Dear straight white men: Don’t be that guy

When trying to tackle the various systems that belittle, undermine, oppress, and abuse marginalised people, we often encounter cages made of white dudes‘ folded arms. A refusal to listen; a refusal to acknowledge there’s a problem. There’s often a rumbling before, as their eyes roll when they see any mention pertaining to inclusion of women or people of colour in domains predominantly composed of those who look like them.

Whether it’s gamingatheism, genre fiction (seriously), science, whatever. The idea that these areas are still problematic – despite the existence of prominent people of colour, women, etc. – frustrates many of these guys. They feel as though simply not being a sexist or racist is sufficient to make these environments inclusive; as if by them not harassing, abusing or targeting marginalised folk, they’ve done enough and can’t understand why oppression continues. Or rather, why we’re still complaining. “Look! Barack Obama is president, there’s no racism! Look, a woman CEO, there’s no sexism!”

As always it must be said: If you, a white dude, are tired of hearing about racism, imagine being the target of it. If you’re bored to tears by sexism, imagine constantly having your gender be undermined in a myriad of ways by all sorts of mediums and people.

Fighting oppression isn’t about making things comfortable for those who already benefit; it’s not about being palatable to those who have the least to lose.

And yet, it seems, so many dudes – who think not being a sexist or racist creep is sufficient moral action – want those of us targeting these issues to tone it down, stop making it an issue, just enjoy the medium, or whatever. So many just want it all to go away so they can go back to their games, their TV shows, their books.

If you’re not uncomfortable, then the issue isn’t being raised enough. Feminism, for example, isn’t about making men comfortable; pointing out ways that Hollywood whitewashes, how games sites consistently have no camera facing person of colour on staff, isn’t about making white male nerds feel fine about their medium.

You should feel uncomfortable: Realising that you’ve taken for granted sites you love so much, writers you adore, critics you respect are all focused or made of or are white men like you is a first step. But if the next action isn’t acknowledgment but arm-folding, then you’re just doubling-down, making another cage of folded arms we have to get through.

You don’t want to change. You’re fading into the wall of yet another obstacle we must overcome in an effort to make the world as a whole more inclusive.

Don’t be that guy.

Discomfort is a good thing when dealing with social issues – comfort is too often a reason for moral lethargy. “If I act, I might no longer be comfortable!” And yet acting to support us is exactly what we need.

Please: Don’t be that guy. Help, even if – and sometimes especially if – it makes you uncomfortable. Your annoyance matters far less than marginalised folks’ safety and inclusion.


  1. Guy Harper says

    I am a middle-age, straight, professional white guy. So I am one of the people that this directed at. I am very aware of the inequities that exist and yes, it makes me uncomfortable at times. Once in a while I get a chance to make a stand about this, That is if I hear someone talking like this, I point out two things. First, it is not possible to determine a persons character by their appearance, gender, sexual orientation. It’s their words and actions that matter. Second, the issues we face are complex, population, food, energy. We simply can’t afford to ignore any voice, any perspective that helps us survive.

  2. says

    I recently reconnected with a white woman I was friends with 15 years ago. I’m going to have to tell
    1) Although I pass for white, my mother was Mexican American.

    2) I don’t believe white men have it harder than my non white cousins these days.

  3. lola says

    In many cases, I think sexism has become worse now than it was decades ago, in part due to the odious men’s right groups that have sprung up. Homophobia and racism too seem to be making a comeback.

  4. demiurge says

    This is a really succinct and eloquent piece, so thank you, Tauriq. I sometimes shudder to think how close I may have been to joining those ranks of obtuse white motherfuckers back during Elevatorgate, and then feel immensely grateful to the people in my life who offered the wiser perspective and got me thinking. Please keep up your writing.