Reading Outside the Box

womens_march

I read a lot. Like, a LOT. Of course, my job requires that I read a lot. I write communications for a large financial company; so naturally, there is a tonne of information I consume every day in order to write what I need to write. Because of the nature of my work, and my general interests and desire to be informed, I also read a lot of news during the day. I read two newspapers on my way into the office (not the Wall Street Journal by any means, but I get a quick hit of the news of the day, read the headlines and highlights, and make sure to read the couple of opinion pieces published), and several and various articles throughout the day.

Immediately after the US election, we heard a lot about so-called echo chambers and this idea that the reason so many of us were resolutely blindsided by the election results is because we (liberal/democrat/leftists) refused to acknowledge that there was a huge swath of people who simply don’t think like us, don’t share our values and voted accordingly. SNL did a brilliant and spot-on skit about it that hit it (and me) right on the head. And I admit it, I would read and watch and hear about Trump supporters, and I cringed at the rhetoric being spewed but I would scoff dismissively at their ignorance. I would think to myself, and say out loud, to real people even, “It’s never gonna happen. He’s not going to get elected. It’s ridiculous. He’s ridiculous.”

I don’t live in the United States. I’m not American (well, strictly speaking, I actually am; my dad is American, I was born in Ohio, and I have dual citizenship), but, really, I’m Canadian. I live in Canada and I enjoy my Canadian rights and freedoms every day in this (relatively) socially progressive country. However, to say that the current shit storm playing out south of my border doesn’t effect me would be a lie. Of course it effects me. It effects all of us, politically, certainly, but also because I’m a human being, and watching this sociopathic, narcissistic demagogue in action is stomach-churning on a good day, and outright devastating on every other day. This shit is real, and it is frightening and dystopian and horrifying and sad and frustrating and ridiculous and most of all, heart breaking.

So, having said all of that, and why I point out that I happen to be a person who reads a lot, I’ve decided to try to step outside my echo chamber and actually seek out articles and pieces written from the perspective of those who differ from me ideologically. Lately, I’ve been forcing myself to read things written by those who fundamentally have different stances, opinions, beliefs, perspectives and general outlooks on life than me in an attempt to broaden and hopefully deepen my scope of understanding. I may never understand (spoiler: I will never understand if you think that one’s sexuality is a choice, or if you think racism doesn’t exist, if you don’t understand what privilege is, if you believe that government should be able to make decisions about women’s bodies or if you ascribe to the “alternative fact” that the pay gap isn’t a thing, for example), but I want to try to see things from that opposing perspective and to listen and at the very least, acknowledge that not everyone thinks the way me and my “echo chamber” do.

To be honest, I don’t know exactly what this will accomplish in the long run. I may end up just feeling more frustrated. But, I feel like I’m desperate to try to hear what people have to say about certain topics so that I can better arm myself when entering into conversation with them, should such an occasion arise. I say that because, honestly, I don’t really spend time with people who drastically oppose my views. And I don’t think that’s abnormal. It makes sense that we would end up surrounding ourselves with people with whom we have things in common – common experiences, values, social-political outlooks, and oftentimes, socioeconomic backgrounds etc.

Recently, I’ve waded through many a Facebook post that I would have normally just rolled my eyes at and skipped over (or unfriended the person, which I did a lot of when some of my “Friends” had some pretty ignorant and awful things to say about Caitlyn Jenner), to come away mostly just…baffled. I actually watched a video and read through its comment thread arguing against evolution, I suffered through an article and the ensuing comments about how vaccines cause autism, I even forced myself to read posts about the NRA and arguments against gun control laws. To name just a few. And those were just the posts from my own FB feed!!! I feel like I’ve taken one for the team. You’re welcome.

I’ve read a lot of articles and think pieces on Hillary Clinton, of course, pre and post-election. Most of what I’ve read has been thought provoking, well written, smart and affirms my belief that America got it wrong. However, the comments on those very articles are emblematic of the reason we are where we are. I’ve learned that people hold a lot of hate, people are fearful, people navigate the world wearing blinders, people are uneducated or misinformed about the facts, people are dogmatic and often have an inability to see the big picture, people have a tenuous grasp on history and, most mind-bogglingly, that women can be misogynists too. And I know you’re probably thinking, well, Ange, people who write in comment sections on the internet are trolls and keyboard warriors, and you’re right. They probably don’t represent the vast majority of reasonable people. They may indeed be trolls, but they are trolls who probably voted.

realsuffragette5The most polarizing topic I’ve been reading about lately has been the recent Women’s March on Washington that took place last weekend. This has been a lightning rod of debate and while I felt (and feel) so hopeful about what was accomplished, about the sheer size and symbolism of the movement and what’s on the horizon, I have felt equally distraught by the emerging backlash. I have read some wonderful pieces about the march by brilliant minds like Kerry Clare, Sarah Larson, Anne Helen Peterson, and Jia Tolentino.

I have also been seeing this dreadful #notmymarch nonsense cropping up everywhere and with a nervous knot in my stomach, I have forced myself to read some of that too. There was one in particular (which I can’t find now, and don’t have the spirit to continue scouring the internet for), which is disturbing enough on its own, but it’s the comments that really make me have all the feels. It’s not productive for me to write, or for you to read my recounting of all the nasty, hate-filled, frankly absurd things that people (mostly women) have to say. But I will say that while I sifted through the vitriol and the many, many, so very many crimes against grammar, the general sense I emerged with is this: there are a lot of people (read: a lot of women) who clearly don’t understand what feminism actually is and is not. They don’t understand what abortion, equal pay, rape culture or even protest as a function of democracy actually are. And I don’t mean that in a condescending way at all. I mean that in the most literal sense. They are misinformed, uneducated. They are missing the point. And the irony, of course, is that women who insist on listing all the reasons why the Women’s March doesn’t represent them, (because they think, inexplicably, that the women who marched are “whiny victims” who “blame their woes on society” and expect “special treatment” among other things) enjoy their position of privilege, apparently oblivious to the fact that they’re indeed privileged, because it was hard won on the backs of the courageous women who came before them and fought, and changed the world.

I’ll leave you with this excellent piece which articulates well what I’m trying to convey and why it’s important to advance the conversation and keep learning from each other. A piece of advice though; unless you’re prepared to have your heart broken (or become Hulk-level enraged), I do not recommend reading the comments section.

And also, because it is the perfect personification of what this is all about, this: #icantkeepquiet. I can’t keep quiet. And I won’t.

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