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Oct 08 2012

Bizarro World

“If the catacombs were good enough for the early Christians, then I can survive Obama’s America”

An increasingly common narrative amongst the contemporary American evangelical movement is that of the persecuted Christians. Good men and women whose religious rights are increasingly trampled by a dominant secular, atheist, liberal majority who are trying to bend and subvert their beliefs to their amoral godlessness. The questions of gay marriage or birth control or abortion aren’t matters of protecting the human rights of those with same-sex attractions or the reproductive rights of women, but instead an instance of violating the religious rights of Christians, one of which is apparently the “right” to impose one’s own moral doctrine on everyone else, and to force one’s particular religious ethics into public space and law.

In the more extreme interpretations of this narrative, evangelicals quite literally liken themselves to early Christians, persecuted by the Romans, ready to be tossed to the lions. They imagine that the dominant authority in our culture is a ruthless secular humanism, and that Christians are a small, victimized underdog. Nevermind the remarkable consistency with which the most powerful, wealthy and elite in North America have been Christian, including ALL presidents of the United States to date.

No, Obama is not a muslim.

Let’s turn to MRAs. A dominant feature of the entire mythos that supports this movement, and lends the veneer of “human rights activist” legitimacy to its proponents, is the idea that western culture has, in varying degrees, become dominated by a feminist ideology that benefits women at the expense of men. Many will make dead serious claims about the “gynocracy” that now governs our lives. Men are oppressed by women’s sexuality, by women’s rights, by women’s employment, by women’s capacity to make choices about who they do or do not sleep with, by women’s reproductive rights (which allegedly ignore “fathers’ rights”; it’s not your body going through that process, dudes. You already consensually performed the portion of your own physical involvement. Unless you were raped, your rights were wholly respected), by women’s role in the home, by women’s acceptance of “chivalry” and benevolent sexism, by women’s rejection of “chivalry” and benevolent sexism, and in some claims, even women’s right to vote is regarded as “misandry” and a violation of what men fairly deserve.

There is also a narrative spinning off from this in which it is regarded as an act of injustice, misandry and bigotry for women to regard certain men as “creepy”. The language women (and anyone else, really) use to assert their boundaries of intimacy and prevent harassment or sexual assault has come to be painted as itself a form of “persecution”, classified under the banner of “shaming language” or “shaming tactics”. In some cases, feminist terminology is outright appropriated to prop up this conceptualization of social/sexual dynamics; such as when I was once called out as having no right to describe myself as feminist due to my previous association with Rebecca Watson, who had “slut-shamed” the so-called elevator guy by (quite mildly) admonishing his aggressive and frightening attempts to solicit intimacy.

Slut-shaming, to be clear, is not simply ANY act of shaming someone for an expression of sexuality. It is a very specific means of disaabusing women, men-who-have-sex-with-men (especially if femme), and trans men (if misgendered and conceptualized as women), of the notion that they have a right to express sexual agency AT ALL. A straight man literally cannot be slut-shamed. That is the nature of patriarchy. If you doubt this, show me a significant set of examples of straight men being directly admonished as “sluts / “whores”, in earnest, with no irony. And the assertion of boundaries, the right to say no, is never an act of “slut shaming” or “sex negativity”, regardless of gender (though slut-shaming may coincide with a refusal, of course. Saying “no” is always someone’s right, but saying “no, because…” can be considerably more complex).

Amongst the most terrifying examples of “shaming language” that MRAs describe as an unfair persecution is the very direct, basic, and absolutely necessary phrase “you make me feel afraid”. Seriously.

The commonalities between the narrative of the “persecuted Christian” and the “persecuted men” are hard to ignore.

This extends into race as well. White supremacism is often smuggled into “reasonable” discourse through the concept of “reverse racism”, the idea being that civil rights and racial equality were good things, but they did their job, and have now gone “too far” and on into the direction of creating an inequality from which white people now suffer. This is, naturally, absurd, but the concept is incredibly stubborn. Affirmative Action, for instance, rather than being seen as an attempt to respond to the unfair advantages and privileges conferred on white people by the legacy of wealth and status and nepotism handed down over the generations, an attempt to “level the playing field”, it is regarded as some unfair attempt to “get back” at white men and give minorities an unfair advantage. People of colour who engage in race-related activism are regarded as “angry” and as simply having not “gotten over” various “things our ancestors did”. White people who regard race activism in a positive light are seen as simply masochistic and suffering from an exaggerated sense of guilt, “sins of the father”. Etc.

