xenologer: (do not even)
2016-04-20 12:16 am
Entry tags:

I use trigger warnings because I DON'T care about you.

TW: just about everything, up to and including me discussing my own internalized ableism toward ppl w/ trauma

My approach to trigger warnings (this link is important) is a little non-standard, even if it results in me agreeing with those who scrupulously use them and their milder cousins the content notes. See, most times feminists and disability activists are using them for reasons of compassion and inclusivity, which are values they are supporting quite well through their actions. However, there are a lot of people who just cannot be reached via appeals to the greater or even small-scale interpersonal good. So I'll go over the compassion arguments, but then I'll give you my reasoning. If the first bit doesn't resonate with you, stick with me, yeah? Maybe you're just not like them. Maybe you're just like me, is all.

Why's this a conversation all of a sudden?

It is to everybody's great misfortune (except Lukianoff and Haidt, obviously) that their essay The Coddling of the American Mind in the Atlantic was the introduction to the matter for many casual readers and shallow thinkers. I don't normally go so far as to condemn entire readerships as shallow because those are strong words, but I hope I can justify them to your satisfaction.

The thesis of Lukianoff's and Haidt's article is that the export of trigger warnings from the internet to Real Academia has given students a way to hide from the kind of real intellectual and emotional challenges that make education and indeed maturity itself possible.

The alternative they present is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a thoroughly reputable therapeutic approach that entails providing patients with predictable, controlled, and moderated exposure to their trauma triggers in a controlled environment under the supervision of a licensed clinician who is familiar with their history and invested in their recovery. The most glaring failure of their proposed solution is that it cannot be achieved by omitting trigger warnings in classroom settings but only by expanding access to mental health services and allowing the priorities of those treatment programs to dictate levels and schedules of exposure to whatever extent can be reasonably managed.

In short, a professor who has chosen not to tell students they're going to be listening to a rape victim's 911 call is not actually gifting their students a free session of cognitive behavioral therapy; statistically they're more likely to be causing at least one student a neurologically uncontrollable response that will hinder the student's ability to engage with the material that could easily have been prevented by just... telling the students on the syllabus to brace themselves before attending that day.

So before we even get into questions of whether omitting trigger warnings is humane, it's worth asking what it achieves. The very first claim we've seen, that it toughens up those flimsy millenials, is starkly undermined by the very writers who most publicly made it. That's why I call the people who share this article around like it supports the omission of trigger warnings as a cure for millenial fragility casual readers and shallow thinkers, because that's Lukianoff's and Haidt's audience: people who can overlook the authors breaking their own thesis in half. It fails on such a fundamental level as a piece of persuasive writing that it's difficult to take seriously because, come on, look what they did to that poor thesis. They argue for eliminating trigger warnings because they make kids these days into big babies who care about racism and sexism and all kinds of nonsense and then advocate for a treatment method that essentially requires absolutely comprehensive use of trigger warnings across not only academia but all aspects of life. That poor poor thesis.

Even so, this terrible terrible essay started a conversation far better than it merited

The conversation that's happening.

One of the biggest bogeymen trigger warnings get turned into is a form of bottom-up censorship, a tyranny of the broken and the oppressed, preventing their stories from being told. By and large, though, a warning is an extra line of content, not a subtraction. Certainly, the way that I use them, I write whatever I like. I add the warnings after I've written whatever I like, tailored to whatever came out. Linear time, being what it is, leaves them no way even to influence my writing.

So if the writing itself isn't being censored, can warnings cause censorship on the other end, on the reader's end? Here's my answer. The people who are likely to be personally traumatized by the content under discussion have already experienced it. Someone who can be triggered by rape already knows reality includes rape. So the warning has hidden nothing from them even should they entirely sidestep the content. We do get to a stickier point when we get to people who haven't been personally traumatized and just are sort of callous and crappy people who don't care what others go through and genuinely don't want to bother to learn.

I had to give some thought to that, and ended up finding an essay that distilled an answer down better than I could, so here you go.
Much of the panic about trigger warnings in classrooms also focuses on the fear that privileged students will avoid material that makes them uncomfortable. So if you put “TW: misogyny, sexual violence” on a syllabus next to an assignment, male students might think, “Ugh, I don’t want to read about that" and avoid it.

But privileged students already avoid material that makes them uncomfortable; that may be one reason you see way too few white students in courses on African-American literature. Trigger warnings might make this slightly easier, but it doesn’t fix the larger, systemic problem of people choosing not to engage with material that challenges their worldview.

Further, avoiding trigger warnings for the sake of tricking privileged students into reading material on racism, sexism, and other unpleasant topics means potentially triggering underprivileged students by refusing to warn them that the upcoming reading assignment concerns traumatic things they may have experienced. People who lack privilege relative to others are constantly being asked to sacrifice their mental health and safety for the sake of educating those others, and this is just a continuation of that unjust pattern.
Basically, your callous douchebags are already being callous douchebags, so please don't sacrifice your more vulnerable students on the altar of trying to de-douche the douches. They'll probably still be douches afterward. 

We talk about this a lot in an academic context, but frankly as much as professors worry about mandatory trigger warnings, they're not... really facing that? I mean, they're seriously not. The ones who're using them are typically doing so because they've come to the independent conclusion that it'll help their students better engage with the material without a lot of trauma from outside the classroom crashing down and interfering with their schoolwork.

Why trigger warnings are compassionate! 

PTSD is bad. I mean, I hope I don't have to get into this, but PTSD is potentially life-shreddingly bad, and while not every potential trigger can be predicted and warned for (anybody who knows anything about PTSD knows this and adjusts for it, including advocates for trigger warnings), there are common ones.

