General Ramblings

Living in the Strange Dichotomy of Different Friends

I’ve been stuck in a rut.

I know it’s been probably two or three months since I’ve posted. Part of that is due to the fact that I started a new job, and it’s extremely busy. I’ve been neglecting other writing, too. It’s the nature of the beast. When one thing ramps up, something else needs to take a break. Things in their seasons. I am a firm believer of letting seasons have their turn.

But there’s another thing, and that’s this: I’m not sure where to go with this blog. I’m not sure what I want to do with my writing and my activism.

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I recently reconnected with a friend on social media – she was a dear friend from my Livejournal days. We are as different as different can be. We do not share the same ideologies, or religion, or thoughts, or opinions on life and the world. And because my circles are usually full of people who think and feel pretty much the same as me, and have that fiery social justice passion burning in their breasts, much like I do, having friends like this almost feels wrong. Am I somehow betraying my ideals by being okay with someone’s more fundamentalist, patriarchal views? Should I be flying the social justice flag 24/7?

I’m still doing activism. I still do a lot of activism, actually, probably to the annoyance of my less socially-fired-up friends on social media. But I get to thinking . . . I see a lot of friends of mine who renounce all forms of bigotry, right down to saying that they don’t care if you’re their mother or sister – if you’re not willing to stop being a bigot, then you have no place in their lives. And I once thought I’d like to do the same thing. But the thing is . . . I can’t.

Maybe that makes me a bad activist. Maybe that means, as someone told me, that I have no right to write about social justice or feminism. How can you be a hypocrite? That was what that person asked me, and I wonder – can you be an activist that still has room in your life for friends that don’t agree fully with you?

I know we’re supposed to think of ourselves as activists, full stop. Feminists, full stop. And that is probably the biggest part of who I am. But I’m also someone who doesn’t mind visiting and having a cup of tea, whether in real life or virtually, with an old friend who just happens to not agree with equal marriage. The thing is, we don’t talk about that. We both know it’s there. We both know how each other feels about it. And yet, in that moment, we’re just friends, enjoying our shared interests, catching up with each other’s lives. I can’t turn off the fact that I care for people who do not share my ideologies – even though I think my ideologies are the right ones and don’t understand why others don’t want equality, too.

I also know this may cause me to lose friends.

But this is why I haven’t been writing. I am conflicted – not in my activism, simply in my method of BEING an activist. I don’t feel like it should be all or nothing – but maybe it should be. Maybe I’m the one who’s wrong.

I’m in that strange valley of having two separate sets of friends. And I’ll say this – the friends who do not share my ideologies are not the ones asking me to break it off with the ones they don’t agree with.

I’m not sure that breaking it off and insisting on only surrounding yourself with like-minded people is fruitful, anyway. As allies, our job is to educate.

How can you only preach to the choir?

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13 thoughts on “Living in the Strange Dichotomy of Different Friends

  1. I actually happen to think it’s important to have friends who don’t agree with you 100%. It helps to have people around who can challenge you in ways that aren’t going to happen if you’re surrounded by people who share all the same views as you. It helps to understand everyone else’s perspective. And I think it can make you a better activist to fight for what you believe in when you accept people with different opinions, and show them compassion and understanding. People who disagree with our opinions aren’t going to change their minds if they’re just being preached at without feeling listened to and understood themselves.

    1. That’s all true – which is why I try not to be that person. I do get angry and I do get tired of explaining the same things over and over and dealing with assholes, but that’s when other allies can step in. I do expect my friends who are allies to step in when someone is being an asshole about something that affects my life, like being queer, Native, or fat.

      1. That’s why I think it’s good you’re choosing not to shut someone out of your life. Not everyone who disagrees with us is an asshole about it, after all! And I think it’s possible for those friends who disagree with us to still step in and defend us in those sorts of situations, too.

  2. You are not a bad activist if you do not only surround yourself with people who agree with you. Sometimes you can be friends with people with which you have to agree to disagree.

  3. I have found that maintaining friendships with people who have different views is totally resonable. I only leave friends if they’re abusive or forceful in trying to target me for abuse or to proselytize. I recently posted a letter to my friends coming out as Agender (a non-binary trans gender identity) and was pleasantly surprised to win over people who I never thought would be supportive. Sometimes kindness and gentle persuasion works and if not we’ll then just agree to disagree.

  4. I don’t think you have to have friends who agree with you on everything. Personally I’d find it difficult to be friends with someone who is anti marriage equality, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be. One thing though: your reasoning at the end seems like you think that you should be friends with her because as an ally it is your job to educate (is it?). BUT… You don’t talk to her about this stuff anyway. “The thing is, we don’t talk about that.” So does it really make a difference, at least in terms of social justice causes, if you are friends with this person? Just some thoughts.

    1. You’re right. I think I meant there that if the opportunity came up, I’d want to be able to speak to her about it and open up a dialogue, and I can’t do that if I’m cutting people off left and right.

