Being Nice

Aug. 31st, 2012 01:05 am
xenologer: (snail cuddle)
Long (by my standards) but very worthy video that not only fits my experience as a skeptic talking both to other skeptics and to believers who are pretty sure atheists are empty vessels for their apologism, but also as a feminist talking to people who are pretty sure they don't talk to feminists, and as a liberal talking to people who are pretty sure they don't talk to liberals.

"Carrie Poppy, Director of Communications at the James Randi Educational Foundation and co-host of the popular "Oh No, Ross and Carrie!" podcast, discusses the importance of using inclusive language while doing outreach. Combining communication strategy and a spirit of friendly investigation, Carrie suggests that skeptical activists mirror themselves after a group she investigated and joined... the Mormon church."

Sorry I couldn't find a transcript of this talk. I would love one for accessibility reasons and for easy citation, but there doesn't seem to be one.

I think this is a great thing for people to consider. We have to be willing to draw boundaries, but it's also just plain tactically wiser to be kind to people up until the point when they make it absolutely clear that they'll repay it with dickery.

This is why when a friend of mine was finding that he cared more about truth than he did about what the truth could take from him, I explicitly told him not to chew his still-Christian wife's ankles off. I have been the still-identifying-as-theist partner of an atheist, and the best wisdom I had to pass on was that he should not get so excited about what he's figured out that he starts using his wife for target practice.

He took this under advisement. I was pleased. I didn't like the woman, but I felt I had done the right thing anyway, because what she deserved as a fellow human being and what would be most tactically effective for him happened to be the same option: be nice, even when someone is being ridiculous.

(It didn't work, but it was still the right thing to do!)

Now, this approach is exhausting and time-consuming to the point that not everybody can be required or even expected to do it. Additionally, an activist movement needs more than friendly and relateable people willing to connect on an individual level with every single goddamn person we encounter, which means we cannot all be diplomats. We cannot all be ambassadors. If we are all busy welcoming everybody, there's nobody left over to draw boundaries or do guiding work.

However, this kind of ambassadorial work--in my experience--is only effective if you do it the way Poppy describes.

Concede everything possible. Apologize whenever possible. Speak about personal experience only whenever possible. Rather than talking about how someone's unsubstantiated and potentially toxic dogma pisses you off (even though if you give a crap about your fellow humans, it probably does piss you off), speak from a position of sadness and hurt whenever you feel resilient enough to do so.

I cannot understate how important that latter one is. So many people who hold and act on toxic beliefs do so because they don't see the people they're affecting as real. This is true of people who think that atheists are heartless fun-ruining psychopaths just like it's true of people who think feminists are shrieking hysterical castrating harpies who want all babies born with penises to be pre-emptively convicted for rape at birth.

This is not a value judgement; it's a tactical decision. People are armored against outrage almost universally. Not everyone is susceptible to the "listen I am a person like you and I know you care whether you hurt people and this hurts me" approach, but far fewer people are armored against hurt compared to anger. For one example of how I have gotten back to this approach and the results I am having, check out my Obligatory Chick-Fil-A Post, an entry I wrote after all that bullshit with Chick-Fil-A shredded a lot of my peace and patience and I had to climb back up to the point that I was able to do what I know is most effective for me.

I am sure there are people somewhere who can make more progress by saying, "You are an entire bag of dicks and everyone who ever loved you was wrong," because there are lots of persuasive motherfuckers in the world and everybody's got a different approach. I know there is someone on the planet with a Charisma score of like 50 who could say those precise words and have people around them go, "Well I'll be goshderned. Am I a bag of dicks? I should work on that."

I am not that person, though. Here is what works for me.

Granted, it's vulnerable. It requires a lot of courage on my part because it means not pre-emptively striking at people I think are likely to be dickbags, and continuing to work through things this way even though lots of those people *gasp!* turn out to be dickbags after all.

But they won't all turn out to be dickbags, and the people who seem like dickbags but aren't (and instead just have no fucking clue how not to seem like dickbags) are the best candidates for outreach we'll ever get. They are the low-hanging fruit, people. Go get them.

When I have the energy for this exhausting but highly effective approach, I consider it one of the best things I can do for any movement I am a part of, not least because I know how few people have the energy to do a lot of it. The more I do, the better a contribution I feel like I am making, and so I wanted to pass this on in the hopes that others who could be good at the in-group empathy-based ambassadorial approach will take from this entry the motivation they need to give it a try.

The more ambassadors go out and pick up the easy converts, the fewer people our beautiful and precious firebrands will have to go stomp on. That's good for everyone!
xenologer: (vagina)
A Guide for Men with Good Intentions

As the title indicates, this is not a post for men who don't care whether their sexual advances frighten women. This is not a post for men who think that a woman can ever do anything to deserve being raped. This is not a post for men who just have a serious problem with women in general because their big sister never shared the Nintendo controller or whatever. This is a post for the men who really do respect women and either are being confused with the assholes or are simply afraid they might be.

This is for men with good intentions. I am creating this in the hopes that it will be linkable to men in multiple situations whose good intentions may not always be coming across. Given that, if you have been linked this, it is not necessarily because someone thought every single one of these headers was about you. If you have been linked this, it is because someone absolutely does think you care about them and the other people around you and because they believe that you have the empathy and self-awareness to be both willing and able to consider how your actions affect others.

