I’m settling into life in Puebla, and the second week was exponentially better than the first. I feel more capable of getting through discomfort in healthy ways, I made a friend, I have a go-to coffeeshop, and I’m getting more comfortable with the me that’s underneath all of the protective layers I’ve been peeling away. Overall, I’m just feeling more resilient to handle whatever comes.
But now that my own personal period of peak destabilization is passing, I’m getting loaded up with tons of destabilizing ideas. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I would have told you I spend a decent amount of time thinking about gender, race, class, power, and cis-heteronormativity. With my beautifully radical set of friends, what else are we going to talk about? But wow: the readings I’m being assigned and my conversations with the program director are rocking my concept of the world harder than it’s been rocked in a while. I’m being deeply challenged and deeply humbled.
I don’t think I’ll do a great job of expressing the complexity of everything as I’m still absorbing it, but one of the main things I’m thinking about now is how to make art (or really, contribute anything) within a world that will immediately try to suck you and your art into existing structures of power. Because art isn’t just predominantly made by cis-het white men, it’s also interpreted by them. So whatever a marginalized group creates runs the risk of immediately being used to support a narrative that “others” and oppresses them, essentially using their “different” biology to contextualize and explain the art. For example, something a woman creates will be thought of in the context of her womanhood, something a Mexican man creates might be said to “a Mexican observation on [x]”. Whereas something a cis-het white man creates will exist outside of that constraint because his identity is default.
I’m also struggling with how to represent important things like gender and race with the understanding that these concepts (and so many others in our society) are constructed by our society as tools of oppression, and talking about them can sometimes just aid the machine. While people perceived to be a certain gender or race absolutely experience issues that need to be recognized and addressed specifically (see: Black Lives Matter vs All Lives Matter), how do you talk about a marginalized group without adding scaffolding to the giant machine that’s using these constructs to keep people down? And how do you talk about groups without flattening the richness and diversity of experience within them, and actually oppressing others in your quest to dismantle oppression? (I’m looking at you, white feminism!)
I could go on and on about other things sending my brain spinning, but that’s probably enough for now. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do, but I’m really glad to be in this headspace and learning, especially since with my many privileges, I run a high risk of making the world worse if I don’t actively try to fight these power systems.
One day I’ll write about something totally light, like avocados and ice cream!