  5. A couple of years ago, I stopped blogging. My final blog gave many of the reasons. That said, my activism didn’t stop, though it may have stepped back for a while.
    A previous commenter made the point that it’s good to have different friends, so you can hear different perspectives. It’s also good, so you can have an opportunity to exert some influence on their thinking as well, and that’s a form of activism. Regardless, life goes on.
    I have a friend who lives in the Baltimore/Washington DC area. She participated in the riots in Baltimore this past year. She works as a waitress, and even though there was considerable racial tension during that time, her life dictated that she work her job, and serve her customers of different races and nationalities, regardless of her social/political stance on racism. I don’t think it made her less of an activist to have to live her life to feed herself and her son.
    We’re complex individuals. We’re all like diamonds with many facets, and maybe some occasional flaws. So we can also be students, activists, workers, parents, athletes, with or without religion, and so many other things that make us the diamonds we are. Sometimes one facet shines more than others. Sometimes your activism will be at the forefront, other times it will take a back seat. I don’t comment much on your blogs, but I do read them, and I can promise you that your activism isn’t wasted on only those who happen to your blog page. I can tell you that even after almost 2 years, I occasionally get someone who recently read something in one of my size positive blogs and says that they “hadn’t thought of that”, and came to appreciate the perspective.
    Please keep doing what you’re doing, whether it’s living it every day on your sleeve, or occasionally. It still makes a difference.

  6. I really don’t think it makes you a bad activist to be friends with people who aren’t. If i cut off everyone who said or did awful, antifeminist things, I’d have to cut ties with most of my family, for starters.
    If i already have a strong connection with someone before they say something shitty, it makes sense that i’d be conflicted about ditching them, because i love them, i cared about them before they did the shitty thing. If a stranger or acquaintance says or does something shitty, i have very little misgivings about wishing them goodbye forever, because they do not already have a place in my life, so i really won’t miss them.

    But i mean, i’ve worked places where my boss has said horrible things and saying something about every/sometimes any comment would’ve probably cost me my job. it’s unreasonable to expect someone to forfeit their job and their living income in the name of being a good activist.
    We have to pick our battles, i do try to speak up and call people out when they say/do something bigoted, but ive also learned that you can’t change someone’s mind unless they’re open to it, and sometimes it’s not worth the energy wasted. You have to look after yourself, and practising self care in this way does not make you a bad activist. it would be impossible to get anything done if we stopped to challenge every single bigoted thing that crops up in our lives.
    I do also think it’s very possible that people can change! I know i have, and i know lots of people who’ve made lots of changes just being around vocal feminists have. I haven’t always known everything i know now, and the fact that i did learn about social justice and intersectionality as much as i have is thanks in part to various friends of mine, both on and off the internet. And i mean, even now i know i’m not perfect, there’s probably harmful things i’m doing that i don’t even know about yet, but it’s all a constant learning process, y’know?
    I know people who may be far from activists themselves, but if you explain that something is hurtful to you or someone else, and if they’re willing to listen and maybe try something new, that means a lot.

    While it can certainly be said that i think i may have stronger connections with like minded, activist friends, there are people whom i’d rather have in my life despite the fact that they have views which i know to be bigoted.
    I have cut off a few people, but it’s all been fairly extreme for the most part; people who i found out to be abusive, people who were openly and vehemently antifeminist, etc.
    There was one female friend whom i had a hard time letting go of because i’d known her for awhile and we went out together a lot, but she constantly and aggressively made ignorant comments on social justice posts of mine and others on various social networks, and even when i patiently tried to explain something to her, she was never open to listening to what i said, and the things she was ignorant about were very big things. it got to the point where i found it more stressful continuing to be friends with her and even though there were still things i liked about her, i wasn’t willing to put up with the cons so i let her go. I think if you get to that point with someone where they upset you more than they make you happy, you’d probably be better off without them.

    I think it’s also the same with liking/consuming media; music, tv shows, films, celebrities, etc. For example, One Direction is my favourite band; listening to their music and watching their videos has gotten me thru some of the worst times in my life, i’ve met the most wonderful people thru them, which is actually how i got into intersectional feminism funnily enough, and they just make me so, so, ridiculously happy.
    Are they perfect? hell no, but that doesn’t mean i have to stop liking them.
    There are also musicians that dont mean as much to me, which i could quite easily stop listening to/caring about, depending on what they did that was gross and how much investment i have in them/their music. The same can be said for actors, authors, comedians, tv shows, films, etc, etc.

    i think it’s really important to acknowledge and call out harmful behaviour when you can, but it’s up to you personally to have limits on what you’re willing to put up with.
    This goes for your relationships, and liking pretty much anything or anyone, because honestly? if i stopped liking everything and anyone that had ever done something wrong, i would find it very hard to like anything at all.
    Anyways, this is much longer than i meant it to be, sorry! but i hope you figure out what to do! i know some people who find it very easy to let go of people and things in the name of bigotry, but it really isn’t that simple, not for everyone, and like i said, the limits are personal.
    It’s up to you and you alone, who you want to spend your time around, and what you want to put energy into. And i really don’t think you have to feel like you’re compromising your activism by doing so.

  7. Just found your blog and I’m really enjoying following the Anxiety Diaries. I really hope you continued blogging important issues like this as I find you have a very interesting insight.

    I honestly think that “misguided” is the kindest word I could use to describe the people who pressure you to disassociate from people of varying viewpoints. Self righteous is the second kindest word I can think of. I can think of a lot more, but I think it would be best to keep them to myself. You’re totally right that being a positive example in someones life is probably the best way to change their views. Just because someone has had different experiences shaping their life, doesn’t mean that their bad people, it means they need more experiences that will teach them to be empathetic to things they didn’t previously understand. More and more activism seems to be focused on pointing out the “bad people” and properly shaming them for being so very, very bad. I think we need to focus more on bad ideals than the people who hold them. Good on you for not giving in to negative social pressure.

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