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tigtog (aka Viv) is the founder of this blog. She lives in Sydney, Australia: husband, 2 kids, cat, house, garden, just enough wine-racks and (sigh) far too few bookshelves.

This author has written 3446 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about tigtog »

100 responses to “On unexamined privileges and unconscious behaviours”

  1. Anna

    I really liked this post. It gave me a lot to think about. I have nothing to contribute, but it bothered me that there were no comments.

  2. Mindy

    I try to behave online like I do offline. In certain places I don’t go around saying “for gods sake” because if offends people, and on certain blogs I avoid terms that have a particular meaning for that blog’s community, despite whether I think language has moved on and it doesn’t really mean that anymore etc etc because it still has it’s original meaning on that blog and I need to respect that. I’m trying to do this all the time, but sometimes I forget. I still get angry at people online because I get angry with people off line. I’m not perfect.

    I applaud WP, FP, su, Hexy, Lauredhel, Tigtog and others too numerous to name for insisting that they have a right to be heard over others (I’m assuming TAB) saying “yeah but I had a relative that blah blah blah” as if their experience with their relative outweighs your lived experience. They needed a major privilege check. I think also if you are asking someone else to do a particular thing on a blog, make sure that you have played by the same rules you are insisting others follow.

  3. Helen

    Great post Tigtog. Nothing much to add apart from – maybe a link to Peggy McIntosh’s Knapsack of Privilege is of use here, most of the regular commenters here would be familiar with it already, but some who come in here might not have seen it. It feeds very much into what you are saying.

  4. tigtog

    Helen, great idea to link to Peggy McIntosh’s piece. There’s another classic article from Tekanji about checking privilege that I should also find, and then I can include both links in the body of the post.

  5. Jennifer
  6. tigtog

    That’s the one Jennifer – just found it myself!

    ETA: have now added both links to the foot of the post

  7. mcduff

    “Another good site is by someone who swears a lot, its called something like ‘fuck politeness’ or similar [I found it and lost it], its bloody brilliant and before I comment [after I find it again] there I will be ultra careful about what I say cos I’m kinda sentimentally attached to my male bits and I don’t want to lose them cos I accidentally or from decades of unconscious and unidentified socialization write something stupid.”

    That’s what I wrote over at LP a few days ago on the parallel thread to those here and at Possum.
    I use the nickname hannah’s dad over there [mainly cos of confusion over log in procedures cos I'm barely computer literate].
    The last bit of the comment is the problem for me, the reason why I have lurked here but only commented once or twice.
    Being an old fella I was brung up in a world less perfect in many ways than that of today with respect to being aware of all the various forms of oppression that have for much of my life simply been treated as non-existent.
    For example it came as a shock to me a few years ago when I realized how lucky I was to be white in this society. OK I knew at various levels intellectual rather than emotional but this was a particular jolt.
    When I was a kid I played footy [the real kind not that other type] with a lot of aboriginal kids the same age as me.
    Upon revisiting my hometown and talking to friend who had never left I found out a few years ago they are all dead by several years.
    Just by being alive I am the recipient of white privelige.

    And unless you live a particular life experience that is the subject of oppression either blatant and/or subtle it can be difficult to recognize much less change the attitudes and behaviours that a member of the oppressive class holds.
    The personal is political but so is the impersonal.
    And I’m a member of about the worst there is, old white middle class [now anyway] Anglo-saxon protestant male [well that is my upbringing].
    Priveliged.
    I try to be unprejudiced but occasionally something sneaks through and I say/write something offensive and stupid, so I have to be very careful, ultra careful.
    I have lurked here and a few other places cos I get educated, cos I read something here that encapsulates the essence of an issue that I am vaguely aware of but couldn’t put into words myself.
    I don’t have the lifetime of experience to draw on.

    Now I’m not sure how well I have made whatever point I was trying to make but anyway I’ll hang around here and as I said at ‘fuck politeness’ site if I feel I have something positive to contribute I’ll dip me toe in.

  8. Helen

    HD, you are a commenter who always posts in good faith and you always engage respectfully with other commenters. If all the posters at LP were like you we wouldn’t have a problem.

  9. dinana

    great post, and great links Tig Tog, have bookmarked them for future reference.

    It’s so bloody frustrating, and as you said, irrelevent, when people go on the whole “but I didn’t mean any offence” or “I’m a good person” or “I have a friend/relative/partner who is/says…” or “men/white people/non disabled people etc suffer too” when called out on privileged behaviour.

    Another thing that bugs me is that, while non priveleged people are often typecasted as “excessively angry” or “mentally unstable” or “overly sensitive” when they, y’know, get upset about peoples so-often unconscious sexist, racist, ablist, homophobic etc behaviour. Whereas the priveleged person, when pulled up on their behaviour, will often get defensive and sometimes even downright angry. Yet they aren’t accused of having anger issues or being overly sensitive, or even insensitive.

  10. tigtog

    What really gets me is how people calling others out on privilege online are often accused of stifling other opinions when what is actually being asked is that the people with privilege refrain from using biased and marginalising language. Surely if their argument is valid it can be made using non-marginalising words?

  11. dinana

    Surely if their argument is valid it can be made using non-marginalising words?

    That’s so true.

    And I wonder if it occurs to people that they stifle discussion by using marginalising and biased language because it means that their are some, or even many people who wouldn’t feel comfortable, or even safe, joining the discussion because of the language being used? I know that, as a woman I don’t feel comfortable in spaces (“real life or online) where the use of sexist language is considered normal and acceptable.

  12. Deborah

    Yes, well, I know I end up with shoelaces dangling from my teeth from time to time, and I also know that when I say or write something racist, or ableist, or othering and marginalising in some way, it’s a mistake, not deliberate. And it’s actually much easier to say, “oh no – I stuffed up and I’m sorry” and work on trying not to do it again, than getting myself wound up in trying to justify myself to myself.

    dinana, I suppose there are plenty of people who don’t feel comfortable using non-othering language (PC’s difficulties with saying “women” instead of “females” being a case in point), and so don’t join in discussions for that reason, but my guess it would be because they are operating from a privileged position in the first place. It’s a fairly standard point – that where you have to make a decision about which way to act in society, you make it in favour of those who are more vulnerable. So we would have to say to them something like, “Get over it!”

  13. annaham

    I haven’t been on the internet for a few days, so I’ve just caught this post, but it is awesome, Tigtog.

  14. WildlyParenthetical

    I think there’s something really important about this post, and it, along with the other thread o’ doom, had me thinking about safe spaces. Laura raised the example of the classroom, and I was thinking about questions of safety in relation to it. The thing is, having their privilege challenged, even implicitly, can feel really threatening for people. It doesn’t really matter what the privilege is, even. It feels threatening for a few different reasons, but one of them is as you point out, tig tog: because we don’t want to believe that we are bad people, or, even worse, that we are bad people but never knew it. The idea of unconsciously hurting someone else, well, I think lots of people really fiercely hate it, especially when we realise that our unconscious privilege has counteracted our own conscious commitments. And the sense of shame that’s associated with that slips very quickly to attacking the other, sometimes in an attempt to relocate the shame. The other thing about that is that the terminology ‘safe space’ has been being bandied around by those who have been called on their privilege here and taken profound offence at it. But safe spaces aren’t safe spaces for privileged people, because that’s the rest of the world. They’re safe because they refuse to bow to the marginalisation of particular groups that is enacted in the rest of the world (including, as it turns out, many progressive political blogs!) And often just the way that some otherwise marginalised voices get privileged can make that space feel unsafe for those who are privileged. This is part of the political and productive work that is being done here: those who are privileged cannot rely upon that privilege to be deemed right.

    What has surprised me, in this whole set of conversations, is that I, in my idealistic way, had thought that those who marked themselves as progressive understood that it was problematic to have those who are made vulnerable by privilege make themselves vulnerable again by insisting on/arguing for/proving that privilege, and by extension, their own disenfranchisement exists. I had thought that there was a shared, if implicit, commitment to taking people who experienced marginalisation seriously, and to make it the responsibility of those privileged to interrogate how their privilege is earned off the back of the marginalisation of others. I probably knew better, really, but I had thought that this was a fairly baseline commitment in progressive politics; one that people might need to be reminded of, but which was still there. It’s becoming clear to me how rare it is.

    Oh, and Hannah’s Dad? This is why you are a welcome commenter here: because you are aware of your own privilege, and know that you need to examine your own perspective before it’s articulated, and still might be pulled up – but that these are not bad things, but rather positive things that will help you to see the world in new ways. Your comment here demonstrates that commitment.

    One final word, to our lovely Hoydens, who have been coming under a fair bit of fire here: I am impressed with the space you make here. I might not always agree with you, but I always value your perspectives, and your careful moderating, and your acknowledgement of the fact that conversations on blogs are political, and matter in a larger sense. I like that you have, at times, acknowledged that this space hasn’t been safe for some, and worked hard at changing that. I like your commitment to centreing marginalised voices. So thank you!!

  15. Jo Tamar

    Yes, what WP said (especially about the work done by the Hoydens – thanks!).

    An addendum to Deborah’s post: it may be intellectually simpler, on an objective level, to acknowledge that one is wrong and to apologise (although you also have to take into account that a significant amount of intellectual work is required after that), but it’s often not emotionally easier to do that. It involves a loss of face, or as WP says, shame, or something (I blame society! or IBTP, whichever works ;) ).

    I think WP’s comment explains why that is, which I hadn’t quite got to, so I’m really glad that I didn’t manage to actually post this comment until after her comment was up.

  16. su

    This is such a timely reminder for me in many ways. I have to go into school next week and negotiate on behalf of my son . The people there are all very lovely and helpful but nonetheless the ableism is very damaging to him. I had to make two phonecalls to check what was being done to address an incident in which he was beaten with a stick, on the second occasion the Deputy Principal had completely forgotten the contents of my first call. I arrived at the same school the other day to find the place in uproar because one student had threatened another. There were at least six adults there plus the students and parents were being phoned. ??????????????????

    Kind of tangential but my own feeling is that even when it seems like you haven’t been heard in a particular exchange, when people like WP have put forward very thoughtful arguments there is a good chance that others reading have been influenced and that is a good thing. Having followed conversations like that myself in the past and changed my mind as a result, I believe that there is a lot to be gained by putting forward an argument in sometimes hostile circumstances.

    It takes time to change individual minds and longer still to transform the culture of a place. I know that when I go into school next week it will take quite an effort of will not to be hostile but I have to cultivate a workable relationship if I want the school to be more supportive of my son. I have learned from bitter experience that people change faster if you can preserve their sense that they are as Tigtog says “good people”. Of course we expect more from people in politically astute online communities, but IRL most people are completely unware of privilege. One of the valuable things about spaces in which these things are brought to light and examined rigorously is that (I hope) there can be a spillover into other situations where privilege is as yet unexamined.

