Alright internet, this is bit of a serious post.
I got into a heated discussion with a group of women who I love very dearly recently, I couldn't figure out what had made me angry. Thankfully, these people in my life are wonderful, and when we fight we just seek to understand where the other was coming from. I did a bit of writing about it, and this is what I came up with:
So, the whole challenging the norm thing. It bugs me that if I hold a belief which falls in line with "normative" thinking, if I'm not immediately thrown into a state of questioning by the first opinion offered to the contrary, I'm somehow failing. It implies that somehow my beliefs are less valid because they fall along that line of thinking, and should immediately be thrown into question. I don't form my beliefs based on common knowledge, because it's generally wrong. I feel like this is something about me that should be pretty self-evident by the people who know and care for me. If I hold a strong opinion about something, it's because I've seen pretty good evidence to that end, and if that happens to fall along "normative" lines of thinking, fine. If not, fine too. I feel like somehow because I didn't immediately admit that I had doubts based on the first contradictory opinions but instead chose to actually look it up before I formed a differing opinion on my own, I'm seen as; I don't know- being closed minded? Is that it? I think it must be.
I spent like 5 years of my life being told, by close friends, whose opinions I respected and trusted in all other respects that if I didn't except Jesus as my personal lord and savior I'd be going to hell. Welcome to South Dakota. My only defense was "show me evidence." Because these people REALLY believed that they were right. And were just trying to do good. And "educate" me. And they'd make the same argument If you respect us, why dont' you at least come to Church? It MIGHT be right. Challenge your beliefs and give over to social pressure. Yes, slippery slope into conversion.
Show me EVIDENCE of a loving God, when children in other places in the world starve to death before they have the chance to die of the aids they were born with. I can think what the hell I want, and just because more people in the room disagree with me, doesn't mean I have to admit that my position is less valid. Because it's not. I change my views based on evidence, not arguement, because if you start getting into that habit, you end up as a scientologist. I've SEEN it.
Now, that's a fear based reaction based on trauma that happened to me young in life, but it's still not a terrible defense mechanism. My mind is my own because I draw my own conclusions based on my own experience, and anyone trying to change that viewpoint, even if they have the best of intentions, has to back up their claims with evidence or I find them unconvincing. That's just me. The other half of that is that people can think what the hell they want, even if it's batshit to me, like for instance their God rose from the dead 3 days in, and now on sundays that LITERALLY eat his flesh and drink his blood and this isn't Zombies or Cannibals or whatever but the holiest of holy things, and you know what? Maybe they're right. I don't think so.
I think that's crazy. But I don't need people to agree with me. People believe what they need to, by and large, to get them through the day, and that'd their right, even if it's not technically correct. And it's my right to form my opinions in my fashion, and resist anyone who's actively trying to cause "social change" to their own ends, because I've never had a white person sit me down and tell me about the plight of black people. It's always arguing for the sake of the group they're already part of. And it's hard to see that, in the end, as altruistic.
Didn't realize this was an issue to me, but it is. And the funny thing is I AGREE with the version of feminism that is everyone deserves an equal shot and share. I just disagree with trying to convince people that's the case unless they're legislators. You have to let people come to their own conclusions- that's the process of growth. And good teachers ask questions, not preach. "Men and women are equal and if not you're an asshole" just isn't effective. The person on the receiving end's just going to cross their arms and smirk at you. "In what ways are they truly different? Is that across the board? No? So it really accurate to say that then? How about thinking about people in large groups? Doesn't everyone have an individual life experience? Cool. What were you saying about generalizations?" Is.
My life experience. I've seen it. If the goal is to educate people, you can't push them through the door. You can TEACH. Challenge only leads to debate, which leads nowhere. Teaching is questioning, not opposing. Because people with strong beliefs, when those beliefs are directly challenged, will clam the hell up. And you know what? It's their right too. Good for them. Because they have the freedom to be as wrong as they want to be, and to me, that's a much more important thing than them holding beliefs I agree with.
The second big part:
Also, in South Dakota, people perceived me as a "Jew." So I had to represent for "Jews." I've never been to a goddamn temple in my life. The most religious parts of my Jewish experience have been with my girlfriend in the last 4 months, true story. And I found that proving that Jews can be just as good as non-Jews still allowed people to think of the world as Jews and non-Jews. Which sucks. Cuz mentally, that's still separate but equal. There is no true equality with individuality. You eventually get holocausts with that line of thinking. I found asking "okay, well what religion was Jesus?" to be a lot more effective.
Also, representing a group you feel little connection with to a group whose opinions are going to be over simplified anyway takes a lot of energy. And it's my life. I don't have to play any role I don't choose to, just because other people seem to need me to. Kind of a "them" problem. And if I were to "represent" Jews just because other people saw me as one, I'm letting them sit in the casting chair. No thanks. Their fucked up viewpoints are their responsibility, not mine, and I trust that Karma's a bitch, and they'll get what's coming to them.
Same things with straight white dudes. Straight white guys have oppressed women and minorities throughout history. Yes. White guys also wrote the constitution. And discovered gravity. And relativity. And invented airplanes. And most modern medicine. Also died in the civil war to free slaves, in much greater numbers than minorities. 1 out of every 3 white men in the United states was killed or wounded in the civil war. 1 in 3.
