As Expected

My rather ridiculous medical crisis punted The Talk with my supervisor, but it we finally had it on Sunday. It went as expected.

Image shows a kitten with its paw up, with the caption "High 5!!!"

Actually, we only had half The Talk, because he’d spent (part of) the weekend thinking of how the projector time could be made fair, and came up with a plan that allows everyone to take a turn, whilst allowing the top performers on our team extra turns based on stats. Everybody wins: he’s got an extra way to incentivize us, and we’ve now got a system where everybody gets a chance to subject the team to their entertainment tastes. We’re better off than we were before, when it was random and led to conflict and didn’t give our supervisor new ways to ensure we stay in the lead. That’s something I wish more people would understand when these issues come up: when you face them head-on, when you think them through, you can so often find ways to not only make things fair, but improve them for everyone. Everybody wins.

And this, my friends, is why my supervisor has been in the #1 slot in call center stats for nearly a year straight. He’s not afraid to look at a situation that needs to be fixed, fix it, but also add some additional bells and whistles.

So The Talk began with me thanking him for doing that. Then we had the Transphobia Talk, which went something like this:

Me: I know you weren’t intending it to, but your funny story came across somewhat transphobic. Don’t want you to run into problems. We’ve got folks who’re either transsexual or know someone who is, and transsexual people, especially male-to-female, suffer a lot of violence.

Him: Oops. Didn’t mean it to come across that way. I’ll be more careful in the future. Have I ever told you about the time I lived on Capitol Hill*?

The Talk abruptly segued into how to focus the story on the funny elements, then the weirdness that is Capitol Hill, and then points beyond. Somewhere, we came up with a faboo reality teevee show idea starring Charles Manson being faced with the fact that the race war he preached ain’t never gonna happen**, and then we discussed what we were going to do for the Morale Captain cape I’m making for the team, and that was that. He understands me, I understand him, we have improved things that need improving, and if we can sell our teevee idea to TLC or similar, we can abandon the call center life forever.

I always try to prepare for the worst-case scenario when it comes to this sort of thing, but it’s usually not that bad. At least here in Seattle, the majority of people are more than willing to hear you out and make necessary changes. And if it comes to a fight, I’ve got plenty of people in my corner, cheering me on (not to mention you lot – you’re one of the best cheering sections in the Known Universe). It’s a city full of people who’ve spent time on the wrong side of at least one privilege, and who haven’t forgotten what empathy is. I can always count on enough progressives with the willingness to endure a bit of temporary pain in pursuit of improvement that I’m rarely alone, albeit usually the most vocal, when it comes to these sorts of challenges.

That’s why I bloody love this city. It could be so very, very much worse.

As for B and I… well, we exchange pleasantries at work. I don’t know that we’ll ever get beyond that. That hurts to a ridiculous degree, that we should lose each other over something like this, but his reaction to my plan of action was that pointy bit of ice above the waterline. More to it than the visible bit. More damage than expected from what was on the surface. So it goes. That’s something that happens, in these situations, where a minor event is a catalyst. It’s not the thing and the whole of the thing, could’ve been shrugged off if the bit floating on top was all there was to it, but it wasn’t, and so you end up with a suddenly-sunken ship and a lot of people wondering what-the-fuck. It’s a risk you take, and honestly, if an event like this sends a friendship to the bottom of the sea, it was headed there long before the final collision.

Was it worth the risk? Of course. I prefer honesty to superficially comfortable fiction. Fuck, if I wanted to live a happy lie, I’d still believe in gods, now, wouldn’t I?

Thank you all for the cyberhugs and encouragement and enthusiastic cheering. Thank you for inspiring me, and being there, and being the bit of solid ground a person needs to stand on when applying a lever to a world that’s so often a pain in the arse to move.

Thank you for being you.

And thank you for being courageous enough to put a hand to the lever and push with me. We can do this. Together.

 

 

*Put it like this: if you’ve got any sort of phobia when it comes to sex and gender, you’re probably not going to survive living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood for more than fifteen minutes or so.

**Copyright 2013 me and my supervisor. All rights reserved.

 

When a Projector is a Projection of Our Fucked-Up Culture

So the thing about having your consciousness raised is that you can’t really lower it again. When your attention’s repeatedly drawn to something important, when people chip through your resistance and decades of cultural conditioning and open your eyes to things you should have seen long ago, you can’t close them again without seeing after images.

Image show a gray kitty with yellow eyes peering over a table with an expression of concern and horror. Caption says, "What has been seen cannot be unseen."Take the fucking projector that has caused a good part of angst in my personal life just lately. Years ago, I’d not have noticed the endless parade of dude stuff. Dude stuff was just fine with me. Who wanted that icky chick stuff, anyway? Who cared if the ladiez didn’t get a look-in – they’d probably choose some awful chick flick thing. Eww.

And then I started spending my time around people who, like fish investigating the invisible medium they swam through, had discovered such things as everyday sexism and microagressions and the billion and one ways we tell women and other minorities they’re second class. I’ve learned about chilly climate and niceness as a tool of oppression. I’ve learned I had a bad case of internalized sexism, and that it’s more common than the common cold, which means any woman I meet could be suffering it, too. I’ve learned that intent is no excuse for problematic behavior. I’ve learned that this same patriarchy hurting me and mine is hurting every gender, including men. And I’ve learned that the incidental shit we surround ourselves with – the jokes, the entertainment, the places we go and the people we choose to see – can have an outsize impact. For instance, that harmless sexist joke told by the non-sexist among us? It could be encouraging the closet sexist in our midst to feel good about himself and fuck women over with a clear conscience, free of social consequences.

Along the way, I’ve had to learn uncomfortable truths about my own sexism and racism and privilege. I’ve had to learn that a person can be the furthest thing from a sexist or racist or other ist, and yet do ist things. I’ve watched people completely fail to understand that, and snivel when they should be solving. Sometimes, I’ve been the sniveler. But I’m trying. Now that my eyes are open, I’m trying to do better.

So the projector, it rankles. It wouldn’t have done before. I’d have been with B: it’s no big deal. Don’t make a fuss. But I cannot in good conscience do that any longer. And every time this shit comes up, when I know I’m going to have to gear up for Yet Another Battle With a Good Person™, I get grouchy and sad and tired. I think of just letting this one slide. And then I think of Jean Valjean:

If I speak, I am condemned.

If I stay silent, I am damned.

So I bloody well speak.

Damn the consequences.

Because this shit matters.

It doesn’t matter to the dudes who live comfortably on top, who refuse to have their masculinity threatened by The Notebook (heaven forfend they should like it). They’ve given the ladies a shot at it! They graciously let us watch So I Married an Axe Murderer that one day didn’t they? Of course the dudes complained and grumbled because ew, ick, wedding dress, but they let us get away with it. And they’re fine with us picking stuff out – as long as it’s kung fu movies, or police procedurals, or shoot-‘em-ups, or Duck Dynasty. See – when you ladies are one of the guys, it’s no problem! Fairness and equality for all. As long as you don’t mind seeing your gender represented as nothing but a sex object every time you look up, if there are women on the screen at all. As long as you don’t mind a constant barrage of testosterone. And as long as you understand that your viewing choices can and will be superseded by what anyone with a penis decides he wants to watch at any point during your flick. Move along, no sexism to see here.

They don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing, because no one’s ever shown them. They’ve spent their lives this way, with the women most often letting them have their way, going along to get along. Because lord knows, if you piss off the dude with the projector, he may take his projector and go home, and then everybody suffers. Don’t be that girl.