Basically, if you got linked this, someone thinks you're a good person.

If they didn't think that, they probably wouldn't be talking to you at all, let alone going to the trouble of reading, collecting, and linking resources that will help you have as many positive relationships as possible. If they didn't think you deserved to have the people around you be comfortable with you and be intimate with you, they would be spending their energy to mess with you instead.

So please take this in that spirit. I am not trying to talk down to you, but if you have not ever lived as anything other than a man then I am going to be talking about experiences you have not had. That makes you not the expert on them, and that doesn't mean you're bad. It just means that we're talking about stuff you probably won't understand unless you consider the accounts of people who have experienced it.

As an aside, women are not the only people who could explain this to you. A trans man, for example, is a man, but has probably been erroneously treated like a woman at some point in his life and can therefore probably give you some perspective on what it is like to live without male privilege. Even if he is currently identifying and identified by others as male, this is probably stuff he has seen. Ditto for genderqueer individuals who are or have been misidentified by others as female. Odds are that they also know things.

Despite that, I am going to use "woman" as shorthand for "someone who lives without male privilege" despite the fact that that is not even close to covering absolutely all such people, just because "woman" is far more concise than "someone who lives without male privilege."

This all means there are plenty of people who can and often will give you a picture of what's going on in the world for people with a different set of pressures than your own, and odds are if they are sharing their experiences with you it's not because they think you suck; it's because they are operating under the assumption that you care, and if they're right, this entry is for you.

Read more... )

As is typical, the entry to link (should you desire to do so) is here at DoaW.
xenologer: (bye bye)
So when women are like, "Hey don't sexually harass me," there are always people who say, "But I am so awkward/autistic that I cannot tell the difference between harassment and flirting BAWWWWW you are so ablist BAWWWWWWW."

No, awkwardness is no excuse.

Tell it, Captain Awkward.
If you alert someone to an unwelcome behavior, and the person keeps doing that thing and/or angrily arguing that they shouldn’t have to change anything, the problem is not Asperger’s. Even if they do have Asperger’s. People with Asperger’s can knowingly or unknowingly violate someone’s boundaries. They can also have their boundaries violated! A lot of people who are Very Worried About The Aspies do not themselves have Asperger’s and are using this as a straw man to derail the conversation away from their own behaviors. They’re also insulting people with Asperger’s by assuming that even close to a statistically significant portion of creepy behavior can be blamed on them. Who’s able-ist now?

I hate how people who sexually harass people and persist in ignoring boundaries hide behind (or are hidden behind by others) "social awkwardness" as though there were any degree of awkwardness that could recontextualize "no" to mean "yes." If you come to this comment thread to explain that Asperger's is why you shouldn't have to stop scaring the women you hit on, I hope every boundary-respecting Aspie on my friends list punches you in the mouth.

Also, all of the men I know who have persisted in sexually harassing women and then been sheltered by mutual friends have actually been entirely socially savvy... when it comes to situations and people they actually give a shit about.

For example, any harasser who has managed to surround himself with enablers who'll say "oh he's just awkward so he can't change" and targets who'll say "well there's no way to get him to stop so I'll just shut up and try not to make drama over it" is a harasser who is actually very very good at what he does, socially. He gets away with sexually harassing people precisely because he is not awkward.

What he is... is a man who doesn't believe that women are qualified to define and defend our own boundaries, and who has figured out what kinds of people to keep around him so that he doesn't EVER have to feel real pressure to adjust his behavior. And THAT is not the behavior of a man who's bad with social cues. He's just a man who is bad.

This rant can also be found at Dissent of a Woman. That's the linkable public version, mostly because there are people on my friends list who know some of the creepers I am talking about and their privacy may be a factor here, too.
xenologer: (human monsters)
Wrote a lot of this a week or so ago, when I was still reeling from all that Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day horseshit.

Read more... )


If anybody else is still having these terrible terrible discussions, here are some resources that you might find helpful.

Specific and easily-linkable information on Chick-Fil-A's donation history.

Great rundown from that I like because it addresses the problems with (and harm caused by) falsely casting this as a First Amendment issue.

Tired of having this cast as a dispute between two equally-unreasonable and extreme camps of zealots? Here, drop this link before you smash your head against that brick wall again.

JP Brammer's Final Rant on Chick-Fil-A, full of justified anger over very real harm.
It’s not about Dan Cathy’s opinion - which I do not give a flying fuck about - it’s about the fact that Chick-Fil-A donated over $5 million to anti-gay hate groups. Hate groups which have been listed next to the KKK, hate groups which try to cure gay people like it’s a disease, and hate groups that have disseminated information claiming that gay people are pedophiles. (...)

Let me tell you this. Agreeing to disagree is a luxury I can’t afford because that’s something you can only do with an equal. And, if you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of dealing with some major inequalities here. So when you tell me that I have to deal with the bullshit that society and religion sends my way on a daily basis, and that I have to do it with a smile on my face, then don’t be surprised when I tell you to kindly fuck off.

