terribleturnip: (willow)
[personal profile] terribleturnip
It amuses me that certain people use "social justice warrior" as an insult. By god, yes, I will take up a mother-expletive spear if that's what it takes to make sure that people don't get discriminated against for bullexpletive reasons, like their gender, lack thereof, skin color, religion, disabilities, etc. If I had a motherexpletive elephant army, I'd roust them too. If you think that wanting life to be as fair as possible for everyone is something to be ridiculed, then I'm really not interested in your opinion of me or my character.

Personally, I think there's way too much ridicule going on, in general. But that's a whole 'nother post! (And warning...I'm feeling very fierce right now, so from here on, there be actual expletives.

I wanted to riff off a friend's social media post in which he was upset that people who'd termed themselves feminists were body shaming someone else, leading him to wonder whether feminism was only to benefit those that feminists liked. And in this case, he was right to be upset, absolutely. But to me, the important thing to remember is that those people were not practicing feminism...they were being assholes.

And we are all assholes from time to time. And for some people, it's not just time to time. Hell, there are Muslims who are assholes, there are Christians that are assholes, there are atheists that are assholes. (Looking at you, ISIS, Westboro Baptist Church, and you MRA/MGTOW godless).

Here's the thing: no group is without its assholes. (Even the Buddhists are plagued with monks dealing drugs, living lavish lifestyles. Even the BUDDHISTS, people. Which means there's no hope for the rest of us.) But you need to differentiate -- I mean, some people are just down to the core, down to the bone, going to be assholes the rest of their lives. The sociopath gene brush hit them too hard, they were indoctrinated in assholery in their youth and don't have the mental capacity to work themselves out of it. They are so filled with fear, so soaked in feelings of inadequacy, they can't help but compulsively create outgroups on which they can project their fears.

(Hey, if right now, you're thinking I'm talking politics, I'm really not. If you've been a little hypnotized by biased media on either side, then I think I can see how you might assume that. But trust me, there are liberal assholes and conservative assholes, republican assholes, democrat assholes, libertarian assholes, green party assholes, anarchist assholes and communist assholes. If you read that and thought I just reaffirmed your belief that the other group is full of assholes...you're probably one of the assholes in your group, actually. I sort of wanted to mimic Jeff Foxworthy there with "you might be an asshole if.... But that's too equivocal, my friend. Pretty sure you're an asshole.)

Anyway. We ALL can be assholes from time to time. And about certain things. And even if you think of yourself as pretty socially conscious, don't ever, ever doubt that you've got shit to work on. I hung on for the longest time to using the word "retarded". I grew up with it as a term of general contempt -- "that's pretty retarded". Also grew up with "gay" as a pejorative term -- when something was not like other things, not approved by the microcosm of middle school society, it was "gay". I'm not a hundred percent sure we even knew what "gay" was.

But then I got older and some of my friends came out of the closet and gay had meaning and it was pretty fucking rude to keep using as a pejorative. But for some reason, retarded hung on in my vocabulary, I'm ashamed to say. In my head, I'd rationalized that I only used it to refer to people who were born with full capabilities but then refused to use them. That they earned a special kind of contempt for which I reserved that word. That I'd NEVER use that term to refer to people who were differently abled. And I wish I could point to a Saul on the road to Damascus moment when the curtain was lifted and...it just occurred to me one day that it didn't fucking matter how CONVENIENT that word was...it was hurtful. That simply by using it, I could make someone feel awful, sad or hurt. Someone who already, quite frankly, had the deck stacked a bit against them.

And it was just stupid, lazy and meanspirited of me to keep using it. Why not just use a different word and hurt only the people I meant to hurt? Idiot, box of rocks, the brains god gave beets, moron, twatwaffle, etc. Now, some of these are terms that used to be actually used in diagnosing/categorizing differently abled people and I'm ready to abandon them if it seems to be bothering anyone -- but language is fabulously flexible through history, so what was a hurtful term then or a hurtful term now, can gain or lose power over time, and within a societal context.

Because that's what makes you not an asshole anymore -- the ability to see that you're being hurtful, feel shame, and correct yourself going forward. Now, you will still have moments of assholery left in you, absolutely! Simply by virtue of being born a specific gender, skin color, being raised or keeping a certain faith, by being tall or short or redheaded or...our primitive brains are driven to create outgroups, to fear what's different, to want to be solid with those that are like us. Thankfully most people have the cognitive ability to understand that there's great value in diversity, that it's not helpful or fair to discriminate, to hurt others. To correct their own behavior when it's pointed out to them -- instead of countering with "you're too sensitive" or the dreaded "I was only joking" (because you weren't. You get that right? You really weren't. You were, at best, being careless and thoughtless).

Don't get me wrong -- some people ARE too sensitive. Some people WILL take offense at anything. It can be very hard, when you're trying to be an ally to an outgroup, to hear that you're screwing up. That you're mansplaining, for example. And you know what, there ARE people who are using that phrase poorly, who are throwing it around like beads at Mardi Gras. But. It's also a thing. And if you're male, you probably have no idea how often it happens. How hurtful and frustrating it is. So, how do you know when you're being called out and it's justified?

First, start in your own head -- call yourself on it. Do you think the other person could possibly be right? If you have any kind of doubt about it, they're right. No? Okay, next is to look at the person who's calling you on it. If you know them, do they usually blow things out of proportion? If not, they're right. If so, get more data. Talk to them about it more, think about it yourself more, check with other people if you have a friendbase in that given outgroup. When in doubt, assume they're right. That's usually the case. If you're going to err...assuming you were being an asshole is the way to err, my friend.

I don't know if a week goes by without me saying something and then thinking "ah, that was sort of a dickish thing to say" and then, if I can, apologizing. It's easy to get carried away, with a group of female workfriends and say something that's sort of misandrist. There are people who think that women cope with so much misogyny that it's okay to exercise a little payback. Nope, you're then just being an asshole.

In case you were thinking I must be this politically correct, careful and thoughtful speaker, let me assure you, I am not. But I try to reserve being offensive for when I'm around people who will call me on it if I'm failing to punch upwards, if I'm crossing a line that becomes hurtful, if I'm wielding my privilege instead of ridiculing it. And that's a work in progress at best.

Brace yourself to be rejected. If you think being an ally is all warm fuzzies and never being called on your shit, you are WRONG. And sometimes you get called on shit you didn't deserve. I once passed a black man on my street, walking his dog and I gave him a great big smile and he said "You're only smiling at me because I'm black.". Actually, I was smiling at him because I'd been having a great day and he was a good-looking guy walking this beautiful brindle dog and I love brindles. Now your immediate reaction might want to be "fuck you, I was just being happy and nice". But that's where you have to stop yourself. You want to be an ally? You have to remember that this other person likely gets shit on all of the time. Sure it sucks to be generalized - but if you stack the number of times your life has sucked because someone made an assumption about you against the number of times that other person's life has sucked because someone made an assumption about them? Your pile is paltry in comparison. (That's privilege, by the way.) And if you've got privilege, you've got to cut other people some slack. It's highly likely that that poor man DOES get smiled at all the time by privileged white women who are thinking "oh, I'm going to smile at this man, look how enlightened I am" or "maybe if I smile he won't hurt me" or some other bullshit he's got to catch.

You want to be an ally, you gotta take some bruises. it's the least you can do. It doesn't mean you get to be mad because the other person wasn't grateful enough that you were making an effort. You check that thought -- they don't owe you ANYTHING. If you think they should be grateful that you're making an effort to be an ally...you might just be an asshole.
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