And it doesn’t matter anyway. Nobody really watches this stuff. We’re busy taking calls! It’s not a democracy! But everybody’s gotten to choose something! You can’t get everybody to agree on everything. You’re making a big deal out of nothing. These are all excuses I’ve had thrown in my face since suggesting that maybe, just possibly, it’s not cool to shut out the women on the team, and I for one will not be putting up with it.

I’ve very likely lost an important friendship with something this bloody stupid as a catalyst. One thing’s for sure: even for women who, like me, don’t usually get a lot of crap for being a social justice warrior, there are sometimes severe consequences to giving the boat even a slight, careful nudge. And you can never tell when the explosion will happen or who will set it off.

My life would be easier and happier if I could close my eyes and soothe my consciousness to sleep again, if I could tell my conscience to shut the fuck up. But that’s what’s brought us here: too many good people unwilling to do the right thing because other good people get nasty, and it makes everyone unhappy for a while, and the consequences are too much for many of us to bear. So, I have a Jean Valjean moment:

If I speak, I am condemned.

If I stay silent, I am damned.

And I decide that being condemned by the people around me, however uncomfortable, is not a patch upon the damnation that will be visited upon me by my outraged moral compass, and that changing this world just a little bit for the better is worth any amount of personal pain and professional discomfort. I do not, to my everlasting shame, always decide to do this. Despite what people who think I’m a loudmouthed crusader think, I don’t always speak. But I should.

And I will. As often as I can, as loudly as I can manage.

And as long as the person I am speaking to, who has the power to fix this, is the personI think he is, the conversation won’t go too badly. He’ll see that these microaggressions are bad things, and that soaking in endless masculinity isn’t much good for the dudes, either. He’ll still say this isn’t a democracy, but it won’t hurt to introduce a few democratic principles into the totalitarian government of our team. He’s already agreed not to stop shows partway through. We will work out further equitable solutions, and considering all three women on this team do actually love kung fu more than princesses, the masculine suffering should be minimal. We’ll have some stuff on with kick-ass female characters, and gays, and lesbians, and transsexuals, and POCs, and even some heart-string tugging things that will get the super-macho among us sniffling about dust in their eyes, and everyone will come out of this a bit better and broader than they came in.

Everyone.

Because this isn’t just about giving the women equal time. It’s also about setting men free from strangling gender roles. It’s about creating a better environment, wherein people don’t have to keep themselves closeted over the things they love for fear of social censure. And it’s about giving people a chance to discover that there are things out there they’ve never suspected they could like, but do, and don’t have to be ashamed about admitting it.

These constant battles are fucking exhausting, and they cost. Oh, they cost. But the price, ultimately, is worth it.*

I do not want to live in a world where, forty years from now, we wonder why we’re still held back by the same old shit.

I do not want to have to look back and say, “Well, because it was because I didn’t do anything to change it.”

Instead, I want to be painting my friend’s grandson’s toenails pink while debating the virtues of the latest Porche vs. Ferrari with an honorary grandniece while she orders something fashionable for her transsexual friend. I want to take them outside to play in a park afterward where kids aren’t busy shaming other kids over their fashion and bodies and lifestyle choices, and sure as shit aren’t concerned about their color or religion. I want a world where people can be people in all their endless variety without being shit upon. I want a world where everyone gets a chance to visit the buffet groaning under the eternal variety of things that make us human, and can pick whatever they want, without shame or fear. Except, you know, for those sexist, racist, and other ist dishes. I hope we’ll have consigned those to the garbage forever by then.

We may never have that world. But it’s a world worth trying for. And even a less-than-perfect version will be wonderful.

 Image of hands of many colors clasped in star-pattern, with a quote by Maya Angelou superimposed:

For a crash-course in social justice, clear your calendar, lay in a supply of coffee and alcohol, and visit these link roundups:

Pharyngula Wiki: Social justice link roundup and Sexism Education 101 Link Dump

Brute Reason:  Social Justice Resources

A+: Education on Social Justice Issues

Geek Feminism Wiki: Feminism 101 

*For me. At this time, in this place, with my privilege, I can bear this cost. Others may not be able to, and it is no shame if they can’t fight the fight openly. Everyone has to do their own math, and decide what they can take, and when for their own good they’ve got to disengage.

The Right Thing Isn’t the Easy Thing

“Just go along to get along.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“You’re blowing this out of proportion.”

Yeah. That’s what they always say.

So there’s these little things, at work, going on. We’re in an industry dominated by women, but by a twist of fate, nearly everyone on my current team is male. Male supervisor, only three women, and neither of the other two women is what you’d call a feminist. One’s too timid to stand athwart the tide, the other one doesn’t care. That leaves me as the Lone Social Justice Ranger.

And it sucks.

B’s on the same team. It suits him. He likes the easy camaraderie and the fact that our manager doesn’t toe the business conduct line. Honestly, most of the time, I’m just as glad.

But there’s this projector we play stuff on, and guess what? The dudes dominate. They make the overwhelming majority of decisions as to what we get to watch. Sports. Shoot-em-ups. Gritty comedies. Heaven forfend we should watch anything girly. It might threaten their masculinity. So every time I look up, it’s something dudely playing. And if the ladiez choose, well, doodz get to interrupt partway through and choose something else.

This rankles.

I’m sorry, but we ladies have spent lifetimes subservient to dood wishes. We’re taught from a young age that what the doodz want, they get. If you want to be a cool lady, you don’t ask for, oh, say, The Notebook. You ask for a kung fu movie. And even then, if there’s a game on, the doodz get to overrule you.

Every time I look up, with trifling exceptions, it’s all doodz all the time. And while my tastes run overwhelmingly dood (to the point where I scream if they try to turn off the Nascar races on Sunday), it still gets old.

That’s Point #1.

Point #2 is that our manager decided to relate a funny story from his teen years, when he went to Canada where the drinking age was 18, and proceeded to get so drunk he invited a prostitute back to his room – until he realized the prostitute was a man. Transphobia ensued. It wasn’t over-the-top, just the typical red-blooded American male brand where there’s no way in hell he’s gonna end up in bed with a man, no matter how good his or her makeup is.

And those two things were breaking points for me. I’ll let a lot of things slide offline that I wouldn’t give a pass to online, in the interest of diplomacy and just being too fucking tired to fight the good fight again. But when you’re talking about being on the verge of killing a prostitute for being a man, no matter how jokingly you put it and no matter how unserious we know you are? When the choice of entertainment conflicts could be solved with a mild, “Hey, not cool that you’re not giving the three women on this team equal time”? Yeah. Gonna speak up. And my manager’s the kind of dood who may not like it, but will negotiate beautifully, with a happy ending for all.

I didn’t expect this to blow up like it does online, but you know that when you’re standing up for what’s right, something’s always gotta come along and rip your heart out for that crime. So B started in on this, “You’re overreacting!” bullshit, and it culminated in a confrontation tonight that has left me with no doubt that my intention to stand on principle makes him uncomfortable, and deep down, he wishes I’d stop, because it threatens his equilibrium.

B is the most important person in the world to me, and this rips my heart out to say, but: he’s not as important as this.

I won’t stop for his comfort. I won’t stop for mine.

I can’t see the world the way he does. Mostly, because I’m not a cis white male.

