The State of Things – As I See It

I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems like every day I wake up, read the news, and see a new headline that scares the shit out of me.  International troubles aside, I am talking solely about domestic issues here.  I’m 30 years old.  I know that before my time, there have been very troubling times in our world, and that we have made it through.  I’m sure to some who have been around a bit longer than me, what is happening right now may not be such a big deal.  But, for someone of my generation, I think it is.

I have always been a pretty politically aware person.  I keep up on what is happening in the world and generally have strong opinions about it.  There have always been things that worried me, but never with such constancy as now.  I am a self-described progressive liberal feminist.  I have spent my adult career working (both paid and unpaid at times) to combat oppressions that are so damn pervasive in our country.  I’ve always been concerned with the state of things and have seen huge opportunities for improvement in the way our government and our societal structures function.  However, lately things have changed.  Up until recently, I have generally felt that while changes need to happen, we were making progress (however small) with overcoming issues such as sexism, racism, classism, et cetera.  I can’t say that any longer.

I am suddenly acutely aware of the violent, angry push back of conservative minded people looking to return to a status quo where oppression is not only accepted, but promoted, and falsely couched in the language of “family values” and “tradition”.   Please hear me that I am not using the term conservative to blast everyone who identifies this way politically.  I have, in my life, met many conservatives who may differ greatly in their views from me, but do so with respect for me as a person and without the vitriol that is loudly present in the voices of so many others.  It is that vitriol, hatred, and ignorance that is, quite frankly, pissing me off these days – and terrifying me.

I will readily admit that I was naïve enough to believe that things couldn’t get this bad with a Democrat in The White House.  Some part of me believed that if we could just have someone as a gatekeeper, so to speak, we could at least hold steady, if not gain ground.  But, was I ever wrong.  Daily, I am seeing and hearing massive setbacks.  More and more people are getting on board with these so called ‘family values’ that seek to limit women’s abilities to make choices for themselves; prevent gays and lesbians from being able to live open, safe lives; and reinforce class structures that serve to keep millions without access to education, proper healthcare, and safe housing.

This is unacceptable to me.  And, I honestly don’t understand why it isn’t unacceptable to everyone else.  I feel that those promoting these beliefs, policies, and formal legislation are oblivious to the fact that they are, in fact, hurting themselves, too (no matter how clichéd that sounds).  I’m sure most of you have heard the saying “No one is free when others are oppressed.”  Now, I am not generally one to throw quotes around, but this has never felt more true to me than it does now.  Complicating these matters further is that it seems as though people have completely stopped listening to one another.  It’s been a VERY long time since I met someone of this opposing mindset who is willing to truly hear an alternative viewpoint;  which has left me venting to those who are already understanding of my views and, thus, making no forward momentum in changing things.  I don’t know what the solution is to these issues, but I do know that respect for all people and a willingness to see things from multiple perspectives is a key step.  Though difficult at times, I will continue to strive to do this and invite others to join me.  And, I will continue to take action where I can, financially if possible, but certainly through being an active constituent, an instigator of dialogue, and a distributer of information.  Wish me luck?

I am a 30-year old feminist living in Portland, Oregon. I work in the domestic violence movement and am always excited to talk about issues related to the media!

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  • honeybee

    This is an excellent post.

    I’m a bit older then you so just want to say it’s kind of always been this way. When I was younger I thought we were making big progress and that I would see real change in my lifetime. boy did I give up on that notion a long time ago. I think as we get older we see more of the world, understand it more, interact with more people, etc., especially those outside our comfort zone, and thus we become more aware of just how big the challenges are and the fact that it will take many, many years to make real progress on some issues, and I hate to say it, but there are some issues feminists fight for that I honestly think will never change, not significantly at least.

    Still, you have to NOT analyze things on a short-term basis but the long-term. Are we better off today then a year ago? Maybe not. Are we better today then 10 years ago or 20 years ago? Absolutely.

