because I just can’t find an even surface to build a new foundation on. Just as I’m ready to put down the shovel, I find some aberration beneath my feet, and I am compelled to go a little deeper. At this rate I wish I had a tractor: the mantle is clearly denser than the crust, and it’s become apparent I have a long way yet to dig.
Getting that first shovel of earth was arduous for me. My girlfriend, Amy, challenged my defense of prostitution, and I upheld my viewpoint for a while until I realized that all of my defenses of the sex industry were perspectives I had assimilated, rather than learned. For as long as I could remember, “sex work” was about female empowerment, and legislation would keep the conditions for prostituted persons safe (amongst dozens of other myths that supported my viewpoint of prostitution). I was willing to challenge my beliefs, but I sustained my skepticism about abolishment while Amy got me reading on the subject.
Just a few days into studying, it was pretty clear that the foundation of my support for “sex work” was made entirely of shit. Not manure. I mean human shit – lumps of processed toxicity that were once made palatable through manufactured flavor and intelligent packaging. That shit just had to go, and away that shit went.
People, I’m learning firsthand, are generally uncomfortable when you make changes to your foundation – especially when it’s visible. From their vantage point, neighbors should keep trenches in the backyard as they are a fucking eyesore to the neighborhood. My challenging of sex work online (and criticizing patriarchy and supporting feminism) has made me a “crypto-misogynist”, “douchebag”, “troll”, man with “delusions”, and a “fucking SJW” (Social Justice Warrior).1 In-person, I’ve been told that some people can’t change. It may be that some people are unwilling, but once they start dismissing me while they stand there covered in their own filth, my desire to bulldoze the entire block increases exponentially.
I’ve begun to look at the foundations of those whom I respect for guidance. Amy has fostered a mind that runs a mile deep, and even she tinkers at the base from day-to-day. The hole I burrough, however, could never function as a foundation the same way hers does. She’s of an oppressed ethnicity and gender; she is not defined by her societal and cultural oppressions, but it’s a hell of a lot harder to notice all of the work she’s done on her property because it’s not as well-advertised as the straight-white-male listings – where I have and will forever reside. She handed me a shovel, but she’s been digging with her hands this whole time.
D & J, a couple I’ve spent countless hours with the last six months (initially just to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer), have served as ceaseless motivation and support; they have guided me (challenging my privilege), introduced me to new ideas (genderism, cisgenderism), voices (Riot Grrrl, Issa Rae), and have patiently waited out my impulsive-defenses that sputter to a halt. When there was universal frustration that the new Star Wars cast was disproportionately male, I argued in defense of the fact that the lead hero was likely the sole new woman cast in the film, and that the film was produced by a woman. D contextualized my argument: “I think that you’re saying that little progress is progress and we should celebrate that, and other people who also care about [progress] are saying no, we want more.” My position was akin to “People of color can ride the bus, so let’s relish in that for a while before we talk about seat placement.” The conversation I dismissed is obviously one worth having. I was wrong. And so, again, I had to burrough.
There’s a reason the foundations of Amy, D & J have depth. They’ve dealt with intersections of prejudice their entire lives and have cultivated wisdom from their experiences. It’s not that they are just good people; they’re important people. They willfully defy complacency in their daily interactions, challenge oppressive representations in the media, nurture with compassion, and a slew of other amazing qualifications that I can’t even begin to articulate because my foundation is too shallow to perceive that depth – yet. I’m fortunate to learn from them and I wish everybody had a trio of this calabre in their sphere of influence. But most people don’t. All I can impart is my own satisfaction with how this dig is going, and reiterate what Amy told me recently – that “when someone is offended, first of all, listen.” I was so blown away at “first of all” that “secondly” didn’t stick. Sorry.
While I dig to find myself and in the process concede more remnants of my normalized ways of thinking, I hope to convince someone, somewhere, along the way to pick up a shovel for themselves and challenge themselves. It’s dirty and tiring and emotionally-taxing getting to the bottom, but everything is going to hold up a hell of a lot stronger once I finally find an even surface to build from.
- Practice makes perfect; thank you Cracked.com for the worst neoliberal readers on the internet ↩