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December 6, 2009 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Not sure if this can be cleaned up...

but someone's decided that the post on the 20th anniversary of the Polytechnique massacre would be a good place to launch into his anti-feminist manifesto.
posted by justkevin to Etiquette/Policy at 8:55 AM (723 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

This was apparently sleep-in day in modland. I just left a note in the thread in terms of that sort of stuff being pretty much only suitable for Metatalk, and I'm hoiping it doesn't really even show up there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:56 AM on December 6, 2009


I'm still in shock that anyone thought that Marc LaPine may have had a point, let alone that he opted to post such an opinion in a thread about the 20th anniversary of the massacre.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:59 AM on December 6, 2009


Christ. I mean, really. I would normally expect this out of the blue, but in a memorial thread? Nuh-uh.

idiopath's comment "Would you respond to a thread about the Son of Sam murders with a screed about the immorality of premarital sex?" basically sums that up for me.
posted by Askiba at 9:00 AM on December 6, 2009


Regardless of the topic, I find people whining that "I'm being shouted down simply because I'm un-PC" to be tedious and boring.
posted by inigo2 at 9:05 AM on December 6, 2009 [38 favorites]


I find people whining that "I'm being shouted down simply because I'm un-PC" to be tedious and boring

And particularly so when they're shouted down for being just plain incorrect.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:08 AM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm glad this MeTa is here just so I can type BLAAAAARRRG!. Christ those comments made me more mad than it should have and what a friggen total-ass derail that was, both from a crass disrespectful POV and a completely clueless, how-the-hell-do-they-put-one-foot-in-front-of-another-and-not-fall-down-from-ignorance POV.
posted by edgeways at 9:13 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


i think pla is rather trollish - he seems to look for the most provocative way he can find of expressing his opinions
posted by pyramid termite at 9:21 AM on December 6, 2009


I think vacipinta and jessamyn cleaned it up rather sportingly.
posted by localhuman at 9:25 AM on December 6, 2009


Confusing Andrea Dworkin for Gloria Steinem is pretty much an alert that someone doesn't know the first thing about feminism. As a result, I feel that it's better off if those comments are totally ignored Rest assured that we're now up and keeping an eye on things.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:25 AM on December 6, 2009


For the future, can we keep graphic descriptions of violence off of the front page?

I have no problem with the post. I wish that the part about the victims pleading was after the cut. (Jump? Fold?)
posted by kathrineg at 9:29 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hear that some of the victims of the Inquisition might have actually been witches. So, y'know, bully for the Inquisitors.

What an ass.
posted by CKmtl at 9:31 AM on December 6, 2009


Generally speaking we'll keep graphic descriptions of violence off of the front page, but it's sometimes a tough call what to move and what not to move.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2009


I've noticed pla as one of the most obnoxious and juvenile of the newer members. Christ, what an asshole.


For the future, can we keep graphic descriptions of violence off of the front page? I wish that the part about the victims pleading was after the cut.


A mention of "pleading" is not a graphic description of violence. Did something get edited out?
posted by Rumple at 9:36 AM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I just don't get it. What did Marc Lapine say about this incident that was even vaguely interesting or worthy of reconsideration? He didn't have the grades to get into l'Ecole Polytechique, but instead of taking some responsibility for the opportunities he failed to open for himself through his own performance, he blamed the women who had managed to demonstrated their intelligence and ability by meeting the requirements of the program. He felt more comfortable believing that his god-given role in life was usurped by women; his application wasn't set aside because there were women applying. It was set aside because he didn't meet the minimum requirements.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:36 AM on December 6, 2009


The fact that the woman who made that plea was one of the few survivors makes that mention and the linked story worthy of the front page, I think. If she had been one of the women who died, seeing what would have been her dying words would be a lot harder to deal with.
posted by maudlin at 9:36 AM on December 6, 2009


His views on feminism, Nazism, Islam, drunk driving, etc., have been marked by a decided contrariness, coupled with a demonstrable lack of actual information backing up those opinions (his comments on feminists and Muslims were especially egregious examples.) I don't believe that PLA is trolling, but I suspect he fancies himself as demonstrating that his intellect is unburdened by the constraints of political correctness by siding with unfashionable viewpoints, and he also has a certain tone deafness to when such discussions are appropriate and how to phrase them, which can be utterly poisonous to a discussion. People I have known who have behaved this way in discussions often feel that the backlash against their comments demonstrates, not that they are bad conversationalists, but instead that the boldness of their viewpoints is necessarily going to be suppressed by the blinkered and the benighted, and they will argue their cases even more forcefully as a result, all leading to some tragic conversational whirlpool in which everybody fires their canon from opposite sides of the squall while the briny deep drags them deeper, deeper, deeper toward Davey Jones locker. me hearties, yo ho.

Don't know what can be done about it, except to choose not to engage him, which is difficult because I think we all have an understandable desire to correct misstatements when we see them, such as his false assertion that Gloria Steinem claimed all sex was rape.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:37 AM on December 6, 2009 [93 favorites]


Nothing was edited out.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2009


Yeah, this is a continuation of previously existing Weird Behavior. As a hooting jackass myself, I'm all for live and let live, but he's one of the few people around that I have an instant negative opinion of, and he's been tapdancing on this line for a while.

So, uh, go team mod. The system works, etc.
posted by boo_radley at 9:39 AM on December 6, 2009


On the one hand I can see how these posts interesting and certainly don't want them suppressed. On the other hand, it feels mainstream news, where the worst of humanity is trotted out for consumption, but society lacks any good tools on how to deal with being confronted LOOK AT THIS HORRIBLE CRIME so there's just a lot of anger displayed at times.

Sometime they go ok on the Blue, but often seem to descend into ugly pits of unfocused anger. I don't know whether this is good is the sense of creating a space for people to vent or bad in the sense of creating a space for people to vent.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:40 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What did Marc Lapine say about this incident that was even vaguely interesting or worthy of reconsideration?

He was clearly mentally ill. I'd say something glib like "grade-A crazy" but really I feel more sadness for Lepine than anger because in the end everyone died. He was a sad, ill man who needed help. Like I said in the thread, we remember these women because all too often people who were not mentally ill have told women that engineering is not the place for them and that should never happen again.

Also, yeah, a dick move from someone who probably has absolutely no idea of the cultural context of this event.
posted by GuyZero at 9:41 AM on December 6, 2009


Apparently he was not mentally ill. Well that's what they're saying today on all the memorial documentaries on the radio, at least.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:43 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Huh. That's kind of my go-to armchair diagnosis for anyone who shoots that many people.
posted by GuyZero at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Shouldn't this thread be deleted as a double? The new post doesn't seem to add anything to what was already posted by aclevername besides disaster porn of pleading victims and crying families.

PS: amazing there is no union of the tags in the two posts.
posted by Mitheral at 9:46 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


What an offensive thread. We have people arguing about feminism, arguing about Gloria Steihem, another guy implying that the victims should have fought back because the guy only had a .22, and then describing the kind of gun it was (NATO something something wankoff wankoff).

What the fuck?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:46 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


pla was being an idiot in the Montreal thread, but this comment from a different thread is smart, effective and more or less precisely what that particular discussion required.

God damned villains. Why can't they just wear black at all times?
posted by philip-random at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


It is sort of hard to imagine that somebody would kill that many strangers based on a generalized antipathy towards women without there being an undressed mental illness. But, then, it is also hard to imagine that sane Tutsi's would kill a half million or more of their Hutu neighbors without there being some mental illness being at work. Sometimes what seems to be madness is simply anger and loathing and jealousy and selfishness turning murderous.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2009 [15 favorites]


I find people whining that "I'm being shouted down simply because I'm un-PC" to be tedious and boring

Too right. This has always been the Asshole's calling card. How dare you suppress my noisy ignorance!
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


yeah, pla's modus operandi seems to be:

1) drop demonstrably false claim into thread
2) respond to challenge for evidence with unrelated evidence
3) refuse to produce any more evidence when challenged again
4) leave with a "i'll leave this thread now because you can't handle the truth i'm laying on y'all" air

he did this in both the lepine thread and the swiss minaret thread.. it's juvenile and detracts from the reasonable debate that people can have regarding contentious or touchy issues.
posted by modernnomad at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, this guy again. What a surprise. He's going to keep shitting in threads until the ban-hammer falls. I wouldn't actually call him a troll as I think he believes his own bullshit, but he is only here for the fight.

When someone pulls the "PC Police" card, their credibility instantly drops to zero with me. But he actually used "sheeple" in a non-ironic context (in his anti-Islam screed), so it's somewhere in the negatives now. I mean, who still says that? It turned into a joke a long time ago. Maybe it is performance art, I dunno.
posted by cj_ at 9:54 AM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


pla was being an idiot in the Montreal thread, but this comment from a different thread is smart, effective and more or less precisely what that particular discussion required.

Yeah, so was this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:56 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The term "un-PC" is kind of funny when you consider its underlying premise. It's like a shorthand for "I absolutely refuse to consider the possibility that words can be hurtful, with the exception of 'bigot.'"
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 9:57 AM on December 6, 2009 [66 favorites]


Don't know what can be done about it, except to choose not to engage him, which is difficult because I think we all have an understandable desire to correct misstatements when we see them, such as his false assertion that Gloria Steinem claimed all sex was rape.

I think correcting misstatements is fine. The only strategy that works with people who believe themselves to be victims of "political correctness" is to correct their easily disprovable factual mistakes, while refusing to engage in their emotional drama. The campaign against "PC", which is almost entirely a rightwing invention, is notable for the degree to which it relies on absolutely untrue, incredibly easily disprovable claims. (See also: the war on Christmas.) This is because its adherents are primarily concerned with trying to feel like they matter, and have power, in a world in which they fear they might not. It's easiest to achieve this by adopting a contrarian opinion, and the most plentiful source of contrarian opinions is wrong opinions.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:57 AM on December 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Shouldn't this thread be deleted as a double?

The combination of the memorial nature and the fact that its five years later means that no, it's not a double. We have Flanders Field posts annually and CAPS LOCK DAY stuff. I wouldn't want to see the whole site becoming annual rehashes, but this sort of thing is totally okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:58 AM on December 6, 2009


HAs anybody contacted him to let him know about the this thread. I'd do it, but I don't want to.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:58 AM on December 6, 2009


I linked this MeTa thread in my comment.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:59 AM on December 6, 2009


Would he give a shit? Seems like offending the community is a plus in his book.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:59 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, dear - it's no wonder he's so disagreeable. I'd be cranky too if the best weapon in my rhetorical arsenal were Camille Paglia.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:02 AM on December 6, 2009 [22 favorites]


pla was being an idiot in the Montreal thread, but this comment from a different thread is smart, effective and more or less precisely what that particular discussion required.

I don't know, philip-random, I am completely unsurprised someone who made that comment is also shitting in another feminism-related thread.

Scientific studies claiming that there is no innate difference between the male and female brain = saying the sky is orange? Really? I'd argue that everything he says about the topic is poisoned by some of the fucked-up ideas he has about the value/goals of feminists.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:06 AM on December 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


Damn, I thought I recognized the name. pla also caused a lot of similarly obnoxious (and clearly ignorant) noise in the Swiss minaret ban thread. I'm not sure pla is trolling - there are plenty of people who really think they are Correct and that anyone trying to educate them just Doesn't Want To Hear The Truth. But the effect is broadly the same. I know you can't ban a poster for being an obnoxious dumbass, but it sucks watching threads turn into derails full of people trying to educate said poster, while said poster throws up more nonsense, plays persecuted, then disappears. Because, really, I'd rather talk about whatever the thread is actually about than pla's convoluted beliefs.

So, uh, thanks, mods, for doing your best to limit the derails and fights caused by this sort of stuff.
posted by ubersturm at 10:07 AM on December 6, 2009


I think there is a strong pre-disposition to automatically dump anyone who commits some terrible act of violence (or even minor acts of violence for that matter) as being mentally-ill, when such horrible things happen we seek some measure of solace in "well s/he was obviously not like normal people, they where defective", fact is though, most acts of violence are committed by people not considered mentally ill. It is not adequate to simply say "well, obviously no one sane would do such a thing". You could well posit the same phrase to cover going to war or actually engaging in war, yet the basic sanity of those actors are rarely called into question, outside of tomes of a philosophical nature.

I would actually argue that such knee-jerk reactions as automatically classifying violence doers as mentally-ill just causes more problems in the long run, not only to those who are legitimately mentally-ill, but as a refusal to accept it as our own potential behavior.

We seem simultaneously to insist on finding meaning by applying labels and do such a piss-poor job in being very precise in the application of those labels there are huge swaths of people that get caught up in the blanket assertions of things like "crazy", mentally-ill" etc. Michelle Bauchmann, for example, the MN Representative who keeps spouting off all those nonsense things, is likely not mentally-ill, but that does not stop people from constantly referring to her as such, and as crazy and.... thereby analogizing everyone who does have some form of mental-illness as being like Michelle Bauchmann. Never mind that the majority of people I know with some form of mental-illness tend to be more coherent than Ms. Bauchmann.

Yes, absolutely, some individuals who engage in such are mentally-ill, I just wish the label wasn't applied quite so fast and furious. Lord knows there is enough stigma and mindlessness in the world already.

sorry, tl:dr territory.
posted by edgeways at 10:09 AM on December 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


another guy implying that the victims should have fought back because the guy only had a .22, and then describing the kind of gun it was (NATO something something wankoff wankoff).

That's not what happened in that comment at all. The comment, by ROU_Xenophobe, was saying that he wouldn't have expected that many deaths from a gunman using a .22 and that, in fact, the guy didn't use a .22, but rather a different gun, which explains how he was able to kill so many people. He was correcting a mistake in the original post which could be confusing because the type of ammunition used was a lot deadlier than what was implied by the FPP.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:12 AM on December 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


yeah, pla's modus operandi seems to be: 1) drop demonstrably false claim into thread; 2) respond to challenge for evidence with unrelated evidence; 3) refuse to produce any more evidence when challenged again; 4) leave with a "i'll leave this thread now because you can't handle the truth i'm laying on y'all" air

This seems to be the MO of a good number of new users. It seems to me that this past few months has seen a new level of trolling behaviours.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:13 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I mean, damn, also from that comment declared "smart.":

"If you have testosterone, parts of your brain develop more than if you don't (and vice-versa)."

Normally I'm not for the "look up past posts on a person to call them out" but the ideas he is voicing are repulsively bigoted and stupid. But if he wants to say "hey maybe that guy who murdered all those women has a point" I feel less bad about pointing out the idiocy of everything he says.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:13 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know you can't ban a poster for being an obnoxious dumbass

Yes, yes you can.

Well, maybe not you, but the mods sure as hell can — and, on occasion, do.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Clean up in aisle 87219, can a mod report to aisle 87219 for another cleanup please.
posted by idiopath at 10:19 AM on December 6, 2009


The only strategy that works with people who believe themselves to be victims of "political correctness" is to correct their easily disprovable factual mistakes, while refusing to engage in their emotional drama.

A good idea, but one I've found rather difficult in practice. That is, it isn't so difficult to keep discussion away from drama and more to facts, but to "correct" anything - the truth is the truth and does not require one's belief in it. Truth is there for those that choose to believe in it, but getting people to first see it is difficult and convincing someone well enough that they believe in your truth is all down to the "target's" viewpoint. Sadly, many of this sort are not going to see reason for precisely the reasons listed above (i.e., he's convinced he's right, a victim of the PC attitudes of "these days," etc). The only effective way of dealing with such people is to ignore the offensive "blargh everyone hates the truth as I present it" and only engage the comments worth a discussion.

Ooh, don't I sound arrogant? Totally unintentional. sorry.
posted by neewom at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2009


For the future, can we keep graphic descriptions of violence off of the front page?

A mention of "pleading" is not a graphic description of violence. Did something get edited out?


I think this is much more disturbing depiction of violence than the pre-historic tongue eating, face scraping something that's also currently on the FPP. I realize I'm probably a bit more susceptible to something like this than the average person, but descriptions like these really put my empathetic "imagine you were her" piece of my brain into action, in a way that bloody-gory stuff doesn't. I mean, the most haunting story, to my mind, to come out of 9/11 was the hundreds of people who jumped instead of burning alive. What a choice to make. Pleading for your life, because of your gender and being a student? Fuck.

I'm not saying true, horrible but real, things like these need to be off the front page, but if that doesn't count as violence I'd revaluate yourself.
posted by fontophilic at 10:21 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This seems to be the MO of a good number of new users. It seems to me that this past few months has seen a new level of trolling behaviours.

If that's true, then the mods/the community are doing their job because I haven't noticed an increase in annoying activity. In fact, lately, I've been searching through the archives as part of a writing project I'm working on (or at least that what I tell myself when I should be working on writing projects or my "real" job), and have felt like the atmosphere is well improved from 'back in the day.'

Onto pla, I originally came into this thread to say that comments like that make me long for a "block user" button. I'd use it sparingly because not only do I respect differing opinions, their part of the reason I come here. But sometimes you just get a feeling from the things people say and the way that say it that you really don't want to hear from them. though philip-random's example made me realize that sometimes even an ass can bray a valid point, it also proves to me that I'm not sure I want to encourage somebody who thinks their proving their point just because I might agree with what they say .01% of the time.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:34 AM on December 6, 2009


In making this comment I do formally swear and make my oath to all following in their recent activity or discovering this thread anew that on my word as a mefite and the name of all that is best of the web I shall not on any occasion derail a thread about a senseless massacre of a room full of men by a feminist who is convinced they are agents of the patriarchy by appealing to the possibility that she was right.
posted by idiopath at 10:46 AM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Clean up in aisle 87219, can a mod report to aisle 87219 for another cleanup please.

what, again? I didn't see anything steaming just before 1:19 pm, I don't think?
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:49 AM on December 6, 2009


It is subjective of course, but I was just saying that the derail that spawned this meta was continuing (in a less pernicious form, but continuing).
posted by idiopath at 10:52 AM on December 6, 2009


Christ, what a jerk.
posted by rtha at 10:54 AM on December 6, 2009


it's not ok to discuss what feminism is in a thread about a bunch of women executed for being feminists? or are memorial threads only for memorializing with a period, and nothing else?

I'm not snarking, I want to know if I'm arguing completely inappropriately. thanks.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:02 AM on December 6, 2009


it's not ok to discuss what feminism is in a thread about a bunch of women executed for being feminists?

There's discussing what feminism is, and then there's implying that the killer wasn't, you know, completely wrong.
posted by prefpara at 11:05 AM on December 6, 2009


I could be oversensitive after the initial provocation in that thread, your contributions seem constructive toodleydoodley, something just seems extremely unpleasant (to me) about a thread about a massacre turning into an argument about the relative merits of the rationalizations of the killer.
posted by idiopath at 11:08 AM on December 6, 2009


Oh, I get that. I thought something else had happened after pla left the thread and several others were continuing what seemed like a civil discussion about the problems with the feminist designation.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:09 AM on December 6, 2009


Jesus suffering fuck! I would not have been as civil as justkevin was in calling attention to this issue (thanks, justkevin, for your levelheadedness). I'm astounded that any of that bile is still in the thread.
posted by Kattullus at 11:09 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The full pla comment that I linked to:

quote: "Dozens of such disguised-gender experiments have shown that adults perceive baby boys and girls differently, seeing identical behavior through a gender-tinted lens."

pla: I don't think many would argue that adults can project their biases onto the world around them. This in no way, however, "disproves" the idea that differences do actually exist.

Aside from the incontrovertible physiological differences (rotator cuff, optimal stride due to pelvic orientation, "tackle"), the presence or absence of testosterone has a drastic effect on brain development. That has nothing to do with societal expectations or adult gender biases - If you have testosterone, parts of your brain develop more than if you don't (and vice-versa).

People need to stop wasting time trying to prove that the sky looks orange.


If the contentious thing is that he claims that having testosterone in you causes parts of your brain to develop "more than if you don't", would changing it to "differently than if you don't" soften it up enough?

Otherwise, perhaps pla's "guilty" (in this particular comment) of presenting his thoughts a little more provocatively than necessary, but it's hardly offensive; just standard MetaFilter operating behavior.
posted by philip-random at 11:12 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks idiopath and prefpara for clarifying.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:13 AM on December 6, 2009


> It is subjective of course, but I was just saying that the derail that spawned this meta was continuing (in a less pernicious form, but continuing).

Yeah my bad. I wouldn't object if my deraily comments about feminism were nuked. I'll post my response sitting in preview to toodleydoodley here:

> and of course it would be lovely a) to get all marginalized people under the same banner to fight for their own and others' rights

I dunno, I think the challenges facing different groups fighting for equality are very different, requiring tailored rhetoric and political strategies. I'd settle for various groups not actively undermining each other, such as notable Civil Rights activists vocally opposing gay marriage.

> Yes, yes you can.

The idea of banning people for their opinions -- even if they are stupid and wrong -- makes me uncomfortable. I like having people like this around if for no other reason than I enjoy reading the rebuttals. They give me more ammo for dealing with them elsewhere. On the Internet, they are legion.

That said, shitting in a memorial thread about a massacre with, basically, "they had it coming" is seriously fucking offensive. The patience and restraint of the moderators here is epic; I would not hesitate to disable the account after that.

And yes, his point about MADD is spot on. He's a contrarian, and I have contrary opinions about some things. I mean, who doesn't?
posted by cj_ at 11:13 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the contentious thing is that he claims that having testosterone in you causes parts of your brain to develop "more than if you don't", would changing it to "differently than if you don't" soften it up enough?

Other people basically respond to him in that thread but I think part of eye-rolling nature of it is that I don't think he realizes that women have testosterone, too.

To be clear, I don't think that part was offensive, just not something I would consider smart or thoughtful.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:19 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


If the contentious thing is that he claims that having testosterone in you causes parts of your brain to develop "more than if you don't", would changing it to "differently than if you don't" soften it up enough?

I missed that comment the first time around. The "controversial" part of it to me is that he seems to think that women lack testosterone, which is just ignorant. Women have testosterone, just like men have estrogen.
posted by rtha at 11:19 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


jinx
posted by rtha at 11:20 AM on December 6, 2009


(the part I found offensive was the "proving the sky is orange" comment.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:20 AM on December 6, 2009


I'd settle for various groups not actively undermining each other, such as notable Civil Rights activists vocally opposing gay marriage.

see, that's what I'm on about. because civil rights proponents don't necessarily recognize that their goals and grievances are essentially the same as those of women's rights proponents who don't necessarily recognize that their goals and grievances are essentially the same as LGBTQ proponents (and etc) - namely that we all deserve equal protection and standing under the law. why's that so hard?
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:21 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh, and as my preview thingy keeps reminding me --

(((((everyone)))))
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:22 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


and of course it would be lovely a) to get all marginalized people under the same banner to fight for their own and others' rights

Reminds me of being an undergrad at Simon Fraser University circa 1978. 60s radicalism may have faded elsewhere but it was alive and kicking there, with much talk of trying to unite all the various "tribes" (feminists, gays, Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninists, anarchists, you name it) under a common banner.

The Trotskyists and Marxist-Leninists ended up brawling with each other in a local park and pretty much disappeared into the kind of absurdity that only Monty Python can do justice to. The anarchists more or less receded into pure theory. As for the gays and the feminists, their voices have just kept getting broader, deeper, more nuanced and POWERFUL.

Not all grievances are equal; certainly not in terms of their ability to reach "us" (the passersby) and affect the kind of change that shifts an entire culture.
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


IANAE but IIRC, men typically have more estrogen in their bloodstream than women do - we pretty much have more of all the hormones we have, but their cycles are slower in the male body, over many months, rather than monthly (and somehow "hormonal" is still used as a pejorative toward women). The other important difference is that the male testosterone / estrogen ratio tends to be higher.
posted by idiopath at 11:24 AM on December 6, 2009


Not all grievances are equal; certainly not in terms of their ability to reach "us" (the passersby) and affect the kind of change that shifts an entire culture.

any time is a good time to examine what marginalized means, of course.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:26 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


katherineg: I'm not saying true, horrible but real, things like these need to be off the front page, but if that doesn't count as violence I'd revaluate yourself.

Oh! OK, I "re-evaluated myself." And no, this:

One person pleads that they are not feminists, just students taking engineering. But the gunman doesn't listen. He shoots the women and then kills himself.

still doesn't count as the "graphic descriptions of violence" to which you object.

In fact, it is a remarkable neutral statement of fact. The only reason I am responding though is because no, the front page need not be sanitized from this kind of journalistic style prose, as you suggest.
posted by Rumple at 11:27 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I recently had a run-in with pla in the Swiss minaret thread, and I stand by what I said there. The biggest problem for me in this thread, is the last line of his first comment:

I don't mean this as inflammatory, BTW, ...

So, he knows it's potentially inflammatory, that it's going to make people angry, yet he posts it in a thread where it doesn't belong. Somebody above mentioned trolling, another mentioned being tone-deaf, and I simply don't know. But my word is it bad form.
posted by Sova at 11:27 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't mean this as inflammatory, BTW, ...

Don't take this the wrong way, but...

You know I'm not a racist, but...

I wouldn't ordinarily say this, but...

why are you so sensitive?!!!1!
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:33 AM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


men typically have more estrogen in their bloodstream than women do - we pretty much have more of all the hormones we have, but their cycles are slower in the male body, over many months, rather than monthly

Or as a former co-worker (a woman) used to say, women only get PMS once a month; men have it all the fucking time.
posted by philip-random at 11:36 AM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Rumple: that was fontophilic, not kathrineg.
posted by CKmtl at 11:39 AM on December 6, 2009


IANAE but IIRC, men typically have more estrogen in their bloodstream than women do - we pretty much have more of all the hormones we have, but their cycles are slower in the male body, over many months, rather than monthly (and somehow "hormonal" is still used as a pejorative toward women). The other important difference is that the male testosterone / estrogen ratio tends to be higher.

I would be surprised if that were true (but I'm willing to be corrected). Besides, the hormonal conditions in the womb and childhood when brains development is different from adulthood.
posted by Sova at 11:40 AM on December 6, 2009


The link makes it clear that I was misremembering and overstating the case, but it confirms that men do have a significant amount of estrogen in our systems, which as one gets older, does outbalance the level of the hormone in women of the same age. And the most important thing is not quantity of estrogen or quantity of testosterone, but the ratio of the two.
posted by idiopath at 11:44 AM on December 6, 2009


Just for everyone's information: the name of the killer was Marc Lépine.

Getting into Poly was never that hard, although in 1989 they may have had a less "let the first year sort it out" attitude than they had earlier.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:48 AM on December 6, 2009



Rumple: that was fontophilic, not kathrineg.
posted by CKmtl at 11:39 AM on December 6


Ah, so it was, quoted by kathrineg. My apologies.
posted by Rumple at 11:54 AM on December 6, 2009


And yes, his point about MADD is spot on

but fairly irrelevant to a thread that was about a person who annoyed the court that he was being supervised by, even if he'd been convicted of drunk driving in a fatal accident - he brought his virtual soapbox right into the discussion and started ranting about one of his pet peeves

his actions today were more of the same
posted by pyramid termite at 12:08 PM on December 6, 2009


Like I said in the thread, we remember these women because all too often people who were not mentally ill have told women that engineering is not the place for them and that should never happen again.

I remember those women mostly because it is far too common for women and girls to be killed by men who are angry at them simply for the "crime" of being female.

I'll be happy to change the names of "feminism" and "womanism" to "egalitarianism" or something else when that stops happening.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:25 PM on December 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


Didn't mean to put words in your mouth Sidhedevil, sorry. While this is another instance of violence against women in general I think for those of us in engineering school at the time it has a slightly more specific meaning relating to an issue that many people struggle with and that too many people ignore. But I don't mean for that to be an either-or thing - certainly everyone has their personal perspective on it.
posted by GuyZero at 12:28 PM on December 6, 2009


> but fairly irrelevant to a thread that was about a person who annoyed the court that he was being supervised by, even if he'd been convicted of drunk driving in a fatal accident - he brought his virtual soapbox right into the discussion and started ranting about one of his pet peeves

Heh. I read the thread more carefully (I missed it before, so I only saw the linked comment) and I guess it started with this:

Thanks to the demonizing work of groups like MADD, in mnay ways his friend got the lighter sentence.

That is actually pretty ridiculous. Yeah, I'd totally rather be dead than do a year in jail for killing someone. Fuck, I take it back.
posted by cj_ at 12:31 PM on December 6, 2009


Couple interesting threads of discussion here that I wouldn't want to wade into the original thread with:

Mental illness as othering, where folks assert normative privilege by tautologically assigning "mental illness" as the cause of anti-social (understatement) behavior. I never read enough Foucault to really dive into this, but I remember Chantal Mouffe using this as an effective critique of Rawlsian rational democracy. In some ways, it's a secular version of the theological problem of evil, where society stands in for God. I'm not sure that irrational acts can be mapped purely to mental illness, but I do understand the deep desire to make massacres fit into some sort of pattern so that they can be predicted and eliminated.

Second is the thought of political correctness, which I think tends to be asserted as an argument when privilege is found to be limited—Pla expects his general privilege in asserting facts to carry through as it does in his normal life, but when it's contested, it's easier to dismiss criticism as coming from a power structure of "political correctness." And there undeniably is a "politically correct" power structure, especially in academia (which many of us have at least a passing association with), and that power structure does behave as many others do, working to enforce consensus and minimize dissent, and not always fairly. What I think is important to add to that discussion, and something often ignored by folks carping about PC police, is that "politically correct" is often also factually correct, and while liberal arts academia (because that's who we're really talking about) publishes far more than is necessary and tends toward ideological self-selection, they also self-select toward the kind of intelligence necessary to deal with complex issues and articulate them thoroughly.
posted by klangklangston at 12:37 PM on December 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


The Trotskyists and Marxist-Leninists ended up brawling with each other

Huh? Trotskyists are Marxist-Leninists.
posted by languagehat at 12:42 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Huh? Trotskyists are Marxist-Leninists.

Um, no.

Trotskyists are Marxists who are very specifically NOT Leninists.

Trotsky on Lenin: "The man is a professional exploiter of every kind of backwardness in the Russian working-class movement."

Trotskyists advocate permanent revolution. Leninists advocate the seizure of power by the proletariat.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:49 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


And in Canada, these are the Trotskyists and these are the Marxist_Leninists.

We do schisms right up here.
posted by maudlin at 12:51 PM on December 6, 2009


Generally, in Canada, parties with "(Marxist-Leninist)" in their names are actually Maoists.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 12:56 PM on December 6, 2009


Didn't mean to put words in your mouth Sidhedevil, sorry. While this is another instance of violence against women in general I think for those of us in engineering school at the time

Sorry. I didn't think you were putting words in my mouth--it seemed clear to me that you meant "we folks who have experienced engineering school" not "we human beings" there. I'm just thinking of how many other massacres of women and girls have happened in the two decades since the Poly.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:04 PM on December 6, 2009


Holy fucking SHIT. Is all I can say.

Thank you, mods, for dealing with this.
posted by Ouisch at 1:08 PM on December 6, 2009


"I'm just thinking of how many other massacres of women and girls have happened in the two decades since the Poly."

But don't forget all the feminist mass murders of men which of course you as a feminist are glossing over right now DOUBLE HAMBURGER SUPERSIZED MEAL
posted by idiopath at 1:10 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What did Marc Lapine say about this incident that was even vaguely interesting or worthy of reconsideration?

understanding != excusing

A common thread with these sorts of discussions is that Lepine (Hitler,Manson,etc.) are animals and inhuman and evil and ought not to be discussed in polite society. On the contrary, their humanity is precisely what makes them so dangerous and the more we understand about their motives, the more power we have to prevent these sorts of things in the future.

This, of course, is the direct opposite to pla's strategy, which is to rationalize Lepine's behaviour as a response to feminism (blaming the victim) rather than recognizing it as an aberrant quality in the Lepine himself.
posted by klanawa at 1:13 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Generally, in Canada, parties with "(Marxist-Leninist)" in their names are actually Maoists.

Damn, we're good.
posted by maudlin at 1:14 PM on December 6, 2009


klanawa: my comment was in response to the idea that Lapine had "a point".
posted by Hildegarde at 1:15 PM on December 6, 2009


Wow, thanks, Sidhedevil, I always thought along the same lines as what languagehat said - that Trotskyists are basically Marxists-Leninists. I didn't know there was such a schism there.

"Marxism-Leninism is often called by Trotskyists “Stalinism,” but is actually an extension of Leninist thought. Stalin’s theories are virtually the same as Lenin’s."

Interesting stuff.
posted by HopperFan at 1:17 PM on December 6, 2009


I'm still mostly amazed at the Steinem/Dworkin quote confusion. If you're going to be an asshole, at least do it right, rookie.
posted by jonmc at 1:20 PM on December 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Trotskyists advocate permanent revolution. Leninists advocate the seizure of power by the proletariat.

And Marx advocated shooting an elephant in his pajamas. How it got in his pajamas I'll never know.

I hear that some of the victims of the Inquisition might have actually been witches.

How do we know they were witches? One turned pla into a newt. He never got better.

Man. That thread was stroooooong with The Crazy.
posted by tkchrist at 1:21 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


another guy implying that the victims should have fought back because the guy only had a .22, and then describing the kind of gun it was (NATO something something wankoff wankoff)

Actually, KokoRyu, I was honestly horrified that someone had locked a bunch of people in a room and killed 14 with a 22 because, while I know next to fuck=all about guns, I know that a 22 is the piddly little thing you use on rats and squirrels and such, and that killing a person with one would probably take a whole fucking bunch of shooting or a lucky hit.

So I had this picture in my head of this ongoing slow catastrophe of this asshole picking out one of the women and shooting her and shooting her again and shooting her again however the hell many times it takes to promptly kill someone with a 22, while presumably she's screaming or crying or otherwise making her displeasure at being shot known to all around her, and then turning and doing the whole routine again 13 more times. And.. my God, that would be horrible, watching people get repeatedly shot over and over while they're screaming and shrieking and then it's someone else's turn and then it's your turn. Add to that whatever he must have been doing to keep the rest of the students away from him while he was busy repeatedly shooting one of them. A stream of utterly unremitting brutality.

So I was at least a little bit thankful to find that they were actually killed by the kind of round the army uses to kill people, which at least meant their deaths were probably quicker and they maybe weren't forced to sit through that particular cavalcade of horrors before their own murder.

And I didn't mention all that because, fuck, who the hell wants to read shit like that? If I conjure up nightmare visions of what was happening, why should anyone else be afflicted with them? So I didn't mention all that.

But thanks for projecting.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:23 PM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't think posts like this should be made, I do think that posters should avoid putting graphic descriptions of violence in the [more inside]. Yes, I think when you start quoting the killer and the victims and talking about the terrifying details, you're getting graphic.

I've heard other people make the same complaint about posts that reference sexual assault. It's fine to have posts about violence, but it would be nice to give the community a bit of a warning and a choice to click through or not.

As an example, this post would have been just as good like this:

Remembering the Montreal Massacre. [more inside]

Other people have a higher tolerance for violent language and imagery than I do, and I respect that, but I think it's something to keep in mind when you're making a post. I know I would appreciate more of a heads-up.
posted by kathrineg at 1:31 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, three points (and a comment and a half), and then I'll leave even MetaTalk alone on this topic (unless someone makes it clear they want to continue an actual discussion, rather than the pla-bash-fest this thread looks like so far).

First, I did not, in any way, call Lepine's actions "justified". I said that Nathalie Provost's comment, as linked by the FP post, made his calling them feminists "accurate". Big difference between "accurate" and "justified". You can all accurately call me an abrasive ass (see point #3 for more on this). That would not justify hunting me down and killing me.

Second, I in no way expressed a personal loathing of Feminism or equal rights or women's rights or anything even remotely in that spectrum of sentiments. I stated only that Feminism goes beyond "equal rights for women", a point on which we may legitimately disagree but smarter folks than I (or even you - yes, you), including a good number of first and even second-wave Feminists, have made and supported as such. I expected some disagreement, but certainly not the waves of vitriol that resulted from something I considered a fairly innocuous statement. I did make something of an ad hominem, and worse, gave the wrong name; for which I accept flak; But said flak went so far beyond addressing that one faux pas as to make me glance nervously about for the bonfire with a stake in the middle.

Finally, I maintain that I don't post for the purpose of trolling or to piss people off (at least not deliberately, anyway - I really don't care if I do piss you off, but you give yourself too much credit to think I post for the purpose of getting a rise out of you) - I'd simply rather discuss actual issues, even if not taking a popular stance, than stand around hugging and singing "kumba-ya". 20 year old murders warrant more than seventy posts of dots. And - I sometimes make factual errors (re: Steinem vs Dworkin); I'll admit to them readily, but will not "admit" to having the "wrong" opinions unless presented with some damned compelling evidence.

I joined MetaFilter because, after lurking for several years, I found the discussion here somewhat higher quality than that of most other link aggregation blogs. I apologize in that I apparently failed to also notice that failing to toe the enlightened-self-loathing-liberal line commits the greatest thoughtcrime imagineable here. In an effort to meaningfully contribute to discussion on this site, I will therefore do my best to refrain from posting on anything but the most insipid of topics.
posted by pla at 1:31 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think posts like this should be made,

Heh, I meant "I don't think posts like this shouldn't be made." Meaning, I am okay with posts like this.
posted by kathrineg at 1:32 PM on December 6, 2009


That's right, pla, it's not you, it's the rest of the herd that's crazy.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:33 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, my. I don't think the enlightened liberals here are particularly self-loathing.
posted by kathrineg at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2009


pla, I didn't read your original comments, but it might be worth it for you to read some anti-feminist stuff so you can see where the sensitivity is coming from with regards to the specific language that you're using.

And yeah, maybe a post about women being targeted for their gender and systematically murdered isn't the best place to discuss feminist theory. If you want, I can link you to several blogs that are targeted specifically to discussion of feminism.
posted by kathrineg at 1:37 PM on December 6, 2009


So pla, what's your opinion of favorites?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:37 PM on December 6, 2009 [23 favorites]


enlightened-hateful-asshole-loathing-liberal

FTFY.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:38 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I stated only that Feminism goes beyond "equal rights for women".

Yes, it also includes the occasional potluck.
posted by Hildegarde at 1:39 PM on December 6, 2009 [19 favorites]


WAKE UP SHEEPLE.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:40 PM on December 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


I stated only that Feminism goes beyond "equal rights for women".

Yes, it also includes the occasional potluck.


Does that include grilled cheese sandwiches?!!!111!!?
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


WAKE UP SHEEPLE.

Baa humbug.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:52 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


20 year old murders warrant more than seventy posts of dots.

What makes you think that? What Lépine did doesn't make sense. 10 years after the event, I was a student at Poly. We tried to make sense of it. We failed. The world, or at least parts of it, isn't intelligible. And trying to "discuss actual issues", for some issues, is useless.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:54 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


And - I sometimes make factual errors (re: Steinem vs Dworkin)

That wasn't the factual error. The factual error was that nobody actually ever made the statement that you're attributing to some random feminist in the first place.

Second, I in no way expressed a personal loathing of Feminism or equal rights or women's rights or anything even remotely in that spectrum of sentiments.

Your own words say the very opposite:

"I'd call Gloria "all sex is rape" Steinem only marginally more sane than Lepine, with only the knowledge that she wouldn't get away with it keeping her from forceably castrating half the human race."

So is it Gloria Steinem, Andrea Dworkin or just some other random imaginary feminist that you imagine is hell-bent on castrating you?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:56 PM on December 6, 2009 [27 favorites]


I do like the "people smarter than you and me agree with me" argument. I'll have to remember that one.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on December 6, 2009 [24 favorites]


Sometimes feminism is also about sex workshops! Let's discuss!

I am enthusiastically in favor as long as they're not overly hetrocentric.
posted by kathrineg at 1:58 PM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am so self loathing that I flag my own comments as noise.

But seriously, pla, I am very strongly committed to the idea that it is possible to have normative deliberation - that we can form new ideas of what is right or wrong by talking to one another. My objection to your comments was the tone, which if not calculated to incite self-righteous hatred and insults in your direction, performed an excellent facsimile thereof.

As I asked before: would you comment about the immorality of premarital sex in a post about the Zodiac killer? Would you post a critique of black culture circa the early 20th century in a thread about lynching? This is not sarcasm - I seriously want to know if you realize a) how these are analogous actions and b) why it is that people would take grievous offense.
posted by idiopath at 1:59 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Aside: ROU_Xenophobe - even a regular .22 is capable of killing humans, and at close range they certainly pack enough force to do the job. Modern high velocity .22 shells (and variations) are astonishingly powerful, and should not in anyway be considered piddly. Its a pretty common idea- even many folks familiar with guns treat them that way. This is an issue because the muzzle velocity for some of the hyper velocity shells is approximating a .380 auto , with about ~185 ft-lbs of energy for the modified .22, just shy of ~189 for the bigger cal weapon (.380).

As noted by ROU_Xenophobe, a .22 is quite different from a .223, but I believe that Canada had restrictions at that time which limited the weapon to a .222, which is rather similar to the .223 and ROU_Xenophobe's overall point still applies, and may explain some of the confusion. In case you are wondering, the force of a .222 at muzzle is 1,141 ft·lbf, which is more powerful that any handgun. For comparison, a .44 mag (arguably the most powerful common handgun caliber) is 1036 ft lbf.

My point being: treat a .22 as a serious weapon, cause it can still make you dead.
posted by zenon at 2:01 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Finally, I maintain that I don't post for the purpose of trolling or to piss people off

then you are utterly tone-deaf
posted by pyramid termite at 2:02 PM on December 6, 2009


pla, I think I see where you're coming from with your first point. I mean of course the Nazis were crazy, and of course their ideas about Jews were wrong, and there's no doubting that they did evil things, but when it became known that Elie Wiesel was Anglican, that's when I knew their actions were inaccurate as well as unjustified.
posted by Sova at 2:04 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


I joined MetaFilter because, after lurking for several years, I found the discussion here somewhat higher quality than that of most other link aggregation blogs.

So what you're saying is that you joined MeFi because of its higher-quality discourse and then commenced a pattern of thread-crapping with bilge like "sheeple" and this screed. Honestly, look back at what you wrote in that thread and this one - is that high quality discourse? Every person who posts (or even you - yes, you) can decide whether to contribute to interesting, useful, civil discourse, or instead to just screed on with "poor me" inanity. If you admired the high quality of Mefi discourse, do your part to contribute to it.
posted by bunnycup at 2:05 PM on December 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


He's not listening, so to hell with it.

Roy Buchanan's "The Messiah Will Come Again," complemements fine bourbon well. Discuss.
posted by jonmc at 2:06 PM on December 6, 2009


I'm not sure what that's about, the report of the gun being a .22. I was a bit surprised by that too, but I gacked the text for the post from a historical report on the event listed in the first link.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:08 PM on December 6, 2009


I joined MetaFilter because, after lurking for several years, I found the discussion here somewhat higher quality than that of most other link aggregation blogs. I apologize in that I apparently failed to also notice that failing to toe the enlightened-self-loathing-liberal line commits the greatest thoughtcrime imagineable here. In an effort to meaningfully contribute to discussion on this site, I will therefore do my best to refrain from posting on anything but the most insipid of topics.

The problem wasn't that you weren't toeing the line, it's that, whether you intended to or not, you came across as distinctly anti-feminist, and whatever you said, the overall gist of your posts sounded an awful lot like victim blaming, which is not "not toeing the line," it's just appalling. Maybe to avoid bringing down the level of discourse here in the future, you should more carefully consider how what you're writing might come across before hitting post.
posted by Caduceus at 2:12 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


pla, your comment was abject nonsense. First, why would one survivor's recognition of her feminism mean anything to the fourteen women and 12 others who were killed? Second, she characterized her own feminism as being an inevitable part of the fact that she has a degree in engineering and is directing a governmental office. In other words, she defines feminism as a belief that women should have equal opportunity to pursue degrees and jobs in their field of choice. Not as a belief that all sex is rape, or that all men should be castrated.

So, your contention that he chose an "accurate" target -- to paraphrase him, he was trying to kill women who want to keep the privileges of their own sex while also grabbing men's -- is just a result of a tendentious series of false equivalences. All you can observe is that one of his victims, having explicitly defining feminism as a commitment to equal rights for women, considers herself a feminist.

How you got from there to forced castration would, I'm sure, be a fascinating topic for you to explore with your therapist.
posted by palliser at 2:17 PM on December 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


my favorite thing about styling myself as an uncomfortable-truth-telling intellectual warrior is getting to whine like a petulant child when people disagree with me
posted by Greg Nog at 2:19 PM on December 6, 2009 [67 favorites]


KokuRyu : That's right, pla, it's not you, it's the rest of the herd that's crazy.

Look, I didn't actually say any of the sentiments regarding Lepine or Feminism that several people have attributed to me! I challenge you to find more in my words, in that thread[*] than one ill-considered comment on one specific radical Feminist. The closest I came to even approaching any of these accusations, I missed an "r" in the phrase "he[r] statements" on my final post in that thread.

* lovin' the out of context quotes from old threads, guys - I almost wish I did mean to troll, apparently I've unintentionally made quite the impact here, that people remember my words to bring up later


kathrineg : And yeah, maybe a post about women being targeted for their gender and systematically murdered isn't the best place to discuss feminist theory. If you want, I can link you to several blogs that are targeted specifically to discussion of feminism.

I agree. I realized my error, and opted to leave the discussion on a respectful note - And about a third of the pla-love-fest here involves criticizing me for that very decision (and a similar one the other day). What would people have me do instead, continue beating a dead horse over matters of opinion?


Brandon Blatcher : So pla, what's your opinion of favorites?

Not sure I understand the question... Favorites in what context?


PeterMcDermott : That wasn't the factual error. The factual error was that nobody actually ever made the statement that you're attributing to some random feminist in the first place.

Will a quote from her own book suffice? "Intercourse is a particular reality for women as an inferior class; and it has, in it, as part of it, violation of boundaries, taking over, occupation, destruction of privacy, all of which are construed to be normal and also fundamental to continuing human existence". A quote that follows comparing the act unfavorably to Auschwitz, and in a general context of various atrocities humans can inflict on one another.


idiopath : As I asked before: would you comment about the immorality of premarital sex in a post about the Zodiac killer? Would you post a critique of black culture circa the early 20th century in a thread about lynching?

You still miss the point - I didn't make any attempt to justify Lepine's actions. Period.

To answer your question directly, though... I may, if I considered them relevant. For example, lynching pretty much intrinsically means a hate crime; but would cultural attitudes and fears have any relevance in, for example, the legitimacy of a "self defense" stance in a murder trial of a 1910 Southern white man who perceived his life as in danger from a black assailant?


Optimus Chyme : Only pla would have the unthinking audacity and mindlessness to say "that mass-murderer was right about feminism." He's a huge piece of shit and a complete fucking coward.

Getting sick of this. Give me a goddamned quote of me saying that, or step down. Because - I didn't. Get over it.
posted by pla at 2:24 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Optimus Chyme, we don't play the "someone's a jerk to MeFi and so we savage them" game in MeTa anymore. I'm sorry if you didn't get the memo. If people want to respond to pla in MeTa, please try to stay at least partially civil. The Lord of the Flies stuff doesn't scale to a larger site and we'd like to see a little less of it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:26 PM on December 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


You know what? The Entemann's Xmas cupcakes are out. Theres nothing I like more than separating the puck of frosting at the top of each cake, setting it aside, then eating all that sugar and fat in one David Crosby on Mardi Gras sugar-crack burst.
posted by jonmc at 2:27 PM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Tangent:

would cultural attitudes and fears have any relevance in, for example, the legitimacy of a "self defense" stance in a murder trial of a 1910 Southern white man who perceived his life as in danger from a black assailant?