Discussion of rape, child sexual abuse (often abbreviated to CSA), animal abuse, drug use, self-harm (these two can trigger relapses, which yikes bad), racism, misogyny, transantagonism, domestic violence, child death.... I mean, I could go on, but I don't actually have to, because I'm sure you get the idea. You don't have to warn for every imaginable thing like lizards and marshmallows and daisies and hair, so chill. You get a feel for it, and people with super edge triggers aren't as aggressive and uncharitable as you think they'll be. PTSD is bad, and frequently people who've got it feel so friggin unsafe that the fact that you'd even try makes a big difference. So just try. 

I have to reiterate, being triggered isn't about being uncomfortable. It's not about being offended. Offense is crap, and I don't care about offense any more than anyone else with sense. It's about having the past entirely hijack your brain. There's a special sort of helplessness and terror people known to who've almost been killed by their parents, who've seen their friends die in war, who've had to kill an abusive spouse to save their children, there's a special sort of time travel hell that happens in your brain and if you have felt it you've felt it and if you haven't you haven't.

I've hated a few people in my life, but I have never allowed myself to deliberately trigger someone's PTSD, because that is inhumane on a level that I couldn't ever wash off my hands. I've hated people with glaring weak places I could have dug my thumbs into, people I could have hurled back into their pasts. I could have fed them into the furnace of their childhood suffering, passed them backward into the hands of every kind of menace you could imagine. I could have sent them through everything that had ever broken them and watched it break them all over again while I stood safe on the kitchen carpet, watching. And it's the most evil thing I can think of. It's beneath the person I have decided I'm to be.

So understand what it looks like to me when people argue that they are claiming some kind of moral high ground to do this to their students in classrooms in public. Understand what I see when I look inside those people and see the piece of me they're choosing to indulge. Understand what kind of person I know you have to be to not only take advantage of such an opportunity but to feel smugly superior about it. At least I'd have known what I was doing, but there's something particularly slimy about people who convince themselves that doing so makes them uniquely good. The layer of self-aggrandizement just... ech. It's so petty. I don't know how that element of it can bother me so much, but somehow it does.

Now that I've established I'm actually pretty awful...

There is a reason I started off with practical arguments, because I'm going to return to them here. The bare fact of the matter is that I generally find other people's emotional responses pretty tiresome. I'm aware that tolerating and even encouraging them is a pro-social behavior, and because I choose my actions based on building the sort of world I want to live in, I frequently choose not to act on my exhaustion or annoyance. It's there, though. I give people the support they deserve even when I am inwardly rolling my eyes that Feelings are happening. I do a fair imitation of a bleeding heart who feels everybody's feelings and has the pains when people are suffering but really.... I just... would prefer to live in a world where such support happens, because it is the best way to ensure that such suffering is handled humanely and responsibly and thereby minimized.

The realest reason I use trigger warnings (and their milder cousins the content notes)? I use them because people in the grip of PTSD are actually just about the least capable of rationality and careful critical engagement of any human being, because their brains have been hijacked and there is absolutely zero room for me to expect them to be anything but a neurological disaster. And, just... ugh. 

Seriously, ugh. 

Trigger warnings are the fence I put up around my writing that says, "If this content is going to give you Feelings Problems, then honestly just... just make different choices." 

And the miracle of it is... it works! 

And it works by giving people the tools to manage themselves! It works by placing all responsibility on the shoulders of people who need to learn to know and adjust for their own bugs, their own failure conditions, and lets me do whatever the hell I wanna do. I am telling people to take responsibility for their own shit in a way that actually makes it possible for them to do the thing I want them to do! This is great! 

It sounds like such an elementary thing that I don't know how to break it down more without sounding really patronizing, but this is the real reason. I am not qualified to manage other people's mental illness or trauma recovery. I am so beyond not qualified. Nor am I particularly motivated most of the time to participate in that process. If what I want is for people to be responsible for their own recovery rather than spilling it all over me, I can make it more likely that happens, and this is great!

It's like I I was born into a world that was raining torrential failed trauma recovery and it was only when I reached adulthood that the internet handed me the raincoat and umbrella of Nope I Told You What This Was.

So to my fellow disinterested callous selfish jerks:

You don't owe me anything. Obviously! But in a world full of people spilling suffering everywhere, there are things we can do to actively make their recovery less our problem and more under their control. As Sarah Seltzer discusses trigger warnings, they allow the people around us to prepare for what they're about to engage with, prevent the brain-hijacking effects of PTSD, and remain more even and rational and capable. Totally aside from how empowering that is for them... doesn't that sound nice for us, too? It's an extra line of text, just a heads up, and it makes everybody else soooo much less exhausting. 

You don't have to be my brand of selfish. But I hope you can at least see how trigger warnings fit into my brand of self-interest. By helping the people around me take control of their own trauma recovery, I am keeping with my general goal of helping edge the world closer and closer to one I find more comfortable for myself. You don't have to help me, though obviously I hope you will. Maybe at least you understand better.
xenologer: (do not even)
2016-03-24 11:04 pm

Why I care about touchy-feely things like the impact of words!

TW: mention of all kinds of bigotry

I was going to write this as a FB comment in reply to a thread, but that would likely have resulted in me losing it forever to the flood of other content. And good gracious, what a waste that'd be. So far I have two parts to this. One is establishing the distinction between "offense" and "harm" that I'll be using. The second is intended to establish that verbal bigotry is itself harmful, rather than merely offensive. Then I'll explain why this even matters to me. There are various subcontentions here, but those are the main points.

Read more... )
xenologer: (do not even)
2015-12-22 08:15 am

women know what im talking about

I can't help but wonder if there isn't something non-men can learn from discussions of how fragile masculinity is and how structurally flawed it makes people who build their sense of self on top of it.

Toxic masculinity says that men shouldn't have to try to cope. They shouldn't have to learn to process. They don't have to bear their own emotional burdens because the rare ones too heavy to be bootstrapped out of? Well that is what non-men are for.

