I struggled with writer’s block (I don’t know if I can still call it that if I don’t actually write anymore), jet lag, exhaustion, and ridiculous hours of flying to try and come up with something halfway decent to say at the High Level Debate. It wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever written and it doesn’t fully capture my thoughts and opinions; but it’s a fairly decent first attempt. I’ve been thinking about all the things I left out and didn’t think to say and all that I believe in and I wish I could’ve had a bit longer to think it all through, but I suppose this is what it is and I’ve just got to deal.
The video of the full debate it available here, and I speak (really fast!) at roughly about an hour and fifty minutes in; after the Indonesian Parliamentarian. You can read my remarks (more or less) by downloading this PDF: Youth, SRHR, Dev_v.3.
I’m actually most proud of the fact that I draped my sari by myself (after last minute pointers from my mum before I jumped on my flight to NYC) and that I didn’t do too bad of a job with it.
I stayed on for the actual Commission and the related-civil society events that took place. I have a fair number of mixed feelings about everything: from being there to issues of ownership to issues of legitimacy to issues of ‘what the fuck’.
There is always the post-event letdown that makes you a bit melancholy, makes you a bit blurry around the edges. Throw in jet lag, utter exhaustion, and a deep sense of betrayal and I’m not sure I have any edges left; I’m not sure I’m solid as much as I am quickly disappearing into nothingness.
It has been an eventful few days and I am still trying to wrap my head around it all; still trying to make sense of what actually happened; how I feel about it all; and where I stand now- how much I have moved away, and how much I have walked away from it.
It is always difficult to walk away from something you have always loved, always believed in. It’s especially hard to walk away when it betrays you in the worst possible way. When it looks at you and tells you that everything you thought was true and good and beautiful and right about it was a lie. When you look around you and you realise that you were the only one naïve enough to think that this was any different from all the other things in the world.
I’ve written before, quite opaquely, about some of the things that bother me about the SRHR ‘movement’. Since I first voiced my issues with it, I’ve gotten more cynical; more distressed by it and I realise that I am at a point where I have moved away from saying anything constructive, from contributing to shifting things to a positive space. I realise I only bring negativity with me now; only bring frustration and irritation and sharp questions that poke rather than gently prod.
I’m not sure about how to be constructive about my criticisms anymore. I’m not sure that I can be. I am increasingly convinced of the need to openly challenge some of the systems of bullshit that we operate within; for the desperate need to call each other out and hold each other accountable to the so-called principles we profess to hold true, to actively question and peel back our assumptions; our truths.
The question is not about the issues- it is not about whether sexual rights, abortion, women’s rights, gender equality, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, young peoples’ rights, comprehensive sexuality education- the entire gamut of things that SRHR includes- is important; is true; is valid- of course they are. The question is about those of us who work on these issues, who champion it, who wear their ‘activist’ / ‘advocate’ tags with pride, who wave the flags, who have forgotten what it is to self-reflect; what it means to stand in ‘solidarity’; what it means to not be a hypocritical little cow. It’s time we hold ourselves accountable to it too; our movement is struggling; is stifled because we refuse to.
I’m not sure about how to go about addressing this. I’m not sure I have the right to even say these things. I’m not sure I ought to- there are so many delicate processes and tensions that abound right now: will I jeopardise something by saying something now? Will I jeopardise the bigger picture by remaining silent?
I am afraid of being shut down, of not being heard, of destroying something rather than re-creating. Of breaking something open before it was ready to be shattered.
For now, perhaps it is best that I take a step back; that I reflect on what frustrates me; that I identify the fissures and the cracks in our spaces. Perhaps it is best that I understand it before I try to transform it.