“Why is there no White Entertainment Television? Why is there no White History Month? Where’s the White Young Achievers Scholarship for MY kids, huh?”

And along with that: “Where the straight pride parade?” (it’s called “traffic”, and it runs 24/7).

The most overt racists and white supremacists, the kind who lots of everyday racists point to as examples of who the “bad guy” is so as to absolve their complacency in the various microaggressions, privileges and power imbalances they benefit from that define daily life for everyone not in the white / cis / straight / male / currently-able-bodied lottery-winners’ club, will directly make threats about what might happen when all the white people in the country (whichever country) finally have “had enough” of being “persecuted” by the other races.

Yes. I am so not kidding.

The mentality, however, is not restricted to Stormfront. It pervades not only evangelicism, MRA thought, white supremacism and various other fringe elements, but is a defining feature of the Tea Party (branding themselves after a small instance of underdog civil disobedience that sparked a revolutionary war- admittedly, a revolution of privileged colonists against the slightly more privileged colonial power, but a revolution nonetheless, which the same “persecuted underdog” vs. “evil empire” motif available for appropriation). And it drives a whole lot of the energy in contemporary Conservatism itself.

It isn’t even alien to the left, or to feminism and the queer rights movement, where trans women are regarded as evil patriarchal oppressors by some highly vocal elements of feminism and as an angry fringe “appropriating” the gay rights movement by many of the more powerful cis elements of the barely-held-together queer community, where non-op, queer and visibly gender variant trans women, and non-binary transitioners, are regarded as “stealing” trans rights away from the “real” trans women. And don’t even get me started on the poor, brutalized “cis scum” and the horrible imposition of having to learn all those ever so COMPLICATED pronouns.

And of course there are the small victimized underdogs fighting against Big Pharma for the “rights” of children to be denied potentially life-saving vaccines, when they’re in no position to offer or deny consent.

The TERFs, the HBSers, the transphobic cis gay men, the conservatives, the tea party, the white supremacists, “the white race”, straight people, men, Christians… these are all the “real victims”. We’re the real oppressors.

Oh, right, I almost forget to mention: FTBullies.

Somewhere, on the cube-shaped Bizarro homeworld of Htrae, amongst it’s ocean-shaped continents, this stuff is all a very real phenomenon.

I’ve heard it argued many times that this phenomenon, the constant insistence of those in power, struggling to stay in power, that they are “persecuted” by the efforts of disenfranchised groups to claim equal footing is a simple appropriation of what they see as an enemy tactic. The claim runs that feminism, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and so on positioned themselves as the underdogs and victims and this successfully wooed the sympathies of the media and public, leading to the achievement of their goals, and Conservatives cynically regarded this as a “tactic” or PR movement, and adopted it for their own ends.

I do not believe that’s true.

I can absolutely believe that somewhere in some little Conservative think tank, conservative strategists and media figures like Karl Rove or Ann Coulter or Karen Kersten have indeed developed cynical plans for constructing and appropriating public narratives. And I absolutely believe that they’ve deliberately used their arms in the media, that Fox News, to directly sell such narratives to the American public. Yes.

But it’s not the think tanks that believe the narratives or give them their momentum. The think tanks aren’t the voting public, and certainly aren’t A Voice For Men or Stormfront. MRAs and White Supremacists fiercely believe in the literal reality of their fictions. They actually feel that they’re persecuted by women and people of colour.

And you can’t sell someone a lie that they don’t want to believe, anyway.

These narratives, as said, are also pervasive well beyond Conservatism. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about movement atheism and its overlaps with things like mens’ rights activism, and the intensity with which the “persecuted atheist” narrative is clung to, maintained, beloved, packaged and repackaged and told over and over again. If an atheist blogger really wants hits, they don’t go for controversy: they find or write or exaggerate a news story about Christians picking on atheists, or violating their rights. Like that whole gelato thing last year. How does that relate?

The sense I get is that people, relative to their privilege, are often very desperate to regard themselves as victims and underdogs, and that this is something that occurs on its own, regardless of the precise social, cultural or political context. It certainly occurs often enough, and with enough consistency and recognizable patterns, as to regard it as something that isn’t limited to particular circumstances.

