Service-Oriented Doesn’t Mean Free Labor

If you are familiar with the world of Internet dating ads, you may have seen ones for individuals interested in BDSM. If you see more than a handful of kinky personal ads, you’ve probably seen ones looking for a service-oriented submissive or slave. The fantasy of having a person willing to work for you who only asks to be by your side is extremely enticing. However, my article is not a dig at anyone.  This is more commentary on the vast number of “seeking a service slave” posts that people write which always irked me.  My problem is that many of them offer nothing in return.

**The number one way to locate and maintain a relationship with a
service-oriented person is to love them.**

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Intuition and Oppression

When you think about it, a good portion of internalized -isms are linked to some sense of intuition, a kind of “know it when I see it” comfort or discomfort with a particular group of people.  This is why knowing a person who is queer, or trans*, or a different race than us makes a big difference in the assumptions we make and the prejudices we have.  It’s also why it can be hard to argue with someone who has a prejudice–it’s difficult to fight an innate feeling of rightness with logic.

It’s natural to prefer things we’re familiar with, people that are like ourselves or our surrounding community.  When a white queer college student, for example, peruses a course catalogue, her eye might be more likely to jump to a queer or gender studies course than to a course about US racial relations.  Intuition also plays a part in values and political or religious beliefs, leading children to reflect their parents’ beliefs–at least for a while.

Of course, intuition isn’t all bad.  The reason we trust it, and feel okay following it, is that intuition can lead us to good things.  We make often positive moral choices based on intuition that was instilled when we were little by family and teachers.  Life experience provides positive reinforcement for acting on our intuition.  The problem is that it’s not always easy to distinguish between kneejerk reactions that are good and moral and those that are steeped in family prejudices.

Many of the oppressions we try to fight as feminists and social justice activists are rooted in deep structural problems.  These systematic issues are hard to fight because they’re entrenched in institutions–the media, education, religion, the family–and many of us have an intuitive preference for the status quo.  What we have to do is get people to move past intuitive preferences and deeply question long-held beliefs and preferences.

We can do this through education and exposure to different ideas.  I also believe that it is crucial for social justice activists to look at our own preferences and make an effort to focus on issues that are not our projects or oppressions we personally experience.  This might mean adding blogs to our reader that focus on communities with which we’re unfamiliar, or reading books by authors of color when our reading list tends to be white-centric.  It might simply mean listening harder when someone brings up an issue that’s being ignored by the feminist community, instead of getting defensive.  Either way, this is important work that we need to do both internally and externally.

Join Us in the Fight for a Better Feminism

Today I am excited to announce the launch of a new website,

This website is not trying to introduce a new concept. We are not the only site that envisions feminism as radical opposition to the patriarchy, explicitly incorporating queer, anti-racist, decolonizing ideas into feminist arguments. Our aim is simply to add to the chorus of voices operating from this inclusive feminist lens, to provide both additional perspectives and resources from all around the Internet and offline.

Are you frustrated about the way many feminists treat your community? Do you relate to feminist values but find the way feminism operates in practice to fall short of the mark?  Are you sick of women’s rights being presented as more important than, or separate from, other anti-oppression struggles?  If so, this site is for you.

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing work from a diverse group of contributors on a wide range of topics. We hope that some of you will join us and add your own perspective to the site!

We are also working to compile a huge list of resources on every topic imaginable, including blog posts, books, films, and other materials. The beginning of this list is already available, and it will grow over time. Please let us know if you have suggestions to add.

Finally, we want this to be a participatory experience that helps feminists translate writing and ideas into concrete activism. Please add the site to your RSS reader and leave comments if you have ideas or critiques of an article you read. We are here to learn together and change the face of feminism and social justice, and we can’t wait to get started!