alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
let me hear your voice tonight ([personal profile] alexseanchai) wrote2017-08-03 03:08 pm

(no subject)

I was always told by people that I'm a leader or should be, and for me being a leader always meant that wherever possible, never ask of people what you are not willing to do yourself. I can't ask people to give me emotional labour, or support, or help, unless I'm willing to give it as well.

To me a leader is someone who does what they can to make sure everyone in the "community" is happy, healthy, and safe, to the best of my ability. It's not about getting my own way, or having everyone do what I want, but putting the needs of the community first in such a way as to make everyone succeed.

Sometimes that means being forceful or aggressive, but more often than not it is about offering support, assistance, and then getting out of the way. It's about helping other people get a chance in the spotlight.
Ania Maria Bula
tielan: Wonder Woman (Default)

[personal profile] tielan 2017-08-03 10:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Yep, this is leadership.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

[personal profile] alatefeline 2017-08-04 12:31 am (UTC)(link)
A large part of this is deep dangerous BS. A large part of this is not.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

[personal profile] alatefeline 2017-08-04 03:56 am (UTC)(link)
Tee hee! Well, you asked. This could be fun! Hope you feel like yanking some ideas back and forth…

>> I was always told by people that I'm a leader or should be, <<

It is literally not possible for everyone to be a leader. Having gifts or talents - particularly mental gifts of the sort that show well in a traditional academic setting within one’s sociocultural surroundings - that ‘should’ make someone ‘special’ can become a form of trap made of personal and societal expectations; of others acting entitled to one’s labor and emotional investment; of self-condemnation linked to perfectionism and a twisted form of stereotype threat. I question both the ‘special’ and the ‘should.’

>> and for me <<

The writer’s experience is valid for them. But people differ!

>> being a leader always meant that wherever possible, never ask of people what you are not willing to do yourself. <<

While the intention is good, this is a form of the Golden Rule Fallacy. I feel very strongly about this, but am okay with discussing it anyway.

First, people ask each other to do things they aren’t willing *or able* to do for themselves ALL THE TIME. This is the function of the economic exchange of goods and services; despite the massive inefficiencies of (semi-regulated continually-experimental privilege-hegemonic) capitalism, it is *maximally* inefficient to demand that everyone make all of their tools and perform all of their labor for themselves. If someone else is better at A and I am better at B, and we both need A&B, we are *both* better off arranging a swap, likely via monetary means but also potentially through labor-trading, a favor network, a bank of donations in kind, etc. That I would in theory be willing to learn this A if I had to, and might even have done a stint as A in the past, and wholeheartedly support good working conditioners for A-ers doesn’t change the fact that I am not actually willing to swap right now and do A because I can’t do their A and my B and also C and D and E.

Second, the author is pretty clearly referring to asking people to do work within the broad general context of activism/volunteeering/outreach - the voluntary exchange and sharing of ‘extra’ labor and skills within the context of shared work for an intended broader social good. So it’s not ‘really’ about the economic context. Except it always is about the economic context, because having the spare time and spoons to be a nice volunteer church lady taking around meals to parishioners implies some serious fucking privilege. While survival activism - showing up to protest shootings or rapes or murder-by-lack-of-health-care because it is literally a case of confront that shit or die from it - implies some serious fucking *damage*. Wherever someone falls on the spectrum from ‘I have the time, so I want to chip in’ to ‘if I don’t chip in even if it costs me spoons I don’t have, I’ll probably die’ for any specific cause, looking at activism as something that comes out of ‘spare’ time means that there are inequities stemming from differences in how much people can afford to do and how much they hurt themselves doing it. But if you change the model to look at all of someone’s time and energy investments, we are back in the territory of jobs and school and healthwork and survival activities and where they sleep being really relevant to the discussion.

Third, it’s ableist to assume that in order to be a leader someone has to be *capable* of doing anything they ask anyone *else* to do, and never, ever, ask for more help than they put out.

>> I can't ask people to give me emotional labour, or support, or help, unless I'm willing to give it as well. <<

This statement is grounded in expectations about fairness. Throwing things too far away from an even exchange ends up with an abusive relationship, whether in a single household or in a wider context. But too much of an emphasis on a ‘like for like’ exchange is in and of itself inequitable. Different people can contribute different things.

