The Two Worlds Dilemma

Every justice movement — from gender, to sexuality, to every other dimension of who we are and how the world sees us — has to answer two big questions: What’s wrong with the world now? And what future world do you want to create?

I’m the fly on the wall for thousands of conversations about social justice. And a lot of what I witness online and in-person (in workshops and conferences and retreats) goes off the rails because of The Two Worlds Dilemma.

First, there’s the world we live in currently. The one we grew up in, the one we see as flawed. Let’s call this Now World.

Second, there’s the world we’re working toward. The goal of our activism and change. The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. Future World.

The dilemma plays out in a few different ways, but they all feel roughly the same:

  • Someone doesn’t agree with how your characterize Now World, so they argue against your Future World (and vice versa)
  • Someone thinks you’re talking about Future World when really you’re just describing Now World (and vice versa)

These arguments happen within the social justice movement as much as they do between SJ Fandom and Anti-SJ people.

And of course! Because there are tons of little things we can latch on to, and use to undermine the entire conversation.

As SJ people, we can do a lot more to clarify:

  1. What world we’re talking about (Now, Future, or some other)
  2. How our aspirational Future differs from Now
  3. The specific changes (new systems, norms, laws, etc.) we think will get us from Now to Future.

We can’t just point out what’s bad (about our Now, or other people’s proposed Future).

If we want to walk our talk, we have to point people toward good.


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About the Author

Sam Killermann Self Portrait

Hi! I'm Sam Killermann. I'm the author of A Guide to Gender: The Social Justice Advocate's Handbook, and I was featured in Katie Couric's NatGeo documentary "Gender Revolution". I created It's Pronounced Metrosexual in 2011. I write everything here and doodle the doodles myself. Bonus: everything I create is uncopyrighted and freely accessible — I even coded (& open-sourced) this site itself, my gift to you. Read More →

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