Isn't it sad that we don't have to go all the way back to 1910? 1986 will do.
posted by prefpara at 2:33 PM on December 6, 2009


oops, meant 14 women killed, 14 others wounded
posted by palliser at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2009


quoting pla directly, just a few posts upthread: I realized my error, and opted to leave the discussion on a respectful note

quoting pla in his "leaving the thread" post: True enough. I'll leave, now, since clearly my comments won't lead to discussion of any un-PC issues, just the usual vitriol of "how dare you speak such blasphemies" I seem to encounter all to often on the Blue.


Oh yes. Very respectful.
posted by palomar at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


pla: your comment of
Except, "Feminism" does not mean the same thing as "equal rights for women". Feminism does want pretty much exactly that, states explicitly as its primary objective.

I'd call Gloria "all sex is rape" Steinem only marginally more sane than Lepine, with only the knowledge that she wouldn't get away with it keeping her from forceably castrating half the human race.
used a fake quote to support unjustified and inflammatory conclusions about the feminist movement. That you posted this in response to an article about people getting killed for being female makes you look insensitive at best and like you're supporting the killer's anti-female thought at worst. It is similar to remarking on the occasion of a targeted killing of a Muslim waiter that Muslims were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing.

This is why people are upset at your comments.
posted by demiurge at 2:40 PM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Give me a goddamned quote of me saying that, or step down. Because - I didn't. Get over it.
posted by pla at 2:24 PM on December 6


Mass-murderer Lepine: "the feminists who have ruined my life. ... The feminists always have a talent for enraging me. They want to retain the advantages of being women ... while trying to grab those of men. ..."

pla: Except, "Feminism" does not mean the same thing as "equal rights for women". Feminism does want pretty much exactly that, states explicitly as its primary objective.
posted by pla at 8:28 AM on December 6


There's your goddamned quote.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:46 PM on December 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


I may, if I considered them relevant. For example, lynching pretty much intrinsically means a hate crime; but would cultural attitudes and fears have any relevance in, for example, the legitimacy of a "self defense" stance in a murder trial of a 1910 Southern white man who perceived his life as in danger from a black assailant?

a lot of the problem is with what you consider relevant - there's a gaping hole of logic and circumstance between lynching and a murder trial in which a person claims self-defense

not to mention the grand canyon sized gap between what you just said and its relevance to lepine and what he did

maybe you should just stop saying the first thing that comes into your head and assuming that we're going to find your personal obsessions interesting or germane to what we're discussing
posted by pyramid termite at 2:50 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, apparently we find him fascinating.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:53 PM on December 6, 2009


I apologize in that I apparently failed to also notice that failing to toe the enlightened-self-loathing-liberal line commits the greatest thoughtcrime imagineable here.

Jesus Fucking Christ, get over yourself.
posted by ericb at 2:53 PM on December 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


Look, I didn't actually say any of the sentiments regarding Lepine or Feminism that several people have attributed to me! I challenge you to find more in my words, in that thread[*] than one ill-considered comment on one specific radical Feminist.

I'll bite.

F(one of)TA: I realized many years later that in my life and actions, of course I was a feminist"

Interesting choice of comments in hindsight.

So, ignoring the glaringly obvious malfunction in Lepine's wetware, does that statement make his choice of targets more-or-less accurate (if not necessarily his notions thereof)?


With this you appear to be saying that Lepine was "accurate" in his choice of targets. Lepine describes his targets thusly,

Please note that if I am committing suicide today ... it is not for economic reasons ... but for political reasons. For I have decided to send Ad Patres [Latin: "to the fathers"] the feminists who have ruined my life. ... The feminists always have a talent for enraging me. They want to retain the advantages of being women ... while trying to grab those of men. ... They are so opportunistic that they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men throughout the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can.

So, it seems that you are saying that this woman, this survivor who self-identified as a feminist was in fact a feminist of the type that Lepine characterizes. Perhaps you did not mean to state your case this way, perhaps you didn't actually read the linked articles, maybe you were just making a flippant remark. Whatever the case a reasonable reading of your statement could be that you are characterizing feminists in the same way that Lepine did. Now you did tack on the parenthetical and almost throw away, if not necessarily his notions thereof. But as if to negate your own caveat you state later,

toodleydoodley : "They want to retain the advantages of being women ... while trying to grab those of men." [...] I think, "fuck you." No, double fuck you.

Except, "Feminism" does not mean the same thing as "equal rights for women". Feminism does want pretty much exactly that, states explicitly as its primary objective.


Here you are explicitly agreeing with Lepine's characterization of feminists which, while repugnant in and of itself, makes your previous statement about his accuracy reprehensible.


So, with your own words it can be shown that you did in fact say what you have been accused of saying. No one is framing you, no one is twisting your words. You said it, quit trying to whine your way out of it.
posted by anansi at 2:55 PM on December 6, 2009 [17 favorites]


I'd simply rather discuss actual issues, even if not taking a popular stance, than stand around hugging and singing "kumba-ya". 20 year old murders warrant more than seventy posts of dots.

You know, pla, I am one of those people who ended up writing only a "thank you" to Hildegarde and posting a dot. I was going to write something more--about how I have thought about this horrible event every year around this time for the last 20 years; about how two years after it happened, my intro to psych prof frightened the shit out of me and my classmates by asking us to imagine we were in that Polytechnique classroom and describing in detail exactly how Marc Lepine came in and forced the men to leave the classroom and then shot the women, meaning all of us, male and female, could imagine the terror and helplessness for a moment, the powerlessness to protect your classmates or yourself; about how fearful I feel sometimes when I have a student who suddenly starts to spout misogynist stuff in class, because I am afraid for my other students and myself.

But I didn't, because your ignorant comments in that thread pissed me off to the point where I couldn't write something civil. And now for you to come in here and be disingenous about why people might have responded to you in that thread the way they did--well it is just too fucking much.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:56 PM on December 6, 2009 [25 favorites]


palliser : How you got from there to forced castration would, I'm sure, be a fascinating topic for you to explore with your therapist.

See now, I apologized for that. Poorly thought out, contained at least one factual error and another point open to interpretation, and I regret in hindsight having said it. But going back to my response to katherineg above - I apologized. I admitted the error. If you keep picking at the same point over and over and over and over, what would you have me do? I can't do anything more than admit my fault and concede the point.

So... Me, I'll eventually just give up and wander away, despite the pleasure of enduring modernnomad's "leave with a "i'll leave this thread now because you can't handle the truth i'm laying on y'all" air" taunts. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. And no, I don't mean that as an "oh poor me" diatribe - Just that I won't argue in circles for more than a few rounds.


palomar : Oh yes. Very respectful.

Don't mistake "respect" for "obsequiousness". I showed respect by stating my peace simply and concisely and then, out of consideration for the topic, stopped posting in that thread (I didn't see Jessamyn's admonition until quite a few hours later).


demiurge : used a fake quote to support unjustified and inflammatory conclusions about the feminist movement.

I presented the origin of that "quote" above. And no, not an exact quote (not even close), but short of typing in a whole chapter of Dworkin's Intercourse, it nicely summarizes her meaning (even if she has later denounced that very meaning). I can't take credit for that particular paraphrasing, but honestly consider it fair and true to the original context.

This is why people are upset at your comments

That much I accept, and for the fourth time, apologize for that particular comment. Would anyone else like a personal apology? I'd really like to get them all out of the way at once, to move the discussion along.

makes you look insensitive at best

Oh, by all means, consider me insensitive! (And no, not sarcasm). To put it simply, virtually nothing offends me, and I sometimes go too far in projecting that on others. I have no problem with people calling me 72 different kinds of crotchety ol' bastard, but do find it irritating to have my statements twisted in the worst possible way - And don't think I miss the comparison here to the paraphrasing of Dworkin.
posted by pla at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2009


pla: fwiw the quote you've pulled from Dworkin (easily one of the more "extreme" feminist and a questionable individual to hold up as representative of the whole) is not cut and dried "all heterosexual sex is rape". As much as I do not like much of Dworkin's work I think it a bit pejorative to make the blanket statement Andrea "all sex is rape" Dworkin, especially in light that she herself has denied that is what she meant. Yes, there is some "controversy" about that but if you're going to not only mis-attribute but paraphrase (ie. interpret) as well you are going to get a lot of deserved push back for it.

All that aside, her stuff is actually at least interesting if you take it with a grain of salt. I certainly wouldn't compare her to a mass murderer.
posted by edgeways at 3:02 PM on December 6, 2009


That much I accept, and for the fourth time, apologize for that particular comment. Would anyone else like a personal apology? I'd really like to get them all out of the way at once, to move the discussion along.

You positively drip with sincerity. We are so lucky to have you.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:02 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm actually kind of curious, pla, where/how you learned about feminism?
posted by Ouisch at 3:02 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher : So pla, what's your opinion of favorites?

Not sure I understand the question... Favorites in what context?


Sorry, it's a Metafilter in-joke. Favorites are a feature of the site that allows you to bookmark post or comments on the site. See that little plus market at the of posts and comments [(+)]? Clicking that allows you, in Metafilter language, to "Favorite" something.

Since the feature was added, back in 2006, there's been debate (at times contentious) on whether they help or hurt the site. In November, there was an experiment with the feature, which resulted in long threads of arguing, with the pattern of one side calling the other side idiotic for their love or hatred of the feature.

Hope this helps you understand why the quip was so hilariously funny.

The Lord of the Flies stuff doesn't scale to a larger site and we'd like to see a little less of it.


"'Follow the beast! Contact his profile! Spill his favorites!'"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:09 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I propose that if anybody uses the word 'sheeple' in a non-ironic way that they get insta-banned.
posted by empath at 3:09 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ok, this is kind of dumb. pla said some stuff which many people interpreted as anti-feminist and a bit misogynist, myself included. He has apologized for some of it. I'm confident that he thinks the Montreal Massacre was a terrible thing. I'm still not clear what his moral theory of women's rights is, but that's ok, he doesn't have to tell me. Maybe he has horrible views about women's rights, maybe he's just being provocative.

At this point, this thread seems to exist solely for the purpose of surrounding pla and poking him with sticks. Can we close this up now? Please?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:09 PM on December 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


kathrineg: Other people have a higher tolerance for violent language and imagery than I do, and I respect that, but I think it's something to keep in mind when you're making a post. I know I would appreciate more of a heads-up.

Prior to the "graphic" part of the text (the quoting and the details), you have the words 'Massacre', 'gunman', 'students', and a mention of gender-based sorting. These aren't indications of a happy post. This should have been a very good heads-up if the reader has a low tolerance for violent subject matter. Hell of a better heads-up than a simple [More Inside].

pla: First, I did not, in any way, call Lepine's actions "justified". I said that Nathalie Provost's comment, as linked by the FP post, made his calling them feminists "accurate". Big difference between "accurate" and "justified".

And? So what if his assertion may have been retroactively "accurate"? This part of the objection has nothing to do with wrong opinions; this is about you performing conversational equivalent of sticking your dick in the mashed potatoes.
posted by CKmtl at 3:12 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we close this up now? Please?

Not until one of you sheeple explains to me the ironic use of HAMBURGER as an interjection.
posted by Humanzee at 3:13 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And by the way, it's not that I think pla needs my protection - it's that this is bringing out the worst of MeFi, and it's passed the pointless mark and entered stupid territory.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:13 PM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Not until one of you sheeple explains to me the ironic use of HAMBURGER as an interjection.
posted by Humanzee at 6:13 PM on December 6 [+] [!]

I'll direct you to the definitive authority on the subject.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:14 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, trying to argue each and every point someone has, especially on MetaTalk, tends to eat up a lot of time and energy and at the end of it, you're not feeling better about the site or its members. Sometimes, it's just best to agree to disagree and move along.

Or secretly imagine yourself as king of the world and others are just unruly peasants trying to ruin your awesomeness. Just draw the curtains and turn up the TV/Radio/YouTube.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:14 PM on December 6, 2009


Or secretly imagine yourself as king of the world and others are just unruly peasants trying to ruin your awesomeness.

Or, imagining others as unruly "enlightened-self-loathing-liberal[s]."
posted by ericb at 3:16 PM on December 6, 2009


No, liberals are cool, it's the marxists you have to watch out for.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:19 PM on December 6, 2009


Apologies to the mods; I just left a comment in that post re: how inappropriate some of the comments there were, without thinking to check the gray to see if it was being discussed here first. You can delete my comment there if you want, I won't be too upset.

I would, however, really like to see pla's comments, among others dedicated to debating the merits of feminism and the motives of Marc Lepine, deleted as well.

I am a Montreal resident, a woman, a feminist, and a survivor of abuse and rape. The Montreal Massacre happened when I was very young and one of my formative moments was the moment when my mother sat me down and explained to me that a man had killed several women at a university because they were women - that their woman-ness had marked them for death in the eyes of a man. This day holds great significance for me, and while I appreciate that it may not hold such significance for other people, I do not think it is outrageous to expect that apologism, anti-feminist rhetoric, and "Marc Lepine was just mentally ill, OMG ABLEISM" sentiments be kept out of the discussion - not out of respect to me, but out of respect for the dead.

I am anti-war, but on Remembrance Day I try to refrain from questioning the validity of the decisions of people who choose to serve in the military. Why? Because that's fucking disrespectful to the dead and to the families and loved ones of the dead for whom that day is one where their grief is publicly accepted.

At the very least, if folks like pla absolutely must speak out about how bad feminism is, they should at least take it to their own blogs and not be afforded an audience in a thread specifically about the victims of an anti-feminist hate crime.

Apologies if all of this has already been said; I've read the first few comments here and skimmed the rest, but I am not up for engaging many of these comments directly today, so I figured I'd just say my piece and scurry off.
posted by ellehumour at 3:19 PM on December 6, 2009 [23 favorites]


pla, you've apologized for the factual error and for the castration remark, but not for saying that you've determined what feminism is "really" about, and that Marc Lepine was correct in saying that it's not about equal rights but about female dominance, and that he was furthermore accurate in targeting women engineering students, because one of them now calls herself a "feminist," which must mean those women engineering students all believed in female dominance.

I believe you, of course, when you say no one should shoot anyone over these opinions. But it's the whole argument that's offensive, not the offhand slap at Gloria Steinem.
posted by palliser at 3:20 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


I propose that if anybody uses the word 'sheeple' in a non-ironic way that they get insta-banned.

Same for using 'PC' as a pejorative (Actually, as anything - when was the last time that even meant anything, good or bad, 1990?). It's pretty much shorthand for 'I'm a jagoff idiot, no reason to pay attention to anything I say, unless you feel like having a laugh at my expense.'
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:21 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Fucking hell. Why are we even discussing this? pla is a troll, if we ignore it then he doesn't get to hijack so many posts.
posted by Elmore at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


anansi : With this you appear to be saying that Lepine was "accurate" in his choice of targets.

Yes, "accurate". Not justified. (And please don't jump on this without reading the rest of my response below).

So, it seems that you are saying that this woman, this survivor who self-identified as a feminist was in fact a feminist of the type that Lepine characterizes. Perhaps you did not mean to state your case this way

I see how you could fairly read it that way. By "accurate" I meant nothing more than the label "Feminist" - I thought I made that clear by pointing out that he had a whole heaping load of crazy in his head (and can we please not get into a debate about my insensitivity to the mentally ill here).

I meant it no differently than if he had targeted people wearing orange and she had later said "Oh yeah, I guess I did have on an orange scarf that day". Whether or not he considered orange the color of the devil had no bearing on my intended meaning.

Here you are explicitly agreeing with Lepine's characterization of feminists which, while repugnant in and of itself, makes your previous statement about his accuracy reprehensible.

Hmm, okay, again I can see how you could fairly read it that way - Thank you for explaining that to me - But in my follow-up, I did my best to shift the focus away from Lepine specifically, by quoting another (ex)Feminist on the subject.

Two separate subjects, in my mind, and I never should have touched the second with a 10-ft-totally-non-phallical-pole. I simply didn't see the need to defend against (or explicitly differentiate from) the implied agreement with Lapine's crazy, because I considered it sufficiently absurd that no one would take my statement as agreement or support of it. The fact that he made that one statement which I used as a segue, well... Let me put it this way: If I had jumped from David Berkowitz to a discussion of medieval views on demonic possession, would you have taken that as pro-demonology on my part?


Optimus Chyme : You positively drip with sincerity. We are so lucky to have you.

I by no means count as humble, but when proven wrong, I readily admit it and often thank the person who has demonstrated my error. I did mean the apology sincerely - I Just started getting sick of repeating it to everyone who couldn't hit "preview" before "post".


Salvor Hardin : At this point, this thread seems to exist solely for the purpose of surrounding pla and poking him with sticks. Can we close this up now? Please?

As I said, I don't mind people calling me a variety of nastiness. And I will even say that anansi has made me see an angle of what I wrote that I missed (indeed, I would call it a key angle to understanding the response I've received). But since one of the accusations leveled at me here involves my "habit" of cutting-and-running, I fully plan to respond to every single (civil) response I get here.
posted by pla at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


in which everybody fires their canon from opposite sides of the squall

This is a delightful typo, unless it's on purpose, in which case it's merely brilliant. Excellent work, Astro Zombie. As for pla, without even trying too hard,

I didn't actually say any of the sentiments regarding Lepine or Feminism

Sentiments aren't really things you 'say'; 'express' would have been a less jarring choice. That sort of makes it seem like you're planning some interpretive misdirection: "You can all tell what my sentiments are, but I didn't actually SAY them, nyah nyah nyah." But I don't think you actually meant to do this; I think you're just being sloppy.

The closest I came to even approaching any of these accusations, I missed

This comma is ungrammatical. Suggest: 'was when' in place.

I almost wish I did mean to troll, apparently I've unintentionally made quite the impact here

Commas just spiraling out of control. Put in a conjunction or use a semicolon instead rather than just smashing complete thoughts together.

A quote that follows comparing the act unfavorably

Either de-gerund 'comparing', or remove 'that'.

Also, bolding all over the place for emphasis isn't something you see much round here.

...

Maybe you're having trouble fitting in because your verbal skills are well below the mefi baseline, rather than because of your radical ideas that don't toe the line?
posted by Kwine at 3:29 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why are we even discussing this? pla is a troll, if we ignore it then he doesn't get to hijack so many posts.

You misspelled "ban". There's no i, no g, no o, no r, and no e in it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I presented the origin of that "quote" above. And no, not an exact quote (not even close), but short of typing in a whole chapter of Dworkin's Intercourse, it nicely summarizes her meaning (even if she has later denounced that very meaning). I can't take credit for that particular paraphrasing, but honestly consider it fair and true to the original context.

Okay, so if I'm rightfully seeing this as the one point you still remain firm on (aka still want to discuss and don't consider something you've previously apologized for) there's still a disconnect. We're pretty willing to have an open discussion on feminism, it's really where you tried to start it up, and the manner in which you chose to do so, that we consider terribly offensive.

To apply it to another situation mentioned above, say there's a thread about the brutal murder of 14 Muslim individuals. And the killer is quoted as saying "Muslims just all want to attack Christians." Someone replies: fuck that.

Then another "Person C" replies, "Actually, that's pretty much true. Here's this quote by a prominent Muslim that says it's all about killing Christians."

That would be pretty ridiculously inappropriate, right? Because even though we're willing to have a discussion on violence in Islam in another, appropriate, hopefully thoughtful thread, bringing it up in that context essentially made Person C look like they were justifying the thoughts of the killer. Even if you think what he said was correct, it's insensitive to say that in the thread discussing his victims.

I mean, hell, in that hypothetical thoughtful thread if you wanted to express the same sentiments you wouldn't bring the murderer up as a source because that's just fucked up.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Isn't pl fish sauce?
posted by boo_radley at 3:33 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


YIsn't pal fish sauce?
posted by boo_radley at 3:34 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't pal fish sauce?
posted by boo_radley at 3:34 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


palliser : But it's the whole argument that's offensive, not the offhand slap at Gloria Steinem.

Thus my initial confusion (as elaborated in my response to you above). The only part of what I wrote that I actually intended as even remotely harsh took the form of that offhand slap.
posted by pla at 3:35 PM on December 6, 2009


Fucking phone.
posted by boo_radley at 3:37 PM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Lest it be overlooked, I'd like to draw your attention to pla's comments (sky is orange. orange scarves) that expose his internalized and likely subconscious orange-ism.

Ok, Bored now. And yet keep coming back.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:38 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kwine : Maybe you're having trouble fitting in because your verbal skills are well below the mefi baseline

...Aaaaand, we've reached the grammar-Nazi stage of this.

Respond to a dozen people in more-or-less realtime and see how well you do at attaining perfect grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
posted by pla at 3:38 PM on December 6, 2009


Fucking phone.

Haven't tried it, is it single malt?
posted by Elmore at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


pla: I meant it no differently than if he had targeted people wearing orange and she had later said "Oh yeah, I guess I did have on an orange scarf that day".

And if you had then said "Huh, guess his eye wasn't that bad after all", then we'd be in the same situation. Dick. Mashed potatoes.
posted by CKmtl at 3:41 PM on December 6, 2009


I feel kinda bad for even responding to him in my first comment of that post - it was a memorial thread, and I probably shouldn't have said anything. It's hard to hold back sometimes when such a massive turd is dumped into a thread.

(Heh. I need to start commenting in other posts so I'm not just New Person Who Talks About Feminism All The Time.)
posted by Salieri at 3:41 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, jesus, another one of those conservative-on-a-cross martyrs. I guess we were due for another one. Just ignore.
posted by mediareport at 3:43 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Solon and Thanks : I mean, hell, in that hypothetical thoughtful thread if you wanted to express the same sentiments you wouldn't bring the murderer up as a source because that's just fucked up.

Entirely true - And I thanked anansi for pointing out that particular interpretation to me. I consider that something of a failure on my part to clearly switch contexts, but as I pointed out with my Berkowitz example, I really didn't see the need to disclaim that I don't have medieval demons whispering in my ear.


Oh, and palliser - Regarding "Thus my initial confusion (as elaborated in my response to you above)", sorry, I see that I wrote that to anansi, not to you.
posted by pla at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2009


Jesus Christ people, I think pla's had enough, don't you? I don't support anything they've said in either thread, but this is like watching people continue to throw stones at a bloody smear on the ground.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Lest it be overlooked, I'd like to draw your attention to pla's comments (sky is orange. orange scarves) that expose his internalized and likely subconscious orange-ism.

I don't think he's said anything about being Irish and Protestant.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Heh. I need to start commenting in other posts so I'm not just New Person Who Talks About Feminism All The Time.)

If you do, I hope you don't stop talking about feminism. It's probably pretty naïve, but I've convinced myself that every time I write something (hopefully coherent) in the name of feminism on MeFi, I'm helping to dispell the notion that feminism is something fringe or shameful. If I (or you) have made one girl remove the qualifier "I'm not a feminist, but..." from her lexicon or made one man realize that feminism isn't a threat but a humanist step forward, it's worth sounding redundant.
posted by oinopaponton at 3:47 PM on December 6, 2009 [25 favorites]


I don't know -- I always like to have articulate people to argue with (even if I'm not interested in arguing about this) and pla is clearly that. So, welcome! I don't mind if you have different ideas from mine, even ideas that I find a bit offensive; hell, that makes things more interesting.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I support the "Salieri keeps talking about feminism" movement.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:54 PM on December 6, 2009


I dunno stavrosthewonderchicken, I for one could do without the drive-by thread-shitting. Actual, respectful disagreement is great! Random hatefulness...not so much.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:54 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't pal fish sauce?

Pla is just fish. Nam pla = fish sauce.
posted by gman at 3:56 PM on December 6, 2009


I just want to jump in to say that I'm absolutely fucking sick of people badmouthing Andrea Dworkin and especially Intercouse. It's an amazingly challenging and brilliant work by a thinker who deserves way more respect as an intellectual than she ever gets here or anywhere else these days. You don't have to agree with someone to recognize their intellect but it seems like all anyone can do is find new and interesting ways to shun this one, even self-proclaimed feminists.

If you have something smart to say about Dworkin, do so. Just stop using her to advance your own agenda without trying to understand or engage with her work. It's infuriating to see a brilliant thinker be used this way.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:57 PM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Let me try to rephrase an earlier deleted comment in a less fighty way and see if this makes it through, because I felt like I was making an important point:

As a woman and a feminist, I worry about some guy shooting me and a bunch of other women (or girls) just for the "crime" of being female, because it happens pretty goddamned frequently. I know it happens for that reason, because the shooters explicitly say that that's what they're doing.

I don't see how that's comparable at all to someone saying "As a man, I read this chapter of a book by an now-dead author I misremember and I interpret it to mean that she thinks heterosexual intercourse and rape are equivalent, despite her specific statements to the contrary, and therefore I feel like she wants to castrate me."
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:58 PM on December 6, 2009 [15 favorites]


that makes things more interesting

You know what, stavrosthewonderchicken? I don't need any more kneejerk facile misogyny to make my life interesting--I get plenty of it from the culture at large.

Another thing I don't need is dishonest argument posing as courageous truth-telling. Full up with that, too.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:00 PM on December 6, 2009 [25 favorites]


mediareport : Oh, jesus, another one of those conservative-on-a-cross martyrs.

Sorry, not even remotely conservative - I just have zero patience with the patchouli-wearing "all the same, all precious, all sacred" crowd.
Also not Christian... Nor any of the top-10, though also not atheist (more-or-less a theistically-inclined agnostic)
Also not Democrat or Republican (Green, if you must know, with strong Libertarian leanings).
I do have to admit to my middle-class white maleness, though in most of these discussions I find it more a badge of shame that I constantly need to defend against, rather than a mere neutral fact.


stavrosthewonderchicken : I don't know -- I always like to have articulate people to argue with (even if I'm not interested in arguing about this) and pla is clearly that.

Thank you, Stavros, nicest thing I've heard today.


Hildegarde : I for one could do without the drive-by thread-shitting.

Ah, to you and you alone, I will apologize for something subjective - Sending your thread down a less-pleasant path when you had only the best intentions in posting it. Sorry, Hildegarde.



Okay, folks, I need food. Load up that final volley of stones for spreading the smear around a bit more ;) and I'll come back to give one summary "mea culpa" in a few hours.
posted by pla at 4:01 PM on December 6, 2009


Oh come on Sidhedevil: no one pulling out Andrea Dworkin has actually read the book (except allen.spaulding, of course). Tsk tsk. ;)
posted by Hildegarde at 4:01 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


pla: it isn't my thread. It's metafilter's thread. All I did was put some links together. I'd prefer you apologize to metafilter as a whole for sending a thread down that particular path rather than just me.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:04 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

(Green, if you must know, with strong Libertarian leanings).
Well, that's a fucking surprise.

I'm hoping that you're also about 19. You're irritating, but the way in which you're irritating is developmentally appropriate for someone in late adolescence.
posted by craichead at 4:06 PM on December 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Sorry, not even remotely conservative - I just have zero patience with the patchouli-wearing "all the same, all precious, all sacred" crowd.

Well, perhaps the best course of action would to be to actually find that crowd to express your impatience of them, rather than suggest that such an unthinking, dismissive stereotype describes anybody on MetaFilter.

If anything, MeFites repeatedly show that they can be as sharp and judgmental as you, with the added benefit of getting their facts right and explaining things in such a way that it doesn't accidentally sound as though they are supporting a mass murderer.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:14 PM on December 6, 2009 [31 favorites]


If I (or you) have made one girl remove the qualifier "I'm not a feminist, but..." from her lexicon or made one man realize that feminism isn't a threat but a humanist step forward, it's worth sounding redundant.

just thought it needed to be said again. thanks oinopaponton
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:14 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


And let me just say for the record that I know I am not alone in reading phrases like "sheeple" and "PC" and, rather than being astonished by the writer's vim and verve and intellectual daring, know that phrase demonstrates the exact moment the writer has stopped thinking. They are good phrases to excise from your vocabulary, because all they are are expressions of contempt and imagined martyrdom, and have nothing to do with a real and constructive flow of ideas.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:22 PM on December 6, 2009 [29 favorites]


Every new comment makes that troll stronger. It's hard, but resist the urge.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:27 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the thread, Hildegarde. I had never heard of this tragedy. Actually I might have missed the real thread if not for this one.

pla, I think you might want to hire a PR firm or something? I don’t think anyone is persecuting you for being a white male or speaking forbidden truths, we’re not in the dystopian world of Rush’s 2112 LP.
posted by Kirklander at 4:28 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


pla, if you want to really see what "Political Correctness" is in 2009, tune in for several hours to FoxNews; they're the only ones who know its true meaning. When you toss 'Feminism' around as defined by one extreme end of the spectrum of thought covered by the never-well-defined overly-inclusive blanket term (there are a lot of them poisoning current debate, like Green and Libertarian), and do so in the worst possible context of a thread about a massacre committed by a sick-and-or-evil person using his opposition to Feminism as an excuse, you prove yourself to be far beneath the standards of debate at this site (which were never as lofty as you thought before joining). So please try to smarten up some before returning to this forum.

And if you are not receiving the full benefit of your White Middle-Class Male Privilege in 'enlightened' society today, you are not doing it right. It's not "a badge of shame" or "a mere neutral fact", it's your strongest asset (it always has been for me, more than my intelligence or other skills, and I have often been reluctant to use it), but complaining about 'Feminazis' will get you nowhere unless you want to be Rush Limbaugh. Your self-definitions are fairly close to what I was in my College Days (the mid-70s, when 'Feminism' seemed to be taking off, but not really), but I never made an ass of myself the way you have here. Smarten up.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:31 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Load up that final volley of stones for spreading the smear around a bit more ;) and I'll come back to give one summary "mea culpa" in a few hours.

you're enjoying every bit of this aren't you?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:34 PM on December 6, 2009


It's hard, but resist the urge.

Yeah, if he follows type, he'll be gone in a couple of weeks.
posted by mediareport at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2009


> I just want to jump in to say that I'm absolutely fucking sick of people badmouthing Andrea Dworkin and especially Intercouse. It's an amazingly challenging and brilliant work by a thinker who deserves way more respect as an intellectual than she ever gets here or anywhere else these days.

Thank you for this. Heartily seconded.
posted by arachnid at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Green, if you must know, with strong Libertarian leanings)

Ah, another one. Reddit is that way -->
posted by cj_ at 4:56 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love the fracas over the word 'accurate', as if we were trying to salvage the killing spree as a mode of social expression.

... with strong Libertarian leanings

Hyehahaha. *cough* *sough*. You don't say?
posted by fleacircus at 4:57 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


They are good phrases to excise from your vocabulary, because all they are are expressions of contempt and imagined martyrdom, and have nothing to do with a real and constructive flow of ideas.

Or they are short-hand expressions which carry a load of meaning in a single word, and as such are perfectly suited for use on a web forum, where brevity is better than wordiness.

Besides which, I'm sure you'd be among the first to decry any attempt at regulating other's speech — something which you seem to be advocating there.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:59 PM on December 6, 2009


I think people's complaints about Dworkin often stem from her support of the Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance, which was constitutionally problematic and split the feminist community, the merits of which need not be debated here; it was a logical outgrowth of Dworkin's theorizing, but her work should not be defined by it exclusively, and her work should stand or fall on its own merits, and not based on this specific example of legislation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:02 PM on December 6, 2009


Besides which, I'm sure you'd be among the first to decry any attempt at regulating other's speech — something which you seem to be advocating there.

Really? I don't see arguing for self-control as being the same thing as arguing for regulating. How to do you figure?
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:03 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Or they are short-hand expressions which carry a load of meaning in a single word

"Sheeple" and "PC police" indeed carry a lot of meaning. Such as, "I'm a total jackass."

Pointing this out is a friendly service, not an attempt to regulate speech. Whatever that means in the context of a web forum.
posted by cj_ at 5:05 PM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Pla,

I know from the sharp end of a stick, and I know from getting into Battle All Comers rhetoric mode. Super quick, super easy advice? Take a moment to apologize to folks here—which you've started to do—and then disengage, and come back and read the thread again when you're in a less combative mode. You've just been called out, and for good reason, so you can either suffer these slings and arrows and learn from them, or take arms against them and ultimately get banned or flame out.

You came here because we're smart and articulate, so the idea that we're a patchouli kumbaya sing-along is a bit silly. Don't bother trotting that out—either you want to be here or you don't, and shocking the normals is what you do at all night Denny's, not Metafilter. Provocation has to be more intelligent and more incisive in order to be effective, and, well, yours has just been weighed and found wanting. So either step your game up (I'd advocate using preview at least twice to make sure that everything you say is as composed as an essay) or lurk more and try to learn a little. Otherwise, it's gonna be hard going and you'll give Languagehat what he wants which, after descriptivism, is flame outs.
posted by klangklangston at 5:15 PM on December 6, 2009 [30 favorites]


I'm still not clear what his (pla's) moral theory of women's rights is, but that's ok, he doesn't have to tell me. Maybe he has horrible views about women's rights, maybe he's just being provocative.

Or maybe he's still just figuring out what his ideas really are. Nothing like open discussion to figure out how your words are landing.
posted by philip-random at 5:22 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


so you can either suffer these slings and arrows and learn from them

Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?!??

Was that really what you were trying to imply with that allusion?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:31 PM on December 6, 2009


CKmtl: "Prior to the "graphic" part of the text (the quoting and the details), you have the words 'Massacre', 'gunman', 'students', and a mention of gender-based sorting. These aren't indications of a happy post. This should have been a very good heads-up if the reader has a low tolerance for violent subject matter. Hell of a better heads-up than a simple [More Inside]."

No, I think the gender based sorting was rather violent as well. It would be good if we could minimize the violence (including sexual violence) on the front page. I have seen this sentiment expressed here by others at least a few times, by survivors of sexual assault, referring specifically to sexual assault. I haven't seen a real response or acknowledgment of this concern from the community. If I've missed something, please point me there.

I singled out this specific post as an example because it adds a lot of unnecessary creepiness to my Sunday morning when the front page involves women pleading for their life. And there was already an open MetaTalk.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a productive discussion that we can have about this issue in this particular thread, so I'll think about bringing it up in a more appropriate time/place.
posted by kathrineg at 5:31 PM on December 6, 2009


Also, jessamyn, thanks for your earlier comment (which I somehow missed until now)
posted by kathrineg at 5:37 PM on December 6, 2009


It's not that pla is a bad person or that he is stupid -- I think 'provincial' is the word I would use. It's pretty clear that he's never actually engaged with feminists or feminist writing directly and carefully considered their arguments, but that he has only read what others have said about feminism. His only interaction with feminist work appears to be taking quotes out of context to prove some kind of point about how feminism is terrible, and probably mostly in service of defending some kind of male privilege.

I had pretty similar views on feminism when I was 19 or 20, and it wasn't until I had a class with a very, very liberal poli-sci teacher who was extraordinarily patient with me and forced me to actually think through what I was saying that I began to see that I really had no fucking idea what I was talking about and went back to the drawing board and gave it a chance, and came away at least respecting the feminist point of view, even if I wasn't entirely convinced by the more radical positions.
posted by empath at 5:42 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Klang, who are you and what have you done with me?

Also, I offer you people Roy Buchanan and Entemann's cakes and you'd rather keep on bitching at eachother. *shakes head*
posted by jonmc at 5:51 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, cake?

Cake is pretty tasty.
posted by Ouisch at 5:59 PM on December 6, 2009


The frosting puck on top of Entemann's holiday cakes is sweeter than Doris day covered in corn syrup sing 'On The Good Ship Lollipop,' during springtime.

Also, Roy Buchanan played some great guitar, then hung himself in a jail cell after being arrrested for DWI. That's bloozy.
posted by jonmc at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2009


Entemann's Coffee Crumb Cake is the most delicious fucking thing on earth.
posted by empath at 6:05 PM on December 6, 2009


I do have to admit to my middle-class white maleness, though in most of these discussions I find it more a badge of shame that I constantly need to defend against, rather than a mere neutral fact.

I'd challenge you to reframe how you think about this. I can see how it would be really easy to feel attacked about these things, and this is a feeling that is shared by many other white middle-class men. However, being a white middle-class male is certainly not a neutral fact, as gender, class, and race are not neutral characteristics. You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege because of your demographics, and with that privilege comes a certain degree of responsibility and conscientiousness that you need to have to discuss issues of gender, class, and race in a respectful way. Instead of defending yourself around it (those sort of defenses tend to take on the "I have a black friend" tone), I'd encourage you to think of it as a unique standpoint, and be reflexive and conscious about that standpoint. How might your words be interpreted by someone with a different standpoint?
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:12 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


I do have to admit to my middle-class white maleness, though in most of these discussions I find it more a badge of shame that I constantly need to defend against, rather than a mere neutral fact.

You know, I've been a white, middle class male my entire life, and I've never felt the need to apologize for that, despite the fact that I have many friends who are liberal and are none of those things.

I think the problem is that you identify with the wrong folks. Just to use an an example -- when you read about the civil rights movement -- do you identify with the folks fighting for civil rights, despite the fact that they might be a different race and class than you, or do you identify with the folks that were fighting to stop civil rights, just because they were white, middle class males for the most part?

I don't feel a particular need to apologize for the actions of assholes from the past, just because they happen to look like me, and I'm perfectly happy to point out that they were assholes and join in the pile on whenever it comes up. And I'm perfectly happy to point out when other white middle class males are being racist or sexist assholes today. Cause I'm not one of them, and I don't identify with them.
posted by empath at 6:22 PM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I apologize in that I apparently failed to also notice that failing to toe the enlightened-self-loathing-liberal line commits the greatest thoughtcrime imagineable here. In an effort to meaningfully contribute to discussion on this site, I will therefore do my best to refrain from posting on anything but the most insipid of topics.

Jesus ... just don't, okay? There isn't a violin tiny enough to play in response to this kind of persecution fantasy spilling out.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:28 PM on December 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


"Was that really what you were trying to imply with that allusion?"

Actually, I thought I'd edited that out, but what I was going for was not the outrageous fortune part, but the underlying idea of suicide in the following line, which I was comparing to flaming out in a rather shallow way.
posted by klangklangston at 6:37 PM on December 6, 2009


pla: with strong Libertarian leanings

Who couldn't see that coming? :)

I do have to admit to my middle-class white maleness, though in most of these discussions I find it more a badge of shame that I constantly need to defend against, rather than a mere neutral fact.

Sadly, I find this observation to be accurate. Also, I too am much more interested in a discussion of issues and a presentation of new facts than I am in a trail of dots. However, even with those sympathies, I can't help seeing your behaviour as attention seeking and your arguments as pedantic.

As for troll feeding... Ya, I just did it, and I do feel dirty now. I'm going to have to hit post anyway though.
posted by Chuckles at 6:40 PM on December 6, 2009


I'm just here for the favorites. I feed them to my ocelot.

I wake up running . . . a fever

I go down slow and without a lever

You can't find shame inside a steamer

But you can shame any kind of two timin' lemur . . . if you're swinging a ten pound cleaver



What is this not open mic night?
posted by nola at 6:52 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And the coloured girls go
Doo do doo do doo do do doo..
posted by nola at 6:56 PM on December 6, 2009


I'm just here for the favorites. I feed them to my ocelot.

How do you titillate an ocelot?

You oscillate its tit, a lot.
posted by Rumple at 7:02 PM on December 6, 2009 [22 favorites]


I've never seen Entenmann's holiday cupcakes, but they're described this way on the manufacturer's website: "Delicious golden cake topped with seasonally relevant icing and decorations."

"Seasonally relevant"? Is that some war-on-Christmas way of saying red and green?
posted by palliser at 7:09 PM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


God damnt you Rumple my ocelot could have feed on 2 favs for at least a week.

Now I have to convince her to eat Entenmann's which she keeps telling me are full of trans-fats. FUCK
posted by nola at 7:14 PM on December 6, 2009


Mmmm ... seasonally relevant trans fats ...
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:15 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


> I apologize in that I apparently failed to also notice that failing to toe the enlightened-self-
> loathing-liberal line commits the greatest thoughtcrime imagineable here.
>
> Jesus Fucking Christ, get over yourself.
> posted by ericb at 5:53 PM on December 6 [5 favorites +] [!]

The point would be stronger if MeTa showed any sign of getting over him.
posted by jfuller at 7:19 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't know -- I always like to have articulate people to argue with (even if I'm not interested in arguing about this) and pla is clearly that.

Not to continue harping on this point, but what exactly has pla said that was all that noteworthy?
posted by The Devil Tesla at 7:22 PM on December 6, 2009


Respond to a dozen people in more-or-less realtime and see how well you do at attaining perfect grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

It's actually impressive that you can type at all, what with your hands nailed to that cross and all.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 7:27 PM on December 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


Okay, wrapup post, hopefully we've all have nice healthy empty spleens for the night...


klangklangston : You came here because we're smart and articulate, so the idea that we're a patchouli kumbaya sing-along is a bit silly.

Agreed. I directed that to one person who called me a "conservative". I do find the idea of a FP thread intended for nothing but hugs and cookies a bit silly (and would say my first, if not worst, mistake on this topic comes from treating it as a topic for general discussion), but that amounts to a failure to observe protocol on my part, for which I accept responsibility. And though not my bag, "The world needs silly love songs", John.


pyramid termite : you're enjoying every bit of this aren't you?

I didn't run your gauntlet to feign contrition or to provide you with a night's amusement hazing the newbie. Nor did I do so for "fun". I did so because I saw a rather huge disconnect between what I thought I wrote, and how people took it. The fact that most people even considered it plausible to interpret my words as justifying a psychopath, I need to consider a failure on my part, and take as a reminder to speak more clearly in the future; but I also won't ignore that such an interpretation requires a certain degree of willingness to entertain that perspective.

I admitted error where demonstrated; I think we met at a fairly decent middle-ground between what I said and Anansi's letting me know how most people took it; I apologized to one person (and only one) for matters of subjective intent; And I smiled in response to what I thought a clever turn of phrase - I sometimes do that. I won't pretend I have any more compassion or tact or patience than I do, and if I don't fit in here, then mediareport may well speak the truth. Time will tell.


Astro Zombie... You have buzzwords that turn you off, I have buzzwords that turn me off, and we all have our own unique separation between the sacred and the profane. Cases in point:

Green, if you must know, with strong Libertarian leanings
craichead : Well, that's a fucking surprise.
cj_ : Ah, another one. Reddit is that way
fleacircus : Hyehahaha. *cough* *sough*. You don't say?

Wow. Although I made a lazy error in extending such ideas to the group as a whole, some still wonder why I originally considered this largely a matter of PC (which yes, I use wholly without intended humor) thoughtcrime? I see now that this doesn't apply to all of you but... Just, "wow".



Anyway, I said I would, and I will - For those of you who have sincerely attempted to discuss this with me and reconcile our differences, thank you, and sorry for failing to write clearly, as well as for my inaccuracy.
posted by pla at 7:27 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


"The world needs silly love songs", John.

That was Paul.
posted by jonmc at 7:29 PM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


"The world needs silly love songs", John.

That was Paul.


My reading of that was he was quoting Paul telling that to John. I'm not going to try and explain anything else he said here, but let's be sure our post-Beatles John Paul George and Ringo references are clear people!
posted by marxchivist at 7:36 PM on December 6, 2009


No, I think the gender based sorting was rather violent as well. It would be good if we could minimize the violence (including sexual violence) on the front page.

This may be one of those situations where your perspective is far enough away from MetaFilter-mainstream perspective that this may not be something that is going to happen. I encourage you to have a discussion about this if you think it's important, but to my eyes the leap from "gender-based sorting" to "sexual violence" is a long one where one is okay for the front page and one is probably not.

I do have to admit to my middle-class white maleness

I'm surprised that this is something you need to admit, actually. And just to mention it if it's not specifically clear.... this threadshitting is a problem and you need to dial it back some. If you don't see what you're doing in that sort of light, maybe you can sort of grok the perspectives of other people here and see how they might see it that way.

Anyone who wants to have a good faith discussion about topics is welcome here. People who can't judge tone or "read the room" well enough to determine when they're starting and/or continuing a massively inappropriate derail may need to be a bit more careful in how they engage here. Now that we've mentioned it, we'll sort of assume you know that this is a problem moving forward and you can make the choices you make being cognizant of this fact.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:38 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Roy Buchanan's "The Messiah Will Come Again," complemements fine bourbon well. Discuss.

Goes well with this thread, that's for sure.
posted by hellojed at 7:46 PM on December 6, 2009


I'd challenge you to reframe how you think about this. I can see how it would be really easy to feel attacked about these things, and this is a feeling that is shared by many other white middle-class men. However, being a white middle-class male is certainly not a neutral fact, as gender, class, and race are not neutral characteristics. You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege because of your demographics, and with that privilege comes a certain degree of responsibility and conscientiousness that you need to have to discuss issues of gender, class, and race in a respectful way. Instead of defending yourself around it (those sort of defenses tend to take on the "I have a black friend" tone), I'd encourage you to think of it as a unique standpoint, and be reflexive and conscious about that standpoint. How might your words be interpreted by someone with a different standpoint?

That's just a real friendly way of saying "sit down and shut up, you babbling moron."

So I'd challenge people who believe things like the above to take the same challenge and rethink their own beliefs and consider a world-view that doesn't perpetuate the privilege-victim construct.

It boggles the mind that people can say (and presumably believe) these kinds of things with a straight face. White males have privilege, but they shouldn't, but as long as they do, they have a responsibility to not interact with everyone else as equals? We are all equal, and the best way to create a society that reflects that is by asking one gender to have more responsibility than the other for not hurting each other's feelings???
posted by gjc at 8:04 PM on December 6, 2009


What exactly would be considered a good discussion following a post about a guy who killed women due to his views of feminism?
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 8:08 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can I just mention how hilarious it is that pla turned a discussion about Europeans subjugating Muslims into a prophecy of "dhimmitude" in Europe? Now combine this with this thread about how the murder of 14 women by a man reflects the shortcomings of feminism.

That's master troll work right there.
posted by shii at 8:08 PM on December 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


can we please have a moratorium on using the word "thoughtcrime"? it's just so... lazy.
posted by palomar at 8:09 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege because of your demographics, and with that privilege comes a certain degree of responsibility and conscientiousness that you need to have to discuss issues of gender, class, and race in a respectful way.

Yeah, I actually think this is kinda obnoxious, too. There are plenty of white male middle class people who haven't been overly privileged, and telling them that they are (and further, telling them how they're obliged to talk to you), without knowing anything about their life or upbringing is a bit presumptuous.
posted by empath at 8:13 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Still on that "privilege is a myth" kick are we, gjc?
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:14 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wonderful. You did it again. I am so glad that MetaFilter has this fun subset of males who have the uncanny ability to barge into a thread on any topic and make it about them and their tiny penises.

Rob paxon, thank you for interrupting everyone to remind them that MEN DIE TOO. We know. We know that men die, too. However, the topic is about fourteen innocent women who were targeted and killed just because they are womeMEN DIE TOO!!!!!! Great, awesome, you've really grown.

Ryanfou, thank you for telling us ITS BEEN TWENTY YEARS WHO GIVES A SHIT GROW A THICKER SKIN. Truly, you have enlightened us about the nature of grief.

