Generational Divides – Evolving Past Our Heroes.

Thinking is exhausting.

 

It is not so much the act of thinking that bothers me — that is probably my favourite bit — the problem arises when I am faced with the discomfort of reckoning with a perspective that I do not agree with, especially if it is put forth by a feminist or thinker who I may adore wholeheartedly.

 

This is not to say that I dismiss said feminists or thinkers entirely for having a perspective that is shaped by a world that probably no longer exists, but I find myself in tension with the idea that I must defer to these people every single time, without any critical thought or doubt. This idea that some thinkers or speakers must be listened to, without any criticism or pushback or a quest to evolve past their ideas is, to me, deeply emblematic of a culture that still legitimises the hierarchy based on age and experiences that may no longer apply to the current world.

 

As a near 30 year old, I find myself not as young as a newer generation of feminists who have started to find their voices — but neither am I old enough to be discarded as an old hag whose perspectives are outdated. Once again, this is not to insinuate that older feminists should not have any space, but rather I wonder what it would look like if older and younger feminists were able to make space for one another with their perspectives. One that is based on mutual trust, respect, integrity and a great deal of care and empathy.

 

Some of the feminists whom I ardently respect, love and repeatedly quote in my writings and my thoughts are also some of the very same people who have said some incredibly … for a lack of better phrase, politically incorrect things. My response to these statements usually involves me sucking in air through my teeth and letting out an emphatic “yikes”. And this is my reaction because I have wondered about the contexts that they grew up in — living in an age and a world where unspeakable acts of violence against women and children was a norm, a thing that one must simply endure. Constant acts of denigration were refused context, pattern or a history, and people just had to stay mum and not allow these acts any significance to a broader culture of violence that, quite frankly, saw it as mere entertainment and idle gossip. This is not to say that these forces no longer exist, but we also happen to live in a time where robust conversation is had, where analysis has gotten sharper, where these acts are constantly reified, defined, renamed and described. We live in a time where excuses and nonsensical outdated justifications are no longer tolerated.

 

This is obviously a very good thing because it means that the norms of conversations have shifted, and that we have forged our way into newer norms, where the bigotry of yester-decades is simply seen as unacceptable in today’s standards. The tension that I struggle with is with the fact that the achievements of previous generation of feminists should not be dismissed, but it should not be placed on a pedestal either. I wrestle with this statement as I write this because I truly believe that we have been lucky to have seen and read some of the greatest thinkers in our time and every fibre of my being does not dare want to defy their words, but at the same time, I think it is important to continue to take their ideas and grow them, nurture them, and make them evolve. And sometimes, just sometimes, some of their ideas must be scrapped, especially if they no longer fit a vision of the future that the young see and are about to inherit.

 

Growing and evolving past our heroes is important because the detriment of seeing our favourites as heroes is to dehumanise them — I would rather see them as people who have experienced things that we can only try to imagine, whose perspective of their world is strongly informed by that world of experience. But it also means that they make mistakes, or say things that are incorrect or downright harmful. Some, unfortunately, make a specific and permanent shift to an ideological perspective that no longer aligns with ours. This is not about loyalty to our faves, this is about thinking about what the future looks like, whether it aligns with the principles of cooperation, justice and liberation. What does it mean when a thinker no longer prioritises an evolution of their ideas, but only prioritises a perspective that is no longer applicable (and one that especially swells up because they believe their past struggles are being dismissed)?

 

There is a fear that the hard won achievements of previous generation of feminists will not be appreciated, or they will have their struggles dismissed as trivial in comparison to what is out there now. My quarrel has never and will never be with older or younger generations of feminists; It will always be with the idea that older generations are supposedly wiser, and younger generations are supposedly spoilt and whimsical.

 

There is the notion that wisdom comes as people age, to which I simply respond with a scoff and a roll of my eyes. It is self-congratulating patronisation, one that sees the younger generation as pillocks but also wishes to lay claim to intelligence with no effort whatsoever except for simply growing old. What this also insinuates is that wisdom is simply an individualised evolution, rather than of how we as a society start to get better at seeing things in smarter and more efficient ways because of the evolved analysis we see as generations pass.

 

What I essentially mean to say is that, there is a world out there that is gleefully greedy to see different feminisms as a generational catfight (the world loves nothing more than to pit women against each other), which is why I refuse to allow for the idea that the differences in feminism is due to age, rather than stagnant ideology that does not translate well to current contexts (by the way, this is not to assert that current feminisms get it right either, we must defer back to our elders when applicable — it’s a two way lane).

 

We have to constantly think and re-evaluate the positions held by our faces which sometimes means that we have to evolve past our heroes or our favourites when necessary. But we can also continue to have our favourites, and grow to love them as human beings because feminism requires us to understand generations of the past, present and future. And when we accumulate knowledge and wisdom of the past, present and future, we only see a more firmly and deeply rooted feminism, one that ages well and spans generations, like the rings on a tree.

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