And it might cost me a friendship that means more to me than nearly anything else in the world, one that I’ve already sacrificed a lot for; it might cost the team’s peace and contentment, but fuck this shit. Fuck if I’ll stay silent. Fuck if I’ll let things slide and slide and slide. I may end up alone with nothing but a 19 year-old cat and you lot, and I might scream with the pain of losing yet another cherished friend to this, but fuck if I’m not going to stand for what’s right.

So I’m alone right now, rather than happily watching Doctor Who whilst eating seafood, because some things matter more than friendship. Things like ensuring women don’t have to sacrifice everything in the interest of keeping peace with the doodz. Things like making people understand that their funny little stories aren’t so funny to those who have heard the stories of those who were harmed or killed by transphobic violence. Things like taking a stand for little equalities, because if you don’t stand up no one else will, and no one will ever realize there’s anything wrong with running roughshod over the sentiments of the less-privileged.

I don’t want to lose B. I didn’t want to lose Garrett, my best friend of over twenty years, either, but it’s been a year since we’ve parted company over his stance on abortion (not to mention misogyny). I didn’t want to lose so many in the atheist movement over simple questions of how to treat women in elevators, or sacrificing stupid bloody transphobic or sexist jokes, or any of the other dumbfuck fucking battles we’ve fought that have split this movement apart. I’ve not wanted to be the person standing up in the boat and rocking it side-to-side until all the bad stuff goes overboard. I’ve not wanted to make the sacrifices I have in order to stand up for what’s right.

And I don’t want to lose B, who is, hands-down, the one person I care most about in this world right now.

But fuck what I lose. Fuck who I make so uncomfortable that they distance themselves from me. There are things more important than my happiness, and some of those things happen to be correcting the minor problems that are a reflection of far larger ones. I may cry until my heart breaks, drink far more tequila than a sick person should, sob myself into state that decongestants can’t remedy, but I won’t stop standing right here upon this rock. This rock that says that someone has to speak up, stand up, do the unpopular thing in order to change this fucked-up culture of ours. I could lose everything, and you know what? It wouldn’t be a fraction of what people less privileged than me lose, every single damned day.

The right thing is far from the easy thing, and it costs almost more than I can bear. But I will do it.

And you know what? It won’t be that bad. Despite what the don’t-rock-the-boaters like B and so many damned others think, it isn’t the end of all the fun and spontaneity and sexy fun times. It’s not the end of anything except things that should have ended long ago.

Someday, that will be well understood.

Until then, I’ve got you, and I’ve got my kitty, and a bottle of tequila, and it will eventually be enough.

My Carpet: A Fable

Your carpet is old and disgusting. It’s worn and torn, stained and strained. It’s filled with the remains of hairball-hurfing episodes, and smells distressingly of elderly cat urine. Babies break out in a dermatologist-defying rash whenever they crawl over it. The miasma arising from it may be causing a new sort of breathing disorder. Its indeterminate orangey-gray hue with the super-villain-creating toxic-sludge colored spots drains your happiness right out, and is probably contributing to your family’s assorted mood disorders.

“Aftermath” by A National Acrobat on Flickr

But you shouldn’t replace it. Nossir. Yes, you are suffering; yes, you could buy a new carpet and a college education with the money you are spending on doctor’s bills and air fresheners. But a person must have principles. It’s very silly and selfish of you to want a new carpet when there are people in other countries who endure the agony of living on dirt floors. No new carpet for you until everyone in the world has a carpet!

How dare you complain about what the dog did to the carpet while you were away when some people don’t even have a dog, much less a carpet?!

You are a terrible, selfish person, and every decent person should shun you. You are diluting the meaning of carpet-deprivation. You should be ashamed.

Please excuse me now – there’s a sale on carpet at Home Depot, and I’ve got to go. Well, of course, I won’t tolerate the occasional stain on my own carpet, and that color is so last year. What, why are you calling me a hypocrite? I don’t complain to the world about how awful my carpet is!

 

(Inspired by this bit o’ nonsense, which stands in for all of the “Dear Muslima” and “But there are starving children in Africa!” nonsense.)

Abuse Is Not an Olympic Sport

Ah. I see Richard Dawkins has “apologized” for his asinine comments about pedophilia. The best I can say about it is, at least this time, he attempted to apologize for being a gigantic ass. For an anatomy of this “apology,” I encourage you to visit the incisive comments from Jafafa Hots here and here. Off you go. Especially you, Richard. Yes, you. Now. Look, I’ll even publish those comments at the end of this piece for those lazy buggers who can’t be arsed to click links.

Are you back? Perhaps you can see why I’m disappointed, but in case not, read on.

Dissapointed cat

I’m not going to write a long manifesto exploring all the ways Richard Dawkins has, once again, gotten it wrong, because that’s rather been taken care of by survivors in this thread. I’m just going to say this:

Abuse is not an Olympic Sport.

No medals are awarded for Worst Abuse Survived. No points are detracted for Not Surviving Abuse Quite Right, or Making A Fuss Over “Minor” Sexual Assault. There is no Abuse Olympics Committee drawing up the parameters as to what constitutes Really Real Serious Abuse and what is Less Serious But Still Impressive and Too Petty to Be Included as a Sport.

The fact that you insist on their being such degrees, that you feel you must slot survivors into these categories, wherein only the Repeated Groping by an Adult in Authority qualifies for consideration – Richard, that tells me you’ve suffered more damage than you think. Because not being very traumatized by an assault is one thing (I’ve got some in my past that have hardly been a blip on my radar, too, so I get that.) But this insistence on minimizing this type of assault, statements like this:

Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s? Should I have lied and said it was the worst thing that ever happened to me? Should I have mendaciously sought the sympathy due to a victim who had truly been damaged for the rest of his life? Should I have named the offending teacher and called down posthumous disgrace upon his head?

No, no and no. To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

That is why I made light of my own bad experience.

That’s a whole other kettle of fish. It screams of someone trying to convince themselves that things really weren’t bad at all, who so needs to be convinced of this that anyone who survived the same but admits that it traumatized them must be belittled and shouted down, even in an apology. Because otherwise, you’d have to admit that what you experienced was more than just a silly little nothing you don’t have to fuss over. If those survivors clamor about it, that means you were a victim, too. And you just can’t face that.

If that’s not what has led you to sneer at people whose abuse was less than spectacular oh, so many times, I apologize. But I do hope you think about it. And I do hope you realize that, even if you’re not motivated by trying to minimize your own trauma to protect yourself, you sure as shit look like it, and furthermore are doing quite a lot of harm to your fellow survivors, and should stop now.

Take the example of those of us who have survived our own abuse, some of it which even you would admit qualifies as really real serious stuff, and don’t minimize what happened to others just because they didn’t react the same way as you. They’re people with different thoughts and experiences and expectations than you. They’re people who experience life differently from you. The fact they stumbled over what you took in stride doesn’t make them lesser people. It doesn’t make them fake victims crying wolf. It simply means that they are not you.

And I guarantee you that somewhere along the way, they’ve hopped lightly over something that brought you crashing down on your face, because that’s just a fact of being human.

Put the scorecard away.

[warning]A special note to the Dawkins fans who might feel compelled to defend their Brave Hero by shitting on everyone else: I’ve got a spam folder empty and waiting. Don’t even bloody bother. You are, of course, welcome to spew that nonsense elsewhere, so do make sure you save your comment so that you can repost it in full where other Dawkins fanatics can admire your mad apologetics skillz.[/warning]

***

Here are Jafafa Hots’s comments in their entirety:

 

It is not an apology.
It’s a rephrasing of his argument for those of us too stupid to get it.

