The incoherence of race and ethnicity

As I’ve mentioned many times, I hold a lead position on The Ace Community Survey. One of the things we track, is ethnicity/race. Many years of dealing with that nightmare of a section has greatly impressed upon me the complexity and ambiguity of the concepts.

One of the big complications is, we’re an international survey. Well, the survey is in English and recruits from English-speaking online communities, so it tends to be biased towards predominantly White countries and the US in particular. But you know what they say about race being a social construct? The primary consequence is that different cultures have constructed race in different ways. The secondary consequence is that even within a single country there are multiple interacting constructions of race. There’s basically no neutral way to ask about race, nor analyze the results.

So I’m going to talk about the ins and outs of race, drawing upon my experiences with our international (but US-dominated) survey.

[Read more…]

Social Reproduction

In my series discussing capitalism and socialism, I want to discuss another Marxist idea: the social reproduction of labor.  Basically it refers to a collection of social activities needed to maintain a labor pool.  An introductory article (suggested by Coyote) has a good description of how social reproduction occurs:

1. By activities that regenerate the worker outside the production process and allow her to return to it. These include, among a host of others, food, a bed to sleep in, but also care in psychical ways that keep a person whole.

2. By activities that maintain and regenerate non-workers outside the production process–i.e. those who are future or past workers, such as children, adults out of the workforce for whatever reason, be it old age, disability or unemployment.

3. By reproducing fresh workers, meaning childbirth.

It may be noted that social reproduction is essentially unpaid labor, and is disproportionately performed by women.  Thus, social reproduction theory draws a connection between Marxist and feminist theory.

However, I would fault the introductory article for failing to offer any good explanatory narrative.  Why is social reproduction unpaid, as compared to more “ordinary” labor being merely underpaid?  “Capitalism”, “neoliberalism”, and “sexism” don’t cut it as explanations.  So in this post, I’m going to offer a basic explanatory narrative, based on externalized costs.

[Read more…]

Reject alcohol sponsorship

I cross-posted this article to The Asexual Agenda.

Recently, Budweiser UK announced its “Fly the Flag” campaign, which aims to support LGBT+ diversity by highlighting nine specific groups. For each group, they’re offering money to an associated charity, and are releasing a limited edition cup with a flag design. Based on Twitter engagement, the group that got the most attention is asexuality.

Budweiser also seems to have made further arrangements with asexual activists. They are hosting a three-day asexual event at London Pride, called “Ace of Clubs”. AVEN has described it as an open bar with additional activities. It was spearheaded by UK activist Yasmin Benoit.

There has been quite a flurry in response. Mainstream news articles have nearly uniformly expressed incredulity at asexuality and grey-asexuality–if they discuss it at all. They’re much more interested in discussing the problems with brand support for LGBT groups. In the ace community, some have responded positively, others have not. There are also many responses focused on combating negativity, especially in the Twitter thread.

I take the following viewpoint: sponsorship from alcohol companies is a special kind of bad. AVEN should refuse Budweiser’s donation, and while I’m guessing Ace of Clubs is a done deal, asexuality activists should avoid making such deals in the future.

[Read more…]

I can’t take Slavoj Zizek seriously

cn: apologetics for sexual violence

I don’t know why, but YouTube keeps on recommending me videos about philosopher Slavoj Zizek.  For some reason as of late he has been held up as a great leftist thinker, the anti-Jordan Peterson.  No, seriously, he’s apparently planning to debate Jordan Peterson or something.  Hard pass.

Honestly, I hate the guy.  The first and only time I had cause to encounter Slavoj Zizek, was in relation to the controversy over Avital Ronell.  (I don’t feel like finding all the relevant links, so you’ll have to accept my own disjointed commentary and the links therein.)  Avital Ronell sexually harassed students for years, and when someone stepped forward, Slavoj Zizek was one of many academics signing a petition defending her, basically on the grounds that it would be such a shame if someone so important as Ronell were to face consequences.

The petition got leaked to the public, along with some rather damning evidence against Ronell, and many of the signatories (including Judith Butler) backed off.  Not Zizek!  He continued to defend Ronell in several editorials, claiming he was privy to additional evidence, that he refused to share.  I speculated that his “additional evidence” was that the victim reciprocated–which is irrelevant, the victim was coerced by the power imbalance.  Zizek later revealed that this was exactly his reasoning.

Sorry, I cannot take seriously a Marxist theorist, of all people, who cannot recognize a power imbalance right under his nose.  How can a professor who studies power be so ignorant of the sheer power that professors have over grad students?

Race in Horizon: Zero Dawn

Content note: This will contain minor spoilers only.  No guarantees about the comment section.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a 2017 video game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where robotic beasts roam the earth. The protagonist, Aloy, is an exile from the Nora, a tribe of hunter-gatherers. Aloy’s mission in life is to end her own exile, but as soon as she succeeds, she receives her call to adventure, and must venture out of Nora lands into Carja territory.

HZD has some genuinely interesting things to say about race, far surpassing my expectations for a big-budget video game. Here I will discuss how the game hits the mark on several issues. Then I’ll discuss how the game has been criticized for cultural appropriation of Native Americans. Finally, I will discuss my own criticism: Where the main game succeeds, the DLC pack The Frozen Wilds falls flat on its face.

Where Horizon: Zero Dawn succeeds

The first thing that stands out about HZD is its racially diverse cast. Behold:

A bunch of minor HZD characters

Credit: AbyssOfUnknowing. These are all minor characters, because the image was challenging people to name as many characters as they could remember.

[Read more…]

Religion as an axis of oppression

Earlier, when I was talking about the death of the New Atheist movement, and I mentioned the idea that New Atheism contained an implicit critique of social justice norms. In social justice, it is common to treat religion as just another axis of oppression, similar to race, gender, or orientation. Religious minorities, such as Muslims, are seen as an oppressed group. However, New Atheism problematized the social justice framing by pointing to the harm caused by religion. New Atheism wanted to make it socially acceptable to argue about religious beliefs.

So, I’m curious how this all rolled out, especially among readers who participated in New Atheism and then shifted towards social justice. How did you view religious minorities around five years ago? Have your views changed since then? If so, why?

[Read more…]

Against apologies

Disclaimer: This is not in response to any particular apology. This has been on my topics list for years.  Frustratingly, when I finally committed it to words, someone went and made a public apology, and I had to postpone this to avoid association.  So here we are.

The title, “Against apologies” can be interpreted in several ways, so I will clarify my meaning up front. There’s nothing wrong with people apologizing for things they’ve done wrong. There’s nothing wrong with accepting or rejecting those apologies. The thing I am complaining about, is when people demand public apologies, and then when the apology arrives, they pick out some small detail that they say shows the apology wasn’t really sincere. I think this is more often than not, a flimsy pretext to reject apologies no matter their content.

But I am not saying that we need to accept bad apologies.  Rather, I propose that if we’re going to reject an apology, then we don’t need to invent an excuse. For some kinds of wrongdoing, we may decide that no apology will ever be acceptable.  We should be unashamed to say so.

[Read more…]