Ask these Questions

Why, Who Benefits and At Whose Expense?

Version One:

My vision of feminist/queer thinking links MAKING TROUBLE FOR (questioning, unsettling, exposing, challenging, resisting, reframing) categories, ideas, practices, norms, institutions with the need for DEVELOPING AND PROMOTING A CRITICAL AWARENESS of how our everyday practices are shaped by and contribute to larger structures of oppression, power and privilege. While straight thinking encourages us to understand our everyday experiences from our particular social/cultural locations as “natural” or “normal” and breaks them down into rigid binaries (male/female, heterosexual/homosexual, white/non-white) with one half of the binary privileged over the other, feminist/queer thinking encourages us to question, play with and “bust” these binaries. It also encourages us to make connections, to find patterns and to be curious about why things are they way they are and how they might be transformed. And it encourages us to ask who benefits from this “natural” order and at whose expense is it perpetuated.

Version Two:

What would it mean to encourage the troublemaker and troublemaking within us—to listen to the voice that tells us that something isn’t right and that demands that we challenge the ideas that are being forced upon us? To refuse to merely accept what we are told without question or careful consideration? To perpetually ask why things are the way they are and who benefits from them being so? And, most importantly, always to think and reflect on our lives and our actions and relationships to others?

Version Three:

When I think of my own troublemaking “roots” it is not through the tradition of disrupting class or being disrespectful to teachers. For me, troublemaking was never about breaking the rules (even though I can see why many rules need to be broken) or rebelling against authority/authority figures. No, the tradition of troublemaking that I draw upon in my own understanding and practice of being in/making/staying in trouble is the tradition of posing questions…and lots of them. The question that I used to pose a lot as a kid, and the question that Butler suggests is the first act of disobedience, is “why.” As in, why is something this way and not that? For Butler, to ask “why” is to introduce the possibility that something could be otherwise, that the way things are is not they only way that should or could be. It is to open up the possibility of making ourselves into subjects-who-disobey instead of subjects-who-merely-obey. [Of course, “why” is not the only question many of us do—or should—ask. With my training in feminist/queer/critical theory, the question that I pose a lot now is “at whose expense”? This question seems to infuse the somewhat innocent “why” with an awareness of oppression and a desire for justice.]

Version Four:

Why are things the way
that they are? Who decides this
and for what reasons?

Who benefits with
the system as it is and
who gets exploited?

Why not imagine
(or value) other ways of
being and doing?

Version Five:

Who decides? Who pays? Who wins?

john a. powell about conflict resolution, ht/ Pádraig Ó Tuama, On Being Podcast interview with Hanif Abdurraqib

Additional Source: What Do You Mean?

What delightful thing can I encounter today?

For years, every Saturday morning my daughter would ask: “What fun thing are we going to do today?” Often this question filled me with dread, first because I rarely had a satisfying answer and second, because as she got older the “fun” thing she usually wanted to do was go to the Mall of America, which is hardly ever fun for me. I’d like to switch up that question and ask: What delightful thing can I encounter today?

When was the last time you were in wonderment?

I think there’s almost like a responsibility in some ways when the world and the news is so disgusting and so heartbreaking. I think that’s all the more reason to turn to—I ask my students, when is the last time you were in wonderment of something, when was the last time you had awe over something….I think it’s a practice. I think we forget how to be in wonderment. And I think it’s a great, I don’t know, responsibility. But also, it’s contagious. When you hear someone say, oh my gosh, I love how the silver on a silver oak is winking at me, that kind of thing, it’s hard to not notice something yourself. And then someone else will notice something and someone else will notice something (Aimee Nezhukumatathil).

I’m not sorry for writing about wonder and joy/ Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Softest of mornings, what will you do today to my heart?

Softest of mornings, hello.
And what will you do today, I wonder,
to my heart?

Softest of Mornings/ Mary Oliver

Greet the morning or the trees, then ask of them this question. Write down their answers, or yours.

How much of my life isn’t extractive?

What parts of my day, on a species level, aren’t extractive? How much of my day am I giving back to the earth?

David Nieman, interviewing Ross Gay

See also David Nieman’s interview with Natalie Diaz on being extractive and predatory empathy.

Are we being good ancestors?

Borrowing from indigenous writers and thinkers, Macfarlane suggested we should approach time and our actions in time with a specific question in mind: “Are we being good ancestors?”

Mari Jorstad

How do we make spaces that disabled people not only can access but want to access?

Both of us are interested in how communities can move towards better and more nuanced approaches to access. Instead of focusing on compliance and doing the minimum, what if we approach access creatively and generously, centering disability culture? How do we make spaces and experiences that disabled people not only can access but want to access?

Alt Text as Poetry/ Bojana Coklyat and Shannon Finnegan
What are we pretending not to know today?

What are we pretending not to know today?” —Toni Cade Bambara
What are we pretending not to see? What have we pretended not to see for a long, long time?

Deborah E. McDowell
Did you enough yourself?

44 Questions to Ask While Bingeing/ Kemi Alabi, also in log entry for 11 may 2024.