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Gentle Activism Is Compatible With Children's Justice
How we understand an issue is a separate question from how we respond to it.
Adapted from this podcast.
One misconception I’ve seen regarding the concept of systemic pedophilia is that this understanding is not compatible with a style of gentle activism. Whether or not we understand the harm of children as systemic pedophilia is a separate question from the longstanding confrontational activism vs. gentle activism debate among activists. While some activists say we should engage in gentle education of those open to change and others say we should aggressively confront those who harm children, the concept of systemic pedophilia is compatible with both styles of activism.
This compatibility is immediately apparent when we look at the same understanding in other social justice movements. Virtually every racial justice activist understands racism as systemic. Yet within the racial justice movement, there is still a spectrum of activist styles. Some racial justice activists are very confrontational. Others are not. Many only go where they are invited to speak, and although their message might seem controversial to some, their style of activism is gentle.
The concept of systemic pedophilia is about how we understand the system that harms children, not how we respond to that system itself. In fact, this understanding is more compatible with gentle styles of activism than previous individualist-based understandings. From an individualist perspective, if someone harms a child that person is a child abuser. From a systemic understanding like systemic pedophilia, that person was a participant in a system and the system shares responsibility as much as they do. Language, culture, and socialization played as much a role in the harm of that child as did the individual person. While the individual is accountable for their role in that system, this understanding also holds the system accountable, rather than placing the full responsibility of a system on one person.
From what I can tell, the fear that some gentle activists have is that this adopting the understanding will mean that people go around calling everyone “pedophiles” rather than engaging in gentle activism. However, the individualist understanding is already leading to this behavior. There are activists who have never read anything I’ve written whose activism consists entirely of calling people “baby cutters,” “sex criminals,” and “child rapists.” I even recently saw the term “paedociser” used to describe doctors who perform circumcisions. (By the way, the person using that term followed none of my pages and shared only content from large Intactivist organizations.) What gentle activists fear is what is already occurring within their current ideology. It began before I was publishing. A systemic understanding would be a moderating perspective since it would suggest activists focus less on individual perpetrators and more on the systems those individuals participate in.
That said, this understanding does not resolve the confrontational activism vs. gentle activism debate. As mentioned above, there are activists who understand other systems like racism as systemic that engage in both styles of activism. I doubt I can resolve the confrontational activism vs. gentle activism debate for all activists in a single article. However, the question of how we understand the harm we oppose is separate from the question of how we respond to that harm. Children’s Justice and the concept of systemic pedophilia are compatible with both styles of activism.