I wonder if it’s connected to the whole cognitive dissonance that surrounds the recognition of privilege itself. People routinely become very defensive when the subject of their privilege is brought up. And I understand that. I still often get defensive when my own privileges are directly addressed. It’s not something that’s at all easy for people to look at and think about.

I think there’s a sort of basic cognitive… thingy… that underlies that. Generally speaking, we want to believe that all the good things we have in our lives are earned, and that all the bad things in our lives aren’t our fault at all. When it comes to other people, whatever good things they have that we don’t was just because of luck, and whatever bad things in their lives we don’t have to deal with were deserved. At the same time as allowing us to avoid guilt or anxieties over our relative position in life, this kind of distorted thinking (which is ridiculously common, and hard to overcome) also keeps us from having to face the chaotic, uncontrollable nature of the world: that life isn’t fair, consequences aren’t predictable, and sometimes people just get things they don’t deserve, good or bad.

These cognitive distortions obviously run directly counter to an individual’s ability to recognize social privilege, but when applied to a situation in which another party is trying to overcome social disadvantages and undue that privilege… well… that creates a situation in which you’re apt to perceive yourself as being treated unfairly. Someone who is trying to unfairly break free of the negative consequences of their own actions, and take away all your rightly-earned advantages in the process. Presto: the “we’re the real victims” mentality in a nutshell.

The sad thing, though, about the way that these kind of highly destructive, highly pervasive social phenomena can stem from very basic cognitive distortions is that it casts a rather pessimistic outlook for being able to address and overcome them. If it were simply a manufactured narrative disseminated through Fox News, a reasonable conclusion drawn from falsified information, it would be as simple as disseminating new narratives and providing people with the actual facts (though the sad thing? The facts that men have more power than women, that white people have more social power, that Christianity isn’t a persecuted minority religion, they’re already obvious. People just have reasons to ignore them). When it’s a result of how our brains work in order to cope with the world… well… we can’t just change our brains, can we? Things get a lot more complex.

It would be nice to believe it’s just a fabricated narrative. But facing what’s really there instead of what we’d like to see is one of the most important things keeping us from becoming just another faction in a big make-believe game of “oppressors vs. victims”.

30 comments

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  1. 1
    Michael Halila

    Brilliant stuff. Thanks for writing it. You’re right that it’s a general phenomenon of privilege denial. My home country is currently overrun with MRAs of the most disgusting kind, insisting that white, straight men have no privileges whatsoever. They partly overlap with our rising racist movement, which pounces on any opportunity to portray its dominantly white, male, middle-class membership as a persecuted minority. So over here at least, this “self-victimization” is becoming a dominant voice in politics.

    A particularly popular, and incredibly heinous, tactic used by our racist politicians is to rebrand the very idea of racism. They’re aggressively promoting the idea that criticism of their party is racism, as is any kind of talk about privilege. For the MRA’s, on the other hand, any talk of sexism is itself sexism. It’s really a kind of newspeak, where the majority is a minority and privilege is persecution. And the chilling thing is that the media far too often commits the journalistic fallacy of “hearing both sides out”, as if the deranged lies of racists have equal value with facts. This leads to many, many people genuinely believing that feminists and anti-racists are extremists like racists and MRA’s, and that there’s supposedly a “sensible middle ground” between the two. And that’s truly terrifying.

    It’s really good to have you back. We missed your blog!

  2. 2
    besomyka

    I agree with you that there may be talking heads that take these positions intentionally, but that most people really to believe it. If you talk to people about whatever the topic is, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t just playing a word game. There’s no glint in their eye of a gotcha moment. They, by-and-large, believe they are speaking the truth.

    I am wary that I may fall into that from time to time as well, but I try to be self-aware. And when I fail, to try and accept genuine criticism. Also hard.

  3. 3
    Prodigeek

    This dynamic also occurs within the geek/nerd community, oddly enough (or perhaps not) resembling the MRA community.

    http://jackinthebrain.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/on-the-rise/

    1. 3.1
      Natalie Reed

      Excellent article on the same process, definitely.

      1. Prodigeek

        Thank you. :)

  4. 4
    Blake Stacey

    In the Tom Robbins novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the tribe of the Clock People deliberately channel all their compulsions to engage in ritual into a single duty: resetting a giant hourglass in a cave. That way, they can free themselves from dogmas and rituals which are actually harmful.