Right off the bat he says that the disagreement is the result of a misunderstanding, the implication being that we did the misunderstanding. Perhaps also that he needed to elaborate, but not to change his stance – to reassert it.

Today we read, almost daily, of adults whose childhood was blighted by an uncle perhaps, or even a parent, who would day after day, week after week, year after year, sexually abuse a vulnerable child. The child would often have no escape,

That “year after year” sentiment crops up again and again.

Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s?

More “year after year” which is what apparently is needed for you to feel bad about being sexually assaulted.

That is why I made light of my own bad experience. To excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from my intention. I should have hoped that much was obvious. But I was perhaps presumptuous in the last sentence of the paragraph quoted above.

It should have been obvious, but he presumed too much of us, so he’s forced to explain it like we’re children.

As far as the complaint that he was projecting his experiences onto OTHERS, including his classmates?
First, he talks about how they talked among themselves – as if that somehow eliminates the fact that kids will “buck up” in front of friends, or not recognize the damage until later.
The concession he gives about his painting his experience onto others is this:

“I cannot know for certain that my companions’ experiences with the same teacher were are brief as mine, and theirs may have been recurrent,/b> where mine was not.

if, perhaps it happened many times and amounted to more than the single disagreeable but brief fondling that I endured, I apologize.

All this “apology” is is a doubling down of his
mild” versus “real and damaging” pedophilia stance.

And what if he (and by implication others) HAD claimed he was harmed by a single instance of being molested?

To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

Because if he had claimed his teacher putting his hands down his pants was harmful, apparently we all would have jumped on him for claiming that was harmful, and properly so, because that’s his opinion also.

There is no apology here.
There is an explanation and reiteration of his “real and damaging versus mild and harmless pedophilia” stance, that he has to rephrase because he apologetically understands that we were too thick to understand him.

The whole thing is a cowardly BS restatement of his original stance.

I not only reject it fully, I’m embarrassed that the cult of personality, the “need for leaders” problem we seem to have is helping him make the same offensive statements as an “apology” for his earlier expression of the same damned opinion.

 

And in case I didn’t stress that part enough, his concession that his friends might have been harmed hinges on the possibility that they, unknown to him, suffered it repeatedly, “many times.”

Because again, to be harmful sexual abuse, it needs to be REPEATED. Not like the harmless “mild pedophilia” he suffered. His mistake was in presuming that they also may have only suffered the one-off “harmless” sexual molestation.

THAT is doubling down.
He has not changed his attitude one bit, and all he has done is to explain to us mere nitwits the true standards our abuse has to meet to be considered harmful, and not “crying wolf.”

Doubling down because people are too damned stupid to understand you is NOT an apology by any stretch of the imagination.

I am sickened by the fact that hero worship is so entrenched that he can successfully pull this off and get people to thank him for it.

 

Guest Post: “Quit Sitting Around Here Being Brand New to This”

Ceesays has put together the beginnings of a fantastic resource for those of us willing to buckle down and educate ourselves, but who aren’t quite sure where to go for our 102-201 level courses. JesseW, the Juggling Janitor, was so kind as to list the links. Good thing summer’s almost over (in the Northern Hemisphere) and summer beach reading time is approaching (in the Southern) – we’ve got a lot of resources to read.

Turning it over to ceesays:

 

Okay now go on to step two and start looking for more blogs of people talking about racism. Black skeptics and the Crommunist archive are only a start. there are many, many more people who have been talking this talk for years, in dead tree books and online, things that have *already been said.*

The truth is, dezn_98 should not have had to make this blog post. It is a shame that dezn_98 did, and the shame is yours.

The material available for white folks to educate themselves about racism has existed for over a century, and the sheer volume of material has been growing at an astonishing rate for over 50 years. So stop patting yourselves on the back and being thankful. Y’all are fcking late.

Y’all ought to be going after racist claptrap with the ferocity and eloquence that you use to go after sexist claptrap, and you really ought to have been getting to that level of competence *years* ago. So quit sitting around here being brand new to this. Get wise, and fcking HELP US.

And I don’t mean get wise as in get Tim Wise. The fact that a white man is making a living talking about anti-black racism is a further shame, because it actively demonstrates that white people are so racist they refuse to listen to anyone but a white man about what happens to black folks. Yes, he knows all the moves and he makes all the arguments. Realize that not a thing he says is original to him. He stole it all from Black people talking about their lives. he’s the Elvis Presley of anti-racism.

Kwame Ture’s birthday was yesterday. You might remember him better as Stokely Carmichael. Read him. But don’t just limit yourself to reading black men. Find yourself some Audrey Lourde. Read Blackamazon. Gather comforting things around you and read Beloved. Read Kindred. Find books about the atlantic slave trade, just make sure that the author is black. Read Zora Neale Huston. Read Langston Hughes. Read the archives of The Bad Dominicana. Read Racismschool.

Zora Neale Hurston. Image courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

Zora Neale Hurston. Image courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

Read Angela Davis. Read bell hooks. Read Gradient Lair. Read TransGriot. and if I sat and thought I could come up with twenty more, and more after that, because the sheer number of black writers writing about blackness ain’t nobody heard of is truly staggering.

And every time you get angry, or feel the tears coming, Stop. grab a journal. write down how you feel in that moment. don’t edit or correct. then close the book, and don’t go back to read what you wrote before. Go for a walk or something, clear your mind, and get back into the book you were reading, but start 5 pages back from where you got angry, and read it again. Keep going. Keep reading, keep thinking. And everytime you start to feel upset or angry, write it down, and don’t go back and read it.

If all goes well, in a year you will be appalled by the person who wrote their anger in that book. Read it anyway. Understand what it took to come as far as you have come. Understand that there are literally millions of people who still think like that. that we’re all of us raised to think like that. we swim in racism as pervasive as the sexism you fishes have noticed. you have to actively work to raise your consciousness about racism in a way you didn’t really have to about sexism, because there were enough feminists talking that you were willing to listen to.

There are not nearly enough anti-racists for your consciousness about racism to be lifted with as much ease. If you wonder why that is, think about how much harassment the prominent feminist women you’re familiar with go through. Realize that adding a color to that – any colour, though I speak specifically of anti-black racism – easily doubles the harassment.

Read the comments on any article you happen to find written by a woman of colour or a man of colour about racism. note the bonus additions that white women do not have to suffer while they talk about sexism.

Get out there and help us. I’m too tired. I’m tired of trying. I’m weary of the ways of white folks. More and more, I retreat to where most of the voices online are black and get the hell away from the white man’s internet, because it’s killing us while it robs us blind. Stop being comfortable and pleased with yourself, and help us.

Go now, and educate yourself. there are millions of words already provided. go find them. Go read them. Quit being brand new.

***

oh and I forgot to mention – the diarizing is an important part because reading about racism isn’t going to leave you with a lot of choices about who you can talk to about it. And you do not want to try – because it’s an imposition to the people who know, and talking to people who don’t know will not help you. however I am certain that everyone will understand that experience fully if they take my advice!

***

And like i said, there are a lot of black writers writing about blackness. we could add to this list for days and days. If we started listing the writers talking about colors that aren’t black, that would be one heck of a library.

i find the online resources a lot easier to access of course, being poor, but also – these books aren’t in my library. I’ve been fortunate in that people have gotten books to me so I can read them, and I have passed these books along, because many of us are poor, and the small press and short print runs that are a “natural” consequence of publishing “niche work” means that a lot of these books can be quite difficult to find if you haven’t got cash to spare. But I’m building my shelf, gradually.

