Saturday, August 23, 2014

Values in Alignment

I wrote a while ago about the difficulty I had in getting my mental values and my dedication of resources in alignment. Since it's been a while, I wanted to check in on this again. I haven't written about it, but I've been turning this topic over in my head. Over the past months, I've been reading on my own and discussing with online folks how they approach it.

I think the most obvious change is that my intended work field is in alignment. Working as an archaeologist, anthropologist, or conservator means understanding and preserving different cultures. Additionally, the funding for this work usually comes from the government or private foundations. This work is very different than where I started out, interested in military funded work in mechanical engineering. My work goals are very much in line with what I believe should be done: I think we should collectively contribute to understanding world culture, unite ourselves to protect and promote learning and collaboration. I'm proud that I will be working in a way that aligns with my values; the guilt-free joy is probably the foundation for continuing my course work at this point.

The other changes are more personal. I practice political celibacy and I absolutely refuse to contribute my energy to being drained by men. I'm very at peace with being ace; I don't feel pressure to give my energy to men or ashamed of the intimacy I feel for my female friends. Lesbian has at last been defanged as an insult. Looking back, I'm amazed at the pain I felt and the knots I twisted myself into over being accused of being a lesbian. I mean that truly, the accusatory tone intended in something that should never be used as an insult! I've cut pornography out of my life for almost 5 years now. I want to increase my focus on sisterhood and supporting women in my life. It's so easy to get caught up in comparison and envy. We are trained early on that there can only be one token in our field, that all the good men will be grabbed by other women, that the happiness of others detracts from our own. I want to unpack this in myself in order to find ways to give meaningfully to other women.

I think the big change that I need to make is to do political activist work. During the past three years, I was very focused on conquering my own little corner of the world. My activist work was focused on supporting women of color in my dorm. Be it serving as an Associate Advisor to encourage women and support them during their freshman year at a prestigious engineering school or hosting tea parties to make space to talk with and embrace the women I lived with in an antagonistic co-ed dorm, all of my work has been very small scale. Most this activism I would now describe as consciousness raising. While the personal is political, I think the gap is that I haven't worked or acted on anything that is explicitly political.

I don't think that individual consumer choices are particularly effective in advocating for political change, but they have eased my conscience since I last wrote. I enjoy shopping mainly at Whole Foods mainly because of the quality of the food. Not because I'm sure my $50 fair trade purchase is going to change the way a global food economy operates. I'm also aware that many other people in my neighborhood can't afford to shop at Whole Foods, much less dedicate the time and effort to home cooking. But this sort of liberal choice activism has been a foundation of my 'work' since I first confronted the gap between my words and actions. I want to make the big step into doing real work!

I'm not sure how to begin political activist work. I hope that I can share the journey I go on, as I slowly figure it out. Most likely I'll start small with volunteer work.