Of mind & bodyPoliticsQuestioning

Questioning: What Does “The Personal is Political” Mean in Your Life?

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“Questioning” (“Participating”, “Noodling”) is a regular feature of this website asking a question, inviting people to participate in an experience, positing an idea, or in some other way encouraging people to “join the dance”. I’ve done this in the past as well. I highly encourage you to pass this around to your friends and family and get the conversation started.designall

How “the personal is political” applies to me: Unlike most of my extended family, both biological and through marriage, I am an unabashed liberal, feminist, anti-racist, pro marriage equality advocate for poverty elimination and the rule of law. My mother was probably privately pretty liberal. At the very least, she really enjoyed the company of people from diverse backgrounds and was largely accepting of other peoples’ differences. My dad appears to have never given much thought to the matter, and makes casually racist remarks about people close to him that are nothing so much as clueless.

As a young woman, I went through a hardcore libertarian/Objectivist phase (I am so, so, sorry to the people I hurt during that time). I was seeking certainty and comfort, and the patina of Aristotelian logic that overlays the justification for narcissism at the core of that philosophy was very soothing to me. I wanted to be special and superior and different, and libertarianism told me I was, simply by the fact that I embraced the philosophy. I later came to realize that the same process works in people who use religion to justify their superiority, and worked through my black and white thinking until I was able to identify the flaws in the assumptions of the system.

In a total fluke, I was walking out of an economics class one day when still an undergraduate, and a guy walked up to me and offered me a job. After asking him if the job required I get naked (it didn’t, but given the situation, hey, it was a reasonable question. Who walks up to some random woman and offers her a job?) It turned out to be a position providing direct care to people with mild to moderate mental retardation who lived independently. Apparently the guy (Frank) had seen me arguing with the professor and thought I could handle some of his more challenging program participants. Long story short, he was right, and I had found a new calling.

As I started working with people who didn’t have the same intellectual advantages as I have, working with them in an intimate setting (their homes) and getting to know them well, I began to understand the systemic issues that cause inequality in our world. Over the years, this has become clearer and clearer, and eliminating roadblocks for people who don’t have the privileges and advantages I have has become one of the central passions of my life.

Since that day over twenty years ago, I’ve finished two college degrees, waited some tables, worked in financial services while figuring out my life, and then worked a succession of jobs in social

Waving my "personal is political" flag
Waving my “personal is political” flag

work culminating in having my own psychotherapy practice which is specifically focused on affordable mental health for my local community. My whole life is a “the personal is political” arc.

People who are affected by systemic inequality matter to me. Some of them are related to me. Others are friends. Many others are therapy participants, or former therapy or program participants. Systemic issues have touched my life directly on more than one occasion. When someone says something racist, or homophobic or intolerant of differences or disabilities, it offends me personally as well as politically.

So that’s how “the personal is political” affects me. How does “the personal is political” affect you? 

(Note: this is not the place for a discussion of whose political beliefs are “better”. The question is how you came about your beliefs and why they are important to you. I will be deleting or not publishing off-topic comments.)

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