podcast link — For the Wild – Alexis Shotwell on Resisting Purity Culture
personal epiphany prompted by the conversation: i don’t need to police myself. (where i go when i feel guilty about my behavior/choices)
noteworthy phrase: “pain of complicity” – what many of us resist, especially us white people, because it’s so hard and heavy to hold the ways in which we are responsible for/benefit from systems and histories of oppression. this sense of responsibility isn’t about shame — it’s ultimately empowering; it reminds us that we can take action against these systems. it’s a call to action.
i’ve been encountering this theme repeatedly recently, the connection between responsibility and empowerment.
noteworthy point: Alexis describes qualities of people who have been resilient in social justice movements, ones who are in it for the long haul and still pleasant (lol):
- they have a quality of curiosity – they bring their knowledge and experience but are also flexible to see what works for the specific group, cause
- they don’t collapse when they make mistakes – i think of this as ego work. as white people (people in general, but we’re speaking situationally here), we’re going to fuck up. it’s about how we show up to make it right, to make amends, to work towards repair that really matters.
- they have an orientation towards repair and responsiveness — i think of this as accountability work. accountability for harm (that doesn’t revolve around punishment), that moves with the intention of seeking reconciliation, is an incredibly kind gesture in community.
personal musing moment: as human beings living in a fucked up system, we’re going to reflect that interpersonally at times… and so instead of falling apart at what feels like criticism or like you’re a “bad” person, we can put our energy into moving towards a path of healing.
also, i’m speaking idealistically here, cause you know i’ve fallen apart at what feels like criticism or being called out more than once. i mean, the reason this podcast resonated with me is because i’m a recovering perfectionist, which is simply not copacetic with working for real change. we gotta move forward knowing mistakes will be many. which is why pouring energy into systems of repair is so vital.
Alexis Shotwell makes the point that individual perfectionism is anti-collectivist. without the ability to endure making mistakes in relationship, there’s no way to grow. and ultimately this leads to silence and inaction due to fear of doing the “wrong” thing, which is simply inevitable if we’re truly doing the work.
as white people, whiteness is a lot to grapple with, to hold, not just the past trauma but the present. we are peeling the onion of power and oppression. so if having to confront that in yourself feels rough, it’s because it is.
and i don’t say this to center white comfort but to prepare us white folks for the fragility we may encounter in the face of racial reckoning. i think it’s helpful to be reminded that some things are just hard. not because we’re doing it wrong or because we suck (which is centering ourselves), but because it’s fucking hard and grimy and depressing to confront. it’s collective shadow work. the only way to heal is to bring it all out into the light.
Alexis mentions 3 Types of Relationships she’s been curious about recently:
- the power of friendship, whether animal, places, people, nature; “mushroom friends, animal friends, people friends, mountain friends,” etc. – she makes the point that it’s a myth that only our family will take care of us.
- “forming collective is a skill” – that’s all i wrote for this one. but i’ve been thinking about this more and more recently — is there an activism/social justice school?
- the importance of naming enemies and opposing them – “opposition is a relationship”
the podcast also mentions an essays of hers called “Claiming Bad Kin” that i made note to check out. here’s an excerpt:
“I am interested in what it could mean for white people and settlers more generally who benefit from historical and current effects of enslavement, colonialism, border militarism, racial distributions of environmental devastation, and capitalism to claim kin with the people producing these effects. If we are complicit in the pain of this suffering world, how might we take responsibility for our bad kin?“
personal musings part 2: when we make a mistake, and we don’t make it about ourselves, about how “shitty” we are, when we don’t shame spiral, we are able to step into the responsibility and humility of being in relationship in a way that really excites and comforts me. it’s like we think there’s something righteous about “punishing” ourselves.. i’d say actually letting ourselves feel the depth of the pain of unintentionally harming another person is enough. anything more becomes self-indulgent, becomes about us, the person who’s fucked up, instead of tending to the other person and repairing the harm done.
but let me be clear: it’ll probably also take some individual processing after the fact, because if you’re a perfectionist, fucking up hurts. it feels like it could kill you. so the more we feel it, hopefully the less fragile our ego becomes in the face of it. because it’s not about me or you, it’s about us. we’re going to fuck up and we’ll all ultimately need help to figure out the road back from it.
side note: i had a hard time writing this post, because it can be hard to reflect and digest lessons without feeling like i’m lecturing. any tone of lecturing is ultimately about me towards me, not anyone else. i am the one eager to grow here. and if it resonates with others, that’s of course a lovely bonus.
also, these ideas are fresh to me, and it can feel awkward working out ideas in real time. oh, the irony about my perfectionist taking over as i try to write about resisting it. it’s hard to learn in public, to rationalize mistakes as a part of growth (especially in a shaming culture). shame and social rejection are powerful tools for silencing and causing action paralysis. it leads to us trying to stay “safe” from criticism, which is the opposite of what change is about. but goddamn is it scary.
good luck out there ❤ ❤ ❤
prayer: when i have made a mistake, when i am being held accountable for harm done, may i remember that i am one of many folks who will walk this path of reconciliation. may i not collapse under the weight of imperfection. may i remember, as Alexis says, that i am “good enough,” and that most importantly, i will show up for repair.