Disclaimers

This blog is authored by two “left-leaning,” equality-minded individuals; however:

— Because of the “101”-style nature of this blog, it is not necessarily considered to be a “safe space” for all individuals. Commenters will often be asking questions that might make some readers cringe, feel unwelcome, or get very angry, not to mention offended. It is not our intention to offend or insult anyone; however, it is our intention to help people newer to social justice movements better understand our positions, which means that seemingly ignorant or insulting questions may be hiding in the comments.

…Of course, you can trust that overtly racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, etc. comments and dialogue will not be tolerated.

–We are both white, 20-something Americans. imnotme is male and cacophonies is female. cacophonies was raised in a fairly large Midwestern city in the United States, and imnotme was raised in both a rural Mexican village and the suburban Midwestern US. We will be blogging from these perspectives.

While we are aware of the privileges we hold and try everyday to remain cognizant of what that means and behave accordingly, hostile accusations of racism, homophobia, ableism, or any other prejudice will not be tolerated. It’s not productive.

…That said, constructive, respectful criticisms of tone, word usage, etc., are always welcome.

The purpose of this blog is to welcome engaging, rational, and respectful dialogue, and a place where people can go to learn and ask questions about feminism or feminist perspectives.

— This blog covers a variety of topics related to social justice issues, with a focus on feminism. We may not always cover all topics with equal frequency.

— While we use this blog to attempt to help educate people (and ourselves), we are going to be doing our best at refraining from using excessive feminist or academic jargon or rhetoric. The point is not to preach to the choir, but to help other people who may not be so convinced understand what feminism’s goals are and why feminism is still important and relevant.

24 responses to “Disclaimers

  1. –I am a young (20-something), white, cisgender female, and I come from a middle-class background.

    Country of origin and current residence?

    • Good suggestion, I added it to the page.

      • There’s a display of privilege right there, in that your response to my question was to identify the region but not the country. I was born and raised in England and have lived in Scotland for the past two decades, but I would never have thought to say only that I was born in the South but now live in the North East.

        This privilege, of course, is the US-centricism of English-speaking internet discourse, which is the top rung of a privilege heirarchy: You live in the Mid West. I live in Scotland. They live in Africa.

      • I was actually surprised when I read this comment, because I was certain that I had said what country I am from.

        Well, something to keep in mind for later posts, I suppose.

        Although– I don’t understand how what I did was a show of privilege. Presumptuous, sure, US-centric, definitely, but I oppressed no one by omitting my country of origin, and, call me naive, but I don’t see the inherent privilege of living in the United States. I don’t know what it’s like to live anywhere else, but from what you said in your comment, it doesn’t look like you have, either.

        Is it really all about language? I can see some valuable points if that were the case, but it doesn’t fully convince me.

      • Although– I don’t understand how what I did was a show of privilege. Presumptuous, sure, US-centric, definitely, but I oppressed no one by omitting my country of origin, and, call me naive, but I don’t see the inherent privilege of living in the United States. I don’t know what it’s like to live anywhere else, but from what you said in your comment, it doesn’t look like you have, either.

        Privilege is a system whereby:

        1) A group “B” is systematically, unfairly advantaged in comparison to non-Bs in a given social context.

        2) The distinctive traits of group “B” are viewed as the “unmarked” or “default” traits of a “normal” member of society.

        http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2008/07/03/working-definitions-of-oppression-and-privilege/

        I thought you were probably American when I asked the question. When you identified only that you were from the Mid West without reference to a country, I knew you were. America is the default. When people talk about issues, they talk about American issues. When they talk about “the healthcare bill” it’s the bill Currently passing through Congress. Which Congress? The American Congress of course. When people talk about the deficit, they’re talking about the deficit of one partiuclar country. When people say that there are two and a quarter million people in jail, they’re refering to the prison population of one particular nation.

        I know as much about US law, politics, and governance as I do of the UK, if not more. I could name half the Supreme Court Justices, a dozen State governors, probably a similar number of members of Obama’s cabinet, and perhaps a score of US congresspeople. And when I reach of an aspect of society to illustrate a point, soch as a domestic law which grants rights to women over men, It’s an american law I choose.

        I know these things, not because I’ve made an effort to study them, but because stepping into the internet discoursosphere is like visiting America.

        Privilege is when everything is about you.

      • And when I reach of an aspect of society to illustrate a point, soch as a domestic law which grants rights to women over men, It’s an american law I choose.

        Here’s another example:

        It’s true that Obama’s Cabinet has twice as many men than women. But this in no way empowers Joe the washroom attendant over his female counterpart across the hall.

        Why did I automatically cite Obama’s Cabinet, and not my own country’s?