Toxic masculinity says that some things are not to be tolerated, and to know about them is to be burdened by them, and it is a man's right not to be burdened.

Toxic masculinity teaches that either a man is impervious or he is a weakling without worth, because a man has to be invulnerable to conquer his lessers.

This desperation to be untouchably elevated, above struggle and self-adjustment and doubt, it wouldn't be so desperate if it weren't covering up a more fragile reality. It wouldn't be so frightening to fall short and lose value if men didn't know that one misstep could happen to them so so so easily.

But toxic masculinity teaches that to be aware is to be burdened, and to be burdened is to be attacked. So these fears hide where only everyone else can see them. That's a handy thing, since we have to see them to survive the panicked retaliation that kills so many of us. We need to know that not only does toxic masculinity create men who refuse to see our realities, it creates men who truly cannot endure them. It creates men who spend so much of themselves dodging that they have nothing left to soak the damage that does get through. And we suffer when the shocking experience of being wounded has them flailing in indignation, looking for someone else to lay the pain on.

Having power, having male privilege, leaves so much room to be personally weak. Structural shielding takes the place of individual sturdiness. Unfortunately, even though we should have every right to be just as brittle and do just as well, we don't have the free structural protection to compensate. Even great personal sturdiness is not truly enough, even is it is mandatory. It just doesn't add up to the kind of protection that comes from man-proofing the world by softening its corners and padding any steep drops.

I bring this up because when men act like they can't handle rough awakenings, they aren't being insincere. I really don't think they are. I think they really are overwhelmed and overloaded by even these weak secondhand shocks picked up and conducted through people who experience them every day at full strength. Don't get me wrong, they CAN GET STRONGER. They can. But before they get stronger and while they ate getting stronger, they act like they're weak because they think they are and they think they are weak because it is still true.

I watch men do this, and I see it in myself along other axes. I know there are non-men who watch this and see this in men but still personally blame their own less protected neighbors for the teensiness of their personal hit point bar. Cis women watch men do this and then lash out when they are presented with transmisogyny. White women get used as scratching posts by weak men faced with a reality they never accepted was real, and are aghast when a black woman brushes up against their own bubble.

White women in particular tell men to suck it up because this is our lives and they are choosing to abandon us to preserve a lifestyle that lets them stay lazily weak. But woe to anybody who suggests we take our turn. Like men, white feminists may have other struggles, but we like to remain weak when we can, too. Whiteness lets us be weak but buying into it is how we work to stay that way, punishing those who attack us by burdening us by being honest with us.

White fragility is real. We aren't faking. Nobody ever said we were. Everyone else can see, in fact, that we are not. It isn't wrong because it is deceptive, or directly malicious. It is wrong because it is both brutally corrosive and entirely preventable.

White tears are sincere. White fragility is a genuine frailty.

That is kind of the problem, because there is so much work to be done that only we can do. We do not exempt ourselves from that duty by remaining too weak to discharge it properly; we just guarantee we will be failures.
xenologer: (bye bye)
2015-10-21 01:10 am

No, Complaints About "White Tears" Aren't Ableist

First things first:

1. Ableism is a real thing. It matters. It is absolutely ableist (and gaslighty to boot) to insist that people should be forcing themselves to experience different feelings than they are actually experiencing.

2. Disability can intersect with white privilege because they coexist without negating each other.

3. Legitimate access needs can conflict without any of the access needs becoming less legitimate as a result.

So, context.

Good Men Project posted White Women’s Tears and the Men Who Love Them, and a giant mass of white disabled people absolutely lost their shit. What they frequently read is, "Your emotions are inappropriate and you are bad to feel them, and you are even worse if anybody sees you cry for any reason, even out of empathy." This is a pattern of misreading and escalation that comes up whenever the phrase "white tears" is used, and it is uncool white people behavior. Possibly not always a preventable false positive, but uncool. It is, in fact, a white supremacist and ableist behavior.

Truly, there is plenty of ableism in assuming that all POC are abled and could fight for their survival and simultaneously take care of all white feelings and would do so infinitely if they weren't so callous and mean. If you indulge this, it becomes easier to see telling white people to be responsible about the impact of our theatrical mourning as yet more abled gaslighting, abuse, and unfair expectations. Considering, though, that you have to completely depart from the reality of the situation into an impossible hypothetical to support that... it's probably a poor hill to die on.

White people whose emotional disabilities reduce the quality of solidarity we are providing are not producing better solidarity and being better allies just because we have a more credible excuse than other white people. This matters, especially when you factor in the possibility of POC also being mentally ill. There are disabled POC in anti-racist spaces who could probably stand to benefit from a little of the emotional work white folks suck up when we assume our every emotional impulse is welcome and anybody who disagrees is ableist. There is only one reason we'd assume a conflict of identical access needs ought always be resolved in favor of the white person: white supremacy.

So here's my personal note to my fellow white neuroatypicals. If any POC want a white neuroatypical in a Pokéball to throw into these discussions, you can send this.

If a white neuroatypical ally's access need is "I need to be free to be as disruptive to POC's grieving process and activism as my every impulse would prompt," I think it's reasonable for people whose access need is to not be disrupted to say, "Okay then please do that elsewhere." I mean, has every defender of white fragility FORGOTTEN that mental disability happens to POC too? White people aren't the first and only ones being asked to consider the impact of our behavior; not even the only disabled people. What about disabled POC who need room in their own spaces? Where the hell are they in this "your access needs are ableist" screed? I get it. They come second. Again. Of course they do, right? But no, that's not y'all's depression or autism that causes you to put them second to yourselves when they have an identical access need to yours. That's white supremacy.

