Category Archives: definitions

Your beliefs are counter productive

by imnotme

What about mine? I have… few. Precious few. Honestly, I struggle to identify a single one. Which I suppose at least partly explains why I have become less socially effective and more aloof.

Or, for the sake of full disclosure I can definitely name one belief that I do have, which is probably counter-productive whether or not I want to admit it: that people ought to be considerate. I really believe this no matter how much evidence (mostly deconstructivist or theorist) is presented to me. I believe that, regardless of your beliefs, you should be considerate.

With that in mind, I would like to address political/social/religious/economic/legal/any-other-word-that-encompasses-the-notion-that-some-general-concepts-are-necessarily-bound-to-infinite-dead-ends, behaviour versus discourse… OR, it’s possible I mean to address discourse versus behaviour. It’s possible that I will address both now by stating the following:

In no uncertain terms you are accountable for every instance of your being. Regardless of how this becomes manifest. So basic is this assertion that I would say, with confidence, that any reader who understands the first premise of my argument will also concede the following: that those who recognize accountability also recognize their own offenses, AND FURTHERMORE, will then be necessarily tethered to an obligation to speak in their own defense or apology. This is a trick few have mastered in tandem with maintaining what dignity they feel they should have in a given situation. Yet, this is precisely the trick that I feel yields the most valuable written discussion/argument.  If not for its pleasantries and freedoms then for its security. You see, atmosphere is something that most people seem to innately understand. IF you stumble across this blog and find it “combative” then we have failed. If you meet me in person and find me to be “pompous”, then I have failed.

Yep. It’s on one hand elementary and on the other an issue that demands such refined attentions that high academia would only be jesters in its court. The ‘recognized polarity’* and unity of this concept is precisely the same reason socially minded discourse often turns violent, or at the worst, counter productive. Some groups of feminists, some groups of masculists, some groups of atheists, some groups of theists, some groups of ethicists and some groups of moralists have been and will be prone to ‘group-think’ as it is a human problem; therefore, self-assuredness would be the ultimate crime one could commit in terms of bringing their own beliefs into discussions that seek definition and reconciliation (which I truly believe both Nice Feminist and Feminist Critics really seek).

One last note, and this will sound simple to those of you who have been interested up to this point, that I would like to point to is that Male/Female is abstractly congruent. Whether it be an artistic, academic or sensual impression, it is hard to find ways in which the norms of sexual expression are symbolized as obtuse. Stated otherwise: it is problematic to defend one belief against a sea of perspectives. Stated otherwise: it is permissive to defend one perspective against an ocean of beliefs.

For further illustrations of this problem (and a further defense of why consideration is possibly the ultimate ‘virtue’-whatever that means to you) read “On Contradiction” by Mao Tse-tung.

[if you’re wondering what in the hell this has to do with feminism simply wonder on the nature of being pro or anti a “stance.” I.e. wonder on the productivity of choosing a “side” as it were]

*The conflict of perception versus absolutism

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Counter Point to ‘Thoughts On Privilege’

by imnotme

I have been reading and reflecting on Cacophonies’ last post on privilege, a post I very much enjoyed, and instead of commenting, thought I would simply counter-point since my comment is truly another perspective and not necessarily a criticism.

Cacophonies wrote, and I will summarize rather than quote/cite, that, while oppression and privilege exist in varying degrees, does not each individual existing along that spectrum have their own right to lament or have concerns regardless of their level of privilege? To this I say yes, each individual has that right in-arguably. However, there is a further ethical question here… or, an additional axiom with which to calculate preferable behaviour. A consideration that I think is quite fair since the original complaint of Cacophonies is a social one, i.e. it is the social repercussions of ‘people with privilege who complain’, that would cause people to say things like “you know, Paris, others have it worse, so don’t let your day get ruined over this chip in the paint on your favorite Ferrari.” It’s possible that the roots of this sentiment are envy, but I don’t think it’s very likely. I think the sentiment is altruistic in nature and that it’s generally said one privileged person to the next. So that one investment banker would tell his stressed out coworker at their private spa that “Hey, your portfolio fell flat this week, but you know, look at us, we’re doing fine, be grateful.”

This to me is not a criticism of the plaintiff’s feelings, but a reminder that things will probably turn out okay given their relative well standing, be it economic, medical, spiritual, or social privilege that a person enjoys. Additionally, people do not tend to console each other over types of privilege they do not have in excess. This means that a wealthy woman would be less likely to remind her wealthy friend who recently lost a loved one that they are privileged as an effort to lessen that person’s pain. Contrarily, a person of very little wealth may indeed console an equally impoverished friend on the loss of their loved by reminding the bereaved that they led a rich life and shared many beautiful moments together. So I believe that the impulse to console, or temper if you will, another person’s emotional reaction to a perceived or real pain is done so by individuals who share the same privilege.