    My friend Omri once told me that, if he ever feels tempted to buy in to a conspiracy theory, he’ll dive in and accept the claim that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare’s plays. “A nice, irrelevant conspiracy,” as he says. And, OK, there’s a disturbing level of class rage among the vocal anti-Stratfordians—”The son of a glovemaker could never write plays,” they sneer—but it is rather further removed from daily affairs than many other purported cabals we could name. (And, as Borges said, there’s a great espionage-thriller plot waiting in the “Marlowe faked his own death” story.)

    I wonder if a similar gambit could siphon off the appeal of the “we’re the persecuted minority” narrative. I’d comment about this at greater length, but I need to get back to my manifesto about how the Hollywood machine is crushing fans of classic Star Trek by replacing storytelling and theme with retreaded plots and rampaging lens flare.

  5. 5
    renetaprescott

    I think this is an overarching problem that all boils down to the fact that our culture doesn’t on a whole promote, protect, or teach people critical thought. It doesn’t teach people on a whole how to dismantle and critically evaluate our ideas, emotions and propensities. Our culture is intellectually lazy, and we are raised to be that way. We aren’t raised to test everything, we are raised, from the get go to just follow what we are told. We aren’t taught to use sound methodology to come to the conclusions about how we behave and how we perceive the world. That is the real problem. Humans aren’t rational but we believe we are. It is literally, in some ways, cultural insanity. We don’t know we have a problem so we keep pushing forward without addressing out pitfalls. We believe we are things which we are not because we haven’t dismantled them and understood the phenomenon that makes us that way.

    Even the born good, born evil mentality around mental health, and around criminal behavior has come under fire. More and more it would appear that almost anyone is capable of doing evil given the right set of circumstances. However, the counter of reality is enshrined as sacred in the mindsets of so many people. People believe themselves rational, therefore they don’t challenge their motivations. They believe themselves to be fair, therefore they don’t challenge their privilege. The list goes on. And even for those who do challenge all those things, for those who do test their “intuition”, who do “test” their motivations there is still those phenomena that they need to be worried about. Sometimes a person can try so hard to be fair, that the begin to feel superior in it. And they can, at that point genuinely miss their other unfairnesses, or even become unfair because their efforts were broken by a failure to recognize their own internal inconsistencies, that for a moment they failed to be critical about their own actions and motivations.

    The key to being fair, the key to understanding ones humanity, intuitions, emotions, ego and ones own “rose-colored glasses, through which we see ourselves as different from the world” is to have a sound method about evaluating those things which is both consistent, and capable of being maintained “indefinitely”. Each individual needs to be aware of the fact that human’s aren’t perfect, and that in order to be the most fair, the most just, and the most moral we can be that we need to be dedicated to self-reflection and to critical thought (some of this is stuff that religion plays off of for conformity). Critical thought about every aspect of what makes us who we are. To seek out everything that we find sacred and challenge it. To have no need for sacred, because we have internally learned to hold and recognize evidence as “sufficient”. In essence, to be scientists of our own minds. To be experts of our own egos, not simply because we possess them, but because we have dissected, objectively observed and understood them (of course dissection in the abstract rather than literal sense, unless you want to be like that guy from the move π).

    In a broader sense though, self understanding is the window to understanding others, but there is no simple road to that path. It is a path paved with consistent and continuous effort. There is not “fix”, or “one time use” solution. That is the reality, unless you like living in a Pavlovian world.

    1. 5.1
      Prodigeek

      Renetaprescott, that was wonderful. I could have written those words from my own thoughts. Feel free to check out my blog. You might enjoy it. ;)

  6. 6
    Rasmus

    I tend to lump in MRAs with truthers, United Nations conspiracy theorists, survivalists and other people who spend way too much time fantasizing about living in a 1860-like future when muscle power still ruled.

    Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I hope that these anti-’reverse discrimination’ movements will fizzle out because of a lack of people who are sufficiently primed with weird enough worldviews.

    By the way my litmus test for self-proclaimed feminism critics is whether or not they will go for the “what about the men in poor countries?” line when you talk about the need for women’s rights in poorer countries. If you are someone who thinks that feminism is wrong in countries where women lack many basic rights then I can see no reason to believe that you are being honest with me when you say that you support those equal rights that we already have in my rich country.