Whatever emotional disregulation or impulse control issues a white person may have WILL be COINCIDING with our whiteness! White people are prone to sucking up the emotional labor even of people they claim they're standing in solidarity with, and that doesn't stop being a destructive and corrosive pattern of white behavior just because some white folks end up reproducing it even when doing their genuine best not to.

It's hard to handle the fact that our allyship is going to be weighed and evaluated by the people with whom we're trying to stand in solidarity. I get that! It's hard! White fragility is a legitimately difficult thing to work past even for the sturdiest of us. And it sucks! And it's gonna be harder and suck more for people whose resilience or impulse control are struggling even with a whiteness-coated experience of the world. That is a fact. But POC need to be freely able to evaluate the job we are doing as allies, and that means not pretending we're producing better solidarity than we are just because our solidarity shortfall is happening for an understandable reason (and our all-important comfort means we need reassurance that they know that and love us anyway).

It is not ableist to say that POC are allowed to have access needs to their own spaces that may exclude people who cannot control their behavior. That is part of truly centering THEM. And remember, white people, for every minute we spend publicly weeping and gnashing our teeth and claiming we cannot possibly control ourselves, there is a disabled POC who has had to bite back their words and shut down their heart and turn away from their own grieving spaces because the WHITE disabled people sucked all the air out of the room and left none for disabled POC.

There is a limited amount of human energy and organizational power in the world. Every space is finite. Every single one. And I would caution all white disabled folks to consider how much time, energy, space, and emotional labor you are willing to wolf down when there are disabled POC who have to settle for whatever crumbs are left after you're satiated.


a neuroatypical white person
xenologer: (human monsters)
2015-10-21 12:33 am
Entry tags:

I need to talk to my white people for a minute.

POC, feel free to skip this. I am dead certain you already know it all. White people, I am going to explain why sometimes POC don't want us in their spaces, and why it seems like sometimes people dismiss our valuable insights about racism just because we're white.

My white cousins both distant and kin: If you don't know what white privilege is or that it is empirically demonstrably a real thing, go hit Google and come back.

Speaking as a white person, I emphatically do not see the point of white-led anti-racist spaces. I really don't. We have a lot of power, yes, and that can make us useful, but given our typical error rate (bc of white privilege) when it comes to not being callous and evil? I certainly wouldn't trust an organization run by us. It is a known bug of people who do not have to survive systemic racism that we are prone to errors in all estimates on the subject. It's not our fault but it's a thing. Just a known bug. I want to be effective, though, and that means I want to take my marching orders from people whose error rate RE: racism is better than my own.

It's just being pragmatic. Find the best people for every job. People who have to be aware of racism to survive are more reliable guides for anti-racist movements.

(Obviously none of the POC reading this need my validation here because my approval and endorsement is like the least relevant thing imaginable when it comes to combating white supremacy, but in case any of you feel it would be tactically useful to whip out Your White Friend Who Agrees, I volunteer as tribute.)

Every time POC mention not wanting to be in white-led spaces, though, white folks descend into total emotional crisis mode. For white men, this frequently turns into "well I was gonna ally but fine I guess I'll just have to join the Klan since you don't want me." For white ladies, the "nothing I do is good enough" learned helplessness blubbering waterworks start. What they both want is the same, though. They want to outsource their emotional labor onto POC, who are conveniently findable in anti-racist spaces. On a fundamental level, they want survival struggles to pause because a white person had a feeling. In what world is white emotional fragility more important than everybody else's survival? Oh right. In white supremacy.

Even beyond why that is crappy for ethical reasons, from a purely tactical perspective it makes us a bad investment.

White people in the grip of white fragility pity party meltdowns are exactly why white-led or even just white-saturated spaces are less efficient. So much energy wasted! We are adults and we can do our own personal work before we show up to make our own selves ready. White people who mean well still show up and go, "Aha! I found the people who will comfort and complete me." A gathering of POC fighting for their survival isn't a pack of idle servants waiting to be given purpose, but I see a lot of that mentality from white folks in anti-racist spaces.

Given that, I'm not at all surprised that our very presence is itself a red flag for many POC. We are more likely than anyone else to drain energy (emotional, time, motivation, etc) rather than adding it, and at that rate it actually is better for movement efficiency to not indulge us at all unless we prove we've invested our own energy in ourselves and won't be demanding it from the movement.

Even so, I've never felt unwelcome in an anti-racist space. The bar for "good enough" white behavior is tragically low, and just because 1 in 100 POC may say "nope we have basic standards so meet them or GTFO" doesn't mean we aren't still getting nurtured and eased 99% of the time. A mere 99% is nothing to throw a tantrum over.

For any white people reading this and really wanting to do the personal work it takes to become ready to at least not be a drain? Here's some reading that may help you hone your pattern-matching enough to spot our problem behavior.

On Emotional Labor

Brute Reason: Emotional Labor: What It Is and How To Do It (despite focus on gender, has many applications to interpersonal relationships in general)

Follow-up to the first Brute Reason post: A Vacation from Emotional Labor (you need to understand why people might refuse to do emotional labor)

The Toast: "Where’s My Cut?": On Unpaid Emotional Labor (specifically about gender dynamics, but applicable on other power gradients)

On White Fragility

Here's a pdf about white fragility by Robin DiAngelo that is fourteen pages of solid academic goodness.

Alternet: Why White People Freak Out When They're Called Out About Race

Good Men Project (also by DiAngelo!): White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism

Good Men Project: White Women’s Tears and the Men Who Love Them

OnBeing.org: Transforming White Fragility Into Courageous Imperfection

Reductress: http://reductress.com/post/i-dont-have-white-fragility-okay-get-off-my-back/ (this is satire so please make sure you do not ever sound like this)
xenologer: (cocky Kamina)
2015-01-12 03:20 am
Entry tags:

Journal Prompt Day 3: Someone Else

If you had to be someone else for 24 hours, who would you choose and why? What would you do?

