Disagree. Share your experiences. Support. Argue from the “I.” But understand that everyone who writes here – everyone being commentors as well as bloggers, THNX – has a valid experience, a personal experience, that they are sharing. YOUR EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE ONLY EXPERIENCE. YOUR EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE RIGHT EXPERIENCE. The prochoice movement is the sum of its parts, and we are, all of us, those moving pieces of which this great and, I believe, extremely powerful thing is made.

For supporters and antis alike, remember that you are not here to persuade – and if you are, you’re in the wrong damn place. Adults write for and into this site, people with more varied and dynamic backgrounds than you can imagine. We are mothers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, broke-ass kids, kinksters, prudes, trust-fund recipients, students, sexual deviants, queers, and allthecolors. Come here to tell us what you think, come here to argue your point, but don’t come here to proselytize – and if you don’t know the difference, come back and see us when you do. I think our fearless leader Steph summed it up best in a comment recently, and I want to make sure her extremely well-phrased words get their due, so allow me to include them here:

“I want to let you know that I’m the moderator of this blog, and the only reason I don’t approve comments is when they are disrespectful or hateful. If the comment seems borderline offensive, I ask the blogger if they want me to publish it.”

This is a place for civility, openness, and understanding. We want to engage with you, and we want you to engage with each other. In exchange for this space, we ask for your gracious understanding that we spill our guts out on this page, we tell you so many deep things that hurt and heal, and we can’t always go to bat for them relentlessly, day upon day, just because you like to argue or want to persuade. Come here with an open mind and heart and we will give you ours. It’s a good way to live. And I think it’s an amazing way to live a movement.

5 Responses to “Everyone is Talking About What Kind of Girl, Nobody is Starting a Riot”

  1. Erin August 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    “You are not here to persuade…Come here to tell us what you think, come here to argue your point, but don’t come here to proselytize.”

    Wait, I am genuinely confused about this.

    If a pro-choice blogger tells me what she thinks and argues her points well, and I become convinced and become pro-choice…will you then, at my request, remove her posts, because she has persuaded and proselytized?

    I mean, is this blog just more pointless navel-gazing if we’re not willing to seriouisly engage one another on the issues and argue persuasively and have our minds and hearts changed?

  2. Kaitlyn August 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Hi Erin,

    I think your question comes down to the difference between arguing and debating, and proselytizing, and those are not semantics. I am not here to tell anyone that their personal beliefs and ways of living are wrong or invalid. I can disagree with their choices and share my personal experiences without telling them that their choices and experiences are wrong, or in some way count less than mine. We can disagree without one of us being more right. I think this kind of debate calls for openness, honesty, compassion and a lot of personal responsibility.

    I find people are much more likely to come around to my way of thinking, personally, when I don’t put them on the defensive by positing myself as any kind of authority. I am, like everyone who reads and writes for this blog, an ever-evolving set of opinions and knowledge, and I want to take in as well as give back. THAT is the open dialogue and debate I come here for.

    If you feel this blog is “pointless navel-gazing,” there are a lot of other blogs on the internet – or you could simply write your own, and engage with people any way you see fit there. But if you would like to continue to engage with us here, I would re-think your language, which comes across as confrontational and often unwelcoming, sometimes even harassing. We love having you here, but convincing you of anything and arguing with you regularly even if we don’t feel like it is absolutely not our job. The great thing about not being paid to do this work is that we can do it however we want to!

    Best,
    K

  3. Erin August 15, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    I just don’t get it. In past posts, people (both bloggers and commenters) have said I am delusional, that my ideas are “moronic,” and that I have a “warped sense of reality.” Check out the July 25th post if you want to see those quotes in context.

    On July 26th, someone referred to pro-lifers as “cowardly pro-liars.” Isn’t that judgmental and harassing?

    Those comments somehow past muster, but mine don’t?

    I am genuinely curious here–if you can explain the difference, please do.

  4. Christie August 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Erin, since you’re referring to my recent post on egg donation, I feel that you’ve now invited me to respond. You did not present your ideas as your experience, but rather, an experience that I was required to consider. And, you insisted that you were allowed to judge me, and demean me, and hope that I wasn’t successful in my pursuit. Those are the things that we are requesting that you not do anymore. If you come here looking for us to be fair to you, you must be fair to us first.

    This is, and always will be, a pro-choice blog. It is our “angle.” We don’t have to be considerate to the anti-choicers who are blowing up clinics and murdering doctors. We don’t have to be considerate to people who come here to harass us for daring to share our opinions with the world. And you certainly don’t have to be considerate to us, ultimately, but you must realize that you will not be published, because we do not need to be subjected to any more judgment. It’s our right not to publish your harassing comments, as it is your right to send them in.

    And when you’re not making any sense, we are also allowed to let you know. And once you’ve started harassing and demeaning us, we no longer have to be nice.

    You are also, as Kaitlyn has pointed out, welcome not to read abortiongang anymore if you feel that you cannot present your experience as one opinion among many.

  5. Magdalena August 28, 2011 at 1:47 am #

    I am quite curious as to why you continue to read and comment on this blog, Erin.

    Your views are polar opposite of the purpose and mission of this blog, yet you still take time out of your day to read the posts, instigate arguments and fuel them with your nonsensical attempts at rebuttal. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for you to find a blog better aligned with your views and opinions rather than wasting your time trying to change the minds of women who read this blog as like-minded supporters?

    I find it sad that you find it necessary and meaningful to troll this blog and harass the women who write for it. They are wonderful representatives of this movement and you’re taking away time that they could be writing more posts by making them respond to your drivel.

    You’ve had nothing positive or worthwhile to add to any of these discussions and you’re getting on everyone’s nerves. Why don’t you pack it up and go away already?

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