  17. Fine

    I wasn’t going to say anything else, but I really need to respond to WP here.
    “The other thing about that is that the terminology ’safe space’ has been being bandied around by those who have been called on their privilege here and taken profound offence at it. ”
    This connection seems very flimsy to me. Could you please show me where on this blog Laura has been called on her privilege? Lauredhel commented that people weren’t centreing hexy’s response in their concern with PC. My answer, if you care to read, is that I didn’t do so because others had commented on the racism of the remark, and as Tigtog had noted it’s pointless to keep repeating the same comment because it creates a pile on. My comment was also about the attitude which was apparent to me all through that thread, not just that one section of it. I know I’ve been guilty of white privilege in the past and it may happen again. I make mistakes. But was I doing so this time ? – I don’t think so. I’m writing this not just to defend myself, but to question whether the reframing of this issue (people who feel unsafe here feel that way because they’ve been called on their privilege) is either accurate or useful.

    Laura asked a question about whether demeaning, jeering and mocking people was consistent with feminist practice. It’s a good question, which hasn’t really been tackled yet. But if you want to see the question as coming from a person who’s upset because they’ve been called on their privilege, then that’s a good way of not having to address their question. Tigtog said that a few people had found the style of communication here problematic and wondered whether it was due to geek/nerd culture where snark was an acceptable mode of conversation. I wonder if Tigtog has thought further about that.

    I agree that people should be told when their language is ‘othering’ people from marginalised groups. But I wonder if snark (again mocking, jeering, demeaning) is the most effective way of doing it, or whether people are just going to flounce off, even more determined not to question their assumptions. I bet PC hasn’t shifted his opinion one iota. Does that matter? Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the fact that hexy felt safe because of the calling out is sufficient reason to do so. It’s certainly an important reason. But surely there must be a way of drawing peoples’ attention to this without demeaning them?

    Sorry this is so long.

  18. Lauredhel

    Fine:

    I agree that people should be told when their language is ‘othering’ people from marginalised groups. But I wonder if snark (again mocking, jeering, demeaning) is the most effective way of doing it

    If you’re talking about this particular incident, I think you have missed something important about what happened here. My initial reaction to PC’s racist remark was exactly as you say. I told him that was not acceptable here, expected him to apologise, and asked some more questions about the initial topic. That was it. Nothing else. What I thought would happen was a straightforward apology and a move back to the topic.

    What happened instead was that PC chose instead to make it absolutely 100% clear that he had no interest in apologising or addressing the issue. His conditional fauxpology was accompanied by a long screed involving a series of classic racism-apology tropes with bonus oversensitive accusation (“it’s just a turn of phrase”, “walking on eggshells”), dismissal of conversations of racist language (“fluff”), and not-so-subtle putdowns of this space (we’re not his “peers”). And as an aside (and this was not a necessary condition) this came on top of his series of refusals to answer my polite persistent questions about his thesis, and his sneering at a conversation about sexism as “silliness”. His snark and mockery may have been less visible, but it was absolutely there.

    Only then did I snark -and again, this is important - that particular behaviour. My macro did not mock or demean him as a person, it mocked the particular well-known tropes that white men used to justify their denigration or dismissal of women, people of colour and Indigenous people. Anyone familiar with Colbert’s “black friend” schtick or all the aforegoing history in this arena would recognise this readily.

    As tigtog identifies, part of the purpose of this was an effort to somewhat defuse the inevitable anger – not that I think people here have no right to that anger or have no right to express it, but to offer one alternative way of dealing with it. In this case I don’t identify with her idea that it’s a ‘geek/nerd’ way of doing things – though that may well be what’s going on with her and elsewhere in this blog – but as a common form of resistance and defence, as Anna talks about here.

    I have lots more thoughts about this general issue, but they need thinking out and writing up, they’re not specific to this topic, and I think they belong elsewhere (and this is well and truly long enough already). However, my bottom line is, and I am only talking for myself here, my threads will not be a safe space for racist/sexist/ableist/homophobic/etc language. I don’t insist that I or anyone else in my threads to be always patient, kind, polite, tolerant and detached about such language. I find anger about that language, expressions of hurt, and snark about that language equally acceptable. I think it IS ok to fight snark with snark.

    And – perhaps above all – I don’t expect that conversations about bigotry, dominance and oppression should always be centred around the needs and wishes of the dominant group, as the “you are obliged to educate me politely” conversation typically is. I don’t expect people with disabilities, women, gay people, trans people people of colour, Indigenous people to spend all of their time worrying about being submissive and polite and “effective”.

    Lastly, I do think that infinite patience with -isms is incompatible with making a safe space for more vulnerable people and people in non-dominant groups, and I’m quite comfortable with making a choice between those two things.

  19. pharaoh-katt.livejournal.com/

    The idea of unconsciously hurting someone else, well, I think lots of people really fiercely hate it, especially when we realise that our unconscious privilege has counteracted our own conscious commitments. And the sense of shame that’s associated with that slips very quickly to attacking the other, sometimes in an attempt to relocate the shame.

    Yes, this! 100 times yes!! I know in my early feminist days I refused to believe I had any privilege, because I felt that shame. Even now that I’ve learned to own my privilege, I still feel that shame, and my first reaction is still denial. I have to always take a step back, remember that I’m in a privileged position, and start again. That’s why I always give myself ten minutes to process before commenting.

    Thank you WP!

  20. WildlyParenthetical

    Fine, Laura was talking about her experiences in previous threads, which prompted her to leave HAT, and I had read you as doing the same thing – discussing what it was that made you feel unsafe to comment here. They were what I was referring to. Given that both of you joined that thread to comment on your previous experiences here, that was what I was talking about.

    Part of the point of all of this is that what you’re suggesting is experienced as ‘jeering’ or mockery is, as far as I can see, often simply the pointing out of privilege. Yes, sometimes it’s sarcastic or angry; this is unsurprising given that those who are marginalised face this kind of bullshit all the time. The person who is being called on their privilege will often feel affronted, or ashamed, or a complex and unpleasant series of emotions. Yeah, it’s not fun. No one is saying it is. But the expectation that marginalised groups will continually be patient and tolerant and not angry arises only because the privileged expect that their feelings are what ought to be centred in any given conversation; that people ought to take care of them, be gentle and tolerant and polite, in spite of the fact that they are being called for not taking care of others: for being hostile, intolerant and unkind, even if ‘unknowingly’. The unknowingness here is not neutral, but the work of privilege. In addition, the fact that we might feel bad when our privilege is pointed out to us doesn’t mean that the pointing out of privilege is bad; that’s a misplacement of responsibility, but one that’s far too frequent, IMO.

    As far as the question of whether this is good feminist practice, well, there are many different thoughts on this. Some feminists, more influenced by liberalism, think that the best way to promote equality is to act as if we are all already equal: that everyone’s perspective matters equally, and everyone’s perspective ought to be ‘interrogated equally’. However, there are numerous critiques of this, also feminist and more contemporary, which suggest that such an approach leaves in place the privilege of, for example, men, heterosexuals, whites, the temporarily able-bodied, the neurotypical, and so on. In fact, this latter approach suggests that there is no ‘objective’ perspective, because all perspectives are from a particular location. That which is considered ‘objective’ is just that which has been deemed most authoritative, and thus to accept ‘common sense’ or ‘objective’ or ‘rational’ perspectives is simply to unthinkingly reiterate what already is privileged, and a history that made it that way. What I outlined above, and in the ‘Invisible Women’ thread, and so on, demonstrates how this is good feminist practice. Feminist practice in general involves becoming more aware of how one is situated in relation to others—this started out by a consideration of how women are othered in relationship to men, and has become more complex as the diversity of women has been drawn attention to—and this is reflected in feminism’s tendency to be critically self-reflexive. It’s the strength of feminism, I think, that it is flexible enough to examine and address its own blinkers. So as far as good feminist practice is concerned, yeah, if you ask me, HAT’s doing okay.

  21. allordinary2.blogspot.com/

    Lauredhel said: “I don’t expect that conversations about bigotry, dominance and oppression should always be centred around the needs and wishes of the dominant group, as the “you are obliged to educate me politely” conversation typically is.”

    Lauredhel, it is not possible to educate a person any other way than politely and respectfully, but as I said, I understand that what you want to do here doesn’t include education. That fits in with the way displays of privilege, inadvertent and otherwise, (you don’t seem to distinguish between cluelessness and bad faith) are handled here: the purpose is largely not to educate but to discipline and punish.

    One can only ask or invite a person to examine her or his privilege; one can’t make a person do that, and certainly not by shaming, piling-on, snarking or snarling.

    I don’t see any other way than education to correct situations like the one su described at her son’s school, and I understand there is also a need to simply talk about such situations. And while I don’t comment (after this one, which I don’t expect will make any difference to the way Hoyden operates, I go back to silence) I read everything people write here, I ‘listen’ to them (online of course, I read not listen).

    But Lauredhel, if in your comment you mean to imply that I *do* have the expectation that the needs and wishes of the dominant group set the agenda in verbal exchanges, then you are quite in error. I do not. I have the desire and the will to dismantle hierarchies, not to invert them so that whoever was on the bottom of any given intersection can temporarily play the tyrant.

    I don’t believe in telling a member of a dominant group to shut up, or conversely, telling him or her what to say. Pragmatically, it doesn’t achieve the goals I’m interested in. Idealistically, I think that’s just another form of domination.

    Laura

  22. Lauredhel

    Lauredhel, it is not possible to educate a person any other way than politely and respectfully

    And I think this is where we strike one really fundamental disagreement, one that’s important in interpreting the rest of it, and it comes from my own lived experience over the last couple of decades or so. I’ve learnt from people with all sorts of approaches. But the ones that stand out for me, the people who’ve really triggered me to do the really hard work and confront the piles of crap installed in my brain, have typically been loud, confrontational, unapologetic, unceremonious people who some people have considered brash, undiplomatic, and uppity.

    Not only do I not think that people in non-dominant groups are obliged to always consider their own effectiveness, but I disagree that submissive politeness is the sole effective way forward to change. I think there is room for all approaches.

  23. allordinary2.blogspot.com/

    I’m glad you agree there is room for all approaches.

    “submissive politeness” is the kind of phrase your discourse does tend to imply; aren’t there other kinds of politeness, though, that don’t partake of the dominant / submissive binary?