There are a lot of "feminists" who do it poorly really don't like it when you say that, but here's the thing:
I didn't do any of those things. Neither did any of my straight white friends. I've never oppressed women. I've never written the constitution. I've never tried to pass legislation limiting women's reproductive rights. I've never invented airplanes. I've never "used" someone for sex. I HAVE NOT DONE THESE THINGS.
AND THE PEOPLE WHO DID THEM DIDN'T DO THEM BECAUSE THEY WERE WHITE GUYS. They did them because that's what people in positions of power do. Kings and Queens are assholes. So it's not the genetic make-up that's the problem, it's the crown.
If it'd been women instead of men, black people instead of white people, same shit would have gone down. Unless somehow it's implied there's something implicit in white men that needs to oppress others. WHICH IS FUCKING RACIST AS SHIT. Because there's not. Or else we'd all be doing it. And 99.9999 percent of us have never oppressed anybody. Or contributed to putting humanity on the moon.
And in the same way I don't get to claim credit for the birth of Particle Physics because Einstein was a straight white dude, I don't have to "represent" for republican senators to show not all straight white guys are douchebags. Because it's that frame of thinking that allows the people on the other side to generalize about minorities. I don't expect hispanic people to prove to me they don't participate in gang violence just because some hispanic people do. I don't expect my italian friends to prove they're not mafiosos.
So what bothers me when people tell me I have to be super careful about respecting how much harder it is for women or minorities or whatever it is is this: I treat everyone equally already. And you can' tell me I don't cuz I'm white. I know my life better than you do.
I've never raped anyone. I've never called a woman a slut for sleeping with who she wants to, because I think she should be able to, and always have. I believe it's stupid not to have gay marriage. I think birth control should be accessible and free. I'd take a male pill if it was tested and safe. That would be fucking awesome.
If there are hardships placed on women, gays and minorities, I DIDN'T PLACE THEM. Nor do I have the power to relieve them! Or the responsibility to answer for them just because I share skin color with the people who DID! TALK TO THOSE GUYS.
Saying I represent them in any way because I look like them is incredibly offensive. It's racist, and sexist. You look like them therefor you are like them. All white guys come from a place of power and privilege. NO THEY DON'T. Some do. I don't. And saying "you're a straight white guy, so you probably have without knowing it" is pretty similar to saying "you're a black person, you've probably stolen something at some point."
If this feels like passing the buck, it's not. If you want to go to the Illinois senate floor and campaign for women's reproductive rights, I will literally go with you. Let's go, and I'm not even kidding. Email me. Let's set up a time.
That's an action I can respect. Telling me how much harder life is for you than me really isn't. Fine. You're life isn't as hard as a Gay man's in China, or Uganda. Or even as hard as someone in the U.S. who grew up in poverty. Or was born with HIV. And those people don't think you owe them anything. And they don't sit around in living rooms complaining. Most are just trying to get out of the horrible situation they're in. That's fucking productive.
Because when I sit there and hear "things are different for you than for me," all I think is: fine, but it's not my thing. I'm not sitting here emanating an oppression field. You're not doing any good trying to convince me of something I've told you again and again I already know. You're just wasting your breath and making yourself feel less guilty about not being more active. AND you're just making me feel lumped in with everyone because of my color, gender, and sexual orientation. Which is by definition a racist thing to do.
Do German teenagers have to treat me carefully because their grandparents killed mine? Fuck no. THEY didn't do it. And I have enough empathy for them as individuals that I don't need them to apologize for their ancestors.
"My life is inherently harder than yours because I'm a woman and you're s privileged straight white dude," is NOT a fact. You might be a gay woman who lives on her parents dollar, which is easier than a straight white dude who supports himself by the sweat of his brow because his family is blue collar and can't or won't help him out. The second one is a lot harder. Also, how oppressed are you at this point, by the people around you?
There are institutional limitations and injustices. And that's awful. So let's go the institutions about it! I am not, nor have ever been, an institution. Neither have any of my straight white friends. And we agree with you that those institutions suck. Women SHOULD be paid the same for the same jobs. And frankly, when my wife is working, I'd love my half of the extra income. Anybody who doesn't think that way, to me, is a fucking idiot.
And you can't lump all straight white guys together and claim to be fighting in any way for equality. Equality, true equality, is individuality. Everyone is judged not by their color and creed, but by their individual merits. Including straight white guys. And everyone else with them.
Talk to the men who are oppressing women. If you talk to me, who's not, it just feels like reverse sexism, and like you're just bitching to make yourself feel better. Don't take it out on me, in the same way I don't take my anger and frustrations with women who have treated me poorly through the years out on you. And I don't. Because it's not your fault. You didn't do it. You weren't there, any more than I'm a senator from Alabama.
"My life is harder than yours," is hard to respect, no matter who it comes from. Fine, I say, so what are you doing about it? Because if you're not doing anything to effectively change it, you can't complain. And sitting here lecturing me doesn't count, because I already agree with you, it's waisted energy, you don't have a right to lump me in with assholes, and really, at the end of the day, you're just not getting anything done.