This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.
Many of you are familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from
So let’s have a poke at this whole “duty
to educate” thing.
I know, I know, surely this is a basic 101.
But, I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what this means
because I’ve seen a lot of people who normally have their head screwed
on right regarding this as “unreasonable” or “overused” or “silencing”.
And there’s lots of talk of it being “unhelpful”. After all, are
these not wonderful concerned allies (ha) who desperately want to learn
(ha) and if we’d just take the time they would understand our issues,
our problems and the oppressions that affect our lives (ha!) and then
they’d become passionate advocates on our behalf? (HA!)
The problem is, someone insisting that we
educate them is pretty much already saying “your time is less important
than mine and you’ve got to work to get me on side”.
See, here’s the thing: “I don’t have
a duty to educate you” doesn’t mean you must languish in ignorance
forever, eternally clueless as to why the marginalised people are so
angry at you and so very very very mean.
It means I don’t have a duty to sit down,
right here, right now, and spoon feed privileged people information.
It means, when we do educate (note I’m not even saying “if” here)
we do so on our terms. Which, since we’re the ones doing the labour
here, should be pretty obvious.
Sometimes I don’t have the energy or inclination
to educate, and I’m far from the only one. Especially when you have
to answer these questions repeatedly every day and every day your answers
are completely ignored.
And that’s aside from the
fact at least two thirds of anyone asking to be educated is actually
saying “silly gay, tell me why you think you’re oppressed and I
shall use my brilliant straight insight to tell you why it is not so!”
Because throwing hard and mentally and emotionally taxing work to educate
people to have them turn round with a big truck load o’ straightsplaining
is just FUNSIES
Because that’s my utter pet hate about this
whole “why won’t you teach me, I’ll never leaaaaarn?!”
whine – it’s the impression that this information is a BIG
DEEP DARK SECRET
Are you kidding me? This blog alone
has a gazillion posts on a 101 issues. I and most the contributors here
operate our own blogs and websites. Following the links, the forums,
the exchanges – my gods the social justice blogosphere is absolutely
huge?! There are literally thousands of marginalised people out there,
typing away on sexuality, race, gender, religion, gender identity, poverty,
class, ableism, how many of them intersect and far far far more besides.
Telling me you can’t find social justice information on the internet
is like telling me you can’t find snow in Canada.
I can see it now so hold before you return
with the oh-so-common refrain “but if someone else tells me, how will
YOU know I’m getting it right?” Uh-huh, how do YOU know you’re
getting it right if I spoon feed you? Did you miss the scandal of straight
men pretending to be lesbian bloggers for funsies? Or straight authors
pretending to be gay men for money? But even aside from the various
straight folks pretending to be gay, you shouldn’t be relying on one
source ANYWAY. Take me – I hate the word “queer”, loathe it with
a fiery passion, it’s a slur that triggers me as much and more than
nearly any other. You call me it, We Will Have Words. Other GBLTQ people
embrace it not only as their preferred label but their primary and only
label. Other GBLTQ people demand on “queer” not just for them but
for everyone and everyone who doesn’t embrace it is an assimilationist.
Does this mean that you need to pick the right
one? No – because as a straight person you don’t get to decide
that – it means you get to see that sometimes there is ZOMG COMPLEXITY
about a reclaimed slur – and so many other issues – and perhaps
it’s better to ask the GBLTQ person in question what terms they prefer.
Behold education – and an education you can only get by checking multiple
sources. And that means listening to many and recognising that there
may be differences and that there may be arguments you need to stay
the hell out of – not trying to find the GBLTQ person who agrees with
you (and you will find one for every vile thing – every community
has its quislings: hey there GOP Proud and GBLTory!) so you can play
the “I have gay friends who say X” game.
Basically, if you have sufficient internet
access to whine at me or any other marginalised person online about
how we’re not educating you and it’s so mean and unfair and why
won’t we just help you not be a bigot? Then you have sufficient internet
access to hit google, hit our archives, hit our tags, hit our link spams,
or hit any of the gazillion education tools we have ALREADY GIVEN YOU.
When you ask us to educate you and get mad
when we say no, you are not lost and alone in the wilderness, hopelessly
ignorant without any help you find your way out. You are already wallowing
in all the information you need – you just can’t be bother
to take the effort to read it when you can make one of us spoon feed
We have educated you. We have tried and tried
to educate you. But we can’t make you learn if you don’t want to
– and if you’re demanding we painfully explain what has already
been explained ad nauseum, then you don’t want to.