On why I blog, criticism and activism

It’s been a difficult week.

I feel appreciative of having this space to write. I appreciate all of you who have read my thoughts here over the last two years and contributed to this dialogue.

This is the space that I created when I first decided I had something to say. The timing of all of this is in some ways fitting, because this weekend I was back at the place where it all started.

I was back at the site of the conference where I first called myself a radical doula. I was back at that same hotel in Atlanta, this time for a board meeting of the Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.

Because of the dialogue over the past week, because of the criticism and personal attacks, I keep coming back to this question: why do I blog?

Over two years ago, when I first stood up in a room full of birth activists and abortion advocates and said, “My name is Miriam Perez and I’m a radical doula,” I felt the seeds of this blog stirring. The reason I felt compelled to stand up and say that is the same reason that I come back to when, in these difficult moments, I ask myself why I write. I write because I have a philosophy that motivates my activism. I said those words then because I felt alone in that vision, unsupported in it. I wanted a place where I could flesh that out, articulate why all the pieces of my activism fit together. In these 2 plus years I’ve learned that I’m not alone, that there are people everywhere who also feel similarly.

I come back to the identities that I hold which contribute to this philosophy: I’m Latin@, I’m a doula, I’m an abortion advocate and a part of the reproductive justice movement, I’m genderqueer (when I started this blog I used the term gender non-conforming), I’m a feminist. For some people these identities were contradictory, and it was that realization that made me want to articulate why they weren’t. That’s what motivates my activism.

This activism isn’t only reflected on the internet, on these blogs, on the evidence you find when you google me. Most of my activism has happened offline. It’s happened in my doula work, in my work in the reproductive justice movement, in all the other things I do off the internet.

Having an online persona is new to me. It’s strange and wonderful in so many ways. It can also be painful and damaging at times, particularly when I don’t feel like I can faithfully represent myself. My offline activism doesn’t get the same weight as what I do on the internet. The irony of that sometimes is painful.

Take this weekend for example. At the same time as there were really difficult and strong criticisms being made about me and my writing about issues of gender and transphobia, I was at the board meeting for Sistersong. While things were being written about me that I couldn’t fully respond to or engage in because of my commitment to this organization, I was doing the work of engaging with a WOC organization around issues of gender identity and trans inclusion. I pushed forward the conversation about gender variance and inclusion—a conversation that feminist and women’s organizations are being forced to take on, rightfully so. I feel a responsibility to push these conversations with whatever influence I have in those spaces, because I know it is vital and important to the work of feminism, and important to me as a member of the gender variant community.

How do I hold that work along with what is said about me on the internet?

Being in the public eye means there will be criticism. I’m accepting that. At the same time I’m remembering why I write, what ideas and beliefs motivate me and what my agenda is. I do have an agenda, and I won’t pretend that I don’t. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to discussion, or pushback, or dialogue. But I also won’t let myself live on the defensive, or only in response to others. If my agenda doesn’t speak to you, if my philosophy doesn’t jive with yours, you can engage with me and you can also choose to leave.

I won’t be bullied into responding on someone else’s terms. I do the best I can to be faithful to the online communities I’m a part of. I’m limited by my offline commitments to my activism, to my work, to my life and my self-care. The truth is that for some people, nothing I do will ever be enough. I have to sit with that and know it’s true and there’s nothing I can do to change that fact.

I’m sure I’m going to screw up along the way, as we all do. Call me out, say how you feel about something I did or said. But personal attacks and vendettas aren’t going to be where I engage.

I remain committed to why I began this work in the first place. Because I have something to say. I know that what I say may not fall favorably on the ears of every person. That’s fine.

But sometimes, in these tough moments when I feel like shutting down to protect myself from the drama, from the internet and it’s anonymity (which protects everyone but those of us who have put ourselves out there) I have to remind myself why I came to this part of my activism in the first place.

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7 thoughts on “On why I blog, criticism and activism

  1. presbyqueerian April 20, 2009 / 10:25 am

    Thank you so much for your voice, Miriam. Anonymity invites cruelness and distances ourselves from true human compassion. It is unfortunate that in these spaces where there is the opportunity for true transnational dialogue that some folks use that as a place to attack rather than have conversation. I hope for the world’s sake that you never stop writing.

  2. omphaloskeptic April 20, 2009 / 10:30 am

    have been following some of this and just wanted to send my best. sending supportive thoughts your way.

  3. Courtney Martin April 20, 2009 / 10:47 am

    Beautiful clarity here, Miriam. I’m so glad you are going back to your beginning and mining it for that exquisite first instinct that brought you online, that pushed you into articulation and communication in a public way. You have undoubtedly changed lives with your philosophy, your courage to voice it, your dedication. I have learned so much from you and I’m so grateful that you exist–online yes–but especially off.

  4. annajcook April 20, 2009 / 1:55 pm

    Hi Miriam,

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been struggling a lot over the past couple of weeks with how to be open to learning from other people in a spirit of humility without, as you put it, being “bullied into responding on someone else’s terms.”

    It’s very, very hard for me, personally, to live with the fact that I can’t make sure everyone in the world feels cared for and heard. And I’ve really appreciated your example in this instance, refusing to act in haste.

  5. hillary_b April 20, 2009 / 11:48 pm

    this post and these comments are all so eloquent, that i want to take it down a notch and say: “f the haters!”

  6. Suzan April 21, 2009 / 12:06 am

    Welcome to the club of being bullied by ideologues of the transgender community.

    I came out 40 years ago, had surgery 37 ago. Over the passage of time as female I have found that all of society’s expectations of a female have become my life.

    It is hard for those who are new or are still somewhere in-between to separate what is specifically transphobia from that which is simply woman hating misogyny.

    My partner and I coined Women Born Transsexual as a term for those of us who have gone beyond sex reassignment surgery and are now women with a history of having been born with transsexualism.

    We have been labeled bigots and elitist for seeing the bulk of our oppression being that shared by other females and only a minimal due to our past history. Although we do acknowledge that history and ask the support of other feminists when it comes to writing hate crimes laws and anti-discrimination rules.

    There has been some serious trashing of people with transsexualism on the part of certain cultural feminist factions. You and I have probably heard those factions which are often indistinguishable in their attacks from those of our common enemy, the religious right.

    That said WBTs have been attacked for following the basic feminist principle of putting the cause of women first and foremost. For assimilating into and becoming one with women, i.e. woman identified instead of remaining transgender identified.

    I support Feministing, Pandagon and Feministe as well as other feminist blogs with featured links on both my blogs.

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