I would like to briefly be Charles or David Koch. I would use my single day to cash out all my assets and give them to Doctors Without Borders. I figure that'll take a few hours. The rest of it could be spent laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing.

That's really all I've got for this one. I like being me. I would only be someone else if I had some specific goal that could only be accomplished that way. Elsewise, me = best.
xenologer: (human monsters)
2015-01-10 07:18 am
Entry tags:

"they care more about protesting cartoons than....."

If one more piece of crap white person asserts to me that their racism is actually an indicator that they care more about POC than POC care about themselves, I don't know what I'm gonna do but it's going to be loud and unpleasant.

Yes, black people care whether they die. Believe it or not, they are capable of loving themselves and others because they are fucking human beings.

Yes, Muslims worldwide care when other Muslims are oppressive and violent to them. Believe it or not, they don't particularly enjoy being terrorized and having their children stolen.

Yes, even subsapient animals can manage these sentiments. So the fact that anybody ANYWHERE might think that only white people know how to love is pretty much a clear goddamn sign that if anybody is deficient at it, IT IS US WHITE FOLKS. You do not get to claim superior compassion as you literally dehumanize entire categories of people BECAUSE they're being victimized and you're sure that if they really cared they'd have done something about it.

sdfgsdfgsdafsdadfsa this is why nobody likes us


Today's actual mood:
xenologer: (objection!)
2015-01-08 06:56 am
Entry tags:

The "real" world is wherever we don't live.

Either everybody lives in "the real world" or nobody does.

Work food service but never done black ops assassination missions? You don't know what life is really like.

Done black ops assassination missions but never worked in politics? You don't actually know how this game is played.

Work in an office but never changed your own tire? Get out and get your hands dirty you wuss!

Changed your own tire but have only worked one job your whole life? Come back when you've lived a little.

Worked fifteen jobs in ten different sectors of the economy but haven't raised a kid? Don't worry. You'll see it all clearly once you have.

Some poser hands you cake at a birthday party? Throw it on the ground! Welcome to the real world, jackass.

Nobody has lived anybody else's "real life" in the "real world." Baby boomers seem constitutionally incapable of learning this. Then again, when they were our age it was possible to work your way through college and then get a job and a house and a car and actually live, even on minimum wage.

I don't want to hear about "the real world" from people who still think success and thriving are as simple as "everybody who wants a minimum wage job will get one and be okay." I don't think they get to serve me that particular meal. Not anymore.
xenologer: (always shine)
2013-07-14 01:17 am
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I hurt. For people who see this and know that it's one more confirmation that your lives mean so little to the people who ought to protect and love you, I'm sorry. I hurt, but I cannot even imagine. I'm so sorry.

I encourage people to sign the ‪NAACP's petition to open a civil rights case against Zimmerman. 

xenologer: (Ravenna)
2013-05-20 07:06 pm

Women in Secularism 2: Breaking News: Even at WiS, we have to defend the purpose of WiS!

Okay, this is too long to reproduce it all here, but if you want a linkdump for all the clusterfuckery going down as a result of Ron Lindsay (apparently) being deeply ambivalent about the reason we all came together and expressing that in his introduction, here is what I have.
xenologer: (happy!)
2013-03-30 04:35 am
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Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History

I donated to the Kickstarter for this and it is doing super well and I am pretty excited about it, and I haven't gushed about it over here yet. So brace yourselves. I am gushing. Here is info from the Kickstarter page:
Most written chronicles of history, and most speculative stories, put rulers, conquerors, and invaders front and center. People with less power, money, or status—enslaved people, indigenous people, people of color, queer people, laborers, women, people with disabilities, the very young and very old, and religious minorities, among others—are relegated to the margins. Today, mainstream history continues to perpetuate one-sided versions of the past while mistelling or erasing the stories of the rest of the world.

There is a long and honorable legacy of literary resistance to erasure. This anthology partakes of that legacy. It will feature stories from the margins of speculative history, each taking place between 1400 and the early 1900s and putting a speculative twist—an element of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or the unclassifiably strange—on real past events.

Our plan is to include about 20 stories, or about 100,000 words. The anthology will be released in trade paperback and DRM-free digital formats in the first quarter of 2014.

These amazing authors will be submitting stories for the anthology:

Linda Addison
Jennifer Marie Brissett
Chesya Burke
Aliette de Bodard
Tananarive Due
Amal El-Mohtar
Andrea Hairston
Beverly Jenkins
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Kima Jones
Victor LaValle
Ken Liu
Sarah McCarry
Neesha Meminger
Nnedi Okorafor
An Owomoyela
Kiini Ibura Salaam
Veronica Schanoes
Rion Amilcar Scott
Nisi Shawl
Troy Wiggins

So I am really jazzed and you should support this to make sure that you at least get an ebook sent to you when it is done, because that is what I did.

I am mostly posting here for another reason, though. Submission guidelines are up! I know plenty of writers on here, so please take a look at this and consider whether it is something you want to try to get involved in. I have already essentially bought this book and I would love there to be writing in it from someone I know, and given the people I know, I am sure someone on my list will understand why this is AWESOME and can contribute their own personal awesomeness to the project.

xenologer: (do not even)
2013-02-14 08:55 pm
Entry tags:

Whitewashed Urban Fantasy

IT’S STILL DARK AT TWILIGHT: Scrubbing off the Whitewash of Urban Fantasy!

Come on, y’all…if you write a story and set it in a place like Broaddus’ Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, London, or Las Vegas, basic demographic research will indicate the presence of people of color. To read and enjoy Urban Fantasy, I am expected to just accept that Black people don’t exist? You get the side-eye for that one.