  24. allordinary2.blogspot.com/

    “the people who’ve really triggered me to do the really hard work and confront the piles of crap installed in my brain, have typically been loud, confrontational, unapologetic, unceremonious people who some people have considered brash, undiplomatic, and uppity”

    the person who continues to do this for me is Virginia Woolf, who is fluid and circuitous and ironic and sneaky and playful, and profoundly courteous to her reader

  25. Lauredhel

    I use “submissive” in this context because I believe that there is often a choice, in group interactions, between privileging the feelings of the person in the dominant group who is expressing the bigotry, and the feelings of the people in the oppressed group. To prioritise the feelings of the person from the dominant group is, I believe, submissive, and strongly recalls the expectations of traditional femininity to always sacrifice and swallow one’s own feelings in favour of men’s, where a conflict exists. There is strong evidence in the thread under discussion that this conflict exists in this case, and is applicable.

  26. Jennifer

    I want to say thank you to the Hoydens also, for the space here. I don’t comment much (I go through phases with the blogosphere), and Hoyden is one of the few places I feel safe commenting most of the time.

    What’s probably a little ironic is that some of the very people who are talking about feeling unsafe here are the very people who have contributed to the admittedly few instances where I’ve felt unsafe, ignored and devalued in threads here (and a Hoyden has stepped in to call out those instances, which is comforting, even when the response – or lack thereof – hasn’t been).

    Thankyou, Hoydens.

    Also Laura? I’m not sure how helpful it is to imply that members of minorities reacting to frustrating and oppressive tropes is somehow equivalent to tyranny.

  27. Fine

    WP, huge assumptions in your first and second paragraphs.What you actually said was that people who were saying this wasn’t a safe place were people who’d been called out on their privilege. You’re just making this up as you go along. And I do get the concept of privilege, so you can stop the educating.

    Lauredhel, thanks your replies. Actually, I was pointing more to a general objection I have to snark as a form of of political education, rather than what PC specifically said. I guess my perspective comes from the work I do which is to attempt (sometimes successfully) to make political docos for broadcast television and the educational market. I’m always having to find ways of selling tough stories to people who don’t have the slightest interest in the subject matter and are often antipathetic to it. You can never do this by yelling at them. I think being blunt and confrontational can work when someone is already interested, concerned and half-way committed to the issue and just needs a final kick up the bum. Otherwise, nah. I do think it points to a basic disagreement about how one does politics. And I supsect that the twain shall never meet on this issue.

  28. Lauredhel

    I guess my perspective comes from the work I do which is to attempt (sometimes successfully) to make political docos for broadcast television and the educational market.

    I don’t think you’re doing this wrong, and I don’t think there’s no role for your approach, and I don’t think you’re a bad feminist/educator/etc for doing your work in this way.

    I think being blunt and confrontational can work when someone is already interested, concerned and half-way committed to the issue and just needs a final kick up the bum.

    I think you’ve probably hit the nail on the head there. I’ve not claimed that my blogging is aimed at those who are completely uninterested in social justice and progressivism issues.


    [aforegoing edited to fix missing negative]

    It’s a ‘pull’ medium, blogging; what would people in that category be doing reading here in the first place? Just realised I’ve written a bit about this not long ago:

    Feminism Friday: “You’ll catch more flies with honey”

  29. fuckpoliteness

    Unsurprisingly I object to the idea that the only way to educate someone is by being nice.

    Obviously it is best to try that first, and I don’t know of anyone who *starts* interactions with any frustration/hostility.

    However there is a threshold: if behaviour starts out incredibly objectionably or continues to be objectionable/not engage with points made politely and clearly and I am feeling angry/upset then I no longer feel an obligation to protect the person behaving that way from the emotions that behaviour causes.

    Hence I have sat in shock listening to someone being extraordinarily racist in public and not felt able to just sit by and effectively condone it with silence and or niceness (you can bet that politeness in those two situations would not have been responded to with politeness) and finally stood and shouted at that person to ask why they feel they can say things like that in public and get support.

    This has happened in public twice now. I don’t know what the person being shouted at took away from it. But I *do* know that I felt better, and more honest, that I felt I protected the principals I am committed to, that everyone who witnessed it heard someone stand up against racism (and for the child being racially abused in the first instance and against the notion that Indigenous Australians all live off ‘handouts’ in the second).

    I know when I was in junior high school I unthinkingly repeated something racist my father had been known to say and it was the hurt, the betrayal, the emotion in other words that caused shame – and that shame shocked me enough to realise that I did *not* believe the thing that I’d said and never wanted to hurt someone like that again.

    Shame/emotion *can* educate. And that’s not to say you go out of your way *to* shame, but if you express anger and the result is shame that shame can be educational and healthy.

    Further in a school setting where my son’s special needs were ignored and he was suspended in highly unreasonable circumstances (he was in year one) it was the embarrassment caused when I went straight to the department of education with a list of complaints and quotes of the highly inappropriate comments by staff that got things changed.

    I prefer things to be polite – but I do believe politeness operates in certain ways (ie that people can claim to be being polite while being disrespectful and needling then claim shock when the person they’ve been talking to that way explodes in a more open and forthright way) to mask disrespect and I do not feel that I owe the world niceness and a smile while I swallow the shit handed out. That’s my perspective.

  30. su

    FP:

    it was the embarrassment caused when I went straight to the department of education with a list of complaints and quotes of the highly inappropriate comments by staff that got things changed.

    I’m nodding along to that FP, the only way I was able to get my son’s primary school to accept him full time was by letting them know I knew it was actually against the law for them to insist he went part-time. Sometimes the only way to get people to do the right thing is to play hard-ball. However I think the school would have tried the same tactic with anyone who came after me because their attitude had not changed, they had banked on me being ignorant and lost, that is all. Ultimately we want to change people’s attitudes rather than have to constantly insist that people accord us our rights and that is something that will be acheived in a variety of ways depending on the context and as Fine and Lauredhel have said, blunt and confrontational works well in some circumstances.

  31. allordinary2.blogspot.com/

    Jennifer said: “Also Laura? I’m not sure how helpful it is to imply that members of minorities reacting to frustrating and oppressive tropes is somehow equivalent to tyranny.”

    Hi Jennifer. That’s not what I said or implied. I gather you’re thinking of where I said “I have the desire and the will to dismantle hierarchies, not to invert them so that whoever was on the bottom of any given intersection can temporarily play the tyrant.”

    My point, which I was quite careful to make very clearly, was that it’s possible, and in my opinion, highly desirable, to react to frustrating and oppressive tropes by many other means than simply turning the tables and placing the oppressed person in the role of oppressor.
    It’s the technique of refusing the attempt to make you swallow shit by forcing the other person to swallow shit themselves that I find both ethically deplorable and politically unproductive; not the fact of reaction per se (and I’m unimpressed that you chose to put that construction on my words) but the mode of reaction. For two reasons: because performing your refusal to eat shit by shoving it down someone else’s throat only perpetuates the vicious, cruel, aggressive shit-forcing paradigm, and actually I want no part of that, I want to see it eradicated, not spun around and reversed in a state of exception which is doomed to be temporary.

    I can’t get open id to function properly for me hence the chopping and changing of names.

  32. Rebekka

    “I do not feel that I owe the world niceness and a smile while I swallow the shit handed out. That’s my perspective.”

    Yes, exactly! For some reason, people think anger is an inappropriate response to oppression – but actually, anger is a perfectly appropriate response to oppression.

  33. allordinary2.blogspot.com/

    Fuck Politeness said: “Unsurprisingly I object to the idea that the only way to educate someone is by being nice. ”

    And for the record, I said ‘politely and respectfully’, not ‘by being nice.’ Niceness, submissiveness, these things are not part of my agenda. Please, if commenters want to object to my ideas, will you take care to object *to them* and not to something quite different that I haven’t actually said?

    Politeness and respectfulness are compatible with bluntness and directness, I have found, in the course of nine years’ teaching.

  34. fuckpoliteness

    I wasn’t necessarily objecting to your ideas Laura, rather posting my thoughts on the subject more generally. But if I am going to discuss your ideas directly I also think that the threshold I discussed, once passed means I do not feel that I need to be polite either.

    There are certain ideas and attitudes that I simply *have* no respect for and where I think there is an opportunity to discuss this with people in a way which is conducive to highlighting other ways of thinking/the outcomes of those ideas and attitudes I will take it. But if someone insists on holding those and rubbing them in my face I feel no inclination to accord respect.

  35. fuckpoliteness

    Eek, sorry, used another name for allordinary – if you could please edit my comment to make it address allordinary by name instead that would be much appreciated.

  36. Fine

    “However there is a threshold: if behaviour starts out incredibly objectionably or continues to be objectionable/not engage with points made politely and clearly and I am feeling angry/upset then I no longer feel an obligation to protect the person behaving that way from the emotions that behaviour causes.”
    Actually, I try to stay polite as a way of protecting myself.

    A couple of weeks ago I had a run in with the police (long story – won’t go into it here). I rang a friend who’s a criminal barrister for advice. And I was very aware of the privilege involved in having a barrister mate who would look after me for free. I was extremely angry and upset with the police and one of his main bits of advice was ‘Don’t do anything while you’re still upset. No-one listens to an angry person’.

    In terms of privilege he also gave me a great lesson. He basically said. ‘You’re feeling totally powerless and humiliated now. That’s a terrible feeling. But for you it’s just temporary. Other people get to feel like this all the time. Make sure you remember how this feels and use it in the future. Oh, and by the way, if you’d been a black woman, you’d probably have the shit kicked out of you by the cops, so you’re doing okay’. Lesson learnt.

  37. su

    Politeness and respectfulness are compatible with bluntness and directness, I have found…

    I think they are compatible too, I think there may be some differences in whether people have perceived different remarks as disrespectul in the past. For example I have been guilty of responding to people’s experience by, in effect, patronising them, with remarks in the “I don’t know why you should feel x” vein. Without being overtly abusive, there is a disrespect in those kinds of remarks that can damage trust between people.

    I hope it is not getting too Miss Mannersish to suggest that since not all people understand the semantic pragmatics of language equally well (thinking here of neurodiversity) there is value in pointing out exactly what is disrespectful in remarks we encounter.

  38. Mindy

    Oh, and by the way, if you’d been a black woman, you’d probably have the shit kicked out of you by the cops, so you’re doing okay’.

    I know your friend thought he was giving you good advice, but to me this seems dangerously close to: “There are women in Afghanistan (or insert country of your choice here where women are oppressed) so what are you doing talking about x?” That is not to say that WOC don’t experience violence at the hands of police more than white women, it’s saying that basically telling you that your experience is not as bad as someone else’s is its own form of privilege and a shutting up technique.