      • I wonder, then, what makes you so interested in American feminism? So much so that you created a blog for the sole purpose of critiquing it?

        I look forward to your post about the privileges that women have. I hope you’ll go into social privileges, instead of focusing only on legal ones. Those are the ones that I think most modern feminsts are fighting against.

      • I wonder, then, what makes you so interested in American feminism? So much so that you created a blog for the sole purpose of critiquing it?

        American feminism is not very different from British feminism. I instinctively reach for US examples because I can count on audience familiarity, but the characteristics I criticise apply just as much here in Britain.

        I look forward to your post about the privileges that women have. I hope you’ll go into social privileges, instead of focusing only on legal ones. Those are the ones that I think most modern feminsts are fighting against.

        Legal privileges tend to follow social ones.

        I’m short of time right now, so I don’t know when I’ll get to write the post, so here’s a quick summary: Women enjoy the following privileges:

        *Maternity – Mothers’ claim to parental rights to their children is regarded as more valid than fathers’
        *Non-disposability – Women’s lives are not casually thrown away the way that men’s are.
        *Non-combatancy – It is not considered normal or expected that women should have to fight.
        *Victim-visibility – Female victims are highlighted in the media. Male victims are marginalised if not outright erased. The seminal work on this subject is Dr. Adam Jones’ effacing the male. Please read it. Appreciation of this social phenomenon is crucial to a correct understanding of how gender operates in the world.
        *Needs-visibility – Women’s external needs enjoy greater recognition than men’s.
        *Service – Women’s visibility privileges give them more power to demand and receive social services.
        *Accessiblity – It’s much easier to reach needy women than needy men in order to provide services.

        I reiterate that I am not claiming that gender operates unidirectionally to privilege women over men. I offer these to rebut the assumption that it operates unidirectionally to privilege men over women.

        Nor do I assume that you will necessarily agree that these privileges operate, simply on my say so, though I hope I’ve given you some food for thought.. In my post in will give many examples of how each apply in practice and how they interact and overlap so as to create a gender system which oppresses men.

      • Women enjoy the following privileges:…

        *Exoneration – Women are considered to be less culpable than men, given similar behaviour in similar circumstances.

      • Not really,

        A useful tool in defining privilege is also identifying knowledge distribution. For example: let’s say I know something you don’t, the only way for that to become a privilege is if I manifest that knowledge in a way that I benefit from. So, if I recognized that you did not know the regulations of banking, and with this knowledge I proceeded to scam you for a few hundred Euros, I would then be displaying my privilege by effectively oppressing your personal desires (i.e. that of not wanting to be bilked by a criminal). However, to assert that the simple act of knowing more than another is manifest privilege de-facto is fallacious because it answers no question. In order for a statement to be deemed oppressive or privileged one must first ask if it is. Then, in wondering about the statement’s nature you would define adequate criteria for determining whether or not a statement can be oppressive or privileged and would ultimately, by necessity, wind up asking “Why was the statement made?”

        Therefore, to very simply state in English (which is not American) on an English blog about very WESTERN concerns (namely, liberty and equality) that one is from the “Midwest,” is not a privileged statement in that there is no potentiality for that statement to be used for any gain and therefore cannot oppress you. Greed is necessary for oppression and privilege alike.

        I think that many feminists forget this exact concept in treating privilege.

        • For example: let’s say I know something you don’t, the only way for that to become a privilege is if I manifest that knowledge in a way that I benefit from. So, if I recognized that you did not know the regulations of banking, and with this knowledge I proceeded to scam you for a few hundred Euros, I would then be displaying my privilege by effectively oppressing your personal desires (i.e. that of not wanting to be bilked by a criminal).

          You benefit from knowledge of banking regulations whether or not you use it to defraud me, because you are in less danger of being defrauded yourself.

          Moreover, even if you do not use your knowledge to harm me directly, you might oppress me by contributing to those societal forces which act to enable you, or those like you, to obtain this knowledge while disabling me and those like me from doing the same.

          • Pardon my ignorance of block quoting and other useful tools. I may just get into that habit yet.

            My response was a direct one to the comment you made indicating that Cacophonies was somehow guilty of revealing her U.S. centrist privilege within an oppressive system, i.e. that of the English internet discourse. The argument was fallible and I only meant to point out why. The sentence after the one you quoted was really much more crucial to this idea:

            “…to assert that the simple act of knowing more than another is manifest privilege de-facto is fallacious because it answers no question.”