I wonder how many people would find that same thing? that for some, it’s just a matter of just buying them, but for others, the books stay out of their hands because Blackness isn’t valuable enough to make it available?

 

If that last sentence doesn’t shatter you, you haven’t got a heart.

So let’s do this. Those of us who need to be reading will get reading, and I hope those of you with the knowledge will expand this list. I want that “one heck of a library.” We should have a “one heck of a library” page, and have enough reading there to keep a speed reader busy for a few lifetimes. And if any of you know about groups or programs dedicated to republishing these works, any groups working to get them into the hands of people who need them, tell me so that we can throw our collective strength behind them. If they don’t exist, they need to. I’m hopeless at creating that sort of thing, I’ll freely admit – but this is Freethought Blogs, and I’m sure someone reading this is the person who can make it happen.

Thank you, ceesays, and dezn_98, and all of you who have taken the time to educate those of us who haven’t had to face life as a person of color, on the previous thread and on Pharyngula, and Blag Hag and Greta Christina’s Blog. For several of us comfortable white folk, it’s been the hammer to the head we needed to jolt us into awareness. I’m sorry you had to rap on thick skulls yet again. Hopefully, we’ll be better at wielding that hammer with you from now on.

If there are any white people in the audience now gearing up to howl about the usual shit butthurt white people* do when confronted with the fact that they are not The World’s Most Perfect Ally: please go read what dezn_98 said. And then bite your tongue, and dedicate some time to reading this Pharyngula thread. If you’re pressed for time, zero in on this comment in particular.

I’m shutting up now so I can get back to reading.

*Full disclosure: I was once a butthurt white person, and too often still am. At least until I remind myself just what vast amounts of shit I don’t have to live with every day because I am not brown. Amazing how the pain goes away when one considers that. Try it yourself!

Guest Post: “I Am Tired of Being Treated as a Subhuman When I Get Angry Over Racism”

By now, those of you not spending your summer hiding under rocks will have heard about JT’s extraordinary arrogance. And his quadrupling down on that arrogance. And maybe it wouldn’t matter so much, except this shit is done by people who refuse to listen to the voices of the people this shit is done to all the damn time.

I’m going to say a few words to my fellow white people before turning the floor over to the person you should really be listening to. I’m saying these few introductory words so that you can take a moment to prepare yourself. If you do not need this lecture, skip to dezn_98’s words, where your focus should be. If you find yourself getting defensive, and wanting to lecture rather than shut the fuck up and keep listening, return back here and read from the beginning.

One of the hardest lessons I learned as I became interested in social justice issues was this: don’t speak, listen. Don’t lead, follow. We white middle class liberal sorts want to change the world for the better, and oh, do we have ideas. Problem was, many of my ideas were based in abject ignorance. I was hurting more than helping. I knew it all, but didn’t know a damned thing. That’s privilege. Makes you think you’re qualified to pontificate on any problem, despite the fact you haven’t a clue as to what the problem actually is, much less how to solve it.

And it’s hard to face that, hard to admit that you don’t know it all and can’t solve all the problems facing those who don’t share your advantages. Hard to admit you’re wrong.

Suck it up.

If you truly want to help, you must be strong enough to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Brave enough to admit when you’re wrong, when you’ve made a mistake, when you hurt someone. Wise enough to keep your mouth closed and your ears open. Strong enough to handle the rage and pain you’re going to hear. Have the integrity and humility to step back and let others lead.

If you can’t do that, walk the fuck away. You’re of no help. People need an ally, not a self-appointed savior. They need a genuine ally, not a self-declared ally who refuses to act as one.

Now. If you’re ready to become part of the solution rather than the problem, put your tongue in neutral, turn your defensiveness off and yours ears on, and just listen.

Listen. Image courtesy Ky via Flickr.

Listen. Image courtesy Ky via Flickr.

I cede the floor to Dezn_98.

I want to tell people something. The reason people of color are not into this brand of atheism right now is because of people like JT. It is not because there is this KKK element to it.. it is because of deniers and ignorant people like JT. I would never feel comfortable in a room filled with people like him. My views on social justice are my priority, not my atheism… and I won’t be a part of any crowd that lets people like JT fester and not have the ability to call him on on BS. The only reason, I have come out of lurking is because of people like crommunist and like yourself [Greta], because you guys really do get it… and I am so tired of making people understand that our plight is real.

I am tired of being treated as a subhuman when I get angry over racism. I am tired of society telling me that “this tone of voice” is the only acceptable form of expression for minorities talking about their pain… and anything short of that – you are not worth listening to. They really treat us like trash, and people do not know how incredibly traumatizing and devastating that sort of constant cultural racism can be.

It is so tiring… I saw JT’s treatise of racist white garbage tone policing…. and I can’t ignore it. I actually have to waste my day writing a reply to his garbage. Do people not get how exhausting this sht is? How likely it is that, because of people like JT, most minorities run out of steam on these issues? That most give up? That most just walk away? The only reason I am not ignoring it is because I am as stubborn and silly as PZ.. not matter how much personal pain JT’s ideas give me.. I still gatta say something.

[snip]

Lots of people in this culture just do not get how utterly dehumanizing and traumatizing it is to talk to people like JT when you are a person of color.. it is indescribable. Yet I have to put my humanity on the line everyFCKINGtime when I talk about racism… and everytime, I feel like a piece of my empathy is being taken away, being chipped at, making me “apathetic” to my own oppression… this type of sht drains people of color.. so they stay away from it as much as they can. Yet no matter how much they run away, now matter how much we already dictate our tone everyday to avoid conversation with white people like JT… it JT’s racist micro-aggression and HIS ILK always find us and smack us in the fcking mouth.

***

As a person of color who has to constantly deal with this type of rhetoric from well meaning white liberal allies… I am always shocked, even though I know it is terribly predictable, by the amount of ignorance coming from privileged people who seek to “instruct” minorities on proper ways to behave. It really is disturbing, this sht is not even about JT.. it is about white privilege in general. His response is sooooooooooo cliche to every fcking person of color, in that it functions in a racist way. His response is not unique, it is the same racist rhetoric we are constantly barraged with everyday. In fact, he ain’t even the only one.. if you follow crommunist on twitter, you can see how even Matt Dillihunty felt obligated to share his “enlightened” opinion on how to proceed. The conversation that I saw was not only condescending, passive aggressive, and stupid, but also reveal that yes, even people on FTB like matt dillihunty should STFU once in a while and understand that if your ignorant about a subject – do not argue your fcking case like you understand it. Fck Matt, Fck JT, and fck any white privileged dck who want to come and tell me or anyone how to act. (I recall that other arse from “cammels with hammers” doing something similar – oh and his ignorant arse is now at patheos too… good riddance. He had nothing of substance to say when he tone policed either.. jerk)

Man, I live through this sht… and I will tell any white person right up front any time we begin a conversation about race, that they can never say anything, anything that I have not heard before . Therefore their advice is not only unwarranted but useless. Not only that, I then have to explain to ignorant white folk how an amalgamation of these “bits of casual advice” over a lifetime of dealing with racism… is actually just a racist microagression. So when I reject that advice based on their ignorance, most then write entire treatise trying to defend themselves… and as “white allies” they somehow think I am obligated to go over ignorant BS everyday to “teach the white man how to be not racist.” When they are too lazy to pick up a fcking book and read for themselves about racism – which in about 5 fcking minutes would demolish any god damn “argument” they put up. What a waste of fcking space. Ignorant white folk, always stuck in racism 101…

Probably the only reason I stick around on FTB is because I found a few white folk here… who actually fcking get it – well not all of it, but get it to a degree where I do not feel the need to have to educate anyone on any racism 101 BS.

