Today, someone insulted me for having a 16 month old and already being in the process of getting divorced. They even included a “God bless you!” at the end of their tweet, which was a really nice touch, in a condescending country song, “Bless your dumb little heart!” sort of way. Ah, personal attacks are a really fun part of Twitter, aren’t they?
Really, the joke is on them. My son was almost seven months old when I got married, I wasn’t even married for 16 months! It was more like six! Ha!
In all seriousness, though, I’ve been thinking about writing this article for a couple of weeks now. As someone who is pretty open about my life and the choices I have made, I’ve gotten used to getting criticism for those choices. It doesn’t usually bother me, I’m happy that I have a platform where people will listen to me and give me the honor of allowing my views to help inform theirs. However, like many of my interactions with people, it sometimes gets me thinking a little deeper.
Some of you may be familiar with a feminist rallying cry that was popularized during the Second Wave of the 1960’s: “The personal is political.” This quote was attributed to one Carol Hanisch, a self-proclaimed “radical feminist”, though she denies authorship, preferring to see the phrase as having risen organically from the conversations of other feminist thinkers of the time.
This idea is described by Paula Rust as such: “The personal reflects the political status quo (with the implication that the personal should be examined to provide insight into the political); the personal serves the political status quo; one can make personal choices in response to or protest against the political status quo; … one’s personal choices reveal or reflect one’s personal politics; one should make personal choices that are consistent with one’s personal politics; personal life and personal politics are indistinguishable.”
I remember when I first heard about this concept. It was probably about five years ago, and it was definitely on Tumblr. I was just waking up to the insanity of feminism (which was the genesis to my moving from the left to the right), and this quote had always stuck out to me as an insidious, deep sort of wrong.
I remember thinking how bizarre of a concept it would be to look at your life and base your politics of off it, and to act as though your personal anecdotes and experiences were a good lens to shape policy through.
Unlike many other things (I shudder to recall) from that time in my life, my views on this quote and the underlying political sentiment has not changed.
It is a terrible idea to put your own personal experiences on the pinnacle of political discourse.
As a little kid, I remember going for drives with my parents, and looking at the other cars and the people inside them. I would always fascinate myself with the idea that every single person, in every single car, in every city in the world, had their own life and their own thoughts with the same complexity and depth as my own. Yes, I was an introspective little dork. Not much has changed, really.
But this idea, the idea of just how complicated people are and how everyone really does have a story, that spoke to me then, and it still informs my views today. It is why, despite my harsh and impassioned criticisms of many ideas I find repugnant, I always try to have a deep compassion for individual people. Ideas? Let them be tortured and burned and debated with all the fierceness we can muster. People? People are a lot more complicated.
There is one part of the idea of making the personal political that I find most dangerous, and that is the idea that a person’s politics and their personal choices should always be in coherence with each other. People on the left attempt to call me a hypocrite because of this once in a while, but I’m starting to see it creep into the responses I get from people on the right, as well, and I want to set the record straight about it.
It is not hypocritical to recognize a healthy generality, even if you fall outside of that generality yourself.
It’s not hypocritical for me to be a soon-to-be divorced single mom, while still recognizing the superiority of intact two parent families.
It’s not hypocritical for me to have a career, while still thinking that society needs to do more to encourage mothers to be home with their children (I actually get to work from home, but you get the point).
It’s idiotic to assume that any one individual’s point of view, especially one as supremely biased as your own point of view, should dictate how society should function as a whole.
However, does that mean that we should depersonalize politics entirely?
Of course not.
I love writing what I write. I love taking my thoughts on the world and trying to make them relatable to my life as one tiny human being in a vast world of people. I love when people tell me they relate to me, that my story is familiar or similar to theirs, that something I said helped them to understand the discourse a little better.
Would I be that way to people if I wrote everything in a clinical fashion, all numbers and raw data and statistics?
I like facts. I strive to always, always hang my feelings on a firm foundation of facts, not the other way around.
But I am also a very personal writer.
If that means I put myself out there a little more than the average person in media only to hear a few extra insults, so be it. It’s worth it to me to be genuine. It’s worth it to me to write from a place of deep personal passion. It’s worth it to me to be able to feel my views come together more and more neatly each day, even if that process continues until I’m ninety.
In fact, I hope it does.
I’m sure I will be inconsistent at times, and I’m sure I will change my mind, and I’m sure I’ll probably put my foot in my mouth once in a while.
But I will always be human, and I will always strive for my ideals – even if I can’t always achieve them myself.