  7. 7
    theelectricturtle

    Ugh, all so true. The evangelical one was super strong when I was growing up. Nowadays I like to joke, “oh Christians. Couple of them got fed to the lions 2000 years ago and they still haven’t gotten over it.”

  8. 8
    theelectricturtle

    Another tactic used by Christians in particular to disavow their privilege is to bring the sincerity of faith of all Christians in public life into question. This takes a particular bizarre racist dimension with Obama, but he’s hardly the only one whom they take to be less than totally born-again.

  9. 9
    Kim Rippere

    I don’t comment often. But, I wanted to tell you how often I find myself reading your posts, nodding, and thinking. Frequently, I do not know that it is a posting of yours until after I have read it – then I seek out the author and it is you. I appreciate you.

  10. 10
    todd bstevens

    I can walk, from here, to a ginormous statue of praying hands at Oral Roberts U. I applied there, and I ask you to blind trust my qualifications, but as a Quaker I was rejected. To teach writing. This was, mind you, before mentioning R (who admittedly is both Jewish and trans).

    Glen (jerk) Beck said at one point they dont surround us we surround them.

    I cannot fathom how these people see themselves as persecuted.

    I kindof am a theist myself, Quaker. Here in OK every damned day this is challenged. Every Day.

    That jerk Beck is right. I remain surrounded.

  11. 11
    Dunc

    Some very interesting thoughts there Natalie…

    One additional possibility to consider is that people tend to think of their own lives in terms of the mythic narratives their culture contains, and we live in a culture with very few mythic narratives, of which one of the most dominant is the “plucky underdog”. Whether it’s the lone hero taking out the terrorists Bruce Willis style, the Scottish patriot taking on the might of the English army for the sake of his murdered love, the no-hope high school sports team getting one over on the favourites, or the Horatio Alger poor boy made good, it’s a trope that’s absolutely everywhere.

    1. 11.1
      im

      One additional possibility to consider is that people tend to think of their own lives in terms of the mythic narratives their culture contains, and we live in a culture with very few mythic narratives, of which one of the most dominant is the “plucky underdog”.

      Pretty true. In fact, I don’t think I can even name a single big story that was not like that. A common subversion is for your hero to be temporarily separated from his massive and powerful country (i.e. Star Trek, Lord of the Rings).

      Another thing reinforcing this trope in the US at least is the Revolutionary War and the necessity of paying homage to it. I suspect that other countries that have never had a huge and permanent revolution might be like this.

      A significant consequence of the lack of big communal mythic narratives is the envy of the underdog even when their situation is fully unenviable. And THAT is why we the omniprivileged envy the gay pride parade and Black History Month. This is part of what I mean by ‘Redeeming Europe’.

  12. 12
    B-Lar

    There is a mothers day, and a fathers day, but what about childrens day? How come we dont get childrens day? Its so unfair! I want a special day where everyone thinks about me!

    Every day is a childrens day.

    -Peanuts

  13. 13
    Winterwind

    “Where the straight pride parade?” (it’s called “traffic”, and it runs 24/7).

    Bang. That was the sound of a deft sentence striking its target.

    1. 13.1
      latsot

      I was quite amazed and delighted to find that my small conservative hometown in North East England has held a Pride march for the last six years. The local news site recently wrote an article about the event and pretty much every comment was about how it was an outrage that ‘normal’ people wouldn’t be able to go into pubs that day.

      Where to begin?

      BTW Natalie, talk about coming back in style. Brilliant post.

    2. 13.2
      im

      Please, can you give this a rest? Some of us do NOT take our heterosexuality for granted! I’ts right for you to call out the derailing forms of this, but it would be good to remember WHY it is wrong because soon, we won’t be the eternally visible default.

      (Assuming that gay pride parades would continue to be a thing once gay people have equal rights and privilege but are not subsumed into the featureless default.)

  14. 14
    karmakin

    Two points.

    First, I think that religious privilege/power is actually a special kind of animal, and comparing it to other forms of privilege/power is difficult, especially of the passive variety. It really is akin to the worst kinds of supremacy in that it’s that blatant and active in playing up their group and as well othering people outside the group, as these actions are often core foundational concepts.

    Second, the MRA movement really is bizarro-world feminism. Basically the MRA movement took what they saw feminism to be, saw that it was successful and mirrored it.

    Unfortunately, the cultural/gender essentialist feminism that they’re mirroring seems to be becoming more prevalent these days.