“But you’ll never get rights that way. You attract more flies with honey than-” oh shut the fuck up. Like you care about my rights.

Then, for a slightly different tactic, Aesop to the Right: Why I Believe Bristol Palin, one of those rare potentially bridge-building essays which does that difficult job without compromising on the values at stake here. This is a keeper any time someone says, "I don't have a problem with LGBT people. I just believe that they're definitionally excluded from certain rights because of the way I have chosen to define the group of people eligible for those rights. But I love my gay friends!"
Some people turn supremacy into an over-arching philosophy. For most, it’s just a habit of mind. As a habit of mind, supremacist ideas can spring up in anyone. Being liberal doesn’t make you immune. Being gay doesn’t make you immune. Being a minority doesn’t make you immune.

You don’t have to hate people to feel innately superior to them. After all, what kind of threat are your inferiors to you? You may be annoyed by them, from time to time, or you may even like them. You can even have so much affection for them that you might call that affection love.

Because they don’t have to be said in anger, supremacist statements aren’t only the purview of the “God Hates Fags” crowd. The dangerous thing about a supremacist point of view is that it can accompany even warm affection.

Now understand: I’m not saying you’re a supremacist, but your letter, polite as it is, does betray a somewhat a supremacist point of view.

Finally, on the Chick-Fil-A marriage equality issue.

Also! For those of you on LJ and DW who might want to link this, the entry on DoaW is here. Please feel free to leave links to more resources in the comments on DoaW so that anybody who needs them won't have to depend only on what I happened to have stashed in my browser history when I posted this.
xenologer: (vagina)
Sunny brought me my beautiful internet wisdom of the day!

"One of the worst ways to stop someone from telling sexist jokes is to tell him the joke isn’t funny. He’ll assume that you’re humorless and that he needs to save the good stuff for the right audience. If you really want someone to stop telling sexist jokes, you need to tell him, “I don’t get it” and then step back as he tries not to say, “It’s funny because women are stupid.""
xenologer: (do not even)
No one can speak for all women, but I think it's good to speak for the women who constantly get shut down when we try to explain why "benevolent" sexism is still messed up and not okay.

If you are a woman who disagrees with this, congratulations on agreeing with the dominant narrative. Our culture is clearly more comfortable for you than it has been for most of the women I know, and I'll be happy for your good fortune if you will let someone express a more critical perspective.

Reader letter to the FeministDisney tumblr, and FD's answer.
And so if a guy likes me I don’t really hold it against them that maybe they’re covering their bases by saying they can pay for it, even if that in itself tends to make me uncofortable since you have to go through this longass routine of “no, really, I’LL pay for it” “NO I insist!” blah blah.

What I do pay attention to- and judge- is the way they respond to my polite request to pay for myself. I don’t honestly want to be with someone who thinks that “men always should pay first” is enough of a reason to keep insisting on it, because that’s really low on my list of social conventions that I want to buy into and indicates that we’re probably not going to see eye-to-eye on a large range of social subjects.
xenologer: (Lisbeth)
Trigger Warning: Rape Apologism!

Disclaimer: Statistically the vast majority of rapists are men, and the majority of rape victims are women. Nota bene: men do get raped, and that comes with its own set of extra bullshit that the victims have to deal with. LGBT people are also at serious risk for sexual assault no matter their gender identity or expression (but particularly transgender people).

I say these things because I am going to talk about rapists and rape victims in terms of their statistically prominent genders, but you should not take that as a cue that those are the only genders of authentic rapists or the only genders of authentic rape victims. It's for simplicity's sake, but it's important to me to make sure that readers be aware that the full demographics of rape include more than "cis men raping cis women."

Anyway. Onward.

Read more... )

Being Human

Jun. 4th, 2012 11:22 pm
xenologer: (vagina)
Skip This Portion if You've Read About Privilege Before

We all have privileges in our lives. We all have things that make things just a little easier for us, or nearly all of us do. Nearly all of us also have ways in which we've got it harder, obstacles that aren't always even going to be seen by those who aren't facing them. Privileged and marginalized are not mutually exclusive categories--most of us are in both, and we shift from one column to the other depending on our position relative to specific individual problems, systems, organizations, whatever.

So basically, what I am trying to say is that nobody is the bad guy and nobody is nothing but a victim. There are very few people who could ever be pointed at and accused of benefiting from oppression without being oppressed in any way themselves, which means that even if we were trying to make someone feel guilty, it'd be pretty fuckin' hard to figure out who that should be, don't you think?

For people who haven't had these discussions a whole lot, here is a breakdown on some of the basic theories banging around in my head that not everybody has banging around in theirs. The other thing worth mentioning before I get into this is that people who are--in the context of a particular conversation--the person speaking from privilege? Nobody is saying you've got nothing to say.

What is important for you to be aware of, though, is that being the one in a position of privilege means that in the broader culture it's easier for your voice to get heard as a rule. Consequently, it is a really nice thing for you to do to say, "You never get to talk, and we all know it. So... why don't you go first? Let's hear from you and I'll chime in later." Here is some information on how to make your good intentions clear, so that you don't blend in with the assholes. It doesn't require you to approach these conversations any differently than any other interaction, but a lot of people think that discussing marginalization and privilege is different.

