When in doubt, use a Hamilton lyric as your post’s title. -Jen Hurler
I didn’t want to make a vague or click-baity title, nor did I want to make the reader have to guess what I was going to talk about. I don’t really think I did a good job, but what can you do? This post began as a rant that I was struggling with internally when my Twitter feed went from mostly harmless musings on animation to the not so great outlooks for many non white, straight, 1-percenter Americans. My feed has always been a likely polarizing mix of animation anecdotes and women’s rights and video games and social justice. These things are all a part of my life and affect me, they make up who I am. My career and financial well-being lies in animation. My mental and physical health relies on my being able to support myself, and I’m lucky to work at a company that makes movies and offers wonderful healthcare/benefits. I’m also lucky (most of the time) that the thing I work in full-time is also the thing that is my, for lack of a better word, hobby. So I some times feel very self-conscious and dare I say, hypocritical, when I change gears on my feed.
This election season, I’ve been radio silent about animation. Regardless of which side you were on, and how you feel about the United States’ next president, there are valid concerns. Concerns about healthcare coverage, hate crimes, women’s health, LGBT rights, climate change/environment, sustainable energy, clean water, gun control police safety and accountability, education, the rights of First Nations people, conflicts of interest, immigration…you know, the issues that were put on the backburne0r during debates and news reports, for one reason or another.
I’ve felt very silly trying to compose light-hearted thoughts about films like Trolls when our First Nations people are fighting for the right to their land and clean water. I’ve felt silly wanting to talk about seeing Floyd Norman and LeSean Thomas give talks when there are reportedly more hate crimes occurring now than there were post 9/11. And it’s not to say that there weren’t issues happening while I tweeted about less important things, and it’s not to say that that won’t continue to happen. Because as I’ve said, all of these things matter to me. But at this moment, we are at the crux of our identity as a nation. Our humanity as a whole is being called into question, both internally and globally.
Even before the election, I strongly believed and was vocal about things, often at the mockery of some family and the expected, occasional random online person. The words social justice have become so loaded nowadays that I hesitate to use them in the same way that there are men and women who hesitate to call themselves feminists. I never hesitated, because at it’s core definition, that is what I am. You don’t have to identify as one, but you can’t stop others from applying the label to you if you believe in equal rights. There are plenty of American citizens right now who do not feel very American right now. It doesn’t matter how much they reject it, by definition, they are American unless they actively (read: legally) change that.
To be honest, I’m being a bit of a hypocrite right now. One of the things I get peeved about some times is the feeling that people don’t think to see others as complexly as they see themselves. A big example of that is my feelings on Black Lives Matter and police. It has become, like many things this year, a very polarizing discussion. But you CAN support both, you can empathize with both. These groups are not mutually exclusive and at their cores, just want a better future. I can understand and have compassion for the women who started BLM, and the movement that is spurred with each new tragic headline. I can also have sympathy for the police, knowing that these are men and women put in situations I can only imagine, hoping that they are being trained to de-escalate situations. I can hope that steps are taken to ensure that there is accountability in such a powerful role in a community in the way that I can hope steps are taken to ensure BLM remains a peaceful activist group, knowing that there are bad eggs in each group (and every group). I can feel saddened and angered that there have been so many more police deaths this year than in past years, and be absolutely disgusted at how the Dakota pipeline is being handled and how the Sioux people are being treated.
The people I work closest to at my job are very good with perspective in day-to-day life. Whenever someone has a sick kid that needs tending to, the immediate reply is always something like, “Cartoons can wait,” and I’m so grateful for that. But it has felt a little tougher to have those big conversations about the animation industry and about story structure and stories from other studios when there are trans kids afraid, or Syrian refugees who just aren’t welcome ANYWHERE apparently, despite a rigorous 2-year vetting process.
I feel so powerless. I’m comforted by gloriously imperfect intellectuals like Neil Degrass Tyson, authors I admire like Junot Diaz, John Green, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and JK Rowling, and organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. I learn what I can do from activists like Anita Sarkeesian, a woman who has endured so much abuse for discussing gender representation in video games, perpetual badass Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.