Whether or not you like Urban Fantasy, the fact of the matter is that this subgenre of Fantasy has had an immense and global impact on people through literature, television and film.

It is because of this impact that we cannot ignore the messages that Urban Fantasy brings. Each time an author of this subgenre decides to tell a story, instead of working so hard to erase people of color out of existence, they should work just as hard to erase the problems that plague our society. And fanboys…do not say that writers should not have to be political; that they should be free to write merely to entertain. Every statement we make is political. Every sentence we write is potentially life-changing for someone. Such is the power of the word.

You cannot truly change culture without literature. We can pass a thousand laws saying that racism and sexism are wrong. We can make a thousand impassioned speeches to rouse the marginalized masses; but if everyone returns home after those speeches and sits down to read the latest installment of Twilight, or watch the next episode of The Vampire Diaries and their fictional worlds in which those same marginalized masses barely even exist – then how much change can truly be affected?

It is within the pages of books and under the light of the TV screen where we will reach people and change the world for the better…or worse.

Over and over again, we are told that our stories aren’t worth being told. We do not get to be the heroes. We are never “the one destined to come since man was young upon the earth”. If we are lucky, we get to be the “magical negro”; the “noble savage”; the sidekick; the Black person who doesn’t die in the first ten minutes of the film.

This is damaging to the psyches of people of color. And a devastating blow to the self-esteem of our babies.

So, don’t tell me writers just write to merely entertain, when entertainment has such a powerful, deep and lasting impression on the minds of us all.

My note: This obviously shouldn't necessarily be your primary motivation to seek out and support fiction that is inclusive of multiple kinds of people, but it's worth noting that ever since I started reading fiction by people who think critically about how real people in real cultures deal with and are dealt with by real politics, I have read much better fiction.

Or you can read urban fantasy about the same magical white people rehashed over and over again by people who learned everything they know about culture and politics from rehashes of magical white people rehashed from World of Darkness. Enjoy sifting through all that derivative crap; I quit.
xenologer: (vagina)
2013-02-03 04:44 pm

Fetus Graveyard

Friends, I was linked to the most amazing thing this morning. I can only hope you will be as delighted as I was. See, anti-choicers seem to be even more off the rails than I had suspected; if you know me at all you know this must be pretty impressive.

It is.

Kevin Swanson is amazing.
I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.

RH Reality check explains why this is wrong but I feel like they are missing the sheer joy of it. This is nothing short of hilarious. If you have a uterus and have ever used birth control, you are the host of a teeming internal nightmare, an unconsecrated fetus graveyard!

This is beyond misogyny. Misogyny is ordinary. It's tired and boring and DONE. This is a brave new world and we are moving with the times! Misogyny is passé. Nobody cares anymore. It's 2013 and it's time for gynephobia. Wombs are scary and haunted! There could be anything in there!!! Sluts (by which we obviously mean any women on birth control) aren't just dirty and ruined, but they're probably full of disquiet fetus ghosts all up in their slutty slutslut snatches.

Kevin Swanson's account of the latest research into the eldritch terrors inside of women that we call wombs is like obstetrics and gynecology written by the authors of American Horror Story (spoilers) or Jim Balent.

xenologer: (always shine)
2012-12-31 03:58 am


Trigger warning for discussion of suicide and self harm. Even so, I think it's important to keep in mind how often we give people the choice of being invincible or being nothing, and what we're really asking them to do with those options, and what they're likely to think of them.

suicidal ideation 2.0, queer community leadership, and staying alive anyway: part one of a work in progress
xenologer: (ooh!)
2012-12-10 04:24 pm

PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical

PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical

Which leads me back to the issue of prejudice: specifically, to the claim that including such characters in SFF stories, by dint of contradicting the model of straight, white, male homogeneity laid down by Tolkien and taken as gospel ever since, is an inherently political – and therefore suspect – act. To which I say: what on Earth makes you think that the classic SWM default is apolitical? If it can reasonably argued that a character’s gender, race and sexual orientation have political implications, then why should that verdict only apply to characters who differ from both yourself and your expectations? Isn’t the assertion that straight white men are narratively neutral itself a political statement, one which seeks to marginalise as exceptional or abnormal the experiences of every other possible type of person on the planet despite the fact that straight white men are themselves a global minority? And even if a particular character was deliberately written to make a political point, why should that threaten you? Why should it matter that people with different beliefs and backgrounds are using fiction to write inspirational wish-fulfillment characters for themselves, but from whose struggle and empowerment you feel personally estranged? That’s not bad writing, and as we’ve established by now, it’s certainly not bad history – and particularly not when you remember (as so many people seem to forget) that fictional cultures are under no obligation whatsoever to conform to historical mores. It just means that someone has managed to write a successful story that doesn’t consider you to be its primary audience – and if the prospect of not being wholly, overwhelmingly catered to is something you find disturbing, threatening, wrong? Then yeah: I’m going to call you a bigot, and I probably won’t be wrong.

I want to enter into a committed long-term relationship with this article.

This is one reason I have a hard time finding fantasy settings that I really click with. Too many writers, worldbuilders, and roleplayers either A: don't want "politics" (read: minorities) in their pretendy funtime games, or B: really think that the only people who've ever led narratively interesting lives were straight white cisgender people, and that for the sake of realism they can have wizards and fairies but cannot have more than a couple token POC in their setting.

I console myself by reminding myself that if that's the level of thought they put into their writing and worldbuilding, they're probably pretty mediocre at both. Odds are I'm not missing much.

It's also worth adding that Tolkien didn't want to create the enormously racially-screwy and gender-backward narrative that he did with Lord of the Rings. When it was pointed out to him (by which I mean, sometime around when the Nazis wrote to him and said, "Dude we love you!"), he went, "Oh no, look what I did," and decided to use his future writings to undermine that a great deal and do better. Sadly, he died before he got to finish that, but the Silmarillion helps and he evidently had more improvement plans in his notes.

