Political Grandstanding in the Wake of Tragedy

 
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Today is a rough day, my friends. The days following a substantial tragic event are always difficult. Emotions are high and people are justifiably angry. If you follow me on social media, you would know that I have moved on from my usual sexual & mental health schtick to a more politicized tone. 

On February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a gunman walked into the school with a .223-caliber AR-15 rifle and opened fire. At the end of the carnage, 17 people were murdered; surpassing the death total of Columbine. This massacre was the 270th school shooting in the United States in my lifetime. I’m 28 years old. I have witnessed, on the news and eventually social media, 270 school shootings. That is 270 too many. Currently, the US is averaging one shooting per week. That is INSANE! That is wrong. That is ridiculous. 

What is different about this tragedy is that high school students in Florida have rallied. In the era of being politically aware, students are demanding change. High school students created several campaigns on Twitter: @AMarchForOurLives and @SchoolwalkoutUS, the former is a march to be held on March 24th, the latter a walkout to be held April 20th, the anniversary of Columbine, where they will do just that; walk out of school. But the Women’s March has a different idea. 

As a Canadian, I understand I have a lot of privilege. The country I call home has gun control. I can go to school and not worry about another student coming in with a gun. So, I have no idea what my American followers and education colleagues are experiencing right now emotionally and mentally. 

I imagine there is a lot of fear, anger, grief and for many survivors, recurring trauma. I want to take this moment to say to my American cohort: I am so sorry. I wish I knew there was a way I can erase the fear and the pain. And if you are struggling, please reach out for help. There is no shame in admitting to being scared. I’m afraid for you and your safety. I want you safe physically, emotionally and mentally. And if I thought shaking a lawmaker til their brain rattled in their skulls would make gun control happen tomorrow, I’d do it in a heartbeat. You deserve to have an education that is safe and accessible. And your parents and guardians deserve to know you are getting an education that is safe and accessible.

Many of you may ask why a sex therapist is all fired up about this? Well, let me tell you, my friend; you see I have a lot of young American followers that look to me to give them the facts, to advocate for them in their growth, whether that be in sexual, relationship, or educational matters. Also, a lot of my followers are sex educators, many of whom work in schools. And I would be devastated if anything happened to them. So as their ally I acknowledge their fear, their pain and I advocate for their safety.  

The following section contains language that may be offensive to some people

So, when the Women’s March (WM) released their date for a national school walkout, I was angry. No, that’s not accurate. I was fucking livid. Apologies for the foul language, but to be frank, we are long past polite discourse. Call it what you will; vulgar, good and right intentions horribly executed, inconsiderate, so on and so forth. I call it as I see it; political grandstanding, morbid capitalistic gains, rude (my favorite), and frankly, fucking stupid. 

The Women’s March is an organization that is about promoting the voices of the marginalized and disenfranchised. According to their website, their mission:

“[…] is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through training, outreach programs, and events. Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity, and respect.”

Again, elevating the voices of the disenfranchised and the marginalized. And, let me remind you of this situation where the American high school student is the marginalized and disenfranchised. But is the Women’s March supporting and elevating the Student-led discourse and movement on the need for gun control?

Nope. 

Instead, the leaders of Women’s March bulldozed students, got up on their soapbox and declared a 17-minute walkout for gun control on March 14th. Wow…17 whole fucking minutes! That’s like taking your time to go back to class or getting held up in the bathroom. That’s like standing in line for Starbucks. I know it’s supposed to honor the 17 lives lost in Florida and like that’s great, but let’s be honest it’s performative as fuck and dismisses the hundreds, if not thousands of survivors of past shootings. 17 minutes is fucking meaningless. It’s an empty gesture. It is also a slap in the face to the current survivors who are putting in the emotional labor of press conferences, organizing, and rallying. When I’m sure, they just want to be at home, in bed where they are safe to fall to pieces.  

Like, goddamn WM – you fucked up this time. Instead of supporting the student’s and elevating their voices you were like; OH HI! HI! HI! HI, OVER HERE! YUP! JUST POINT THAT CAMERA OVER HERE! YEAH, BUDDY! Or some similar form of narcissistic attention-grabbing bullshit. This political grandstanding is the equivalent of that mediocre white dude who doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up and be quiet. Meanwhile, the Parkland students are preemptively fighting disinformation and gaslighting by posting testimony, evidence, and photos to social media. They are specifically rallying against the National Rifle Association (NRA) to demand gun control.

This is courageous grieving. This is fighting for change. This is demanding to be heard, acknowledged and seen. Their pain is not an accessory for the Women’s March to capitalize on, to wear while raising their fists into the air screaming and drowning out the survivors. These students deserve to be heard. They are the ones we need to support, not the Women’s March. These students? They are our future. And here is how you are going to fix it, okay? Okay?!

Step one: cancel your poorly thought out march; because most students are on March break then. Yeah, apparently you forgot about that. 

Step two: You will apologize to the students on ALL social media platforms. 

  • Step two-point-one: Your apology will have the following elements with helpful suggestions in parenthesis:
  1. Here's what I did wrong (We took the spotlight for political gain and branding)
  2. Here's why it was terrible/hurtful/unacceptable (In our process we forgot about past survivor and neglected to acknowledge the amount of emotional labor being exercised by the student organizers. This does not coincide with our values to uplift marginalized voice by “creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect” [like it says in your mission statement])
  3. Here's why I'm genuinely sorry I did it (Through our actions we caused harm, unintentionally invalidated the efforts by the student survivors, and set the tone that any grassroots movements not created by the WM are not genuine or necessary. By this we also dismissed the pain and trauma of past survivors by only honoring the dead of last week’s tragedy)
  4. Here's how I plan to fix it (We have canceled our march and will be promoting the National Walkout for April 20th. We will retweet and share the details with our 574 thousand followers around the world. We support the Student-led National Walkout)
  5. Here's how I plan to do better in the future (We will be more cognizant of our plans to effect policy change. And be mindful of our privilege as a massive organization with a lot of political and social capital and power.)

Step three: Listen to your audience. Hear the criticism. Acknowledge your privilege. Stop being douche canoes. 

In conclusion and summed up neatly with a bow: Women’s March – get your fucking shit together!

To the readers: demand Women’s March supports the student-led National Walkout. Hold WM accountable for their harmful decisions. You have a voice. 

To the survivor reading this: I am so sorry this has happened to you. You did not deserve this. You deserve(d) a safe, accessible and non-traumatic education. You matter. You are loved. You are worthy.

If you still don't understand why we need to support these students above anyone else, let Emma Gonzlaez tell you:

If you are struggling with processing a truama, please reach out: 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK [8255])

You can call or chat on their website.

For those Deaf or hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889

US: 877-565-8860 CANADA: 877-330-6366

Crisis text line: Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. 100% free and 24/7

 

BETHANY KILLEN - RESIDENT ADVICE COLUMNIST & SEX THERAPIST

Bethany Killen (she/her), whose time spent finding ways to navigate through her own personal struggles led her to pursue a career in social work.

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