I just want to say this is just a trend to a larger problem, and it is tiring… How many hours do I have to spend educating some white privileged buffoon, only to have another one come in 5 minutes later and almost demand I educate him as well on the same exact sht? I mean, the responses are always the same cliche BS… and even if by some luck I manage to get someone to turn around… that don’t mean sht to a lot of white folk. All they seem to care about is making themselves be less racist… not actually concerned about ending racism by actually doing something about it. Most white folk only enter the issue when tone policing… then they leave, no matter if they were finally convinced that they are wrong, or ignorantly insisted they are right till the end… they always leave and then never actually do anything about it. So crommunist was right… man don’t give me that BS that you care.. cause a lot of you don’t and that shows through actions.

Let me explain this one, cause this is a stumbling block for a lot of white folk. Most white folk “care” as much about racism as I, and most of us “care about starving children in Africa.” This is a normal everyday human flaw. We care about things that effect us, and hit home with us, more than we care about things that do not effect us and are far away.

I “care” about starving children in Africa as in… if told about the issue I say it is wrong, then I go spend absurd amounts of money on food and throw half of it out. I just go about my day, making no effort whatsoever to help starving children. I feel sorry for them, I think it is a shame, I think they deserve help… and I do nothing about it. Even when I am part of a system that works to oppress people like that.

Most people are exactly like this, otherwise there would be more Aid going to solve the world hunger problem. So when anyone says they “care” about world hunger…. it is this shallow from of caring. A caring that is only committed to words, and not actions – a caring that absolutely does nothing for people who are starving but makes us feel like we are “oh so good people cause we care.”

Note* Before someone comes with with the silly point of “that means we can’t talk about any issue then?” No, it does not mean that. It means that, as you will read below, because of the nature of things this kind of apathy is, terribly normal – and no one can truly care about all causes… which is why you have to pick the ones you care most about. This would suggest that, if you want to talk about an issue you are not effected by directly, and are not involved in, in some way shape of form… then you probably got no business “giving instructions or advice” the ones who actually care. You should instead ask questions and attempt to educate yourself, rather than argue any point of give advice.

Basically…. lots of white privileged people pay lip-service to being anti-racist but when asked to commit any action.. most of them not only decline, but out of ignorance, like JT and Matt, usually function in a racist manner. The only ones who are actually qualified to say they care about racism are the ones effected by it, and the ones working in some fashion to end it. All the rest… “care” in a sense that is not practical to solving the problem.

Now, this is not a crime… and, even though it is fairly normal, that is not to say it is not an issue either. Apathy like this is an issue, it is an issue the people in the movement have to fight against. They have to make people care more than they do, care enough to commit to some action, no matter how small. People are also “too busy to care” and that is not a crime either, but it is an issue that needs attention. This stuff is relatively OK, I am ok with a white person fighting for a social issue that hits close to home… good for that person.. what I do not care for is people insisting they care, when really…. they don’t care all that much. Then what really pisses me off is how “offended” they get at a minority who rejects their shallow opinions… and how they try to victimize themselves by saying “I was your ally!” and such nonsense. That is crap.

The degree in which you are measured to care about an issue, the degree in which you gain credibility as an ally, is not through fiat or announcement.. it is seen through what you do. Those who spend no time educating themselves about an issue before they speak about it and hurt people; those who commit to no action ending a social issue, those who frequently land on the side of “telling a minority how to act” in unsolicited advice…. those people who say they “care”…. well that, that is BS. Take that sht out of here. I tire of it. When you start railroading people who are doing something about it, when you are constantly in the way of minorities speaking out… then, no you don’t fcking care. Whatever your intentions are, whatever warm fuzzy feeling you might want to pull out a conversation, or whatever intellectual point you want to raise out of curiosity about issues that actually hurt people…. that does not count as caring, so fck off.

With that… Lets look at JT’s and Matt’s “actions”…

1) JT and Matt almost never talks about racism, and are, to my knowledge, not involved in any anti-racist movement in any meaningful way. (This shows how much they care about it) This means neither of them has credibility if any of them claim they “care about racism.” No one is inclined to believe that sht, and no the benefit of the doubt is not a given.

2) The one time I see JT and Matt talk about racism… they are either trying to tell a minority “you are doing it wrong” (JT) or trying to argue some stupid insipid intellectual point (MD). Aint that funny… they never talk about racism, and when they finally do, instead of talking about how bad and racist that question was, instead of educating people why this question is racist, instead of using the minorities anger to show how deeply racism effects us emotionally… they argue that minorities need to behave in this “balanced” way when confronting racism. JT insisting he knows better if someone is acting racist with intent, and Matt insisting that he does not berate people in the same fashion… what fcking laughable points.

That speaks… and it speaks of them not as allies, but as fools. White privileged fools who need to STFU. Now, the exchange with crommunist and matt was not that long, so I am done with Matt… let me dig in deeper with JT.

3) JT said he walked out because he did not like the tone of what that POC was saying in her defense against racism. WOW. So you never talk about racism, and when you get the opportunity to learn something from someone who suffers from it you “walk out” in protest of the tone? Then you berate the person for not having a more sympathetic reaction to white racism? You go off the walls, writing pages and pages of intellectual racist garbage practically defending the “right” of white people to say whatever racist garbage they want, while telling minorities that they are only allowed to use their anger about racism in a specific way (a way you get to define as “productive”, and a way where that productivity centers the conversations primary objective on making the white person less racist (why should that be?).. instead of just… talking about how bad racism is and how it effects minorities). FFS…

This guy by fcking definition of anti-racist ally… just functioned in a way that would categorize him not as one, but also probably acting like a racist himself. He “exited the room in protest?” Are you fcking serious? Someone should tell him that there is this racism against strong black women, and that type of racist bias.. tends to make lots of white men not only not listen to strong black women, but also try to make them out of “irrational” or “berating”.. and guess what this mther fcker just did? If that is not a racist microagression, and no one better fcking tell me any different, then I don’t know what is.

I have like loads more to say…. but… whatever, I got more sht to do in meatspace rather than specifically outline how lots of white liberals betray minorities at every turn.

 

Thank you, dezn_98.

I encourage those of you who are prepared to keep listening to read the linked threads, and definitely read our own Black Skeptics, and Crommunist’s archives. None of us who have not directly experienced racism will ever know on a visceral level what it’s like, but by listening to those who have, we can at least gain some comprehension, and understand what we need to do to help end this shit.

Those of you not prepared to listen… please just walk away until you are. And for fuck’s sake, at the very least, refrain from lecturing oppressed people on how to react to oppression.

[notice] Hola, new commenters! Please do peruse the comment policy thoroughly before you expend valuable time sharing your thoughts. Or tl;dr: I reserve the right to drop asshats in the trash without a second glance. Bad behavior elsewhere will also get you instabanned here. Not an asshat or someone who’s been kicked out of other places for bad behavior? Then you’re probably cool. Thanks for reading![/notice]

One Reason Why False Rape Allegation Statistics Are So High

Men, even good men, believe women lie about rape. There’s this myth that runs amok saying that some enormous proportion of rape accusations are just women lying to get attention, or revenge, or to hide their summer fling from mommy and daddy. And they believe it without question.