On a brief sidenote, I am accounting for the underprivileged who either feel they are, or actually are oppressed by the ultra elite as separate from this argument in that polarized class struggle is a social phenomenon, and therefore, it is another topic entirely.

Back to the point then. I would offer up the notion that personal excesses beyond survival necessities (say, food and shelter) can readily be called ‘privileges’ since they do not enter the realm of life and death, and furthermore, easily open the door to exploitation when labor or resource distribution are factors. I offer this notion as additional to Cacophonies’ general thesis and not necessarily contrary or irreconcilable to it. Yet, using this more definitive approach to privilege it certainly follows that those with privilege, or those with more than they need to survive, may not have a socio-ethical “right” to complain about their privilege-dependent concerns (although, here the court would, of course, withhold any harsh convictions upon children raised in privilege and simultaneous ignorance).

In this sense I would readily accept the burden of holding my tongue when my computer fails, because it is more than I need to survive, and survival is a pretty accurate indicator of whether or not one’s needs are met. And I hasten to restate now, that I hold the unsatisfied elite in great contempt when they lament within the context of their privilege, but would never console them about their lost child or dying relative within that same context. With that I feel that I have touched on a more mysterious universal truth of sorts, in as much as people can mostly agree that reasonable people who are poor or unskilled are generally provided a basic standard of living, and reasonable people who achieve incredible privilege are pressured in some way to give from their excess (and by reasonable, I mean non-malicious or non-predatory).

Finally, if it is the right of one person to complain, then it can only be the right of the next person who shares the same type of privilege to say, “hey, you may have lost a rug here, but it seriously could be worse.”, and it would most certainly also be the underpaid fast food worker’s right to roll their eyes at the tirade a wealthy person unleashes in front of them about the quality of their fast food.

Thoughts On Privilege

by cacophonies

The other morning at work, a group of my coworkers congregated around one of the windows (we’re on the 17th floor), where we could see the AT&T building. Employees were picketing for better health care or benefits or contracts of some kind. I didn’t know all the details, but I knew it was healthcare-related. I went to lunch with imnotme and we walked past them, scowling and irritable, because imnotme had worked for AT&T in the past and knew their union’s benefits; neither of us can afford the benefits offered to us at the national bank that we work for. How irritating and privileged of them, we thought, to complain about their benefits, when I work 40 hours a week for a large corporation and earn a reasonable hourly wage, and still can’t afford medical insurance with their plan? I can’t go to the doctor without severely taking from my money available for monthly bills, because I cannot afford the $120/month plan my employer offers.

Then I realized that I have been in their position, in regards to a number of different issues, a million different times. I’m privileged, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to complain if conditions aren’t ideal. If my $3,000 poodle pooped on my $10,000 rug, that might be a more desirable problem than potentially starving to death, but don’t I still have the right to be upset about my ruined rug?

I realize that was a shallow example, and I certainly can’t afford a $3,000 dog or a $10,000 rug. But the point remains: do I not have a right to complain if someone else could ever, in any possibility, have things a bit worse off than I do?

Each one of us has certain privileges, and each one of us suffers from oppression. The degree to which each of us experience these vary, of course, but we can’t very well argue that there are some people with zero privilege, or zero oppression.

As someone who is very privileged in comparison to a great number of people and/or groups, I can say that I’ve been both accepting of my privilege and try to take necessary steps to make sure that that doesn’t negatively or unfairly affect others, and also that I’ve been simply resentful of any implication by anyone that I don’t have the right to complain, to feel oppressed, or to feel hurt by accusations that I abuse my privileges, when it’s not my fault that I have them.

People who feel “more” oppressed than others will often call people out on their privilege, which often yields a defensive and knee-jerk response from the alleged oppressor, which often makes the alleged oppressor shut down any openness to understanding. The alleged oppressors then anger the less privileged by making angry statements declaring that they, too, have rights, stop reversing the oppression/various “-isms.”

Where do we come to a common ground here? I think much of the problem lies in what we collectively consider to be privilege, and what we consider to be oppression. When engaged in a discussion about privilege/oppression, people often play what many refer to as the Oppression Olympics, comparing various ways that people are oppressed, how it’s worse than certain other groups’ oppression, how one is more deserving of attention than the other.