I think these people are wrong.

Some of these people are dear allies in the interconnected fights against prejudice and marginalization, and even though I value their contributions and still have all kinds of love for them and would certainly not want them to shut up, I think they are explaining these issues incorrectly. Even I have been failing to make what might be the most important point of all when it comes to treating people who are speaking from marginalization with decency.

Being Decent About Privilege is Exactly Like Being Decent Everywhere Else

I am going to argue that speaking from a position of privilege--both in avoiding being a jerk and dealing with the consequences of inevitable jerkery--is exactly like every other social situation. The rules are the same. I can see you side-eyeing me through your screen, thinking, No way these are really sensitive hot-button issues that are very different from all other topics of conversation.


No Exceptions

I get really emotional in conversations about privilege, particularly if there is a person involved who is not taking seriously the other people around who are saying, "This thing you did/said is not cool because of (name your marginalization)." I get angry when people don't extend the same social courtesies that we are taught are necessary to basic interaction and being a good friend to experiences of marginalization. To me, hearing "this thing you are doing hurts me" should be treated exactly the same whether I said or did some non-privileged nasty thing as with a privileged thing, and I get really really angry when people treat areas where they have privilege like they get a different and relaxed standard that means they can call people friends without caring how much they hurt them.

One thing that people like to bring up as a reason to treat conversations of privilege and marginalization like they're a separate breed from all others is that people speaking from privilege typically cannot really fully comprehend in a deep and personal way what it's like to live without that privilege, which means they just can't understand. I think this is a bullshit excuse and here is why.

I shouldn't have to be able to identify with a friend's hurt in order to give it significance in my life just because they are my friend, or even if they're not just because they are human.

I shouldn't need to fully grok their pain. What I need to know is that someone I have a social connection with is hurting because of an action I took or didn't take, and that makes it my business because of our connection and/or because their hurt is due to a thing I did.

I feel like a great definition of privilege is that having a particular privilege means that when it comes to people who don't have that privilege, the normal rules of personal responsibility for one's own behavior no longer apply because hurt from that source is invalid. Even in the odd case where we have to say it's valid, the person with the privilege is never ever responsible for their part in that pain, because the normal rules of basic human decency have been suspended.

Just makes me angry. It doesn't require new skills to be reasonable about one's own privilege. It just requires that you not draw a line around certain people and say, "I can be a worse friend to you and you don't get to complain. Be grateful for what little you get, and I'll stand over here and be smug over my generosity."

If you're even capable of that, you are an asshole. You really are.

I mean, someone who even has the capacity to do that... nobody else should be friends with them, either, because apparently just because they're a good friend to someone else doesn't mean they see the consistent application of that standard as having anything to do with their own integrity, which means I don't think anyone should trust them.

Privileged Friends: Not an Oxymoron

I'm not saying that privileged people make bad friends. Almost everyone has privilege and privilege makes people do and say dumb and hurtful shit. Law of the universe! But part of being a person among people is accepting that you will hurt people sometimes, and deciding that you have a standard for yourself for what is a good enough response to having hurt someone. Everybody's gonna fuck up with someone in some kind of way. Everyone. What divides the assholes from the trustworthy is how they respond to the awareness of having done so.

And people who make exceptions to their own standards of human decency? That says something about them, about their integrity. I get angry at the implication that this is normal and expected and I am asking too much of them to simply expect that they not decide some people are unworthy of decent integrity, because fuck that forever.

If you can be a good friend to people who aren't bringing their marginalization-flavored hurt to you, you can be a good friend to the people who are. If you can't be a good friend to people bringing their marginalization-flavored hurt to you, though, you might want to think about what kind of friend that really makes you overall.

Sharing this is welcome, but if you do, please share the public version hosted here. I have anonymity concerns, but I also want to be useful. Your consideration allows me to be both safe and helpful, which is super great.
xenologer: (Lisbeth)
This link goes out to everybody I know who remains friends with abusers and resents the implication that because you think the abuser is okay, that you think their abusive actions are okay. Well, if you stick around, that's what you are saying.

If you make excuses for abusers and refuse to defend your loved ones, at least be willing to tell them to their faces that really you would adjust your life in this minor way out of respect for their pain, but you just don't care enough. BECAUSE. YOU. DON'T.

And you aren't hiding it well.

Own your priorities or change them. Pro Tip: If you aren't willing to openly state your priorities and what you care about because you are afraid you'll look like an ass, you probably are just trying to hide that you really are an ass. You will be a lot less likely to seem like an asshole if you work on BEING less of an asshole.