And pla, precious pla. Once again your bookmarks to Wikipedia have served you - and us, the beneficiaries of your wise, reasoned, randomly bolded screeds - so, so well. We learned that feminism has a explicit primary objective, and that a mass-murderer found out what it was for us. We also learned that Gloria Steinem, who said something terrible that she turned out to not say, was only marginally more sane than a mass murderer. We learned that being a feminist is like being a Jew after the Holocaust saying "well, yeah, I guess we really did conspire to destroy the German economy... But nothing personal, just as a matter of good business."

Thank you for your contrarian opinions such an "men die too," "it's been a long time," and "what if mass murder were justified?" I don't know what we'd do without you.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:20 PM on December 6, 2009 [33 favorites]


I was just poking around for the Markovfilter and noticed that it is still offline from the big attack earlier this year. Too bad, since this would be a great thread for it.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:21 PM on December 6, 2009


I've been following this all day and decided to hold off until I had looked at pla's previous comments (and accidentally favorited one). As a newbie, my impression is that he likes to threadshit, a lot. We will he get banned for it?
posted by nestor_makhno at 8:22 PM on December 6, 2009


gjc,

Privilege and victimhood are not quite on the same continuum.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 8:22 PM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


We will he get banned for it?

If he's been notified that there seems to be a problem and that it needs to stop (as in this thread) and it continues anyhow, we'll start down the timeout/ban hallway.

The original thread is becoming an embarrassment at this point. I've asked the other mods to take a look at it since I just see red when I look at it. Sorry team.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:28 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I actually think this is kinda obnoxious, too. There are plenty of white male middle class people who haven't been overly privileged, and telling them that they are (and further, telling them how they're obliged to talk to you), without knowing anything about their life or upbringing is a bit presumptuous.

I think it just means if you should be especially sensitive when discussing a sensitive topic that doesn't directly involve you.

Like, I'm a white middle-class heterosexual American female. I should be especially sensitive when talking about issues of minority rights or gay rights or poverty, or what have you, because when it comes to those issues I'm privileged. People like me get to control the discussion in so many other ways, so yeah. In this issue I have to be more sensitive - because it's an academic discussion for me, but for other people it's their lives. I'm cool with shutting up and listening on those topics because of that.

Even though I may "enlightened and progressive" and not one of the "bad people" I still don't get to control the conversation. I can say my viewpoint all I want, no one's going to arrest me, but I should listen to the people who have experience I can never have because of my privilege.

There are lots of kinds of privileges, too. Every white male has white privilege and male privilege. Maybe they don't have economic privilege, or heterosexual privelge. It's not a zero-sum game. There's no one amount of "privilege" a person can have.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:31 PM on December 6, 2009 [20 favorites]



pla, you seem to have a need for conflict that is more for display than discourse.

If the only thing you can contribute to mefi discussions is swipes based on pre-digested second-hand interpretations of what others' here have studied (and lived) seriously, you would do well to move on ... or simply lurk and learn.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:32 PM on December 6, 2009


pla is a fucking troll and he should be banned.
posted by afu at 8:38 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


shoots ... I hate it when there are 10 new posts while I compose and then the 'straighten-up or move on' mods post comes up and my piece-of-my-mind post is irrelevant.

Where does one get Entenmann's holiday cupcakes??
posted by Surfurrus at 8:41 PM on December 6, 2009


between the vegetables and the bakery

so they catch you right when you're trying to escape and find some fiber and nutrients...BAM, look, it's a holiday...a holiday in your mouth! how could you say no and go buy some silly liberal arugula?
posted by kathrineg at 8:43 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


how could you say no and go buy some silly liberal arugula?

DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE JUST BUY ARUGULA TO BE POLITICALLY CORRECT WAKE UP SHEEPLE
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:46 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really get sick of people "pointing" conservatives and libertarians to other sites. That's complete bullshit. Just because somebody has a different political ideology does not mean that they don't belong here. If they are looking to actively engage in discussion, as pla is sort of doing (you could probably lose some of the hyperbole), then they belong at this site.

I mean seriously, "reddits that way"? Well your own fucking blog is that way, so go there and enjoy your one-sided daisy-chain-making lovefest.

(stamps off muttering obscenities)
posted by cyphill at 8:50 PM on December 6, 2009 [18 favorites]


Yeah, I actually think this is kinda obnoxious, too. There are plenty of white male middle class people who haven't been overly privileged, and telling them that they are (and further, telling them how they're obliged to talk to you), without knowing anything about their life or upbringing is a bit presumptuous.

What Solon and Thanks said. I only mean you're obliged to be conscious of power differences (which can take a number of forms) if you want to have a respectful conversation about issues which may more relevant to the other person in the conversation than to you. I would argue that they are obliged to do the same for you, since there are certainly ways in which you have less power than they do- the responsibility is by no means only on the white man. We all have power in some ways and lack power in others. I am not saying that we shouldn't interact with each other as equals, I am more saying that it can be important in some conversations to consider each others' uniqueness and be empathic in regards to that. I hope that (at least in part) clarifies my point to you, gjc.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:52 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even though I may "enlightened and progressive" and not one of the "bad people" I still don't get to control the conversation. I can say my viewpoint all I want, no one's going to arrest me, but I should listen to the people who have experience I can never have because of my privilege.

I think you should listen to people who have had any sort experience you can never have, without trying to figure out who is more or less privileged due to who they are or their life experiences. People should just listen to each other more, in general.
posted by empath at 8:54 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


between the vegetables and the bakery

... next to the poi? Hmm, what is Entenmann's?
posted by Surfurrus at 8:54 PM on December 6, 2009


I think you should listen to people who have had any sort experience you can never have, without trying to figure out who is more or less privileged due to who they are or their life experiences. People should just listen to each other more, in general.

Well, certainly. But if someone's having a discussion about Matthew Sheppard I'm not going to go "Straight people are killed too! You don't know what it's like to be straight! Let's talk about that!"

Talking about it in terms of privilege is just to help explain why the above behavior is obnoxious and why in that situation I fundamentally can't personally grok some things that gay people are discussing because of who I am.

Fish can't see the water they're swimming in and all.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:00 PM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am not saying that we shouldn't interact with each other as equals, I am more saying that it can be important in some conversations to consider each others' uniqueness and be empathic in regards to that.

I think "considering each others uniqueness" is the exact opposite of: "You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege because of your demographics".
posted by empath at 9:01 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really get sick of people "pointing" conservatives and libertarians to other sites. That's complete bullshit. Just because somebody has a different political ideology does not mean that they don't belong here. If they are looking to actively engage in discussion, as pla is sort of doing (you could probably lose some of the hyperbole), then they belong at this site.

The only people who I think truly don't belong here are those who cannot express themselves clearly and articulately. I think pla has some trouble doing so; his writing style manages to be both ESLish and like an impatient child's story, rushing ahead to get to the part of the comment he's excited about without setting up anything first.

F(one of)TA: I realized many years later that in my life and actions, of course I was a feminist"

Interesting choice of comments in hindsight.

So, ignoring the glaringly obvious malfunction in Lepine's wetware, does that statement make his choice of targets more-or-less accurate (if not necessarily his notions thereof)?

Imagine Elie Weisel coming out and saying something like "well, yeah, I guess we really did conspire to destroy the German economy... But nothing personal, just as a matter of good business".

I don't mean this as inflammatory, BTW, just an open train-of-thought as it slowly derails itself.
posted by pla at 8:21 AM on December 6


Yeah.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:02 PM on December 6, 2009


I really get sick of people "pointing" conservatives and libertarians to other sites. That's complete bullshit. Just because somebody has a different political ideology does not mean that they don't belong here.

Of course they belong/are welcome here. As long as they don't throw shit around, drive their cars through the front window, or set anything on fire, we're all good. pla's problem is one of manners and comportment, not necessarily his politics. It's how he's putting his points across, and his intractable rudeness in doing so. If he gets banned, he will have nobody to blame but himself and his own inabilty to get along here.
posted by jokeefe at 9:03 PM on December 6, 2009


Apparently (from what I'm gathering) this guy has more history than the current kafuffle of getting up people's noses, history of which I was previously unaware.

If so, what I said upthread in general still, but perhaps not as much in this particular case, I guess. Arguing is only fun until you find yourself getting trolled.

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:09 PM on December 6, 2009


I think "considering each others uniqueness" is the exact opposite of: "You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege because of your demographics".

Dear Christ almighty. How many times do we have to explain how this works?
posted by Hildegarde at 9:12 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


As long as they don't throw shit around, drive their cars through the front window, or set anything on fire

You're not the boss of me!
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:13 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think "considering each others uniqueness" is the exact opposite of: "You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege because of your demographics".

We all have unique degrees of privilege because of our demographics, and that should be considered.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:18 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


> I mean seriously, "reddits that way"? Well your own fucking blog is that way, so go there and enjoy your one-sided daisy-chain-making lovefest.

It was sort of an offhand comment I don't really want to plant a flag on, but the fact is that place is overflowing with exact clones of this guy. Young, white males that self-describe as Libertarian, have deeply misogynistic beliefs they won't shut the fuck up about, suffer from a persecution complex, and generally behave in a trollish manner which they defend as "speaking truth." I don't read the site anymore because I find their behavior alienating.

I think it's absolutely toxic to this site (especially for women), but he'd fit in well over there. So yeah, I don't see the problem with the suggestion, honestly.
posted by cj_ at 9:19 PM on December 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


Pla is a clumsy writer who reacts defensively to attack, and instead of thinking of ways to express himself more clearly makes the mistake of sticking his foot further in his mouth by trying to respond in 'real time'. In that sense, he's like most if not all mefites. He's further hampered however by using the overloaded jargon of the conservative Internet crank rather than the overloaded jargon that fits in with the metafilter context. I suspect he spends time on free repulic, but rather than pigeonhole him as a thoughtless conservative, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he doesn't realize how culturally loaded some of his language is. Similarly, when I reead Intercouses, I gave Dworkin the benefit of the doubt when reading her clumsy explanation about how sex within relationships with a power differential was akin to rape (I'm badly paraphrasing a book I read 18 years ago here) . I didn't assume she hated men (or butch lesbians), but I still gritted my teeth a little because I thought the alarm she was trying to sound was approaching a level of hyperbole that could trivialize the trauma of rape. She's a provocative writer and thinker, and in that sense her minor transgressions are forgivable even though they can set back people's understanding of her points.

What gets me though is even if I take a charitable interpretation of what pla was trying to say, I don't understand why the question is in any way useful. So what if the victims are or are not examples of feminists? What point, provacative or not were you trying to make? If you offend us in the process of challenging us to see things in a new light, that's useful, but just to hear yourself talk is less so.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:25 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


pla's problem is one of manners and comportment, not necessarily his politics. It's how he's putting his points across, and his intractable rudeness in doing so. If he gets banned, he will have nobody to blame but himself and his own inabilty to get along here.

Well sure, but can't we can we apply these same statements to Optimus Chyme as well?
posted by Arch_Stanton at 9:36 PM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


The guy could stand to learn some manners, and sure his feelings about women may seem misogynistic to others (including me). But I think until he repeatedly derails topics on purpose, or refuses to accept the climate we foster around tragi-threads it's inappropriate for people to point him to the door and say he doesn't belong.

He admits that he was wrong about posting about the topic in the thread, and then when he was told to move it here, he moved it here and got blasted for that too. The guy may not be the most eloquent, or logically sound person (I've got to face it, I'm certainly not either), but he doesn't appear to me to be deliberately trolling or talking simply to hear his own voice. I haven't gone through his history to any extent, but he does recognize when others point out some of his faults (see above) which is not exactly the most trollish behavior I've ever seen. And sure, he uses words like sheeple, but god, half the users here still get fun out of putting "k"s into America.

I think we have to allow people to acclimatize here, metafilter-users tend to have pretty strict rules about how discussions should be conducted that are not immediately apparent. I'm with pla in that I value our discussions here, and once he picks up on the social cues I think he can bring interest and a different viewpoint to the table. Metafilter isn't supposed to be a closed door liberal paradise where everyone uses perfect grammar and reads Chomsky to their kids (who they would never spank). The doors are open here to anyone that wants to cough up five bucks

I say let the guy learn from his mistakes, and if he we get more metatalk threads we can start talking banhammer, but this thread has started to smack of stonethrowing.
posted by cyphill at 9:41 PM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


I didn't run your gauntlet to feign contrition or to provide you with a night's amusement hazing the newbie.

you haven't run any kind of gauntlet - you've read words on a screen and typed replies to them; both of which activities you could have stopped doing at any time you chose

and if you think this is me giving you a hard time ... you obviously aren't familiar with my posting history here

Nor did I do so for "fun".

then why do it at all?

I did so because I saw a rather huge disconnect between what I thought I wrote, and how people took it. The fact that most people even considered it plausible to interpret my words as justifying a psychopath, I need to consider a failure on my part, and take as a reminder to speak more clearly in the future; but I also won't ignore that such an interpretation requires a certain degree of willingness to entertain that perspective.

disingenuous - first, you backpedal by saying that you didn't really mean to say what you did and then suggest that it's our fault anyway for being so uncharitable as to think that the most obvious interpretation of your words are the most likely meaning of them

if your statements are as ill-thought out as this, perhaps you should consider not making them at all

an alternative explanation is that you actually mean what you say but don't have the courage of your convictions when you get called out on it

I admitted error where demonstrated; I think we met at a fairly decent middle-ground between what I said and Anansi's letting me know how most people took it; I apologized to one person (and only one) for matters of subjective intent;

so, out of all the people you've offended, you can only manage an apology to one?

you know, you're not as stupid as you pretend to be - neither are you as clever as you think you are - and in spite of your limited skills, you still insist on finding the most provocative reply your small wit can manage

you, sir, are a troll
posted by pyramid termite at 9:42 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ok, everyone take a walk.

pla said some fucked up shit. He apologized for some of it. And then he said some more fucked up shit. Ok fine. But this is getting a little out of control, imo. I know MetFilter loves a good virtual stoning, but the site and the community is not being made better by this doggy pile. We've made our point.

I think that if any of the families of the grotesquely murdered women saw how much focus was taken away from memorializing this horrific tragedy and given to the internet slaying of one outlier they would be justifiably saddened.

I know it was said at the get go, but there's been a lot of nitpicking above, and I don't think this is the best place for a discussion on feminist theory and its impli/applications in our present times.

Regardless of motive and etc., we're talking about 14 human beings whose bright futures were robbed from them. Take a breath people.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:44 PM on December 6, 2009


Dear Christ almighty. How many times do we have to explain how this works?

Evidently, empath doesn't think it works the same way you do.

Your comment comes across as though you think he is too feeble-minded to see the obvious rightousness of your worldview. This is an attitude which I'm sure just about everyone has fallen prey to at some time (I know I have), but it's also one we would do well to get rid of. It cheapens the discourse.
posted by Commander Rachek at 9:44 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


This must be your first try at discourse with him.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:50 PM on December 6, 2009


As much as I am not in sympathy in any way with Pla, I think I understand what happened there and still hope that, given the benefit of the doubt, he might be able to contribute here. (I don't think he'll make a useful contribution, mind - but he's not necessarily unhinged or a troll). His contributions to the Montreal thread make him seem like a troll, but given that he describes himself as a long time lurker, I *think* what happened is that he read the post - thought "ah! this is the thread where I put my fascinating and unique white middle class male green party yet libertarian-leaning ideas about feminism!" And maybe he got SO EXCITED about what he thought was a feminism thread that he failed to notice that it was actually a thread about women being murdered by a misogynistic lunatic. If Pla is still reading, I'd suggest going back and reading Jessamyn's comments over and over. When she starts talking about a failure to read the room, that's a def con 5 double-secret-probation indicator that you are not doing well here (and not for the reasons you think).
posted by moxiedoll at 9:51 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Every white male has white privilege and male privilege.

So, within this language of White and male privilege, where exactly do we fit a prison system that places White men at a greater risk of rape and sexual abuse than Black men? Should we file it away as another curious artifact of White privilege, karmic retribution for other aspects of the justice system that have disfavored Blacks? Or is not being raped a new, heretofore undiscovered Black privilege that I should isolate and ship to Wellesley, MA to be pinned and cataloged?

Or is it possible that millions of White people live their entire lives in non-White spaces, and vice-versa, and that gross, global statements about privilege presuppose the support of institutions and power structures that simply do not hold on local levels?
posted by kid ichorous at 9:53 PM on December 6, 2009


So, within this language of White and male privilege, where exactly do we fit a prison system that places White men at a greater risk of rape and sexual abuse than Black men?

Cite?
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:58 PM on December 6, 2009


So, within this language of White and male privilege, where exactly do we fit a prison system that places White men at a greater risk of rape and sexual abuse than Black men?

I'd say it might have something to do with the fact that sixty-four percent of prisoners come from racial minorities. There are some circumstances where white men are disadvantaged, but they are rare, and pointing them out does not negate the fact of white privilege; arguably, the situation you describe is an unfortunate byproduct of that privilege.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:59 PM on December 6, 2009 [15 favorites]


Or is it possible that millions of White people live their entire lives in non-White spaces, and vice-versa, and that gross, global statements about privilege presuppose the support of institutions and power structures that simply do not hold on local levels?

Well, I wasn't trying to make a global statement - any talk about "privilege" has to be sensitive to the time and place it's in reference to. Sometimes it's not relevant.

It's just a concept to help people who are privileged in a certain situation or setting understand that there are things that work for them they may not even be aware of. It's not a moral condemnation. There may be situations in which discussing it makes little sense, but that doesn't remove the term's usefulness in others.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:04 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ok, well this thread is just about all wrapped up and ready for a bow an' all, but I wanted the chance to respond to Rumple:

In fact, it is a remarkable neutral statement of fact. The only reason I am responding though is because no, the front page need not be sanitized from this kind of journalistic style prose, as you suggest.

Yes, those are the basic, straight-forward facts of the events. Events which describe the very worst of humanity. Unless you are completely without empathy, I can't see how you would deny them being violent. Graphic violence doesn't have to be some kind of gore-splosion. Even through sanitized and factual prose, the graphic description of this act is there.

I hope you'd re-read my comment, as this does not at all contradict what I said, and I think you are interchanging kathrineg and myself. I never said this has no place on the front page. I don't expect to open a newspaper and only find "kitten rescued from tree!" stories, or the same from MetaFilter. I was just basically agreeing with Kathrineg, that yes this is violent.
posted by fontophilic at 10:06 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or is it possible that millions of White people live their entire lives in non-White spaces, and vice-versa, and that gross, global statements about privilege presuppose the support of institutions and power structures that simply do not hold on local levels?

No one is claiming that having one sort of privilege prevents you from being disadvantaged in other senses. A white guy can be less likely to end up in prison for the same crime as a black guy, but more likely to suffer prison rape (though that's a new statistic to me.) Once he's out of prison, the white guy might be more likely to find a job than the black guy, but less likely to find a job than a rich white guy. Our hypothetical white guy's more likely to suffer rape in prison than a similar hypothetical white woman, but less likely to suffer rape outside of prison. Our hypothetical white guy, in other words, has male privilege and white privilege, but the effect of that privilege on daily life is tempered by all sorts of other factors, like race, class, education, wealth, situation, etc.

It's all in the context. If we're talking likelihood of being a victim of a violent crime, men are the losers. If we're talking about likelihood of being victim of a violent crime solely because of your gender, well, how many massacres in the past 20 years have involved a killer who wanted to kill only men because of their gender? In gender based violence, women are the losers. There's no contradiction, there's only context, and the context in the original thread was gender-based violence. Which is why "men get killed a lot too in other situations" is something of a derail.
posted by ubersturm at 10:10 PM on December 6, 2009 [19 favorites]


And talking about it in abstract terms isn't helping, I realize. Specific things are the result of privilege. For instance, heterosexual privilege means "I do not have to worry about telling my roommate about my sexuality. It is assumed I am a heterosexual."

In other ways, I'm not privileged. All these terms are is is an attempt to get people to think about things they take for granted. I believe the dispute here first came about because of an assertion that "white maleness" is an neutral trait - and someone pointing out that it's a privilege to be able to assume that, because that's what Western society teaches us.

It shouldn't be used in an "your opinion doesn't matter" way, just as "perhaps there are things you aren't seeing here because you're not taking this other experience into account" way.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:10 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I haven't paid any attention to pla in any other threads, anywhere, but in here, he comes off a lot like Josh Tubbs.

I am rather cocky in my intelligence, and I am definitely an intellectual elitist so if the stupider children would like to leave, that would be fine by me. I don’t swear, and I’ve never had sex, so if you’d like to call me religious, go for it, but I don’t call myself religious. I try to take the tough classes, and I am determined to get all A’s in all of them. I also scored a FOUR on the Advanced Placement United States History exam last year, so I like to say that a lot. I am taking Advance Placement World History right now, but that is basically for fun, so please shower me with your compliments. I am also a boy. I thought I should put that in there in case there was any confusion that needed clarification.

sorry pla, I'm not attacking you, just noticed some similarities in tone.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:11 PM on December 6, 2009


Cite?

Past studies have documented the prevalence of black on white sexual aggression in prison. These findings are further confirmed by Human Rights Watch's own research. Overall, our correspondence and interviews with white, black, and Hispanic inmates convince us that white inmates are disproportionately targeted for abuse. Although many whites reported being raped by white inmates, black on white abuse appears to be more common. [...]

The causes of black on white sexual abuse in prison have been much analyzed. Some commentators have attributed it to the norms of a violent black subculture, the result of social conditioning that encourages aggressiveness and the use of force. Others have viewed it as a form of revenge for white dominance of blacks in outside society. Viewing rape as a hate crime rather than one primarily motivated by sexual urges, they believe that sexually abused white inmates are essentially convenient surrogates for whites generally. [...]

Some inmates, both black and white, told Human Rights Watch that whites were generally perceived as weaker and thus more vulnerable to sexual abuse.


UN Human Rights Watch, 2001 [here]

There are some circumstances where white men are disadvantaged, but they are rare, and pointing them out does not negate the fact of white privilege.

Being raped for the rest of your life is one hell of a disadvantage; millions of men does not quietly pass for me as rare. At any rate, the original assertion that all White males have White privilege is considerably weakened.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:12 PM on December 6, 2009


Optimus Chyme,

I apologize if I offended you with that comment. I obviously didn't mean that about the actual victims of the crime, or people who are affected by it and this day had some sort of special significance to you personally. Really, I thought this was just an internet forum where people discussed interesting topics in an intellectual manner.

I honestly meant nothing offensive and I can understand that 20 years or a lifetime cannot heal some wounds.

My comment was removed so no-one else will have to suffer its crudeness.

I am not an experienced writer, and my comment really was an honest attempt at being sympathetic to the victims.
posted by ryanfou at 10:12 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And, obviously, none of this is intended to belittle the threat of rape faced by Black prisoners, which, being nonzero, is infinitely higher than it should be.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:14 PM on December 6, 2009


Being raped for the rest of your life is one hell of a disadvantage; millions of men does not quietly pass for me as rare. At any rate, the original assertion that all White males have White privilege is considerably weakened.

Really, I can see how that statement offended you because it is perhaps overly simplistic, but I certainly didn't say anything like "all white males have awesome lives and experience no problems whatsoever because of their whitemaleness."

It just means that white people get some benefits from being white. Women get some benefits from being women. Monkeys get some benefits from being monkeys. The relevance of this is specific to circumstance.

But yes, clearly I've said enough here that I'm not going to persuade anyone that isn't already persuaded.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:25 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's about time we got to the subject of monkey privilege. Primarily this. Little assholes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:33 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


They get to throw poop at people and it's not even questioned. Also, bananas.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:34 PM on December 6, 2009


"So, within this language of White and male privilege, where exactly do we fit a prison system that places White men at a greater risk of rape and sexual abuse than Black men? Should we file it away as another curious artifact of White privilege, karmic retribution for other aspects of the justice system that have disfavored Blacks? Or is not being raped a new, heretofore undiscovered Black privilege that I should isolate and ship to Wellesley, MA to be pinned and cataloged?"

Sorry you got raped in prison, dude.

Or—Sure, as a tall person, I'm more able to be seen, project an air of authority, utilize more storage space, find it easier to lead a group, am rarely challenged physically, but damn if I don't smack my head on a cabinet or two. In Korea, they say the smaller the pepper, the spicier, but here, in my culture? It's an advantage to be tall even if every now and then I find myself wondering why bus seats are made for hobbits, why shower heads are aimed at my shoulders, and why stores even bother stocking items at my ankle height. None of those things negate the fact that being tall is generally easier than being short.

Everyone has some arbitrary privilege that they can think of if they take a moment, whether it comes from class or location of birth to a great head of hair. Most of us have multiple privileges, and by thinking about that you can realize that some are more valuable than others. Being right handed really doesn't get you much as it's so prevalent, and even 50 years ago kids used to be forced into some pretty weird shit in order to switch dominance. But that's nothing compared to having been born in a developed nation.

And I understand being defensive about it—it's not something you could chose, it's not something you did at all, so you can't take credit (or blame) for the initial moment. But that doesn't mean that it's not important or not something that requires a bit of mindfulness. We all know someone who was born rich or pretty or just big who used that to boss around other folks; we've all been bossed around by people like that. We all know that resentment. So if you can take that and feel some empathy for your fellow humans, well, you're pretty far on your way toward getting over the butthurt, and knocking off dumb shit like trying to pretend that getting raped in prison more often means that white guys don't generally get a leg up on most other folks.
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 PM on December 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


This must be your first try at discourse with him.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:50 AM on December 7 [+] [!]


That's random. I don't think we've ever even mixed it up. And by the way, in a previous thread, I actually enumerated as much white male privilege as I think I've benefited from, which was more than I had actually thought it was going to be before I started. But in any case, not everyone has been able to take advantage of that privilege. I've known people with pretty shitty lives where they've not benefited at all from their race or gender, and I don't think people should just pre-emptively dismiss that possibility. I mean, sure in aggregate, it's obvious, but it's not always obvious on a personal level.

It just means that white people get some benefits from being white. Women get some benefits from being women. Monkeys get some benefits from being monkeys. The relevance of this is specific to circumstance.

Well if all we're saying is that everybody is different, then that's awesome. The statement I took issue with came across as - "White males should watch what they say when discussing these issues," and I'd prefer not to pre-emptively shut down conversation that way.
posted by empath at 10:52 PM on December 6, 2009


moxiedoll writes "When she starts talking about a failure to read the room, that's a def con 5 double-secret-probation indicator that you are not doing well here (and not for the reasons you think)"

You mean def con 1 double secret probation indicator. Def Con 5 is peace and everything is fine. Def Con 1 is OMGOMGOMG launch the nukes WereAllGoingToDie!!!
posted by Mitheral at 10:54 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


You mean def con 1 double secret probation indicator. Def Con 5 is peace and everything is fine. Def Con 1 is OMGOMGOMG launch the nukes WereAllGoingToDie!!!

Jesus Christ - are you telling me that I've had my defcom's mixed up all these years??
posted by moxiedoll at 10:59 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


"White males should watch what they say when discussing these issues," and I'd prefer not to pre-emptively shut down conversation that way.

Which isn't to say that everybody shouldn't be sensitive to each others feelings, etc, I just think that singling out one group as having to be ESPECIALLY sensitive is counterproductive.
posted by empath at 11:00 PM on December 6, 2009


It's about time we got to the subject of monkey privilege.

That is prosimian privilege. Between misidentifying feminists and misidentifying primates, it's been a banner day here on mefi.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:11 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Solon and Thanks: And talking about it in abstract terms isn't helping, I realize. Specific things are the result of privilege. For instance, heterosexual privilege means "I do not have to worry about telling my roommate about my sexuality. It is assumed I am a heterosexual."

In other ways, I'm not privileged. All these terms are is is an attempt to get people to think about things they take for granted.


Here is a concrete illustration of how fluid and context-dependent the privileges accruing to various identifiers can be:
It is much easier to simply say that JD has more privilege than I do because he's a man. It is more accurate to say that in certain circumstances, JD's male privilege will dominate and show a clear advantage, while in others it will not help him at all.

Here's the scenario to illustrate the Kyriarchy concept:

We go out to a restaurant. JD is male, so the waitstaff may automatically assume he's paying for the meal. The food is terrible. JD's male privilege means that if he complains to the management, he's more likely to be taken seriously and get compensation. Then we both get food poisoning. my socioeconomic privilege now trumps his male privilege. I have excellent insurance and am able to expect good care and be seen the same day. JD has terrible insurance, and his only real option is emergency room or to call all around town trying to find an urgent care facility that takes his insurance. Once we're in to see our respective doctors, his (relative) thin privilege gives him an advantage because the doctor is more likely to take him seriously and treat his illness instead of blaming it on his weight and telling him he wouldn't be nauseous if he didn't stuff his face. BUT, JD is in therapy, therefore in the mental health system. In this case, my current mental health privilege may mean I will get better care because my doctor won't ask me condescendingly if I've been feeling a lot of stress lately and conclude that my illness is psychosomatic.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:25 PM on December 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


While this event hits me very close to home (I am a female graduate of a Canadian engineering school), as some others upthread have expressed, I would have been interested in reading more about the issues surrounding it. Perhaps this is just the engineer in me talking, but when faced with a problem, I want to understand it and I want to solve it -- and that involves a frank discussion with everyone about everything. Maybe the solution is to have two parallel threads for topics like these -- one strictly for memorializing and one for more general discussion?

Also: Pla's comment was very disappointing and his lack of tact needed to be addressed, but we needn't lose our own tact or civility in addressing it. It seems sometimes all it takes for hell to break loose is one foot in one mouth.
posted by emeiji at 12:06 AM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Klang, you luminous rogue, you perfect kwisatz haderach of jerk, you appear to be dipped in the 14-karat 4chan tonight. Butthurt, indeed! That'll learn me to prattle on about issues less vague than mankind's lack of empathy, less trivial than hipsters in the blue and twenty-first century flappers, and problems not so easily pinned on the invisible doings of a synchronous thousand million racist busybodies. I sometimes forget that the m-to-the-o of a good argument is to surprise bludgeon them with a perfectly good spondee like butthurt and a sorry you got raped, dude. Well-played, and pass the favorites and the gin and tonic.

Because clearly I'm just someone who is just trying to tear down this little house we've papered with mfas and bachelor's degrees and whatever. I'm not the least bit interested in the rights of prisoners; I don't ever post about it, ever, at all. My problems with privilege lists must be mere sublimations of some guilt I swallowed with a silver spoon.

These conversations are really becoming like the dialectic of an anthill: when a piece of outside information hits the table, we ask the only question of importance - is it pro, or con? It cannot be useful otherwise. Is it for or against privilege? Do you admit your privilege, or do you attempt to deny it? Do you accept every corollary, or none of them? Because we're nuanced enough to see the issue from both sides. And we have two ways of talking: panegyric, and polemic. We have two flavors of space: girlzone, and boyzone. And we'll have a conversation as binary and as boring as that. Fine then.

allen.spaulding: I'm absolutely fucking sick of people badmouthing Andrea Dworkin and especially 'Intercouse.' It's an amazingly challenging and brilliant work by a thinker who deserves way more respect as an intellectual than she ever gets here or anywhere else these days. [...] If you have something smart to say about Dworkin, do so.

I've actually been working through Intercourse, and thusfar, my attitude towards Dworkin is the same as towards CS Lewis or PJ ORourke or Robert Graves. Something can be precise, internally-consistent, well-read, annotated, impassioned, elegant, and in every way tailored to the fit of good writing and good criticism, and still be a map to nowhere, a compass tuned to the north of a galactically distant world. I love CS Lewis, but I also want to punch him every other sentence. I will hum along with something like The Abolition of Man, but I also understand that using brilliant writing to do so much as navigate to the 7-11 is tempting fate. You will probably die. It is not a TomTom.

I still think Dworkin's writing on Joan of Arc was massively well executed; it's what pulled me in (and past all the scare quotes) to a deeper examination of her work.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:11 AM on December 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


You know what's really great about this post? How it's pretty much only white dudes telling everyone how they feel. I wish we had more posts like this.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:14 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with Robert Graves?
posted by fleacircus at 12:16 AM on December 7, 2009


Dude was crazy. He thought that the essence of Welsh poetry was all about worshipping an evil hive goddess when Dylan Thomas proved it was about looking at the sky through the bottom of a bottle.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:22 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack"
posted by exlotuseater at 12:35 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


empath: The statement I took issue with came across as - "White males should watch what they say when discussing these issues," and I'd prefer not to pre-emptively shut down conversation that way.

While I agree with most of your contributions to this thread, it's unclear to me how comments that advocate listening, and not trying to control conversations, equate to pre-emptively shutting down conversation. They object to tone-deaf approaches to participation, sure.

Consider how much collective energy it took from both women and men, in just the two threads related to the Schrodinger's Rapist link, to convey to several male participants: "Your personal experience doesn't give you a direct line to the One True Benign nature of catcalling or male-female sexual overtures, so could you please stop telling us how wrong the women sharing their stories here are, and give a listen to 1. how many of us in this different demographic have 2. had terrible experiences 3. often enough that 4. it's perfectly rational for many women to have a default reaction of caution when fielding men's approaches."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:36 AM on December 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


"That'll learn me to prattle on about issues less vague than mankind's lack of empathy, less trivial than hipsters in the blue and twenty-first century flappers, and problems not so easily pinned on the invisible doings of a synchronous thousand million racist busybodies."

Actually, you'll find that I was pretty specific in discussing a fairly uncontroversial and accepted example of privilege.

An arch tone and flowery language hurt your ability to argue here; instead you're playing the martyr to an invisible crowd.

"I sometimes forget that the m-to-the-o of a good argument is to surprise bludgeon them with a perfectly good spondee like butthurt and a sorry you got raped, dude. Well-played, and pass the favorites and the gin and tonic."

You know that there were other words in that comment too, right? I mean, it does look to me like instead of focusing on the pretty simple call to empathy, you're attempting to bluster on about, well, what you perceive as my bluster. That looks less like an attempt to disagree through reason and more like conversational bombast.

"Because clearly I'm just someone who is just trying to tear down this little house we've papered with mfas and bachelor's degrees and whatever. I'm not the least bit interested in the rights of prisoners; I don't ever post about it, ever, at all. My problems with privilege lists must be mere sublimations of some guilt I swallowed with a silver spoon."

You know, a lot of people complain about straw men, but it's nice to see one so fully stuffed. Where, exactly, did I imply insincerity? What's this gibberish about sublimations and silver spoons? Just because a phrase is alliterative doesn't mean it's profound.

"These conversations are really becoming like the dialectic of an anthill: when a piece of outside information hits the table, we ask the only question of importance - is it pro, or con? It cannot be useful otherwise."

Well, no, actually "we" don't. "We," the queen and I, are sensitive to the recurrent theme of loud complaining about all the way men have it hard whenever it's implied that they might have some sort of advantage. Just like how we're sensitive to people sincerely expounding the White Man's Burden or Great White Hope or even a bunch of moneyed folks complaining that the recent downturn has made them learn to do things like wash their own clothes (though the we that includes only me and not the queen is not a rich we).

"Is it for or against privilege? Do you admit your privilege, or do you attempt to deny it? Do you accept every corollary, or none of them?"

I'm sure that repeated rhetorical questions are convincing to someone, somewhere, but using them to attribute false dichotomies is sophistry, not arguing.

"And we have two ways of talking: panegyric, and polemic. We have two flavors of space: girlzone, and boyzone. And we'll have a conversation as binary and as boring as that. Fine then."

Yes, yes, your axe grinding about prison rape and privilege is totally blowing every one of us binary squares' minds. I mean, what response do you want aside from sarcasm? Hey, here's a new one—more men than women get circumcised! Isn't that insane? And yet people treat female genital mutilation as if it's worse for some reason! Shyah! I know!

Insisting that every discussion about feminism, even one about a massacre of women specifically for being women—a small-scale genocide—acknowledge that men get hurt too is obnoxious. It's like going to someone else's funeral and loudly blurting out, "I don't know what the big deal is, none of you were crying when my gramma died." That lack of tact has nothing to do with whether or not I called you butthurt or was dismissive of your issue/gramma, and has nothing to do with whatever rhetorical quest you seem to think you're on. It has to do with, again, a little bit of empathy for what other people went through and a basic concept of fairness.
posted by klangklangston at 1:08 AM on December 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


The concept of privilege as set out in the comments only further highlights the self-defeating logic of liberal identity politics - someone said it's not a moral judgement but of course it does come across as a species of sublimated Judeo-Christian theology. This is because it reifies the individual and locates privilege in them like it were original sin, even if it's seen as fluid and varying somewhat in each given situation.
But that's to look at it entirely backwards - the problem is processes and institutions that reproduce and survive barely affected by the myriad individuals who live and die in the bounds they set when those people are considered in isolation or even in their personal dealings with others.
Which is not to deny agency, and certainly not to advocate for bleating on about yourself when someone who's had it a lot harder than you or knows from experience is telling their story, but until the focus shifts from this sub-Jesuit set of spiritual exercises to collective action - the only way to change the dynamic of power - there's a hard limit to what can be achieved. If every individual consciously abandons their privilege, you'd have an equal-opportunity world of entrenched and self-replicating inequalities. Since that's a nonsense paradox, it's a fair guess that in fact the strategy won't succeed because it's only lopping off hydra heads while more grow.
Good manners, proper respect and attention to others and a sense of when it's appropriate to broach a topic are obviously right and fitting whatever the case, though.
posted by Abiezer at 1:08 AM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that someone is drunk commenting.
posted by HopperFan at 1:12 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


That'll be that good manners I was mentioning. Once you've wiped away the spittle, have a think about why certain things 'inherent to an individual' become sources of privilege - is it because you think that men are inherently netter than women, or white people better than black?
posted by Abiezer at 1:29 AM on December 7, 2009


This is one of the worst threads I've read in a long time. The hatefest and negativity and judgment and sarcasm and snark is way out of control, imho. And yes, I know, I can shut the window and go read something else. But that's not the point. MetaFilter got super ugly today. I consider you all my favorite people. What the fuck, people? This shit is fucking embarrassing all around.

Gah, I'm going to look up some happily resolved AskMe's and then go to bed.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:42 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're sources of privilege because we live in a society which is built upon power structures- white over black, man over woman, heterosexual over all else.

I mean jesus this stuff is so basic to being able to understand society at all, and has been explained TIME AND FUCKING TIME AGAIN on this site by probably dozens of people by now, that there's no excuse for someone who's been here three years to not know it, especially someone who's been as active here as you have, Abiezer. At some point you lose the benefit of assumed ignorance and malice becomes the only possible explanation.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:48 AM on December 7, 2009


I think if you were to read Abiezer's comment in good faith rather than as a target to be attacked, you would see that he doesn't dispute any of that. His central point seems to be that privilege, much like wealth and poverty, is a manifestation of those very power structures you mention, and that attempting to combat privilege through individual action is likely to be as successful as the perennial conservative suggestion that the best way to combat poverty is through individual charity.
posted by Pyry at 1:58 AM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Malice as opposed to a genuine political difference having read and understood the multiple rehearsals of your case? From my perspective, you're advocating a dilettante, diversionary and ineffective understanding, wide-open to co-option, that might lead me to think you're not serious about actually ending inequality and privilege at all so much as being seen to be occupying the moral high ground.
In both your responses you're saying yourself it's about structures or systems, and now you're having a rage-boy moment because I'm arguing for the primacy of those over an individual checking their behaviour in this or that given situation. The actual point you quoted then threw your toys out the pram over is an observation about how the liberal discourse buys in to a construction of the individual that I do believe has its roots in Judeo-Christian theology.
posted by Abiezer at 2:06 AM on December 7, 2009


"pla's problem is one of manners and comportment, not necessarily his politics. It's how he's putting his points across, and his intractable rudeness in doing so. If he gets banned, he will have nobody to blame but himself and his own inabilty to get along here."

Well sure, but can't we can we apply these same statements to Optimus Chyme as well?
posted by Arch_Stanton at 9:36 PM on December 6


I've had multiple discussions with jess about my comportment in MeTa, once a free-for-all, now much more rule-heavy. I'm still adapting to the change. But I don't threadshit in the blue or drop TRUTH BOMBS about MUSLIMS that I learned from MY ABUSIVE UNCLE.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:50 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hope none the angry parties here have each other for Secret Quonsar. We're not going to be allowed to do it again if somebody gets a mail bomb.
posted by floam at 3:17 AM on December 7, 2009


Ok, I've taken some time out, and a nap.

Klang, you can obviously be forgiven for not knowing (though I yawp on about prisoners' rights all the time) that I have friends and relatives who’ve been to prison. That said, opening with a sarcastic “sorry you got raped in prison, dude,” and closing with "butthurt" is not ever agreeable in any context, least of all as a lecture sandwich. I am sorry for coming out swinging, but that was one a hell of a pitch.

Insisting that every discussion about feminism, even one about a massacre of women specifically for being women—a small-scale genocide—acknowledge that men get hurt too is obnoxious.

I agree. I really wish I hadn't thrown my handful of words into that thread. I'm glad I willed myself 100% the fuck out of that "Schroedinger's Rapist" thread, provocatively-titled as it was.

And I know that MetaTalk threads are not supposed to be escape valves for all the psychic noise boiling under the skin of their counterparts. But what we say here does not distract from the original thread. This is more like the postmortem of a flameout than the thing itself.

Anyways, the deplorable writing in Time magazine aside, the comparison I drew between feminism and libertarianism was not an attempt at humor. Libertarianism just has a shorter death clock on it. It fizzles into GOOGLE JOHN GALT immediately on contact with the blue. Why? I'll suggest it is because some words themselves are baggage, and that threads fail where the rising complexities of -ismed language meets our diminishing capacity to pay attention, pay respect, and expend imagination. Failure is where one dead-tired person fails to rise to meet one four-syllable word. And if this is what you mean by a failure of basic empathy, then I agree.

But it strikes me that only times people will try to sell a word like feminism as a simple, Powerpoint-safe concept are when they are on the defense or the attack. Anti-feminists say feminism is simple, and feminists say it back in defense. "Feminism proper contains no chauvinism" is pitted against "feminism contains nothing but." Words like feminism are the combined traffic of millions and millions of other words, and yet typing them takes no longer than lighting a match. They're not so simple.

Saying that White (and, depending on what we're measuring here, Asian) males average out with a vague leading edge on (some parts of, depending on geography) the American experience (including the suicide rate, for Whites and Asians) is not the sort of square one from which I approach the areas that most of us care about. We all care about the rights of prisoners, the strange geography of poverty, this one-two business of charge stacking and plea bargains; unabashed spying, even under Obama; unabashed POW abuse, even under Obama; unabashed war. And we all worry about the rabid anti-intellectual fit in which the media eats itself daily, deconstructs news and gives us back cheap legobrick narratives. But the imagery of knapsacks and narratives is not useful to me. They do not provide satisfactory explanations for how things got this way. The causes are not invisible, but very often banal and boring if legally intractable, and infinitely less exciting to talk about than mythmakings of group warfare, of overlords and underdogs. The fact that trying to protect some vulnerable class from violence militates writing new laws, and that these laws feed into the process of charge stacking, and that sometimes the very same class will pay for that in jail time, well, find me someone who is unaffected and unmoved by that cycle. Ten to one they're on Wall Street or astride a titanium fixedgear, and the word cycle means something else to them entirely.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:48 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


So this is the prisoner's rights thread now? I missed when that shift happened.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:06 AM on December 7, 2009


Sigh. No. Dude, if I'm not supposed to respond to a comment from Metatalk in Metatalk, I guess I'd like to know in advance. Otherwise, why do you care? You've already shot a salvo of one-liners at pla, and tossed a few at me for good measure. If you're just doing that now, fine. On the other hand, if you really have an issue with my behavior, please make that clear. Text is tonedeaf, or I am, because I can't tell.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:18 AM on December 7, 2009


Dude, if I'm not supposed to respond to a comment from Metatalk in Metatalk, I guess I'd like to know in advance. Otherwise, why do you care?

Are you actually obligated to respond to comments? Especially in threads about issues that affect women, I have been trying to ask myself whether my comment adds to the original discussion or derails it, because that's what men have a long history of doing -- of hijacking these threads to turn it into a discussion of something they would rather be talking about. And discussing the dire conditions of the experiences of male prisoners, while a valid discussion in and of itself, seems to have moved the topic a considerable distance from where it started, and for no clear reason other than it seems to be a subject of special interest to you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:25 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't pal fish sauce?

You are getting confused with vla, an unholy Dutch demi-custard / pudding mutant strain. NUKE FROM ORBIT: VLA DETECTED!
posted by Meatbomb at 4:37 AM on December 7, 2009


Are you actually obligated to respond to comments? Especially in threads about issues that affect women, I have been trying to ask myself whether my comment adds to the original discussion or derails it

Well, when a Metatalk thread (that affects women) says things (that affect men) about males and privilege lists, yes, it is quite easy for some of us to succumb to argument. As have about 300 other people here. But staying completely out of topics that affect women is a kind of heroic razor's edge to walk and, as far as I can tell, necessitates deleting myself completely from the internet. I guess I'll get right on it.

posted by kid ichorous at 4:43 AM on December 7, 2009


You have the right to say whatever you want in a thread, kid ichorus, but challenging the idea of white privilege by discussing prison rape and then going on to make the subject of prisoners the primary topic of discussion? That's pretty much a perfect storm of derailment.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:49 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie, I think that most people more intelligent than you or I would agree that this thread is about vla?
posted by Meatbomb at 4:54 AM on December 7, 2009


I don't even know what this thread is about anymore. I was just surprised to see it take a sudden shift. It seemed to go like this:

Male privilege?

Let's talk about white privilege!

White guys get raped more often in prison!

Prisoners! Prisoners! Prisoners!
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:59 AM on December 7, 2009


Yes! I know I, for one, went to bed hoping-- nay, wishing-- that some brave white man would come along and turn a thread about violence against women into one about whether or not white men have privilege. It's like Christmas come early! Now if only someone could explain math and science to my feeble lady brain.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:05 AM on December 7, 2009 [19 favorites]


So...white guys in prison are more at risk of rape...like 12 year old girls are OUT of prison? Yeah, there's no privilege there. Phew! Good thing we cleared that up.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:10 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, this thread is illustrative of one thing--for anyone who is confused about patriarchy/kyriarchy and how this idea manifests, here you go! It's so deeply entrenched, and the threatening awareness of it so fundamentally frightening and disturbing, that people will go to increasingly absurd lengths to deflect any sort of discussion away from the subject at hand, including constructing false- and weak analogies in order to accomplish this. It's like when you are telling a friend about something that happened to you, and they say "oh, right, I TOTALLY KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN, A SIMILAR THING HAPPENED TO MEEE BLAH BLAH blahblahblah," and redirects the conversation to focus solely on themselves, or the example of the clichéd discussion of FGM, when all of a sudden a dude hops in to caw "what about circumcision‽" FGM and circumcision have nothing to do with one another, yet this shit pops up all the time. Yeah, circumcision is an issue, a lot of people are upset about it, but it is a different debate, and it has no place in a discussion about FGM. Similarly, prison rape is an issue that people are passionate about, and ought to be addressed in ongoing public discourse, but it is its own thing, and has nothing to do with violence on women. So derail? Yes, of course. Women? Oh yeah, you have it bad, surely, BUT WHAT ABOUT X or Y or Z

Maybe that's not what's happening here . . . perhaps I ought to get some sleep.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:39 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


(don't mean to derail and discuss circumcision, mind you)
posted by exlotuseater at 5:39 AM on December 7, 2009


Saying that White (and, depending on what we're measuring here, Asian) males average out with a vague leading edge on (some parts of, depending on geography) the American experience (including the suicide rate, for Whites and Asians) is not the sort of square one from which I approach the areas that most of us care about.

