Fran Rosa

31 March 2016


Activism: When Is It Dumb?

A month ago I wrote about activism being necessarily insufferable from the perspective of an activist who wants to push things in the right direction, and the people being annoyed for being pushed out of their comfort zone not as a side effect, but as the main target of that activism.

I haven’t changed my mind on any of that in case you are wondering. But there’s also another point of view I want to add. Context is important, and you are not the center of the world.

On social media you can often find a group of people picking on someone for something he said, or something she did. And it is usually lacks of any kind of context to it.

Part of the idea of being annoying on purpose as a form of activism is that you affect your inner circle, the people you interact with in social media, or people at your workplace or your favorite bar. You stand and make a point in order for things to change with people you know.

But just being part of a mob giving loads of shit to anyone on the Internet, be it a public person or not, is not helping anyone but yourself to feel part of a group. Are you proud of this behavior?

And it’s not only a question of mobbing someone, that is inexcusable in every circumstance. You have to understand that there’s different contexts and you can not share something without proper context just for its author to be beaten up. There could be even an intellectual point on it.

Where is all this coming from?

I read an interview with RuPaul, a drag queen, singer, model… who currently runs ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, a drag queens reality and talent TV show. I don’t know much about him, and I’ve read about the show but haven’t seen any episode yet. But I liked the interview. He is cultured and clever in his answers.

The key point that made me wrote this story was that, on that show, they had a game where contestants had to answer if the person on a picture was a cisgender woman or a drag queen, calling it ‘Female or She-male’.

Trans* people and collectives rapidly raised their voices and the network apologized and deleted that part from the show.

We did not intend to cause any offense, but in retrospect we realize that it was insensitive. We sincerely apologize.

Logo TV statement

It seems like everyone is happy now and justice triumphs.

Some people take identity very seriously. I don’t. I choose to laugh at identity and play with it. I’ll wear a suit or I’ll wear a sailor’s outfit. I’ll dress femme. I’ll dress butch queen, which is the name of my new album, by the way. I’ll do whatever. All of the experiences I’ve learned and every ascended master you’ve studied will say the exact same thing: Life is not to be taken seriously.

RuPaul’s interview

What is interesting about that is RuPaul wasn’t wrong by ignorance, but he was mocking on gender identity on purpose. And he admits that trans* people must want the opposite, as they take gender identity very seriously.

So question should be if trans* people watch the show, and if they do, if were they pretending to see drag queens as trans* people. Because trans* are not only transsexual people, but also people not accepting binary gender.

But as RuPaul points out, their use of gender is not a position against binary gender, but playing with both faces of it.

The part of the show using the word She-male was not about trans* people, but drags and cisgender women. Nor was it even about using that term to refer to undesirable aspects on a woman, like lack of femininity. And it wast just an attempt to take a negative world and give it a new use. But beyond the use of one given word, the problem here is that trans* people are willing to impose their point of view on a matter that doesn’t affect them, and taking away from drag queens their point of view, that may be opposite, but it’s not necessarily against them.

It’s similar at what usually happens with religion. People who believe put their own vision over atheists, asking for respect. But, what if I believe there is no god? Don’t I deserve some respect? Don’t have my beliefs and my own values the right to be defended too?

In the case of RuPaul, it’s only a TV show, so who cares. But don’t forget that, even when one side is taking the matter seriously and the other is not, they both have the right to their own opinion, as far as it has some intellectual base, and doesn’t come out of ignorance. At least is what I took from reading that interview.