    It’s kinda like buying stocks… you have to ride the waves. The price will go up and go down from day to day, but over the LONG RUN – i.e., many years, hopefully you will see a net gain.

  • Sam Lindsay-Levine

    I think it’s mostly that you started paying more attention. honeybee is completely right that over the years, we really have averaged domestic social issues getting better and better.

    It just seems like there is more pushback because, say 25 years ago, the default option was more sexist, anti-gay, etc., and when it wasn’t challenged, there was no reason for the conservatives to awake from their complacency and start being violently reactionary.

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” We’re in ‘they fight you’ now. You already see Republicans tiptoeing around the edges, setting themselves up to claim they were always the party of gay rights, the way they unconvincingly try with the civil rights movement now.

  • srrose104

    Thank you, honeybee, for sharing that perspective. It is certainly good to be reminded to view things in the long-term, though, I must admit it is sometimes hard when the short-term feels so dire!

  • srrose104

    @Sam – I certainly hear your point, though I don’t know that I would agree that I started paying more attention. I’ve always been pretty aware. I wonder if there is just something to this age thing of starting to have a bit more perspective?

  • Matt

    I think we have made progress with race. The election of Obama is significant not just in that he was able to get elected, but that many people with anxiety about race can see that the world didn’t come to an end after electing a black (or a half-black) man to the Presidency. There are also many influential people in sports and entertainment who are “racial minorities,” and while not all of them are well-behaved, there are many interesting examples among them (which is not particular different from white people). Popular sports allow participants to be judged heavily by objective standards (rather than subjective standards that can be shaped by racism), and so progress has been made on that front.

    Classism in particular does seem to be an area where ground has been lost. Income disparity has more or less been growing since ~1970 and yet the government is doing less in terms of redistributing wealth, and arguments to counter that trend have generally been labeled “class warfare” (as if all the tax cuts the past several decades [including the estate tax] were not class warfare, or if various spending cuts for low- and middle- income people were not class warfare). Motions to increase taxes are almost unheard of. However, I can’t say whether this trend reflects attitudes getting worse or whether it is just the same attitudes for three or so decades gradually eroding our system.

    The “family values” arguments have been around for a while — they were quite popular in the ’80s/early-mid ’90s and have had other incarnations before (it really goes back to the beginning of women/children rights movements).

    To a small extent, Obama has taken advantage of Republicans trying to cram their ideology down our throats get the cuts they want by rescinding the healthcare “conscience clause” and by ceasing to defend DOMA in court (motions by Obama that support women’s choice and gay rights) — Republicans can’t challenge these actions without letting up on their own agenda. In terms of the US government, it doesn’t matter what the Republican-controlled House passes unless the bill also passes in the Senate and is signed by the President. They simply won’t get everything they are asking for — although there is the dark reality that some bad things will still get through.

    Things really are getting better overall (it wasn’t on your list, but gay rights have come a very long way). As honeybee mentioned, there is a lot of up-and-down, and if you are wondering why a bunch of crazy politicians are coming out of nowhere, be mindful that some of them are just coming out of hiding after hoping that people have forgotten their previous shenanigans. You don’t want to get your hopes too high, but you also want to keep your wits when a group is trying to exploit fear/uncertainty.

  • George Marx

    As a real “old timer” I believe that things Both get better and get worse over the years as well as there being short-term downturns (and upturns). Certainly upper-middle class White women in many ways have things “better” than decades ago. At the same time the lack of options and possibilities for many poor, minority people – both women and men may seem much bleaker today in terms of getting and education, employment and healthcare.

    Lesbian/Gay participation in our society including the military certainly is a positive, however the militarism, acceptance of violence (domestic violence, rape, stalking) – oft times through the internet, and similar may be worse today.

    The bleak economy today is a (hopefully) short-term downtown. Obama getting elected was “good”, however the visibility of racism in reaction to him is obviously difficult.

    We need to work towards positive change to counter the negatives as well as to just improve things in general!