You don't have to be a rapist to be complicit in rape culture.
xenologer: (I have arrived)
The 99% Isn’t Me: Being the Minority in the 99%
Another issue I have with the 99% concept is that it smacks of the rhetoric we black and brown people heard from the Left back in the 70’s, that we’re all just people and we need to be colorblind, and that we are all being oppressed by the same people and on and on… Those thoughts are valid, kind of if you ignore much of American history. My oppression as a black man in America is very, very different from that of a poor white person. Yes we both ended up poor and without food or a job but he doesn’t get called a nigger or have to deal with the very real reality of racism. Although the white middle class who’s central to the Occupy movement are right about Wall Street and politicians they fail to see that the struggle is different if you’re a woman, gay, Black, Latino, Native American, etc. Many of the aforementioned groups have been in the gutter for…. Um… ever. Actually yea really forever since this nation was created many of us have been at the bottom of the pile. With that said I think it’s a serious problem when someone tells me that my struggles are the same as theirs and I should get behind a movement that I had little part in creating. This is what the relationship (especially in places like my hometown of Buffalo) between the occupation and oppressed minorities has been since the beginning. It smacks of the reductionism that we have seen from the likes of the 10’s-40’s communist / socialist movement and its dealings with black people and how the movement has almost always dealt with women (aka sexism as a secondary issue). (...)

To many people the Occupy movement is strictly about economic inequalities and Wall Street not about race, gender, or class although they have no problem welcoming black people, women, or the unemployed as supporters. It’s indicative of a lack of recognition of race, gender, or class (and other issues) in the occupation (and its connection to capitalism and economics) and any felt need for the creation of spaces to deal with these issues in any real way.

What counts as "common ground?"

I got into my local Occupy movement at least partly hoping to prove to myself that arguments like this were baseless. They're not baseless. This is what it looks like to the people who're told that the issues of privileged people are "common ground" and the issues of marginalized people are "divisive."

If you're thinking reading what I just wote, "Cripes, Xeno, that's basically everyone, because everyone's getting screwed somehow," you're right, and you're beginning to see the depth of the problem and how many people can be alienated to a lesser or larger degree by it.

For example, what I face as a white person is common ground, and I can bring that up without anybody calling me divisive for centering a conversation on my experiences of the economy or governmental/law enforcement abuses. Whether I say, "I as a white person..." or not, these are experiences which are shaped and changed by my race and what that prompts people to assume about me. These are white experiences whether I label them or not, because they are so distinctive to people who present like me and would have been very different were I any other color.

However, I might want to talk about being a woman, and once in a blue moon I may talk about being LGBT (though the latter is something I feel less qualified to discuss due to the fact that I'm cisgendered and benefit from straight privilege in a lot of ways). Despite the fact that I am the same person whose plight was "common ground" in the previous discussion, suddenly now we're talking identity politics. Suddenly an experience I have had that is unique to my circumstances is divisive.

But I'm the same person I was in the first case. I'm not any more privileged or oppressed than I was when I was speaking to a particular (white) experience of our economy and culture. I'm still me. There are just parts of me and my experience that are not considered an "occupy" issue.

That's why, no matter how much we may say that women and people of color and LGBT people are welcome and no matter how sincerely and deeply felt that sentiment might be, as long as some people have to shut a door on part of what probably brought them to Occupy in the first place, we're not living up to that promise.

I also think that Richardson made a great point here:

"Too considering we’re (as in women, blacks, latinos, etc) are the ones suffering the most shouldn’t the movement come to us and put us in place to contribute versus us having to shoehorn our stuff to their? It’s their movement not ours and if they want it to become our’s too they are going to have to move towards us."

It's not merely our job at this point to open the door and say, "You are welcome to join us." We have to do that and then actually allow conversations about their unique experiences, or else what we're really saying is, "You're welcome to join us as long as you pretend your struggles aren't different." In that latter case, we're setting a very high price on participation by demanding that they be less true to their experiences and needs for the privilege of being accepted even at the margins.

That's why even groups that really sincerely want to be inclusive often still have at the fore and at the core the same demographics that've been at the fore and core of everything else in power. It's because until we start listening to what the people who aren't getting included are saying will make them feel welcome, no matter how hard we try we simply will not know how to get that done.

What makes this especially hard to climb up out of is that if a movement's face is not diverse, people who benefit from diversity and suffer from its lack will not always come sacrifice their time, money, and precious energy (of which we all only have so much) to be that diversity. I know that when I see an organization that is run entirely or almost entirely by men, I consider where the women went, because surely there've been at least some. Why didn't they stay? What happened to them that I can't see from here? Do I love this cause enough to risk finding out the hard way?

Getting personal for a moment.

To give an example that is not necessarily intended to translate here but merely to illustrate one example that I walked in with, I used to be involved with an activist organization. It was progressive in its politics toward the poor, its stated attitudes toward LGBT people and women were extremely forward-thinking, and the attitudes of all of the individual members I spoke to about racism were strongly in favor of creating a society where people of color did not disproportionately suffer.

And yet its upper management was run by all white men with the exception of one white woman. I didn't know enough at the start to wonder what the disconnect would be. Fast forward a year. After a year I'd seen hiring practices that weeded out nearly all people of color immediately, so that when higher positions were pulled from the ranks, the ranks had already been cleared of racial minorities. After a year, I'd seen a culture that shelters sexual assault by pressuring women who experienced it to avoid making a fuss for fear of damaging the organization's ability to do its worthy work. Essentially, after a year, I saw exactly why women and people of color were absent: they'd been driven out or had fled for their own safety and sanity.

Consequently, now I look for the signs. When I see a movement that isn't diverse, I hang back. I don't hang back out of a lack of love for the cause. I hang back because I learned why women and POC were absent from an organization that I loved very much whose work I am proud to have been part of to this day. I am still proud of the work this organization does, which is why I am not saying their name (though I will if you contact me privately).