    I’m also trying to nut out my feelings on not being listened to because you are angry and not being listened to because you are female and/or have a disability. Obviously you can stop being angry.

  39. fuckpoliteness

    I tend to disagree with your barrister. Sure, interactions with police are ones where we’re probably best advised to sit on it a while. But that’s an interaction involving a specific power dynamic as well.

    But regarding more general interactions in public/on line? I will just have to agree to disagree. Everyone on the train in the first interaction I was recounting and everyone in the classroom in the second did listen. I don’t know what they thought and frankly I do not care. But they heard me precisely *because* of my anger. If my point had been made more calmly, more politely it would have easier to brush aside.

  40. fuckpoliteness

    Ah Fine, I apologise, there was a line under the section you quoted from my earlier comment which said that you tend to stay polite to protect yourself. And entirely agree that there are very many situations in which that is the best choice left to you (the general you that is). I have been in situations where I’ve had to hold my tongue/pretend to be ok with things I’m not ok with/stay polite.

    Equally there are other settings in which I feel not showing exactly how angry I am shields behaviour that ought not to be shielded. The case on the train was one in which I felt (for my personal safety) I *ought* to have stayed quiet but my anger was such that I could not. But I would never suggest that anyone has an *obligation* to get confrontational or ignore that it can be a valid self protection mechanism to stay quiet/be polite.

  41. Fine

    Mindy, I can see what you mean by that. But I think he was reminding that I am very privileged in comparison. The rest of the conversation was all about what I could do about it and strongly encouraging me to stand up for my rights.

  42. minna.livejournal.com/

    That’s not what I said or implied. I gather you’re thinking of where I said “I have the desire and the will to dismantle hierarchies, not to invert them so that whoever was on the bottom of any given intersection can temporarily play the tyrant.”

    Apologies if it’s not appropriate to throw my opinion in here, but I would suggest that while you may have taken care to attempt to make your point clear, your parting comment read to me the same way it did to Jennifer. So while you may not have purposefully implied it, that doesn’t mean the implication isn’t there.

  43. Mindy

    Sorry Fine, one of my pet hates is being shut down by people who tell me, and others, that what we worry about isn’t that big in terms of what is happening to women elsewhere in the world and that coloured my response. I’m glad you had a friend like that in your time of need. I probably would have exploded at the police and gotten in a lot more trouble.

  44. fuckpoliteness

    Su @ 30…sorry, I did not mean to imply that playing hardball was *always* the right way to go about getting attitudes changed/needs met, or ‘(at all) that that’s what’s best for the situation in which you find yourself now/what you should do. I think you’re absolutely correct in that it needs a variety of approaches and there are times where anger needs to be kept to one side.

    In giving my anecdote I wasn’t meaning to contrast with yours, rather to refute the idea that the only way to educate was by being polite and respectful: in that particular instance the school had gone way too far and going over their head and telling the whole sordid story to the Department was what was necessary for the school to adapt to their obligations to all the ASD kids at that school. There was an element of shame/disrespect involved in that I simply went straight over the head of the Principal given her actions were so outrageous and I told the whole sorry story complete with awful quotes about my son being ‘piggish’ when frustrated (at the age of 7). In that particular instance shame *did* educate.

    But certainly I don’t want to suggest that your approach stated earlier was meant to be highlighted negatively against mine!! Best of luck with the school meetings Su, many hugs your way.

  45. Anna Winter

    Actually I think I agree that anger and impoliteness are very effective teaching tools, which is why Catallaxy threads are always marked by the changing of minds and the shifting of opinions. /snark

    Seriously – unless you think that Catallaxy debate is at all useful for anything other than entertainment, then you agree with Laura and Fine that there’s a point at which it is not. Linking to threads about how you refuse to submit to a debating style that the anti-feminists think you should follow is missing the point entirely. You have at least three feminists telling you that the style of debate here is off-putting and ineffective.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees that creating a space where sexist, racist and ableist people aren’t welcome is a bad thing. But what some of us are trying to suggest is that the atmosphere at HAT is sometimes such that even fellow travellers don’t feel welcome to debate the specifics within a broad framework of agreement. There are plenty of shades of grey that are being ignored. Surely it’s important to acknowledge that in there somewhere are the ideas about which you may just be wrong, and by shouting down the person who might have challenged you into making your ideas better, you’re the one who loses.

    If what you want for HAT is a purely activist site where the Hoydens post their decrees and the commenters all agree then go forth to spread the word, then no-one’s saying you can’t have that. But I don’t think that’s what you want, so perhaps you might want to start questioning how things work around here when a smart, funny feminist who blogs about Jane Austen, cats and fantastic wallpaper says that she doesn’t feel comfortable in your threads.

  46. fuckpoliteness

    It might perhaps go better if the instances in which people have felt unwelcomed to debate were specifically mentioned? That way we could see what the responses were that apparently shut down debate?

  47. Mindy

    Anna Winter – one of those instances, if I recall correctly, was because of the use of the word ‘lame’. It has a distinct meaning here. That blogger, whose grasp of the nuances of the english language is far greater than mine, may feel that the language has moved on from the original meaning which is fine. But here, it hasn’t and it was asked that that be respected. I don’t want to delve into this anymore because she is not here to defend herself. But if being asked not to use terms like ‘lame’ on a disability friendly site make you feel unwelcome then perhaps you have some thinking to do.

    Note: I have great respect for that blogger, and really enjoy her blogging and find her writing thought provoking. I think of her as a feminist ally. As I do you and Fine. I also think that you need to suit your behaviour to the space you are in.

  48. Mindy

    I should have noted that ‘you’ in the last sentence is used in the general sense not specifically aimed at anyone.

  49. su

    I think we’re on the same page FP and thanks : )

    I suppose it needs to be said that people can be simultaneously angry and respectful too. I think the point about not inverting hierarchies is important but as to what degree of disrespect constitutes an inversion, I am not sure.

    I also think that the answer will be different depending on whether we are considering the responses of the oppressed or merely those who advocate for them.

    Part of able privilege is that I can well afford to measure my responses carefully and calculate what stance to take, because ultimately it is not me who will be most affected if I get it badly wrong. So while I may believe that I have a responsibility in a particular situation to present as calm and respectful, I wouldn’t expect that from my sons for example.

    I keep coming back to the idea that this is more important than merely my feelings, and also more important than just my family’s circumstance and because I want the opportunity to continue to influence the context in which my sons and other PWD live, I will swallow shit, to use the current metaphor, on his behalf so that I might have the opportunity to have another shot at changing not merely the behavior he faces but the attitudes that underly those behaviours. It is a fine balance however, and I worry about getting it right.

  50. su

    Whoops the conversation has moved on I was responding to FP @ 44

  51. fuckpoliteness

    Sue @ 49, I think I know what you mean (with the balance and getting it right). For me it feels less that some approaches are wrong/right and more about using different responses as they feel appropriate. For the most part my interactions with my son’s school in the five years since have been cordial, and mutually helpful – I have no wish to be in confrontations with school staff but am also aware that in the particular scenario I found myself in all those years ago it was necessary and productive (the result was that the school instigated a series of measures to assist kids w ASD to have safe spaces for time-out from the playground, developed visual cues and behavioural management systems and obtained more extensive training…and that they were aware that bullying me as they had previously was not going to work). But yes there have been ‘shit swallowing for the greater good’ instances.

  52. Anna Winter

    That’s a good example, Mindy of where I think the problems are coming from.

    Without getting into the specifics of the lame thing, or the going native thing (I missed the former conversation), I think this is where the disagreement lies. With possum’s comment I saw him basically saying that he didn’t agree that the term was offensive anymore/in the way he used it/&c, but that out of respect for Hoyden being your space he apologised for using a term you found offensive and said he wouldn’t do it again.

    The response to that could have gone two ways. Everyone could have left it alone and understood that it’s not up to you to change people’s minds. You can ask them to think about their point of view, and you can insist they don’t use the term here, but that’s it. Anything more is policing people’s behaviour in the sense that you want to insist that everyone follow your orders wherever they go, whether they agree with your interpretation or not.

    The pile-on was in acting as though because he didn’t agree with your interpretation he was a terrible person, rather than acknowledging that intelligent and decent people can disagree about words and phrases and that Possum doesn’t have to apologise for using a phrase he doesn’t believe is problematic. He apologised for offending which was the right thing to do, and should have been accepted in that spirit. You find it offensive and he respected that in your space, but expecting him to apologise for something else that he didn’t believe was wrong is where dogmatism and bullying comes in.

    It doesn’t matter which side one falls on in the debate about “lame” or “going native”. What matters is in accepting that there’s room for disagreement and having enough humility to recognise that other people think differently to you and it doesn’t make them bad, and doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. The person who’s wrong could be you.

  53. Mindy

    Ok, I can see where you are coming from. Part of the problem is also what is perceived to be an apology. I, for example, don’t see someone saying “I’m sorry if I offended you” as being an apology if I’ve just told you that you did offend me. I expect you to say sorry without qualifications. By putting qualifications on an apology what you are saying to me is “you say you are offended, but I don’t really believe that you could/should be” and to then say “I know someone and they aren’t offended” is really the topping on the cake.

    For example – Hexy, as an Aboriginal woman, was offended by the language used but no apology was offered. It doesn’t matter how many relatives you have who are Aboriginal who aren’t offended, if you have offended someone it’s up to you to apologise unconditionally which didn’t happen here. You can’t claim family dynamics make you immune from offending anyone outside your family. It was simply bad manners.

    I understand that not everyone uses/accepts my understanding of what constitutes an apology, but I think it is a fairly assumed position here that that is what an apology entails.

  54. Anna Winter

    Sure, but when we’re talking about a guy who didn’t understand the female/woman, adjective/noun thing, then surely it’s also important to look to the spirit of the comment rather than the words. He clearly meant that he didn’t mean to offend anyone and wouldn’t use the phrase at Hoyden ever again because he didn’t want to offend a second time.

  55. Mindy

    But he didn’t read the comments! He continually justified his position instead of reading, pondering and apologising. It was made clear to him on a number of occassions why what he said was offensive here and why he should apologise unconditionally and he didn’t get it. It’s not up to us to educate him, or hold his hand and explain things simply.

  56. Jennifer

    Anna@45

    I’m guessing part of your emphasis on the women expressing concerns here being feminists is related to the link Lauredhel posted, but it’s something I did see in the earlier thread as well, and I do have some concerns with it.

    I don’t know precisely the instances Fine, Laura or yourself are referring to when they talk about feeling unsafe and shut down here. But there seems to at least be some idea that some of these instances have related to displays of privilege that aren’t on the men/women oppression axis; and I’ve seen some of threads which may or may not be part of the history of this*. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to realise that the CR threads were a reference point, and in that context at least, I think there’s something quite problematic about making the focus “but these are other feminists”, because it glosses over that these are also white, TAB feminists in discussions about race and disability. I’m happy to be corrected if that’s not what you intended to imply.