That's why most of us talking about privilege aren't starting from that square. Again, acting as if "people who are white males have white male privilege" means that they should automagically come out ahead in all parts of life - or come out ahead at all - means that you're arguing against a straw man because no one thinks that. Talking about privilege isn't "mythmakings of group warfare, of overlords and underdogs." Because - let me say this again - few people are in all parts of life an overlord or underdog because everyone can be lumped into a lot of different categories, some of which might be associated with extra burdens in this society, and some of which might make it easier to get by in many situations. Being a white guy means you get a lot of the latter, and some of the former - along with whatever advantages and disadvantages you get from being educated or born in a certain class or having a certain amount of wealth or intelligence or attractiveness, or what have you.

And the categories people get lumped under matter: you yourself are arguing that there's a specific burden associated with being a white guy when you're in prison. What's so unthinkable about also acknowledging that being a white guy also has some advantages: specifically focusing on prison issues, a white guy's less likely to end up in prison to begin with for similar crimes, and is more likely to get out of prison. When we acknowledge the ways people are treated unfairly, when we acknowledge the way our society makes things harder or easier for people on the basis of things more or less outside of their control, we can figure out how to try to address these things. And yes, sometimes we won't do this right, and there are unintended shitty effects like charge stacking, but it's not like we have one and only one chance to fix things. If our first attempt at a solution doesn't work, we try something else, because we're paying attention to who is getting hurt and why.

Again: issues of rape and violence in prison are important, and they reflect some deep problems in our society. But. That's not what this thread or the original thread are about: this thread started by focusing on an aspect of violence that men do not generally suffer, namely, violence perpetrated solely because of the gender of the victim, violence that's more or less a hate crime. Which is why we were talking about privilege at all, though "not being likely to be killed by someone coming into an office or gym hoping to kill people of your gender" is a sorry sort of privilege. And so in this context, focusing on the fact that men suffer more from physical violence and rape in prison is a derail, because we are talking about a different situation. And it's a particularly frustrating derail, because this happens a lot to threads about issues that affect women. FGM? Male circumcision is bad too! Rape? In certain situations, men are raped a lot too! Women are underrepresented in math and sciences and by most accounts face a lot of discrimination? Well, men are underrepresented in some fields too! Etc. This is frustrating, because while the problems affecting men really are worthy of discussion, it becomes hard to discuss the issues that specifically affect women in threads about those female-specific issues when people are so damn determined that those threads address instead the issues men face.

(OK, let's make an analogy here: let's say you made a post about the research you cited indicating that white men suffer disproportionately from violence and rape in prison, because this is a topic that you find really personally important - just as some of the posters today found the threat of violence targetted against women to be really personally important. Now, in your hypothetical thread, let's say someone insisted on talking about the fact that black men suffer more from violence and discrimination outside of prison. That would be very true, and also very much an important topic, but that would also be something of a derail in your particular thread, because your thread would be about a specific sort of situation where that was not the case. See why that might be a frustrating derail? Now imagine every time you tried to talk about the problems specific to white men, people insisted that the conversation turn to the challenges faced by black men: see how it might be extra-frustrating to see the same sort of derail happen yet again? That's what people are responding to here.)
posted by ubersturm at 5:44 AM on December 7, 2009 [19 favorites]


That's pretty much a perfect storm of derailment.

Astro, at the moment that I popped in here to read the aftermath, people were talking about two things: cupcakes, and White privilege. I've addressed a generous two and a half comments to an argument about the latter. Entenmann's brand of cupcakes alone received more comments than that. If I'm guilty of a thread derail, then Betty Crocker is laying a second Union-Pacific.

1. I completely understand the idea of sheltering an obituary thread from political noise.

2. This Metatalk thread is not an obituary thread. This is the place to which everything remotely out-of-place in the obituary thread - most of all, the troll - was banished.

I think it is not only impossible but almost antiquated and gallant to envision spaces for the analysis of political events in which men are not present, as if politics were a dressing room door. If men are still good enough to serve as the subjects and direct objects in every third sentence, if they are to be discussed in conjunction with privilege and violence, and if they can be called out as trolls, then they are already invoked; the only question is whether they will also speak. In my experience, Metafilter doesn't just respond to terrorism with a wall of names; it also asks questions. I have never known this site to project terrorism into an artificial vacuum - without admitting the view of the Iraqi, or the Palestinian, or the Israeli, or the American soldier, or even the neo-Conservative, as skewed as it may be.

It's like Christmas come early! Now if only someone could explain math and science to my feeble lady brain.

Nice. Because entering a Metatalk thread under anything other than your rules is really like dehumanizing you, like the cheapest of retrograde sexism?

Now, in your hypothetical thread, let's say someone insisted on talking about the fact that black men suffer more from violence and discrimination outside of prison. That would be very true, and also very much an important topic, but that would also be something of a derail in your particular thread

In this thread it took exactly two posts to shift gears. I emphatically do not expect this issue to be presented outside of the context of other competing or countervailing issues, because it never is. Very little on this site ever is.

posted by kid ichorous at 6:12 AM on December 7, 2009


Male privilege?

Let's talk about white privilege!

White guys get raped more often in prison!

Prisoners! Prisoners! Prisoners!


It's all about class! Why won't any of you admit it?

I did have a bingo card going, and when I got to check the "yeah well men are raped in prison" square off so quickly it made me feel....really tired, actually. I hate the way this particular bingo card always gets filled out.
posted by rtha at 6:14 AM on December 7, 2009 [12 favorites]


Well, this thread is illustrative of one thing--for anyone who is confused about patriarchy/kyriarchy and how this idea manifests, here you go! It's so deeply entrenched, and the threatening awareness of it so fundamentally frightening and disturbing, that people will go to increasingly absurd lengths to deflect any sort of discussion away from the subject at hand, including constructing false- and weak analogies in order to accomplish this.

except the subject of this thread was pla's behavior in another thread - and frankly, the privilege argument is a divisive and controversial one that isn't really useful - people see it as a disallowing statement and start arguing about what their status really is and the conversation goes to hell

this has happened enough times that the results are predictable - it's clear to me that if you want to make a point to many people, you need to drop the privilege argument or use a less loaded word

hint - status is probably better
posted by pyramid termite at 6:18 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Titanium fixedgear?
posted by box at 6:21 AM on December 7, 2009


kid ichorous, I apologize for my pre-coffee sarcasm. I hope you can recognize, though, that the reason threads like this are so frustrating for women is that whenever there is a feminist discussion on MeFi, someone jumps in with: "But men have problems, too!"

And then when feminists try to explain that men's problems are not the reason we are discussing this, we're met with something like your "Nice. Because entering a Metatalk thread under anything other than your rules is really like dehumanizing you."

Which reads as: "I can learn nothing from listening to women. What I have to say is more valid. Stop infringing on my privilege immediately."

Maybe you don't mean it like that, but I hope you can see why people who want to stay on topic lose patience sometimes.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:26 AM on December 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


Yeah, pyramid termite, I know . . . and as rtha just mentioned, I too had the virtual bingo card in my head, and I was just waiting to check off each item. It is thoroughly predictable how these threads will go, which is why I don't often hop in, I can practically predict each comment as it rolls in.
posted by exlotuseater at 6:26 AM on December 7, 2009


Metafilter: you fucking moron.
posted by billysumday at 6:42 AM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Here's the thing with the derailment issue. If you look through the thread, you'll see others using off-topic examples in order to support their own views on privilege -- the heterosexual roommate who doesn't have to worry about being open, for example.

The problem, of course, is that most people here, myself included, just nod and pass on when confronted with the heterosexual-roommate example, but see red and start arguing and demanding cites with the prison-rape example, from the other side. And then it becomes the whole topic of the thread.

In other words, it seems to me that it's the unpopularity of the view that makes it a derail, not the fact that it's not directly on the topic of violence against women. That seems unfair.
posted by palliser at 6:48 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is thoroughly predictable how these threads will go, which is why I don't often hop in, I can practically predict each comment as it rolls in.

Sometimes these threads are, along with being frustrating, really energizing and exciting. This one is just discouraging. But there are people here showing a grace and willingness to keep explaining through the derailments and through the tone-deafness that I am astounded by. Maybe it's because it's dark outside, and I'll be freezing my ass off all day, and I deserve a tropical vacation, damn it, but right now I'm just not willing to wade in once again.
posted by Forktine at 6:55 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Did you know that Jelly Belly, the jellybean people, have come out with a line of pudding snacks. I've tried the blueberry and watermelon, they're ok, but not the buttered popcorn. Even I'm a little frightened of that.

Also, Entenmann's cupcakes
posted by jonmc at 7:00 AM on December 7, 2009


In other words, it seems to me that it's the unpopularity of the view that makes it a derail, not the fact that it's not directly on the topic of violence against women. That seems unfair.

Trufax. It's also a bit frustrating when a comment like (and I'm summarizing here) "hey pla, please be respectful and articulate when you comment, metafilter is a special place, you can't go around tossing bombs in threads," is followed by a comment that agrees with the previous poster and goes something like (another summation) "hey pla, shut your stupid man-hole, you fucking idiot dickwipe!" Of course those are exaggerations to prove my point, but I would suggest that Pope Guilty calling somebody out as a "fucking moron" is just as toxic as anything pla wrote. The point being, as palliser mentioned - it does seem like the majority opinion gets a pass, no matter how indelicately a commenter may express that view, or how insulting the language used. If pla had responded by calling any of the people he's engaged in this thread a "fucking moron" he'd have met Senor (or Senora) Banhammerito.
posted by billysumday at 7:04 AM on December 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think it's more that the heterosexual roommate blurb was an illustrative example intended to describe what is actually meant by privilege to someone who doesn't get it, whereas the prison rape post was a multi-page rant about how hard men have it in a thread nominally about women's issues.

Totally agree that people would be better served by dropping the privilege angle in discussions like these. It's not that I don't believe in the phenomenon (I actually think it's self-evident), just that it's not very conducive to a civil discussion. Whether intended or not, it comes off as "sit down and shut up" sort of ad hominem which doesn't guide the conversation anywhere good. I'd much rather read the arguments being addressed directly rather than attempts to undermine the person presenting them due to their social status, and the inevitable derail about whether that's fair or not. It also seems a bit presumptuous to assume every single person who disagrees with you on the Internet is a middle-class heterosexual white male (even if it's a likely bet).
posted by cj_ at 7:08 AM on December 7, 2009


dayum, jonmc. I wanna try those pudding snacks.
posted by gaspode at 7:12 AM on December 7, 2009


I'm upper middle class, peons.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:12 AM on December 7, 2009


My favorite part is where he thinks hilariously ill-informed reactionary anti-feminism is not conservative.

That, and the monkey privilege.
posted by mediareport at 7:17 AM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


They had 'em at the Key Food, pode. If you try the buttered popcorn one, give me a report. I can't work up the nerve, myself.
posted by jonmc at 7:17 AM on December 7, 2009


Near as I've been able to determine, a Libertarian is just a conservative who smokes pot and isn't really big on the god stuff. I blame South Park for all of this.
posted by cj_ at 7:24 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


kid ichorous writes "I have never known this site to project terrorism into an artificial vacuum - without admitting the view of the Iraqi, or the Palestinian, or the Israeli, or the American soldier, or even the neo-Conservative, as skewed as it may be. "

Man I haven't seen a good I/P hatefest here in ages. Have I been subconsciously avoiding those threads, have they been getting deleted or has the I/P situation dropped off the radar? I hope it's the later, it would give me hope.
posted by Mitheral at 7:45 AM on December 7, 2009


Man I haven't seen a good I/P hatefest here in ages.

One of the main haters was banned.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:55 AM on December 7, 2009


Pope Guilty: "I mean jesus this stuff is so basic to being able to understand society at all, and has been explained TIME AND FUCKING TIME AGAIN on this site by probably dozens of people by now, that there's no excuse for someone who's been here three years to not know it, especially someone who's been as active here as you have, Abiezer. At some point you lose the benefit of assumed ignorance and malice becomes the only possible explanation."

Malice? You're the person who called him a moron. What do you hope to accomplish by attributing bad faith to people who disagree with you in a civil way? Because you do it a hell of a lot.
posted by kathrineg at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would suggest that Pope Guilty calling somebody out as a "fucking moron" is just as toxic as anything pla wrote.

Agreed [with the caveat that MeTa and MeFi are moderated differently, etc.] and it's gone.

Sometimes we sleep.

have they been getting deleted or has the I/P situation dropped off the radar?

We delete the ones that just seem like out of the gate GRARfests and I think we've seen a few that live and are decent. I was out watching Chomsky talk about Gaza last night which is why this MeTa [and the main MeFi thread] got less of a close reading than usual, so I guess I/P is always with us, online and off.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:00 AM on December 7, 2009


One problem that I see in this discussion is that "privilege" is a loaded term. I think what klangklangston and other people who use the term are trying to get across is that each trait--height, build, gender, race, intelligence, personality type, etc--has inherent advantages and disadvantages. But certain traits have a net advantage in society over their opposites--tall, larger build, male, white, smart, extroverts, etc--a net advantage that their possessor's may not be aware of.

On the other hand, people who react strongly against the term privilege see it as a rhetorical bludgeon: "You are a member of a privileged class, therefore you cannot possibly understand where I'm coming from, so you should shut up." Alternately or additionally, they don't see themselves as privileged, since the term can apply to so many things: "How can you possibly say I'm privileged when I barely have enough money to pay my rent?"

I just don't see what purpose is served by bringing it up in most cases. Every thinking person wants equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, respect for all people, all of the stuff feminism stands for. But if you want something, you have to be specific. Just saying that you're disgusted with male "privilege" isn't helpful to the discussion--at best, you're being unclear as to what it is you want, and at worst you're derailing the conversation by angering people who might otherwise by sympathetic to your actual goals.
posted by JDHarper at 8:03 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: I didn't even consider that my comment would be taken as a rebuke to the mods. It was more of a criticism of the community of posters, as I tend to lean a little more in the direction of live and let live, but try to be consistent in your admonishments. Anyway, just wanted to get that out there, that I wasn't calling you out.
posted by billysumday at 8:05 AM on December 7, 2009


klangklangston: "Sorry you got raped in prison, dude."

You attempted to discredit someone's point of view by making a dismissive joke about them being raped. It made a mockery of your otherwise thoughtful comment about empathy. I think you should apologize to kid ichorous and the community as a whole.
posted by kathrineg at 8:06 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


whereas the prison rape post was a multi-page rant about how hard men have it in a thread nominally about women's issues.

I won't post in this thread anymore, but it's very obvious that it wasn't intended that way at all. It began as a single-paragraph counterpoint to an admittedly overreaching statement, a reminder that set-theory and possessive analogies are not always the ideal language for talking about the experiences of an entire race of people. Then a brief follow-up to an immediate request for cites. [here] (Should I not have given any?) From there, I get slapped with butthurt and sorry you got raped in prison, dude? [here] I'm sorry, should I really have sat there and eaten that? Is that what we do here?

The only juncture where I could have reasonably "not derailed" was the one where I first dropped an errant data point into the perfect curvature of a generalization about all the people of a certain race and gender.

posted by kid ichorous at 8:07 AM on December 7, 2009


No, no. Klang doesn't need to apologize. I appreciate the sentiment. Okay, really out now.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:08 AM on December 7, 2009


Trotskyists are Marxists who are very specifically NOT Leninists.

Trotsky on Lenin: "The man is a professional exploiter of every kind of backwardness in the Russian working-class movement."

Trotskyists advocate permanent revolution. Leninists advocate the seizure of power by the proletariat.


This is an overly simplistic attempt at understanding a complex situation. Trotsky was very definitely a Marxist-Leninist, the defining element of Leninism being an insistence on the guiding role of the Party (rather than, as in orthodox Marxism, the proletariat itself). All Marxists advocate the seizure of power by the proletariat, for various values of "seizure"; that's what Marxism is all about. Trotsky had a long and checkered career and said a lot of different things at different times; your quote comes from a period before he joined Lenin's Bolsheviks, and naturally he and Lenin slung insults at each other, as was de rigueur for Russian ideologues. The whole "permanent revolution" thing is a mess that we can go into at some point, but it doesn't really make sense to do so here, because it has no bearing on the issue. I have spent far too much of my life parsing the minute differences between leftist splinter movements, and I can bore you for hours with analysis of when and how the Social Democratic movement in Russia split into Bolshevik and Menshevik varieties and why Trotsky migrated from one to the other (and why the names are a classic example of Bolshevik propaganda, "bolshevik" meaning 'majority' when Lenin's group was actually a minority), but this is a thread about pla and Entenmann's, so I'll refrain.
posted by languagehat at 8:13 AM on December 7, 2009 [14 favorites]


Hell, languagehat, that just snapped some facts together in my head in a new way about all that mess.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:16 AM on December 7, 2009


Now imagine every time you tried to talk about the problems specific to white men, people insisted that the conversation turn to the challenges faced by black men: see how it might be extra-frustrating to see the same sort of derail happen yet again?

No, I'm fine with that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:17 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would suggest that Pope Guilty calling somebody out as a "fucking moron" is just as toxic as anything pla wrote.
That doesn't bother me at all, though I realise you're making a wider point about the tenor of discussion. I'm used to far more 'robust' political arguments (and better insults) and I did stick my head over the parapet and write something I knew many would disagree with. I don't bother with slanging matches on MetaFilter (well, I probably have somewhere if you trawl my comment history) as it's not the style and you're arguing to the general audience anyway.
What is insidious though, is the implication that you could only disagree with someone out of malice. It's not much of a grounds for any kind of exchange of anything other than kicks in the nuts, and the technology's not in place for them yet. Also a bit of a failure of the imagination. If you're setting out the case for privilege, as the debate seemed to have moved on to here, you're arguing a political position whether you know it or not and you ought to expect to have some dissent.
Though to get some farcical Papal ex cathedra imputation of sinister motives did rather support my argument about the mirroring of religious tropes, I felt (best add a hamburger to that in case it's not obvious, in these fraught times).
On preview; and it's gone! Closest I've ever got to an actual call-out and now it's down the memory hole.
posted by Abiezer at 8:18 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer, I don't know if you noticed, but I quoted it here in case you want to reference it again.
posted by kathrineg at 8:21 AM on December 7, 2009


Closest I've ever got to an actual call-out and now it's down the memory hole.

Oh, your day is coming, you affable and articulate commie.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:23 AM on December 7, 2009


Um, thanks...I think :D Any chance one of the Etsy types could do me that in needlepoint and have it framed and sent by Christmas?
posted by Abiezer at 8:23 AM on December 7, 2009


I just don't see what purpose is served by bringing it up in most cases.

"Privilege" is a jargon term (academic or pseudo-academic), and I say that not dismissively as an insult but to point out that it's used in a technical sense specific to the field of feminism. But a lot of the problem with the use of the term and the GRAR reaction it generates is not so much the jargon-y nature of it as a rejection of what it represents. Of course it's controversial to tell people they have an advantage they don't necessarily understand they have.

Saying "don't talk about privilege" either means "change the name", which I think we've discussed as somewhere in this mess as being ineffective in regard to the term "feminism", or "shut up about this concept because it makes people feel bad". Talking about privilege is uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean you get to cop out on it if you want to have discussions about feminism and sexism (or racism, or homophobia, or trans prejudice, etc.). Of course, you don't have to have those discussions if you're in a privileged class, but that's one of the definitions of privilege: walking away from it.
posted by immlass at 8:27 AM on December 7, 2009 [12 favorites]


telling us we shouldn't bring up privilege in these discussions because it might make someone angry is one of the more offensive things i've read in this particular thread.
posted by palomar at 8:29 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, it seems winter break has started. Hello, bored college kids! Let me tell you about painting rabbits.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:31 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Later today, I have to go see my therapist, and then go to my bar. Now, I've actually had a pretty good week, so I was worried that I wouldn't have anything to tell my therapist, thus denying me insight, or my bartender, thus denying me free drinks. Then there are MeTa threads like this, which give me enough agida for me to get my money's worth in either instance. Thanks.
posted by jonmc at 8:33 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


GRARfests

GRAR is a thing now! GRAR is a thing now! yay!!
posted by The Devil Tesla at 8:35 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


languagehat, that's extremely interesting, too. For those of us following this minor siderail, what sources would you recommend to dig into the history of leftist splinter movements?

And did someone say buttered popcorn pudding snacks? WANT

(now, dammit, I'm going back to studying for my Arabic exam)
posted by HopperFan at 8:36 AM on December 7, 2009


I have spent far too much of my life parsing the minute differences between leftist splinter movements

And so, my dear hat, you obviously would know better than to go into a meeting of people who self-identified as Trotskyists and tell them they were Marxist-Leninists, yes?

Your comments certainly make sense as an historical analysis, but the thing is that Trotskyists very emphatically do not self-identify as Leninists (any more than Democrats self-identify as Republicans, despite the existence in the past of a Democratic Republican Party). Which was the issue in question, I think, before the cupcakes.

We're the People's Front of Judaea!
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:36 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would like to take a moment to thank jonmc for his contributions to this thread.
posted by orville sash at 8:37 AM on December 7, 2009


I'm definitely not against the term, particularly in the technical sense - which is why I objected to what I called the concept of it as set out in 'liberal identity politics'. When it's been used by people in the context of the wider social revolutionary struggle (for example, Eric Perkins here introducing the League of Revolutionary Black Workers) and critiquing the historical failings and problems with that, it's essential. When it's been denatured, captured by the academy and turned into a moral exercise for the atomised individual, it's counter-productive.
posted by Abiezer at 8:40 AM on December 7, 2009


billysumday: "Of course those are exaggerations to prove my point, but I would suggest that Pope Guilty calling somebody out as a "fucking moron" is just as toxic as anything pla wrote."

pope guilty has gotten his fair share of callouts, too. it's not like he gets a free pass for being liberal. pla has simply outshone him is all, and we're all distracted.

in truth, I'm surprised as hell that pla hasn't been banned. I get the impression that the mods will be keeping a close eye on his behavior from now on, and that's awesome. They're way more benevolent than I am.
posted by shmegegge at 8:42 AM on December 7, 2009


Trotskyists very emphatically do not self-identify as Leninists
You must be mis-remembering Sidhedevil - see the UK main Trot group the SWP for example, who give me a run for the money in the garbled lefty jargon stakes.
posted by Abiezer at 8:43 AM on December 7, 2009


telling us we shouldn't bring up privilege in these discussions because it might make someone angry is one of the more offensive things i've read in this particular thread.

I'm not saying you shouldn't bring up privilege. I'm saying privilege is too abstract; you need to be more specific. Say which advantage in particular offends you, and we have something we can work on.
posted by JDHarper at 8:46 AM on December 7, 2009


Privilege. Maybe it should never be used without an adjective applied.

Case in point (because I'm a motorsports fan). Danica Patrick just signed a big deal contract to keep racing in the IRL. No question, she's a very good driver who entirely deserves to race in that series. But also no question, she's getting paid more (and getting access to better equipment) than other drivers (all male) who've consistently posted better results (won WAY more races, placed higher in the standings etc). Ms. Patrick is getting the deal she's getting precisely because she is a woman.

Call this ACUTE privilege.

But then, ask yourself why is she such a big deal? Why does she automatically "get all the breaks"? Easy answer: because there are so very few women who have been allowed to even begin to prove themselves in the world of motorsports. Like most big deal sports, it's a chauvinistic bastion of old-school maleness where from a very early age, all the breaks, all the prejudices, all the "tunnel-blind" thinking favors the boys.

Call this CHRONIC privilege.
posted by philip-random at 8:52 AM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


This thread is MetaFilter in a nutshell. It should be required reading for anyone thinking of signing up.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:54 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Say which advantage in particular offends you, and we have something we can work on.

It offends me that people who have not taken the time to consider what privilege (White, male, whatever) really means continue to allege that it does not exist. Read some Peggy McIntosh (PDF).
posted by oinopaponton at 8:57 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


You must be mis-remembering Sidhedevil - see the UK main Trot group the SWP for example, who give me a run for the money in the garbled lefty jargon stakes

I'm overgeneralizing hideously, I guess--I've only encountered anti-Leninist Trotskyist factions obsessed with the whole "permanent revolution" concept. I see now that there are lots of Trotskyists who do self-identify as Marxist-Leninists. Thanks, Ablezer and languagehat! I sit corrected.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:58 AM on December 7, 2009


I'm not saying you shouldn't bring up privilege. I'm saying privilege is too abstract; you need to be more specific. Say which advantage in particular offends you, and we have something we can work on.

no problem. here are the ones i object to.

The Male Privilege Checklist

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex - even though that might be true.

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are.

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low.

8. I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.

12. If I have children and pursue a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.

13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.

14. Chances are my elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more likely this is to be true.

15. I can be somewhat sure that if I ask to see “the person in charge,” I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.

16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.

17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.

18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.

19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.

20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented, every day, without exception.

21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.

22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.

23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.

24. If I have sex with a lot of people, it won’t make me an object of contempt or derision.

25. If I work in an office, I have the option of wearing a relatively value-neutral uniform that does not invite speculation about my sexuality or my gender conformity.

26. My wardrobe and grooming are relatively cheap and consume little time.

27. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car.

28. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.

29. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.

30. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)

31. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.

32. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.

33. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.

34. The decision to hire me will never be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.

35. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is usually pictured as being male.

36. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.

37. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.

38. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, chances are she’ll do most of the childrearing, and in particular the most dirty, repetitive and unrewarding parts of childrearing.

39. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

40. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are much rarer.

41. On average, I am under less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do.

42. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.

43. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.”

44. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.

45. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.
posted by palomar at 9:00 AM on December 7, 2009 [66 favorites]


jonmc: A few weeks ago I had to explain MeFi to my therapist. I kept wondering if this meant I had a problem. Good to know I'm not the only one...
posted by pxe2000 at 9:01 AM on December 7, 2009


This thread is MetaFilter in a nutshell. It should be required reading for anyone thinking of signing up.
posted by Crabby Appleton


Yeah, there's outrage, offense, thoughtfulness, namecalling, product placement, edification, and you, the guy who seems to despise the place and people so much yet remains, whining like a small annoying child who is exhausted but resolutely refuses to go to bed.

Thanks for doing your part, schmuck!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:03 AM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


(or what Palomar said)
posted by oinopaponton at 9:04 AM on December 7, 2009


Yeah, there's outrage, offense, thoughtfulness, namecalling, product placement, edification, and you, the guy who seems to despise the place and people so much yet remains, whining like a small annoying child who is exhausted but resolutely refuses to go to bed.

You forgot Poland!
posted by jonmc at 9:06 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


14. Chances are my elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more likely this is to be true.

Hm, let's see:

State MP: female
Federal MP: female
State Deputy Premier: female
State Premier: female
Federal Deputy Prime Minister: female
Federal Prime Minister: male

Leaving senators aside (messy electoral process) that's five elected representatives out of six, who are women.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:14 AM on December 7, 2009


telling us we shouldn't bring up privilege in these discussions because it might make someone angry is one of the more offensive things i've read in this particular thread

telling me that i shouldn't make a truthful observation because it offends you is also offensive - and futile
posted by pyramid termite at 9:16 AM on December 7, 2009


I don't believe that patriarchy or kyriarchy exist outside of our theories of human behavior, because I don't believe in "the nation", "the institution", "the system" or basically anything that requires human beings to act as a medium for some ethereal, permanent concept rather than their own constantly changing desires.

I don't believe that privilege is separable from other cultural institutions such as gender roles in general.

I don't believe that introducing new concepts that most people don't understand is a good basis for social change if you have existing concepts such as "equal rights" to latch on to.

I don't believe that the language of "equal rights" works as well in Japan or China as it does in America.

Is that okay? Am I allowed to be feminist too?
posted by shii at 9:16 AM on December 7, 2009



Leaving senators aside (messy electoral process) that's five elected representatives out of six, who are women.


...for you. My state governor and president are both black; does that mean it's as easy for a black man as a white man to be elected to a position of great power? Of course not-- both are the first people of color to hold their positions.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:16 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't believe that the language of "equal rights" works as well in Japan or China as it does in America.

Can you say more about this? I ask out of genuine curiosity.
posted by prefpara at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2009


This thread is MetaFilter in a nutshell. It should be required reading for anyone thinking of signing up.

Hey Crabby, you and your friend should start a We Hate Mefi But We Keep Coming Back Anyway club.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:24 AM on December 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


Leaving senators aside (messy electoral process) that's five elected representatives out of six, who are women.

i happen to live in a state where the governor and both state senators are women. my state is also the first state to approve a gay rights equality law in a statewide vote, so we're something of a statistical anomaly up here. six women currently serve as state governors, with 32 women having held the office now or in the past, in all 50 states and puerto rico. i didn't bother looking up how many men have held the office of state governor because i'm pretty sure it's way, way more than 32.
posted by palomar at 9:26 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


(ugh, "32 women having ever held the office" would have been more concise. coffee now pls.)
posted by palomar at 9:29 AM on December 7, 2009


Ah, childhood memories of the Entenmann's bakery truck making home deliveries.
posted by ericb at 9:30 AM on December 7, 2009


palomar: Thanks for posting that list. I found to be very helpful.
posted by JDHarper at 9:34 AM on December 7, 2009


pla: I stated only that Feminism goes beyond "equal rights for women", a point on which we may legitimately disagree but smarter folks than I (or even you - yes, you), including a good number of first and even second-wave Feminists, have made and supported as such.

How can we have a modern debate on feminism when you state "some 1st and 2nd wave feminists agree with me"?

That's like writing a scientific paper with a 1950s textbook.

If you are frustated by women, that's an issue for you and your therapist. Please don't dig in to the distant history for reasons to blame feminists for whatver injustices you perceive.
posted by Theta States at 9:35 AM on December 7, 2009


> I don't believe that patriarchy or kyriarchy exist outside of our theories of human behavior

Yup. The putative things to which abstract concepts seem to refer don't have real existence, and this regularly gets otherwise quite bright people all confused (not to mention enraged.)
posted by jfuller at 9:35 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


new rule, if no one objects:

when discussing trends, and the causes and effects of said trends, let's all acknowledge that finding exceptions does not mean that the trend does not exist. nor do theses exceptions mean that the trends do not have a real cause that can be addressed, nor that they do not have a real effect to be addressed.

as a more harmless for instance: the launch of the apple iphone resulted in an increase in at&t mobile subscribers.

interesting response that contributes well to the conversation: it seems to me that the iphone's popularity was due to [thing x that is either good or bad].

boring and useless response: oh yeah? well I didn't leave verizon to get one.
posted by shmegegge at 9:46 AM on December 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


JDHarper: glad it helped. it wasn't hard to find, though, i just googled "male privilege", something you could have easily done yourself.
posted by palomar at 9:46 AM on December 7, 2009


Can we agree that anyone posting to this overlong thread at 12:50PM (EST) is the beneficiary of some sort of privilege?
posted by billysumday at 9:50 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not the only one who talks about MeFi to my therapist, then. I'm not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad, bad thing.
posted by Ouisch at 9:53 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


billysumday, I think the can agree that everyone, everywhere is the beneficiary of some sort of privilege.

I'm sure you know this, and maybe you were joking, but individuals experience intersections of privilege and disadvantage. It's not a black-and-white thing.

If you're assuming, however, that people posting to this thread at this particular (North American) time of day are, say, rich, or have an understanding/lenient work environment, or whatever, you might want to rethink that.
posted by Ouisch at 9:55 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


i was too embarrassed to mention mefi to my therapist
posted by palomar at 9:56 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


billysumday: "Can we agree that anyone posting to this overlong thread at 12:50PM (EST) is the beneficiary of some sort of privilege?"

man, I am the beneficiary of way more privilege than that. name a privilege, and I got it.
posted by shmegegge at 10:01 AM on December 7, 2009


I probably should mention MeFi to my therapist, but I won't for fear that he'd advise me to give it up.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:02 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


including the "able to mefi from work" privilege, yes.
posted by shmegegge at 10:02 AM on December 7, 2009


I'm stating that maybe it's a privilege to spend a working day reading 400 comments and then discussing privilege and parsing different kinds of privilege.
posted by billysumday at 10:02 AM on December 7, 2009


Can we agree that anyone posting to this overlong thread at 12:50PM (EST) is the beneficiary of some sort of privilege?

Time-Zone Privilege! (NOT LONGITUDINAL-IST)
posted by Rumple at 10:03 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm definitely not against the term, particularly in the technical sense - which is why I objected to what I called the concept of it as set out in 'liberal identity politics'. When it's been used by people in the context of the wider social revolutionary struggle (for example, Eric Perkins here introducing the League of Revolutionary Black Workers) and critiquing the historical failings and problems with that, it's essential. When it's been denatured, captured by the academy and turned into a moral exercise for the atomised individual, it's counter-productive.

Yes, it is fine to discuss privilege as long as we speak in the abstract and apply it only to groups, thereby never actually applying it to existing beings but only to abstract groups of beings, but actually applying it to real individuals and examining how privilege affects real people, that's counter-productive and "denatured". Am I reading this right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:05 AM on December 7, 2009


and i'm still not sure what your point is, billysumday.
posted by palomar at 10:06 AM on December 7, 2009


I have mixed feelings about this meta thread; on the one hand, there was definitely some major derailment going on -- so this thread is a good idea. However, there seem to be people in the thread essentially diverting anything other that straightforward grieving to this meta, which seems misplaced.
posted by davejay at 10:11 AM on December 7, 2009


Leaving senators aside (messy electoral process) that's five elected representatives out of six, who are women.

The salient element of that statement is "Chances are...". There are exceptions and areas of great progress, but chances are, if you randomly drew a residence address at random from any country with elected representatives, chances are very high that you wouldn't have majority female representation. Looking in the aggregate, and not at individual experiences, reveals patterns. It's those large-scale patterns that form evidence of group privilege; areas of local divergence from the pattern, until they occur in equal proportion to the now-dominant pattern, aren't evidence against group privilege.
posted by Miko at 10:14 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


> It offends me that people who have not taken the time to consider what privilege (White, male, whatever) really means continue to allege that it does not exist.

I never said it didn't exist, just that making every discussion about gender or race equality into one about white male privilege isn't a great tactic if your goal is to get through to anyone. pla did bring up his "white middle-class maleness" out of the gate, so I guess it was inevitable here, but it's a pretty common pattern that I don't think adds much value to the thread.

I went back, trying to suss out when the conversation switched focus, and I'd pin it on these two assertions:
And if you are not receiving the full benefit of your White Middle-Class Male Privilege in 'enlightened' society today, you are not doing it right.
and
You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege because of your demographics, and with that privilege comes a certain degree of responsibility ...
I don't even disagree with the second statement (the first is kind of bullshit), I just don't see this as very useful way to frame the debate, that's all. If that opinion is offensive, my apologies. I'd just like to see these threads go better. Something is not working right here.
posted by cj_ at 10:16 AM on December 7, 2009


I'm stating that maybe it's a privilege to spend a working day reading 400 comments and then discussing privilege and parsing different kinds of privilege.

Right, nobody's unemployed.

Having a computer is a privilege. Not being on the run from factional armies made up of child soldiers is a privilege. Being alive is a privilege.

It's not a zero-sum competition, billysumday. HOORAY WE'RE ALL ALIVE AND POSTING ON THE INTERNET! WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE DEAD PEOPLE?

Oh, wait. That was what that thread was supposed to be about.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:20 AM on December 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


The knapsack article spends a few words trying to say that "privilege" is a positive thing, not just the lack of a negative—"I am not wearing invisible weights on my ankles" does not go in the knapsack, because that disappears when you remove the weights from someone else. With that in mind, it seems like a lot of items on the "white privilege" (really: non-black privilege) list fail to qualify as privilege, and just about everything on palomar's list fails to qualify. Just sayin'.
posted by fleacircus at 10:22 AM on December 7, 2009


it seems like a lot of items on the "white privilege" (really: non-black privilege) list fail to qualify as privilege, and just about everything on palomar's list fails to qualify. Just sayin'.

Which things fail to qualify as a privelege, and why do they fail?
posted by Miko at 10:24 AM on December 7, 2009


Not being on the run from factional armies made up of child soldiers is a privilege.

Agreed. Now we're getting somewhere.
posted by billysumday at 10:24 AM on December 7, 2009


you're still not being exactly clear about your point, billysumday.
posted by shmegegge at 10:27 AM on December 7, 2009


The knapsack article spends a few words trying to say that "privilege" is a positive thing, not just the lack of a negative—"I am not wearing invisible weights on my ankles" does not go in the knapsack, because that disappears when you remove the weights from someone else. With that in mind, it seems like a lot of items on the "white privilege" (really: non-black privilege) list fail to qualify as privilege, and just about everything on palomar's list fails to qualify. Just sayin'.

Yeah, what? Examples would be nice.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:27 AM on December 7, 2009


Yes, it is fine to discuss privilege as long as we speak in the abstract and apply it only to groups, thereby never actually applying it to existing beings but only to abstract groups of beings, but actually applying it to real individuals and examining how privilege affects real people, that's counter-productive and "denatured". Am I reading this right?

I think on a general interest message board, calling out individuals for being somehow privileged when you know nothing about them is counter-productive, yes. I'm all for examining the subject. I'm not for devaluing peoples opinion because of who they are.

I don't contribute to racism/class/sexism threads on the blue because I don't feel I have much of value to contribute (the grey is a different story), and I wish a lot of people would do the same, but I still feel that anyone should be able to express an opinion without people making what are essentially ad hominem attacks on their background (even if they aren't intended as such).
posted by empath at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I reading this right?
You're probably not reading it at all if you don't think the concept as it arose in the experience of the black workers' movement described at the link was being applied by real people to examine how the uses of racism and white privilege impacted their real struggle in the really real old real world.
It's denatured when it's divorced from such social movements, that address the institutions and power complexes that ultimately underpin privilege and inequality - absent that link it turns into a tool of personal analysis. Whilst we can all use some self-reflection on how relate to others and the wider social world, you're engaging in a merely moral exercise that tells people they're bad actors because of their particular place in a nexus of social relations that they can personally affect only in minimal ways. Those aren't insignificant for the individuals involved, but as politics, it's shit. And a bit Jesus.
The vital reformist interim demands like equal pay and full civil rights are won by wider appeals to justice; examples of embedded and thus unseen 'privilege' like those listed above when exposed certainly help make the case for just treatment, but the framing as 'privilege' is not essential for that and as I've said, counter-productive because of the perception that it locates fault in the individual.
posted by Abiezer at 10:32 AM on December 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


I never said it didn't exist, just that making every discussion about gender or race equality into one about white male privilege isn't a great tactic if your goal is to get through to anyone.

This kind of smells of the old classic of "We can discuss [racism/sexism/homophobia] as long as we don't make [whites/men/hets] uncomfortable." Moving forward requires discomfort. People don't change themselves because they are comfortable. Quite the opposite, really.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


prefpara: Can you say more about this? I ask out of genuine curiosity.

Okay, I'm not an expert on this, so I can only go on my personal experience, but in Asia all social roles (not just gender roles) are extremely rigid and the "nail that sticks out gets pounded down" thing is very common. In Japan, specifically, women legally have the same rights as men, but they have to play the women's role. There's a mode of feminine speech, which is cuter, as opposed to masculine speech, which is more aggressive. For a woman to use male speech would make her cartoonish, possibly childish, possibly dangerous. (Funnily enough, it's in anime that you will see women using male speech most often.) At work, women usually play the "Office Lady" which is akin to Mad Men. Women who reject this role within the office and try to take on male roles are seen as interfering with the natural order. Typically they would not appeal to equal rights to gain power within the workplace-- that would be like McNulty on The Wire trying to cite UN Declaration of Human Rights to get more funding for the police department. Chain of command stuff like "returning an obligation" is much more likely.

The self-declared Japanese feminist movement was basically ignored from the get go because they were "rejecting society". The academic world specifically made feminists into an outcast group, to the extent that my Asian religion teacher's hero was seen as betraying the feminist cause when she went to work for a university. My teacher herself moved to America to teach. Academia in Japan is apparently an uncreative and stifling environment, with rejection of feminism being only one example of this.
posted by shii at 10:39 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


you're engaging in a merely moral exercise that tells people they're bad actors because of their particular place in a nexus of social relations that they can personally affect only in minimal ways. Those aren't insignificant for the individuals involved, but as politics, it's shit. And a bit Jesus.

I think this is a pretty inaccurate reading of what I've said, in this thread and others. Having privilege doesn't make you bad, or a sinner, or any other stupid thing. It does mean that you will tend to do stupid and offensive shit because you can, and because it may not occur to you that what you're doing is offensive and stupid. It does mean that in some cases you need to shut the fuck up and listen, something I've worked hard to get better at.

Being privileged doesn't make you bad. It's simply a facet of the inherent groups to which you belong. Refusing to acknowledge that privilege, pretending it doesn't exist, and refusing to work against privilege, however, are actions, and there's nothing wrong with judging people by their actions. If your complaint is that peoples' actions are judged differently based on their privilege, well, I don't know what to tell you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:44 AM on December 7, 2009


Yes, but the fact that you think that's a useful exercise points to your politics being shit and a bit Jesus.
posted by Abiezer at 10:45 AM on December 7, 2009


Not sure if it is an issue of discomfort but accessibility. The jargon can be sort of impenetrable.
posted by Kirklander at 10:45 AM on December 7, 2009


so optimus chyme, did you accept my apology? Or will you admit that you completely misquoted me?
posted by ryanfou at 10:48 AM on December 7, 2009


Yes, but the fact that you think that's a useful exercise points to your politics being shit and a bit Jesus.

What?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 AM on December 7, 2009


Aside: languagehat - a nuanced and informed opinion of the history of the Trotskyites v Leninists is something I always welcome to any conversation, even this one. In my experience with the current iterations of these political philosophies (perhaps movements is a better term?) is that they are not necessarily constrained or grounded by their own histories. In addition to all the bad press ultra-lefty groups get in the US, and you have the fixings for much confusion. For example, local groups like the ISO seem to forward a merger of Lenin and Trotsky thinking, but a particular kind of both. ISO is, after all, a political movement, and must adapt to remain relevant or to address contemporary issues.

Go to any lefty protest and folks like ISO will be there - claiming some sort of socialist heritage in the name of Trotsky or Lenin, or both. The first time I heard someone stand up and state that "The Trostky-Leninists stand here in solidarity with you..." at a meeting I was completely surprised. In redefining or refining their philosophical underpinnings in the name of their dear leaders, they are muddying the historical record, which is unfortunate for history but necessary for politics. I have enough trouble keeping the history straight, and mixing in the contemporary revisions certainly doesn't help. That's why anyone claiming to be a socialist or a Marxist or whatever get a prompt follow up question (if they aren't crazy) with: "what sort?" because in my mind I am thinking: my grandparents were "socialists" ie - farmers in Canada, and I wouldn't describe them as terribly liberal sort of folks.

Further asides: frecklefaerie-around here it's finals week- those may be overheated student BRRRAAAAIIIIINNNNNS you are seeing.

On the subject of privilage: Dis nawt privilij, I earn dis maiself, a lol-cat version of the backpack arguement in case you missed this the first time around.
posted by zenon at 10:49 AM on December 7, 2009


It's merely a recipe for morally hectoring people into social change, which is pseudo-religious and will fail.
Self-criticism and historical criticism linked to being part of a wider social movement is something else, and where such analysis is useful.
posted by Abiezer at 10:51 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


but the framing as 'privilege' is not essential for that and as I've said, counter-productive because of the perception that it locates fault in the individual.

Strangely, the individuals who most hate to discuss it just happen to be enormous racists and misogynists. Funny coincidence.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:52 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


And I should add, morally hectoring people in such a way that it distracts from the wizard behind the curtain.
posted by Abiezer at 10:53 AM on December 7, 2009


It's merely a recipe for morally hectoring people into social change, which is pseudo-religious and will fail.

This is ridiculous. Moral persuasion has been the fundament of social change since the beginning of, well, social change.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:54 AM on December 7, 2009


so optimus chyme, did you accept my apology? Or will you admit that you completely misquoted me?
posted by ryanfou at 10:48 AM on December 7


It's not me to whom you ever owed an apology. And no, I didn't misquote you.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:55 AM on December 7, 2009


I am sure you're making sense to yourself, Abiezer, but all I'm hearing is "mush mush mush don't talk about privilege mush mush don't mush privilege mush how dare you mush Jesus."
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:55 AM on December 7, 2009


empath: "I think on a general interest message board, calling out individuals for being somehow privileged when you know nothing about them is counter-productive, yes. I'm all for examining the subject. I'm not for devaluing peoples opinion because of who they are. "

I'm confused. where did this happen? I know I definitely saw some people saying, after pla brought it up, mind you, that the privilege of being middle-class-male-white means that if he wants to engage in a discussion of what less privileged people experience, he needs to be mindful and listen instead of simply asserting his own experience as fact or claiming to be persecuted.

I saw that a lot. I never saw anyone say that his being middle-class, male and white meant that he was in some way devalued, or that his opinion didn't count.
posted by shmegegge at 10:56 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Strangely, the individuals who most hate to discuss it just happen to be enormous racists and misogynists. Funny coincidence.
You're not wrong in one way (I think you are in others), but if your intent is to change things you need to tackle the source not the epiphenomenon, the various fucked up people who make up our world (reifying the individual I mentioned in my opener). Or again, you're more interested in moral social engineering which is dubious at best and doomed to fail as you've missed the actual target, the social relationships not the people in them.
posted by Abiezer at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2009


I saw that a lot. I never saw anyone say that his being middle-class, male and white meant that he was in some way devalued, or that his opinion didn't count.

Some people see "privilege" and just shut down on the assumption that that's what it means.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2009


I would point out that the charge that discussing privilege is somehow silencing people with privilege is a pretty commom technique to shut down the discussion. I know it's probably rarely meant that way, but it has that effect nonetheless.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:59 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


optimus: I didn't say who gives a shit. I suggested people discuss things like grown-ups instead of overplaying the moral outrage card. It had nothing to do with people who actually are grieving and emotionally affected by the incident.
posted by ryanfou at 11:02 AM on December 7, 2009


ryan and optimus, I wonder if this is discussion, which seems particular to his interpretation of a comment that I think has since been deleted, can better addressed via memail.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:03 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would point out that the charge that discussing privilege is somehow silencing people with privilege is a pretty commom technique to shut down the discussion. I know it's probably rarely meant that way, but it has that effect nonetheless.

"They said I should shut up and listen sometimes. How dare they tell me to shut up?!"\

if your intent is to change things you need to tackle the source not the epiphenomenon, the various fucked up people who make up our world (reifying the individual I mentioned in my opener).

The sources don't exist. There is no concrete thing called "patriarchy" or "white supremacy" that I can take a sledgehammer to. These are names given to the accumulated effects of human activity- of actions taken by human beings, thousands or millions or bills of them. It is only by applying these analyses to individual human beings that they can be changed because the actions of individual human beings are what causes them. You keep speaking as if it's possible to attack abstract concepts without reference to human beings- as if we could transcend our bodies and rise into the astral plane and destroy the demons of oppression and patriarchy and white supremacy and heteronormativity with magic spells. This is purest fantasy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:04 AM on December 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


I joined MetaFilter because, after lurking for several years, I found the discussion here somewhat higher quality than that of most other link aggregation blogs.

