Dear Adelyn #001: What to do when people ask questions

Adelyn Stormborn is a meta-activist who lectures activists on activism. Her interests include doilies, Grolsch, MMA, anime, draconic culture, hydroquinone, re-appropriating life-hacking, n+=>2wave politics, The Matrix Trilogy and unsolicited editing. Advice in her column is free, otherwise she’d teach you, but she’d have to charge. In her introductory column, she answers a young activist on what to do when the people you’re talking social justice at respond with unexpected questions.

If you have a question for Adelyn, you can leave it in the comments. If you’re lucky, she’ll ‘splain an answer in another guest post.

***

“Dear Adelyn,

I’ve pretty much memorized the contents of all of the approved electronic pamphlets, being able to recite them on demand, and even list rules in reverse alphabetical order. Unfortunately, none of this memorizing has prepared me for the lived experience of talking at a person who lacks my wokeness. It’s even worse when talking to old people – e.g. those who like the vinyl I like, but back when first released; it’s as if they’ve spent all their years memorizing dishonest questions designed to undermine the education I’m trying to give them.

I was talking to this second wave feminist, and she asked ‘how do you know that?’; ‘what do you mean by “epistemology”?’; ‘why are you assuming I think gender is a binary?’ It was so rude of her to talk like that, I could barely speak. I was literally shaking. I mean, everyone knows the answers to these questions already; “because I’ve been told”; “knowledgey stuff like what they talk about in cultural studies”; “we all know you do”. It derailed the conversation and centered it on dictionaries written by old people.

I almost used ableist language and called her a “psychopath”. Thankfully I didn’t, but you should have seen how calm she was in the face of serious issues. It was callous. It was sickening. Don’t any of them care as much as me?

They all answer back to me like that; the second-wavers, the old science people, and the old left who couldn’t keep up with progress and are now right-wing dinosaurs. They don’t know anything and it’s like they never even cared.

All I’m trying to do is fill their heads with good knowledge. I have cold chills sometimes when I think of the way they patronized me, and I think about this often.

There’s a reason they say ‘we are the future’.

Yours,

Frustrated Young Intersectionalist who’s running out of spoons.”

***

Dear Frustrated,

Hello, and congratulations on being the first person responded to by moi. Senpai has noticed you.

First let me open by saying that you are a woke, caring person. Don’t let frustration eat away at your pride. Assert yourself confidently. Don’t let my fellow middle-aged people baffle you with bullshit.

The Skeptics have a term for what you’re up against. It’s called “JAQing off”. Basically, what this means is that the people you’re up against are pretending they’re “Just Asking Questions”. Of course, they’re not interested in answers, so their questions are fake, and you know this because;

1) They wouldn’t have interrupted your train of thought if they were interested in answers.

2) I’ve just told you.

It’s clear to me that you were already close to realizing this yourself, so kudos to you for that. With what you’re presently up against, telling them that they’re “just JAQing off” should be perfectly adequate, and anything beyond that, like simply slamming a door in their face, or calling them out on Twitter, is just bonus activism work. But I have to warn you of something else; a new threat.

There’s this buzzword you have to keep an eye out for; “incoherent”.

They’ll say that your ideology is “incoherent”. I’m not sure what phobia this is, because Approved People haven’t researched it enough yet, but it’s basically because the people you are up against can’t appreciate the beauty of the natural twists, turns, loops and curves of your logic. You’re like a beautifully constructed train set, with so many tunnels winding through a wonderfully crafted mountain, but in their ignorance they can’t enjoy or even understand that.

In practice, they may interrupt your train of thought before it’s even left the station. They don’t want the scenic route. They don’t want to experience the shifting vistas of your reasoning and lived experience because they’re grown bitter and resentful. Worse; they’re even encouraging young “feminists” to adopt this bitter attitude.

I have no time for such venom. Bitterness doesn’t accessorize with my dragon-femme.

You needn’t have time for it either. If anyone accuses you of incoherence, for now up until the time that Approved People determine the name and nature of the phobia, tell your antagonizers they’re “just being bitter”, walk away, and hope that they soon die of old age. If you get the cold chills after talking to them, soothe yourself with the realization that you’ve probably given these old, rubbish people a few more wrinkles.

They’ll be as ugly on the outside as they are on the inside, unlike us.

~ Adelyn

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