    Also, w/r/t the Possum conversation, you’re once again eliding the power dynamic. That someone “doesn’t believe X is offensive anymore” sounds innocuous enough, but when that person is in a societal position that has historically used X as an offensive weapon, acting as though their simple belief is on par with that of those it has been used against (and before we get another ‘indigenous friend’, conversation, I would direct folks to hexy’s comment on that thread before they put their foot in things). Which is precisely my issue with your charactisation of the CR thread and your glaring false dichotomy w/r/t “hearing PWD” v. “not challenging their ideas”, which I addressed in the previous thread also.

    All three of these things suggest to me that this issue of the power dynamic/differential is where the stumbling block is.

    And to be perfectly blunt, the freedom with which you and Laura are flinging words like ‘tyranny’, ‘taking the role of the oppressor’, ‘dogmatism’ and ‘bullying’ in reference to people who in many cases are in positions in which you are the privileged party is making me feel like I shouldn’t be talking. Obviously they’re not personally directed, but that’s the impact on me, if that’s important. Not quite to point of me actually shutting up, but enough that this window has been open for about 3 hours now.

    Laura – thank you for the clarification, and I’m sorry to have so failed to impress you, but would it not be worth considering that using a word as charged as tyrant is perhaps not as careful as all that? Also, see above.

    *incidentally, FP@46 I agree that specific incidents may be useful. Whilst I can understand there may be some apprehension about dredging up old arguments, there really does seem to be a whole lot of nebulous history that’s being left unsaid and I’m not sure leaving it so is useful to achieving some kind of understanding of the problem being raised in order to address it.

  57. Anna Winter

    Actually, I think we were using words like tyranny and dogmatism in the (false, it seems) knowledge that people would read them within the meaning of the comments we made rather than taking them out and running around with them outside of their careful contexts.

    This really isn’t about power dynamics. Laura, Fine and I don’t need to be educated on power, oppression and privilege. That’s the point of me saying that we are feminists. Not as a plea to leave us alone because we’re good, but as a plea to not assume we are idiots and instead realise that we are all doing advanced patriarchy blaming, as Twisty Faster would say.

    For the last time, I don’t care about anti-whoevers not feeling welcome here. What I am trying to argue is that when you force out people who agree on the broader issues but don’t feel comfortable debating the finer details with you, then how do you test your ideas? If they’re good ideas they should be able to withstand the critiques of people in the same movement. If they can’t even do that, then there’s no chance of them taking hold in the rest of society. So when fellow feminists say this is a problem, you don’t have to agree, but you may want to at least try and process what we’re saying.

  58. Mindy

    I don’t feel like you are processing what I’m saying. I don’t feel that you have responded to my points about inappropriate language on a disability friendly blog, and non-apologies and not giving free passes to hapless men just because they are hapless men. If they aren’t called on their unexamined privilege how are they ever going to become un-hapless? I feel sometimes that you ask and expect us to do things that you don’t do yourself.

  59. Lauredhel

    If they’re good ideas they should be able to withstand the critiques of people in the same movement.

    I think you’ve really failed to hear jennifer here:

    I think there’s something quite problematic about making the focus “but these are other feminists”, because it glosses over that these are also white, TAB feminists in discussions about race and disability.

    The ‘feminist movement’ has historically (and currently) done very, very poorly at dealing with intersections of disability and race (and other axes). I’ve heard an enormous number of immensely bigoted things said by TAB feminists about people with disabilities. Saying “I’m a feminist, we’re in the same movement” when we’re actually talking about race and disability is unconvincing at best, and dismissive of that point.

    Self-identifying as a feminist doesn’t automatically give you ally cred with PWD or Indigenous people or people of colour or non-white people (I know terminology is problematic here) – far from it, in fact. When I’m talking about disability I do not consider myself to be “in the same movement” as able-bodied feminists. If they wish to put their money where their mouth is as allies to the disability rights movement, I’m all for that, but we’re not just automatically “in the same movement” because they’re feminists.

    I feel like I’ve just said the same thing five times over. Probably a sign of the frustration I’m feeling here at the level of Not Getting It. I’m hoping that one wording, at least, sticks. If not, then I really think we’re at the “agree to disagree” point.

  60. allordinary2.blogspot.com/

    Yes, we are at the agree to disagree point, and I will now make good on my earlier promise to leave you all to get on with doing whatever it is you’re doing here. I simply don’t have time or the mental energy for discussions that wind up, once again, hinting none too delicately that I’m not a good enough feminist or indeed not really a feminist at all. I have nothing but contempt for those hints, and I assure you they don’t wound me in the least, despite all your diligent efforts. I am also going to stop reading this blog as well as commenting on it. Goodbye.

  61. Anna Winter

    I don’t feel that you have responded to my points about inappropriate language on a disability friendly blog, and non-apologies and not giving free passes to hapless men just because they are hapless men.

    I think I’m also getting to the point where I’m not interested in doing this anymore, but just on this point, what I’m saying is that I agree that it’s not OK to use inappropriate language on a disability-friendly blog and I agree that you can and should call people on it. I don’t agree that you can call it a non-apology when someone is unconvinced by your attempts to persuade them to dislike a particular term but still are respectful enough of your feelings to apologise for hurting you and promise not to do it again in your space. I’m hearing you (or listening or whatever the correct term is lest I offend on that point again) I just disagree.

    And I’ve already explained a. what I meant when I tried to remind you that we’re all feminists, and b. that I don’t need 101 feminist history lessons or explanations of the concepts you all are using. Since my comment is still there for the reading I won’t bother repeating my point.

  62. tigtog

    Laura, it’s a shame that you’re probably not reading this, because I think you’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to see hints that just aren’t there as I read this thread.

    If all you can see is scorn for your feminism here, then nothing we can ever say will convince you otherwise. All I can do is say that is certainly not what I feel for your feminism at all, and I will continue to miss your contributions. Challenging certain statements made, particularly challenging them on the basis of language usage, is not the same as challenging one’s entire character, but you have repeatedly inferred such criticisms from being challenged here.

    If anyone wonders what made me stop contributing as much to LP as I used to, by the way, at least part of it was the way I felt misjudged and misrepresented by you on the thread last year when you announced that you were going to stop commenting here. It’s difficult to co-blog with someone who judges one so harshly. [ETA: I have been reminded by email that Laura stopped blogging at LP long before the Beauty Culture Thread of Doom, that just wasn't my perception at the time. My mistake. As I said, only part of my general feeling of largely meh about LP since the last US election anyway.]

  63. tigtog

    @Anna Winter

    I don’t agree that you can call it a non-apology when someone is unconvinced by your attempts to persuade them to dislike a particular term but still are respectful enough of your feelings to apologise for hurting you and promise not to do it again in your space.

    I don’t care whether he is persuaded now to dislike the term or not. I don’t think anyone else here is making that the issue with his apology either. He doesn’t have to be persuaded, and none of the non-acceptance of the apology he offered was based on whether or not he agreed that the term was inherently offensive. It was all about the conditional formulation of the apology.

    I’ve been bagging on politicians and other public figures using the conditional IF/MAY non-apology formulation for a couple of years now. Why would I not challenge anyone who used such a non-apology formulation on this blog? Sure, PC probably used that formulation unthinkingly because it’s a staple earworm in his media consumption, but he’s doing an awful lot of unthinking around this issue for a generally thinky-thoughts kind of chap – the sympathy starts to be strained after a while.

  64. Linda Radfem

    FP said -”It might perhaps go better if the instances in which people have felt unwelcomed to debate were specifically mentioned? That way we could see what the responses were that apparently shut down debate?”
    Are you asking that people show you proof that they really did feel shut down or otherised?

  65. tigtog

    @ Linda Radfem:

    Are you asking that people show you proof that they really did feel shut down or otherised?

    Not proof. FP was asking for examples.

    It is difficult to deal with general accusations without specific examples.

    With you, for example, I know that I definitely did shut you down in a recent thread. The manner in which I did that was not a specially mature reaction on my part to reading some of the contents of your blog that reference HaT, and deciding that I could no longer consider you to be a good-faith poster here.

    So, yes, I did do that to you and it was not perfect behaviour. It was rooted in personal antipathy. I still feel that you are a not a good-faith poster here, but that doesn’t mean that you will never have something worthwhile to add to a discussion, and I will in future treat your comments in a more mature fashion.

  66. tigtog

    I’ve just been re-reading the thread, and I missed this first time through.

    @Fine:

    And I do get the concept of privilege, so you can stop the educating.

    Perhaps WP is as interested in writing for the lurkers who are reading along as she is in responding to you, Fine. Perhaps the effort at education is not aimed at you, personally, at all.

    I don’t always write with particular consideration for the lurkers when I make comments, but I often do. That was part of the way I first learnt to make contributions to online discussions on USENet. The ratio of lurkers to commentors on Hoyden is about 100 to 1, and it’s fairly obvious that only those who feel fairly confident with feminist theory tend to actually make comments here, especially in discussions such as this one.

    So why not throw in a few extra details in one’s comment that allow lurkers with less familiarity with the topic to follow along and perhaps inspire them to do some further reading elsewhere as well?

  67. su

    I have managed to agree with nearly everything that Anna, Laura, Lauredhel and WP have said and I hope that that means that there is no essential opposition between the various principles but that everyone differs in how that think they have been/should be applied.

    Isn’t what Anna has been saying to do with the idea that identity politics can get bogged down in enforcing the moral or correct codes of behaviour and that that can often stand in the way of persuading people and of building alliances across a really broad spectrum of opinion within the feminist movement? Because I think that that is really valid and watching the body politic continually shredding itself is really disturbing to me.

  68. su

    Comment wobbles. Ist sentence should end “how they think they have been/should be applied”.

  69. tigtog

    @su,

    I like your interpretation/paraphrase of Anna Winter’s argument, and in principle I agree with it.

    The counterweight is that marginalised voices are told all the time to stop enforcing moral/correct codes of behaviour ‘for the benefit of the movement” , and this also stands in the way of persuading people and building alliances across a really broad spectrum of opinion within progressive politics generally, not just the feminist movement. That’s one of the reasons why there is a womanist movement that fights for women’s rights separately from the feminist movement. That’s why there is a trans rights movement organising separately from the broader queer politics movement.

    There is a balance to be struck. I’m sure that we don’t always get it right. But I’m not entirely convinced that by being sticklers against marginalising language no matter who uses it that we are being entirely wrong, either. When someone finds being challenged on the usage of marginalising language to be a culture shock, I think that is a good thing.