So I am kinda both saying I want worldbuilders to be less like Tolkien in how they worldbuild, and more like Tolkien in how they respond to criticism about their worldbuilding. Not all stories have to be about magical straight white people. Frankly, there are only so many stories to be told in identically-"medieval" whitewashed patriarchal fantasy settings.
xenologer: (Ravenna)
2012-10-20 04:20 am

Sometimes I wish I were meaner to strangers.

My quote of the day comes from the comments to TheFerrett's "But If I Can't Buy You A Coffee, How Will Our Species Reproduce?": How To Hit On Women

You can claim all you like that “it’s not about fucking.” But realistically, what you want is to talk, and get to know her, and go on a few dates, and make it a very intimate relationship…

…and then fuck.

And if fucking’s not a part of it, chances are extremely good that you’re going to feel like she’s wasted your time. Which makes you a liar. It’s like you’re saying, “Oh, no, going out to a restaurant’s not about the eating! It’s about the atmosphere, the good conversation, the experience.” But if you got the bill and went home hungry, you’d be ripped off.

The point is that yes, maybe fucking isn’t your primary intention, but it’s certainly well in the mix. And they know that. And you going up to them and dancing around your boner, going, “No, this is about getting to know each other! It’s about conversation!” is the kind of sad tactic that makes women not trust you. Because yeah. You want other stuff, but all that is stuff you could get elsewhere. You could have many fine friends who you don’t fuck. Instead, you’re lying about the friendship, and what you really want is the sex.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that you apparently feel that it is wrong. Most people want sex. But you, you’re going, “No, no, it’s more than that,” missing the point that since all of this camaraderie is going to be worthless WITHOUT the sex, you’ve pretty much made sex the core of it. That’s a scummy lie you’re telling yourself, and it’s doing you no favors, because chances are good women know what you’re really after, and are turned off by your dishonesty.

You say it’s not the first thing on your mind. But I’m willing to bet that if you’re straight, you don’t approach guys like this for fun conversations, or angst about it this much if they reject your hand in close friendship. That means that you’re lying to yourself, because really… it IS the first thing on your mind. You just are doing a little dance to pretend otherwise.

We really can tell.

Ferrett's replying to a guy who commented and seemed to be in denial about what he's really after when he talks to women. What Ferrett is pointing out is not that it's silly to try to get anything out of a woman but sex, but that it's bullshit to pretend that sex isn't the point when to everybody else it's obvious that it is.

So it's less, "Stop wanting things that aren't sex," and more, "Stop pretending you want to get to know her when you'll lose interest if she fails to put out. You are not subtle."

I've never been romantically involved with anybody I didn't consider a friend first. This is not to say that I wouldn't ever under any circumstances hook up with someone I didn't know, but after a lifetime of this shit I actually do sort of need my potential partners to demonstrate to me that my sole winning quality is not in the promise of getting a leg over.

If I think that you would see me as a pointless waste of time without the promise of sex, I personally am done with you as a human being.

I think at this point in my life I would seriously rather have a man come up to me and say, "Hey! I was just noticing how gorgeous you are. Are you looking to hook up with anyone tonight?" Then I can just say, "Nah." I would prefer this over the unmistakeable experience of a man talking to me because he's heard chicks like that and he's sure if he button-mashes enough he will figure out the combination to the supermove that takes off my pants.

If you can't figure out how to talk to women, you need to start with the small stuff and learn how to be friends with women. I don't mean circling around her ankles like a needy cat waiting for her to rub your penis belly; I mean actually figuring out a way for women to feel like you are a good friend to them, and don't do it for the sex. Do it because women are people to you and having female friends is nice. Seriously, though, don't make it about sex, even in your head.

Is this you? Do you have many female friends? If you even have to think, "Do I have many female friends?" you don't. If you don't have female friends, you are probably doing something fucked up that women notice and you don't and until that is resolved, you are not ready to chase us for booty.

I am not kidding.

If you can't befriend women, you'll be a shitty romantic partner and your ass is not ready.

And AGAIN friendship is not some kind of half-romance that needs to evolve into Real Romance. If you have female friends that you value completely apart from the question of getting your dick wet, you have already won. You don't need to do anything else to those relationships. They are already good.

I know you are thinking, "If I can just get them to be friends with me, our relationship will evolve and I will finally be repaid for my investment with the sex I have earned."

You are wrong. You are so wrong that you will ruin everything.

Or less. If it saves you time, I hate you now.
xenologer: (snail cuddle)
2012-08-31 01:05 am

Being Nice

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: (Lisbeth)
2012-08-05 05:34 am

Tomorrow Will Be Kinder

Been hurting a lot lately. This comes out sometimes as depression and other times as anger. Mostly I just have a much lower tolerance right now for certain things. When it comes to callousness, I'm a little more raw right now. I've invested a lot of energy and made sacrifices for the sake of being the kind of person I can respect, of being the kind of person who didn't leave me to fight and endure alone out of ignorance or apathy.

It's important to me not to be those people, because those people do more damage than they'll ever know, and I don't want to be them. I know I'll never be perfect, but there is a degree to which I am sort of obsessively ethical (look up Compulsive Vowing in a GURPS book) to try and keep an eye on everything and minimize the harm I do without thinking.

Obligatory Proof That I Understand Humans

I know everybody does what they think is right. I know that everybody--whether they're demonstrably wrong or right--believes that the choices they are making are appropriate. Most people who consider the question of whether they are good people conclude that they are. So I know that most people are generally doing their best, even though blindness can get in the way ofeven the most earnestly good-hearted.

What I am having trouble dealing with right now is the idea that there are people who can be presented with a great gaping wound in the world and treat it like a thought experiment, like there are no real people involved and so it's not serious.