            This is also true in regards to cultural or regional assumption. Since, in America, the internet literate are aware of how the rest of the world studies us, and how controversial US policy is, we also tend to assume that people are at the very least aware of the distinction between New York, the deep south, and the midwest. This assumption, however inappropriate, is not one of privilege but one that any other person would also tend to make should current global relations and news coverage be altered. If an english speaking European nation became equally relevent on a global scale you would likely see that change. Or, in another sense, it would not even make me flinch if an African immigrant, when asked for their origin, replied by saying East, North, or South, or simply named an individual country. These regional distinctions are nearly common knowledge by virtue of the news produced there and the popular history.

  2. OK, I’ve got a non-101 level question coming up.

    Like you, I know what feminists mean by privilege. I read the shrub.com post you link in the sidebar, and most or all of the primers it linked to, long before I came here. I agree broadly that privilege operates pretty much as these texts say it does along most of the axes that advocates say it does. So I agree that there is unidirectional white privilege, cis privilege, het privilege, and so on.

    I don’t dispute that there are privileges associated with being male. I contend that there are also privileges associated with being female, that gender-privilege, unlike the other privilege axes, is bidirectional.

    Neither the shrub.com nor any of the primers it links to appear to address this, as far as I can see from a quick review. Rather they all seem to assume that gender privilege is universally a male privilege. One source that does is this FF101 FAQ, which says:

    Male privilege is a set of privileges that are given to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class. While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of being read as male by society, benefits from male privilege.

    Suddenly we see the introduction of the concept of “institutional power” that wasn’t there before, which gives the impression that it was introduced solely to exclude from consideration all “advantages that [women] benefit from based solely on their social status”.

    Moreover the claim that men have institutional power isn’t justified either here or in any other FAQ on FF101. To the extent that I have seen it articulated within feminist space the argument goes something like:

    Premiss: Positions of institutional power are occupied by men

    Conclusion: Therefore men have institutional power.

    The problem with this argument is that it equivocates on the word “men”. Only a small fraction of the population have institutional power or any prospect of obtaining it, so in the premiss “Men” means “a very small number of people” and in the conclusion it means “half the world’s population”.

    It’s true that Obama’s Cabinet has twice as many men than women. But this in no way empowers Joe the washroom attendent over his female counterpart across the hall.

    So my non-101-level question is: Do you think you can justify the notion that gender privilege is unidirectionally male privilege without invoking self-serving ad hoc criteria and logical fallacies?

  3. It’s true that Obama’s Cabinet has twice as many men than women. But this in no way empowers Joe the washroom attendant over his female counterpart across the hall.

    On an everyday level, you might be right. What can end up being a problem is when underprivileged people need to use the resources provided by larger entities or institutions. For example, if the Supreme Court is comprised of one female eight males, the Supreme Court does not do a reasonable job of representing the country that it serves– in both gender and race. Among other things, this can make people who are not male and/or white feel as though their cases may not be handled as fairly as possible because the people making decisions aren’t familiar with their perspective.

    Of course, that’s not to say that someone who is white and male will be, by nature, prejudiced or biased and make unfair decisions about people who are not exactly like them that will negatively affect their lives. But can you see how institutional privilege can affect the daily lives of underprivileged individuals if they’re in a situation where they need to use the services of police, the court system, etc?

    I am interested to hear the ways that you think that typically underprivileged people are also privileged, though, if you’re not talking about different intersectionalities (I benefit from white privilege, but not male privilege, for example).

    • I think this might shed a bit of light on the assumption that being male is the key to the kingdom. The Supreme Court is made of 8 men and 1 woman and many a feminist will point to this and say male privilege because of it but what exactly does sharing gender with those 8 men mean? There are way too many men out there that do not have gender based unfair advantages for there to be a blanket assumption that being male means living said high life. So from there one might think that being male increases the likelihood of gaining access to said advantages.

      If that is the case then why the blanket assumption that being male in and of itself is considered a privilege when gender is a random genetic event?

      And let me say that I highly appreciate this site for being willing to cover the basics. There are way too many sites out there run by people that think talking about the basics and fundamentals is beneath them or that they are beyond reproach.

      • And let me say that I highly appreciate this site for being willing to cover the basics.

        Thank you! I’m glad you like the blog, especially because the reason is precisely what I was going for, after having been burned by many a feminist blog in the past (and present). I’m glad you stopped by and have been involved in the discussions.

        The Supreme Court is made of 8 men and 1 woman and many a feminist will point to this and say male privilege because of it but what exactly does sharing gender with those 8 men mean? There are way too many men out there that do not have gender based unfair advantages for there to be a blanket assumption that being male means living said high life.

        I think that’s similar to the argument that poor white people may have when told that they are a privileged individual. White /= wealth, etc. But at the same time, discussing privilege in the context of feminism, anti-racism, homophobia, what have you, is typically treated in less of an individual basis and more of a generalized or overall basis.