    The issue of sarcasm & mockery is separate, and I must admit to some ambivalence here. Some situations deserve mockery, and sarcasm is sometimes appropriate, but certainly they are tools that can be overused. What is not necessarily intended as gloating (rather as a form of defusing tension, usually) is being perceived (or at least represented) as gloating, and that’s not useful.

    However, as a comedy nerd, I am terribly loath to forgo such useful satirical tools entirely – I truly believe that sarcasm and mockery can educate onlookers even if they don’t necessarily educate the targets, especially through absurd juxtapositions that shake people’s preconceptions about. Given the ratio of lurkers to commentors, playing to the crowd and not just the other players is part and parcel of the medium. I also repeat Lauredhel’s point that the images posted in the Crikey thread o’ doom mocked behaviours rather than persons – I do think that’s a very important distinction.

  70. minna.livejournal.com/

    Personally, I think sarcasm and/or mockery of those behaviours, while often upsetting to the people who have performed them, serve to reinforce that they’re unacceptable in this space -to both the person who performed them, and to the people hurt by them -in a way that ten pages of patient explanation doesn’t. So I agree that it serves to diffuse the situation, but only for the people being hurt by bad behaviour. Personally, I’m fine with that, because I think it’s the line difference between having a 101 space and safe space.

  71. su

    Tigtog @19

    There is a balance to be struck. I’m sure that we don’t always get it right.

    I was trying not to talk about specifics to do with how HAT works because noone gets it right all the time and I have always found the place congenial.

    I get what you are saying about marginalized voices continually being told not to police others, I think the idea that they should swallow the merde in order to engage in realpolitik has been referred to as requiring a “sacrificial logic of subjectivity” and I agree that that is unacceptable. But then I think Anna also agrees that is unacceptable, she has said so.

    Once again we seem to be at a point where we know there is a nuanced position between shutting up ourselves and shutting others down but for whatever reason, the centre does not hold and we are talking about that dichotomy of be silent/silence others. One way of breaking that down is to remind people, as you have done, that acknowledging a mistake does not mean there is a permanent stain on your character, but I reverse the logic and say you can also create a kind of holding space that allows people to continue to believe that they are good while they are in the process of changing, to understand that we are all involved in the process of transforming and that that can be a messy process. I ask myself why I have felt the need to slink off when I have had some self-examination to do. Perhaps that is completely appropriate, I am not sure. Please understand I am not saying that Hoyden should necessarily change, I am just talking generally.

    I am of a psychological, not philosophical bent and I see simple personality clashes all over these disputes, including by the way, in my own participation. For myself I worry that if I argue beyond a certain point I can let personal animus damage not merely my own peace of mind but by association the very principles I would like others to consider.

    I suppose the other thing is that it is relatively easy to learn to use appropriate language and so never cause offence, but that can actually mask attitudes that should be interrogated. I ask myself how an organization can be discriminatory while each member of that organisation, interviewed separately, seems to be very aware of the problems of prejudice. I don’t believe the answer is simply that they are being insincere, I think there are more subtle processes involved.

  72. tigtog

    @minna,

    I think it’s the line difference between having a 101 space and safe space.

    That’s a neat summation. I do my Feminism 101 over at the Feminism 101 blog. I’m willing to do patient explanation here up to a point, but only up to a point. This is a personal blog, for discussing all sorts of things included full on rantage, and if someone wants to be treated as a 101-er then they are most welcome to ask a question over at FF101.

    @su,

    As usual, perspicacious and penetrating. Your points raise some good questions. I need to think about my answers.

    Just for clarification,

    But then I think Anna also agrees that is unacceptable, she has said so.

    I agree entirely. I see that what I wrote could be read as implying otherwise, and that was absolutely not my intent. Apologies for any confusion due to my lack of clarity.

  73. WildlyParenthetical

    I have something new(ish? maybe?) to contribute here. I’d left this thread alone because to respond, I felt I would have to respond to Fine’s request that I offer examples of when Laura and she had been called out on their privilege. I am not interested in rehashing ancient history, particularly, and I’m resistant to being backed into a corner (as I felt, with that request) of simply accusing people of refusing to acknowledge their privilege again. Especially given that this thread did not originate there.

    And so, to Su’s point, I don’t disagree with your reading of AW’s argument, at some level; and yeah, I think that broad alliances are important, but I think that the grounds of those alliances are political too. The problem is again the question of who does the educating, and how, and how particular political gestures here are seen as simple ‘inversions’ of hierarchies. First of all, I disagree with the idea that ‘inversions’ of hiearchies simply maintain those hierarchies; but then, I’m a deconstructionist, so I would think that. In fact, I tend to think that dealing with hierarchies without some level of conscious and deliberate inversion will tend to leave the hierarchies in place, simply because what’s privileged is unconsciously invested in as more rational, as more objective, as more commonsensical, as ‘just the way it is’. Obviously, that’s still a live debate, but it’s ludicrous to think that the small counter offered here in this blog to the dominant logic of the world will risk an over-representation of marginalised voices. This is all kinda theoretical, so I guess an example would be useful: Lauredhel’s description of her encounter with the man blocking the curb cut centres the experience of someone with a disability, giving voice to something that is too often left unheard (because all we’d usually hear is about the annoying woman who made him move his truck when it was only there for JUST A SECOND and, well, you get the idea). It demonstrates the violence – sometimes latent, often not – towards those with disabilities. It might prompt people to think more carefully about how and where they park, or about accessibility more generally. But it is hardly going to result in no one being able to park anywhere for fear they might block the path of someone with a disability. In this sense, the inversion enacted here is significant, and always situated in the context of ableism, and so it’s never simply reenacting a hierarchy, but rather deconstructing it: helping everyone to see how ableism has shaped TAB’s presumptions about the world being made for them, and the problems this produces for those with disabilities.

    My point, I guess, is that there seems to be an undercurrent of resistance to acknowledging that privilege shapes how conversations happen: it’s privilege that constructs the ‘shared ground’, the ‘common sense’. I’ve noticed this in conversation with conservative friends: I have, in the past, explained and explored my own position as a way of trying to convince them. And they wound up asking me questions, until I was justifying and justifying and justifying while they didn’t shift anything except the goal posts. Eventually, I spotted this dynamic, and refused to play it that way. I presented my perspective as if it were common sense; as if it were the obvious and generally acknowledged truth. The other person is then left to answer questions about why they don’t believe it’s true, usually growing more and more defensive as they realise that their own position is not unassailable. This demonstrates, I think, how significant a shift it is to centre marginalised voices. It shifts the burden of proof in such a way as to force the privileged position to rethink itself instead of having the marginalised position do that work. And it draws attention to how pervasive the effects of privilege are in constructing ‘common sense truths’.

    All of that said, I think it’s probably pretty clear from the way that I comment that, yes, as tigtog says, I write for more than the individual person I’m allegedly responding to, and I’m not overly interested in jeering or mockery. I don’t doubt that sometimes I come across that way; and yeah, sometimes I use snark. But part of why I tend towards the annoyingly pedagogical is that I know that I’m massively, massively privileged. I’m white, I’m TAB, I’m cis, I’m (not uncomplicatedly) middle-class, and I’m stupidly heavily educated. For the most part, then, I’m not the person who is personally under attack in casual racism, or in easy ableism (sexism and homophobia’s another question, obviously, but let’s just go with this for now). I’m not the person whose life is threatened, in some way, on a regular basis, and thus sees, accurately, the deathliness in the small ‘slips’ of those who are privileged. I’m the one who does the ‘small slips’, but I’m also the one who tries to pay attention to where those ‘slips’ happen, and who knows that they’re my responsibility. I have a tendency to be angry on others’ behalves, but it’s an anger that plays through in articulate explanation, most of the time, partly because I probably once was the person ‘slipping up’. Asking myself ‘why is this person angry with me, rather than simply disagreeing?’ forced me to acknowledge that these questions which for me might be one step removed, are right up in the faces of some people, and they have every fucking right to be absolutely livid with the world, not least because ‘common sense’ denies they have any right to be angry. And yes, I’m an educator, so my backing-up of those who are marginalised (when I do it, which given that I’m not going to play translator to the marginalised so that the privileged never need to learn to think or engage with difference, isn’t necessarily that often) tends to be, like I said, annoyingly pedagogical. That is, I think that what Anna Winters is saying doesn’t happen in this context often actually does: there often is someone willing to explain why a particular turn of phrase is problematic, or a particular perspective. But even if there’s not, a whole bunch of people acting like it is entirely, ludicrously offensive to behave in a way that a privileged person (in this case, a white man) considers inoffensive can act as a prompt to him asking why, exactly, this group of people take that truth to be self-evident, over and above his truth, and in such a way that they think it’s beyond the requirement for justification or explanation. It lets him do the work of sorting out why, of asking how other people’s experiences could be so different from his own. And pedagogically, that’s even better than slow and careful explanation, because it’s his own thought processes so he’s learning, not just arguing, and politically, it’s important because it doesn’t allow ‘common sense’ its usual privilege of being unquestioned… So yes, I see a place for explanation and careful exploration, but here I see it as occurring within a delimited context that already centres marginal voices, rather than as an attempt to achieve that context. And, once again, apologies for going on, and on, and on, and on! :-)

  74. WildlyParenthetical

    Argh, forgot to refresh page after an overnight break. Apologies all, I think most of my points may have been made!

  75. su

    I think I may have misunderstood the expression “inversion of the hierarchies” because I absolutely agree with the interpretation you have given . I suppose I was thinking it was referring to the situation where bullying tactics that are usually deployed against the oppressed are turned around and used against someone in a dominant group who is momentarily outnumbered. Not that there would not be some worthwhile purpose to doing that at times but it risks solidifying the notion that when one has some power, however transitory, one should use it to humiliate and subjugate the less powerful. Not saying that that was done to Possum, I don’t feel able to comment on that thread because I suspect my reactions to it are entirely due to my personal foibles/sore points.

  76. Mindy

    I suspect my reactions to it are entirely due to my personal foibles/sore points.

    Don’t worry su, I suspect there are more than a few of us in the same boat.