We don't all have infinite energy. We just don't. We also don't all have infinite capability. The world isn't going to fall apart because one person needs to recharge so that they can sustainably tap the finite resource that is their very self. That's not what I'm talking about.

I am talking about people who can shut a certain type of person out of their ethical considerations entirely. I am talking about people whose personal integrity comes with a list of exceptions for people whose experiences aren't really real.

Right now I am not dealing with it as well as I sometimes can.

So I'm touchy.

Just to be Clear, "Touchy" is a Euphemism for "Ready to Eat Some Fool's Home Planet"

I am so angry right now. I have a right to that anger. I have a right to be angry on behalf of people who are suffering from entirely preventable and addressable injustices, because that is an anger founded in love.

I am not wrong to be angry that some of my so-called friends don't believe they should be expected to worry about trivial matters of "political correctness" like referring to racial or ethnic groups by the names they choose. I am not wrong to be angry that my trans friends are being gaslit on a daily basis, told that they don't understand themselves or the world and that they are too insane for their self-assessments to have weight. I am not wrong to be angry that I know men who are angry that women get so up in arms about sexual harassment because these men aren't willing to learn to approach women in ways that won't frighten us.

I am right to be angry, especially if it motivates me to do the necessary work to solve the problems that are hurting so many of us.

Now Begins the Me-Specific and Not-to-be-Used-to-Bludgeon-Other-People-for-their-Anger Section

I need some more sustainable fuel than this, though. I used to fuel myself on anger when I canvassed, and while I knew that I was right to be angry because it was a sign that I was still invested in the fates of my fellow human beings, I also knew that if my anger was grounded in love... shouldn't I be able to just motivate myself with that love?

Anger's a quick-burning fuel, and I can use it to excellent effect. I know what's right, though, and I will do it even if I am not angry.

I need to find my way back to that inner peace that lets me fight because I love and not lash out like a wounded animal. I am not doing this because the people who are pissing me off and receiving the verbal flamethrower don't deserve it. They probably do! I am doing this because I hurt. Anger is a great motivator, but as strengthening and liberating as it can be to people who are just realizing the legitimacy of their pain... anger also is pain.

I've done work with dharma practice before, specifically with anger. I have gotten pretty good at stepping back a bit and saying, "This is a mind experiencing anger." I have gotten pretty good at saying that I am experiencing anger and not that I am angry, because my anger is not what defines me. It is an experience I am having, and how I respond to that experience is up to me.

I need to get back to that project, because this anger is hurting again.

Kind Enemies

One thing that has helped me is looking at people who are behaving terribly as an opportunity to practice patience that I didn't ask for and still don't want, but am getting anyway.

In fact enemies are kinder to us than Buddha. That's almost inconceivable. "What do you mean my enemy is kinder to me than Buddha? The Buddha has perfect compassion for everyone. The Buddha doesn't harm a fly! How can my enemy who is such a beep beep beep be kinder than Buddha?

...to become Buddhas, we need to practice patience. ... Who gives us the opportunity to practice patience? Who is so kind and helps us develop that infinitely good quality of patience? Only the person who harms us. Only our enemy. So, the enemy is much kinder to us than Buddha. - Thubten Chodron

I had an employer once who was sort of obnoxious, and what I ended up telling myself (sarcastically at first, as an office-friendly euphemism), "So and so has decided to provide me with a lot of opportunities to practice patience today." Eventually the sarcasm faded and I really did see it that way. I was getting opportunities to apply some of what I was reading and deciding about my own anger, and those opportunities to practice wouldn't happen if I didn't have somebody pissing me off at least some of the time.

This is not to say that people who are being oppressed should stop fighting and respond always with "thank you sir may I have another." It's sort of the "someone is being an asshole" version of what I do when I have been an asshole. When I've been an asshole and someone tells me so, that is an opportunity for me to prove to them that I am a safe person to talk to and that it is okay to be honest with me. It's the best chance I will ever get to prove to another human being that my integrity and my interest in their well-being are priorities for me.

I don't want these opportunities because they mean I have screwed up and likely hurt someone. I don't seek them out. But you know what? I am not perfect and I will get these chances to prove myself whether I want them or not. What's important for me to remember, then, is that these are my only chances to earn real trust. Until then all they know is that I am nice when there's no conflict. They don't know if I'll flip out and act a fuckin' fool the moment I hear something I won't like. They won't know until they take that risk. So I make a point to take that opportunity as my chance to earn real trust, because without this opportunity--however undesirable--we were never going to be friends. It's painful for basically everybody involved, but until all parties involved have seen how the others handle it... there will never be trust.

So it's like that, only with other people making me angry. I don't want them to, and I'm not even saying that their behavior should be excused. Sometimes the training exercise in question is solving a problem--including setting and enforcing boundaries--without giving over control of myself to my emotions.

tl;dr: Anger Can Be Legitimate and Still Not Be Helpful

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am getting a lot of opportunities to practice patience, a lot of training exercises for maintaining mental equilibrium, and I need to make the conscious decision to use them.

Right now that means that I need to pull together some tools and techniques to practice with. I need to get on this and not put it off, because I am sure that the world will be kind enough to offer me some more opportunities to practice very soon.
xenologer: (vagina)
2012-06-04 11:22 pm

Being Human

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: (always shine)
2012-05-19 03:31 am


I'm proud of the canvassing work I've done, but this is precisely why I don't ever intend to do it again. It changed me in a lot of ways for the better, tempered and toughened me in ways that I treasure, but it wasn't without a price.

"A group that produces or tolerates burnout undoes all its other efforts to restore immanent value, for we cannot truly value ourselves or others when we treat each other like Appalachian hillsides, to be strip-mined for what is valuable and then abandoned." -Starhawk