I have been thinking a lot lately about explanation.
Having to explain yourself.
After a lovely chat with a co-volunteer Lauren Romine, I discovered how minimizing it can be to our passions to have them be constantly probed and questioned with some type of demand for verbal explanation.
Prove that you belong here.
Justify your presence.
Solidify and categorize your politics.
Identify a divide and stand on either side of it.
Human empathy and compassion become devalued when they are overran by this questioning of our credibility.
As opposed to a harnessing of what I believe to be our innate
Our only human, our desire to end suffering
To liberate ourselves and one another.
So often our responses to oppression and injustice are beyond those that can be contained by language.
They are visceral.
More parts dance than they are diction.
But at every job interview, in every internship essay, and at every cocktail party conversation they will ask us why?
They will never ask us to dance.
To ask someone to justify his or her presence in a feminist space is to deny the synchronization of compassion with our human nature.
It is a request to justify love.
As one who believes in love as a transformational politic, you can see how this can be perceived as problematic.
As a community of feminists, we must never hold caring on a pedestal.
We must realize that we all have the capacity to care, knowing that care is all it takes.
From there we can begin our education.
From there we will read each other bell hooks.
From there we will share our stories.
We must work towards realizing that we need no justifications to begin learning.
The knowledge developed within a feminist framework is knowledge for everyone, not just those who can say why feminism is important to them in “500 words or less.”
Granted that today I could write 500 pages means very little compared to the fact that when I first showed up at the Women’s Center I could offer no more than 5 words,
“Because I have a beating heart” is all I could have told you.
I was able to grow because I was never asked why?
I was never interrogated.
I was never stared at.
People asked me about me.
Who inspired me, how I’d like to help, what I’d like to do here, where I saw room for change.
Never once a why.
Within a patriarchy, I am usually pressured to answer Why are you here? What is your purpose? You are a man, why do you care? The man’s place in the fight against oppression that we call Women’s Liberation is one frequently subjected to why.
To ask questions beyond the why is an act of defiance against a system that constantly questions us in order to alienate us from our most integral of feelings.
It is an attempt to further ourselves from our most basic drive—the drive to end suffering.
The patriarchal world will never ask us to dance.
Dancing then becomes a feminist act.
If you show up at the doors of the Women’s Center, very rarely are you asked why.
I think that is a major reason I truly believe in the Center as a model feminist space.
I have grown immensely here.
And that is why we need to be mindful of the why question creeping into the spaces we create on our own.
I am not skeptical of you.
Your presence here is more than enough.
Your presence is the only affirmation I need.
Presence is the pathway to a truer liberation.
I care far more from presence than I do for politics.
I believe the answer to the why question is a waste of time when it comes to our progress.
Why is a question that we are all made to struggle with all the time and it is nobody’s business but your own.
In activist and feminist spaces, it is a step back.
A curtailing of a force that I believe is revolutionary—the universal defiance of doubt.
Why serves only to reinforce that to be a feminist or to become a feminist, your oppression must sit on a hierarchy.
You must be a woman, you must be queer, you must be a victim, etc.
Although these experiences are what built our politics, they were never meant to be what contained them.
I believe that the greatest political potential in these experiences lies in their ability to transform the conscience of everyone.
They were the impetus.
Now with them we must go forward.
We need approaches that cultivate and nurture the human response to the oppression.
The one I saw as a child in my mother, my father, and what I feel for all my brothers and sisters.The sense of injustice we all knew before we ever knew feminism.
Because no intersection of oppression is truly the same, we must reconnect with the universal feelings that do not have nor require justification.
Only then is our diversity an asset.
Only then can we begin.
Only then will communication be possible across perceived borders.
With this philosophy, anyone with a heart can become a feminist.
Isn’t that what we all wanted all along?
This blog post has been written by Kavin Shah, one of the student outreach coordinators at the Women’s Center