  77. Linda Radfem

    “It is difficult to deal with general accusations without specific examples. ”

    Not accusations so much as people stating what their experience has been here – their truth if you like. I wasn’t going to refer to your recent response – I was going to add something more helpful, if FP was asking a serious question. Seeing you responded to it I’ll assume she was.
    When I first began delurking here I was mostly either ignored or snarked. I think talking about specific examples could be risky but I will give just one. It was some time ago after the federal gov announced the lap-top scheme for high school kids. I tried to explain why the idea might be appealing from the perspective of a ‘welfare’ mum who is painfully aware of not being able to give her kids a lot of the stuff that their peers have, and worrying that they are often disadvantaged because of it, despite being bright kids.
    In response, someone snarked at me “taught highschool lately??”
    Shut down, snarked, whatever you want to call it, it might seem trivial but it’s othering to read that kind of response when you’re among strangers many of whom seem to be well-educated middle class professionals, and it’s hard to participate when you’re constantly reminded of your otherness. I also have Aspergers, something I made a point of mentioning very soon after delurking. There have been loads more similar experiences here to the one I just mentioned which no doubt have informed some of my more recent posts, which I agree have been what you would call bad faith but what have also sometimes just been a snarky privilege call which I’m now reading is apparently ok to do (news to me).
    I don’t like it being put about that I’ve always been a ‘bad faith poster’ because this has been a process and it’s not a fair characterisation of my input.
    Now I’ll be out of your hair.

  78. WildlyParenthetical

    Mmm, okay… I guess the question is, then, what counts as bullying? Because I first of all don’t think there’s an objective definition, and in relation to that, I have a sneaking suspicion that the kinds of things that count as bullying in relation to those who are privileged are far broader than in relation to those who aren’t? And I don’t mean that this is deliberate: I think that those who are privileged tend to be able to make others behave well towards them, in some way, and the occasions upon which they have to do that are fairly few. I mean, for example, when we were together, I agreed to put my ex’s purchase of a fridge on my credit card (temporarily, long story). It was simply accepted at the store. He was extremely taken aback, because, being visibly non-white, he was accustomed to having to provide i.d., and have someone nip out the back to call the bank. If that had happened to me, I probably would have reacted pretty poorly. Those who aren’t privileged just can’t make others behave better towards them, a lot of the time. In this sense, they’re familiar with it, and many develop what’s been called ‘defenses against misrecognition,’ that is, ways of dealing with bullying which tend to often be ‘swallowing shit’, but sometimes are angry or sarcastic or whatever. The hypothesis I guess I’m making is that those who are privileged aren’t used to being called into question in whatever way, and so tend to have a lower threshold to that stuff? Which can often mean there’s a tumbling-together of ‘bullying’ and what I see as pointed, snarky engagement, which is designed to force recognition of privilege. And I think it’s important not to unbind this from the pointing out of privilege and racism that happened on the other thread: Possum reacted defensively, and dug himself in nice and deep, and so others mocked his inability to deal with being called out in a decent fashion. That isn’t designed to *humiliate* him or subjugate him, I think, but rather to shame him according to his own principles/those shared by a peer group he’s participating in, in an effort to get him to think more carefully about how he does it next time. I get that some people thought that was uncool, but actually, I’m not sure it’s bullying at all? (For the record, I’m not saying bullying is okay; I just also tend not to think of bullying as the sole point at which behaviour becomes uncool, y’know?)

  79. Lauredhel

    I tried to explain why the idea might be appealing from the perspective of a ‘welfare’ mum who is painfully aware of not being able to give her kids a lot of the stuff that their peers have, and worrying that they are often disadvantaged because of it, despite being bright kids.
    In response, someone snarked at me “taught highschool lately??”

    If this stuck in your head particularly as an exemplar, maybe a re-read could help? What you describe above is not what happened. I get that it might be what you remember having happened – that can happen to anyone.

  80. su

    The hypothesis I guess I’m making is that those who are privileged aren’t used to being called into question in whatever way, and so tend to have a lower threshold to that stuff? Which can often mean there’s a tumbling-together of ‘bullying’ and what I see as pointed, snarky engagement, which is designed to force recognition of privilege.

    Yes, I agree with that.

    And (note to self)sometimes it is simply not possible to hold together people when there is a fundamental disagreement or misalignment of perspective and I should accept that. Another of my foibles exposed there. I did not mean to prolong the argument in an unhelpful way.

  81. tigtog

    @ Linda Radfem

    For the record, even though you’ve said that you’re out of here: most important part first -

    I don’t like it being put about that I’ve always been a ‘bad faith poster’ because this has been a process and it’s not a fair characterisation of my input.

    I agree and I did not intend any such implication. That’s why I used the phrase “no longer”. I’m sorry that I didn’t make myself clearer.

    You’re not the only person here with ASD, by the way. I’m undiagnosed, but it runs through my family like a river and I’m very familiar with it. I don’t always make the most appropriate social response, although as I’ve got older I’ve got better at faking it. So for me, you being an Aspie wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy. I sort of assumed that you were aware that my family was on the spectrum and that that was why you mentioned it, although I haven’t written about it as much since my son asked me to not blog about his life experiences, so I guess that you didn’t necessarily know. That is however why I have a particular bee in my bonnet with the “vaccinations cause autism” kooks for their misinformation that means so many autistic kids are essentially tortured with painful treatments that won’t do any good instead of getting the early intervention cognitive behavioural therapy that will help them to navigate society more effectively. I didn’t mean to particularly ignore your Aspieness, it just didn’t strike me as all that important because I thought you knew my own ASD connection. I see that this made you feel bad, but it certainly wasn’t deliberate.

    As to the thread about school laptops: your comment was #7 – Beppie engaged you respectfully at #9, then the thread went on, then Purrdence made the remark to which you object at #16. Your comment #19 closed the thread, probably because you made a very good point that nobody could add anything to. Lots of threads end with a strong comment that nobody adds to.

    As a general statement: comments being “ignored”? I am sad to hear that you feel bad about this, but I have whole blog posts that get ignored. I don’t take it as a slight, I just figure that what I wrote didn’t catch the imagination of the commentors. That’s just what happens sometimes.

  82. Linda Radfem

    I see you won’t be enlightened, Lauredhel. I wish I hadn’t bothered now.

  83. WildlyParenthetical

    Oh, Su, I didn’t see this as unhelpful, not at all! And I think we’ve moved into discussion rather than argument? I don’t think it was unhelpful to dwell with these questions a little more. I think that there are really fundamental differences in political commitments here (I’d characterise them as something like liberal feminism vs intersectional feminism, or something?) which play through in different understandings of the engagement in the threads in question and different political priorities.

    And I meant to refer to your earlier discussion of dealing with your son’s school. I’m sorry it’s been so rough. I wanted to say, though, that your refusal to be bullied into part-time school won’t necessarily change anyone’s perspective, but it certainly plants a seed. It might take time, but I suspect there will be some kind of shift. But in the meantime, I hate that you have to work so hard to be heard, and with so little support. I hope this battle earns you a reprieve.

  84. tigtog

    Linda, your post crossed with mine and Lauredhel posted hers while I was composing mine.

    I have to agree that your description of the thread simply does not match my reading of it, as I describe above.

    You were engaged with respectfully on that thread by Beppie.

    Purrdence highlighted just one phrase of your comment and responded to it. You felt that her response was mocking. Did you see that she put “;p” after it? Which is meant to signal playfulness? Are you at all open to the interpretation that she did not mean to mock you?

  85. su

    Ah Good! Sometimes I need to check, make sure I’m not overstepping a mark (I can be a bit blind to these at times) and inadvertantly making people uncomfortable.

    Thanks for your support WP. The part-time stuff was a few years back, it is just the high school bully boy thing we have a problem with now, and the unconscious gaslighting of him (do you think he misinterpreted, is he hallucinating [FFS!] etc etc).

  86. Linda Radfem

    Of course, tig tog, but this is why I hesitated to post an example, because I knew it would be pulled apart and dismissed as irrelevant. I explained my experience to be told that no I couldn’t have experienced it that way. Instead of going through people’s posts with a fine-toothed comb and rationalising experience long after the fact, just so you can *not* take them seriously, try listening.
    I now know why some others have given up trying to get this across.

    Laters.

  87. tigtog

    @ Linda,

    You know where I talked above about how I, as an ASDie, sometimes miss the mark socially? You didn’t respond to it at all (rather very hurtful, actually) but you did presumably read it. So, as a fellow autistic and mother of two autistic children, I say to you in full sympathy, and sitting here crying for both you and for me (remembering similar misunderstandings of my own): you are stuck in concrete thinking on this. This is a difference of opinion – not a campaign against you.

    Nobody is saying that you didn’t experience it the way that you say that you did. You obviously felt mocked, and that’s a terrible thing to feel. But nobody else knew that you were feeling mocked, because they genuinely didn’t and still don’t see Purrdence’s comment in the same way.

    We weren’t ignoring someone mocking you, we didn’t see any mockery. So your choice is either to believe that people can genuinely see the same interaction differently, or persist in this concrete thinking that because you see it that way so must we all have and now we are just pretending.

    Do you really think that we are just pretending about this?

    P.S. I do now understand your resentment of us more fully than I did before. I’m genuinely sorry that I missed the signs that you were feeling so excluded. I just thought that you were a bit of a prickly person, and I felt I was doing you a favour in not challenging your prickliness. You probably read that as just more ignoring of you. That’s not how it was meant.

  88. Ariane

    Coming in very late with a very general comment:

    First, I’ve never been in an environment where people feel passionately about something where I haven’t felt alienated and excluded at some point. Like su, I tend to come from a psych perspective, and it seems to come with the passionate territory. No doubt I’ve contributed to it as many times as I’ve been affected by it.

    Second, that conversation about what successfully educates people probably accounts for 90% of those occasions where I have felt alienated. Everyone, I guess, learns under their own conditions. Lauredhel described memorable learning experiences for her, and it makes sense that she uses similar approaches when engaging with others. I learn best in a logical, dispassionate discussion. I try to dissect the problem and remove the emotion. That then, is also how I try to engage and teach others. This thread has shown me a great deal about the different ways people respond to a challenge to their world views. Not least that many people find the removal of emotion insulting and disempowering. I already knew that, but I think I understand it better now.

    Now I shall go away and try to work out what practical response I can have to this. Thank you all for the insight.

  89. Deborah

    I’ve written and deleted this comment approximately 862 times tonight, so I thought that I had better just bloody well say it.

    su@21
    I ask myself why I have felt the need to slink off when I have had some self-examination to do. Perhaps that is completely appropriate, I am not sure.

    Interestingly, this is exactly what I do too, and I operate from a very analytic perspective (you can tell that by the way I have stood back from my own behaviour and said, “Interestingly” as ‘though I am some laboratory specimen). I think it is a very good thing to do (of course, I would say that, because I do it too), not just because of the breathing space and down time, but because it allows time to process the thoughts and emotions. When I’ve been hurt on-line, even when it’s an instance where I’m the person who has stuffed up and I have rightfully been rebuked, I need that time out.