I’m privileged in a number of ways, and while I am very aware of that, I feel a biting resentment toward anyone who would say or imply that my experiences as a white, heterosexual, able-bodied female are less valid or deserving of consideration than others that come from someone less privileged than I am (in a general sense; who ultimately decides?). My knee-jerk reaction is to declare that the “more” privileged person is being silenced, being shoved aside and told they don’t matter. The response of the accuser is that people with less privilege are often shoved aside and made to believe that their experiences, perspectives, etc., don’t matter, and that that should be enough to make me shut up. To stop being so expectant of privileged treatment all the time, and let others have a turn.

I was raised by a single mother who was on welfare for a while, and that affected my perspective in a number of ways. Another female with an identical upbringing, but who happens to be a person of color, may be more oppressed than I was because of her race, but her presence (on the internet? in the room? On the planet?) doesn’t negate my experiences. If you want to follow the logic that it does, you’d have to follow it to the only one, solitary person who is the very most oppressed in the world, and it certainly isn’t you, so you’d better shut your mouth.

That doesn’t make sense. Do you think you should just shut your mouth? I don’t. I don’t think I need to complain every time I think something “sucks,” but I don’t think that I just need to shut up, either. I resent the implication that I need to be all-inclusive in my speech and behavior at all times, when the same isn’t required (or even expected) of everyone else. I resent the fact that, while it is a good idea to be all-inclusive as much as you can be, I’m a member of what seems to be the only group who is held accountable for that.

For example: mainstream feminists blogs won’t even touch the fact that the vast majority of black voters are against gay marriage. Mainstream feminist bloggers are nearly all officially in support of gay rights and effectively anti-racist, but for some reason they all shy away from criticizing any non-white person who behaves in a oppressing way toward other minority or disadvantaged groups. When someone else brings it up, they sarcastically and dismissively brush it off, saying something about not silencing oppressed peoples voices or how white people, both men and women, should be entirely responsible for changing everything, and everyone else is off the hook for helping to change our society, and even volunteers are suspect.

In a similar vein, a group of women talking about how all men are ass holes, violent pricks, rapists, etc., isn’t any better than a group of men speaking derogatorily about women as a whole. Just because they are understood to be part of an oppressed class should in no way exempt them from basic rules of respect when it comes to other human beings. It is unfair to hold only those who have relative privilege responsible for their infractions. The blatant hypocrisy ruins anyone’s credibility, for one.

The point I’m ultimately trying to come back to (believe it or not) is that, while privilege is confusing to deal with, oppression is uncomfortable to admit to being a part of, and no one knows what terminology to use anymore, we really do all have to try.

If I find myself noticing, for example, that 8 out of 10 people that I know and see every day claim to be bipolar, and I roll my eyes and think at least half of them are just being dramatic, that’s when I have to stop myself and remember that I’m not bipolar. I couldn’t possibly be so arrogant to assume that I know better than they do what is going on inside of their head. I think this applies to many other ways that privileged people can forget their privilege and effectively blame oppressed people for their oppressions, and not acknowledge how they, as a privileged class, are helping to oppress those other people, no matter how indirectly.

There’s no real attempt at understanding where anyone is coming from, there are accusations and declarations that the privileged just “know better” about what the oppressed individual or group is going through, or what they need to do.

It’s really as basic as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, trying to understand what it is that someone goes through on a daily basis, and how you would feel and how your perspective would change it it were you. And remembering that, and acting accordingly.

I catch myself violating these rules, and I keep trying to eliminate that from my behavior and change my perspective when I find myself acting or thinking in a very privileged manner. Everyone should do this. It’s not a defeat or a concession. Think of the different ways that your voice isn’t heard, and respect the voice of others, because you know how it feels.

One thing that is hard for me, and many other people, is calling out racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic behavior when a member of my peer group expresses it, and it’s easily one of the most important and influential things that you can do to help raise awareness. Instead of rolling your eyes and chuckling at your friend’s “tranny” joke, even when you don’t think it’s funny, because you don’t want to start an argument or cause a scene, you actually say something about how it’s disrespectful and ask them to stop using that language, or think about what it is that they’re really saying.

All that said, acknowledging your own privilege doesn’t mean being quiet and letting people who are less privileged walk all over you, simply because they themselves get walked on all the time. That’s not productive and it furthers the problem.

I’m not even sure that I am comfortable with the current privilege/oppression model anymore, but it’s just the easiest to use at this point.