    1. 14.1
      Prodigeek

      “…blatant and active in playing up their group and as well othering people outside the group”

      How does this make them special? In this respect, and speaking as an atheist myself, I don’t see any difference between the reactionary religious and reactionary atheism.

      And “gender essentialist feminism”? Who’s doing that? Or is that what just what you believe they are perceiving? That is actually what I tend to see as different between them: MRAs being essentialist, and feminism being not essentialist, in general.

      1. karmakin

        Well, I don’t see that much difference either. But I do think that this sort of ideological privilege is largely different from gender/race/sexuality/class privilege for the reasons I mentioned. Not all the time…the latter privileges can be ideological as well (Stormfront, NOM, etc.)..but more often than not they are.

        It’s the difference between active and passive privilege.

        And on Gender/Cultural Essentialism, this is a good article on it.

        http://libcom.org/library/limits-contemporary-anti-oppression-theory-practice

        It’s a little bit too anarchic for my tastes, but I think it makes good points. I’m not sure if the problem is what people believe or the way they’re communicated, but I do think that as it stands right now the language of social justice does have a very strong essentialist bent to it.

        Underneath all the trolling, I think, there’s a subtext of a discussion going on between intersectionists and essentialists which is being lost.

        1. im

          Ugh, cannot read that. I think it has a bunch of what I call ‘oppression essentialism’, basically a perverted form of systemic oppression theory, which is distracting from it’s point.

          it does cover something that sounds a bit like what might be meant by people accusing mainstream social justice of learned helplessness which is interesting, but the point is ignored in favor of anarchist political thought.

          The accusation of cultural essentialism and pandering to white middle class norms seem a bit contradictory, and also I suspect that the author has sterotyped and strawmanned views of white middle class norms and of how the goals of other people disagree.

          BIIIIIIIG pragmatism fail about the violence…
          This is something I see a lot, conflicts between mainstream and radical-anarchist-asshole social justice often consist of both sides arguing about tactics, but the tactics are chosen based on culture and dignity and attitude rather than whether they work. It’s like the scientists in a country at war wanting to use unreliable costly high-tech superweapons, and the conservatives wanting to use old gentlemanly warfare tactics, and then both getting steamrolled by Sun Tzu who actually understands winning. Also, lack of understanding of the radical-moderate interplay in which the radicals never succeed, but scare the enemy into surrendering to the moderates.

          A third side: Should the privileged relinquish power, even? Both sides of SJ tend to be very afraid of having somebody else win the battle for them…

          Not sure what exactly is meant by cultural identity here, although it does sound like they would dislike the Tumblr-style social justice where claimed identities are more important than attributes, failing to identify with an attribute is terrible unless you are trans, and indentities are currency. Of course, there is a little bit of this in the real world, too.

          Decolonize Oakland: wtf?

          The boundaries between this guy and his enemies are not entirely clear.

      2. im

        There are of course more than one kind of MRA. Of course they usually overlap.

        - Lesser PUA/ Anti-Creep-Shaming: Feel threatened due to overreacting to women’s defense of boundaries. I have some empathy for these idiots. Their only problem may be privilege blindness, and I have to say that on an individual level, being Elevator Guy would scare the CRAP out of me, no comment on how the woman would be affected. At least I learned the correct lesson and am careful about making sexual advances, restraining myself if there is any hint of threat.

        -Doomsday Conspiracy Theorists: Often have an oxymoronic attitude about gender essentialism; think women are stupid yet enacted elaborate seekret plan to overthrow men and may believe that feminists favor gender essentialism seeing men as bad. Often look forward to the Great Revolution of Restoring The Patriarchy, may predict The End Of Western Civilization, or a world in which natural constraints will once again force patriarchy.

        -Reactionary: Privilege blind, may or may not be gender essentialist. Basically the Reverse Sexism people. I think often they assume that nobody ever believed gender essentialism or at least no asymmetrical gender essentialism until feminists started criticizing it.

  15. 15
    melissadumont

    I think there’s a sort of basic cognitive… thingy… that underlies that. Generally speaking, we want to believe that all the good things we have in our lives are earned, and that all the bad things in our lives aren’t our fault at all. When it comes to other people, whatever good things they have that we don’t was just because of luck, and whatever bad things in their lives we don’t have to deal with were deserved. At the same time as allowing us to avoid guilt or anxieties over our relative position in life, this kind of distorted thinking (which is ridiculously common, and hard to overcome) also keeps us from having to face the chaotic, uncontrollable nature of the world: that life isn’t fair, consequences aren’t predictable, and sometimes people just get things they don’t deserve, good or bad.