(As an aside, if anyone reading is thinking, "Oh my god. Their hiring and retention practices were racist and assault victims were pressured to keep it quiet and you're still protecting them? What's wrong with you?" then I hope you are taking care to police this kind of thinking in yourself when it comes to Occupy. If you're not comfortable with what I just did, then please let it be a lesson about how ugly this reasoning is and how hard it can be to overcome even for people who've personally suffered because of it.)

What does that have to do with us now?

That experience is why I look at the Occupy movement, at the diversity problem we have in my city, and am willing to immediately assume that the problem is not people of color or LGBT people or women not caring enough. I am willing to assume that the problem is us. Unfortunately, it's hard to address this problem. My difficulty has been that so many of my city's occupation supporters are unwilling to make that first step of saying, "Maybe it's something we're doing wrong," that I never get to the point of having any other conversations.

It's like... remember how when all this started, OWS got flak for merely stating problems and not making demands? Remember what we told them? We told the press and our friends and our families that until enough people understand that there's a problem in the first place and until enough people understand what that problem is, we are not ready for a conversation about the solutions.

So! For those of you who are sick and goddamn tired of hearing about this problem because nobody is telling you how you can fix it, here's what you can do to help us fix it: Have these conversations yourself. Explain to the people who listen to you and respect you that there's a problem, because odds are they don't even realize there is one yet. Explain to the people you have personal relationships with that the problem is that we are doing something wrong. Get them up to speed. Get everyone up to speed. Get them ready to be part of the conversation about solutions.

Then we can really sit down with open minds and honest hearts and find a solution. Until then, there's no point. We're not there yet.

If you want to link this around, that's cool, but if you do I ask that you link the "public" version rather than to my personal journal. That link is here. Thanks for your consideration for my privacy.
xenologer: (Default)
Cis is Not a Slur, Grues.

I am baffled by the existence of people who are outraged that they are being called cisgendered instead of "normal." I guess maybe they consider every label to be inherently derogatory because it points out that a thing needs to be linguistically marked and I guess that is inherently degrading? Calls into question THEIR intentions when they refer to LGBT people, doesn't it?

Maybe I just know too many chemistry geeks, but everybody I know immediately got that "cis" is just the companion term to "trans." That's it.

I suppose this is more from the files of people who don't mind equality as long as by "equal" we mean "everybody is okay but I am obviously more so and please don't imply that you are good as my kind." As long as we can define "equality" so that it preserves their sense of natural supremacy and superior "rightness," they're okay with it.

Never mind that this makes no goddamn sense at all even linguistically. If these people were better at thinking about words and what they mean, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

For people who are confused that I am annoyed, here is your crash course on what folk sound like when they object to the idea that they can't just refer to themselves as "normal" and define everybody else in opposition. "Other people are either failing or succeeding to be like me and should be classified accordingly and any implication that I am an asshole for classifying them this way is ZOMG CISPHOBIC OPPRESSION."

This is what it looks like applied anywhere else. Thinking of people like this is... honestly kind of hard to avoid because it is taught and enforced in a lot of cultures, but you turn the corner into Asshole Town when you start defending this like it is acceptable or even desirable. Here are ways that you should not be classifying people:

Normal people and gay or trans people.

Regular people and women.

Americans and Black Americans.

Get it?

tl;dr: You can't call yourself normal without calling someone else deviant. If that isn't your intention, then accept that gracefully allowing yourself to be linguistically marked just like everyone else is the decent thing to do. If it is your intention, you are horrible and as I have seen threatened elsewhere I will literally change you into an animal using my magic powers.

(Disclaimer: This blogger does not have magic powers, nor was she processed in a facility that also processes magic powers.)

If you want to link this anywhere, that is fantastic, but I do ask that you link to my "public" blog. Here is the link you want for that.
xenologer: (Lisbeth)
So Elisabeth Cornwell spoke at the Reason Rally. The video is behind this link. My commentary is reproduced on that page, but I wanted it here as well to boost the signal on this, because it is not okay. It is not.

Trigger warning: mention of sexual assault.

The systematic degradation of women's control over their own bodies and lives is not just bad, it is monstrous. It is an act of war, as rape is an act of war. There are even a lot of parallels to how female slaves were treated, because they were considered always-accessible subhuman incubators for the valuable property of their masters, much as a disposable class of unsupported children is valuable for rich white dudes today who benefit from trapping other communities in generational poverty. There are a lot of parallels, and even if it was a little hyperbolic... I expect hyperbole at a rally.

There is a problem, though. I was there at the rally and I listened to Cornwell talking about how women in America are being enslaved then invoke the alleged ideals and opinions of Thomas Jefferson, to convey how appalled he would be by this kind of inroad toward theocracy. I realize that this is a thing easily forgotten by white people in this country, but Jefferson actually personally himself enslaved women. You know who made their reproductive choices? Jefferson did after he bought them. Sure, he'd potentially stand with the white women in the audience in their struggle for reproductive freedom, but if you think he'd stand with the women of color, I don't know where you got your history education. More likely you just didn't consider that what he did to black women reflects as strongly on his character as what the theocrats are trying to do to you now.

