“Forgiving” Men and Other Oppressors, Part II
For a few months now, I have been thinking about a conversation with Nicole Hurt- a gifted artist, community organizer, and social justice trainer here in Colorado. In that conversation, Nicole described to me the consequences of dubbing another person as “monster.” She explained that the problem is that regarding someone as a monster puts them into an absolute, inflexible role. And, as a consequence, if the other person is fixed as a monster, then that leaves you in an equally fixed opposing role. Typically, as the victim. After all, if the other person has only one dimension, what choices does this leave? The victim of the monster? A monster countering another monster? The slayer of a monster? Whatever the choice, the monster is left in the psychological position of power because they are at the center of it all. Every action revolves around them, and the only thing left to do is respond to them- whether preemptively or after the fact. And that position of constant response, of reactivity even when one is on the offense, leaves you fixed, yourself. Always defending yourself, always attacking back, always doing something that is caught in an endless, predictable cycle.
The truth of Nicole’s words, the meaning of them, strike me, and I am exhausted. Exhausted by my grief over the experiences of other women, grief over my own experiences. I hear about what is happening all around the world, all around me. The mass mutilations. The extreme, intense violence. Everywhere. All the time. And it is so difficult to feel powerful. How does one feel powerful in the face of constant victimization? How does one feel powerful when hardly a single female identified and/or female bodied friend of mine has not experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of men? How is one to feel powerful when most people- social justice advocates most absolutely included- don’t have even a basic working framework of what sexism is, and have little investment in undoing it? How does one feel powerful under the constant, seizing pressure to conform to gendered standards, and excuse the mass brutality against women by folding it over into a disembodied blandness of distant, soundless occurrences? How is one to feel powerful when it feels like at the end of the day it is men who win most of the battles?
And yet, I must figure out how to answer these questions. Not out of some sense of “fairness” for “good men,” or even for my beloved one. I do not owe this. I do not owe.
I must figure out how to answer my questions for the benefit of my own life. Because I do not want to continue to see myself, nor other women, in the perpetual role of the loser. Because if I place men in the fixed role of “dangerous predators,” then what role does that leave me in? What role does it leave us in as women? And how can I think well and be flexible in the face of that kind of fear? How can I live my life with more internal peace than turmoil?
Cam, I sympathize with you. I understand well where you are coming from. I understand that for you, white people are an oppressor group you cannot forgive.
And perhaps forgive is not the best word for it. Perhaps it is simply coming to resolution- being able to recognize those who have caused you the greatest harm as humans rather than monsters. And holding this recognition in such a way that you do not have to erase yourself to do it, do not have to erase your knowing and experiences, and do not have to make everything into some shade of gray that validates everything as a difference of opinion or perspective. No, Cam, I think you and I can do it in such a way that it honors ourselves and our communities. Something other than men and white people being merely predatory. So that we can think more effectively around those who are. So that we can maintain ourselves, and not feel like we have perpetually lost even before we have begun. So that we can recognize the possibilities amidst what we have declared to be impossible, and what has been declared impossible for us.
Beyond resiliency. Beyond surviving.
To read part one, please click here.