Feminism Is, Is Not

by cacophonies

In order to understand what feminism is, one must be willing to accept that not every person who claims to be a feminist will share the same viewpoints on every issue. In nearly every criticism of feminist that I’ve heard or read, there seems to be a universal misunderstanding of what, exactly, feminism is, and who a feminist is. Most people in this category are generally focusing on one or two issues that they’ve heard about involving militant or radical feminists that do not encompass the majority of feminists. I hate to compare feminism with mainstream religion, but just as the majority of Christians you know aren’t lunatics who will tell soldiers’ families that their son or daughter is in hell, but people who simply follow a religion and bases their life decisions and perspective on those teachings. While I don’t think the two parallel perfectly, I consider the two to be comparable for their general idea and common public misconceptions.

Some basic dictionary perusing would get us off to a great start:

According to dictionary.com:

Feminism:

–noun
1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

Not many people, including the strongest of feminist critics, would disagree with the first assertion. The problem that most feminists have with people (more often men, but a great deal of women, as well) who are anti-feminist is when anyone makes a statement or assertion based on the idea that women are already equal to men, or as equal as they’re gong to be, and that now, all we’re doing is whining or trying to conquer society.

Claiming that women are already completely, 100% equal is problematic for a number of reasons. The majority of women in the United States could, I am assuming (I’ll look up statistics later) easily remember the last time that they encountered sexism on a personal level, and it’s probably very recent. There area number of ways in which women are still not equal. Off the top of my head:

– Women are still not earning as much as their male counterparts. I believe the figure is still around 75%, but it could be in the upper 70’s now, if I’m remembering correctly.

– Women are still being ridiculed and shamed for being sexually promiscuous, or nonchalant about sex, while their male counterparts are either being praised, or left alone.

– Many men are still of the opinion that it’s okay to have sex with a woman if she objects. The most recent statistics I’ve heard are that 1 in 4 women are raped in their lifetime. The same is not true for men*.

– Women are judged more frequently for their physical appearance as opposed to their character intelligence, and other abilities. Women are not expected to be smart or clever, so they are therefore treated as though they are not.

– People will still get mad whether a woman decides to go to work or stay home after she has a baby. No one cares about what the father does, unless he chooses to stay home. Then he’s praised for being such a good daddy.*

*I don’t know the official, or most accurate statistics for how many men will be raped in their lifetime. I am sure that I can easily Google it, and I will, but I don’t think that the results that I find will be satisfactory. I think that many men who have been raped may feel pressure not to admit it, for a variety of reasons, most of which being based upon the idea that men cannot be raped either because of the assumption that he will always want sex (making men out to be animals with no control over their physical urges, which is insulting to men), or because being raped is seen as an incredibly violating act, one that no man would want to emasculate himself by admitting to have been a victim.

Let me make something clear. The above theory could be perceived by many to be sexist against men, and to be an example of how our society does not allow men to have emotional, vulnerable, or “weak” sides. Or, we could take that perception and expand a bit further: We don’t allow men to be emotional, vulnerable, or weak, because those are seen as feminine traits, and masculinity is more valuable to our society than femininity. It’s okay if our women are feminine and show emotion, vulnerability, and weakness, because, what else would you expect from a female? But a man, on the other hand, is seen as taking a step down on the ladder by being more feminine, because he’s supposed to embrace the superior maleness that he intrinsically has. Hence why gay men receive the majority of ridicule, and people seem to be indifferent to (or excited about, but that’s a different post) lesbians, and why transgender women are mocked, made fun of, and much worse, and the majority of us don’t even realize that transgender men exist. Think about the 10-year-old girl who plays baseball and is affectionately referred to as a tomboy by her family and friends, and embraces that role, and then imagine her brother, who is ridiculed for being a sissy or “tomgirl,” because he embodies more feminine qualities in his speech, dress, or activities. This is an example of misogyny, and feminists believe that men don’t deserve to be burdened with impossible, unrealistic, or any, for that matter, expectations based on their gender, either.

Regarding the difference in how men and women are treated when they have a child and choose to work or be a stay-at-home parent, men are praised simply because it’s not expected of them to do the child-rearing. This is insulting to men because it aides in our ill-conceived assumption that men shouldn’t be primary caretakers, or that they aren’t good at it or well-suited for it, and that women are intrinsically better parents. Women are assumed to be good for only parenting in many peoples’ opinions, whether they care to admit it or not. Similarly, a father that abandons his family is not generally respected, but think of the notion of a woman leaving her family. She’s faced with a lot more rage and confusion than a man would be.

Feminism is not the belief that women are better than men in any way, or that women should have more rights than men. We all want to level the playing field, and be treated with the same respect one would give to a man in the same situation. Feminism does not seek to punish men for any privilege they were born into or shun them, shame them, or emasculate them. Feminism merely strives to be considered 100% equal in our society, and treated with respect.