And i'm making it my mission to bring it down a notch. Booyah!
posted by chunking express at 11:04 AM on December 7, 2009


Having privilege doesn't make you bad, or a sinner, or any other stupid thing. It does mean that you will tend to do stupid and offensive shit because you can

so basically you're saying that calling someone privileged is saying they're stupid and offensive - which is a lot worse than what i thought people were saying by it

hey, i've got a great idea - why don't we just stop making unfounded assumptions about people we don't even know, including the degree of social privilege they may or may not have - why don't we deal with what they say instead of who we think they are?

or doesn't that leave us with enough cheap rhetorical ammunition to throw at people?
posted by pyramid termite at 11:04 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


so basically you're saying that calling someone privileged is saying they're stupid and offensive

No, it's saying that people with privilege will do stupid and offensive things. They'll do these things despite being otherwise good and decent people, and they will, thanks to their privilege, not understand that what they're doing is stupid and offensive. Otherwise bright and kind people sometimes do stupid and offensive things. It doesn't make them inherently stupid and offensive.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on December 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


It is only by applying these analyses to individual human beings that they can be changed because the actions of individual human beings are what causes them. You keep speaking as if it's possible to attack abstract concepts without reference to human beings- as if we could transcend our bodies and rise into the astral plane and destroy the demons of oppression and patriarchy and white supremacy and heteronormativity with magic spells. This is purest fantasy.
That's the nub of it there really. The fantasy's yours, I say, that by some rolling therapy programme one day will come when an agglomeration of disparate individuals will wake up and start the new world. Meanwhile, those 'abstract concepts' that have formed concrete social relationships and institutions in our societies that survive the coming and going of this or that individual will still be there, still reproducing themselves, unmolested by your crusade.
posted by Abiezer at 11:08 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


pyramid termite: "so basically you're saying that calling someone privileged is saying they're stupid and offensive - which is a lot worse than what i thought people were saying by it
"

that is very simply not what he said, and your comment is a perfect example of taking the word "privilege" and turning it into an attack to stifle discussion. I know you're not doing that on purpose. you're probably one of the few people in this thread who I'd say ISN'T doing that on purpose, but the fact is that you are now changing what he said to be an attack when it wasn't. please stop.

he said privilege will tend to cause someone to do something stupid. it's like saying "having a trust fund will tend to cause you to behave as though your financial security were more assured." it's not an attack, it's an observation. yes, I understand that the word "stupid" is a triggering type of word, but it's still not an attack. please consider that. please please please please please. I hate this shit so fucking much. privilege acts to blind the privilege from its effects on the less privileged. that is simply part of privilege. that is what he was saying. this doesn't mean that any beneficiaries of privilege are anything. it simply means that sometimes the privileged have to make extra effort to recognize or sympathize with some things that the less privileged have no choice but to deal with. it's the very definition of privilege. for god's sake, enough with this shit.
posted by shmegegge at 11:10 AM on December 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


Meanwhile, those 'abstract concepts' that have formed concrete social relationships and institutions in our societies that survive the coming and going of this or that individual will still be there, still reproducing themselves, unmolested by your crusade.

Plato, is that you?
Also: what? I'm sorry, but are you saying that racism and sexism exist out in the ether somewhere? How are they reproducing themselves?
posted by oinopaponton at 11:11 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer: "Meanwhile, those 'abstract concepts' that have formed concrete social relationships and institutions in our societies that survive the coming and going of this or that individual will still be there, still reproducing themselves, unmolested by your crusade."

what, like how the abstract concept of sexism prevented the movement (through direct interaction with invididuals) for women's suffrage to succeed? come on.
posted by shmegegge at 11:12 AM on December 7, 2009


I think Optimus Chyme may be my new favorite internet person ever. Shit's consistently funny.

i remember one time this happened to me - only i was saying that black people can't be racists because that's like saying "misogynistic woman" or something and holy shit down came the avalanche of hate and finally i said, "help help please someone help" and NONE OF YOU HELPED ME. now i keep my opinions to myself.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:12 AM on December 7, 2009


No, it's saying that people with privilege will do stupid and offensive things.

in other words, they ARE stupid and offensive - and your contention that they do not seem to have a choice in the matter is noted
posted by pyramid termite at 11:13 AM on December 7, 2009


in other words, they ARE stupid and offensive - and your contention that they do not seem to have a choice in the matter is noted

Do you define all people by their worst moments?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:15 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also: what? I'm sorry, but are you saying that racism and sexism exist out in the ether somewhere?

Well, it's certainly not like individual people could choose to behave in less racist or sexist ways. That's just unpossible and has never happened. No human actions or opinions ever changed any society in any respect, which is why every society on Earth is exactly the same as it always was.

{Ethiopic sarcasm mark here}
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:16 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, there's Entemann's Holiday Cupcakes, and then there's the Hostess Holiday Fruitcake. Yum.
posted by misskaz at 11:16 AM on December 7, 2009


That's the nub of it there really. The fantasy's yours, I say, that by some rolling therapy programme one day will come when an agglomeration of disparate individuals will wake up and start the new world. Meanwhile, those 'abstract concepts' that have formed concrete social relationships and institutions in our societies that survive the coming and going of this or that individual will still be there, still reproducing themselves, unmolested by your crusade.
posted by Abiezer at 11:08 AM on December 7


MetaFilter is no longer the gross boyzone of "I'd hit it" and boob discussion it once was, thanks to people speaking up. The world of 2009 is significantly less shitty for women than the world of 1959 was. I don't really know what you're getting at. Do you think you could tell us in real English what you want to say instead of tap-dancing around it with your cute little colloquialisms?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:17 AM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Do you define all people by their worst moments?

no, that's your job
posted by pyramid termite at 11:17 AM on December 7, 2009


what, like how the abstract concept of sexism prevented the movement (through direct interaction with invididuals) for women's suffrage to succeed?
A widespread social movement that raised demands for justice and effected institutional change.
posted by Abiezer at 11:18 AM on December 7, 2009


And people wonder why Metafilter is brought up in therapy.
posted by josher71 at 11:19 AM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


A widespread social movement that raised demands for justice and effected institutional change.

Okay, good. Progress. What do you believe that that movement actually consisted of? When you say "A widespread social movement that raised demands for justice and effected institutional change", what actual actions performed by human beings are you referring to, if any?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2009


morally hectoring people in such a way that it distracts from the wizard behind the curtain

What wizard? What curtain? Societies are made up of people, none of whom have any magic powers.

People used to believe in the divine right of kings. Now they don't. Why? Because a bunch of people pointed out that that was idiotic, and eventually more and more people got the message.

People used to believe that women shouldn't vote because their wombs would make them too crazy or something. Now they don't. Why? Because a bunch of people pointed out that that was idiotic, and eventually more and more people got the message.

People used to believe that chattel slavery was A-OK and should be legal. Now they don't. Why? You guessed it.

The "fantasy" is believing in wizards and curtains. It's all just people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


okay, pyramid termite, now it just looks like you're being fighty for the sake of a fight. take a deep breath, please, and realize that you are not under siege.
posted by palomar at 11:22 AM on December 7, 2009


The biggest problem with privilege is that it is invisible to people who have it. To them , it's just life, and they don't know that other's lack it. And because they have their own disadvantages in life, and that's what concerns them, they often rankle when people mention that they have unexamined priveleges that they enjoy constantly without being aware of it. They say, oh, you know, I'm about to lose my mortgage and my wife is leaving me. I live under a bridge and eat snow. I was abused. I come from a group that is disadvanated in some other way. Where's my privilege?

I guess that's the thing about the invisible knapsack that hasn't been as clear as it should be -- it's often invisible to the person wearing it. And because it's invisible, it seems like a rhetotical trick, or an obscure concept that doesn't relate to anything in the real world, or a shaming tactic, or any of the myriad comments you hear all the time when the subject of privilege comes up. But while having privilege doesn't mean that you are going to do stupid, thoughtless, fucked up stuff, it does give you the breathing room to do so and the sense that there will be no reprisals, because you don't even know what you're doing is stupid and fucked up. A female friend went to a comedy show a few weeks ago and sex separate comedians made jokes about rape. And these were just cruel jokes, made because the comedians thought they were being edgy, and, of course, all of the comedians were men. It's an example of their privilege that rape is abstract enough to them that it can be jokes about without sensitivity or caution, because it's just a punchline, not something that really happens to real people who may be in the audience; this has been discussed before, and it's just one of hundreds of examples of how privilege plays out in somebody's life.

Is it useful to discuss? I think so. Without having an understanding of privilege, it's very hard to understand why those jokes mihgt be problematic, and instead it potentially seems like there are just some easy to offend people in the world, and, hey, it's just a fucking joke and they should just relax. Without understanding privilege, you risk siding with the bullies and the people in power against the disempowered without knowing it, and that's the way privelege works. It let's you enjoy it without making you aware of it, because your lack of awareness helps support ingrained power structures and deeply embeddedm injustices. And Pope Guilty is right -- we can only really deal with those things one person at a time, because that's how they are maintained -- by millions of individual actions by millions of individual people, often without intending it, every single day.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:22 AM on December 7, 2009 [31 favorites]


okay, pyramid termite, now it just looks like you're being fighty for the sake of a fight.

he's already been called out once in this thread for his intemperate use of language - he's got a real contempt for those he disagrees with and it shows

i have to go to work anyway
posted by pyramid termite at 11:24 AM on December 7, 2009


sex separate comedians made jokes about rape

Let me just point out my own ridiculous typo before others do.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:26 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer: "A widespread social movement that raised demands for justice and effected institutional change."

by talking directly to actual people!
posted by shmegegge at 11:27 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm stating that maybe it's a privilege to spend a working day reading 400 comments and then discussing privilege and parsing different kinds of privilege.

For some of us, it might be the dubious privilege of being un- or underemployed, or working shifts and weekends.

Reality is complex.
posted by Ouisch at 11:32 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


he's got a real contempt for those he disagrees with and it shows

you'll want to be careful, living in a nice glass house like that.
posted by palomar at 11:32 AM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fantasy's yours, I say, that by some rolling therapy programme one day will come when an agglomeration of disparate individuals will wake up and start the new world.

I teach cultural dynamics at the university level to the future phys ed teachers of America. When I agreed to teach the course I trained intensively to make sure I was battle-ready. I was fully prepared to wade into high-octane verbal warfare with these students who, I was certain, would immediately label me a jack-booted warrior in the pc army. And you know what I discovered? Almost immediately, from day one - a simple discussion of Peggy McIntosh and her works - a room full of young, athletic future public educators nodding and confirming that "yeah, that's basically how we understand privilege to work as well." Not one single red-faced, bloviating bigot in the lot. A completely rational discussion on how we can work to deconstruct privilege and prevent bullying in high school classrooms.
After about two weeks of non-combat, I was feeling disheveled and paranoid. I approached the faculty chair - "These students aren't fighting me on any of this stuff! I was an undergraduate seven years ago and even then we got into shouting matches over feminism and same-sex rights." He smiled and said that while I did have an exceptional class, the past decade had seen some incredible advances in civil studies at the high school level and that, yeah, really - we're winning this fight. The word is getting out.
So sorry for you and your backward ideas, but it is a new world - people have woken up - and frankly I'm ecstatic about it.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:33 AM on December 7, 2009 [69 favorites]


That's a terrifically heartening thing to hear, Baby_Balrog.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:35 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna keep quiet too. I post McIntosh at 3:30, nobody says anything. I say this, not a peep. Then five other people say virtually the same thing, big discussion. Whatever. It's not about me. Jesu, I need to go to sleep. And yeah, Baby_Balrog, I find the same thing in my current program (and my last one too).
posted by exlotuseater at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2009


Yeah, stories like that give me hope.

I'm not a believer in historical inevitability, but I do believe that the general trend over the last century is a positive one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:40 AM on December 7, 2009


I don't really know what you're getting at. Do you think you could tell us in real English what you want to say instead of tap-dancing around it with your cute little colloquialisms?
There's limits to reform. The liberal focus on individuals does not address the institutions that set those limits, and so the prisons will still be full of black people and women will be discriminated against in the workplace.
posted by Abiezer at 11:47 AM on December 7, 2009


Yes, of course. Women? Oh yeah, you have it bad, surely, BUT WHAT ABOUT X or Y or Z‽

i skimmed past your comment earlier, but a couple of things:

1) excellent use of the interrobang. I wish there was an interrobang button on my keyboard :(
2) this is just narcissism and jerky behavior and it would be no matter what the topic of discussion is and who is more privileged than who.
posted by empath at 11:50 AM on December 7, 2009


There's limits to reform. The liberal focus on individuals does not address the institutions that set those limits, and so the prisons will still be full of black people and women will be discriminated against in the workplace.

And you therefore conclude that we should not talk about privilege. That is certainly an interesting conclusion based on the facts.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:50 AM on December 7, 2009


So sorry for you and your backward ideas, but it is a new world - people have woken up - and frankly I'm ecstatic about it.
And straight up that's great Baby_Balrog. Question is, where do they go with this awareness? I honestly see the danger now being that once all the most egregious injustices have been addressed in legislation and the upshot will be that when certain groups of people remain marginalised because the social framework will be largely unchanged. At best it might mean a shift in who exactly's getting the shaft.
posted by Abiezer at 11:56 AM on December 7, 2009


by talking directly to actual people!

Well, by demanding that people in power change laws. I mean, I think Abiezer might be talking more generally than this, and I could be mistaking what he's saying, but there does seem to be a distinction to be drawn between the exercise of getting everyone in a classroom to nod along and think about their privilege, versus participating in a social movement to change unjust laws.
posted by palliser at 11:59 AM on December 7, 2009


ryan and optimus, I wonder if this is discussion, which seems particular to his interpretation of a comment that I think has since been deleted, can better addressed via memail.

Once I was arguing with Optimus in MetaTalk and I said, "Dude, if you still have a problem with me, just take it to memail!"

An hour later I got a message from him containing a Photobucket link to a picture of him paddling my mom's bare ass with the back of a long wooden spoon. Like, her backside was just this maze of great red welts. Also, she was wearing one of those Minnie-Mouse-ears headbands. And the worst part is that she was laughing -- she looked like she was having the time of her life.

I don't know who was holding the camera.
posted by hermitosis at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2009 [12 favorites]


Abiezer: "I honestly see the danger now being that once all the most egregious injustices have been addressed in legislation and the upshot will be that when certain groups of people remain marginalised because the social framework will be largely unchanged."

but... addressing the social framework is what people are doing by speaking about these things in public an private conversation. you seem to think that outside pressure is applied to politicians by motivated individuals instead of by voting constituents and wider social climate change. the social framework changing is part of what contributes to legislative motivation.
posted by shmegegge at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer, I'm going to start asking you to back up some of your assertions. It's been pointed out to you repeatedly that quite a few civil rights and related movements had what amounts to consciousness raising sessions, which specifically addressed questions of privelege, and that these were successful in changing people's understanding on a day to day basis. You seemed to have ignored these comments, and you continue to maintain that somehow doing this is a bad thing and doomed to fail.

Where is this coming from? It doesn't seem rooted in facts, but a strange prejudice you have against telling people that they have privelege, as though the act of doing that is somehow doomed to fail.

I can give you one example of where it isn't: me. I'm white and male, and was on the opposite side of many of the remarks I have made in this thread. I didn't suddenly realize one day I have privelege and others don't. My udnerstanding evolved over time, as the result of talking to people who were disempowered and seeing their experiences, and as the result of trying to approach them with questions rather than answers. And what they said about priveleged was consistent with what I experienced, and had been invisible to me until it was pointed out, and was also consistent with what I directly observed in their experienced, and consistent with facts I found elsewhere. And so now I try to recognize where I have priveleges, and how this might cause me to unthinkingly support unjust insitutions, because it is to my immediate benefit to do so. And I sincerely doubt I am the only person to have experienced this, and it came through frank and open discussion of privelege.

So why do you insist it is doomed to fail?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:03 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


The liberal focus on individuals does not address the institutions that set those limits

It seems to me that there are a lot of assumptions underlying this statement. Which "liberal" do you mean: politically liberal, or philosophically liberal in the enlightenment sense? And are you suggesting that liberals (or liberal thinkers) do not address institutional classism/sexism/racism?

Because that hasn't been my experience; in both my formal educational experiences and in my personal activism, the institutionalization of prejudice has been an explicit point of discussion and effort.
posted by Miko at 12:04 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


And you therefore conclude that we should not talk about privilege.
No I don't. Here I am banging on at length about it.
I conclude that the framing of privilege in the particular discourse we're arguing about is now a distraction from the underlying power relationships, because it artificially inflates the importance of the individual.
I missed responding to a few questions about social movements above - they're people as a collective realigning the social relationships of their society. Of course they don't come together without talking, theories and the rest but that's my objection to this discourse - it's a retreat from the ambitious social movements of the past, it's broadly content with the wider framework and seeks to have people reform themselves as atomised individuals. That will produce some good outcomes, but never the kinds of movements that really did change the bigger picture.
posted by Abiezer at 12:05 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer, I'm going to start asking you to back up some of your assertions. It's been pointed out to you repeatedly that quite a few civil rights and related movements had what amounts to consciousness raising sessions, which specifically addressed questions of privelege, and that these were successful in changing people's understanding on a day to day basis. You seemed to have ignored these comments, and you continue to maintain that somehow doing this is a bad thing and doomed to fail.
You really don't get my 'mum mum mum' do you? Addressed that way back.
posted by Abiezer at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2009


Wow, it's like a hockey game in here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:10 PM on December 7, 2009


Abiezer: "it's a retreat from the ambitious social movements of the past, it's broadly content with the wider framework and seeks to have people reform themselves as atomised individuals."

this doesn't make sense. who says that the movement to understand and address privilege is seperate from a larger social movement, or that addressing individual action is separate from addressing wider frameworks? this is what everyone here keeps trying to tell you: they're not separate, and talking about one on metafilter is not indicative or contrary to the work of a larger movement or organization. why do you think it is?
posted by shmegegge at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2009


So why do you insist it is doomed to fail?
Because, in your example, you have introspected and grown somewhat as a person. That's good. Where does it go from there? Your individual dealings with others will be better and add in some small way to the sum of good in the world, but it'll be a long wait before the accumulation of those small goods effects change in the pressing social injustices of even a first-world country like America, much less other nation much further back down the path.
posted by Abiezer at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your individual dealings with others will be better and add in some small way to the sum of good in the world, but it'll be a long wait before the accumulation of those small goods effects change in the pressing social injustices of even a first-world country like America, much less other nation much further back down the path.

Yes, it's called the Civil Rights Movement.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:15 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Which "liberal" do you mean: politically liberal, or philosophically liberal in the enlightenment sense? And are you suggesting that liberals (or liberal thinkers) do not address institutional classism/sexism/racism?
People who think our existing social structures can be reformed to a point where it would be good enough. I don't; the whole basis is one of inherent injustice and until that changes privilege will reproduce.
On preview - I think that might address your point too shmegge.
posted by Abiezer at 12:15 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because, in your example, you have introspected and grown somewhat as a person. That's good. Where does it go from there? Your individual dealings with others will be better and add in some small way to the sum of good in the world, but it'll be a long wait before the accumulation of those small goods effects change in the pressing social injustices of even a first-world country like America, much less other nation much further back down the path.

Yep, that's kind of the idea. I guess the enlightened among us could stage a coup de monde, but I'm kind of fond of representative democracy, at least when compared with authoritarian states. Different strokes for different folks.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:17 PM on December 7, 2009


Abiezer: "I think that might address your point too shmegge."

... no. no it doesn't.
posted by shmegegge at 12:18 PM on December 7, 2009


Because, in your example, you have introspected and grown somewhat as a person.

I have never introspected in my life. And I don't just deal with individuals -- I write a thrice-weekly column that is widely read in Minnesota. I also participate on an online site that has something like a hundred thousand members. And I'm hardly the most influential on this site. Changing one person can have a dramtic effect on the world, and it's really the only place we can start from; we build coalitions of people, and those coalitions then address institions of power. Politicians don't glad hand because individual connections are irrelevant; they do so because it creates a base of individuals, and each of those individuals can help them build a larger base, and so on.

But, yes, you do have a habit of talking in what seems to be a partially invented language of neologisms and official-sounding but hard-to-parse jargon. If you wouldn't mind linking back to the comment in which you linked out to demonstratable examples of what you're talking about, I will do my best to try to understand what you're saying.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:19 PM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Abiezer, I think I finally really get your position. If I'm understanding you properly, I think I could analogize to anarchists or communists (and please note that I am not calling you either of those things) who argue that voting and working to reform the state is pointless because what's needed is revolution, and that engaging with the system as it exists is either a cop-out or wasted energy.

Am I accurate in drawing this analogy?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:24 PM on December 7, 2009


People who think our existing social structures can be reformed to a point where it would be good enough. I don't; the whole basis is one of inherent injustice and until that changes privilege will reproduce.

So what is your argument from history? As others have pointed out, we have seen countless examples of social justice movements that did succeed in improving living conditions vastly for many identity groups, be they the mentally ill, an ethnic or cultural group, or a gender group. If you don't think there can be reform to a point of egalitarianism or success, what alternative do you see as the course of history? Isn't your "until that changes" just another way of saying we need to work at it until it's reality? What would "that changing" look like to you?
posted by Miko at 12:26 PM on December 7, 2009


When I saw Chomsky ast night he talked about this a little bit. He's been pretty clear on the fact that there's no capital-S Syatem that's racist or evil-capitalist, just a bunch of individual people making choices that, on balance, perpetuate privilege and etc. He was talking about Gaza and about the US's involvement in what's going on there, but he used South Africa as an example. Basically about how even in the late eighties, most of the industrialized world knew that South Africa was a disgusting mess and that their laws were horrible and racist and yet... nothing happened on a global scale. People did boycotts and stomped and hollered. And at one point there was sort of a tipping point where the US joined with the other UN Nations and said "yeah South Africa, you need to straighten up." and then the dominoes fell.

I'm aware, starkly, of a few things

- Things is South Africa are still pretty rough if you're in a minority -- this sort of entrenched racism takes a long time to fade -- but the systemic legal oppression is fading more quickly
- Sometimes it is one person or a group of people in power [or elevated to power] that can make dramatic changes to the status quo
- the more people who have "grown as people" who go about living their lives elevating people who share their values into positions of power, the better this will go

I'm pretty aligned with Chomsky about a lot of this and I'm distressed in a lot of the things Obama's been doing in the US and in the US's name, but it's a big deal for me, a huge deal, that he's not using coded language to basically tell people that it's okay to deny people rights based on sexual preference [yes, he should be doing better. yes, I wish he was] the way our previous administration was. Also all the coded fundamentalist talk in the previous administration that I think was damaging to us as a nation [both to people of faith and people who are not religious] is fading.

And here, on dorky old MetaFilter, we've decided to take a small stance or two on people using casually sexist and/or racist language [and yes, we should be doing better. yes, I wish we were] and I think that sort of stuff not only matters but contributes in small ways to larger scale institutionalized change. Maybe I'm just a dork optimist about this, but like Baby-Balrog, it makes me just a little happy sometimes in these short dark days.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:26 PM on December 7, 2009 [32 favorites]


I've mispelled privilege all the way through this thread. Just pretend I was talking about a related concept that is spelled differently and don't mind me weeping with embarrassment, as I do from time to time.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:33 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


- Sometimes it is one person or a group of people in power [or elevated to power] that can make dramatic changes to the status quo
- the more people who have "grown as people" who go about living their lives elevating people who share their values into positions of power, the better this will go


...and the process of "growing as people" is facilitated by a lot of discussion and experience-comparing and consideration of the opinions of those different from oneself.

I believe all that, but I guess if you don't think change can ever be made through the actions of individuals in daily life, you might not think it's important to listen to the ideas of people who would like to facilitate the process of growth, since it's not going to change anything anyway.

But if you don't think individuals can change things through their social systems, is there a theory of change, that somehow doesn't rely on individuals to act, to change themselves, and then work to change others and their institutions? I can't imagine one, since the alternative to not changing at the individual level is simply not changing, and arguing that social systems are by their nature static. Which is counter to observable reality.
posted by Miko at 12:35 PM on December 7, 2009


I'm hoping that the conversation about privilege has just moved on from its origins and people critiquing the usefulness of the idea of privilege in a conversation have just accidentally forgotten about this:

"I do have to admit to my middle-class white maleness, though in most of these discussions I find it more a badge of shame that I constantly need to defend against, rather than a mere neutral fact."

I doubt anyone, even someone who is extremely suspicious of the political usefulness of the concept of "invisible privilege", would actually want to defend that level of petulance. I don't think anyone addressing the above complaint is interested in moral social engineering... or that the person offering the opportunity for correction is under the impression that that effort is the summum bonum of equal rights activism.
posted by ServSci at 12:36 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've mispelled privilege all the way through this thread.

Me too! Everybody has their bugbear words, and that has always been one of mine.
posted by Miko at 12:37 PM on December 7, 2009


That's good. Where does it go from there?

People like AZ have made a change in some of my thinking since I joined MeFi and I in turn influence people and the institution I work in. And so it goes . . more enlightened thinking pays forward.

I'd add that I'm more aged than many MeFis and am stunned at the social progress the US has made in my lifetime.
posted by bearwife at 12:38 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


And here, on dorky old MetaFilter, we've decided to take a small stance or two on people using casually sexist and/or racist language [and yes, we should be doing better. yes, I wish we were] and I think that sort of stuff not only matters but contributes in small ways to larger scale institutionalized change. Maybe I'm just a dork optimist about this, but like Baby-Balrog, it makes me just a little happy sometimes in these short dark days.
Apologies if I've given the impression that I don't want that conversation here - we're a community of commenters and of course those discussions were vital and I've greatly appreciated the changes they effect. If you look back at any of the mega-threads, you'll find me supporting that not de-railing.
Took the chance to bang on a bit here as I thought the etiquette question was done and dusted and we'd moved onto to larger theory, where as you've seen I do dissent. Anyway, will address any more arguments if anyone cares tomorrow. Wee small hours here plus I'm responding to too many people at once.
posted by Abiezer at 12:45 PM on December 7, 2009


- Things is South Africa are still pretty rough if you're in a minority -- this sort of entrenched racism takes a long time to fade -- but the systemic legal oppression is fading more quickly

Point of clarification, you mean "black", not "minority", correct? Chomsky isnt worried about the Boars again, is he?
posted by shothotbot at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2009


I've misspelled privilege all the way through this thread.

I am happy to take on the demerit for all misspellings, everywhere.
posted by shothotbot at 12:50 PM on December 7, 2009


Building on what Astro Zombie has said, I think that while epochal upheaval is probably necessary to get where we need to be, that sort of radical restructuring has two models. There's the top-down, vaguardist model, where a group of people who are advanced beyond the masses implement the change and require the masses to go along, and there's the bottom-up popular model, where the change occurs because the masses demand it.

I think the first one's incredibly problematic; while a vanguard with power can get things done, it establishes a contentious system where the new model has to be held in place by force. Examples that I would point to would be the October Revolution, in which the Russian Bolsheviks seized power and imposed communism from the top, and Reconstruction, in which the American federal government took control of the former Confederate states and imposed a regime of greater equality and liberty for African-Americans. Vanguard models basically say "Here's the way it's going to be, and if you've got a problem with that, the big guy standing over there will be happy to hear your complaints." Regardless of whether or not the cause is moral, it's not a very effective way of doing things, and the instant the vanguard is gone- say, after the fall of the USSR, or after federal troops left the South- things tend to revert to form, albeit with some changes.

The second takes more work. You've got to operate on the tell-two-friends model. Convince people that you're right and try to get them to convince other people that they're right, and so on. I don't see the one-on-one dealing with people as an end in and of itself; it's simply a means toward a time when popular opinion is that homosexuals are human beings, that women are human beings, that nonwhites are human beings- a time where change comes not because it's forced but because the demand for it is there. I'm happy to throw in the odd Civil Rights Act or whatever along the way, because my allegiance is to human welfare and not to moral purity or ideological righteousness, but ultimately the only way to change the culture is to change the people who comprise that culture.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:52 PM on December 7, 2009


In the wee small hours of the morning
When the whole wide world is half asleeple
You lie awake and type on the laptop
And want to cry out WAKE UP SHEEPLE
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:55 PM on December 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


In my experience with the current iterations of these political philosophies (perhaps movements is a better term?) is that they are not necessarily constrained or grounded by their own histories.

Oh, absolutely, and I should have made it clear that my extensive knowledge is almost exclusively about the history and not about the current iterations. I gave up trying to follow current strains of leftism around the same time I gave up trying to follow pop music, somewhere back in the '80s. I mean, I never even heard of the International Marxist Tendency, which I just googled up. It may well be that there's a group somewhere that is burning pictures of FDR on Labor Day in the belief that it will bring back Max Shachtman, who will lead humanity into a new incarnation. The Third International is as far as I go.
posted by languagehat at 12:57 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to speculate, is it possible that the reason for some of the weird misunderstandings in this thread are based on the deeply flawed implicit analogy between changing people's minds on Metafilter and political organizing in the real world? I mean, Abiezer's central point ought to be readily recognizable as a contribution to this discussion to anyone who's read much about these issues (in my imaginary Discussing Race, Class and Gender Playbook there is a chapter on "Left Critiques of Identity Politics" that has a subheading on "Individual Moral Suasion Has Little Effect on Social Systems and Structures"). But it seems to be getting shouted down here by a weird mix of (a) outright incomprehension, (b) the mistaken belief that it's a form of right-wing denial of racism/sexism's existence, and (c) outright, fundamentalist liberal-individualist disagreement on first principles.

None of these is great, in my view, but (c) might be illustrative of one way that MeFi/MeTa really does have some philosophical-cultural tenets of its own, central, foundational presumptions that are harder to disagree with here than perhaps they ought to be. Since this place has a user base self-selected for gleeful participation in deliberative discourse, that is, I think it's a bit too easy for MeFites to overgeneralize from our own experience: if we were persuaded by this argument (about gender politics or whatever), then the way to create political change must be to inductively repeat that act of persuasion across the whole population! There are some here who actually, explicitly hold this position, it's clear, but I'm still surprised and a bit dismayed that Abiezer's relatively simple response – that real political organizing has to attack the systems and structures by which injustice is perpetuated on the level and with the means of mass Machtpolitik, not just by persuading a million individual consciences in the absence of a social movement to which they can attach – has been greeted with such quick faux-discomprehension and shouted down.
posted by RogerB at 12:57 PM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Great comment, RogerB. But is this really Abeizer's point?

real political organizing has to attack the systems and structures by which injustice is perpetuated

I didn't see that point being made: I think I was getting stuck on an earlier point - that before there can be such real organizing, there have to be individuals at a point where they are willing to act, not just feel. It's true that by itself individual moral suasion is insufficient to make changes in large-scale systems, though it can make changes individual lives. But political organizing with the power to dismantle prejudice in institutions has to start with, and continue to capitalize on, individual moral suasion. This is what I meant by asking "what other theory of change is there?" Whether it's from the top down or bottom up, an active group of people have to promote and develop an agenda for change. No one is likely to do this without feeling individually called to act based on a values system, no matter how that values system was developed. That's why "the personal is political," because the individual discussions of personal experience are the means by which a values system and plans for action are developed.
posted by Miko at 1:05 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Part of the problem is that the beneficiaries of white privilege are for the most part, not in a position to do anything about it. Even if you make them conscious of it, what do you expect them to do?

The ones most responsible for perpetuating it are most likely fully aware of it, and just don't care to do anything about it.
posted by empath at 1:13 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't see anyone shouting anyone else down.
posted by ServSci at 1:16 PM on December 7, 2009


The salient element of that statement is "Chances are...". There are exceptions and areas of great progress, but chances are, if you randomly drew a residence address at random from any country with elected representatives, chances are very high that you wouldn't have majority female representation.

Oh yeah, absolutely; I'm not disputing that at all.

I just thought my own elected representatives were a fun - if unrepresentative - data point.

(and to be honest, the new State Premier / Deputy Premier all-female team is actually a last-ditch attempt by the party to save themselves from complete & total annihilation at the next polls...they're running at around 12% of the vote at the moment, so they're desperate to do anything, ANYTHING that might win them even one more vote)
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:16 PM on December 7, 2009


I like the intersection of the SWP and feminism in this thread as I've been reading recently about second wave feminism and how splinter groups learned to define the roles of and within the groups. Famously, the Tyranny of Structurelessness came from it. Another thing they learned, beside the need for defined roles and structure, is that their groups couldn't be inclusive and also actually help womens' status. Which was most well-illustrated when male members of the SWP infiltrated a feminist group open to all and took over.

The lack of inclusion due to awareness of privilege is also one of the reasons the myth persists that second wave feminists were educated white women who didn't care about minority women. In reading their first-hand accounts it's apparent most often the opposite was true and they respected third-world feminist groups' right to have a safe space free from the privilege of white women.
posted by birdie birdington at 1:20 PM on December 7, 2009


I am happy to take on the demerit for all misspellings, everywhere.

For starters, you'd be interested to know that the Boers were not, in fact, large pigs.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:23 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are two systems of power in this world. There is institutional power, like the power that, say, the police have over us. But there is also personal power. And I don't think we should be dismissing the importance of this power, even if it isn't as insidious or as impressive as institutional power. I think it was Letty Cottin Pogrebin who talked about the importance of undersytanding individual acts and being the public representation of institutions of power -- when a man beats a woman, we have to ask "with what weight does this hand fall," (I may be paraprasing) and the answer is that it falls with the weight of patriarchy.

Individuals have the power to directly support instutions of oppression -- as has been pointed out, that is in fact the only way instutitons of oppression can be supported. So I don't think it is useless to have these discussions because the people who benefit from white privilege are in no position to do anything about it. They are the very ones catcalling in the street, or painting swastikas on the sides of buildings, or walking into a classroom and shooting the women inside, which is what prompted this discussion. They may not have the same power as an institution does, but they participate in the instutition and the little power they provide it is the very power the insitution is made up of.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:23 PM on December 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


before there can be such real organizing, there have to be individuals

There's a fairly obvious chicken-egg problem here (or I personally like the name by which Louis Althusser once called it, "the closed circle of ideology"). That is, there never existed individuals with their own ideas "before" those were organized by and within social structures; individual people and their ideas exist only within and among the existing institutions and the available ways of thinking. There's a range of opinions (~= political philosophies) about the relative importance, or lack thereof, of the individual conscience on the ideological battleground, and we don't really have to have that whole discussion here when there's Entenmann's on offer instead (chocolate frosted donuts FTW). All I really meant to point out here was that the knee-jerk reaction to Abiezer's contribution (though, fair enough, "shouted down" was an overstatement) seemed oddly fundamentalist on the matter of liberal individualism.
posted by RogerB at 1:33 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


empath: "Part of the problem is that the beneficiaries of white privilege are for the most part, not in a position to do anything about it. Even if you make them conscious of it, what do you expect them to do? "

I think, in the USA at least, that what people are asking for is simply to be conscious of the privilege and support movements to lessen it, eg by voting. further, to be vocal in its face and thereby increase the cultural discussion is nice, as well. at least, that's what I believe has been asked of me, and what I try to do.
posted by shmegegge at 1:34 PM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: a user base self-selected for gleeful participation in deliberative discourse

Sorry, it was too good to pass up. Also, accurate!
posted by rtha at 2:01 PM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: 'And people wonder why Metafilter is brought up in therapy.'
posted by ericb at 2:13 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


You not only have to tell someone, they have to listen and act upon it.

I have never had an induction which went:
HR: Like many employers in this sector, we operate a Privilege scheme for our valued male employees
ME: What?
HR: You know, to make things a bit easier - make sure your voice is heard, that you get full consideration for promotion, generally get taken seriously in the company. Mostly soft stuff - intangibles - but the cumulative effect is substantial, especially when considered over your entire career.
ME: That's good!
HR: It comes at a price, however.
ME: Oh... that's bad.
HR: But you don't have to pay the price.
ME: That's good!
HR: For every way that your time here at BigCo is made slightly easier, a female employee's time will be made slightly more difficult.
ME: ...
HR: That's bad. Anyway, just sign here and again here if you want to take part.
ME: ............

If it worked like that, I'd like to think I'd opt out, but who knows, because it doesn't work like that. The knapsack is invisible, after all. The problem is, having seen the list, and acknowledged the (overall, nitpicking aside) factual validity, there is pretty much nothing that can be done with it - it's all about what people do to you, and not at all about what you do.

Essentially the question for anyone of good conscience that recognises the situation is always "What can I do now?". If I had employees, I could not discriminate against them. If I used feminine slurs in or out of work, I could stop. There's a huge list of things not to do. There's plenty I can do when I rule (some small portion of) the world. But what now?

I guess the short answer is "be aware, and tread lightly", and "spread awareness"[on preview, as shmegegge says]. But it seems wishy-washy and unsatisfactory. There is a desire to oppose the system, rather than merely trying not to support it.

Amnesty International does this well with its "What can I do" column (don't have the magazine handy to check the name). The list goes "If you have... 5 min. Do this! Half an hour: Do this! A day: Do this!"

On final preview, it occurs to me that even if as a man there's nothing I can do about this but stay out of the way of the consciousness raising and meditate on male privilege, it would be worth finding some symbolic thing that men can do to stem the tide of "I didn't ask for this! what do you want ME to do about it?!". I guess that really does invite analogies with religion...
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Point of clarification, you mean "black", not "minority", correct?

Yes. I was writing on the bus. Typos and some word munging are almost a certainty.

I really don't think Abezier's point is terribly far from the how the ones many of us are making but I think everyone has a sort of scale of how they see these things play out from the individual level [learning that a family member is gay changes someone's entire opinion about gay marriage] to the larger scale political level [Gay marriage is a legal reality in Massachusetts] and how much each part is responsible [cause and effect being fluid in some respects] for what eventually happens in any particular social change movement worldwide.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:42 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


learning that a family member is gay changes someone's entire opinion about gay marriage

Unless you're Dick Cheney.
posted by tkchrist at 2:49 PM on December 7, 2009


it was an example, ffs.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:50 PM on December 7, 2009


Wrinkled Stumpskin: "On final preview, it occurs to me that even if as a man there's nothing I can do about this but stay out of the way of the consciousness raising and meditate on male privilege,"

Raise consciousness in all-male or male-dominated spheres...we need male voices to take some of the weight of education off of our shoulders. Meanwhile, actively support and encourage women to participate in these spaces and let them know you respect them and appreciate their contributions.

Hell, you can even do this at home. Go somewhere on the internet that would be good if the guys weren't being domineering jackasses, and call them on it on a regular basis.

Give boys and male adolescents a good role model for how to treat women with respect.

Treat the females that you love with respect and keep your heart open to them, be a safe place for them.

I'm sure there's more.
posted by kathrineg at 2:54 PM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


tkchrist: "learning that a family member is gay changes someone's entire opinion about gay marriage

Unless you're Dick Cheney.
"

Actually, despite his supervillaniousness, he is not opposed to gay marriage.
posted by kathrineg at 2:55 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


For every way that your time here at BigCo is made slightly easier, a female employee's time will be made slightly more difficult.

Reminds me of this story.
They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have
come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They
all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and
some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty
of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of
their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their
makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of
their skies, depend wholly on this child's abominable misery.
posted by empath at 2:59 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]



Actually, despite his supervillaniousness, he is not opposed to gay marriage.


He's "not opposed". Well excepting for creating, sustaining, and promoting an entire political machine that is.

By "not opposed" he means the gay children of rich people will be able to do what they want no matter what.
posted by tkchrist at 3:14 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would add to kathrineg's excellent points, that talking about what it means to be a "real man" with boys and other men would be helpful too. Exploring popular ideals, calling into question attitudes and behaviours that define "manhood" by idealizing emotionless alpha macho performances, or disrespecting or belittling women and LGBTs. I know a lot of male Mefites do that already but I think the point is important enough to keep calling for, until those kinds of conversations between guys become, if not common, at least not widely and automatically regarded as bizarre and off-putting.

I recently finished reading this thread about being a man, was grateful to those who contributed personal stories and thoughts on the topic, and would have liked to hear more. Maybe there weren't more because this just isn't something most guys are comfortable talking about, and on top of that there's tenderness on various sides recently re talking about gender, so caution about that was probably a factor too.

Talking about these things with boys who are trying to figure this stuff out for the first time, though, that would be huge.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:07 PM on December 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Since it's probably not a good idea to say it in the AskMe thread: MASS EPONYSTERIA!
posted by Burhanistan at 5:17 PM on December 7, 2009


"That said, opening with a sarcastic “sorry you got raped in prison, dude,” and closing with "butthurt" is not ever agreeable in any context, least of all as a lecture sandwich. I am sorry for coming out swinging, but that was one a hell of a pitch."

Hey yeah, just got back from work and haven't read the rest of the thread, but I would like to apologize for that. It was flippancy born of frustration, and I'm sorry.
posted by klangklangston at 5:33 PM on December 7, 2009


The Entemann's Xmas cupcakes are out. Theres nothing I like more than separating the puck of frosting at the top of each cake

A puck of frosting, that's quite the turn of phrase.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:50 PM on December 7, 2009


We used to call these "turd donuts."
posted by palliser at 7:05 PM on December 7, 2009


I still feel that anyone should be able to express an opinion without people making what are essentially ad hominem attacks on their background (even if they aren't intended as such).
posted by empath at 1:30 PM on December 7

Whilst we can all use some self-reflection on how relate to others and the wider social world, you're engaging in a merely moral exercise that tells people they're bad actors because of their particular place in a nexus of social relations that they can personally affect only in minimal ways... The vital reformist interim demands like equal pay and full civil rights are won by wider appeals to justice; examples of embedded and thus unseen 'privilege' like those listed above when exposed certainly help make the case for just treatment, but the framing as 'privilege' is not essential for that and as I've said, counter-productive because of the perception that it locates fault in the individual.
posted by Abiezer at 1:32 PM on December 7


Twice in three minutes. I've seen this before and I honestly don't understand it-- the way some people interpret saying "you have white/male/heterosexual/whatever privilege" (a descriptive statement about the effects of a characteristic someone can't control) as an attack/calling someone a bad actor/an issue of "fault"/etc. Like, seriously, it makes me squint and go "Huh?" (Responding to "you have X privilege" with "No I don't because of Y and Z" or even "X privilege doesn't exist" is comprehensible to me, but reacting with "You shouldn't say that, I didn't do anything wrong, why are you attacking me?" sounds to me like someone responding to "I see you're wearing a red hat today" with "I didn't steal this hat how dare you accuse me of stealing this hat there's nothing wrong with people wearing red hats!")

Can anyone help me out here?
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:34 PM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


EmilyClimbs, it's because people parse "you have x privilege" as "I'm not 'privileged'!" as though the mere use of the word "privilege" means that one is being accused of being a bloated plutocrat who snacks on the bones of the masses.

I don't quite know if the answer is to say "When it comes to racism, you as a white person in the US have a different perspective on this than a Latino person in the US would" or something equally specific, rather than using the term "privilege" as shorthand.

I know that some people on this MeTa thread seem to be advocating unpacking the phrase entirely. I honestly don't know if different language would make it easier for people to accept, or if they would just say "BUT WHAT ABOUT ALEX RODRIGUEZ HE'S RICHER THAN I AM" no matter how you phrased it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:39 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


My (probably very flawed) understanding of what Abiezer is saying:

Society can be seen as a fishing net. We are knots in it, and there are links between us and other knots. Certain knots are more equal than other. But that's just a side-effect of their position in the net's structure. If you want real social change, you have to change the structure of the net; focusing on the privilege of various knots, even many of them, or your own, is a red herring.

That's where I think Abiezer is coming from.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:14 PM on December 7, 2009


(note that I cannot help you with empath's views; I do not think I understand them)
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:16 PM on December 7, 2009


Also, people calling for the banning of pla may want to reflect on glass houses and bricks.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:19 PM on December 7, 2009


philip-random writes "But then, ask yourself why is she such a big deal? Why does she automatically 'get all the breaks'? Easy answer: because there are so very few women who have been allowed to even begin to prove themselves in the world of motorsports. Like most big deal sports, it's a chauvinistic bastion of old-school maleness where from a very early age, all the breaks, all the prejudices, all the 'tunnel-blind' thinking favors the boys. "Call this CHRONIC privilege."

While much of that is true it glosses over the fact that race car driver is an athletic pursuit and, like practically all athletic pursuits, women do not compete with men at the top levels of the sport whether that sport is basketball, track and field, cycling or golf. As you've identified the real problem is a lack of women in motorsport generally resulting in a lack of parallel women's sanctioning bodies. Someone more familiar with the feeder circuits could offer some exposition on why that is I'd imagine.
posted by Mitheral at 8:25 PM on December 7, 2009


My problem isn't with pointing out privilege, only the inevitable follow up that because of said privilege that either white males can't understand or can't have a valid opinion about sexism or racism beyond being ultra sensitive or just staying quiet. It's a long thread and I don't even remember the comment that i was originally replying to at this point.

In other words, the ad hominem attack is of the form "oh you would think that because you're a white male".
posted by empath at 8:26 PM on December 7, 2009


Part of the problem is that the beneficiaries of white privilege are for the most part, not in a position to do anything about it. Even if you make them conscious of it, what do you expect them to do

The "white privilege"/"backpack" metaphor is busted and needs to go. First we have some people saying it just means "everyone has a different perspective" - in which case it's just an awful way to express that.

But the most sensible interpretation is: historical/current inequality between races/sexes/whatever. But, depending on the listener, it comes out sounding like:

a) some kind of Communist-style "self-criticism session" weirdness
or
b) yes, an accusation. When you say to some "you are privileged where others are not," it is pretty reasonable for the listener to take it as "you should feel bad about this." At the very best he is left thinking, as above, "OK, what am I supposed to do?" At worst, it comes off as a threat. Telling someone you are going to "take away their privilege" can sound threatening. You can write that person off as "ignorant," sure, but if you want to preach to those not already in the choir, these are the people you need to reach.

I don't get what's wrong with framing it as: "Women/minorities/whoever are less than equal in our society in following ways. If you think that's wrong, here's what can be done about it."
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:42 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can anyone help me out here?

I think it's about what constitutes a better Rallying Cry. If all we want is to vent, then telling others to shut up and listen is good enough. For sure, it's important to talk about everyone's different perspectives and privileges FIRST -- but as for next steps, if you're going to engage everyone and get hordes of people marching beneath a single banner, that banner will probably be emblazoned with a more universal sentiment, one that's less divisive. You want something marketable, something nobody will have trouble buying into.

(on preview: what drjimmy said)
posted by emeiji at 9:07 PM on December 7, 2009


God forbid people with privilege ever think about and take responsibility for how we have benefited from and been complicit in the oppression of others. Because that's never gonna work on a banner.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:36 PM on December 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Baby_Balrog i remember one time this happened to me - only i was saying that black people can't be racists because that's like saying "misogynistic woman" or something and holy shit down came the avalanche of hate and finally i said, "help help please someone help"

I remember that one, you did fine!

This is about the only place [Metafilter] I've ever been shouted down for espousing the belief that, "Hey, ya know, maybe white folk have it easier than black folk." I swear to fucking God it's like seventh grade in here. . .
posted by mlis at 10:01 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's also interesting that the people objecting to Abiezer views were some of the smartest, wittiest and most talented writers MeFi has; that is, whether they like it or not, some of our most influential members; and, if I may advance myself, some of the people with the most "personal" power on this site, in Astro Zombie's meaning of the expression.