This is a problem.

How much more strongly can someone imply that black women aren't real women, their enslavement not pressing until it is shared by white women? I can think of no other reason why Jefferson's status as a famed enslaver and rapist of slave women should be overlooked so that he can be called upon as an ideological ally to modern women, except that to some people his serial rapes and violations of the reproductive autonomy of *black* women were less important as a measure of his character than his excellent insights about religion.

We did a good job on diversity of speakers and guests at the accompanying convention this year, but if you want to be mindful of not seeming like a movement run by white people for white people, please be mindful of whom you're asking your audience to idolize. We're talking about a guy whose reputation for raping slaves and forcing them to bear his children is so legendary that there are entire geneology projects dedicated to tracing just his descendants among people of color.

Jefferson's political theory was a good place to start (particularly when it comes to his views on religion), but it's a terrible place to finish and we sure as heck shouldn't retreat back to it to stop the enslavement of women. So let's keep that in mind before we canonize the man and ask the women of color in the audience to look up to the guy who raped so many of their great-great-grandmothers and forced them to carry and bear his "property" against their will. Maybe some of his nasty personal/"business" habits are overlookable by a financially secure white activist, but the fact that you can overlook it doesn't mean other people are going to be able to handwave it so easily.

I appreciated the rally and had a lovely time both there and at the convention. The sense of community was beautiful and necessary. It's just sad that it had to be undermined by something like this at a time when we are all clearly making an effort toward including the full range of atheists in all our diversity.
xenologer: (bye bye)
Whenever discussion of the declining space program comes up (example story about the Mars program, and another about our suspended shuttle program), it makes me sad because I feel like it's one more piece of our nation's love for science that we're leaving behind. It's a sentiment I heard echoed at a sci-fi convention by the friendly science-loving folk who attended, and I definitely can feel it, too.

At the same time, I hear Gil Scott-Heron in my head whenever people are talking about the billions of dollars we ought to be spending on the space program.

So while I'm sad about the fact that we allegedly SUDDENLY can't afford the space program, realistically we haven't been able to afford it for a long time. Unfortunately, that money is going to get used to pay for war and not for the things I'd like us to be dreaming about instead. With the cost of putting a few physically-perfect highly-educated and well-trained professionals into space, what could we do about AIDS? What could we do about malaria? What could we do about cholera? What could we do about ill-funded schools or food deserts?

Makes me upset when the closing down of the space program is framed as a lack in our ability to dream. It probably is, because it'll probably mean more of our money goes to making war. It probably is about us failing to dream big enough or well enough, but it wouldn't have to be, because I think there are far more important things for us to spend our money on.

It's just sad that we probably won't.
xenologer: (objection!)
Here's my explanation for why I talk about my atheism a lot.

It's the same reason I talk about the experiences of LGBT people. It's not that I'm evangelizing to make more LGBT people. Though these experiences of marginalization are obviously not equivalent, I do think that the atheist movement has a lot to learn from the LGBT movement on this subject. It doesn't all have to be about recruitment. Sometimes it's just about visibility. People will be better to atheists (and yes, this may sometimes extend to being more willing to consider what we're saying) if they know that they know atheists, that we're normal people, that we can be good people, that we aren't so different from them, and above all why we are atheists at all.

If all religious people were like Quakers running around pushing for the abolition of slavery, LGBT rights, and environmental protection, I don't think you'd even hear atheists griping about obnoxious theists or whatever. Those people aren't my main concern when I'm talking about atheism, though, because believe it or not? It doesn't always have to be about theists!

Atheists need to be able to talk about ourselves without theists making themselves the center of attention and discussion. Sometimes we need to be able to talk to and about each other, too. Sometimes atheists talk about being atheists because it makes it easier for other atheists to be atheists. It's just like how some people talk about being LGBT because it makes easier for other LGBT people to be LGBT.

So, in short, atheists need to talk about their atheism. We have the right to do it, we have the right to have our reasoning heard, and we have the right to reach out to each other. Yeah, I believe there are benefits to "deconverting" theists, but much of the time for me it isn't about that. Just because theists are the dominant group in my culture doesn't mean that every ounce of energy I spend and every minute of my thoughts needs to be dedicated to their wishful thinking. Sometimes it needs to be about us.
xenologer: (happy!)
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My dinner party would be Alan Turing, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama, and John Brown.

(This is just an extension of my dream to someday use time travel to give Alan Turing a hug. I'd like to give him a hug and introduce him to Ellen.)
xenologer: (happy!)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

My dinner party would be Alan Turing, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama, and John Brown.

(This is just an extension of my dream to someday use time travel to give Alan Turing a hug. I'd like to give him a hug and introduce him to Ellen.)
xenologer: (happy!)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

My dinner party would be Alan Turing, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama, and John Brown.

(This is just an extension of my dream to someday use time travel to give Alan Turing a hug. I'd like to give him a hug and introduce him to Ellen.)
xenologer: (everybody's aunt)
I am having a hard time finding RP boards that are up to my standards, and not because I am such a fantastic writer that threading with my inferiors feels too much like slumming. I am having a hard time with a lot of the bigotry and bullshit in people's settings and character assortments. It feels weird, too, because I sort of feel like as a nice white (mostly-straight cis)lady it's not really... for me to complain about, I guess? But... uh... what in the fuck. Someone's got to complain about it, and the more someones who are commenting on it, the better. I guess.

