It was suggested to me by a very well respected female friend that I clarify my last post, make it more approachable, because people might be reading some things in it I didn't mean, and if I'm going to be a writer, I need to express myself in the clearest way possible.
I told her to stop being such a nag, then immediately began writing this because she's right.
I just read through the last post about feminism and gender, and internet, I was angry at the time because of a series of discussions around those issues, and I wasn't able to articulate my positions well, and that make writer brain hurt, and brain hurt make writer angry.
I feel the need to delve into these issues because they obviously ARE issues for, well, everyone, and as someone who would, to put this poetically, barf back out the food of life and call my vomitings art, this is something worth really understanding.
I'm leaving the previous post up, because my guess is I'm not the only one trying to express this, and if someone else sees my ugly, ugly process, maybe their's will be slightly prettier. Or at least faster. So here goes.
Couple things that I'm going to base my rhetoric on going forward:
1) There are some things that are facts, no matter how much they suck
2) Not all viewpoints on these facts, even if the facts suck, are productive
Statistically speaking, in a societal sense, women don't have as much opportunity as men. Here:
And you know what? That's awful. What that says is any given woman's work is worth 80% of mine, which just isn't true. And this exists despite laws to the contrary, and all kinds of progress since the 1960s to that end. It IS getting better. It's better than it was. But that extra 18%? That's still a long way to go, completely unfair, and implies all kinds of horrible things.
And this is a fact, no matter how much it sucks. Women currently have much less opportunity than men, professionally speaking, which is awful.
Men and Women are presented differently in the media, and present differently to each other based on normative "gender identity."
(Most) Men don't wear heels when they're dressing up formally. (Most) Women pluck excess body hair. Blue is for boys, pink is for girls. We have symbols of masculinity and femininity that exist in our culture, and in all cultures, that we dress ourselves in.
Now in the 1800s, pink was considered masculine. So were high heels, because they made you taller, and calves were like, REAL big back then. Women wore giant, heavy dresses and corsets, even Queens of country and female heads of state.
This is seen by many as inherently oppressive. I'm not going to address that JUST yet, so much as speculate as to WHY these tropes exist.
I don't think I'm surprising anyone by saying there are biological differences between men and women, and using those gender differences in very specific ways creates life.
It's been argued that the reason we risk our biological and emotional safety to bump uglies at all is that somewhere in most of our lizard brains is the urge to create the next generation of people who will also get all this (hopefully slightly less) wrong. Human beings take that urge and do all kinds of fun things with it, but the urge to copulate exists, and the direct result of that copulation in straight people, 90% of the populous, is new life. The world's population has doubled in 10 years, and babies are a WHOLE lot of work. Case and point.
It seems to me that they symbols of gender identity we have are quite often just that: symbols. Tools to signify "I am a man who is ready and willing to reproduce" and "I am a woman who is ready and willing to reproduce" is pretty important if our social circles are too small and we should probably screw strangers every once in a while to keep the gene pool fresh.
Does this apply to modern life? No, almost definitely not, but I personally believe in 100,000 years of evolution, and that it will inform the urges we're born with, although not necessarily the specific ways they're expressed. This MAY be why there's gender specific symbols in pretty much every culture...ever.
Our ways of expression happen to be high heels, make-up, and Ed Hardy shirts, in the worst of cases. These are tools that can be used for anything. I'd like to think that in the majority of cases they signal "I would like to be perceived as attractive." But at the end of the day, they're just tools that you can either use or subvert, or choose not to do business with. Second thing that is fact, to me: They are not in themselves harmful. They can, however, be USED for harm, which brings us to:
3) (not c. 3. I know. Just go with it.)
The world is full of assholes. And it's not most people, but there are ALWAYS assholes. And sometimes they're just regular people having a bad day, week, month, giant insecurity/working through something. A lot of the time they're just assholes. For example, here's a pretty comprehensive list of assholes in the U.S.:
Assholes will use tools against regular people for their own gains. They'll use religion, they'll use socioeconomic status, they'll use gender to benefit by your loss.
And they have existed since the beginning of human history, and belong to no particular race, color or creed. There've been assholes of all different races and genders in different colors all over the world (to me, this is another fact.)
Now the United States were settled by predominantly white, culturally patriarchal British People. And once someone has land and resources and it's tradition to pass it on to your eldest son, you start to build a society where white dudes have the power and resources.
Most of immigration came from Europe initially, which has a similar tradition. As an oldest son of a french and jewish white family who was pushed toward private school, I'll attest.
Then you get a whole bunch of rich people together, who have the time and energy to do things like write a constitution, and convince poorer people to fight the british for and with them.
And then you get laws like "only white male land owners can vote," etc. These were the viewpoints that were considered "correct" a the time. Fucked up? Yes. Also, everyone who held them is now dead.
So living descendants are left with a system that's designed to screw over anyone who's not part of that group 250+ years later. Thanks grandpa. The nice thing about that is that it's changing, and it has been for a while. The problem is that it's clearly not changing nearly quickly enough.
250 years later, we have things, and these are personal observations as well as things pointed out to me by that same very well respected female friend, like:
1) Wage Gap
2) Male actors have 70% of the lines, Female actors show 80% of the skin in movies
3) Women in advertising are usually portrayed as being physically lower than men
4) 1 in 4 women will be raped in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 8 men (approx.).
The estimated frequency of rape in black women in the U.S. is occasionally as high as 40% by the AGE OF 18. Wanna talk about fucked up?