And this is where the fun begins. I'm not accusing (let's name them) AZ, Miko or Sidhevil of hypocrisy. Their contribution to metafilter speak for themselves: they are honest and well-meaning.

My meaning is simply that, to me, the position of an individual in society is a strong determinant for that individual. And that the only real way to change society may be to change the pattern of our positions.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:25 PM on December 7, 2009


i haveav prieveilege but am nort aotherwise well plaved
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:30 PM on December 7, 2009


i haveav prieveilege but am nort aotherwise well plaved

Any more of this performance art bullshit to follow? You'd think after the whole "egregious insult deleted" thing you'd have the decency to quit the thread. Did someone mention privilege, or at least the automatic assumption of same?
posted by Wolof at 10:58 PM on December 7, 2009


b no nobdoy else
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:00 PM on December 7, 2009


Sleep it off, for Gob's sake.
posted by Wolof at 11:04 PM on December 7, 2009


Dammit, pla, you derailed us this time, but you won't get away with this, you hear? YOU WON'T GET AWAY WITH THIS!!
posted by shii at 11:40 PM on December 7, 2009


VLA | VLA | VLA | VLA
________

Let's talk about vla, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things and the great things
Vla can be
________

Vla, vla vla, vla vla vla vla
Vla vla vla vla
He
y vla
________

Vla in an elevator
Eatin' it up when I'm going down
Vla in an elevator
Slurpin' it
up till I hit the ground

________

Dutch Food of the Week: Vla Ain't Blah
Disclaimer: none of these are self links
posted by Meatbomb at 12:18 AM on December 8, 2009


empath: only the inevitable follow up that because of said privilege that either white males can't understand or can't have a valid opinion about sexism or racism beyond being ultra sensitive or just staying quiet. It's a long thread and I don't even remember the comment that i was originally replying to at this point.

I think it was Solon and Thanks's

Even though I may "enlightened and progressive" and not one of the "bad people" I still don't get to control the conversation. I can say my viewpoint all I want, no one's going to arrest me, but I should listen to the people who have experience I can never have because of my privilege.

The rest of the comment doesn't actually single out white men to admonish into silence. She's careful to use her own blind spots to illustrate why she feels that, in discussions about topics she doesn't have intimate knowledge of, "I have to be more sensitive - because it's an academic discussion for me, but for other people it's their lives. I'm cool with shutting up and listening on those topics because of that."

I could have missed it, but I don't recall that anyone in this thread announced that white men must be silent in these discussions. I can see that many here take it that way, and would just reiterate that I (and I'm sure many others here) don't think white men must be silent in these discussions. As for whether they must be "especially sensitive," I think it's more accurate to observe that, in discussions about lived experience of racial discrimination or vagina owning etc, the approach to participation of (what sometimes feels like an infinite stream of) many white men (not all, of course) would benefit from extra attention to one thing: entertaining the possibility that they might have things to learn about the topic.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:29 AM on December 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thanks RogerB above, glad to see I was actually making my point, as reading back I'm fairly happy with what I wrote, despite the difficulties it seemed to present for some.

EmilyClimbs Can anyone help me out here?

It's not a particular concern that informing people of their privilege is inaccurate or will make them uncomfortable, it's the political implications of that focus. It says this privilege is primarily an issue of what individuals do when in fact it's a wider social dynamic.
One response has been to imagine it's a concern that a bigot might feels uncomfortable but that's not it - if you're a racist or a misogynist or a homophobe, it's a bad thing you should feel bad about and should change.
But as I said above, it's weak politics if the goal is wider change on the institutional level where it really counts. Individuals can change but most don't; institutional changes can mean that people historically discriminated against can get on with their lives less burdened by that discrimination until society catches up. On a more minor point, as a matter of tactics, identifying each individual's problems can get their backs up in a way that appealing to them to be part of a wider movement for justice doesn't, and I suspect the latter brings about more individual change any way (flies with honey and all that).
But the bigger point is that as it's happening now, it is divorced from any wider social movement. People noted that the civil rights movement included conciousness-raising; I said myself 'Self-criticism and historical criticism linked to being part of a wider social movement is something else, and where such analysis is useful.' But of course the civil rights movement wasn't centrally about that - it was a national campaign of mass civil disobedience in direct confrontation with institutionalised injustice - the consciousness-raising was to help the engaged individuals in that wider movement in their struggle. In the case of the workers' movement, it looked at how racism has been used to divide and co-opt labour struggles.
Since the 70s that kind of mass politics has gone away. I think part of the reason for that is that consumer capitalist society atomises individuals as it breaks down old social solidarities by raising up the individual as liberal subject (and new social networks like the Internet don't produce bonds of the same quality as those of physical community and workplace). The discourse of privilege as a critique of other individuals (as opposed to yourself and your social movement) contributes to that atomisation by keeping the focus on the individual.
posted by Abiezer at 1:01 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


drjimmy11: I don't get what's wrong with framing it as: "Women/minorities/whoever are less than equal in our society in following ways. If you think that's wrong, here's what can be done about it."


Leaving aside the large number of people who say "Equality's been achieved! We're post-racial! Women outnumber men in medical / grad school!"...

OK, I'll try that out while leaving out the word "privilege": "Here's what can be done about it: examine yourself for blind spots. Because the really effective work on those issues, work that respects the voices and experiences of the less-than-equal in long-lasting multidimensional (not just short-term and superficial) ways, is done by people who know they have blind spots and keep grappling with how to neutralize them so the blind spots don't fuck up their analysis of problems, or communication with those supposedly being helped. People who don't mind, in fact they appreciate, other people's help to both uncover and neutralize blind spots."

Alternatively, borrowing most of this next paragraph from the What Tami Said blog:
"Here's what can be done about it: 'committing to examining yourself and to having other people examine you, too. This is one way that good [effective] allies gain [the trust of those of us who are systematically treated as less-than-equal]. They unite with us, knowing that doing so means laying their imperfect selves bare. In the case of anti-racist white allies, it means knowing that, no matter how vigilant you are, one day, you are going to say or do something racially insensitive or ignorant, because you are human. And when you make that mistake, the POC you hope to support will be angry and hurt and they will call you on it. And it will be uncomfortable. And it will be easier to disappear from the blog or the local anti-racist group or the friendship. But if you walk away, you prove yourself uncommitted, so hopefully you stay and suck it up and learn and do better the next time. Doing that--staying when things get uncomfortable--takes strength of character and it is not easy. As a person of color working with white allies, I think I must acknowledge this and respect it. And while I have no fear of calling allies on their prejudices, I must take care not to hold them responsible for more than their own privilege blind spots and their own racial bias. Allies cannot be stand-ins for a larger racist society.'"

Won't fit on a banner, though. And on re-reading "committing to examining yourself and to having other people examine you, too," I can hear your point re "Communist style self-criticism weirdness," drjimmy, to which I'd reply that Communist self-criticism sessions were hypocritical and weird because they were compulsory and rewarded self-flagellation for performance's sake.

Whereas what the What Tami Said quote is talking about is, voluntary self-assessment and, ideally, becoming a more (self- and other-) aware person. speaking for myself, it feels good to be able to make strong connections with people in different demographics, connections grounded in knowing I can rely on them to respectfully point out my blind spots and the damage I do inadvertently when blundering around like a bull in a china shop, on some unfamiliar topic that is intimately familiar to them. They can rely on me for the same. It helps me grow as a person and after the initial sting goes away that feels good too.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:02 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can hear your point re "Communist style self-criticism weirdness," drjimmy, to which I'd reply that Communist self-criticism sessions were hypocritical and weird because they were compulsory and rewarded self-flagellation for performance's sake.
I've read some memoirs of crusty old Chinese cadres who wax lyrical remembering self-criticism sessions from the days when they were in deadly earnest and part of a movement that for all its failings helped liberate more women then probably any other of the 20th century.
posted by Abiezer at 1:07 AM on December 8, 2009


There seem to be a lot of different flavors of negative response to the privilege idea. Some common ones:

Fearful - You are trying to take something away from me, and I will defend my position/resources!

Confused - Why is everyone shooting me down? I'm just trying to participate from my point of view!

Angry - I can't control this discourse, and am not getting the respect I deserve. Fuck you all!

Violent - GRAR! Bitches! Cunts! Bastards! Niggers! Spics! Welfare moms! SMASH!

Gallant - I'm not like that, and don't appreciate you suggesting I am; I always do my best to altruistically promote your special interests even though I don't have to.

Newb: What?! What the hell?! This is crazy talk! Who are you people?

Old-Guard: Cold dead hands... over my dead body... buncha freaks...

Conservative: All fine and well for you to natter on about if it gives you a boner, but not practical or natural in any sense. I'll continue to state my common-sense position, regardless of your babbling.

Sly and/or Nietzschean: I'm completely aware of this concept and will beat at your own game by introducing anomalies and intellectual paradoxes that will shame you into submission via the brilliance of my rhetoric. I'm in a different game altogether.

Narcissistic: What about me? What about my problems? Once we've sorted out my concerns, maybe we'll get to yours.

Perfectionist: Your arguments toward parity simply lead to new and different expressions of inequality; until there is adequate provision for every victimized or potentially victimized group, I will not take your efforts seriously.

Rogue: Even though I am [member-of-"oppressed"-group], I disagree with the idea of privilege; I create my own privilege, so why can't you complainers do the same?

Self-pitying: I haven't found any advantages in my so-called "privilege," and am actually much worse off than many of the "underprivileged" group, so I deny that this particular form of privilege exists.

And there are more, and there are progressions, overlaps and fusions, so while some arguments, examples, and explanations work for some, they are useless for others. Some people will never, ever be convinced or even admit any aspect of validity in the idea, while other people are definitely open to new concepts or already on the path. Shaming tactics might completely turn away the latter, yet might be useful on the lost-causes if only as instructional to the fertile minds observing. It's all very complicated.

To me, it's not productive to argue with the Violent, the Old-Guard, the Nietzschean, and usually not the Narcissist or the Self-Pitying, yet discussions with them can be enlightening to others. In the case of pla, even though I found what he actually said in the original post wildly offensive, I see him as a Newb and/or Confused, and one who's willing to pursue a train of thought, interact and discuss - though his initial startled responses were Fearful and Angry.

What does this mean? It means that we need to be a bit discerning in our arguments, and it means that we must be forever patient with some cases. Many of us become exasperated with explaining the same old basic groundwork and obvious (to us!) facts. But in so many situations, when patience fails, it often wiser to let newer, fresher participants take up the yoke of explaining and nurturing new concepts. Older (and possibly more jaded or impatient) hands can perhaps do better by addressing the Sly, Conservative or Perfectionist positions, for example, as at least as instructional for the open minds in the community discourse, if not to the adamant nay-sayer.

Signed: luv to you all, former-Rogue
posted by taz at 2:43 AM on December 8, 2009 [27 favorites]


Looking around for some recent American writing on the subject that might put my point better than I have, found Joseph Schwarz's The Future of Democratic Equality: Rebuilding Social Solidarity in a Fragmented America. Unfortunately that's just an Amazon link and can't find a substantial review, but the commenter there is good, starts off with a great anecdote about Harvey Milk cooperating with the Teamsters then continues:
But times have changed. The defeat of the New Deal coalition in the late 1970s and early 1980s splintered the left, creating a proliferation of political projects that more often than not had tenuous connections to the type of social welfare liberalism that held together the American left for decades. Among the most visible of these "new social movements" were the efforts of people of color, women, queers, and other historically oppressed groups to combat their subordinate positions and demand representation in the mainstream of American society. Such identity politics has been enormously successful on its own terms. While there are still many struggles against identity-based oppression to be won, the United States is a far less racist, sexist and homophobic society than it was even a couple of decades ago, and multiculturalism is a key component of standard educational curricula and corporate human resources policy. You also may have heard that our country recently elected its first African-American president. The recent passage of the Proposition 8 gay marriage ban in California notwithstanding, old-style racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of identity oppression based on individual attitudes has been definitively discredited. Oppression simply doesn't work that way anymore, for the most part.

However, these welcome victories have occurred against a backdrop of massive and growing social inequality the likes of which we have not seen since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century. Since Milk's time, the gap between the rich and the rest of us has widened dramatically. The federal minimum wage is worth 19% less now (in real dollars) than in 1979. Union membership rates have plummeted to about 12% of the American workforce (only about 7.5% in the private sector), down from labor's high-water mark in the 1950s when around 30% of all workers were in unions. Three decades ago, corporate executives made 30 to 40 times more than the average worker. Today, they "earn" about 344 times the pay of most of their employees. Income shares for the top 20% of American households have skyrocketed while those for the lower and middle portions of the distribution have barely kept pace with inflation. Unless radical measures are undertaken, the contemporary economic crisis will likely exacerbate such disturbing trends.

Surprisingly, such issues of structural social inequality and class power have gone largely unaddressed in the groves of academe and the pages of political theory journals (to say nothing of the wider society or the political system), as theorists under the influence of postmodernism and post-structuralism have mostly turned their focus to investigating issues of identity and diversity. As anyone who has been through the American higher educational system in the past two decades can attest, there's an almost obsessive focus in academia (both in the classroom and in campus life) on issues of identity and diversity but nary is a word spoken about socioeconomic inequality...
If assertions of difference are to be truly emancipatory, Schwartz argues, 'a democratic pluralist polity that affirms the value of "difference" can only be achieved if the ethos of solidarity - a sense that the fate of each citizen affects the destiny of all - is revived as a public philosophy underpinning majoritarian support for social rights.' Absent such a commitment to building a politics of solidarity, assertions of difference (or the "performativity" of identity in the postmodern argot) will simply play out on a terrain of vast inequality and do nothing to combat the oppression that people experience through the operation of structural forces such as the labor and housing markets. As Schwartz pointedly observes, "one can't ]'perform' one's way out of an under-funded inner-city school or out of being a laid-of auto worker with dim prospects of finding a new job with comparable wages and benefits." But the defeat of the left as a mass social force has led many social and political theorists to retreat into advocacy of small-scale, localized and individualistic responses to oppression and inequality.
Sorry for the big old quote, the whole comment's much longer and well worth a read, and has the advantage of being by someone from America who knows your country in ways I don't.
Schwarz I've read before, and this earlier essay that covers similar ground is free to read online.
posted by Abiezer at 4:06 AM on December 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


There seem to be a lot of different flavors of negative response to the privilege idea. Some common ones:

To be fair, a lot of that is pigeonholing in the manner of "when did you stop beating your wife?".
posted by Burhanistan at 7:01 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've read some memoirs of crusty old Chinese cadres who wax lyrical remembering self-criticism sessions from the days when they were in deadly earnest and part of a movement that for all its failings helped liberate more women then probably any other of the 20th century.

You've got to be kidding me. Are you also one of those people who think the Gulag had its bright side in that it aided social mobility? And does "liberating women" include "beating them to death if you think you can benefit from accusing them of being feudal/bourgeois/reactionary"?
posted by languagehat at 7:20 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


No, I'm one of those people who considers the history of a nation of hundreds of millions of people in more than a few sound-bites.
As well as being a massive fuck-up and repressive, the revolution carried forward the traditions of the May 4 movement that had seen the oppression of women as one of the worst failings of old China.
Some examples: the first new law introduced post-49 was the Marriage Law which outlawed forced marriages and made it easier for women to divorce. The discourse of gender equality all through the collective era had real impacts in the way that women saw themselves and participated in public life, so that now China still does better than Japan in terms of sex equality. There were attempts to deliver mother-and-child and midwifery services to the very poorest in remote rural areas.
The evils and failings of the regime are numerous and widely rehearsed. That it also achieved some goods more in line with the very earliest idealism shouldn't be a surprise.
posted by Abiezer at 7:32 AM on December 8, 2009


It says this privilege is primarily an issue of what individuals do when in fact it's a wider social dynamic...

On a more minor point, as a matter of tactics, identifying each individual's problems can get their backs up in a way that appealing to them to be part of a wider movement for justice doesn't, and I suspect the latter brings about more individual change any way (flies with honey and all that).


But-- privilege doesn't have to do with "what individuals do" or "each individual's problems," at least not the way I've ever understood it. It has to do with "what individuals are" and the way that currently plays out in society. Why would it get someone's back up to say "If you stop and think about it, there are probably some significant benefits you've gotten because of X factor/some significant problems you've avoided because of X factor. Isn't that messed up? Just think about how that must feel to person Y who doesn't get those benefits-- why don't you keep that in mind when interacting with Y?" (Unless you're thinking about the "born on third base and thought they hit a triple" dynamic, with people reacting defensively to being asked to reassess whether their place in life is entirely due to their own personal accomplishments on a level playing field.) I don't recall seeing anyone anywhere talk about privilege as "what individuals do" rather than a function of wider, unjust social dynamics/structures, let alone in this thread-- if you think this is what people are saying, could you point to some examples? It seems like you're doing a lot of interpreting of intent but to me it doesn't appear to be backed up by evidence.

I agree with you that it's problematic when/if a focus on identity detracts and distracts from thinking about societal, structural issues and engaging in collective action for social change. But why do you believe that talking about privilege automatically/usually/"as set out in the comments" here does that? I think talking about privilege does two major things, both of which are really key to strong social movements-- 1) gets people to think about how unfair society currently is and how unacceptable the status quo is (thus creating agitation to work for social justice); and 2) helps improve interpersonal dynamics between people with unequal privilege by raising awareness of previously invisible privileges and enabling people to be sensitive to them (thus making it easier for diverse people to work together for social change and build strong, movement-sustaining relationships in ways where everyone feels respected and treated fairly.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:42 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Isn't that messed up?
I agree, it is messed up - I'd certainly want to know in that sort of situation and take steps to correct myself. But it does seem to get peoples' backs up. That's a minor tactical observation though and I could well be wrong.

But why do you believe that talking about privilege automatically/usually/"as set out in the comments" here does that?

It's put well in that big comment I quoted above - 'Absent such a commitment to building a politics of solidarity, assertions of difference (or the "performativity" of identity in the postmodern argot) will simply play out on a terrain of vast inequality and do nothing to combat the oppression that people experience through the operation of structural forces.' I think the discourse of privilege has been substituted for the politics of solidarity.
I agree with your two points about the good things the discussion can bring in actual social movements - it's that substitution I'm dismayed by, and the focus on the individual as the agent of social change rather than the citizens in the collective.
posted by Abiezer at 7:53 AM on December 8, 2009


I think Abiezer brings up a really good point, one which reminds me of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (and thus teacher's college....gah!). Maybe part of the problem is that it's very difficult to persuade people to take things like race and sex based privilege seriously when they are experiencing financial anxiety of any nature. The disadvantages of being poor tend to be more pressing and immediate than the disadvantages of being a minority or being a woman (though I'm certainly not saying that the disadvantages of being a minority or a woman are somehow less real or serious, and I have no pretensions to the "it's all about class" throne). I find the growing disparity between rich and poor exceptionally disturbing, and I think it is rapidly becoming incredibly damaging to the overall goal of an inclusive society.

Why would it get someone's back up to say "If you stop and think about it, there are probably some significant benefits you've gotten because of X factor/some significant problems you've avoided because of X factor. Isn't that messed up? Just think about how that must feel to person Y who doesn't get those benefits-- why don't you keep that in mind when interacting with Y?"

It's pretty easy to see how that might get someone's back up, even when said with the very best of intentions. People don't like being told they have to make up for something they didn't consciously choose to be, and people don't like being made to feel ignorant. We're pretty insecure and testy individuals, us humans. I'm not suggesting we shouldn't stop saying these things-social justice is something we all have to work together on to bring about-but we shouldn't be surprised that people might sometimes react in a surprisingly hostile manner.
posted by Go Banana at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the discourse of privilege has been substituted for the politics of solidarity.
I agree with your two points about the good things the discussion can bring in actual social movements - it's that substitution I'm dismayed by, and the focus on the individual as the agent of social change rather than the citizens in the collective.


Yeah, I hear that you think this has happened. I (and I think a lot of the other people here) do not think this (the concept of privilege detracting from solidarity and collective action) has happened-- in general, and particularly not in this thread. I have not read any comment discussing privilege that is at all inconsistent with collective action. Yet you've said The concept of privilege as set out in the comments only further highlights the self-defeating logic of liberal identity politics. Can you explain where specifically you're getting this from? Because otherwise, the best I can figure out so far is that you think that any time the word privilege is mentioned without explicitly refering to collective action for social change, it's inappropriate. That can't be right, can it?
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:35 AM on December 8, 2009


Often when someone is told they are privileged, they are told so in a way that is meant to either discount their achievements ("You're only successful because you've benefited from white/male privilege") or invalidate their opinions/ideas ("Your views on feminism are typical for a privileged male"). Is it any wonder that people naturally resist the label, and even the entire concept?
We should strive to teach the idea of privilege in a non-judgmental, non-threatening manner...just educate on what the effects of privilege look like and let people figure out on their own how it has affected their lives. Don't throw the term about as an insult or epithet.
It took me many years to understand and appreciate the idea of privilege (metafilter discussions like this one helped greatly...thanks). I resisted it at first because it was so often used to justify rules and behaviours that seemed (and often were) detrimental to me. I now see it as an unavoidable reality but not something I need to be ashamed about. I don't need to be apologetic for being a white male. I just need to recognize and appreciate that my whiteness and my maleness allow me to see things differently than minorities and women do (for reasons I may not ever understand), and that I can't gauge their views through my filters. If nothing else, it makes me less likely to consider someone else's ideas as "wrong".
posted by rocket88 at 8:48 AM on December 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Can you explain where specifically you're getting this from? Because otherwise, the best I can figure out so far is that you think that any time the word privilege is mentioned without explicitly refering to collective action for social change, it's inappropriate. That can't be right, can it?
I followed the line you quote with:
'This is because it reifies the individual and locates privilege in them like it were original sin, even if it's seen as fluid and varying somewhat in each given situation.
But that's to look at it entirely backwards - the problem is processes and institutions that reproduce and survive barely affected by the myriad individuals who live and die in the bounds they set when those people are considered in isolation or even in their personal dealings with others.'
It's all of a piece, but it's that reification of the individual that I think is the key flaw in the discourse of privilege. I can quote from specific comments to show what prompted the impression if you like, but I'd rather avoid seeming to call people out and talk about the concept.
So it's not that I think any mention of the word is inappropriate but that it contributes to this excessive focus on moral persuasion of individuals, which is self-defeating because it seeks to end oppression but actually shifts the focus from the kinds of actions that will really achieve that.
posted by Abiezer at 8:59 AM on December 8, 2009


I agree with a lot of what Abiezer is saying. There has been a trend in the last 20 years or so to adopt a stance which can be called "methodological individualism" - the refusal (sometimes founded) to assign agency to collectives. The individual, however construed, is taken as the fundamental unit of analysis, and collectives (classes, interest groups, genders) are then taken as made up of individuals.

It is worth noting that it is this stance which lead Margaret Thatcher to famously declare, "There is no such thing as society." And it is this stance which leads to the frat-boy banging on about the mantra of "individual responsibility" which seems to be the answer to all manner of social ills at, say Fark. Welfare mothers? They should take individual responsibility! Crack whores? Take individual responsibility!

Privileged? Take individual responsibility!

It is a discourse which sits most comfortably with a right wing or libertarian stances and it is no surprise then to see the confusion it sows in libertarian leaning meef like pla, when applied to a (broadly speaking) left wing topic.

I am not saying it is right wing nor am I saying that it is not useful or effective when addressing gendered privilege. I am saying that Abiezer is making an important point about a fundamental problem in the social sciences, if not society itself, and it is ironic to see some of the dismissal he is experiencing.
posted by Rumple at 9:33 AM on December 8, 2009

So it's not that I think any mention of the word is inappropriate but that it contributes to this excessive focus on moral persuasion of individuals, which is self-defeating because it seeks to end oppression but actually shifts the focus from the kinds of actions that will really achieve that.
Are you sure these concerns you have don't just absolve you from the "original sin" mentioned upthread? I see it's being couched as a different, strategic, concern... but it does, suspiciously, have that useful side-effect.

I'm aware this is a "false-consciousness" type argument, and much of the idea of privilege depends on you accepting ways you are blindly being unhelpful if not hurtful... I can't judge whether there's any denial going on here, and I don't expect anyone to defend against an accusation of being in denial... on these types of issues though, i find arguments that let the privileged group off-the-hook to be suspicious.
posted by ServSci at 9:37 AM on December 8, 2009


taz: "And there are more, and there are progressions, overlaps and fusions, so while some arguments, examples, and explanations work for some, they are useless for others. Some people will never, ever be convinced or even admit any aspect of validity in the idea, while other people are definitely open to new concepts or already on the path. Shaming tactics might completely turn away the latter, yet might be useful on the lost-causes if only as instructional to the fertile minds observing. It's all very complicated."

Are there any people who disagree from a place of thoughtfulness, knowledge, and good faith?

Sometimes I see a laser-focus on abstract concepts and an insistence on ideological purity in progressive movements, and I often wonder if it is worth it.

I mean, if someone does a significant amount of good work to further the cause of equality, I really don't give a shit if they agree with my abstract thoughts about privilege.
posted by kathrineg at 9:46 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well can I take your comment as a specific example of what I object to then, ServSci? Why do you care about 'letting individuals off the hook'? I'm assuming because you think it's down to them to change things, change themselves. But merely being white, heterosexual or male doesn't give privilege. A set of processes over history and the social institutions and relationships they produced have made these originally merely neutral random inherent qualities the bearers of privilege. I think the focus should be on those processes, institutions and relationships rather than this or that individual who happens to be a current beneficiary of them. Not because I care if it offends the unashamed beneficiaries of privilege, but because it's the processes, institutions and relationships that need to change.
That'll bring us back to how we create change, the individual versus collective - will those things change by the spread of individual awareness of one's place in the these relationships? I think not, or only to a degree soo long as the overall framework remains. Is awareness of these relationships, the whole historical legacy, vital in the kind of social movements that can change the whole game? Absolutely.
posted by Abiezer at 9:48 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


ServSci: "on these types of issues though, i find arguments that let the privileged group off-the-hook to be suspicious."

It doesn't let them off of the hook, it shifts their responsibility from individual action to contributing to collective action, in a way that emphasizes progress and possibility.
posted by kathrineg at 9:49 AM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think the focus should be on those processes, institutions and relationships rather than this or that individual who happens to be a current beneficiary of them.

Agreeing wholeheartedly as a community psychologist. However, all of these levels are made up of lots of individual-level interactions and processes that can also be fertile ground for awareness-raising and social change. I think this kind of change can be both top-down and bottom-up (the latter is easier to make a difference in in day-to-day interactions, thus the call-out earlier in the thread), but I agree that the top-down change is critical.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


That'll bring us back to how we create change, the individual versus collective - will those things change by the spread of individual awareness of one's place in the these relationships?

Right - I understand your points much better now, Abeizer, and I think the only remaining point of disagreement is, for me, whether there is a "versus" in the individual/collective relationship. I'm much more in the chicken/egg camp, and do believe that hearts and minds change one at a time, through personal relationships, and that then people who have experienced such change can, if they choose, form collectives which can dismantle institutional structures that are prejudicial. To me, this phenomenon is cyclical and in constant motion, not in conflict. That's why I continue to believe there is a place for awareness and discussion of individual identity and privilege. You make an interesting point that perhaps emphasis on privilege is too great, when in fact, it's simply an outcome of institutionalized prejudice.
posted by Miko at 10:06 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think this kind of change can be both top-down and bottom-up (the latter is easier to make a difference in in day-to-day interactions, thus the call-out earlier in the thread), but I agree that the top-down change is critical.

This is well put. And top-down change rarely occurs without a significant shift in group paradigms, and one of the ways group paradigms shift is through discussion and influence-building.

There's a big difference between "if we all join hands and wish for peace, it will happen" and "if I share my ideas about how peace is important, it might be part of a larger shift of opinions."
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:17 AM on December 8, 2009


You not only can take my comment that way, I'm not surprised you would.
Our disconnect, if there is one here, is that I'm still thinking of the actual problem that some people are trying to respond to that involves progress toward responsible, thoughtful, individual contributions toward the education of individuals (not all of this institution (metafilter) is particularly educational, except in some general information sharing way - but in the context of the site, I think most people prefer to have learned something by coming here).

Your (false, I think) dichotomy between the moral persuasion of individuals and a focus on collective action falls down immediately in the context of this particular collective itself and the interaction between the grey and blue. Individuals, here, are explicitly concerned with discussing both the structures of the site and the actions of individual members to promote a particular atmosphere, and using the structures available to attempt to remedy harm. Remember hurdy gurdy gurl's comment?
You know, pla, I am one of those people who ended up writing only a "thank you" to Hildegarde and posting a dot. I was going to write something more-- [snipped for space - original here] -- But I didn't, because your ignorant comments in that thread pissed me off to the point where I couldn't write something civil
I'm glad that comment was made here, but wish it could have just been part of an interesting conversation in the original thread on the blue.

You don't think moral persuasion of the individual is appropriate here, but that we should address the social processes that created a tone-deaf inability to contribute usefully to a discussion of the killing of several women for being feminists... The social processes that contributed to his being able to characterize his race, gender, and social class as a burden that must be defended in "these types of discussions". Do you really think there is no point in discussing the privilege of being male, or the blind stupidity privilege can sometimes allow, that allows someone to see their maleness as something that makes them a victim (needed to be defended) in a discussion that was originally about women being killed for being feminists. No privilege there? not useful to point that out? Really?

What processes are you interested in then? what collective action should we be focused on instead?
posted by ServSci at 10:31 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're probably not too far away on that chicken/egg thing either Miko, but I will go a bit further towards a bit of the dreaded class analysis to explain why I thought it worthwhile to dissent on what I called a 'liberal discourse' and nitpick a bit on this one sentence of yours: To me, this phenomenon is cyclical and in constant motion, not in conflict.
Rumple raised a similar point above too - I think one of the effects of capitalist modernity and the consumer societies it creates has been to raise up the liberal subject, the atomised individual, to historically unprecedented heights. This is useful to entrenched privilege because it undermines the old social solidarities that historically have been the biggest source of resistance to capital getting entirely its own way in how the world looks and how we live.
So my other problem is with a discourse that analyses individuals and their particular place in the nexus of privilege that takes place outside broader social movements attacking the institutional arrangements behind it all. Far more pressing than making individuals aware of their place in that nexus of privilege is making ourselves aware of the social relationships themselves and a return to the language of solidarity and shared citizenship. I think the consciousness that really needs to be raised is class consciousness.

On preview, ServSci - I do think it's right here on MetaFilter and have said so above. So I've not been talking about this particular collective, but in a wider social and political sense. Sorry for the crossed wires.
posted by Abiezer at 10:43 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry for the crossed wires.

My fault probably, dog with a bone.
posted by ServSci at 11:02 AM on December 8, 2009


So my other problem is with a discourse that analyses individuals and their particular place in the nexus of privilege that takes place outside broader social movements attacking the institutional arrangements behind it all.

I generally agree with you here, (I think, depending on which "class" you mean - do you mean socioeconomic class consciousness, or class as a set of people?)

But do you see the discussion taking place here as taking place "outside broader social movements attacking the institutional arrangements?" I see them as integrated, and the discussion of individual privilege as it aggreggates is necessary, because it comprises the immediate and visible evidence of institutional bias.

In addition to which, I feel like we're eliding the point that not all bias is, in fact, institutional; cultural biases, for instance, may not be expressed via formal institutions which can be collectively attacked, but are transmitted in person-to-person processes.
posted by Miko at 11:03 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the consciousness that really needs to be raised is class consciousness.

Class consciousness is certainly important.

But it's a bit orthogonal to a discussion of a misogynist massacre, in which the individuals killed where targeted solely because of their gender.

You don't seem to be advocating intersectionality--you seem to be advocating prioritizing class consciousness above all other group identifications and consciousness at all times. That doesn't fly, either pragmatically or (in my view) ethically.

"Focusing on {x} oppression only distracts you from the real oppression, which is class oppression" is an argumentative tactic that I have only ever heard from white, heterosexual, currently able-bodied, cis gender men who grew up in a middle-class background (I know nothing about you personally, so you may not fall into any of those categories). But I do not think this is coincidental.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:04 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I should have written "...that I have only ever heard up until now from white, heterosexual, currently able-bodied, cis gender men who grew up in a middle-class background" because I don't know any of those biographical details about you, Ableizer, so don't mean for this assessment to extend to you without that knowledge.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:07 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


But it's a bit orthogonal to a discussion of a misogynist massacre, in which the individuals killed where targeted solely because of their gender.
As I said in the comment I linked to for ServSci, I agree and had assumed we'd moved on to wider issues.
I do think class is the key, over-arching issue but from what you write, not in the distorted liberal view you have of it as just one among many oppressions, and certainly not as an 'argumentative tactic'.
In the sense I'm using it, which has been the classical left sense give or take, it's a particular framework for analysing social relationships. Subscribing to such a view in no way minimises any oppression, it seeks to explain what the cause of them is, and locates it in the history of class society as it has mutated through various forms. In fact, historically, it's been one of the major tools in the locker of people fighting racism and gender oppression. I'm sure you can think of the names from history yourself.
posted by Abiezer at 11:27 AM on December 8, 2009


Metafilter: Membership has its' privileges.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:29 AM on December 8, 2009


In addition to which, I feel like we're eliding the point that not all bias is, in fact, institutional; cultural biases, for instance, may not be expressed via formal institutions which can be collectively attacked, but are transmitted in person-to-person processes.
This is fair enough and why I agree this sort of conciousness-raising is vital for groups such as us here on MetaFilter or in social movements. Again, my objection has been to this analysis of individuals taking the place of the institutional analysis in the wider discourse.
posted by Abiezer at 11:33 AM on December 8, 2009


It's all of a piece, but it's that reification of the individual that I think is the key flaw in the discourse of privilege. I can quote from specific comments to show what prompted the impression if you like, but I'd rather avoid seeming to call people out and talk about the concept.
So it's not that I think any mention of the word is inappropriate but that it contributes to this excessive focus on moral persuasion of individuals, which is self-defeating because it seeks to end oppression but actually shifts the focus from the kinds of actions that will really achieve that.


Yes, I really would like to see examples because I searched the thread for "privilege" (and "privelege"!) and it looks to me like all almost everyone is saying about privilege (especially prior to when you first jumped in) is "You should try to think about how privilege affects your life, and you should be sensitive to privilege when you're talking with people who don't have privileges that you have" and I just don't see how asking people to be thoughtful about how societal injustice plays out in their own life is self-defeating. Maybe if I understood what "reification of the individual" is, I'd get it, but although I thought I understood what reification means, it doesn't make sense to me in your context.

It's just frustrating to me because I think I totally agree with a lot of what you're saying, but then I feel like you're telling me, as a woman, that if I ever point out to a man that there are certain privileges he benefits from based on his gender and ask him to please be thoughtful and respectful of me and other women-- and if I do not at that moment choose to have a conversation about the societal structures that underpin that privilege and the ways we should work together to change things (an analysis of privilege outside of broader social movements)-- that it's inappropriate and I'm undermining/distracting from efforts to create a better society. And maybe that's not what you're saying, but since that's how I interpret the comments in this thread, and you have a problem with the comments in this thread but haven't explained which and why, it's hard not to draw that conclusion.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 11:41 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Want to say a bit more one this:
"Focusing on {x} oppression only distracts you from the real oppression, which is class oppression" is an argumentative tactic that I have only ever heard from white, heterosexual, currently able-bodied, cis gender men who grew up in a middle-class background (I know nothing about you personally, so you may not fall into any of those categories). But I do not think this is coincidental.
Since in my view class analysis has underpinned the historical movements that have come closest to genuinely challenging and changing the social institutions that are the source of oppression, it's enormously sad to me that apparently in liberal discourse the mere mention is enough to raise suspicions that you're defending privilege (though no doubt there are people who have done that) and that now it's been reduced to just one among many identities that might the source of oppression. That's not a coincidence either it you look at how capital deals with it opponents.
posted by Abiezer at 11:43 AM on December 8, 2009


It's just frustrating to me because I think I totally agree with a lot of what you're saying, but then I feel like you're telling me, as a woman, that if I ever point out to a man that there are certain privileges he benefits from based on his gender and ask him to please be thoughtful and respectful of me and other women-- and if I do not at that moment choose to have a conversation about the societal structures that underpin that privilege and the ways we should work together to change things (an analysis of privilege outside of broader social movements)-- that it's inappropriate and I'm undermining/distracting from efforts to create a better society. And maybe that's not what you're saying, but since that's how I interpret the comments in this thread, and you have a problem with the comments in this thread but haven't explained which and why, it's hard not to draw that conclusion.
I'm sorry I've given you that impression, EmilyClimbs. I support your right to point that out to men and demand that of them, here and in wider society.
The problem I had with the comments in the thread was how they framed privilege as a conceptual discourse and that's what I've been trying to address. Apologies again if that's been upsetting. I should have thought harder about where we were and the subject of the whole thread, but then once I'd jumped in I ended up responding. I can certainly shut up now, having said pretty much enough.
posted by Abiezer at 11:47 AM on December 8, 2009


Damn, having promised to shut up, I see you've asked for examples and I've not given any. Here's a sample quote, which I'm not calling out and don't think was a bad thing to say, but exhibits the conceptual discourse I tried to talk about:
You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege because of your demographics, and with that privilege comes a certain degree of responsibility and conscientiousness that you need to have to discuss issues of gender, class, and race in a respectful way
As I've tried to argue, I think you're imbued with privilege because of certain historical processes and that the distinction's important.
posted by Abiezer at 12:01 PM on December 8, 2009


I do think class is the key, over-arching issue but from what you write, not in the distorted liberal view you have of it as just one among many oppressions, and certainly not as an 'argumentative tactic'.

So this seems to be the nugget of disagreement. I think there are viable and legitimate conceptualizations of society that might place gender (or one of the handful of other identity markers) as the key over-arching issue, since gender issues also arise in non-capitalist communities.

As much as I respect the degree to which your viewpoint has evolved, Abeizer, and as seriously as I take class issues and agree with you about how they work divisively, it is worth considering that the individual choice to view class as the overarching issue does reflect an selection from among the many oppressions, and a person who found their existence more directly limited by gender than by class strictures might make a different choice about what can be defined as key and overarching.
posted by Miko at 12:03 PM on December 8, 2009


I would also say an example of privilege is turning a discussion about gender into a discussion about class. I realize we're at the very end of this discussion and it has expanded quite a bit, but that's a bit of a red flag for me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:08 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just can't leave!
My viewpoint's not evolved in this thread Miko, I've just said more and more until it's finally become clear. I think you're engaging in the same liberal distortion of class analysis as Sidhedevil - seeing it as one oppression amongst many That's a fairly recent development AFAIK. I'm inferring this from your use of the phrase 'class issues' amongst other things.
It's an older tool that seeks to explain all oppressions, because it's saying that a system that creates different social classes and privileges one or the other will inevitably then look for apparently 'natural' cleavages such as gender and race and exploit those to the full.
You are of course right that the most pressing oppression a person might feel will be due to their sexuality, race, gender and so on rather than economic status, but in the classic framework these too are a result of class society - one by its nature built on creating different groups and exploiting them by perpetuating that difference.
Beyond that, I do agree that there's aspects of gender inequality that predate class society, certainly in anything like the form we know it, and there's xenophobia and bigotry against otherness too. I think those things are certainly important in themselves, but that given the pervasive nature of modernity they've gotten swept up by class in this larger sense too. That they also exist independent of that is why we need the critiques of sexism, racism, heteronormativity and the rest in social movements, so we don't get rid of one system of oppression to replace it with a new and different one.
posted by Abiezer at 12:16 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer: "... On a more minor point, as a matter of tactics, identifying each individual's problems can get their backs up in a way that appealing to them to be part of a wider movement for justice doesn't, and I suspect the latter brings about more individual change any way (flies with honey and all that)..."

True for all arguments. One day I will write a bullet-proof post* illustrating this. Appealing for people to be part of a wider purpose can get them to run into machine gun fire which is clearly not in their best personal interest. Further, the people that are likely to be the subject of insults, implied or stated, are precisely the demographic that strategically-speaking, needs to be and is able to be convinced for the balance to be decisively tipped and a social change experimented with. Some people agree with you or are willing to go along, some people will never agree with you, some people are in various degrees of moderate disagreement and may have engaged in opinions and behaviors that are counter to The Goal. It is precisely these people that you need to avoid insulting and convince to go along with your ideas for a while and when they realize that the world didn't end it will be easier to address structural change.
I would argue that it is more productive to appear, if not be, sympathetic to the opinions of people who are somewhat in disagreement with you. Accomplishing the "right" thing via engaging people I disagree with while having to bite my tongue occasionally is a productive course of action I think.

*This clearly ain't it.
posted by vapidave at 12:17 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would also say an example of privilege is turning a discussion about gender into a discussion about class. I realize we're at the very end of this discussion and it has expanded quite a bit, but that's a bit of a red flag for me.
Nice to meet another comrade under the red flag.
posted by Abiezer at 12:18 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I support your right to point that out to men and demand that of them, here and in wider society.
The problem I had with the comments in the thread was how they framed privilege as a conceptual discourse and that's what I've been trying to address. Apologies again if that's been upsetting. I should have thought harder about where we were and the subject of the whole thread, but then once I'd jumped in I ended up responding. I can certainly shut up now, having said pretty much enough.


No, I don't want you to shut up. I'm completely open to the possibility that there's something you're saying that I'm genuinely missing, and I'd like to understand. I don't find your opinions upsetting (certainly not if you genuinely do support people's right to talk about privilege even when they're not also talking about societal systems and collective action), what's upsetting/frustrating is what seems like evasiveness about who and what and why you're critiquing. I don't feel like you've talked too much, I just feel like you haven't talked enough about certain things!

On preview: thanks for the example, although in all honesty it seems like you are either making an unfair assumption that because she did not spell out "You are imbued with a certain degree of privilege based on your demographics because of certain historical processes" she must believe that it comes out of some inherent facet of "whiteness" or "maleness"-- or being pretty nitpicky about the standard of clarity in phrasing that people must be held to (even when talking to someone who you suspect is likely going to have a hard time even grasping Privilege 101.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 12:23 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anarcho-Syndicalist, in fact, so I am sympathetic to class discussions. My point is that threads about gender or about race often include people who are not women or are white steering the thread away from the topics of gender and race and to something that they are absolutely certain is a more important overaching critique. I think this urge is a good one to resist.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:25 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's why I was loath to pick up on individual comments EmilyClimbs, because it could be my interpretation or assumption, commenter could have meant more by the 'demographics' bit and so on. But if you can agree that it's a representative sample among others, at least you might get where I think this conceptual problem lies.
posted by Abiezer at 12:26 PM on December 8, 2009


My viewpoint's not evolved in this thread Miko, I've just said more and more until it's finally become clear.

I didn't meant that it evolved in this thread, I mean that it evolved through your own pursuit of study and thought. I appreciate the ways in which your viewpoint has evolved in your life. Yes, it has taken a long time for your position to become clear, but I get it now. However, I still support Astro Zombie and others in noting that just because in your worldview, class seems to be the most important factor in determining the course of social history, and that your worldview includes an explanation as to why this is so, that does not mean that there can not be equally legitimate worldviews in which power applied based on other divisions (gender, race, ability) does not then result in the development of class systems in some cases, and make use of class systems as the vehicle for bearing prejudice.
posted by Miko at 12:45 PM on December 8, 2009


For sure - I could be dead wrong about all of it, and we're at the point where it's a political or philosophical difference, and that was what I set out to discuss.
I thought that it was appropriate to broach the topic here as germane, but in retrospect regret it and not resisting the urge to respond, as when women in the community tell me I've given them the impression I resent them telling men who are abusing their privilege not to do it, I've obviously picked the wrong moment. So apologies again to anyone who I've offended with this lengthy derail.
posted by Abiezer at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2009


Well, you clarified and I don't think anybody seems to be holding it against you. These things are tricky to talk about. Man do I know that from experience.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:59 PM on December 8, 2009


It's an interesting conversation and I agree comes down to political philosophy, and also that timing is everything. This conversation was rather miserable at points but it seems to have come out at a fairly respectful resting point.
posted by Miko at 1:05 PM on December 8, 2009


Hey guys, I've been away for a bit. What did I miss?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:11 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, you know, the usual hoppitamoppita. Just last night I was actually thinking I hadn't seen you recently. Hope it was a break for good reasons and not bad ones.
posted by rtha at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2009


Nothing, the seasonal cupcakes are still perfectly fine. They say "best by 09/15"
posted by kathrineg at 1:26 PM on December 8, 2009


Those cupcakes will look the same by 09/15/2011. They're not meant to be consumed, only hucked.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:30 PM on December 8, 2009


also someone made christmas cthulhu cookies...
posted by ServSci at 1:33 PM on December 8, 2009


I'm pretty sure they mean September 2015. If it was September 2009, they would be at the Bread Outlet. Or rather, they would have been purchased from the Bread Outlet by now, probably by someone great in both frugality and intestinal fortitude.
posted by kathrineg at 1:34 PM on December 8, 2009


Speaking of hucking, if you're ever in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and you want some really sweet parade throws, don't run up to the parade and beg like a fool. Stand at a far distance, wave your arms, and shout COME ON HUCK IT. People will take this as a challenge and will try to bean you with whatever they have. I got some real treasures this way, although I also almost got my nose broken by somebody from the Krewe of Rex who must have been a professional pitcher in real life.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:35 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey guys, I've been away for a bit. What did I miss?

Points were ignored, questions went unanswered, klang made a rape joke and apologized, the absurd co-discussion of cookies trickled along in the background without much sign of malignant thread takeover (yet).

Someone expressed honest confusion about why someone might get upset and defensive when their viewpoints are challenged/dismissed not on their own terms but by introduction (as evidence) of their skin color and sex, even if it's appropriate.

Abiezer tried at length, but politely, to co-opt and radicalize MetaFilter's liberals, but it does not look like anyone will be hopping onto a tank to impose some brutal-yet-probably-overall-good-and-hey-at-least-speedy top-down change on some benighted corner of the world. (Thought about bringing up my sister's adoption of a 'orphan' girl from China, in a "where's your revolution vs. individual action now, fucker?" comment, but too anecdotal and weak.)
posted by fleacircus at 2:09 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, wouldn't be top-down, you could bump your head doing that.
Thing with China is, having spent a long time working here, including projects addressing gendered poverty in remote rural communities of the kind that the girls offered for adoption often come from, you realise that whatever it was, it was sixty years in the lives of getting on for a fifth of all the world's people and there was a bit more to it than the simple facts of the tyranny.
posted by Abiezer at 2:24 PM on December 8, 2009


the individual choice to view class as the overarching issue does reflect an selection from among the many oppressions

I don't think this is necessarily true, though it is possibly revealing that the issue is presented as if this is the case.

I think I share many of Abiezer's concerns as well as a view of class as an overarching issue but it is not that I think that class is more important but that it is part of the lenses through which I view other issues: that these issues have to do with with social relationships between classes of people (however those relationships and classes are determined) and my understanding of the mechanism of Class informs this.

(Incidentally I think this can promote a kind of instinctive solidarity so that much of my individual thinking this has come not from a position of considering of differences/privilege but from thinking what, say, my own experience of social exclusion based on class can teach me about social exclusion based on gender )

Part of the problem I have with the language of privilege is the uneasy feeling that by locating things at the locus of the individual it reduces Class to a matter of social origins (which is not to say these don't matter) and elides its real nature. Rather capital C Class is a matter of economic and power based social relationships which can underlie and inform social origins but remain separate from them. This could be seen as making them distinct from the social relationships that form the basis of race, gender and disability (since these are somehow tied to a corresponding property of ethnic origin, sex or personal impairment) but I believe it's exaggerated — gender after all is not determined by sex but rather by how sexual difference is treated and the implications of this.

