Here are some facts about my life:
My name is Abigail.
I am twenty-seven years old.
I have red hair.
My best friend is a snaggle-toothed dog named Beatrice.
A central part of my identity is my desire to fight the good fight - or at least what I consider to be the good fight. My love is primarily for the ideals that saturate the fight, but if we’re being honest, it’s also for the fight itself.
This was a much simpler struggle when I lived in the easy and cocooned militancy that upper middle class teenagerdom affords a person. I gave up meat and glowered at my parents over the dinner table. I sat in the car, sweating a righteous sweat in my sister’s SUV in the gulf-sized parking lot of Wal-Mart, refusing to accompany her as she went about her weekly shopping. I cried until I vomited in Math Studies (the math class for kids who couldn’t quite get through Calculus), when W won re-election. Like any Catholic, even a terrifically lapsed one, I held myself personally responsible since I was too young to vote. Instead of Hail Marys, my penance was attending punk shows, cutting myself, and finding new causes to champion. I dramatically disowned my best friend during senior year when she “sold out” and drove the head of the Young Republicans new Porsche around the parking lot, trading in political power for horsepower.
So where am I now? Tempered, perhaps, but still steadfast: I still don’t eat meat, I still don’t shop at Wal-Mart, and I still get teary-eyed when blithering warmongers are elected. I still think girls and women are undermined and discouraged because their passion is mistaken for hysteria - that their voices sometimes aren’t heard because we are under this absolutely delusional belief that a shaky voice can’t be a respected voice, even though a voice thick with emotion is often the most honest one in the room. I still get angry when I fail my own ideals (this happens daily) and depressed as I watch my friends embrace consumption and irony instead of activism and sincerity.
So what’s different between seventeen-year-old me and twenty-seven-year-old me? Most immediately: context, framing, the recognition of privilege and systemic injustice. I understand that my activism (and certainly that of my youth) was and is in itself an exercise in privilege. That while it’s easier to hold and punish a single person for perpetuating, knowingly or not, whatever injustice you choose to fight against that day, we are all products of mechanisms larger than the unjust manifestations themselves. I know now that to win any substantial lasting victories, it’s often times not the person you need to focus all your efforts on, but instead what is happening two or three levels above them - the elected officials, market regulations, the laws, and how power is structured.
That isn’t to say that I let every small thing slide for the sake of the larger argument - a person being cruel, a joke that features rape as a premise or punchline, or slurs of any kind will still get an immediate rise and response out of me. Maybe that’s my point: that the activism of my adulthood is better able to intuit when a person needs to be held accountable as an individual or when the foundation that the person stands on needs to be held accountable.
Perhaps most importantly, I know now that conversation needs to be constant. While shouting, stomping, and disowning folks daily satisfied me in highschool, I need to offer more than humiliation delivered from a soapbox to affect change. While I still love noise and believe that it will always be a valuable organizing tool, my strength comes from my curiosity, compassion, and commitment to erasing systems of inequality. To that end, I’m glad to be here at She/Folk, to work through some of my ideas with you. I hope you’ll grant me the room to speak honestly, the grace to be wrong on occasion, and the support to educate me when that happens.