The author... when she had short hair

Primer on “Sovereignty”

So. We were at our feminist book club meeting. And a couple of students got talking about lecturers.

And how some were seriously wrong. And male.
They were male and they were sexist and they were simply wrong because they were sexist and sexism is wrong. Got it? Wrong. Because sexism.
Good.

Now, the issue was that… not everyone at their University thought these male lecturers were wrong.
Oh, *we* totes did; we are feminists after all. But, as you know, we live in a society where “sexism” isn’t necessarily recognised, and even then, not seen as a “bad thing”. Or a “bad enough thing”.

So. What is a feminist student to do?

Lose her marbles, presumably…

Having to endure lectures taught by a man who is clearly sexist and wrong. And having to listen to his sexist remarks.
The student is left to grind her teeth and bear it. While every molecule in her body screams “WROOONG!!!”.

We need to come up with a plan of action, because we can’t just leave “feminists who encounter sexist men who are wrong” to lose their marbles.

So. Here’s my approach.

The author… when she had short hair

One word: sovereignty.

You can just read Havi’s posts on it here and here.

Everything I’ve learned about sovereignty, I’ve learned it from her.

The gist of it, applied to this particular scenario, is this:

We don’t often have a say about what goes on in the world… but we always have a say about what goes on in our inner world.

And this:

Our feelings and our needs are legitimate. Always. And within our inner world, our feelings and needs rule.

Something changed in me when I realised this.

A thing may or may not be “wrong” for the world… but it’s definitely wrong for “me”. And I get to decide what’s wrong for “me”.

Separating between “personal” and “political”

Because I’m such a political nutcase, I like to make everything that’s “wrong for me” into “wrong, period, for everyone in the world, ever”.
I can skilfully bring up Capitalism and Feminism and use them to argue about how “this thing is wrong, dammit, and here’s why”.

There’s a compromise here. When we are focusing on our own perception of a “thing”, we can be very certain when we make it “wrong”.
When we are focusing on the world’s perception of a “thing”, we have to take the whole world into account, and we can no longer be so certain that this thing is “wrong”.

Example!

I seriously hate pr0n. I loath it with every fibre of my being.

It was really liberating to be able to say “I don’t need to prove, unequivocally, that pr0n is the devil’s handiwork. I don’t need to bring up feminist arguments and facts and figures. I can stand strong when I say that THIS IS WRONG FOR ME.”

*breaths sigh of relief*

See? Now, if I was to go out into the world saying “pr0n is the devil’s handiwork, FACT!” I would have to bring along serious proof. Because, hey, most of the world doesn’t think like me.
And then I would lose all my marbles feel seriously pissed off because people don’t agree with me that this evil thing is actually evil.

This is why it’s important to separate between the personal and the political.

You are the sovereign ruler of your inner world.
You decide what’s right and what’s wrong for you. What you allow into your Queendom, and what you leave out.

But when it comes to the outer world… well, we don’t have the last say in there, do we?

This does not mean that we have to just accept the things that are wrong in the world. We can campaign, we can mobilise, we can argue all the arguments and talk all the feminism.

But at the end of the day, if we want to stay sane, we have to keep out the stuff that we absolutely cannot have in our inner world because it drives us crazy.

And that’s when we practice sovereignty. We find out what works for us and what doesn’t. And we respect our feelings and needs.

Because they rule our inner world. Always.

BONUS! Yes, practicing sovereignty is a great way to practice setting boundaries. There’s “you” and there’s “everyone else”. And you don’t have to take in “everyone else’s” perception of what’s “good” and “right”. You can give legitimacy to your own.

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