Self policing and policing others

In any community, there are always people who want to police things. People who want to be gatekeepers and set standards and say who is allowed in and who is not good enough. It is of course a position of power to be able to force others out, or define the boundaries. To be the person whose version of ‘the right way’ becomes definitive is a powerful place to be. Are you doing folk music right? Is your take on Steampunk really Steampunk enough? Are you a proper Druid? Are you a real geek? Do you know enough to be entitled to call yourself a fan of X, Y or Z?

It’s bloody miserable stuff. Mostly what it creates is discomfort, drama, power struggles, resentment and an undermining of creativity and new thinking. I can’t think of a single example of someone trying to play gatekeeper in a community in this way where things have been better and happier as a direct consequence.

If you think there’s a right and proper way to do things, it is better to lead by example. Live your truth. Demonstrate why your way is good, or best, or the only possible way. People may or may not agree with you. We have the right to make our own rules for ourselves, that’s fine. We have the right to adopt the ways of doing things that we see and are inspired by. There’s nothing wrong with following, and everything wrong with being told that you have to follow.

If you really are right about things then it will be self evident and people will come onboard. If your ideas are brilliant and persuasive, exposure will be enough to persuade people. Anyone who has to bully and harass people into agreeing with them is not really demonstrating a belief in the intrinsic excellence of what they’re advocating.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Self policing and policing others

  • Ella Dour

    Have you seen how gatekeeping dynamics impact the trans community? I’m going to be writing about that soon.

  • Christine Valentor

    Brilliant post, and I agree, it is miserable stuff, all the gate keeping! One thing I have learned in my semi-evolving wisdom is that there’s no such thing as “one size fits all.” 🙂

  • Signposts, not gatekeepers | Druid Life

    […] wrote recently about gatekeeping and why I don’t much like it. There are of course better ways to do things. For the person who wants to improve standards in any […]

  • Robin

    Agree to a point but I often wonder how often self-evident truths are really as self-evident as their advocates think. What to one person is a blatantly good way of doing things passes another by completely. Gatekeeping is frequently caustic, especially in the realms of identity politics, but equally I have been in groups that formed to do X then later someone joins who insists that the group changes to meet their wish to do Z until half the original members leave because it’s no longer doing what they joined for (and I’ve often been left wondering why the recent arrival didn’t join a group, or start a group, doing Z if that’s what they wanted all along anyway – there seems to be a fair few people around who enjoy the experience of taking over and changing a group in preference to finding or starting one that meets their needs).

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