When male friends toss that grenade at me, I toss it back by asking if they know what the percentage is. “Fifty percent,” they’ll say, or above, depending on which MRAs their stats are coming from.

“It’s two to eight percent,” I say, and I need to remember to never do this when they’re walking or have something in their mouths, because the good ones are always staggered, and they always gasp. “But even those numbers are on the high side.”

Image courtesy Tim Fields via Flickr.

Image courtesy Tim Fields via Flickr.

I don’t need to go in to detail with the good ones. I don’t need to do more than remind them what actually happens to women who report. They realize immediately that very few people would be so motivated by some other factor that they would willingly subject themselves to the hell that is rained down upon rape victims. And then I remind them that while our culture often makes reporting a rape worse than the rape itself, when it comes to male victims, it’s damned near impossible to report at all. And if you’re a trans* person? Hell doesn’t even begin to describe it. Once we have finished that brief survey of Rape Culture Today, the good ones never spout nonsense statistics again.

For those who stubbornly wish to believe that bitches be lyin’, I can point them at studies. I have before and will again. But in the future, I will first make them chew on this “false” rape allegation statistic until their teeth break.

[error]Massive trigger warning for graphic description of violent sexual assault and horrific treatment by law enforcement[/error]

Now, some of them will spit out that report along with their shattered teeth and flap their bleeding gums at me: “That’s just an anecdote.” And that is true. It is just one data point behind the 2-8%. Since we are Good Skeptics™, we know to look beyond anecdotes.

So let me add in a study of police attitudes toward rape victims. It would seem EEB isn’t alone, then. And if we could factor in the victims who never reported at all because of shit like this, that “false” rape allegation statistic would drop like a rock. Since they don’t, the statistics are skewed, making “false” allegations look more prevalent.

Now add the horrific treatment victims experience from defense attorneys who believe they’re scum. I can tell you from experience this can be worse than the rape. It can be a form of torture, and like torture victims, some rape victims will recant just to make the pain stop. Magically, their allegation is now “false.” But they’re no less raped, and the rapist is no less a sexual predator.

Add in the fact that some rapists have the lock on society, and can crush their victims. If their victims had the courage to report, they’ve soon got their buddies to sweep the crime under the rug. And another several ticks are added in the “false” rape allegation column.

Add in children who receive such a terrifying reaction to their attack that they recant just to protect themselves. More “false” rape allegations.

What about victims who aren’t supported by friends and family because many cultures make it easier to believe the victims are filthy, disgusting, crazy liars rather than people suffering from sexual assault? I think you know what happens to the statistics by now.

Add in the fact that some police departments don’t make a distinction between “reports that are actually, genuinely, provably false” and “reports that can’t be prosecuted due to statue of limitations, lack of evidence, or some other reason, but no doubt the victim was assaulted.” Both numbers end up counting under “false” allegations, although a sizable percentage weren’t false at all.

Add in about a trillion circumstances I haven’t remembered to include. Compare that to the enormous number of rapes and sexual assaults.

Image courtesy roga muffin via Flickr.

Image courtesy roga muffin via Flickr.

The reality is that false rape allegations are a tiny bit of flotsam on a sea of rape. Even if that 2-8% number were accurate, it would still be far too small to use to discount rape allegations out of hand. The fact that even that tiny percentage is inflated by cases like EEB’s should ensure that every decent human being treat victims’ reports as provisionally true. The idea that most or even many rape allegations are false is an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence. Those who continue to insist otherwise have forfeited any right to be considered good people.

The Path of the Privileged Paternalistic Ass

Another day, another person spinning out because they insist they know better than the people who actually deal with the same shit over and over and over every fucking day of their lives. After watching a pattern of behavior unfold itself over years, I’ve come to the conclusion that JT’s decided to walk the path of the privileged paternalistic ass at an early age. Many of us do. Hopefully he’ll have the courage to realize it’s a dumbshit direction and make a course correction, before he turns into a Mark Farris.

36ca4e08-e6b4-49ea-863b-ff50fffc99e8But I’m not really here to talk about him, or to him. Said all I needed to say in a private communication. If he chooses to make his response public, I shall fisk it thoroughly then. But I won’t be doing it for him. He’s proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s incapable of comprehending why he’s not the ally he claims to be. There are, however, onlookers who watch the famous folk go careening off the track and realize, oh shit, that’s a slippery road. I’d better listen to the people who drive it every day before I, too, end up in the ditch, shamefacedly waiting for a tow.

I was one of those speed-demons, once. Happily, this was in the days before I could make a spectacular ass of myself in public, but I’m sure I managed to put my foot squarely in it many a time. I had that condescending attitude towards many minorities. Figured they’d be better off if they were quieter, politer, more patient, less demanding, and for fuck’s sake, why are they attacking their own allies? Sheesh, you’d think they’d be more grateful that these non-minority are trying to assist them with helpful questions and sage advice, sticking up for their rights and all (as long as they aren’t obnoxious about it). Fucking good thing I didn’t come to any sort of activism until later in life, because I would’ve been that clueless git getting it with both barrels from someone utterly fed up with JAQoffs.

I learned a few things before I had a chance to unhinge my jaw. One: STFU. Two: Listen. No, really listen, not merely allow the minority in question to jabber until they were done and I can get on with what I was splaining to them. Three: I am bloody fucking ignorant, and a lot more privileged than I’d ever realized. Four: Ignorance is no damn excuse. It’s my responsibility to educate myself, and apologize if I spout off without having done so.

Looking back, it’s not those paternalistic folks counseling calm and accommodation who changed the world. No, it was the stomped-on folk themselves, getting loud and in-your-face, who did that. Do you think Rosa Parks would’ve struck the match that lit the kindling of the Civil Rights Movement if she’d moved to the back of the bus, explaining meekly on her way why this is sort of not nice? Nope. I don’t think Martin Luther King could’ve done what he did without being loud and defiant. Not to mention, don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he wasn’t white. And those more radical folk, the ones who terrified the poor privileged white people? They helped. They made it impossible to ignore the issue. They made it impossible to return to the status quo.

Women weren’t handed their voting rights by enlightened men: they fought tooth and nail for them, enduring vicious attacks along the way.

LGBTQ folk haven’t made strides in equality by letting straight folk decide when and where they would be allowed to become equally human. They’ve done it by being loud and proud, and pulling the hetero cis people along in their wake.

I could go on and on and on, and on further still. But the point is, this paternalistic bullshit is just that: eau de cow’s arse. And it’s sadly predictable. Scratch the surface of any civil rights movement, and you’ll find plenty of people not belonging to the oppressed class who have all the advice on how to make waves without rocking the boat, and oh, you might want to make those waves barely noticeable, because otherwise someone in the status quo may become inconvenienced.

I know part of why that is, being a member of the white middle-class cis hetero contingent: it’s fucking uncomfortable.

It’s really unpleasant to watch clueless (intentionally or otherwise) people getting reamed by an outraged minority, and realizing, “Ohshit, that coulda been me, I think like that!” It’s damned uncomfortable to admit that people are pissed off for a reason, and probably would be pissed off at you, if you popped out with your privilege. It hurts to admit you are privileged, despite whatever disadvantages you may suffer. It’s painful to admit you, too, are one of the prejudiced, uncomprehending arseholes these poor folks deal with day after day after day. It’s really godsdamned difficult to change. And it’s so hard to shut the fuck up and listen.

