Fear not, this isn’t a blog post extolling the wonders of the 5:2 diet!
‘New’ Atkins on the other hand, spruiked by the impossibly handsome Rob Lowe… kidding, I’m just kidding!
Lately I have been feeling neglectful of this space, yet when I try to write, nothing seems to flow. I’ve been thinking about this lack of flow for a while now, and I think I’ve worked out how to articulate why I haven’t been as ready to put fingertips to keys.
I’ve been concentrating on listening, rather than writing.
As anyone paying any attention to the world around us knows, we are in quite the state of global flux.
Sexism isn’t going the way of the dodo quite as easily as we perhaps anticipated, especially in light of the #MeToo movement. Women are still ‘asking for it’ in the minds of far too many.
Governments seem to be turning towards authoritarianism and civilian protest is becoming more dangerous.
Racism seems to be spreading like wildfire rather than evaporating as we ‘evolve’ as humans.
Violence against women continues to rise here in Australia, and nothing seems to be done about it. Mess with strawberries, and the government acts immediately. Kill a woman, crickets. It’s deeply disturbing and disheartening.
The temptation to either bury your head in the sand or strike a defensive posture may be an initial reflex, but I’ve found that neither of those reactions does me any good.
To pretend that everything is hunky dory is offensively Pollyanna-ish in the extreme, and to be in fight mode continuously is utterly exhausting.
There are far too many things happening in the world for any one person to be engaged meaningfully across them all.
As a very, very small cog in the wheels of global political and social justice upheavals, I made a decision to focus on listening to those who know through experience what they’re talking about and who can therefore educate me the best.
I chose an area where I knew I could benefit a great deal from taking the time to listen:
Isn’t that a comfortable topic for a white, middle-ish class Australian?
Nothing to see here of course, I’m not racist… except that there is, and I am.
Yep, I just said that. Read more about why here.
I definitely would not be saying that without having begun to take the time to listen and reflect.
Listening takes many forms in our super-connected world. I started listening on Instagram and Twitter. I listen by following women who don’t look like me, and who have different life experiences than mine. I took advice to follow Muslim women, black women, African-American women, Indigenous women, queer women, women of colour and women I’d never cross paths with in my small orbit of Melbourne’s suburbs.
I have become a student of women including Ashley C Ford, Layla F Saad, Sonya Renee Taylor, Roxane Gay, and Maxine Beneba Clarke.
I listen by reading their feeds, reading articles they write and link to, and books recommended by these authors, educators and activists. And boy do I learn a lot by reading through the comments!
The more I read, the less I feel ‘entitled’ to speak, especially in defence of white responses to the things they share.
Listening isn’t our default posture on social media, we are quick to jump in and have our say (or is that just me?). I’m trying to do that less.
The other night I started typing a response to something that wasn’t about me and didn’t need my input, and then half way through my response I deleted it. I did this about three times with that same thread… ‘Note to self’ my brain screamed, ‘this isn’t about you, just LISTEN!’
I listen by watching a broader selection of documentaries and trying to expand my knowledge of history. Thank you, Netflix, Stan, iView et al.
As I listen, I have felt schooled, deeply uncomfortable, defensive, curious, sad, ashamed and empowered. As I listen, I realise how far I have to go, I am most definitely at the beginning of my listening journey.
My decision to listen means I have learned enough about white privilege that I don’t recoil when it’s mentioned or rush to defend myself. I understand that it has bugger all to do with work ethic, and everything to do with structural, racial inequality that’s been built up over the centuries by white people.
I’m privileged, not because I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but because I was born in this white skin. My skin colour impacts everything about the way I experience the world. Whiteness as an identity is a bit of a new concept for many of us, as we (white folks) have pompously assumed the default position when it comes to identity.
Sometimes I wonder about how I lived in blissful ignorance around issues of race for so long. Then I remember where I grew up, in the whiter than white Australian suburbia of the 1970s and 80s.
Look around at our society, and ask yourself, who has power?
Look at who is publishing newspapers and running global media empires.
Who do you see on TV?
How diverse is any locally made show on Australian screens, really?
Now that I’ve worked out why I haven’t felt like writing, I could write for days. I won’t though. Thank goodness, right?
What I want to leave you with is an idea about ratios to live, listen and learn by.
It’s not my idea, it’s not a new idea, but I believe it’s worth repeating, particularly in the context of educating ourselves about issues that genuinely matter.
We’re (mostly) equipped with two ears, two eyes and one mouth.
If we each choose to spend a little more time using our eyes and ears, and a little less time using our mouths (speaking or writing), maybe we’ll give our brains and hearts time to consider things from another person’s point of view.
Who knows what that could lead?
Jump in to the comments, let’s talk!
Let’s talk about race, baby
Let’s talk about you and me…
Got anything to say about who you listen to, what you reckon about racism or the state of the world?