Friday, February 19, 2010

On Issues and Advocates

It seems to me that some people are way too eager to take sides, pretty much regarding any issue and some of its strongest supporters and advocates. This can then seem to foster attitudes of, "If you're not with us, you're against us," pitting supporters against others assumed to be in conflict because they don't behave in certain ways or maintain certain habits. For example, some hunters work towards environmental and wildlife protection because they recognize that conservation is necessary to their ability to continue to hunt and because they have a great appreciation for the natural world. Many such hunters are responsible and take care not to hunt trophy animals, and they often hunt for food. Thus it would be unfair to assume that all hunters cannot be environmentalists simply because they hunt and kill wildlife.

One way in which I have encountered this is in the rigid assumption that animal rights advocates are or should always be vegan. I am for animal rights and have gotten a lot of flack from people for not being vegetarian or vegan. I will gladly admit that I think the conditions in which livestock and domesticated animals are kept and killed for food are abhorrent and that I would like to see more legislation and follow up to ensure that practices change to become more humane. But I don't think it behooves some strong advocates of the the animal rights movement to lose potential supporters who could help demand change and legal action on behalf of pets, wildlife and livestock by disassociating from those that don't uphold every single standard by which they themselves live.

I have also known of this waxing and waning within the feminist movement, with women who are pretty or who enjoy taking more traditional roles having been assumed to be opposed to women's rights. Women who stay home to care for their young children have also come under close scrutiny at times. But a mother may intentionally stay home to raise her children to have greater influence over what they are taught, how they are cared for and to take on a more active role in their lives, so that isn't always indicative of whether or not that mother supports women's rights so much as how she wants to live and project herself. Fostering such ideas and scrutiny in the past has also fueled the stereotype that feminists are male-bashers who are uninterested in raising families or in being attractive to men. That stereotype has turned a lot of younger women off of feminism who otherwise uphold its core values, causing them not to consider themselves to be feminists because of the connotations that the word feminist has taken on.

Simply put, it is not a benefit to assume that people won't support you because they are different or engage in practices you wouldn't yourself endorse. We are all multi-faceted and layered. Most of us don't see social issues as black and white but rather fall someplace in the multitude of shades between. So remember, just because someone engages in something you don't stand for doesn't mean that they cannot or will not stand beside you on any particular issue. And, by welcoming them to do so, it doesn't mean that you're strictly endorsing everything they do and engage in, just that you recognize that we can support one another on specific issues despite our differences.

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