        That said, I agree with you about how there are many men that don’t benefit from gender-based unfair advantages… directly. A man (let’s assume hypothetical man is also white) is poor, uneducated, and gay. Quite oppressed, in many ways, but his male privilege manifests itself when, as one example, he walks into a hardware store and is treated with respect instead of talked down to, patronized, or possibly taken advantage of financially because of a presumed lack of knowledge. That’s just one example, but the general, socialized assumptions that we make on a casual level about people and their genders is so common, and in many ways incredibly detrimental to women that the idea spreads into larger institutionalized constructs and is only perpetuated.

        More women on the Supreme Court, for example, would eventually even out the playing field when more people start thinking that it’s perfectly normal for a woman (especially one of color) to be nominated and don’t think twice about it, and if someone acts to her in a patronizing way (like I’ve been hearing all week on NPR with Sotomayor) someone will inevitably, and effectively, call him out on his behavior (like I haven’t heard at all this week on NPR or elsewhere). Women will be seen as equally capable as men in intellect and ability to lead, decide, etc. That will ultimately affect a woman’s experience at a hardware store. It ends up coming full-circle.

        • I can dig that. I fully agree there are times when simply being male might lead to unfair gender based assumptions (positive or negative assumptions mind you). I just think flatly saying being male will trigger said assumptions is a stretch at best and generalizing at worst.

  4. I am interested to hear the ways that you think that typically underprivileged people are also privileged, though, if you’re not talking about different intersectionalities (I benefit from white privilege, but not male privilege, for example).

    I have already stipulated to the unidirectional race privilege as a valid concept. I’m only disputing gender privilege. I do not agree that women are “typically underprivileged”. Women enjoy certain privileges and suffer certain disprivileges associated with their gender. Men enjoy and suffer privileges and disprivileges which are the mirror image of women’s. Neither is privileged as a class over the other, but within both are individuals who have suffered appallingly as a result of their particular experience with gender.

    As for what those female privileges are, I’ll put up a post on my own blog.

    • Neither is privileged as a class over the other, but within both are individuals who have suffered appallingly as a result of their particular experience with gender.

      But males are privileged as a class over women, in a general sense. Even if most men I know are not directly involved in the “patriarchy,” as most feminists would describe the construct, they still benefit from the structure in ways that women do not, or are not allowed to. They are still seen as able, because of the sex that or gender that they were born into, to be considered “worthy” of something that the same person would not consider women to be worthy of, only because of generalised preconceptions about their sex or gender as a whole, or as a generalisation.

      • …they still benefit from the structure in ways that women do not, or are not allowed to. They are still seen as able, because of the sex that or gender that they were born into, to be considered “worthy” of something that the same person would not consider women to be worthy of, only because of generalised preconceptions about their sex or gender as a whole, or as a generalisation.

        What I wonder is why the feminists who hold onto this belief will then vehemently deny the concept of female privilege. Just as a man who got a job over a woman because of gender did not actively strive for that outcome a woman who got post divorce child custody based on her gender and not her merit as a parent did not actively strive for that outcome either. So why is it that one is proof of an all encompassing system of oppression that targets women but the other is shrugged off as a side effect of sexism (I think feminism 101 calls it benevolent sexism)?

  5. What can end up being a problem is when underprivileged people need to use the resources provided by larger entities or institutions. For example, if the Supreme Court is comprised of one female eight males, the Supreme Court does not do a reasonable job of representing the country that it serves– in both gender and race. Among other things, this can make people who are not male and/or white feel as though their cases may not be handled as fairly as possible because the people making decisions aren’t familiar with their perspective.

    I agree that gender (and race, etc.) disparities are problematic, and that people often do a bad job of representing those whose life experiences are markedly different. I do not, however, agree that there is such a thing as male and female “perspectives”, that would render John the Supreme Court Judge better able to represent Joe the washroom attendant than Jane across the hall in any overarching way.

    A more significant problem with power is that it tends to serve power. So male Senators will tend to legislate for the benefit of male Senators. It does not follow, however that the interests of male Senators is better aligned with men generally, that with women. In particular, one of their interests is to be reelected, so they are sensitive to cultural norms that favour the servicing of women. (Service Privilege – see my forthcoming post.)

    These dynamics are complex and bi-directional. My point is that it does not follow – either logically or in practice – from the fact that most of the powerful are men, that men generally are empowered.

  6. I didn’t realize that you guys have a blog. That’s great!

    • I’m glad you stopped by! I think Jesse has lost interest in posting here, but he has some good ideas that I hope he posts sometime soon. I don’t recall if I added you to the blogroll yet, but if not, I will.

  7. I’m glad to have discovered your blog. Thanks for the Facebook link!

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