It still feels weird. I'm not sure that it should be a great contribution to a conversation to just regurgitate what I've heard and read and learned from LGBT people and POC, but at the same time I suppose more privileged people should be getting up in arms about this shit, so even if it feels weird, I am probably doing a good thing. I hope.

This started as a post in a thread about bigotry in online RP and I thought I would reproduce it here just so that I could complain to more people. A lot of the things I am complaining about don't even directly deal with demographics I'm a part of, which should tell you how bad they can get. For the most part none of these are issues I deal with personally except that living in a world where they are commonplace sort of sucks for everyone. I can't even imagine what it'd be like to be, say, an LGBT woman of color trying to find a place to roleplay online that wasn't full of bullshit. So I am griping about it.

Congrats. You get my complaining. Aren't you so grateful. I will cut this in case you don't want to read it, because there is a lot of it.

Read more... )
xenologer: (objection!)
Okay, I have yet again had "this country was intended to function like X and we need to put it back like that" thrown at me, this time by a Ron Paul supporter but eh. It's too pervasive for me to just point at them and say it's their argument, though I'll get to him when I've picked apart that little highly-polished ball of shit.

Here's my feeling.

I am a lot less reverent of "the way things were intended to be" than I am "how things would need to be so that privileged and currently-marginalized people can have equality of opportunity."

The country we create means a lot more to me than the degree to which it matches someone else's idea of sufficient faithfulness to the ideological orthodoxy of a group of social contract theorists two centuries ago who had no more experience with the kind of culture I want to live in now than anybody else did at the time.

So rather than spending the rest of my life building a political theory around slavish obedience to the ideals of men who owned black people and mostly didn't think women were qualified to vote, I'm going to look at politics and government as a problem-solving exercise, not a test of my loyalty to "the founders."

Some of the same people who'd never argue that we should do whatever the Bible says (or seems to say) because it's a book written by people will nonetheless kill and die to demonstrate their unwillingness to depart from centuries-old ideas about what America should be like. I don't get it.

I don't think "the founders" were necessarily any wiser men than we have today. They had great ideas (though a lot of that was just them having the sense to identify ideas worth copying from other cultures), but they gave us a starting point. The Constitution they wrote is a great place to start, but it's not perfect enough as a place to finish.

That's why I can't join the libertarian party's devotional cult dedicated to "the founders" or their ideals. I am fairly familiar with what they wanted, where they differed with one another, and with whom I'd likely have agreed if I'd been around then.

Fact remains, though, that we're further along in this experiment than they were. We know things now that they didn't then, and if we're more concerned about orthodoxy than which policies will actually create a nation of equal opportunity... then I feel like that's way more of a betrayal of their legacy than anything I'm arguing for.

Read more... )
xenologer: (do not even)
How Not To Be A Doofus When Accused Of Racism (A Guide For White People)
Don’t make it about you. Usually the thing to do is apologize for what you said and move on. Especially if you’re in a meeting or something, resist your desire to turn the meeting into a seminar on How Against Racism You Are. The subject of the conversation is probably not “your many close Black friends, and your sincere longstanding and deep abhorrence of racism.”

On the term "people of colour."
'People of colour' is a collective label for people oppressed by racism. This is how I use it. Insofar as my racial identity has mostly been shaped by racism in a western context, I identify strongly with it. I think it's important to have an empowering self-definition. It allows me to exercise my agency about my own racialisation, by working together with other people of colour to transform our lives and the world around us. If I didn't identify as a person of colour, I'd be subject to a whole lot of disempowering, bureaucratic classifications of who I am, that depoliticise and naturalise the ways that I'm oppressed. I use the term people of colour to politicise and denormalise racism.

Yes, the term suggests that all people who are not white have something in common. For some people, it may be tenuous, but I think what we have in common is an interest in eliminating racism. It represents our best aspirations towards solidarity, coalition, and mutual respect. (...)

I also call bullshit on the "you're oppressing yourself!" criticism of the term 'people of colour'. No, acknowledging power relations doesn't oppress you, oppression oppresses you. So does denial about it and pretending that racism doesn't serialise people in such a way as they have something in common with each other.

How to suppress discussions of racism.
Our goal is to show you a few simple techniques you can use to suppress the discussion of racism. As you read, keep in mind that your goal is not to learn or to educate, to listen or be listened to, to increase your understanding of difficult issues, or to exchange opinions and communicate with other people. Your goal is to make discussions of race so difficult and unrewarding that not only your opponent but any witnesses to your argument will never want to discuss race in public again.

Let's get started!

White people cannot know how it feels to be a person of colour.
Sometimes a white person may declare that she knows how it feels to be a person of colour, because she has spent a lot of time amongst people of colour. Other people of colour may then declare that she does not know how it feels, because she is white. The white person may then think that she is being discriminated against because of the colour of her skin, that those who accuse her of not empathizing are just making assumptions based on stereotypes about white people.

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