Fucking awful And disgusting, all of it. My favorite book is HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I'd like to quote a passage:
And then, on Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.
We've been real good at being dicks to one another forever. Since there've been people. Hopefully, finally, in America, where any of our laws can be re-written by the voting populous, maybe we can be a little better.
All of the horrors above are giant systematic changes that need to be made. Progress has been made, by some very brave people through battle and quite often physical risk throughout the years, but not quickly enough.
All of the things above are true things, to the best of my knowledge.
Second part: not every way of looking at all that is entirely productive.
The problem with saying that all these problems are caused by straight white males, is that they're not any more. Some of them are PERPETUATED by straight white male assholes, or straight white female assholes, or whoever else, but the people who created the systems in which these problems are inherent are by and large dead and gone.
So straight white guys aren't at fault for an unjust system anymore, in the same way I don't blame current Germans for what their grandparents did to mine. We were born into it, and the best we can do is try personally not to perpetuate it, and socially to dismantle it.
Historically speaking, in this corner of the world, straight white guys caused problems. We're of European descent. In other corners of the world it was Asian guys, or African guys, or Eastern European Queens, or quite often in medieval Europe white female Queens. In the U.S. it happened to be straight white guys.
Does that mean as a straight white guy I was born into privilege? Yes. As an American I was born into incredible privilege, but being a straight white male, I'm even at the top of that pile. I didn't choose it though. I don't think it's right, and frankly, because it's served to alienate me from people who self-identify with other ethnic and gender identities, I really don't want it.
And I don't think most people who fall into that particular subset in the end, do. I think most people think everyone deserves and equal shot, and disagree with an unfair system, even if they themselves benefit by it. In the same way that I also think sweat shops are wrong. Without them clothing would be more expensive and life a little harder, but Christ, worth it.
There ARE people who do want this privilege. They're called assholes. And there's always been assholes. There will always be assholes. Assholes are part of the human condition.
And assholes use classifications of people into groups of "others" to be real big assholes. Nazi germany. Segregation. Apartheid. The U.S. labor camps for Japanese Americans in WWII.
As soon as you can classify a group of anybody by the way they look as in some way homogenous, it's a steep and extremely slippery slope down to "less than us," or "separate but equal."
Discriminating between two different objects is the act of picking out the differences between them for the purpose of classification.
As soon as you start to classify people by their differences, even to disempower a group in power, even if it's to point out a history "white male privilege" as anything other than historic or systematic, you are by DEFINITION discriminating.
You're not an asshole yet, by doing this, but you've kinda lost the moral high ground a little. You're lowering yourself to their level of thinking. Not straight white guys. Assholes.
"All white males in this country are born into privilege" on our side allows their side to say things like "all women just secretly want to be homemakers," Any time you're using ALL of ANY group of people, you're bringing a really nasty weapon onto the rhetorical battlefield, and people with malicious intent WILL ALWAYS use this against you, because that's what assholes do.
Because the truth is not all white men in the country were born into privilege. More were born into privilege than any other demographic group, which sucks. And there's a system they were born into that tends to mask that privilege from them and keep them in privilege, that they didn't create, but are still a part of. That's the white male privilege that exists. Again, no bueno.
So far be it from me to say I have the fix, here, but the best way to fight those who discriminate is by getting rid of the philosophical practice of discrimination between people.
There will always be assholes. Make their kind of rhetoric non sequitor. Because "all" of anybody is the rhetoric the shitty, unfair system was built on.
Because there will always be assholes; so let's take away their toys. That's the way to disempower them. Because the system was set up on the basis of discrimination, knock out the bottom floor and the rest of the house falls. Patriarchy, Matriarchy, Oligarchy- it's the "archy" that's the problem. That's where the bad shit happens.
And the nice thing is that IS a personal choice. It's day to day. It's something that you can make every day, and that's not to SEE people as part of a demographic, even if that demographic benefits them individually, because you're really just throwing kerosine at a fire.
If you see people as part of the solution, even potentially part of the solution, it's a lot easier to convince them to fight with you.
As Amy Leigh Abelson says, join "Team Human." It's not a battle of the sexes. That will never end as long as it's seen that way. It's a fight by everyone to make the shitty world we inherited a bit less shitty. And those who don't participate in the fight, or make it worse, are this and only this: assholes. Just like all the assholes before them. And you know what's awesome? If you look at the course of history, they usually lose in the end. At least, I'd like to think so.
We live in a system that puts women at a disadvantage. That means, among other things, it's easier for women to be victimized, to be treated unfairly, to be taken advantage of and hurt.
I refuse to believe that we live in a world where that's mandatory. I really don't think it is. That's kind of the whole point of doing away with an Oligarchy. Every human has inalienable rights, and it may be difficult to fight for them because of an unfair social system, but fighting is the difference between being underprivileged and being victimized.
So correct people when they use "pussy" as a derogatory term. Personally I've never really understood that one, since most of my experiences in that subject area have been extremely positive.
Call out the asshole who hates women, or calls women sluts for sleeping with whom they choose. Boycott the politicians who threaten women's inalienable reproductive rights.
Also, don't see "straight white guys" as the problem, or cause of the problem. We're all born, like it or not, into the same shitty system. And as long as we're on the side of change, we're part of the solution too.
I guess what I'm saying is let's all team up and screw assholes....
Yeah. Stickin with it.
Next week on spark'th'dark: Gay Marriage: Why do straight conservatives spend so much time thinking about it?
Come on now, we all know why.
Thanks for reading.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Saturday, January 5, 2013
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.