Friday, 4 March 2016

Women, Femmes & non-binary siblings- unite and praise the fuck out of each other.- a note on praise hijacking

Hey men & masculine privileged people,
We need to have a little chat about the way you treat women, femmes & non-binary people's work* & how you co opt our praise.
I'm so tired of trying to talk about the amazing work women & gender oppressed people are doing only to have one of you interrupt me to say 'Yeah (name) AND ME do work really hard'. Or
'I did (project) too/in a different place' (You're not fooling anyone with that). We get it, you want recognition. Everyone deserves recognition. Everyone deserves to have their effort rewarded but not everyone needs it, right now, this instant- from me. The reason I go put of my way to praise women, femmes & non-binary people is that the work they do is devalued in the big bad patriarchal world. Yours isn't (at least in this space).

It may be that you only have masculine privilege in this setting for a couple of hours once a month. It may be that the rest of the time you don't feel you hold power in the same way. I understand that you may want to flex the ol' privilege muscles whilst you can but that action isn't necessary or fair. When you tear down, intercept or manipulate the praise or recognition of someone else what you're doing is being complicit in gender oppression. Yes, you can experience oppression on the basis of your gender AND perpetuate someone else's gender oppression too. The truth is that there's actually no shortage of praise to go around & there are more appropriate ways to receive it than hijacking someone else's. So I've put some tips together as a loose guide to not hijacking praise off those of us who trying to support each other.

1. When you feel like you want praise from people in your life in general take these three steps
- Consider
Consider what you have done that you feel deserves praise. Is it something specific? Is it a project? Who does the project serve? Are any of those people around? Have you done the bare minimum? Have you piggybacked someone else's achievement? Did someone else facilitate you doing the work with reminders or resources?
- Critique
Think critically about your need for praise. Is it coming from a place of privilege? Is it a feeling you can placate by working on your own self esteem? Do you definitely need these people to praise this achievement?
- Communicate
When you feel like you deserve or desire more praise for a task, project or achievement try actually just asking for it. Then the person you're talking to isn't trying to interpret meaning from your words. It saves them time and you effort. It's less coercive than just leading them down the path of your ego & guilting them into ringing the bell.
E.g. 'Hey I did this thing, I feel really proud of myself, but I'm feeling insecure, can you tell me that I did well?'

2. Be willing to accept the fact that women, femmes & non-binary people may not want to praise you.
It takes a lot of work to exist in a world where your achievements are underrated & ignored. Being bullied into praising someone whose achievements DO get recognised definitely makes me feel resentful. Learning to take 'no' or 'not right now' as an answer helps everyone. The more we accept a 'no', the more women & gender oppressed people feel confident saying no, the more energy we can all put into performing crucial labour when we want to. No isn't a dirty word, it's one that helps us demonstrate our boundaries.

3. Practise praising yourself
I like to make pictures and give them to myself as a reward. E.g. 'Getting through a shit day' crown. I am rewarding myself for doing a thing. I can post it online and talk about doing the thing. Then my friends can respond if they feel like it by celebrating my achievement with me instead of feeling like they have to praise me & support me.
Try looking in the mirror & thinking 5 things you have achieved (not appearance based). Acknowledge them, praise them.
Be a friend to yourself. Service your own self esteem.

4. Seek out & celebrate
In a society where women, femmes & non-binary people's work is ignored, overlooked & devalued it can be quite easy for masculine privileged people to pretend we don't do any work. You can't expect the people doing work from any oppressed group to just pop up shining like a brilliant example for you to praise. Seek out the work of working class non binary people making poetry, disabled femmes running support groups, black women lifting up creative communities, trans women of colour leading resistance, fat femmes organising in their workplace, lesbian artists etc. Ask questions about people's art, tell people how and why you appreciate their work, let them know you understand when their work isn't meant for you.
Praise is not a one way street. It's an exchange.

5.  Understand us
When you see women holding each other up, or femmes praising femmes or non-binary people shouting and cheering for each other- think about why. Think about why we have created support networks, why we send each other care packages or help each other out. You might find that if we don't do it no one else will.

I'm sure in spaces where masculine privileged people interact in masculine communication styles there's a different attitude towards support. A different attitude towards praise. Maybe it's a scarcity? (I genuinely don't know)Maybe you see us praising one another and think 'I want that'. If that's the case then it's 100% legitimate to create friendship groups and foster nice political communities where that exists for you. Doing so is helpful emotional labour for yourself and others. These dynamics are precious & important to us, they are how we survive & that's why we build them & why you can't snatch them away.

In love & solidarity,

* Work in this sense is the broadest most inclusive meaning of the word. Paid, unpaid, academic, emotional, domestic, political, support, social, self, community, friendship, relationship, voluntary, creative, organising, self care. Literally any action taken by people to further the wellbeing, progress, survival, existence, thriving, or expression of themselves, their community, their friends,  partners, their family, their comrades, strangers or acquaintances.

1 comment:

  1. This post is srsly want I needed to rationalise in my head about consenting to praise and feeling obliged to give praise and leaving myself and other femmes without the same that I would give a masc , I mean I give a hell of a lot of energy out leaving little for myself and it's so easy to think this is a self esteem problem , but yes it is inherent to a gendered oppression and it's so nice to realise that , it's a struggle but this has verified a lot of things for me - thank you so much :) :) feeling comfortered in the shitty patriarchy xxxxx