I've had this notion for quite some time now, and its lately been compounded by two events; discovering (via The Curvature) this blog on disability and reading this post on life before and after the personal discovery of feminism.
This notion, is that learning about feminism makes you a better person.
It very quickly came to my attention when I delved into the madness that is the feminist blogging culture, that feminists overwhelming tend to also be gay rights activists, race equality activists and heavily into equality for the disabled. Maybe it seems logical to you that minority causes would stick together like this but I really don't think that's the only reason, or even the main one and this is why:
My first encounter with feminism was with a rage-filled sister, newly introduced to feminist theory and culture through her gender studies class, hers was a fiery, Sheila Jeffreys inspired baptism. She earnestly related to me her new found ideals, pouring hard-line feminist vitriol all over my utterly ideal-less slate. I was studying a science degree and the culture I had spent two years at university assimilating was generally focused on beer. I rebelled. It was too much, too different, too challenging. I couldn't wrap my head around ideas so different from my socially constructed world in which I cared a lot more about what high heels cost than whether or not they were a tool of THE PATRIACHY. And whatever the cause, I simply could not embrace the decision to admit that I was wrong. Wrong in my ignorance, wrong in my acceptance, wrong in my perpetuation of THE PATRIACHY. But my sister persevered, and, in not such a long space of time, I came to see things the way she did. And once our initial the-world-is-an-evil-manland-and-i-must-change-everything-now passion subsided into a calmer understanding, THE PATRIACHY became just The Patriachy and we began to apply more practical codes of living to our ideals.*
But I seem to have wandered down the path of nostalgia - my point was that, "I simply could not embrace the decision to admit that I was wrong. Wrong in my ignorance, wrong in my acceptance, wrong in my perpetuation..."
Now, whenever I am faced with a scenario of racism, able-ism or any other 'ism', and I begin to think to myself, 'they are exaggerating', or, 'yes but they're different', or, 'but I don't do that, because I am open-minded and awesome', I recall this rebellion and realize that I am behaving the same way non-feminists do when they are frustrating the hell out of me. They are refusing to listen, leaning back on what they know, what is easy and what keeps things in order. They don't want to feel guilty, and they don't want to look so hard at a society that treats them so well.
Neither do I and that is why I have to push myself, have to always second guess my initial reaction to these scenarios, why I educate myself as much as possible, why I try so hard to trust the claims of injustice from other groups in the way that I wish men (and women) would trust mine. And god do I get tired of it.
(It doesn't just extend to minority causes either, I find many feminists also involved in environmental movements, animal rights efforts, criminal politics, general human rights... it's not a coincidence, each cause brings new insight and understanding to the next. I was convinced of vegetarianism via feminist theory, go figure.)
There are so many things to be open-minded about, my mind just isn't big enough, I tell you, it won't all fit. When you include the unfairness and the sickening persecution at the hands of sexists, racists, able-ists and fuckwits, its overwhelming, and working to avoid being part of any of those groups is hard. Working to try and convince others to avoid it is even harder; its damn near impossible and so devastatingly frustrating that I barely see the point at all. But I have to keep at it, because as tiring as it may be, ideals are like heroin, and once you try it, even if it fucks up your life, its awfully hard to stop.
*I may have stopped screaming at someone every time they say something sexist, but my rage has barely cooled in that area, I'm just better at controlling it.