Hi everyone, and welcome to this month on getting lit in the opinions section with Janvi! I hope everyone’s looking forward to this next chapter of our year, even if it’s kind of nerve wracking (hellooo college apps!). I want to talk about something kind of tough today, so buckle up: I’m going to discuss why I can’t prioritize friendships over politics.
What I mean by this is that I can’t just “put politics aside” and be “friends at the end of the day” with someone who isn’t actively fighting for social justice. And–I’m gonna say it!–I don’t “agree to disagree” with bigotry.
This isn’t to say that I can’t be friends with someone if our views don’t line up to a T. I just cannot be expected to hang out and have fun with people who perpetuate ideology that suppresses already marginalized groups. Wow, that was a mouthful! Let me break this down for you a little more.
When I was a young, naive girl with stars in my eyes and clear skin (so like, a couple years back), I prided myself on having a diverse set of friends and acquaintances: coming to KO, I was suddenly exposed to so many new people of different colors and backgrounds, from all different religions, LGBT kids, the list goes on.
And… there were also those who implicitly or explicitly hated one or more of those groups. Yet I felt good in being able to pal it up with whomever, regardless of their political stance (even if it went against everything I stood for). Ah, those were the days. Or were they?
Over time, I came to realize that what I was doing was unsustainable and useless. It turned out that my “reach across the aisle to make friends” method was just that: a reach! You see, being able to disregard politics in friendships is a privilege reserved for people who aren’t actually affected by those issues either way. For example, two white people can go back and forth all day about #BlackLivesMatter versus All- and Blue Lives Matter, but they can still put it aside and be friends because white supremacy works in their favor whether they like it or not.
Similarly, men can call themselves feminists and still be friends with someone who makes questionable jokes about women, or who wants to destroy Planned Parenthood, or thinks Kavanaugh’s the best man for the job, all because the patriarchy will never not benefit them. It’s easy for people with differing ideas about protections for gay and trans people to be friends if they themselves don’t have to worry about their lives being put in danger by homo- and transphobes. The same goes for any given intersection, like disability, socioeconomic status, or immigration. Does that make sense?
Basically, what I’m saying here is that I could not be friends with someone who seeks to dehumanize any marginalized group. And it doesn’t have to be active hatred, either: if you stand by policies, parties, and people in power who want to make it harder for marginalized people to exist, then sorry, but I don’t think we’re gonna get along.
People who can find it in themselves to “agree to disagree” about such major issues or those who “aren’t affected by the news” are usually those who don’t have to worry about them in the first place, but for me, politics are just not something I am willing to overlook in a friend.
I feel I should clarify here: I’m not saying you should distance yourself from people who slip up occasionally and say/do something that reinforces a system of oppression without realizing it. For example, I have friends who have in the past used the r-word frequently, and since have worked to understand its ugly origins and have denounced saying it.
When it accidentally comes out because of habit, they immediately correct themselves. Other times, someone might say something along the lines of “that’s gay, bro” or “don’t be a p*ssy.”
Upon being asked what exactly makes being gay or having certain body parts insult-worthy, they’ll realize and find something better to say. I don’t take issue with friends who act out of habit or even those with prior misconceptions, as long as they’re willing to and are actively trying to change for the better.
It doesn’t bother me if a friend stumbles on the path to change every once in a while because so do I! So does everyone when they’re taking steps to make a difference in themselves!
I especially can’t pretend that I wasn’t doing a bunch of inadvertently problematic things a couple years ago before I learned what they really meant. So no, this article isn’t about claiming some weird sense of moral superiority over your friends. I very specifically mean that I can’t be chill with those who actively oppose my beliefs because of the very real danger they put me and others in.
And no, this is not being “exclusionary” or “discriminating against political beliefs.” Last I checked, I don’t owe my time, energy, or friendship to just anyone. I am friends with people I am comfortable around, and one aspect of my comfort with others is to what degree they’re rooting for or against my existence as a person.
That’s that on that! I also don’t force anyone to be my friend. I put myself and my beliefs out there, and I make it clear that standing by my opinions is about action, not just what I say. If you don’t like it, then don’t feel any obligation to hang out with me. Simple!
For those of you worried about having a limited number of friends because you stand by what you believe in, don’t! All my friends and acquaintances hold pretty much the same beliefs I do.
And don’t think that having a group of feminist friends means that all we talk about is activism– of course not, I talk with my friends about regular friend stuff. I just don’t worry that these friends actually “fundamentally disagree” with an aspect of my identity (or anyone else’s, for that matter).
Additionally, you may be thinking that without a whole range of opinions surrounding me at all times, I’ve enclosed myself in an echo chamber. Fear not, dear reader, I am confined to no such thing. Because of how I strive to learn more and refine my opinions on these topics constantly, I am perfectly capable of having an intelligent conversation on the merits of, well, granting each person human dignity I guess. We love civil discourse! Those just aren’t the people that I would choose (and frankly, they probably feel the same about me) to be around on a daily basis.
Besides, if your method of learning about social justice is listening to your friends berate marginalized groups, then yikes! I would HIGHLY recommend figuring out a new approach, pal. More than anything, making friends is about setting boundaries for yourself and others. People who really value your time and personality will show it, and that’s how you find your real friends.
Activism in particular is a standard to which I hold my friends, and I think it’s important to know that that’s a-okay to do. So go out there and believe in yourself! Create your boundaries and the rest will come to you, I promise. Until next time, stay woke!