Privilege, Deference, and Moral Certainty

GG has been discussing in other threads the concept of epistemic deference, focused on epistemic deference of members of empowered majorities with respect to members of disempowered minorities. As it happens, I’ve lectured on just this topic at Portland State University, the University of Vermont, and a couple other places. (University of Minnesota I think… but I’m not entirely sure, and it would have been my visit to the Minneapolis campus, if you’re wondering PZ: I’ve never been to Morris). I even spoke to it when speaking to a North American conference of human rights officials and boards. So I’ve been thinking about this problem for a LONG time. More than 20 years, certainly. As a result, I have at hand things I’ve written right here on FtB available to quote.

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kathleenzielinski’s “gay rights movement”

So, over on Pharyngula kathleenzielinski has been having a bit of a say. I will likely go into other things said by kathleenzielinski (and issues that they raise or raised) later. But for now, I want to talk about the Great kathleenzielinski Gay Rights Movement, which, she would like you to know, is much, much better than that icky trans rights movement to which she would like to compare her GRM:

I will say this: The gay rights movement moved as quickly as it did because we took the time to win over our opposition using their own language. Conservative arguments were made in favor of gay marriage and legal equality. Some of us even quoted the Bible. We didn’t demonize people whose real fault was that they didn’t understand us. We won them over.

The trans rights movement is, if we are to believe kathleenzielinski, both moving much more slowly than her cherished GRM and is also much less friendly and compassionate to the bigots who oppose trans rights than the gays were to the bigots who opposed gay rights.

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Ignoring abuse to focus on lexicography

Okay, this is turning into a thing.

So in the thread created to talk about the phenomenon where people announce on the internet that they’re too afraid to discuss issues central to (or sometimes merely implicating) trans persons’ human rights before immediately launching a conversation about their concerns about granting trans persons equal human rights, one new commenter, GG, decided to change the subject. Although I feel vexed that what I wrote seemed to be ignored in favor of the commenter’s preferred conversation, the comment and request for response were both respectful and, as it turns out, the issues that GG unknowingly raised are actually significant. So I decided to respond, but I’m not going to allow that thread to be derailed so I have created this new post to discuss what GG brought up. Let’s start with GG’s comment, which itself begins with a quote from a BBC news article:  

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Being a Transphobe, the Great Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time

So first, I hate the words “transphobia” and “transphobe” but let’s save that for a footnote, or better yet another post (we’ll see if I can stop myself from rambling into that territory at the bottom of this). So setting that aside, I have noted that many, many people seem paralyzed with fear at the idea that they might do something which they consider reasonable, or good, or perhaps not good but a minor error which deserves no bad consequence, and despite the not at all truly bad nature of their conduct, end up labeled a “transphobe” or “transphobic”. They often cry out about their “fear” of being called “transphobic”. They positively scream about the injustice of it all:

Someone thought that I’m a transphobe, when really I just hate the idea of being inconvenienced in any way, except for all those ways that I am inconvenienced which I just accept as an unavoidable fact of life, like having to lie to my boss about how that watch is so cool and I wish I had one.

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Joyce Carol Oates and the great pronoun debates

So, I was hanging out on Wonkette early this morning, curating some artisanal tabs, when I came across an article I thought might be interesting to talk about. (You can find it here.)

Because it did actually generate some discussion, and because some people found it valuable and one person specifically asked to have it posted to my blog so that it could be found more easily than would be the case if it were left buried in Disqus comments, I’m going to cross post here the long ass thing I wrote over there.

Yes, it’s long ass, but you’re going to read it anyway, since you don’t want my diligent efforts to go to waste, do you?

I said, “DO YOU?”

Fine, don’t read it. I’ll just sit over here NOT being passive aggressive at you. So there.

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you can talk about it

I was reading about the R. Kelly verdict, which of course led to reading about the facts and just how much nastiness he has inflicted over how many years. I wanted to say something right away, but I was scared to write anything. If I wrote too quickly or too soon, it would probably end up just another flip, sarcastic internet comment ultimately containing no meaning. Hell, maybe it would even end up causing problems. It wouldn’t be the first time. I can be such an ass about all this because I did anti-sexual violence and anti-domestic violence work for so long that a whole bunch of the wisdom feminists have accumulated through the years became second nature to me, and I would forget that people who didn’t work in shelters and on hotlines didn’t have that. I forgot the effort it took to reach to the point that anti-violence wisdom became second nature, and that we aren’t born knowing things, we learn them either because we were taught or because we work our asses off to learn them ourselves, which is admirable, but takes a fuck of a lot longer. Decades.

But I did learn that I can be an ass about this, and that I can expect too much from normal human beings who simply haven’t been taught important things by their families and schools and societies. Because I can be an ass, when the time came to shake up DV/SA public outreach at an agency where I worked I heard people say that we need to put, “It’s not your fault,” front and center in our public message, I said no.

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Riotous Prosecutions

Okay, so I don’t actually know if my feelings on this will stay the same over time, but there’s this thing where the government completely overreaches while targeting people on the left. We scream (appropriately) about the tyranny involved. Then the government does nothing remotely similar when faced with right wingers, and we … stay silent. Because we don’t actually want to encourage tyranny.

But the thing is, I think we actually need to get tougher on the insurrectionists. And I hate over charging and I hate over sentencing, but while the laws are on the books, they have to be charged equally against right wingers and left wingers. Not only is the behavior from January 6th more serious than I think has been charged so far, but on a larger scale (both temporally and socially) there is another issue. It is actually only when the right wingers realize that the laws they celebrate for their ability to suppress dissent on the left can be used against them that we gain the national consensus necessary to change them.

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