And it is not a moral failing to be someone who needs to receive more help than they provide. Even though capitalism teaches us that we have to ‘contribute’ somewhere along the line to deserve to *be*, I disagree.

>> To me a leader is <<

Definition time, okay…

>> someone who does what they can to make sure everyone in the "community" is happy, healthy, and safe, to the best of my ability. <<

A leader can be this. It is a form of moral leadership by example. It is also a means of building *shared* community power and ALSO *legitimate* personal status by contributing and connecting.

But I don’t think that ‘contributor’ has the same resonance here. I think that the idea of ‘leader’ as someone whom other people follow is still being invoked; this isn’t a kind of leadership that exists in a vacuum. Which, to me, means that the write should honestly examine the desire or intent to have a following rather than imply that everyone can and should be a leader *like this.*

Because if everyone is doing certain things to make sure others are happy, healthy, and safe, that may be a very happy community of chippers-in, but no one person or group is *leading* the way. Whereas if only some people do it, and are therefore the leaders whom others should follow, then there is a hierarchy of moral worth or validity being implicitly set up, in which people who ‘only’ follow an example or suggestion - however well, however fluently, however great their contributions - are differentiated from leaders who *set* the example.

A leader/follower distinction isn’t *wrong*. ‘The leader of the berry-pickers is the one who knows where to find the berries - and the bears.’ But it means that the role of follower should be examined, and examples of switching back and forth matter too.

It’s also very different to argue, in the abstract, with a goal of ‘everyone is happy, healthy, and safe.’ But I think it’s worthwhile to demand specifics - and also look into edge cases. What about the person who literally cannot be healthy - someone who is sick, someone who is dying? What about someone who doesn’t *want* what everyone else sees as leading to their happiness - is it less tyrannical inwardly when the pressure is imposed by a sympathetic, kindly, listening group of self-appointed community leaders rather than handed down in a decree? What about people mindfully choosing to accept certain ‘unsafe’ risks - at what level of risk to people say something, and at what level do they try to force them to stop? How does the goal change when we bring them into the picture?

>>It's not about getting my own way, or having everyone do what I want,

Important to clarify.

>> but putting the needs of the community first in such a way as to make everyone succeed. <<

I would argue that while having the overall good of everyone in the community be successful is awesome, it’s important to break out subgroups, particularly along axes of privilege whether long-entrenched or recent, and *also* look at individual needs and desires. Sometimes what the community appears to need dissolves into what the louder or better-amplified members of the community want when looked at up close. Sometimes what is good for one person is *bad* for someone else and there isn’t a neat way to resolve that conflict.

>> Sometimes that means being forceful or aggressive, but more often than not it is about offering support, assistance, and then getting out of the way. It's about helping other people get a chance in the spotlight. <<

I don’t disagree with this part, but it is *very* difficult in practice.

References to unearth and link when I have the brain:

recessional on identification as gifted and the rainbow fish
ysabet on followship as a skill set
privilege hierarchy of ‘unstructured’ ‘flat’ feminist groups, older academic article
source of paraphrased ‘berry-pickers’ quote
everyday feminism article on the ableism and racism of demands for ‘real’ activism

In sum, I think that the problems with the quote come down to: (1) not everyone can identify as a leader and succeed at that (2) there is actually nothing wrong with not being into or good at socio-political leadership, but saying ‘I don’t want to be a leader’ somehow is translated into ‘I want to be a slacker / a robot / a ‘failure to live up to my potential’ within the cultural context of middle to upper class white USAians educated in the last several decades (3) expecting everyone to be a ‘leader’ waters down the useful definitions of leadership while obscuring other models of useful work (4) it isn’t easy or simple to lead a community because communities are a mess because they are made up of people who are different from each other (5) not everyone has to contribute in the same way OR AT ALL to be a valid human being.

(It’s important to note that I’m responding to the quote itself in isolation, not to any larger body of work.)

I think that’s all for now? But we’ll see if anything pops up.

Discussion? :D
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

[personal profile] alatefeline 2017-08-04 09:26 pm (UTC)(link)
<3