Under the Same Light

Michael Onsando
27 February ,2018

And, as the winds of change continue sweeping across the continent, we continue to push ourselves to find more spaces within which we can look at ourselves critically. The more we go into the act of realizing our own freedoms, the more important the question of creating space for each other becomes. And, as this happens, the more the questions on sharing space press upon us (and of course included in this question are questions on identity, perception, representation and so forth and so forth). On twitter Zoe Samudzi writes:

“Inclusivity is the recognition of a diverse set of narratives, experiences and identities. And while intersectionality can and often does mean that, it often doesn’t. It has specific political origins that are erased when it is made synonymous with inclusivity.”

I’d like to talk about deconstruction – and how we hold the things we find, and how this in itself, is a way things become what they are. Or, as it has been put before, “can’t change the world until we change ourselves.  In this way I would like to talk about vulnerability, how we handle vulnerability – and what that means for who we allow to be vulnerable.

It has been said that the work of building men must be done by men. And, of course, in creating that space, we must begin with a simple preposition. That we exist and that the realities created and rooted in our experiences are valid. This is important in a world where you rarely hear the word masculinity without the word toxic before it. If the problem lies within masculinity and must be resolved within it – then we must allow for an examination of masculinity itself.

I’d like to argue that there’s little space for this expression within feminism (and, of course, why should there be? The space, as designed, is safe for women and, in doing that must first of all begin with the perceptions of women (or, to see through feminist frames is to see through women’s eyes). Again, which is important because the unlistening of women has been happening (and continues to happen) globally.

Somehow though, the discussions seem to come up in opposition of each other. It is impossible to have a conversation about feminism without someone coming along to talk about the boy child. And it becomes increasingly more difficult to look at masculinity without it being dismissed as “masculinity so fragile” or just “men are trash” (Yes, I know men are trash is a structural critique, but if used to silence vulnerability in a conversation that was opened up deliberately to speak about one thing it gets in the way of vocalization).

At this point it would be important to emphasize that this is not to argue for the creation of a space within feminism. Perhaps it is an echo of an earlier essay where I wrote about the importance of creating a space for men outside the space of feminism (which goes back to what Zoe said about intersectionality vs inclusivity). Even as we see intersectionality as a tool towards greater freedoms, how do we begin to understand and create inclusive spaces?

I’ve always been big on breaking perceptions. Part of the problem, as always, is the ways in which we see people and the ways in which we treat them based on who we have decided they are before we kno who they are.  And how these decisions affect the ways in which we refuse to see (and hear) them. Because with continued unlistening and unseeing comes silencing. And with silencing comes the destruction of empathy (or, why must I see you as human in this same way that you have refused to see me?).

And, with the destruction of empathy, comes the cyclical collapse of everything else.

Can you live

in the radical world

you imagine?

From a practical perspective it would be as simple as saying “well, we’re all stuck here – where do we go from here?” Are the radical utopias we imagine actually habitable when we place humans within them? Or are they a collection of political positions that lack the human at the centre? Can we deconstruct your radical utopia backwards through time towards the present? Did you start with a sense of where we are? Or did you simply present where you would like us to be?

Towards this, perhaps it would be helpful to stop seeing the issues at play as opposing each other (no one wins the oppression olympics). Perhaps, when engaging with conversations. It would help to first contextualize. And, when presenting our arguments, it would be best to speak towards a clear forward rather than against whatever it is that is presented.

Speaking on listening, Jordan Peterson argues that one of the best ways to listen is to begin by trying best to articulate the other person’s point from a place of understanding, rather than from standing ready to defend your ground. The argument being, if both parties in a debate work towards this, they are more likely to find consensus that those that begin with the perception that the other side must be destroyed. Especially when we find ourselves handling each other’s vulnerability as we would handle a debate. Especially if one person in the debate is more skilled at debating (or, sometimes people just submit rather than agree).

Perhaps, before we question whether we have been heard, we must first ask ourselves – are we listening?

And, if we can’t hear each other – then how do we create inclusive spaces?

Or, where do we go from here?

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