By Nicole Mazzeo
For two months this winter, I took time off from Pleasure Pie projects to reflect and do some self care. I wanted to check in with myself and my community to make sure that my activism (by “activism,” I mean everything I do with Pleasure Pie, including zine making, having events, giving workshops, writing, etc.) is as effective as possible, and that it’s not unintentionally harmful in any way (and if it is, fix that).
I’ve been wrestling with questions like:
When is speaking from my own experience powerful and constructive, and when should I be centering the voices of others (especially people with marginalized experiences/identities that aren’t as prevalent in sex-positive communities)?
How can I tell when my activism is helpful for others, versus when it’s just healing for me (and possibly even harmful to others)? What if it’s helpful to some people, and harmful to others?
Is it realistic for me to hope to be paid for my work as a sex educator/community organizer, or does seeking payment inevitably get in the way of me doing the most constructive and authentic work I can?
My original plan for this break was that I would reflect on these questions, and reflect on some criticisms I’ve received from other activists, and once I figured out what I thought about all of it and how I wanted to move forward with Pleasure Pie, I would start doing activism again. But then two months went by and I was still looking for answers. I started to think that I might not be able to figure it out in a month, or maybe even a year. These might be the kind of questions that I have to feel out and continually reflect on as I try to do my best activism in the meantime. It might be an ongoing, lifelong process. But I think I have something valuable to offer the world (my take on sexuality and oppression, my own experiences and ideas, etc.), and it would be a shame to put that on hold indefinitely until I have stuff all figured out.
Which brings me to my next question:
To what extent do I need to have the answers to these questions figured out for it to be responsible for me to do activism that can affect other people (especially events, which so directly affect the people who are there)?
I don’t have a concrete answer for that one either, but I’ve come up with a few questions that I think can be helpful in feeling it out: Do I know what I’m doing, and understand the topic/issue enough, to do right by it? If not, is there someone who does that would want to collaborate on this? Is there a way that this project could negatively affect the people involved (i.e. the participants if it’s an event, or the readers if it’s a zine, etc.)? What might happen that could be bad? How can I prevent that from happening?
In addition to those questions, it’s always really important to me to seek out and listen to other people’s perspectives, especially people who have all sorts of different identities than me, so that I’m not coming up with ideas and making decisions in a like-minded, like-experienced bubble.
My approach to activism is a work in progress. If you have any thoughts you want to add, or ways of addressing these questions (or other relevant questions) that you recommend, please feel free to comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! :)