Pause

I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gray since I read Bad Feminist. She’s thoughtful and honest, unafraid to wade into the grey areas and tease out nuance.

I found myself nodding along to her recent article for the Guardian on the Charlie Hebdo aftermath:

“There are times when silence equals consent, but is the loss of someone else’s life really such an instance? Is it reasonable to assume that if je ne suis pas Charlie, I tacitly endorse terrorism?

I believe in the freedom of expression, unequivocally – though, as I have written before, I wish more people would understand that freedom of expression is not freedom from consequence. I find some of the work of Charlie Hebdo distasteful, because there is a preponderance of bigotry of all kinds in many of their cartoons’ sentiments. Still, my distaste should not dictate the work the magazine produces or anything else. The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo – and writers and artists everywhere – should be able to express themselves and challenge authority without being murdered. Murder is not an acceptable consequence for anything.

Yet it is also an exercise of freedom of expression to express offense at the way satire like Charlie Hebdo’s characterizes something you hold dear – like your faith, your personhood, your gender, your sexuality, your race or ethnicity.

Demands for solidarity can quickly turn into demands for groupthink, making it difficult to express nuance. It puts the terms of our understanding of the situation in black and white – you are either with us or against us – instead of allowing people to mourn and be angry while also being sympathetic to complexities that are being overlooked.”

Increasingly, on Twitter, I find myself at a loss for words. Twitter is great for pithy, quick responses, succinct bursts of outrage or joy. Most of the time I revel in the robustness, the rambunctiousness of it all. But sometimes it seems inadequate. I didn’t really tweet much about events in Paris because I didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t be trite – but there’s more to it than that. I didn’t really say much because beyond an immediate expression of grief and dismay I knew there was a lot that I was still working out. Gay captures this need for a ‘pause’ perfectly:

“Life moves quickly but, sometimes, consideration does not. And yet, we insist that people provide an immediate response, or immediate agreement, a universal, immediate me-too –as though we don’t want people to pause at all, to consider what they are weighing in on. We don’t want to complicate our sorrow or outrage when it is easier to experience these emotions in their simplest, purest states.

The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I want to pause. I want to take the time to think through how I feel and why I feel. I don’t want to feign expertise on matters I know nothing about for the purpose of offering someone else my immediate reaction for their consumption.”

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