There are some things I am trying to implement into my life:
- Stop using plastic bags. If our government chooses to cut funding to climate change programs, the least I can do is start generating less waste. Also keep on top of environmental news and policy, and continue my ongoing effort to avoid fast fashion for a number of reasons, between labor conditions, climate change, constantly stealing from smaller artists, and waste.
- Donate to groups like the ones listed here, or here, and avoid companies that either donate to programs I don’t support or are not humane.
- Support small, grassroots efforts–everything from groups like the Beagle Freedom Project to projects like “The Brain Scoop,” which is an educational YouTube show about science hosted by Emily Graslie
- Read more, and read more books that challenge me. This is a great article to start with. Reading increases your empathy, and also lets you learn more about yourself through others. Here’s a link to some books that will help change your worldview, and here is one of many of Bill Gates’s reading lists.
- Learn how to be an ally. Know when to step in and help de-escalate a situation, to film something, confront someone. Know what privileges you have and what perspective you bring. Know when it is NOT about you, and know how to listen and learn from others.
- Re-familiarize myself with the logic fallacies, basic debate and rhetoric, and concepts like doublespeak. The jargon, the traps, properly research–FACT check before sharing articles if they come from sources you aren’t as familiar with.
- Be aware of confirmation bias, and the bubble that I live in being surrounded by people who mostly share the same beliefs as me. This article explains this well, and offers ways to combat.
- Watch and re-watch more documentaries, like the Nat Geo’s Before the Flood. Others I’ve enjoyed (and were depressed by) were Miss Representation, The Mask You Live In, Food, Inc., the films of Michael Moore, Planet Earth, Cosmos, and The Corporation
- Re-familiarize myself with things I learned in school, from basics like the scientific theory and civics concepts and cases like Roe Vs. Wade. Anti-intellectualism is rampant and that’s one thing I cannot stand for.
- Know and accept that not everyone is going to like you, agree with you, or engage with you in kind/fair/productive ways. We already have too many friends to maintain, so if cutting a toxic person–whether they’ve been in your life for years or via one tweet–out of your life is better for your well-being, so be it. At the same time, work even harder to show and tell those people in your life that they are valued and that you are there for them.
- Eat less red meat. I already don’t often eat red meat, but still!
- Always approach opposing viewpoints empathetically. It’s better than tactics like name-calling. And if in the end, nothing changes, I’ll know I tried without stooping low.
- Call my representatives. There have been several resources for how to contact your people. The first time I did this was when democrats, lead by Senator Chris Murphy filibustered for 15 hours to demand voting for gun control. I called and thanked him, and it made me feel like in some small way, I helped.
- Actually follow up on current events, like the Dakota pipeline. I still remember so many of my cousins who were obsessed with Kony 2012 and then it dropped off. Don’t be like them. Follow through. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!
- Be aware and informed of your own biases or the problems that you unintentionally bring into a situation. One of the stains on the history of the feminist movement is the exclusion of women of color, and this is a sentiment that still exists today in the demand and necessity of practicing inter-sectional feminism. I don’t agree with all of the viewpoints in this article, but this is an example of an uncomfortable but necessary read to understand other marginalized groups. Things get a little murkier for me as a half white Latina woman who fully benefits from 1)looking fully white and 2)has a fully white-sounding name.
- Read up on cybersecurity, net neutrality, and your rights. Consider going through this checklist to start doubling down on your own privacy online. Educate yourselves on which companies sell your info, and any things you can change in your social media to protect you from harassment.
Those were a bit all over the place, and I’m sorry for that. Nonetheless, I hope at least one of those intrigued you. We’ve all got to start holding each other accountable and stop pretending (as much as we’d like to) that these issues exist some place far away from us or are too far gone or out of our control. I’m so lucky to be in a position where I feel safe enough to even be contemplating these things, which is why we must speak up for those who are in immediate danger. Lastly, there’s nothing wrong with tweeting about the things you love. As long as you’re taking actionable steps to avoid living in a vacuum. Everything in perspective, yo. It’s on us now. Let’s get to work.