What this view of Class does mean is that Class interacts with race, gender and disability etc in such ways that these issues can not be treated as distinct from Class, even as there are components of them that are.* None of this means that individual experience, consciousness-raising etc are unimportant— they manifestly are— but that change predicated on the individual will always be inadequate and this is a direct attack on the liberal position (as in e.g. liberal feminism).

To take a concrete example the gender pay gap will not be solved just by ensuring (individual) women have equal access to the workplace (though this is of course massively important in its own right since the gender pay gap and the economic insecurity of women rests at a particular intersection of gender and class: in particular women's reliance on part-time work and their role as reproducers of the unpaid labour on which economic production rests (and even as poorly paid part time substitutes for this).


* This in not to claim that there was no sexism prior to capitalism, either. There obviously was. But its equally obvious that the particular form patriarchy took can not be separated form the distinct social and class based formations of those societies e.g. feudalism.

On preview: fuck that took a long time to write so sorry if it comes across as a rehash of arguments that have already been answered

I do think think it's worth emphasizing the point I eluded to in my foot note. It is not the case that in some set of societies power divisions based on gender manifested themselves as and through class while in others class manifests itself through gender (t oparady Miko's point somewhat) but rather that class and gender etc are expressions of the particular power and social relationships in any society, which always manifest themselves though individual situations, people, relationships etc. To try and separate them is to fall into the trap of reification, seeing then as things in themselves not social relationships.

Not that this says coming at the world through one lenses is superior to another (quite the oppositethe differences are largely individual/historic as Miko says).

Hey! I said Reification.
posted by tallus at 3:16 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure they mean September 2015

I was reading it as the 9th of Beertober.

(We get three extra months here because the seasons are different: after December comes Barbecuember, Cricketch & Beertober)
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:24 PM on December 8, 2009


Okay, so I think I might get what's going on here-- am I right? Abiezer, it sounds to me like while you generally don't have a problem with specific instances of individuals talking about privilege without talking about class/social structures/collective action/etc, you feel like class is so important to understanding privilege that it ought to at least come up on a regular basis in discussions of privilege, but in general you feel like discussions of privilege do not include that context often enough. And so you were feeling frustrated about/criticizing the fact that no one here had brought it up, or even gave a solid indication in their phrasing that they recognized it-- because while any individual comment about privilege is not necessarily counter-productive or evidence that the person views privilege superficially, you feel like having extended, in-depth conversations about privilege that do not touch on class are essentially superficial and counter-productive discussions? (Am I anywhere close?)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 3:43 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just kind of assumed that the popular language regarding social constructs like gender, race and class would counter any understanding of the discussion of privilege associated with the application of those constructs as constituting "reification of the individual". If anything the critique of constructionist language lies in its tendency to frame things as over-determined by social dynamics.
posted by ServSci at 3:50 PM on December 8, 2009


Was going to respond to tallus but just seen your comment EmilyClimbs. I'd say we're a bit closer but maybe not all the way there; I think tallus articulated it quite well - it's because I see class as the mechanism by which all oppressions are produced, which is why I thought it relevant. That is, it's a technical term describing the processes and social relationships by which historically societies have divided people into groups and given privilege to some over others, also looking at how and why that came about.
Why I said I thought other commenters were using a liberal distortion of class, is that - and I'm inferring from you comment this might be your position too - it seems to be viewed as an identity based on social origins, and people seem to think I'm worried that not enough consideration is being given to this group's oppression. That's not it. Class in that sense is a product of class in my sense, but I don't want to privilege that oppression over others (and I'm certainly in no position to tell people which is the worst oppression they experience in their lives). I want a politics that attacks what I see as this particular historical process that is the root of all oppression.
So why I piped up inopportunely was because I fear that inadvertently people of good will are contributing to a diversion from something I think matters most and is the only way to stop oppression (that whole point about the individual in late capitalism). As you've seen, reasonable people disagree with me. Though how anyone could ever disagree with me, I obviously have no idea.

To tallus - isn't reification what all the kids are saying these days? Thanks for your comment.
posted by Abiezer at 3:59 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am now completely fascinated by this conversation.
posted by empath at 4:04 PM on December 8, 2009


Me too, empath. I don't know that I have anything to say that isn't being said much more coherently by other folks here, but yeah, fascinated.
posted by rtha at 4:08 PM on December 8, 2009


Also, I'm personally not offended by your participation, Abiezer, and while there's a fine line between bringing up an important un-discussed dimension of the issue at hand and derailing a conversation, I personally think it was fine for you to raise this issue here given the fact that it's ultimately become clear that you are in fact interested in good faith discussion. (And I really appreciate your concern and willingness to reflect on the way your participation affects others.)

I do think you gave off a lot of signals that contributed to some bad feelings by making people (or at least me!) skeptical for a long time about your good intentions, your recognition of the particular injustices faced by many women, people of color, etc, and your respect for people's right to talk about those injustices-- like coming in fighty attacking "the self-defeating logic of liberal identity politics... this sub-Jesuit set of spiritual exercises" and continuing with repeated phrasing like "pseudo-religious," "rolling therapy programme," etc that seemed to distort and belittle the views of other participants in the conversation (rather than just starting to talk about what you believed was missing from the discussion, or at least criticizing others in a more neutral and respectful tone); making some serious assumptions about people's intentions and beliefs on very little evidence, such as repeatedly suggesting that commenters talking about privilege were focused only on individuals, liberal, reformist, not interested in or engaged in social movements, etc; and claiming that the use of the word privilege in this thread was intended to convey fault, blame, moral hectoring, etc despite the insistence of the speakers that they did not in fact intend that. (Plus, the context that Sidhedevil noted, which I and others have also found to be true, that "Focusing on {x} oppression only distracts you from the real oppression, which is class oppression" is an argumentative tactic that I have only ever heard [up until now] from white, heterosexual, currently able-bodied, cis gender men who grew up in a middle-class background, which isn't your fault but does eat into how much benefit of the doubt you're likely to get.) Not to pick on you-- arguing well on the internet is hard and no one's perfect-- but since you seem genuinely concerned, those are a few thoughts that may or may not be helpful for future discussions. (And there are two sides to the coin, and I will cop to making some assumptions about your beliefs and intentions based on experiences with other people, which isn't fair or helpful to good conversation.)

I have to say that I don't fully understand your latest comment (I have a feeling a lot of people here have spent a lot more years in academia studying this stuff than me, but I could be wrong!)-- with what both you and tallus say, I keep getting stuck on thinking "yes, yes, I agree with almost everything you say, except I still don't understand why you assume that people talking about privilege are focusing only on individuals and interpreting privilege as inherent to gender/race/etc rather than stemming from underlying causes-- hence distracting from attacking social mechanisms and historical processes that drive oppression-- since to me talking about privilege seems to be at worst more-or-less neutral and at best strongly supportive of collective action for radical change." So if you're up for rephrasing, that'd be wonderful, but if not, that's fine too!
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:17 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why I said I thought other commenters were using a liberal distortion of class, is that - and I'm inferring from you comment this might be your position too - it seems to be viewed as an identity based on social origins, and people seem to think I'm worried that not enough consideration is being given to this group's oppression. That's not it. Class in that sense is a product of class in my sense, but I don't want to privilege that oppression over others (and I'm certainly in no position to tell people which is the worst oppression they experience in their lives).

This seems super-important, as well as a point I think people are missing if they're trying to fit this fascinating conversation into a canned narrative of a privileged person hijacking a discussion about gender and turning it into one about class.
posted by palliser at 5:18 PM on December 8, 2009


We're all Marxists, we're all Marxists now.
posted by klangklangston at 5:38 PM on December 8, 2009


You've got me on the fighty start, EmilyClimbs. Given the context here, it was way off (not MeFi in general, this being a thread actually about a misogynist murderer). I'll stand by those things absent that terrible faux pas though (and I still think 'shit politics and a bit Jesus' is a good line).
For your point on thinking commenters were insisting on talking about individuals, reformism and the rest: it's not imputing motives to people, it's talking about the political consequences of such a discourse (hence I say just above that people of good will may contribute to diversion). That's what I'm interested in; I said myself we need to get away on focusing on individual motivations, so it sort of follows that I wouldn't be interested in the kind of exercise you describe.
Second thing on that which might sound a bit smart-alec but I hope won't - since you can see how a challenging discourse using unfamiliar language and its own set of references made you feel attacked and assigned motivation unfairly, doesn't that support my tangential tactical point about how to address people on these issues?
I didn't spend any time in academia until my mid-twenties, and that was deliberately a language degree with no theory because I'm rubbish at it. You could teach yourself to make as little sense as I do too in no time!
posted by Abiezer at 5:47 PM on December 8, 2009


doesn't that support my tangential tactical point about how to address people on these issues?

Yeah, I kind of think the point that I was trying to make originally is that if you intend to engage white males (or anybody, really) who might not be feminists in conversation on a general interest site like Metafilter and you DON'T want the conversation to be about whether or not white males have privilege and how that effects the value of their input or contribution to the conversation, then it's probably best to not bring it up, because someone will almost always take issue with it, whether they're reading it incorrectly or not, it will end up derailing the conversation.

But if you want the conversation to be all about privilege for the 1000th time, or if you just want to limit conversation to people who already agree with you, then that's fine, too. I don't think anyone is suggesting that there is something wrong with pointing out privilege -- only that it's likely to drive a wedge between you and the person you're trying to have a discussion with.

If you notice, this conversation is now reduced to feminists arguing amongst themselves about tactics -- interesting to me, but I doubt anybody outside of that circle is being persuaded about anything at this point.
posted by empath at 6:02 PM on December 8, 2009


I see class as the mechanism by which all oppressions are produced, which is why I thought it relevant. That is, it's a technical term describing the processes and social relationships by which historically societies have divided people into groups and given privilege to some over others, also looking at how and why that came about.

That's what I was trying to probe in my question about whether you meant socioeconomic class, or categorical class. And it wasn't until that recent comment that you clarified that for me.

Still we have human brains that class and group as a basic practice of cognition. IT seems as though, if you're arguing that the tendency of humans to class individuals based on outward similarities is at the root of the problem (sure, ok - if we were unable to perceive differences, we couldn't build social power structures around them), that does not propose any solution. Or does it?
posted by Miko at 7:00 PM on December 8, 2009


That's what I was trying to probe in my question about whether you meant socioeconomic class, or categorical class. And it wasn't until that recent comment that you clarified that for me.
Still not made it clear and my fault as I was being coy about 'the processes and social relationships by which historically societies have divided people into groups and given privilege to some over others, also looking at how and why that came about.' To put it reductively for the sake of brevity, it's about deciding who gets to control the surplus produced by the group that's disempowered and exploited, rather than being a cognitive or behavioural model or similar - a set of social processes about power and resources/wealth.
posted by Abiezer at 7:12 PM on December 8, 2009


a set of social processes about power and resources/wealth.

OK. I think you can give people maybe a little more credit for understanding that if it were offered in a less abstruse way than it was presented at first. I think the MeFi audience gets the difference between "class" as a description of social or family status/resources and "class" as a system produced by the actions of capital. I see the point, though.
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on December 8, 2009


Saw this elsewhere. Seemed relevant.
posted by prefpara at 7:23 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's an interesting conceptual derail that something as important and as universally (nearly) agreed upon as freedom and equality for everyone would get bogged down in tactics-talk. Seriously- prison rape versus non-prison rape, who has it worse? That ain't right.

Anyway, it seems to me from this discussion and the other recent ones, that the concept of privilege is a meta-concept. Nobody asked for it, no one individual every really "gives" or "takes" privilege, it just sort of turns out to look that way. Like the person above who said something like "you know, when you think about it, maybe a lot of stuff in some person's life could have been the result of some kind of privilege." So this meta-analysis of society shows interesting things like the 73 cents on the dollar statistic. Total out how much money all men make, and total up how much all women make, divide it by population and you get .73.

And that's the problem: it is (presumably) correct for what it says, but nothing more. There are a million different reasons why each individual person might have made the employment choices they did. Circumstances make better options unavailable, responsibilities made getting a higher paying job at all costs necessary, social/class issues, pure freedom of choice, luck, whatever.

In trying to explain why the raw numbers appear they way they appear, one possible explanation is that society is unintentionally biased against women, or gives privilege to men. In many cases, that may be the explanation for some individuals. But taking that theory and turning it into It's Just The Way Things Are does a huge disservice to all the people out there who ARE just trying to live their lives and make choices that work out for them. The privilege construct takes the hard work of huge swaths of people, men and women alike, and reduces it to some kind of predestined effect of Society.

Is the Mom who works nights so she can care for the kids while Dad works during the day a trod upon cog in the patriarchy, or just someone who is busting her ass as an equal partner with the Dad to try an make good for the family? If you do the meta analysis, she makes less money and has to work nights, while Dad makes more money and gets to hang around with adults all day. But those individuals don't care about how the lives they lead look to the outside world. They are two people who (for the sake of argument) have equally sacrificed their time for the sake of the only larger thing they care about, which is their family. They sat down and took the pros and cons of all the options available and made the decisions and sacrifices that worked out best for them. Maybe dad is a jerk who likes to come home and drink nights. And maybe mom has to work to pay the beer bill. Or, maybe mom had a great job and made tons of money and dad was perfectly willing to trade places and work the part time job, but that his job had better benefits that made it work out better.

We don't know. And we can't know. And while I don't doubt many of the people who adhere to the privilege theory are nothing but well meaning, when they use that concept and that language (meme?) to describe how the world appears to them, they inadvertently dismiss the rationality of the people making the choices. And that's not nice.

And it is just as damaging to have a rationalization for the behavior of others. I'm sure it doesn't mean to, but applying that meta-concept of privilege in smaller or individual situations serves to reinforce the status quo. Going into a situation with the belief that one has less societal power makes us act differently. If we are interviewing for a job, for example. We just *know* that interviewer is an anti-semite, so we have a subtle chip on our shoulder. The interviewer either IS an anti-semite and this just reinforces it for him, or he isn't, but we don't get the job because we were acting weird. Shedding ourselves of that prejudging or filter allows us to at least experience the moments as they really are, and not through the lens of our preconceptions.

A nutjob going out and killing a bunch of women because he doesn't like women is terrible, but it isn't any more terrible than a nutjob killing a bunch of people because they are wearing straw hats after labor day. We can't define society based on the actions of lunatics. Was Lincoln a tyrant just because Booth said he was? Society IS broken when nuts like that go around hurting people. But it's not broken for *their* reasons- it's broken because we failed to help them or lock them up, or at least convince them that they can hate anyone they want, but they can't act illegally because of it.

So all we can do is fight the battles we see. Stand up for ourselves when we feel like we don't get a fair shake, defend others who seem to need our help, don't hurt people, punish people who do others harm, try and understand and rehabilitate them, forgive them but don't excuse them, judge people on their merits, let every man and women stand up and make their case, and expose people who abuse their power. And try not to be jerks in the process. If more of us did more of that, we will all be a lot better off.
posted by gjc at 7:25 PM on December 8, 2009


OK. I think you can give people maybe a little more credit for understanding that if it were offered in a less abstruse way than it was presented at first.
Honestly, it was clear enough for its purposes in the initial comment. If we want to get beyond that it's a whole other big argument again, which I was happy to set aside. Never averse to having that argument, but took it that we were winding down here.
posted by Abiezer at 7:39 PM on December 8, 2009


They sat down and took the pros and cons of all the options available and made the decisions and sacrifices that worked out best for them.

But in a world of truly equal opportunity, we would find that all the complexity and individual variation of choice and circumstance averaged out to a few percentage points plus or minus, not such a significant difference. We wouldn't find that the division of gender gave us .73 on the dollar, women to men. You're right that individual choices are what they are, but everyone's trying to do their level best, why is it that there is an imbalance in the result of everyone working to their maximum capacity? If everyone's really working to the best of their ability and making the best choices out of all choices available, why does the average not come out the same?
posted by Miko at 8:32 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


HEY! Who let all the GRAD STUDENTS IN HERE AMIRITE?

I'll see myself out.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:50 PM on December 8, 2009


In trying to explain why the raw numbers appear they way they appear, one possible explanation is that society is unintentionally biased against women, or gives privilege to men.

Okay. What's another explanation?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:54 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Women have a different role in childbearing naturally and instinctively that leads to different choices about job roles; women are not as physically able to do some of the higher-paying blue collar jobs.

Are those explanations necessarily right? No, but they do exist as plausible contributions to a larger theory.
posted by kathrineg at 9:20 PM on December 8, 2009


I should be following the conversation more closely before jumping in, but..

in a world of truly equal opportunity, we would find that all the complexity and individual variation of choice and circumstance averaged out to a few percentage points plus or minus, not such a significant difference. We wouldn't find that the division of gender gave us .73 on the dollar, women to men.

From Disciplined Minds:
None of this is to imply that new professionals are left without goals. Ironically, however, the primary goal for many becomes, in essence, getting compensated sufficiently for sidelining their original goals. Robert H. Frank, a Cornell University economics professor, tried to find out exactly how much compensation people deem sufficient for making this sacrifice. He surveyed graduating seniors at his university and found, for example, that the typical student would rather work as an advertising copywriter for the American Cancer Society than as an advertising copywriter for Camel cigarettes, and would want a salary 50% higher to do it for the cigarette company. The typical student would want conscience money amounting to a 17% salary boost to work as an accountant for a large petrochemical company instead of doing the same job for a large art museum. Indeed, employers that are seen as less socially responsible do have to pay a "moral reservation premium" to get the workers they want. Frank found that men are more likely than women to sell out, and this accounts for at least part of the gap in average salaries between equal men and women.[1]

1. Robert H. Frank, "Can Socially Responsible Firms Survive in a Competitive Environment?" in David M. Messick, Ann E. Tenbrunsel, editors, Codes of Conduct: Behavioral Research into Business Ethics, Russell Sage Foundation, New York (1996), ch. 4 (pp. 86-103). Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 February 1997, p. A37.
posted by Chuckles at 9:52 PM on December 8, 2009


Mefi: HEY! Who let all the GRAD STUDENTS IN HERE
posted by philip-random at 10:03 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


And while I don't doubt many of the people who adhere to the privilege theory are nothing but well meaning, when they use that concept and that language (meme?) to describe how the world appears to them, they inadvertently dismiss the rationality of the people making the choices. And that's not nice.

How would you define "the privilege theory"? Because I don't see any relationship between "adhering" to the concept of male privilege and the idea that a woman who works nights is automatically a tool of the patriarchy.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:25 PM on December 8, 2009


The ones most responsible for perpetuating it are most likely fully aware of it, and just don't care to do anything about it.

We are all responsible for perpetuating it, if we allow it. If you become aware, you can become responsible for changing it. It is possible to persuade others. You can only control yourself.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:31 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


What's another explanation?

Seriously? You can't see any other factors that might influence average pay rates? OK, here are a few.

1) Not all roles in society are monetized. Parenting and poetry are two examples right off the top.

2) Men tend to be greater risk takers, for good and bad. You don't lose money for starting a war (or destroying a major investment bank, apparently.) But you do get huge financial rewards when risky gambles pay off (and your investment bank profits.) It doesn't take too many wall street executives to swamp 1,000 office workers' salaries when you're looking at averages.

3) Marriage. Couples are an economic unit. If a husband earns $90,000 and and his wife earns $40,000, does he get 225% of what she does? No, they share $130,000 equally. In reality, they each make $65,000.
In fact, you could just as easily argue that the fact that married women make the same amount of money as their husbands, while working fewer hours each week, is a strong sign of female privilege. (Of course then you'd argue over who does more housework hours, etc.)
posted by msalt at 11:49 PM on December 8, 2009


gjc, thank you for taking the time to lay out your views dispassionately.

Shedding ourselves of that prejudging or filter allows us to at least experience the moments as they really are, and not through the lens of our preconceptions.

No argument there. For exactly that reason, after a person's collective statements or set of behaviours make it probable that this person has blind spots regarding a topic on which they are also aggressively throwing their weight around, pointing out the likely existence of blind spots is crucial. Because blind spots so frequently result in unconscious preconceptions, and prejudging.

I think there's an unjustifiably large leap in statements like

when they use that ["privilege"]concept and that language (meme?) to describe how the world appears to them
and damaging to have a [preconceived, I think you're saying] rationalization for the behavior of others.

and also the assumption that prejudgment is a prerequisite to calling someone's actions or beliefs "privileged." I don't doubt that people exist who do that, but I think it's a mistake to automatically equate privilege callouts with prejudging.

Because discussions of "privilege" that I've taken part in, here and elsewhere, have usually been triggered by something concrete: eg, somebody's series of comments that were determinedly pedagogic, yet revealed little or no understanding of the topic, and a pathological resistance to the idea that others (who are in a position to know more about it) might know more about it. Such series of comments out themselves. No prejudging involved.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:17 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


From Disciplined Minds

I have a hard time seeing how the social phenomenon (if it is indeed a phenomenon - this is one study) that men are more likely to "sell out" to socially abhorrent employers than women would significantly account for the wage gap. It's interesting, don't get me wrong, but there are some unknown variables in play there. What percentage of the work force is comprised of socially abhorrent jobs? Would this have a great enough impact to cause an imbalance in wages between the genders? Assuming that at least some percentage of women are willing to accept a socially abhorrent job (on par with being the spokesperson for a defense contractor, for example) for a higher salary, do these employers pay their male and female staff differently?

I'd seen this study brought up before, and it's interesting to think about the social implications, but I don't see how it would affect overall wage differences.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:19 AM on December 9, 2009


There are a lot of reasons for the wage gap, but I repeat, in a world of truly equal opportunity, gender differences in the approach to work wouldn't matter. Childbearing wouldn't matter (all parties would get equal family leave and health support); conscience or risk-taking behavior wouldn't matter (men and women would be socialized more similarly into the world of work and would not exhibit significant differences on these points); parenting wouldn't matter (child care would be available and affordable to all, and responsibility for securing it would be the task of both parents in two-parent homes). Yes, there are presently visible gender differences in the world of work opportunity and choices. However, the differences are attributable to a gender-based system that results in reduced or more limited opportunities for women in the world of work, lower pay for women's work, and unpaid labor in the form of family and household care borne disproportionately by women. You can point to a lot of differences responsible for the wage gap, but ultimately those are differences created by the way our society assigns responsbilities and personal qualities to gender.

3) Marriage. Couples are an economic unit. If a husband earns $90,000 and and his wife earns $40,000, does he get 225% of what she does? No, they share $130,000 equally. In reality, they each make $65,000.


It's impossible to tell whether they share equally; there are a lot of ways of handling an income that might not result in equivalent personal bank accounts and resources for men and women, and endless complexities visible at the time of divorce, especially in non-community property states.

IN any case, I do think that theorizing about the wage gap using working two-parent families with children under 18 as the model is a bit of a red herring. There are important issues that family economics raise, for sure, but I think that less than 25% of American households fit this description any more, IIRC. The wage gap exists outside of family decisions related to household and child care; it exists for single people at all ages and to some extent all educational levels and for working people whose children are out of the house as well.

women are not as physically able to do some of the higher-paying blue collar jobs.

This is another red herring; a lot of men aren't able to do those jobs either, and a lot more women are able to do these jobs than do do these jobs, for socialization reasons.
posted by Miko at 6:49 AM on December 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Miko: "Childbearing wouldn't matter (all parties would get equal family leave and health support); conscience or risk-taking behavior wouldn't matter (men and women would be socialized more similarly into the world of work and would not exhibit significant differences on these points); parenting wouldn't matter (child care would be available and affordable to all, and responsibility for securing it would be the task of both parents in two-parent homes). "

Women often choose to become pregnant and give birth, and it takes a significant amount of physical difficulty and risk. Child care for all is great, but men don't breastfeed babies. So, logically, women who want to stay home with their children for a year+ to more easily breastfeed will be taking the paid parental leave, not their male partners. You can have paid leave for a year+, but she will still be out of labor market, losing personal connections and falling a year behind her non-childrearing peers in experience.

Again, is this the only thing that contributes to the wage gap? Doubtful, but it is illogical to completely dismiss it as having no possible contribution.
posted by kathrineg at 7:08 AM on December 9, 2009


Also, please note that I am responding to this:
trying to explain why the raw numbers appear they way they appear, one possible explanation is that society is unintentionally biased against women, or gives privilege to men.

Okay. What's another explanation?
There are many possible explanations and I don't think it does anyone any good to dismiss them all as obviously irrelevant in comparison to institutionalized sexism, if the point is truly to discuss the wage gap. Of course if the point is to prove that society is biased against women, well, it's a very complex example to use for that purpose; there are many obvious arguments to be made for that.
posted by kathrineg at 7:15 AM on December 9, 2009


Again, is this the only thing that contributes to the wage gap? Doubtful, but it is illogical to completely dismiss it as having no possible contribution.
But it only takes on any significance given a whole set of other social institutions that are being taken as given - work for wages as opposed to a society that rewards all based on need, the disconnect been the world of work and home life that would mean it's isolating not to be at the workplace and so on. Now obviously you can say it's utopian to imagine those things might change, but when coming to look at the reasons why inequality persists prevailing social arrangements are far more obvious causes than biology. Then you might say the biology determined the social arrangements, and again I think that gets back to looking at why society would arrange itself to exploit particular differences between people.
posted by Abiezer at 7:21 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


2) Men tend to be greater risk takers, for good and bad. You don't lose money for starting a war (or destroying a major investment bank, apparently.) But you do get huge financial rewards when risky gambles pay off (and your investment bank profits.) It doesn't take too many wall street executives to swamp 1,000 office workers' salaries when you're looking at averages.

3) Marriage. Couples are an economic unit. If a husband earns $90,000 and and his wife earns $40,000, does he get 225% of what she does? No, they share $130,000 equally. In reality, they each make $65,000.
In fact, you could just as easily argue that the fact that married women make the same amount of money as their husbands, while working fewer hours each week, is a strong sign of female privilege.


Men can be bigger risk-takers because their wives are home taking care of the kids while they work those long risk-taking hours. This is pretty much the central support for the glass ceiling.

The money-sharing example is hopelessly skewed by this upper-middle-class framing. Well, it's inaccurate -- husband at 90k is getting better retirement savings than wife making 40k. But the stakes can be illuminated better if you take it down to a less-financially-comfortable example. Husband makes 35k and wife makes 8/hr part-time while the kids are in school. Job security, health insurance, opportunities for advancement all slip away at the lower end of the earning spectrum.

And then there's the power dynamic that comes with being the higher wage earner, which is whole 'nother can of worms, but suffice it to say that the "what's mine is yours and vice-versa and income is ours to share" theory on finances within a marital unit is not necessarily a typical attitude.

Also, the whole example (including my comments) is based on a two-income married straight couple, which is the other reason it's simplistic to the point of moot.
posted by desuetude at 8:30 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, logically, women who want to stay home with their children for a year+ to more easily breastfeed will be taking the paid parental leave, not their male partners.

Why assume that if there were no financial penalty, men also wouldn't take paid parental leave for a year to be home with their families after the birth of a new child? Or that both would take partial leave? New children are exhausting and it's much better for all concerned if parents can spell one another to provide rest and respite. Not everyone breastfeeds. Again, in a world of truly equal opportunity, the choice to take leave, and decisions about breastfeeding, the option to return to work, and the like, would be open to all and the full family would be supported.
posted by Miko at 9:26 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


A nutjob going out and killing a bunch of women because he doesn't like women is terrible, but it isn't any more terrible than a nutjob killing a bunch of people because they are wearing straw hats after labor day.

Well, looking beyond the individual tragedies of each death, it is more terrible: We know the former has happened repeatedly, but not the latter. We know the former is likely to happen again, because there are aspects of our current society that foster that kind of anti-woman sentiment, but it's doubtful that a straw-hat massacre, if one ever happened, would be repeated. Ultimately, that's the point: that these killings aren't just one lunatic doing something crazy. Instead, they're something like a reductio ad absurdum of some very real and very nasty beliefs in our society, and gender-based violence is likely to continue until we reach the point where society is as likely to encourage and support misogyny as it is to do so for pathological and violent hatred of people with bad taste in out-of-season hatware.
posted by ubersturm at 10:08 AM on December 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


Sorry to disappear... and now to reappear in a dying thread (but I can't help myself!)

For your point on thinking commenters were insisting on talking about individuals, reformism and the rest: it's not imputing motives to people, it's talking about the political consequences of such a discourse (hence I say just above that people of good will may contribute to diversion). That's what I'm interested in; I said myself we need to get away on focusing on individual motivations, so it sort of follows that I wouldn't be interested in the kind of exercise you describe.

But aren't the consequences at least partially shaped by listeners' perception of the motivations of the people using the discourse? (Either the current speakers, or at least "many/most people who talk like this"?) Words don't just float around in a vacuum; they are interpreted in different ways based on context, right?

Do you feel like there's actually something inherent in the language of privilege (as used in this thread) that creates your perception that it "tells people they're bad actors because of their particular place in a nexus of social relations" or "locates fault in the individual" or is "primarily an issue of what individuals do" or is "identifying each individual's problems" or is "a critique of other individuals"? I'm genuinely curious, because I use similar language and do not intend to convey those messages, and was mostly assuming that people drawing similar conclusions were largely basing it on their (usually incorrect, I believe) assumptions/beliefs about the motivations of the people using it. But if you feel like your interpretation comes entirely from the language/discourse itself, and you're willing to humor me a bit more at some point, I would love to understand why, since I'm still open to stopping talking about privilege this way if I become convinced there are more drawbacks than benefits.

(Also, on re-reading you do indeed seem to mostly be describing "the discourse" rather than the individual people speaking who created the conversation most of the time, so fair enough, and I'm sorry for not reading closely enough. Although I think it's pretty easy to miss that distinction-- and you did individualize things a few times which I think made the rest of it feel more individualized, i.e. "The fantasy's yours, I say, that by some rolling therapy programme one day will come when an agglomeration of disparate individuals will wake up and start the new world"; the ambiguous "The liberal focus on individuals does not address the institutions that set those limits" where it's not clear whether you're saying "the focus by liberals" or "the focus of the liberal discourse," etc.)

Second thing on that which might sound a bit smart-alec but I hope won't - since you can see how a challenging discourse using unfamiliar language and its own set of references made you feel attacked and assigned motivation unfairly, doesn't that support my tangential tactical point about how to address people on these issues?

No, that's totally valid to bring up. And kind of gets to one of the questions I've been circling around-- how much of the negative reaction to talking about privilege has to do with the language used, and how much has to do with the concepts themselves? If every time we said it, we spelled it out saying, "in our society today, having X characteristic typically results in having a number of advantages over people who aren't X, including some you may not be aware of-- here are some examples, but there are many more-- we're not saying it's your fault things are this way, we just wanted to bring it to your attention/remind you, and we hope you'll keep it in mind"-- how much difference would that make? Or are people's reactions primarily due to the content, and language change would have little impact?

Anyway, sorry to drag this out. I guess a big part of why I've been so stuck on this is that I think we're mostly coming from the same place regarding the need for radical change in society and the need for collective action targeting systems and institutions. And since I do believe that liberal, reformist thinking and strategy is seriously problematic at best, and more often than not totally counter-productive to the ultimate goals of a better society, I really don't want to contribute to a liberal "distraction from the underlying power relationships." But I still don't believe that talking about privilege does that. It still seems neutral to me at worst, and with great potential to be valuable to building social movements-- even when not raised in the context of those movements-- by illuminating injustice, improving communication/relationships across differences, and prompting thoughtful people to ask further questions like "why are things in our society like this? how can I change it?" who may, in their search for answers, find their way towards collective action for systemic change.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 4:29 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


A nutjob going out and killing a bunch of women because he doesn't like women is terrible, but it isn't any more terrible than a nutjob killing a bunch of people because they are wearing straw hats after labor day.
posted by gjc at 7:25 PM on December 8


How often has the first one happened? How often has the second one happened? Do you know? Do you have the tools required to find out, or do you need your hand held again? Do you understand why the first one happens with some regularity, and the second one does not? Have you tried to understand this at all?

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, it might be good for you to make an effort? Surely no one is actually this intellectually lazy, right?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:37 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Definitely inherent in the overall discourse rather than any particular language, EmilyClimbs. That does posit a reified identity that bears this knapsack of privilege. There's talk about systems but of a system of privilege not of class (in the sense I set out above) and again that's to turn the aim from the true target for me. That big quote I posted above has a passage on it at the end by someone who's better with theory than me, and most importantly their overall argument puts it into the wider historical context which is the absolutely essential thing.
We're in a crisis of capitalism and facing various epochal threats like global warming and we have no organised left of any substance in the industrial economies. If you're willing to wade through a (well-written and insightful in my view) explicitly left account of this from a good 15-plus years back, this piece by Loren Goldner on multiculturalism addresses similar ground, not the particular discourse of privilege but its close intellectual forebears.
On your second set of points, will think on a bit more and respond if you like, but as I said that's mostly tactical to me. I do think it's a vital critique within social movements or communities such as here where people are engaged together already. Mostly it's this historical shift in the discourse I outline above that bothers me.
posted by Abiezer at 6:39 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Will respond at more length tomorrow (darn thread, I don't know how to quit you!), but just wanted to quickly note that I was asking (or trying to ask) about whether/how you think the discourse conveys the blame/fault/judgment angle you perceive in it-- not just about whether/how it conveys an excessive focus on individuals/constitutes reification of the individual/etc. You seem to very clearly see the discourse of privilege as having something to do with moral judgment of individuals and their actions-- and since I don't at all (and only see it as descriptive/awareness-raising), I'm wondering where you're getting that if you say it doesn't come from any assumptions about the motivations of the individuals who talk about privilege.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 10:33 PM on December 9, 2009


I was asking (or trying to ask) about whether/how you think the discourse conveys the blame/fault/judgment angle you perceive in it-- not just about whether/how it conveys an excessive focus on individuals/constitutes reification of the individual/etc.
It's a question of how discourse or ideology functions. I think you've set that focus on the individual aside too quickly - it's enormously political and actually goes some way to answering your second question. What does a challenge to someone to consider themselves as an individual tend to do? What does asking them to raise their awareness of themselves in a nexus of privilege tend to do?
And obviously if you believe as I do that there's larger impersonal historical forces that are creating oppression, that people could play a part in changing that, and that to do that it's helpful to consider their universal position, what they have in common with other people and the need for solidarity, that would be the basis on which you speak to them.
You seem to very clearly see the discourse of privilege as having something to do with moral judgment of individuals and their actions-- and since I don't at all (and only see it as descriptive/awareness-raising), I'm wondering where you're getting that if you say it doesn't come from any assumptions about the motivations of the individuals who talk about privilege.
Thing I wrote that started this whole slow torture was 'someone said it's not a moral judgement but of course it does come across as a species of sublimated Judeo-Christian theology. This is because it reifies the individual and locates privilege in them like it were original sin, even if it's seen as fluid and varying somewhat in each given situation.'
This is to say it resembles the dominant discourse of morality - but the thrust of the point was that it resembles it in that reification and location. I do think it's hard for calls to self-examination to avoid some taint of moralism given that other dominant discourse in the culture, whatever the intention. But overall, this is far less important to me than the ideological effect I mention above (I actually quite like a bit of moralism myself, but how and in what circumstances is a whole other argument).
posted by Abiezer at 11:41 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I should add, the choice of words was also a bit of a fighty wind-up, as you pointed out earlier.
posted by Abiezer at 11:45 PM on December 9, 2009


Men can be bigger risk-takers because their wives are home taking care of the kids while they work those long risk-taking hours.

What? Are you seriously telling me that you don't think men are intrinsically any more risk-taking then women? I'm trying to be clear that I don't think it's advantage men -- we're talking about starting wars, blowing shit up, being on the cast of Jackass, etc. A lot of stupid stuff. But -- really? Tell me with a straight face and give examples. And please account for the behavior of 17-20 year old boys who don't have wives at home or kids, who are the most reckless.
posted by msalt at 1:14 AM on December 10, 2009


in a world of truly equal opportunity, gender differences in the approach to work wouldn't matter. Childbearing wouldn't matter (all parties would get equal family leave and health support); conscience or risk-taking behavior wouldn't matter (men and women would be socialized more similarly

This is only true if you assume a priori that there is no intrinsic difference between men and women, in which case it's a tautology. If women by nature are more careful, for example, for whatever reason (e.g. females are smaller, so common sense/survival = lay low), then socialization won't equalize things.

My ex and I did have equal opportunity, and I did stay home with the kids as much as she did when they were infants (being self-employed, I had that choice.) I work a flexible schedule to pick the kids up from school still; she doesn't. And to this day she earns (a bit) more than I do. I'm not complaining; this is my choice and I'm very happy with it. Sample size of 1, I realize, but by your theory I should still be making more money due to my male privilege. I'm living your "world of truly equal opportunity", and there is no discrimination against women.
posted by msalt at 1:27 AM on December 10, 2009


Actually, there's one more thing I forgot to do at the time under fire from all sides, but it's still rankling, and that's to call out that pompous clown Languagehat. Just in case anyone thought the thread was getting dull.
You picked up on a comment of mine that made references to positive aspects of the Chinese revolution with a cheap implication that I support gulags and murder.
Now, there's a few things here. It exposes your piss-poor political nous - do you seriously think the danger today in the West is that any mention of Chinese communism that's not total condemnation will somehow cause a upsurge in support for Leninist tyranny? Be serious. Further, China was captured by neo-liberalism decades ago. I work with people in social movements now that are opposing the actual regime that runs the actual prison camps today. By working alongside the Chinese people who actually lived through it, I have learned how, despite all its faults, they draw on certain positive aspects of that history. And then I get that cheap shit from you, you self-righteous blowhard.
So you can get back here and make a full apology, or have it out, or fuck off.
posted by Abiezer at 2:07 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


by your theory I should still be making more money due to my male privilege.

No, that's completely untrue; individual cases vary, and yet not enough to impact the entire economic system yet. The macro pattern that reveals that the ability for the two of you to make those choices is very rare. I'm glad you're so fortunate as to enjoy so much flexibility and to truly believe that you and your wife have experienced equal economic and gender-role opportunity in life. But that is still not the case for most people; your "sample size of one" does not reflect larger economic trends. "My theory" (it's actually not mine or even a theory , just reality) doesn't predict whether any individual "should" or "shouldn't" be making more or less money. It can happen that some people have experiences that aren't available to the majority, making them exceptions to the general pattern. That doesn't mean the pattern that is true for the majority is suddenly invalidated.
posted by Miko at 6:53 AM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


All right, I was staying out of this because the whole Marxism thing was a derail from an important subject, but since you're intent on being an asshole in public, I'll rise to the bait. You are a pathetic remnant of a long-discredited ideology; you are exactly the sort of person, with your blind privileging of the "collective" over the individual, who invented and ran the labor camps in every society that has been cursed with your bullshit creed, and I am deeply grateful that you will never have a chance to put your ideas into practice anywhere near where I and my family live. My grandchildren will have to put up with a lot, but not with asshole ideologues telling them what to believe and how to live their lives for some supposed "general good." I'll stack my knowledge of Chinese history and culture against yours any day, and your "there was a bit more to it than the simple facts of the tyranny" is exactly like saying "Hitler made the trains run on time." Oh, except it's not fair to compare leftists to Nazis, because Nazis were EVIL, whereas leftists, even when they kill tens of millions at a time, are only trying to get humanity to that bright future Uncle Joe was always talking about. Sure, you go right on telling yourself that.

Be serious.


I am serious, deadly serious. I know the stakes and I know how tyranny develops from apparently well-meaning ideologies. You are the one who is not serious, who has a childish attachment to a creed that proved its failure long ago. It was forgivable to hold your views a century ago, when no one knew what they could lead to; now, it's a dereliction of humanity. I'll borrow a zinger from that fine writer and lousy human being, Lev Trotsky: "you are miserable bankrupts, your role is played out; go where you ought to be—into the dustbin of history!"
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on December 10, 2009


[...] but by your theory I should still be making more money due to my male privilege.

Nope, missing the point. "Male privilege" doesn't guarantee that you will always be a winner. It doesn't guarantee that you will always make more money than your wife, even if you have the same sorts of positions at the same company, which you clearly don't. And it doesn't account for your educational background, or race, or your choice to stay home with the kids. All it says is that everything else being equal, being male rather than female provides bit of an advantage in some situations. It's an observation of a trend, not a guarantee. And the fact that your ex earns more than you do in a fairly different situation (a single datapoint, and not really a relevant one) is by no means a proof that we live in a "'world of truly equal opportunity,' and there is no discrimination against women."

What? Are you seriously telling me that you don't think men are intrinsically any more risk-taking then women? I'm trying to be clear that I don't think it's advantage men -- we're talking about starting wars, blowing shit up, being on the cast of Jackass, etc. A lot of stupid stuff. But -- really? Tell me with a straight face and give examples. And please account for the behavior of 17-20 year old boys who don't have wives at home or kids, who are the most reckless.

And it's not like young men and women at the ages of 17-20 have, by any chance, been exposed to any cultural influences, any societal standards that might affect their behavior, right?

Look, I think it's quite possible that teenage guys might be more apt to take risks just because of teenage hormone influx, and that we'll never see even participation of women in certain jobs requiring brute strength because most women are smaller and weaker. But. It is abundantly clear - if you look at other cultures today and throughout history - that a lot of what feels clearcut today, like higher male scores in science and math or the primarily female nature of the K-12 teacher population, is really a characteristic of our current society, and not a description of what it is like for all humans all the time. Both nature and nurture undoubtably play some role, but it's clear that there's still a whole lot of nurture in the mix, and we haven't figured out how much, or what it is. So to say "it's biology! Women have to give birth, so they'll always miss more work than men to stay home with the baby, and men are always going to be more violent!" is lazy, an example of narrow thinking. It's a way to give yourself an excuse to stop now, when the work of eliminating inequalities imposed by society remains unfinished. Because there's more that we can do, and there's no way we can even begin to figure out what to do about basic biological differences until we've gotten rid of all the cultural baggage that's complicating things.

And there's no reason to think small. katherineg suggests that because women have to give birth and breastfeed, they will always be the ones to stay home for a year or more with the baby, if possible. But why? What if companies provided space for new mothers (who don't necessarily want to do nothing but childcare for a year after giving birth!) to pump and store expressed breastmilk, so that they could work and fathers, grandparents, daycare, etc. could feed the kid? What if we thought it valuable for the father to spend time at home and bond with the kid? What if daycare were plentiful and destigmatized? What if we encouraged a slow reentry to work that would let both parents spend some time working part-time before fully coming back to their job, eliminating the either/or choice of baby vs job? What if both maternal and paternal leave were assumed - required, even - meaning that all parents, not just mothers, would spend time out of the labor market? Etc. Which was more or less Miko's point. Similar points can be made about female career opportunities, education, and so on. Someday we may reach a point where we can't make anything more equal because of biology, but today is not that day.
posted by ubersturm at 6:58 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


All right, I was staying out of this because the whole Marxism thing was a derail from an important subject, but since you're intent on being an asshole in public, I'll rise to the bait.
Cracking, glad to see you actually did come back. Let's go at it then, because so far you've only managed to further display your failed political readings.
Nice set of strawmen views, none of which I hold. And that's the point isn't it? You think having read some of Marx's theory makes me a Trot or a Bolshevik? You could have looked at my posting history where the tags say anarchist. Which you pretend to be, but it's just a moral pose with you, isn't it?
Because yes, your children will never suffer under these ideologies because they're dead, in the dustbin of history and have been for decades. And here's you, the bould hero, beating a corspe.
Meanwhile, in the world we actually live in, capitalism is killing people. In China, the rump Leninist state is fully integrated into the neo-liberal global order, and the Chinese people who are trying to do something about that unsurprisingly draw on their own history. And that's enough to set you off on a bit of cheap grandstanding, empty of any political content relevant to the actual dangers people face in the world today.
posted by Abiezer at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2009


LH says: "you are exactly the sort of person, with your blind privileging of the "collective" over the individual, who invented and ran the labor camps in every society that has been cursed with your bullshit creed, and I am deeply grateful that you will never have a chance to put your ideas into practice anywhere near where I and my family live. My grandchildren will have to put up with a lot, but not with asshole ideologues telling them what to believe and how to live their lives for some supposed "general good."... I am serious, deadly serious. I know the stakes and I know how tyranny develops from apparently well-meaning ideologies."

Just to clarify, is this about the Chinese Communists or the American Male Privilege people?

ubersturm says: "Someday we may reach a point where we can't make anything more equal because of biology, but today is not that day."

So with the correct education program for the masses, in the hands of the right thinkers, and re-education and struggle sessions (such as this thread) for those with reactionary views, we can all look with optimism towards a bright new future? It sounds excellent!
posted by Meatbomb at 7:31 AM on December 10, 2009


Oh, missed this gem of dishonest bait-and-switch:
I'll stack my knowledge of Chinese history and culture against yours any day, and your "there was a bit more to it than the simple facts of the tyranny" is exactly like saying "Hitler made the trains run on time."
Oh yes, it's exactly the same? Goodbye history, hello frothing moralism that has just set aisde the lived experience of a fifth of the world's population.
Go on then, let's see this towering stack of knowledge and give you a more detailed example of what I actually meant. Having worked, as I said, addressing gendered rural poverty, you discover that 30 years of state propaganda telling women they were the full equals of men does have an impact. That propaganda was made during the high days of the totalitarian tyranny but its legacy remains largely positive, even at the merest level of having opened that possibility in the minds of rural women in isolated patriarchial society. Should those women have heard that message from a better source? Undoubtedly. Does it mean nothing that they did hear it? No.
And so on. But come on, trot out a few more platitudes. That's the sum total of your politics any way.
posted by Abiezer at 7:34 AM on December 10, 2009


ok, so I backed out of this a long time ago, and have only been skimming.

do I understand correctly that Abiezer's whole point days ago was that he wants to foment anarchist revolution? from the internet? is that what I'm reading? I'm honestly asking.
posted by shmegegge at 7:56 AM on December 10, 2009


No shmegegge, though I have been trying to do it with the expected slim success in various social movements in the real world. Here, I got into an argument of ideas. Including this current ding-dong with LH, who I quite like actually, but want to have it out because he said nasty things about me and that's serious hamburger business.
posted by Abiezer at 8:02 AM on December 10, 2009


I was right!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 AM on December 10, 2009


Can some briefly explain or link to what this new "hamburger" meme is all about? Context alone isn't giving me any hints.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:11 AM on December 10, 2009


I was right!
Don't pigeon-hole me!

And LH, I'll tell you the other reason it rubbed me right up the wrong way, is that years ago you did the exact same thing to me on MonkeyFilter and we had it out and shook hands. Now, I don't expect you to remember or care (I didn't until your intervention above), but it's getting to be a bit of a pattern.
posted by Abiezer at 8:15 AM on December 10, 2009


Marisa,

See here, here and here.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2009


It's the sarcasm alert? Oh man. Now I have to go back and read everything with "hamburger" in it in a whole new light. There goes my afternoon.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:29 AM on December 10, 2009


It's not seriously a sarcasm alert. It's a sarcastic sarcasm alert HAMBURGER
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:41 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


So to say "it's biology! Women have to give birth, so they'll always miss more work than men to stay home with the baby, and men are always going to be more violent!" is lazy, an example of narrow thinking.