    Being scolded hurts, even when it’s justified. Maybe especially when it’s justified, because that’s when I end up examining myself, and finding myself lacking. It’s hard work, and it takes a certain amount of moral courage to face up to it. I prefer to do all that in private, off-line, and very, very quietly.

    (Actually, as it turns out, I’ve deleted the second half of this comment yet again, but I’m going to post the first half right now.)

  90. tigtog

    By the way, I just want to clarify something. I’m dealing with Linda’s claims in a fair amount of detail because she is describing a pattern of feeling ignored and unwelcome on a personal level as a newcomer to this blog since sometime last year. While her recent statements on Hoyden and her own blog made me resentful towards her, I also see how her own resentment grew from what I see as a series of personal misunderstandings, although she may still see them as something more systematic. I do very much regret the misunderstandings.

    I see this as a very separate issue from the criticisms of our style of argument levelled by Fine, Laura and Anna Winter, who are people who have commented here for years and whom I have engaged with elsewhere in the blogosphere for years. The challenges that have made them uncomfortable here have been on particular ideological differences, not personal misunderstandings (although there have certainly been some miscommunications).

    Perhaps they are more related than I am seeing. But I don’t think so.

    I do think that being consistent on not tolerating marginalising language no matter who uses it is an important ethical stance. While I understand and appreciate the force of the argument that larger political purposes require a gentle handling of not-fully-aligned fellow travellers, I simply cannot swallow my personal ethics in that way, and I wouldn’t want anybody else to swallow their own ethics from some sense of a larger alliance with me. This is not a claim that my ethics are necessarily superior, because the larger goals are very very important, and if my personal ethics truly do impede them then that makes my stance an obstacle rather than a contribution. It’s my own personal sticking point, sure, but it’s not just that.

    I’m not fully persuaded of the accuracy of the claim that going the gently gently route on not-fully-aligned allies has ever historically been the best way forward in terms of persuasion that leads to social change. My own reading of history is that social change usually comes through radicals challenging the status quo hard and setting novel precedents thereby that later (and not without backlash) become the basis for a new social understanding. Our society progresses in a series of PushMePullYou quantum leaps.

    Our commitment to challenging marginalising language here no matter who uses it is a radical political commitment. It’s not a particularly large challenge to the status quo, way over here in this little piece of the blogosphere, but it is held very seriously. Some people might find us to be just language wonks who have a bee in our bonnets about a side issue, but to me language usage is a crucial part of politics. If it wasn’t, why would the reactionaries find the very concept of Politically Correct speech to be so very very threatening?

  91. tigtog

    @shonias,

    First, I’ve never been in an environment where people feel passionately about something where I haven’t felt alienated and excluded at some point. Like su, I tend to come from a psych perspective, and it seems to come with the passionate territory. No doubt I’ve contributed to it as many times as I’ve been affected by it.

    This rings so very true. Well said.

  92. Ariane

    @tigtog
    Some people might find us to be just language wonks who have a bee in our bonnets about a side issue, but to me language usage is a crucial part of politics. If it wasn’t, why would the reactionaries find the very concept of Politically Correct speech to be so very very threatening?

    I don’t agree with all of your positions on language, but I don’t think you are language wonks and my disagreement is based on the best way to handle the damage done by marginalising language, not because I think it doesn’t matter. I think it is also very clear what the stance is here and I try very hard to respect it. It can feel daunting, but I don’t think that is a reason for you guys to change your policy. It’s my problem, not yours.

    However, I suspect at least part of the reason why people find it threatening is that it can feel infantalising. If you’ve never engaged in real thought on the effects on language, it can pretty easily feel like you are in year 1 again and your grammar is being corrected. I doubt it always comes from an interest in perpetuating the marginalisation. Which isn’t to say that isn’t the effect – just my psych bias showing again.

  93. su

    I was speculating the other day about how “autistic” has entered the language as an adjective for socially clueless behaviour. I practically chew my own arm off when I hear that usage because it is a) a negative descriptor and thus reinforcing an ableist perception and b) reinforces a perception that is factually inaccurate anyway in that it is seen as people simply not perceiving social or emotional content when in fact my own experience with my elder son is that although he misses some emotional cues at other times he is hypersensitive to social/emotional content and his responses are not inappropriate in kind but in degree.

    But although I hate the way that “autistic” is used to described the behaviour of NT’s, I was wondering whether its sudden appearance in casual speech or writing is part of a process in which the culture and the language are gradually incorporating knowledge and understanding of people who are neurodiverse (an imperfect understanding obviously but then all understanding is in a state of imperfection, and being continually being refined). So I was thinking that rather than simply saying that that usage is inappropriate, I may need to be more patient, perhaps talk about how it is inaccurate and perhaps talk about the complexity of how actual people with autism respond in diverse ways to social and emotional concepts that they are not all the same and that it isn’t simply a case of being “blind” to all social cues. Maybe the inappropriateness is an opportunity.

    My response to this word would then be quite different to “retard”, “moron” etc.

  94. minna.livejournal.com/

    @su

    I also read it as ultimately a good sign -people are becoming more familiar with, and accepting of, the concept of ASD, and so more accepting of the differences that come with it.

    I’ve mostly been exposed to people using aspergers specifically rather than autism as the catch-all for any social awkwardness, and I also try to take the time to educate people on what it actually means. :3 I’d personally never heard of aspergers and had only the vaguest idea what autism was until it starting being diagnosed left, right and centre through both sides of my family about 12 years ago.

    (Though on the other hand, I tend to be very careful about who I tell about my own social issues, because I find people ‘make allowances’; which, while coming from a good place and intended as a kindness, ultimately makes it harder for me to learn. :/)

  95. su

    It’s good to know I’m not way off base, Minna. That is such a good point about “making allowances”. In fact that is a perfect example of how society can disable people by lowering expectations and assuming that an impairment is a fixed and stable characteristic.

    I can remember the very first time I encountered “autistic” as a general descriptor, it was in Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. I didn’t fire off angry letters or anything, nor did it spoil my enjoyment of the book, it just niggled then, and does each time I see it.

  96. Anna Winter

    The conversation between Su and tigtog upthread have helped me clarify what exactly I’m trying to argue, so thanks for that.

    This is a very short summation of my points that will obviously miss a lot of nuance. But for those of you who really have tried to understand where I’m coming from I think you should find most of your questions answered in older comments, and there’s the added bonus of providing those who just want to think I’m ridiculous that there’ll be plenty of opportunity for you to misread what I’m about to write. So win/win, really.

    Firstly I’m agreeing with Laura that if we are going to criticise certain types of behaviours in others (and rightly so) then it’s really not good enough to employ them ourselves. If we want to change the culture it’s no good saying that we can still do these things when we’re in whatever oppressed group is the focus of the debate.

    And on a somewhat related point, perhaps the possum thread may be a useful thing to think about the next time you see a thread on LP or elsewhere that feels like a pile-on and realise that maybe what happened there is also just lots of people with the same opinion not realising that when more than two express it in sequence it feels that way even when it isn’t orchestrated that way. So perhaps a little more understanding that the people who do it to you aren’t necessarily acting in bad faith, and also a little more understanding that just because it isn’t what you intended, doesn’t mean the person being criticised by ten people in a row starts feeling attacked rather than debated with.

    Secondly my main purpose in this thread was to try and explain that the advanced patriarchy blaming needs to work both ways. I get that Hoyden isn’t a 101 space and that’s what many of us find so frustrating. Because we come here knowing that, yet when we disagree with certain points the debate switches to 101 in response to us. So rather than assuming that I understand the privilege concept and have thought quite a lot about the conclusion I’ve come to within that framework and disagree on how to apply it, the kneejerk assumption always seems to be that I haven’t “checked” my privilege. That probably should be the assumption on a 101 blog, but if you’re going to move beyond that you have to change what your assumptions are in regards to the commenters there as well.

    Which was, to drag up old wounds but to make things nice and specific, was my beef with what happened in the Rossiter threads. The Hoydens have known me for long enough that to know that I understand the issues involved, so to have my words interpreted as someone who has never even come across disability activism was insulting. And to characterise a thread in which most (although granted not all) of the comments were along the lines of “I agree with what Lauredhel says, but I also agree that what Anna wrote was not incompatible”. That it’s characterised by many here as an example of a bad thread suggests that advanced blaming only applies to those who agree with the Hoyden line rather than as a place in which there are still plenty of disagreements from people who agree on the basics of one’s need to check privilege and examine the circumstances under which we all make choices.

    And again on a somewhat related note, one of the benefits of having people use handles and gravatars is so that when we respond to someone we don’t have to take their comments at face value and rather we can genuinely discuss things with them as friends, where we all know the shorthand and the in-jokes and can enjoy the snark together. As tigtog said above, some of us have years of history together, so surely we should use that when we interpret each other’s meanings. If everyone had done so I would never have had to keep repeating that I don’t have a problem with snark or impoliteness. As always, context is everything, so while it may have been easier to assume I was saying don’t snark, it didn’t help anyone understand what I was actually saying.

    So yeah, this is my short comment. Clearly twitter has been good for me ;)

  97. Mindy

    I apologise for the 101ing Anna W.

  98. Anna Winter

    Thanks Mindy, but it really isn’t necessary. I know it wasn’t/isn’t intentional by anyone here and I didn’t take it personally. And I also know that I’m probably guilty of it too.

  99. tigtog

    @ Anna Winter

    I get that Hoyden isn’t a 101 space and that’s what many of us find so frustrating. Because we come here knowing that, yet when we disagree with certain points the debate switches to 101 in response to us.

    I can see how that would be frustrating. I haven’t consciously been doing it, and I will certainly watch out for the tendency, because I can see how it would come across as condescending, and it certainly doesn’t further debate.

    ETA – One small caveat though: I don’t necessarily agree that a “check your privilege” challenge is necessarily moving the conversation to a 101 level. I’m very much of the opinion that 202s, 303s and PhDs in advanced blaming still fuck up on the minutiae of unexamined privilege even when they’ve got most of the big things covered. I know I do, still. I’m better at catching myself at it before anything revolting actually slips out, but yucky things still lurk in my subconscious and other recesses.

  100. Lauredhel

    So rather than assuming that I understand the privilege concept and have thought quite a lot about the conclusion I’ve come to within that framework and disagree on how to apply it, the kneejerk assumption always seems to be that I haven’t “checked” my privilege.

    Mm. I’ll agree with what tigtog said, and add this: Instead of knee-jerk assuming that I’ve never heard or considered the tone argument before, perhaps you could consider that I have seen and heard it many many times in a wide variety of contexts, have thought about it deeply, participated in a lot of discussions about it, and disagree with you on how to apply it?

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