Earlier this month, we published my article explaining hierarchies of knowledge, the power of ignorance, and the delusion that the Eurocentric gender binary is a law of nature.
To illustrate my argument, I dedicated about a quarter of my article to highlighting JK Rowling’s extremely public descent into the depths of transphobic concern trolling, ie "I personally don’t mind transgender women wearing whatever clothes they like, but the actualisation of their rights is a threat to everyone – including other transgender people."
At the end of the article, the engagement editor, Nabeelah Shabbir and I invited members to answer this question:
What kinds of situations have you been in where you feel you have been faced with wilful ignorance, rather than a desire to learn from the other’s experience?
So far, we’ve received more than 250 contributions, but it was interesting to note how few of the initial contributions even remotely attempted to answer the question. In fact, the first contribution under my piece said something like, "I’m disappointed that TC would publish this."
It wasn’t the first time an article of mine had generated that kind of response. I wrote about racism a couple of months ago and, just like with my most recent piece, within two working days I had stopped responding in the contributions section because it was hostile and unproductive – the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve in our contributions section.
During my first week at The Correspondent in September 2019, it was decided that I would describe myself as the Othering correspondent. What this means is that throughout the past year, my mind and my pen have leaned towards stories that don’t fit neatly into the status quo. By definition, the space that my work occupies is a revelatory one for a lot of readers. For many among this number, the ideas I share are deeply uncomfortable.
The world needs more complexity
My beat is informed by the idea that mainstream journalism, especially in the west, needs to make more thoughtful space for stories that complicate readers’ relationship to "the way things are". Complexity adds layers to things we think we already fully grasp, which are often also things we rely on to organise how we relate with the world.
So I understand (part of) why the responses to my articles can be so strongly adversarial. I’m complicating people’s lives – and I’m an African, queer, woman. Like I said in the contributions to Rob Wijnberg’s piece about what he has learned about racism since he founded TC, the messenger sometimes matters as much as the message. A voice you never expected to hear will always feel too loud.
Reflecting on the past several months, I have realised that my position sometimes feels like a double-edged sword. I have the privilege and responsibility to foreground necessary perspectives, alongside some really incredible people, at a publication that is committed to complexity. At the same time, I get a lot of blowback because I am so "different" from the journalistic, and indeed, social "norm", while having the temerity to complicate people’s understanding of said norm.
Regardless of how I personally feel though, all of these observations over the past year have made it clear to me that what the world needs is more complexity, rather than less. It would make everyone’s lives easier if we all had access to more in the way of voices that disrupt the status quo.
At The Correspondent, we’re coming up to the end of our first year of publishing. As I look back on our successes, the emerging patterns, and the lessons of the past 12 months, it is more apparent to me than ever that the work we’re doing here is necessary – precisely because it gets right to the heart of so much of what needs changing about the world. And it does so from the perspectives of people whose voices we all need to get used to.
I’m grateful to have this job, to be able to write these things, to have been offered this possibility by tens of thousands of members who are at the very least, a little bit curious about what shape a new journalistic norm can take. I’m looking forward to you all sticking around for more of more, so that there will be less of the resistant discomfort that keeps us all stuck in an exclusionary, discriminatory, rigid and ultimately obsolete reality.
Till next time,