I went through it when I starting reading Natalie Reed’s blog. Oh, the things I wanted to say… she pushed all my buttons, made me angry and uncomfortable and afraid. I wanted to tell her all about how she was turning off potential allies, how she should be kinder and gentler and so forth. But I kept my mouth shut and kept reading, and eventually, after much thought and reading in other places, realized she was right and I was wrong. I also realized that if she hadn’t hit me with a hammer, that privileged shell of mine wouldn’t have cracked. And that has been true of every other minority or disadvantaged person who’s hit me with hammers of their own. Their passion and anger broke through the comfortable fog of Being Right Because I Am White Cis Hetero Middle Class.

Hopefully, those on the path of the privileged paternalistic ass will have their own Damascus moments, and realize it might be a fantastic idea to try following instead of leading for once. To listen, learn, and accept the fact that you will never, ever know what it’s like to walk in those particular shoes, so don’t bloody pretend you know every blister. You’re going to be stumbling around, and it’s uncomfortable as hell, and sometimes you’re going to fall down and skin your knees, because it’s not so easy and smooth, this other path. You don’t know where you’re going, and you have to follow even though you liked being a leader. It’ll make you want to scream sometimes. But for all that, I’ve found it the better path. The people are more interesting, the world is full of variety I’d never known, and there’s hope that humanity will get shit figured out if enough of us walk this path together.

I’m glad for all the screaming that got me this far. Thank you, my loud and proud and demanding friends. Please continue to drop the hammer when I fuck up. I’ll appreciate it once the stinging stops. Hopefully, a few more of my fellow privileged people will join us here soon.

The Parable of “But That’s Not Theft!”

Ah. I see the fail is out in force, and some of our more despicable community members are attempting to redefine rape out of existence. Some of these shitlords are, themselves, rapists or wanna-be rapists who would like to ensure society will not recognize them as rapists and act accordingly. Some of them are proper little fanchildrenz, who wish to convince themselves that their heroz never in a billion trillion years committed the horrific act of rape, so of course the non-consensual sex those heroz inflicted upon other people totes wasn’t rape.

Neither of these categories are likely to understand the following parables, as they are motivated to not understand. To them, I am not speaking.

But there may be those in the audience who are wearing their rape-culture goggles, and as a result can’t see rape as rape. For them, the following series of parables may be of some benefit.

Some of the many things that are not consent. Not having clear, enthusiastic consent means you should probably err on the side of not raping someone. Photo courtesy Garry Knight via Flickr.

Some of the many things that are not consent. Not having clear, enthusiastic consent means you should probably err on the side of not raping someone. Photo courtesy Garry Knight via Flickr.

Parable 1: “But That’s Not Theft!”

Mr. Sherman is a very famous bloke, and ever-so-valuable to this community. He’s got a column in a venerable old magazine! He’s written many books! He’s in high demand as a speaker!

You are one among the many thousand who respect him. One of this books even changed your life. So far, so wonderful.

He’s bound to have lots of money. Rolling in it. And when you have the good fortune to meet him at a seminar, you’re shocked and flattered that this famous wealthy person wants to spend time with little old you. He even invites you to the bar for a drink that evening. And you find yourself walking on clouds.

Mr. Sherman has two drinks with you, while you burble about how life-changing his books have been, trying not to sound too over-flattering. He seems to like you. Compliments your intelligence. Admires your sense of style. In fact, after the first drink, he even asks if he can wear your watch.

A very lovely and valuable old watch, not something you'd let just anybody wear. Image courtesy Darron Birgenheier via Flickr.

A very lovely and valuable old watch, not something you’d let just anybody wear. Image courtesy Darron Birgenheier via Flickr.

It feels terribly awkward, but you decline. Family heirloom. You’d feel very uncomfortable letting anyone borrow it, even Mr. Sherman. So sorry!

You’re very relieved when he takes that refusal in stride.

After your second drink together, you both decide the bar is growing too loud, and decide to seek somewhere quieter. You offer to pay for the drinks – after all, you’re having a great time, and you want to give your personal hero something nice. Mr. Sherman protests it’s not necessary, but gracefully accepts.

Hungry, you go to dinner together. You share a bottle of good wine, and though you want to be frugal, you let Mr. Sherman talk you into the very expensive steak-and-lobster entree. And you enjoy it! You even order dessert. Why not live a little?

At the end of the meal, Mr. Sherman tells you he’s forgotten his wallet. How embarrassing. Could you possibly cover the check?

It’s $150, what with the wine and caviar and everything. You hesitate. You don’t want to do this – you’re not rich, and this will blow your food budget for the entire weekend. But you don’t feel you can say no in these circumstances, so you pay up, plus tip, but tell Mr. Sherman that’s it. You’re broke.

Well, of course he understands. And to show his appreciation and prove there are no hard feelings, he invites you to his room, where he’s got a nice bottle of sherry. You’ve both had so much fun talking, it would be a shame to end it now.

When you get there, he gives you plenty of sherry. And he admires your cell phone. What a beautiful device! Brand new, the most recent model, really fast and smart. Mr. Sherman would love to try out a phone like that. His SIM card would fit yours – could he borrow it for the weekend? He’ll swap his phone with you.

You advise him, feeling very uncomfortable, that you don’t really feel like that’s a good idea. You’d rather not.

Mr. Sherman understands completely. And gives you a very nice gin and tonic, as the sherry was a bit too sweet. And by this time, you’re so drunk the room’s begun to wobble. But you don’t feel you can decline another. And then the evening’s drinking catches up to you.

The rest of the night’s a blur, but you remember flashes. Like when Mr. Sherman takes your watch off, and you’re pretty sure you asked him not to, but he didn’t seem to notice and you were too plastered to insist he give it back. You were pretty much passed out when he took your cell phone. And you were completely unconscious when he ran off with your car keys.

I'm sure your car was very nice. So kind of you to give it away. Image courtesy John O'Nolan via Flickr.

I’m sure your car was very nice. So kind of you to give it away. Image courtesy John O’Nolan via Flickr.

You wake up, hung over and hurting, and find your stuff gone.

Have you been robbed?

Really?

Mr. Sherman didn’t take your stuff at gunpoint, right? Isn’t it true you paid for the drinks and dinner? And you willingly went back to his room, and drank yourself comatose – on his alcohol, you know. Why would you have done that when you knew he wanted your watch and cell phone? Isn’t it possible you changed your mind about giving them to him? And since you let him take those, why should anyone believe you when you say you definitely didn’t give him permission to take your car? Where’s the evidence he did any of that against your will? He doesn’t need to steal stuff – he’s rich and people give him things all the time. Aren’t you just saying he robbed you because you woke up regretting the fact you’d given your heirloom watch away? You’re just trying to get attention by accusing somebody famous! And really, if you actually did get robbed, why didn’t you report it to the police?

This is what you hear from friends, acquaintances, hotel security, the seminar staff… by the end of the ordeal, you choose not to report it to the police, because they won’t do anything when it’s just your word against a famous person’s, and if you press charges, Mr. Sherman and his fans will make your life hell, and he won’t even be convicted if it ever does make it to court because, hey, you were drunk and just asking to be robbed. Besides, you can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn’t give him your stuff.

You let the matter drop because you can’t go through more of this and worse.

Does that mean you weren’t really robbed? Or that Mr. Sherman isn’t a thief?

Think carefully before you answer.

 

Stay tuned for our next episode: the Parable of the Enema.