    This is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error, or FAE, in social psychology. This piece here is an interesting take on it that I hadn’t considered it before, but of course now that you’ve pointed it out it seems obvious that it should intersect with- and play a large part in- privilege.

  16. 16
    im

    Please, can you give this a rest? Some of us do NOT take our heterosexuality for granted! I’ts right for you to call out the derailing forms of this, but it would be good to remember WHY it is wrong because soon, we won’t be the eternally visible default.

    (Assuming that gay pride parades would continue to be a thing once gay people have equal rights and privilege but are not subsumed into the featureless default)

    1. 16.1
      im

      oops, did not thread properly. I’m replying to somebody talking about straight pride parades = everyday life for straight people, even though they are not consciously signalling pride.

    2. 16.2
      Natalie Reed

      You think that heteronormativity is EVER going to simply disappear? Really?

      That would require such an enormous overhaul of our society. I’d be shocked if such a cultural understanding of sexuality were even achieved by the 23rd century.

      Even if it and straight privilege WERE to ever be “over”, that wouldn’t erase the LEGACY of heteronormativity or the gay identity that it and heterosexism constructed in our culture. Just like the abolition of slavery, and the initial social/imperial/colonial institutions that originally constructed blackness, hasn’t erased their legacy and implications from our cultural consciousness.

      Maybe a utopian world like that is CONCEIVABLE, but I don’t think anyone should “give it a rest” talking about what OUR culture is like. We aren’t a “post-gay” society and aren’t likely to be so for a very, very long time. Just like we aren’t yet “post-racial” or “post-feminist” or anything remotely close to it.

      Talking about the actual world we live in and it’s actual problems and privileges and inequalities, the real lives that actual people are forced to live, the real experiences that actually shape these identities and necessitate these discourses, is all a hell of a lot more important than talking about extreme hypothetical possibiltiies and various theoretical circumstances where everyone will all be happy happy forever.

    3. 16.3
      Natalie Reed

      P.S. Even if some of you, allegedly, don’t take your heterosexuality for granted (and I honestly wouldn’t believe anyone making this claim. I live with privileges and know how they operate), the fact that you CAN take your heterosexualiy for granted is nonetheless a pretty big deal.

      And, incidentally, the reason I don’t really believe anyone claiming they don’t take Privileged Normative Identity X for granted is precisely because being ABLE to take those things for granted makes it pretty much inevitable that you do.

      You probably just take taking it for granted for granted, and therefore think you’re “not taking it for granted”. Because part of taking your privileged identity for granted is that it’s invisible when you do.

      Privilege is inherently invisible to the privileged. You can’t know exactly what you don’t know.

  17. 17
    Bia

    I quite often feel like I don’t have a home, being that I’m an atheist that quite often doesn’t like other atheists. But your space is welcoming and your posts reassure me I’m not absolutely alone in the universe, thank you for that.

    I have a lot of Christians in my life that I love and interact with on a regular basis. I was raised by Christians with varying beliefs but a few things have seemed pretty common to every Christian I’ve met. They ‘know’ they’re right, (but don’t realize the privilege they assume and granted by their knowing), and quite often attribute any privilege to providence. For many of the Christian MRA they can’t even conceive of being wrong because they are “doing God’s work”.

    For many religious people, they have to overcome two hurdles to understand privilege and systemic oppression. First among these hurdles is the same for everyone, privilege is mostly invisible. The second hurdle is understanding that they can be wrong, because to them we’re not pointing out that they’re mistaken, to them it’s as though we’re saying God was mistaken for putting men in charge in the first place. Of course the underlying mental gymnastics are all the same, it’s just that their chosen religion creates a secondary boundary that makes understanding these issues clearly a very difficult task.

    “I can’t be wrong because God can’t be wrong…”

    “I can’t be wrong because biology clearly favors (men, white people, etc)”

    In any case I firmly believe we’re living in a time where humanity is becoming more connected, more aware, and more educated. But we’re also historically blind, because… you know, “slavery was so long ago,” and “what’s Manifest Destiny?”

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