True, but I never said any of that. Just as true: assuming that men and women are not fundamentally different, and any observed differences are only because of socialization, is just as lazy and just as much an example of narrow thinking.

And the fact that your ex earns more than you do in a fairly different situation (a single datapoint, and not really a relevant one) is by no means a proof that we live in a "'world of truly equal opportunity,' and there is no discrimination against women."

I have never said there is no discrimination against women. Please don't confuse me with other commenters.

But how are my ex- and I "fairly different"? Do you know us? We have identical race/ethnicity, identical education, identical time spent with the identical kids. We both have government jobs in the same city. I have only one datapoint, but you have zero.

You are wondering what if. I lam living the world you are wondering about, and I'm telling you what happened. What gives you the balls to tell me my experience isn't relevant, when you have none at all?
posted by msalt at 10:03 AM on December 10, 2009


New MeFi t-shirt idea:

REIFY THIS
posted by Miko at 10:06 AM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Metatalk: the dustbin of history
posted by Rumple at 10:07 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's quite possible that teenage guys might be more apt to take risks just because of teenage hormone influx, and that we'll never see even participation of women in certain jobs requiring brute strength ...But. ... if you look at other cultures today and throughout history - that a lot of what feels clearcut today, like higher male scores in science and math or the primarily female nature of the K-12 teacher population, is really a characteristic of our current society

Let's narrow this down. I'm making a very specific point about risk-taking and its relation to the average earnings of Americans. I don't even accept your point about brute strength, because -- with the exception of professional sports -- brute jobs are lower paid today, and dead ends to boot.

In American capitalism today, there are huge (ridiculous, really) rewards for reckless risk-taking when it succeeds, especially on Wall Street. Some hedge fund managers literally earn a billion dollars a year. And there is no punishment whatsoever when it fails. Obviously this is bad thing; it caused the current global recession. Also, I stand by the argument that men are more reckless than women, esp. teenagers. Every army in history has relied primarily on teenage boys. Do you have any examples of societies of reckless women and cautious men? (Amazon myths aside)

Put these two together, and I believe you can explain a great deal of the average wage gap. You can even call it systemic discrimination against women if you like, since I think it structurally favors men as a group. But I think you'll get a lot farther in attempts to change the system if you focus on the dangers of a blank check for recklessness, than on the fact that the current system favors men.
posted by msalt at 10:20 AM on December 10, 2009


ubersturm: Apologies. On re-reading, I see that I did say
I'm living your "world of truly equal opportunity", and there is no discrimination against women.
That was bad phrasing -- I was referring only to my individual case. I should have written "and in my case, there is no sign of discrimination against women."
posted by msalt at 10:29 AM on December 10, 2009


Now that this has about sewn up, I hope I can make an observation.

I am bothered by these threads because, among other things, I see another public space, another subject, where how to think seems to have quietly and totally succumbed to what to think.

I see that laundry lists of ideal generalizations remain the fundamental building block of discussion. I see that data that in any way alters their perfect curvature is irrelevant or, worse, disruptive. And I see that possessing the correct biology is a deciding factor in whether one's ideas are welcome.

Disagreement isn't always a sign of a healthy, profiting discussion, but the weird epistemology of force and soundbite by which agreement happens here - the only way by which it can happen - is not healthy.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:15 AM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


assuming that men and women are not fundamentally different, and any observed differences are only because of socialization, is just as lazy and just as much an example of narrow thinking.

I haven't made that assumption, but I take as a basic assumption that if some fundamental differences exist, they are not necessarily deterministic, and that deterministic arguments about them should be challenged.
posted by Miko at 11:24 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Disagreement isn't always a sign of a healthy, profiting discussion, but the weird epistemology of force and soundbite by which agreement happens here - the only way by which it can happen - is not healthy.

I'm not sure i understand specifically what you are referring to, in particular the "weird epistemology of force and sound bite".

So far the only agreement I've seen happen in this thread has come through consideration and some apology. I may be over looking something important, though.
posted by ServSci at 12:10 PM on December 10, 2009


I take as a basic assumption that if some fundamental differences exist, they are not necessarily deterministic, and that deterministic arguments about them should be challenged.

We completely agree on that, and I don't think I was making any deterministic arguments. Individual counter-examples always exist for pretty much any characterization we make about humans. There are certainly crazy risk-takers among women, and hyper-cautious men.

But if we're talking about average salaries, as we were, then non-deterministic generalizations can't really be avoided. Oprah makes a huge amount of money, which doesn't prove anything one way or the other except that it is possible for women to do so.
posted by msalt at 12:28 PM on December 10, 2009


And I see that possessing the correct biology is a deciding factor in whether one's ideas are welcome.

Just as everything else works out to averages with the extremes at both ends usually excised, on average I have not seen this to be true at all in this thread or elsewhere on the site.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:05 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb: So with the correct education program for the masses, in the hands of the right thinkers, and re-education and struggle sessions (such as this thread)

Could you please spell out what makes this thread a "correct[ional] education / re-education program"? Because I thought it was people putting voicing their opinions, not giving orders; back-and-forths seeking clarification about assertions made, not announcements that everyone in the thread MUST think one way or else; lots of point-counterpoint. You know: a normal conversation.

Would you mind, please, pointing out where the enforced silencing is? I mean, how's it being done -- through people unilaterally handing down orders? Bullying? What?

If I'm wrong about it being a normal conversation, please explain the difference for me between "normal conversation with lots of point-counterpoint" and "re-education program."

No hamburger, naturally, I'm always tediously earnest in these threads.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:07 PM on December 10, 2009


Could you please spell out what makes this thread a "correct[ional] education / re-education program"?

People are disagreeing with him and suggesting that he might have bad opinions and ideas! This is totally the same thing as being tortured and brainwashed into adopting the beliefs of a totalitarian organization!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:20 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


kid ichorus: another public space, another subject, where how to think seems to have quietly and totally succumbed to what to think.

In our early arguments, my spouse used to say, "You're telling me what to think. Stop doing it."

I'd reply, "??? But...I was voicing how I interpreted the situation. My interpretation was different from yours. I had no intention of telling you what to think. I just...voiced what I was thinking. I thought we were hashing out the issue, because we have to hash things out if we want it resolved. If, when I express an opinion that's different from yours, you interpret what I'm doing as 'telling you what to think,' then that means I should just keep quiet to avoid inadvertently pissing you off. In which case, how can we ever resolve issues?"

I see in this thread a normal conversation with lots of give and take. I'd appreciate it if you could point out what you consider to be people telling other people what to think. How do you come to the conclusion that they're telling others what to think, rather than merely voicing their thoughts?

possessing the correct biology is a deciding factor in whether one's ideas are welcome.

The men who's participated here have been shouted down regardless of the content of their comments, eh?

the weird epistemology of force and soundbite by which agreement happens here

Where's the force? I don't know where the soundbites are either, but it's a more understandable interpretation to me than the accusation of "force." I need some help seeing where the coercion is in this conversation, please.

On preview: Pope Guilty, you're a man! How dare you express your ideas! You interloper! /hamburger
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:29 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well after my time in the Metafilter Feminist Re-education camp, everything seems so clear.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:42 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a question of how discourse or ideology functions. I think you've set that focus on the individual aside too quickly - it's enormously political and actually goes some way to answering your second question. What does a challenge to someone to consider themselves as an individual tend to do? What does asking them to raise their awareness of themselves in a nexus of privilege tend to do?

Umm, raise their consciousness of injustice in society, lead them to question previous assumptions, and make them more thoughtful about their interactions with others?

I think you wanted me to say "increase their focus on themselves as individuals rather than as part of a class/society," right? I hate to break it to you, but we all inevitably think of ourselves as individuals to a certain extent. We live within our own heads and our own bodies, we're never going to think of our identity as a total abstraction-- the individual has already been reified! It's not like people are on the verge of their identities totally dissolving into a broader group focus, when all of a sudden we burst in and talk to them about systems of privilege and where they fit in, and oops, now they're thinking of themselves as individuals again! Everyone makes individual choices about how to interact with each other (framed and bounded by the larger system and structures), and I don't think it does us any good to be so scared of an excessive focus on individuality that we forbid ourselves from helping people learn how be interpersonally respectful and receptive to new insights.

Anyway. I have read the full text at Amazon of that review you quoted at length above. I've read the 25-page essay you linked. I've read the 1991 essay you reference more recently. (That's why it's taken me so long!) I'm probably missing what you meant for me to get out of it, but this is what I see...

1) They all seem really focused on what and how academics and theorists are thinking and talking and teaching about. I'm not saying theory and academia aren't important-- but to me, rather than wring my hands about whether "issues of structural social inequality and class power have gone largely unaddressed in the groves of academe and the pages of political theory journals," I'm much more interested in exploring how ordinary people are thinking and theorizing (or am I not supposed to say that because it's too individualist? does "the discourse of the masses" or something like that work?) Especially since you're critiquing the discourse that we're using here outside of the academic context.
2) They seem to be mostly focusing on "identity politics," celebration of diversity/difference, cultural nationalism, multi-culturalism, performativity of identity, etc. There's criticism of the "insistence that people of various races, ethnicities, and sexual preferences in fact have nothing of importance in common with one another"; the "almost obsessive focus in academia (both in the classroom and in campus life) on issues of identity and diversity but nary is a word spoken about socioeconomic inequality"; the "advocacy of small-scale, localized and individualistic responses to oppression and inequality." But I don't notice much at all that even sounds vaguely like it's addressing the discourse of privilege. Talking about privilege has nothing directly to do with "celebrating" diversity or with promoting individualized/fragmented solutions to problems. So it kind of feels to me like you're saying "A is damaging. Some/most people who say A also say B. Hence, saying B is damaging." (Unless you're really hanging this on privilege meaning "these are the ways in which injustice in society benefits YOU" and identity politics being about "people like YOU," which seems like a pretty flimsy connection to me.)
3) And besides, they're essentially saying "it's damaging to talk about these things if you only focus on them and ignore the broader socioeconomic issues"-- as Schwartz says, the "terrain of social inequality... renders a pure politics of difference a futile, and possibly self-damaging, project." Yes, sure, I could not agree more with that. But while it's possible that discussions of privilege could be part of a "pure politics of difference," I don't see how you can conclude that they must be, since they easily can and do exist as part of a politics of solidarity, or anything else inbetween, for that matter. "Talking about privilege is not enough" does not equal "Talking about privilege is worse than nothing-- it's bad and counter-productive."

Ultimately, you seem really, really focused on not "distracting" from the big issues, the real issues by talking about privilege (outside the context of social movements.) My impression is that you would prefer silence to this "distraction." Whereas to me, even when privilege is discussed in isolation, it fertilizes the ground from which the politics of solidarity can grow. It opens people's eyes to things they were previously blind to (and I always lean towards helping people see and understand things they didn't see before), and it provides a vital foundation for respectful, welcoming, inclusive inter-relationships. I'm not sure I'm ever going to truly understand why the fact that it talks about the person's place in society, rather than just talking about society and ignoring the implications for the person being addressed, is enough to outweigh those benefits for you. But I guess sometimes we just don't understand each other!
posted by EmilyClimbs at 11:31 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


ubersturm: "And there's no reason to think small. katherineg suggests that because women have to give birth and breastfeed, they will always be the ones to stay home for a year or more with the baby, if possible."

I never said always. I said that you can't rule breastfeeding out as a contributing factor to a wage gap.

It's my experience that women who choose to breastfeed often prefer to stay with their child as much as possible, as opposed to pumping, which comes with its own difficulties, can affect supply, can be uncomfortable, etc. Obviously some women prefer pumping, or formula when they're not there and breastmilk when they are there. Or they prefer not to breastfeed. That's cool with me. I suppose we could give women and men a year+ off each of paid leave each. But that is so far removed from the current state of the US that it doesn't seem relevant to a discussion about the current wage gap.
posted by kathrineg at 12:33 AM on December 11, 2009


There's nothing like a good old fashioned fusterclucking pile-on witchhunt
posted by tehloki at 2:38 AM on December 11, 2009


hamburger
posted by languagehat at 7:41 AM on December 11, 2009


Thanks EmilyClimbs - I can't believe you actually bothered to read all that and respond.

I'm much more interested in exploring how ordinary people are thinking and theorizing (or am I not supposed to say that because it's too individualist? does "the discourse of the masses" or something like that work?) Especially since you're critiquing the discourse that we're using here outside of the academic context.

Me too, and it's where I've done all my political activity. Only went into the theory because we got into an argument about the discourse! My original observations come from years in union, anti-fascist and other social movements.
Ultimately, you seem really, really focused on not "distracting" from the big issues, the real issues by talking about privilege (outside the context of social movements.) My impression is that you would prefer silence to this "distraction."
Suspect you got that impression because I'm defending a dissenting viewpoint against several interlocutors over a thread the length of this! I don't want to silence anyone, I want a different politics addressing the same issues.
Whereas to me, even when privilege is discussed in isolation, it fertilizes the ground from which the politics of solidarity can grow. It opens people's eyes to things they were previously blind to (and I always lean towards helping people see and understand things they didn't see before), and it provides a vital foundation for respectful, welcoming, inclusive inter-relationships.
I can see how it can do that, but given that it's been discussed 'in isolation' (as opposed to in the social movements) not that it always will do that, hence I prefer to combine it with the solidarity, just to be sure. Why leave the solidarity out?
I'm not sure I'm ever going to truly understand why the fact that it talks about the person's place in society, rather than just talking about society and ignoring the implications for the person being addressed, is enough to outweigh those benefits for you. But I guess sometimes we just don't understand each other!
Because I think that a person's place in society and the sort of society they have a place in are inseparable topics, and you can't really talk about one without the other. I certainly don't advocate just talking about society rather than what it means for people.
posted by Abiezer at 8:58 AM on December 11, 2009


Well after my time in the Metafilter Feminist Re-education camp, everything seems so clear.

Who took the shock collar off this one? God damn it, I turn my back for one minute and the staff start slacking off. He's supposed to be in the Information Lounge right now for 12 continuous hours of Tribe 8, and here he is, out in the lobby, helping himself to the complimentary cookies and juice. Sheesh.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:39 AM on December 11, 2009


But in a world of truly equal opportunity, we would find that all the complexity and individual variation of choice and circumstance averaged out to a few percentage points plus or minus, not such a significant difference. We wouldn't find that the division of gender gave us .73 on the dollar, women to men. You're right that individual choices are what they are, but everyone's trying to do their level best, why is it that there is an imbalance in the result of everyone working to their maximum capacity? If everyone's really working to the best of their ability and making the best choices out of all choices available, why does the average not come out the same?

That's not a given, though. My point is that equality of opportunity doesn't necessarily work out to show an appearance of equality. Measuring tangible things to try and show intangible concepts just won't work right. If there was a currency that measured life satisfaction and the ability to have ones' desires met, I'm fairly confident it would indeed work out to pretty much equal. But money isn't that currency.
posted by gjc at 10:33 AM on December 12, 2009


I don't want to silence anyone, I want a different politics addressing the same issues.

Sorry, I didn't mean that I thought you wanted to silence people-- but rather that you think that saying nothing at all ("silence") would be a better choice than talking about privilege outside of the larger context-- if you think the latter is harmful, saying nothing at all is the preferable choice, right?

I can see how it can do that, but given that it's been discussed 'in isolation' (as opposed to in the social movements) not that it always will do that, hence I prefer to combine it with the solidarity, just to be sure.

No, absolutely, I think we pretty much agree on this-- you are very right that talking about privilege in isolation is much less likely to have such effects, and like you, I much prefer to talk about it in the context of the larger issues and think that's more valuable. The area where we seem to differ is about what the value is, if that "better" conversation is not going to happen, of just talking about privilege. Since I believe that it is not harmful, is likely to be at least somewhat helpful inter-personally, and has a limited and inconsistent, but real, chance of being helpful to social movements and social change-- I support it.

In other words, it's just a question of whether:

Talking about privilege in the context of social movements > talking about privilege outside the context of social movements > nothing [me]
or
Talking about privilege in the context of social movements > nothing > talking about privilege outside the context of social movements [you, I think]
posted by EmilyClimbs at 10:51 PM on December 12, 2009


"We wouldn't find that the division of gender gave us .73 on the dollar, women to men."
100% of men have mothers. One half of men are raised by single parent families headed by women. Women are the majority.
posted by vapidave at 12:28 AM on December 13, 2009


Right EC, see what you meant now.

Funnily, the one bit of my last comment you didn't quote was the bit I think is really true, and points to my whole big thing about ideology, how it works and what it means - that 'a person's place in society and the sort of society they have a place in are inseparable topics'.
And not just, as I put it just above, that you can't talk about one without the other. In the literal sense obviously you can and in my view this is what the liberal discourse of privilege does. And in doing that you are thus talking about real oppressions it a way that can be - and is - easily and widely misconstrued as locating privilege in the individual not the social relationships we are all enmeshed in as shaped by the burden of history. In my view of how ideology works there's all sorts of dangers in this and historical issues and so forth as I tried to say above and it would be better not to engage in such talk.
As to whether it's then better to say nothing at all, well obviously I think we should talk about the real oppressions, in a way that doesn't carry this particular dubious ideological burden.
posted by Abiezer at 12:55 AM on December 13, 2009


If there was a currency that measured life satisfaction and the ability to have ones' desires met, I'm fairly confident it would indeed work out to pretty much equal.

What a wild and baseless assumption, ironically, a blithely delivered example of a privileged statement in itself. I can't imagine how you could offer such a statement in seriousness, especially since it was meant to critique me for inability to measure a criterion. Could you ever offer such a statement about people whose choices are confined by slavery? Poverty? Disability? On what basis?

I suppose we could give women and men a year+ off each of paid leave each. But that is so far removed from the current state of the US that it doesn't seem relevant to a discussion about the current wage gap.


But anything that solves the wage gap is "far removed from the current state" of most of the Western world. It will require some fundamental restructuring of policy and the workplace to solve the issue. If we reason only from what seems practicable and convenient with respect to how we do things at present, we're settling for less from the outset.
posted by Miko at 7:56 PM on December 13, 2009


anything that solves the wage gap is "far removed from the current state" of most of the Western world.

The wage gap by itself means nothing, and there may not be anything to solve. You were just complaining about jumping from individual stories to society-wide conditions; that works both ways. Being able to work at a low-stress part-time job because your husband makes a lot of money may be a privilege, not a sign of discrimination.

The 73 cents statistic is way out of date, btw. The 2008 statistic is that the median income for all women is 79.9% of men's, while for unmarried women it's 94.2%. So the fact that couples share their income is kind of important to the discussion.
posted by msalt at 10:01 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well shit, I guess we're good then.

Everyone can go home now.
posted by Ouisch at 7:48 PM on December 14, 2009


We did, ten hours ago. Why are you still loitering around here?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:06 PM on December 14, 2009


Whew, the institutionalized sexism has been licked? Banished, once and for all down the memory hole? Ahh, I'll let you all know how work goes tomorrow in light of that.
posted by desuetude at 8:16 PM on December 14, 2009


Don't you work in a strip joint, or something like that?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:39 PM on December 14, 2009


Uh, no. Suit-wearing office-sitting sort of profession. (Where I have a whole lot more responsibility and a lower title than the nice family men of my approximate vintage and experience level. Oh, coincidentally, of course. I make more money than my husband does, though, so I guess it all evens out.)
posted by desuetude at 6:17 AM on December 15, 2009


Whew, the institutionalized sexism has been licked? Banished, once and for all down the memory hole?

Sarcasm is not a good substitute for facts or analysis.

I don't see anyone arguing that there is no institutionalized sexism. In fact, I outlined a specific form of it, if you accept my premise that men tend to be bigger risk takers than women, in the form of absurd and dangerous rewards for risky behavior in U.S. corporations.

But your argument seems to be "C'mon, we all know there is tons of terrible discrimination against women, so if you don't like my lazy wage average "proof", then you're just ... all wrong! So there!"
posted by msalt at 9:34 AM on December 15, 2009


Wait, wait, when I pointed out that institutionalized sexism permits that risky behavior (because the menfolk can work those long hours on Wall Street while their wives keep house) you told me that the masculine predilection toward risk was an example of the advantage of being female. But then you turned it around and want to just focus on how bad unfettered risk is. (Why do we not focus on the consequences? Because the powers that be are covering their asses.)

Your examples seem like they all have little gaps in context. Like your assertion that your ex hasn't faced discrimination because your background and responsibilities were somewhat equivalent.
posted by desuetude at 9:58 AM on December 15, 2009


Why are you still loitering around here?

ONE MIGHT VERY WELL ASK THE SAME OF YOU, SIR OR MADAME
posted by Ouisch at 11:57 PM on December 15, 2009


when I pointed out that institutionalized sexism permits that risky behavior (because the menfolk can work those long hours on Wall Street while their wives keep house)

Here's one problem; you're assuming that women staying home with children is institutionalized sexism. Why? Believe it or not, many women enjoy and/or prefer that. Also, men are able to do so as well. (I did, and an increasing number of guys do.) Making more money and working long hours is not everyone's ideal life, so measuring "privilege" by earnings is poor logic. Affluence without working as much is a pretty good example of privilege, don't you think?
posted by msalt at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2009


Here's one problem; you're assuming that women staying home with children is institutionalized sexism. Why?

Because for most of (U.S.) history, it has been.

We have (kind of) arrived at a point in history where a woman can work outside the home or a man can stay home while his partner works without either of them getting the hairy eyeball from anyone (mostly) really, really recently. (And when I say "women can work outside the home" I'm speaking specifically of middle and upper-middle class women, since poor and working class women have pretty much always worked outside the home).

During WWII, for instance, tons of women from all class backgrounds and races worked outside the home, and a lot of them worked in what had been traditionally male jobs. When the war ended, men came home...and stayed home? No. The women who had been working in auto factories and shipyards and so on were fired so men could have those jobs. If not for this particular kind of institutionalized sexism (men go out to work and women stay home), then why wouldn't it have been fine for the women to continue to work in factories etc. while the men stayed home to take care of this kids and house?

While it's pretty common - to the point of being totally unremarkable - for women to work outside the home, ask any stay-at-home dad what kind of reaction a single man with a child gets when he takes his kid to the playground, the doctor's office, etc. The reaction he gets is the result of institutionalized sexism and a culture that gets all WTF?? when a man doesn't work a paying job, but instead does "women's work."
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on December 16, 2009


I'm not saying that staying home with the kids is sexist. I'm not begrudging anyone who is the primary caretaker of the children.

I'm saying that men have a greater opportunity (and long tradition) of being able to engage in all this masculine risky corporate behavior with the long hours and the big payoffs because they have not traditionally been the primary caretakers of their own children.

Institutionalized sexism means that leaving at 4:30 pm to pick up the kids from daycare, even if you worked harder and smarter, means you're not seen as being dedicated, paying your dues, playing the game. (Institutionalized sexism also means that if you're a man and do these things, you're a freaking hero.) Institutionalized sexism creates subconscious (well, sometimes overt) hiring biases against women due to the assumption that kids will come along and she'll at the very least be out for maternity. And this is of course on top of the more garden-variety assumptions that women aren't tough enough, don't take risks, aren't assertive, and if they are, they're a bitch.

Again, I'm talking about a huge trend over a long time, not your individual circumstances or changing trends or exceptions to the rule.

So when you cite riskiness as an inherently male trait and provide corporate America as an example, I'm noting that there's a whole lot of factors that set this up. And that the feminist movement has been slowly, slowly chipping away at the structures that facilitate this trend so that the women who are so inclined can do things at which they excel on a more level playing field with men.
posted by desuetude at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't understand how you are linking men's relative lesser childraising with men's greater risk-taking. You don't think that 8 year old or 17 year old boys take more risks than girls? You don't have to work long hours to buy billions in junk mortgage CDOs.

It's also pretty offensive that you dismiss my experience as a stay-at-home dad. I can tell you this; dads do get condescending statements at the playground (from women, almost exclusively), and you're completely out to lunch if you think men are "freakin heros" for leaving at 4:30pm. The same biases about not being dedicated are there, if not greater.
posted by msalt at 3:13 PM on December 16, 2009


Again, I'm talking about a huge trend over a long time, not your individual circumstances or changing trends or exceptions to the rule.

So you're just arguing that women have historically faced job discrimination, whether or not changing trends have eliminated or altered that discrimination. OK. Who do you imagine disagrees?
posted by msalt at 3:19 PM on December 16, 2009


I didn't read desuetude as thinking that men are heroes for leaving early to pick up the kids from daycare, but rather that society gives them props for this out of all proportion to the action. Women are not lauded with "Wow, that's so great that you" [take off work early to go see the kid's soccer game, for example] - that is, for parenting.

You don't have to work long hours to buy billions in junk mortgage CDOs.

But you have to work long hours to get to the point where you're allowed to spend the billions to buy the billions. It's undeniable that in certain fields, working less than a 12- or 14-hour day is seen as not being dedicated to the job or serious about your career.

I'm missing the part where desuetude dismissed your experience as a stay-at-home dad. But when the conversation is about institutionalized [ism], and we're talking about historical trends over the last 50-100 years, then we're going to be talking about generalities, not specifics. There have always been men and women who worked jobs that were outside their particular time period's gender-sanctioned role, but that doesn't mean that the sanctions weren't, and aren't, there.
posted by rtha at 3:26 PM on December 16, 2009


You're straining mightily to resist the idea that society is changing vis a vis sexism. Why is itso important to ignore changing trends and focus on WW2 era job discrimination?

Both of you state that society thinks men are "freakin heros" when they work shorter hours to be with their kids, vs. the setback it is for women. This is both flat out wrong, and dismissive of my experience. I pay a career price, and am happy to accept the deal.

You seem to think that men don't face this choice, and that women shouldn't have to. Well, it would be wonderful if we all worked short hours for big pay and had lots of time with our families. Where do I sign up? But that's not reality. And it's not discrimination if men and women have the same tradeoff, even if they tend to choose differently.
posted by msalt at 4:12 PM on December 16, 2009


I'm sorry if I'm coming off as dismissive of either change over the last fifty years or your experience (or both). We really have come a long way, (baby), and there's no denying that.

But I don't want the lingering effects ignored or brushed off, either. My experience in some office jobs has allowed me to witness exactly what I described above: men who get kudos for "helping" with the kids, and women who get nothing (or get criticism) for doing exactly the same thing. It's overwhelmingly true I think that for society in general, the default position is that women are the primary caretakers of their children. This is definitely changing, but your own experience getting weird looks or attitude from moms at the park when you're there with your kid(s) bears out the fact that what you do - who you are, doing it - is regarded as out of the norm. It's going to be less weird in coastal urban areas (in the U.S., I mean) than in more rural/central areas.

Both of you state that society thinks men are "freakin heros" when they work shorter hours to be with their kids, vs. the setback it is for women.


I explained myself badly. I wasn't actually thinking of dads who go from a ~50-hour week to a ~35 to spend more time with the kids, but more of the kinds of dads who (very) occasionally leave work at 3 pm to see the soccer game or pick the kid up at daycare. Apologies for being unclear. Men who take significant amounts of time off from work in order to spend more and better time with family take career hits, yes. (Again, in general - various fields and professions will have different attitudes.)

The general, societal expectation that it's women who do most of the childcare, even if they work outside the home, is institutionalized sexism in action.
posted by rtha at 6:06 PM on December 16, 2009


I don't understand how you are linking men's relative lesser childraising with men's greater risk-taking.

You used corporate America as an example. I pointed out that it's easier to take these risks -- to be in a position of power that permits you the fiat to take such risks -- when you are relieved of putting in as many hours on parenting duties.

It's also pretty offensive that you dismiss my experience as a stay-at-home dad. I can tell you this; dads do get condescending statements at the playground (from women, almost exclusively), and you're completely out to lunch if you think men are "freakin heros" for leaving at 4:30pm. The same biases about not being dedicated are there, if not greater.


Oh my god. First of all, I have said over and over and over that I'm NOT talking about your experience personally. At all. Whatsoever. I'm not dismissive of it. I'm not interested in debating the details of it. If you tell me that you make a grilled cheese sandwich that is better than my mother's, I'll believe you. I swear.

Secondly, I don't think that men are heroes for working normal office hours. I am referencing the perception than men who do their due diligence in parenting are often given more credit, as it as seen as a larger sacrifice, or more extraordinarily generous.

And it's not discrimination if men and women have the same tradeoff, even if they tend to choose differently.


WE DON'T HAVE THE SAME TRADEOFF. Because women still make less in equivalent positions, and are grossly under-represented in leadership even in areas where the gender distribution is 50/50 at lower levels, and because sexual discrimination against women is still a workaday fact of life. Whether or not you have personally experienced it or not.
posted by desuetude at 6:28 PM on December 16, 2009


WE DON'T HAVE THE SAME TRADEOFF.

Sez you. As long as you can dismiss changing trends and experiences that contradict your assertions. And ignore single men and women. And as long as you can assume that women don't really want to be raising their children, and men are privileged to be working long hours away from their families, and only institutional discrimination prevents women from running major corporations.

You might be right in all of that. (Or maybe its changing fast, and corporations reward workaholics of either gender.) But you haven't shown any evidence or logic to that effect.
posted by msalt at 6:59 PM on December 16, 2009


msalt, I'm not dismissing changing trends, I'm...um...not defining them as an utter contradiction to the overall trend. I love changing trends. I love how much things have changed just within my working lifetime.

For fuck's sake, I never said or thought that women don't want to raise their children, just that we'd like to not be unfairly penalized for it. I don't, in fact, think men have been bettered as a gender by being less involved in the upbringing of their children, and I'm heartened by the evolution of greater co-parenting.

And I don't see the world in black and white, or discussions as personal attacks, but I'm not so naive as to be blind to sexism, either. And to bring this back around, yes, feminists are still attacked for illuminating inequity.
posted by desuetude at 7:09 PM on December 16, 2009


The general, societal expectation that it's women who do most of the childcare, even if they work outside the home, is institutionalized sexism in action.

I don't think that's what institutionalized means. When average people expect something, or your parents think its weird, or people give me odd looks at the playground -- that's personal, not institutional. Institutionalized would mean that an institution has a policy or practice supporting the sexism -- fire departments used to literally not allow women to be firefighters, banks wouldn't loan to women, etc.

Personal attitudes are negotiable -- you can move to a city where people have better attitudes, or find a mate who's willing to support your career and shoulder most of the childcare, even if you take some crap for it (as I do). My concern with this kneejerk attitude of "OMG it's all sexist, there's nothing you can do!" - is that it offers no solution, and discourages people from challenging the attitudes that need changing. I'm saying, it's all changing quickly for both men and women, decide what you want and go for it. What's your message?
posted by msalt at 7:12 PM on December 16, 2009


I never said or thought that women don't want to raise their children, just that we'd like to not be unfairly penalized for it.

My starting point was objecting to the lazy (and outdated) "73 cents" wage statistic. If women (or men) prefer having more time with their kids to 70-hour weeks that earn more money, then it's not an unfair penalty that they earn less, is it?

I think that in the U.S., women now have more of a choice to spend their time on career or family than men do. Do you seriously disagree? That would be a privilege, not a penalty, in my book. Especially since married couples share their incomes equally.
posted by msalt at 7:30 PM on December 16, 2009


When average people expect something,

Dude, this is how things get (and stay) institutionalized. For a long period in our not-very-distant past, parents thought and people expected a young middle class woman to get married and stay home and have babies. This expectation was so strong that women were not allowed in many universities and most professional schools, because why would a woman want to be lawyer, anyway? Women stay home with the kids - they don't practice law!

People used to assume and parents use to think that girls wouldn't want to take shop and boys wouldn't want to take home ec (because the man would have a wife to cook and do laundry and a woman would have a husband to fix the leaky sink or squeaky door).

You think some CEO of a bank way back when thought "I know, I won't lend money to women unless they have their husbands co-sign it!" No fire chief thought "I won't hire women!" and handed that piece of wisdom down to the ages. Those prohibitions against lending or hiring came about because of the kind of institutionalized sexism that's built on and from attitudes and expectations of average people.

My concern with this kneejerk attitude of "OMG it's all sexist, there's nothing you can do!" - is that it offers no solution,


My concern is that you seem to be reading my saying that sexism is still alive as "There's nothing we can do!" And that's not what I'm saying. Change is possible - I've witnessed it in my lifetime. Pointing out that the problem isn't all solved and gone is in no way the same as saying that it can never be solved. I don't think I've ever said anywhere or at any time that it's all sexist and there's nothing anyone can do. I don't know where you're getting that.
posted by rtha at 7:36 PM on December 16, 2009


Institutionalized would mean that an institution has a policy or practice supporting the sexism

No, the meaning of the term is not so literal. Institutionalized meaning that it's normalized, somewhat systemic, engrained.

I think that in the U.S., women now have more of a choice to spend their time on career or family than men do. Do you seriously disagree? That would be a privilege, not a penalty, in my book. Especially since married couples share their incomes equally.

You have phrased this in a way that makes it literally erroneous to disagree, even if I practically-speaking disagree. Yay, choices! No matter the cost! And for the I-don't-know-what-numbereth time, married couples do not necessarily share their incomes equally. (I know, you do! I do too!)
posted by desuetude at 7:50 PM on December 16, 2009


married couples do not necessarily share their incomes equally.

By law they do, even in non-community property states like Oregon. (Judges here decide what is fair; very often that is more to women's favor than the strict equality of community property.) Of course, couples can negotiate whatever arrangement they want during a marriage, which is kind of my point. But the institution supports equality. If you know of specifics otherwise, I'd love to hear about it.

why would a woman want to be lawyer, anyway? Women stay home with the kids - they don't practice law!

My mom became a lawyer in 1955. Yes, she was a pioneer and took a lot of crap socially (as well as positive reactions). But the institution did not block her, her parents supported her, and she had a very successful career (still ongoing, in fact.) I know about the social pressures you're talking about, and she could give you horror stories, but she does not spend her days complaining about institutional sexism. She led a number of class action sex discrimination lawsuits in the 1970s, and THAT was about serious, institutional discrimination. Very different today.

Oh wait, you don't like counterexamples. None of them disprove your sweeping generalizations without facts. Never mind.
posted by msalt at 9:03 PM on December 16, 2009


Well, every counterexample tends to have a counter-counterexample; and, indeed, there are often systematic, repeated counterexamples. Like mass muderders repeatedly targeting women qua women.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:28 PM on December 16, 2009


"You're straining mightily to resist the idea that society is changing vis a vis sexism. Why is itso important to ignore changing trends and focus on WW2 era job discrimination?"

Jesus Christ, what the hell is wrong with you? These women are treating you like you're intelligent and connect ideas on your own without needing every fucking thing spoon-fed, and every time you're essentially just shouting back that the paradigm has shifted so, say, the historical norms no longer apply. It's a reactionary position, it's rhetorically toxic, and it makes it read like you're not even bothering to listen (or read) what these women are telling you, instead focusing on trying to construct a rebuttal because, what, your personal experience was ENTIRELY WITHOUT SYSTEMIC SEXISM because you raised your kid? What the fuck is that? It keeps coming across as a particularly strident mixture of arrogance and ignorance, where you're not even able to understand why WWII job discrimination wasn't an isolated time period apart from history and instead was evidence of a THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD pattern, and yet you're fucking dismissive of attempts to explain this to you because hell, your ex-wife (who really seems to have done a number on you—maybe you should stop trying to see all gender relationships in terms of yours) made her own choices, again magically without any context, a pure existentialist.

You're just lucky that you're dealing with two o the smarter, more patient members of the site—I have a feeling that, given how often you spout off on this shit, all other women (and men) who you might learn something from but who are too polite to call you on your bullshit and get into a conflict with you have just disengaged. When you go after RTHA and Desuetude here, and you are, two of the most reasonable folks in any feminism thread, you need to rethink what the fuck you're on about. I've seen you be smarter than this—fucking be smarter than this.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 PM on December 16, 2009


Yell all you want, but in fact the paradigm HAS shifted, and both men and women have choices and opportunities we didn't have a generation ago, or (probably but who knows) at any time in history.

What's reactionary and toxic is lazy insistence that things are just as bad as they were in the 70s, or 50s, or 1600s . And throwing out super weak arguments like the 73 cents statistic.

That said, I've never liked it when I see 2 or 3 people take over a thread and get too personal in their arguments, so I'm going to take a breather.
posted by msalt at 10:09 PM on December 16, 2009


"What's reactionary and toxic is lazy insistence that things are just as bad as they were in the 70s, or 50s, or 1600s ."

Yeah, which how many people did? Not fucking one. So why are you saying they did? Well, because either you don't understand what's being argued or because you're willfully misrepresenting their arguments. We reach the moment when civility no longer suffices: Are you an idiot or are you a liar?

The paradigm has shifted. That alone is not sufficient to argue against the continued effect of institutional, systemic sexism. Unless you're one of those morons who thinks that racism ended with Obama's election.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on December 16, 2009


More yelling, more insults. rubber, glue, etc. You may have missed it in your righteous burning anger, but we were discussing whether institutional sexism continues in U.S. corporations, law schools. etc. It did, very clearly and literally, through most of my lifetime.

No doubt there are a few examples remaining -- that horriffic Supreme Court decision in the Lilly Ledbetter case, and the class action suit at famously regressive Walmart are good examples -- but not much.

Calling soft personal pressures like people thinking it's weird for a man to stay home with kids "institutional" is, in my opinion, lazy insistence that things are as bad as they were in the 70s. Anyone can push back against that kind of pressure. Clearly it's uncool to use my personal exerience here, but I have pushed back against that pressure and I know what I'm talking about. It sucks to have to fight for something that everyone deserves, but it's not (in my opinion) the same thing.

rtha was talking about literal bans on women going to law school. I don't know of that ever existing, but today a majority of law students are women, and half of new admittees (at least here in Oregon.) 0.6% of new admittees were women in the 1950s.

Is there continued, and systemic sexism? Sure, depending on what you mean by systemic. Institutional? Not as a rule. And it dishonors the experience of people who faced real institutional discrimination to say it is.
posted by msalt at 11:11 PM on December 16, 2009


Gender, risk, and competition:

Women are underrepresented in high-paying jobs and upper management. Is that due to gender differences in risk aversion and facing competition? This column describes an experiment in which girls were found to be as competitive and risk-taking as boys when surrounded by only girls. This suggests cultural pressure to act as a girl could explain gender differences that are not innate.

I haven't had time to read all of this, a whole series on the wage gap, yet, but it too looks interesting and relevant.

(If you need more, I recommend Google.)

I just feel really sorry for the incredibly patient people who are trying to engage msalt and others like him in this thread.

I want to point out one thing: that this thread started from a massacre of women. For just being women, and from a deep hatred of feminism. And through various critiques of privilege, we end with the existence of the wage gap - one of the most basic idea behind feminism and the women's rights movement - being challenged. This beautiful arc, that goes from a massacre of women to Prove to me that women are paid less and that it is a problem, with women on the defensive. They should teach it in trolling school.
posted by catchingsignals at 12:27 AM on December 17, 2009


rtha was talking about literal bans on women going to law school. I don't know of that ever existing,

I was poking around lazily on the internets last night, looking for when various law schools went coed if they hadn't been before, and didn't find anything but a confusing mess of admission stats.

But I'm trying to imagine Harvard and Yale (for example) law schools being coed when women women were barred as undergrads, and I just don't think it worked that way. Harvard and Yale universities didn't admit women until the late 60s or early 70s.

Calling soft personal pressures like people thinking it's weird for a man to stay home with kids "institutional" is, in my opinion, lazy insistence that things are as bad as they were in the 70s.


Your opinion on this is itself a lazy insistence, since no one here has said that things are as bad as they were in the 1970s or 60s or the 1850s. Your inability to tell when something is offered as historical context (women in WWII, e.g.) is not my fault.

It's come down to us having different definitions of what "institutional [_ism]" means. You apparently think that the "soft" power of societal disapproval doesn't count as institutional - that institutional means that something must be codified in law or policy.

I disagree. A lot. Obviously.
posted by rtha at 6:27 AM on December 17, 2009


married couples do not necessarily share their incomes equally.

By law they do, even in non-community property states like Oregon. (Judges here decide what is fair; very often that is more to women's favor than the strict equality of community property.)


By law married couples do not share their incomes equally, unless they're divorced, in which case, they're no longer, um, married. Citing conditions at the dissolution of a marriage to support the assertion that married couples share their incomes equally is either strangely naive or a very odd twist of logic.

Also, please read my clarification on how everyone else is using the term "institutionalized sexism" in this thread, which is not equivalent to "institutionalized discrimination."
posted by desuetude at 6:35 AM on December 17, 2009


"It did, very clearly and literally, through most of my lifetime. "

But doesn't now? Wrong.

"Calling soft personal pressures like people thinking it's weird for a man to stay home with kids "institutional" is, in my opinion, lazy insistence that things are as bad as they were in the 70s."

Your opinion is stupid. Here's why: The first part of your opinion has nothing to do with the second part, and it's clear that you don't understand "institutional" (or "structuralized") discrimination. That's the discrimination that comes from unequal incentives—like unequal parental leave, or different career commitment expectations—and is referring to the form that discrimination takes, not the severity of discrimination. Indeed, most of the women are contrasting it with overt discrimination, which was much more prevalent in the '70s (and '80s and even '90s). That's the "You can't do this, you're a woman" explicitly voiced. But even institutional sexism has been lessened from the degree it was felt in previous generations, but noting that it still exists and is pervasive does not mean that they're saying it's at the same level; you're ascribing a false equivalency they're not making.

If, instead of being arrogant about your own personal experiences, you were humble enough to learn from what these folks are telling you, you wouldn't have such stupid opinions. And if you took a moment to think about the context of this thread, you wouldn't be so tactless in voicing them here.
posted by klangklangston at 8:04 AM on December 17, 2009


It's puzzling to me, but have felt strongly pushed in this thread to play the role of the conservative anti-feminist bad guy, starting as soon as I challenged the weak "73 cents" statistic. I bet a lot of you right now are thinking "Oh look, he's claiming he's not conservative."

For example, I brought up high pay for reckless risk taking as an example of institutionalized (if indirect) discrimination against women, one that has ruined our economy. I made it clear that I thought the risk taking was stupid and destructive. In fact, I support both government limits on Wall Street pay and restructuring to make those people responsible for losses they create as well as profits. Basically, Wall Street in the last few years was the worst and most destructive boyzone ever (outside of various wars).

By the time catchingsignals came along, he/she was interpreting that as me justifying discrimination against women because men are bigger risk-takers. I don't know exactly what this dynamic is, and it might even be useful to explore it, but that role is not me and I'm not interested in taking it on for you all.
posted by msalt at 8:05 AM on December 17, 2009


And how ironic that klangklangston thunders in to defend the feminists in the most macho, chest-thumping way possible (while lecturing about arrogance!) Very oldschool.
posted by msalt at 9:18 AM on December 17, 2009


And how ironic that klangklangston thunders in to defend the feminists in the most macho, chest-thumping way possible (while lecturing about arrogance!) Very oldschool.

Weren't you bitching about people slinging insults upthread?

But more interestingly, I wonder how you'd perceive this "chest-thumping" if you thought klang was female?
posted by desuetude at 10:03 AM on December 17, 2009


Why the assumption that klang is "defending the feminists" as if he himself is not one? Why assume that he is coming to the rescue of damsels in distress rather than defending his own point of view?
posted by rtha at 10:08 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


the idea from msalt is that klang is being paternalistic, as in "women need men to act all macho in their defense, because they can't speak for themselves, being women and all that." it is something that historically has proven more harmful to feminism than helpful, when it happens, because it reveals a bias against women from the men defending them.

in this case, however, it's wrong. klang is just pointing out what feminists have made clear for decades by now, and is likely a little frustrated that people dispute it out of nothing but the sheerest ignorance, since people who are NOT ignorant have long since accepted its truth. he gets a little aggro about these things sometimes, though, and that's why we love/hate him. it just comes across to msalt as paternalistic when it's actually just angry.
posted by shmegegge at 10:17 AM on December 17, 2009


msalt, please stop digging. Find the truths in what people are saying instead of getting hung up on the things you perceive to be holes in everybody else's arguments. Those are self-created empty spaces and nobody has pushed you into them. It's to your own detriment and despite the wisdom in between.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:29 AM on December 17, 2009


"bitching" - ha! I see what you did there.

I have no idea if klangklangston is male or female, or if either of you are, and gender is not the same as sex, anyway. But I dunno, I these words seem pretty macho, rescuing and chest-thumping no matter who says them:

Jesus Christ, what the hell is wrong with you? These women are treating you like you're intelligent and connect ideas on your own without needing every fucking thing spoon-fed, ... you're not even bothering to listen (or read) what these women are telling you... What the fuck is that? .. you spout off on this shit.... your bullshit ... what the fuck you're on about... Are you an idiot or a liar?... Your opinion is stupid. etc. etc.
posted by msalt at 10:32 AM on December 17, 2009


On preview -- what schmegegge said, good perspective there. And thanks iamkimiam, I appreciate the caution (and would love to get the same respect you ask of me). There is IMHO an often undiscerning orthodoxy on feminism on MeFi that needs some challenging, but I'm obviously not finding the useful way to do that.

One final point on institutionalism and I'll back away. rtha sums up our disagreement very succinctly. I think soft social disapproval is not the same as institutional sexism, and this is why the distinction is important:

Government is pretty good at ending discrimination that is codified in rules, laws and hiring practices, so we can use political efforts to fight it. If klang really knows of unequal parental leave rules, at least in the US, the federal government will go after the company -- let's report them now. Soft societal disapproval -- not much government can do. We need to each challenge it ourselves, personally. The battle is only won one person at a time. That's what I've been trying to say here.
posted by msalt at 10:51 AM on December 17, 2009


The battle is only won one person at a time. That's what I've been trying to say here.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what we've been trying to do here.

I have no idea how saying "these women" is macho or a rescue attempt...it just sounded exasperated to me.
posted by desuetude at 11:17 AM on December 17, 2009


does this mean klangklangston is going to get paid more per comment than the rest of us?
posted by ServSci at 2:11 PM on December 17, 2009


Yes, but he'll have to share it equally with all his spouses.

Although hmm, he hasn't enspouseled anyone. Hmmm.
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on December 17, 2009


You want male privilege? I'll give you male privilege. Male privilege is still being able to participate in conversations about male privilege and say, "What? I don't understand all this privilege discussion. There's no such thing!" while everyone else in the world has already not only unpacked our invisible knapsacks but is constantly aware of carrying it around and constantly aware of our responsibility to compensate for it when we are able to.

That's male privilege.
posted by kalessin at 5:37 AM on December 22, 2009


rtha wrote: I'm trying to imagine Harvard and Yale (for example) law schools being coed when women women were barred as undergrads, and I just don't think it worked that way. Harvard and Yale universities didn't admit women until the late 60s or early 70s.

Here's a good timeline of the admission of women at Harvard Law. Short story: women were first admitted in 1953, decades after most law schools. Justice Ginsberg entered in 1957 (though she finished her third year at Columbia) and Janet Reno graduated in 1963.

It's pretty misleading to say that Harvard didn't admit women until the 60s. Radcliffe College was founded in 1897 as The Harvard Annex, specifically for women to attend. Official joint instruction began in 1943, and Radcliffe graduates received Harvard diplomas starting in 1963.
posted by msalt at 12:17 PM on December 22, 2009


oops Radcliffe was started in 1879, not 1897. Sorry.
posted by msalt at 12:48 PM on December 22, 2009


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