privilege

Activism must not be derailed by behaviorism

Behaviorist ideology says that there are four basic reasons people do things: to get things/activities, to get pleasant sensations, to avoid something they dislike, or to get attention. 

All of these are real reasons people do things, and it’s useful to keep them in mind. It’s also important to remember that they are not the only reasons people do things. People also have thoughts, feelings, and values.

This behaviorist framing assumes that human beings are fundamentally amoral and selfish.  Behaviorism has no room for courage, integrity, or concern for justice. In real life, values matter.

For instance: People who would not steal to support themselves will put their lives on the line to protest cuts to Medicaid. People who find it humiliating to be publicly praised as ~inspiring~ will call congress to fight bad policies, including bad policies that affect groups other than their own. There’s more going on than attention. Values matter.

In activism and advocacy, it’s often useful to show others that it’s in their interests to support our policies. (Eg: “Your constituents care about Medicaid, and you’ll lose your seat if you vote for a bill that would cut it”, or “No matter how responsible you are, you could get sick tomorrow and need access to Medicaid.” 

It’s *also* useful to show them that the policies matter within *values* they already care about. For instance, if someone cares about religious freedom, it could be useful to point out that institutionalized people lose access to their houses of worship and other things they need in order to practice their religion on their terms. If someone cares about encouraging people to work, it could be useful to point out ways in which Home and Community Based disability services make it possible for people to work.

It’s also important to make a case for our values more broadly. People don’t understand what ableism is and why it’s bad. Many people are receptive to learning, if it’s explained in a way that they can understand. It’s not just about self-interest. It’s also about values. People can understand right and wrong, and act accordingly, whether they are marginalized or privileged.

Privilege doesn’t need to prevent someone from being a good person and doing the right thing. There’s more to life than behaviorism and self interest. People are capable of caring about their values more than they care about enjoying the advantages of privilege. 

tl;dr Behaviorism reduces everything people do to self-interest, with no room for values. Activism based solely on privilege analysis falls into the same mistake. We need to keep in mind that all people are capable of learning to tell right from wrong and act accordingly. We need to make the case for our values, in a way that people can understand. Lives depend on it.

"You should make a complaint!"

So, I’ve noticed this pattern:

  • Someone will describe some act of discrimination or social violence
  • And then very well-meaning people will weigh in and say things like
  • “They can’t treat people that way!”
  • “Wow, you should really report that!”

Reporting incidents of discrimination can be a good thing, and sometimes it goes somewhere. But, hearing this well-intentioned advice can actually be really frustrating, for a number of reasons:

The thing about being a marginalized person is that discrimination is a routine experience, not an occasional outrage:

  • Things that sound like aberrations to folks who are usually socially valued enough to be treated well most of the time are daily life for a lot of marginalized people
  • If we filed a formal complaint every time we experienced this, we’d have no time or energy for anything else
  • And sometimes, we want to get on with our lives and do things other than fight discrimination
  • Which means that, sometimes, when we talk about discrimination, we’re not asking for advice on how to make it go away; sometimes we’re accepting that we’re not going to be able to make it go away this time
  • And it needs to be ok to disagree about the right way to proceed

Also, sometimes complaints don’t actually help:

  • When the bad thing is the rule rather than the exception, it’s unlikely that anyone will care.
  • When the offender is much more socially valued than the victim, it’s likely that no one will care
  • People who complain frequently are generally seen as problem whiners, even if they are entirely justified in every complaint they make

Complaints are a good idea sometimes. But complaining is a very personal decision. Understand the costs and risks of complaining. Do not pressure a marginalized person to make a complaint in order to make yourself feel better about the state of the world. Do offer to support them if they want to do so.

sometimes abstract discussions are not appropriate

If someone is telling you about a bad situation they’re in, or something they’re upset about, it’s probably not a good time to launch into an abstract discussion of something tangentially related.

For instance:

  • Jane: My coworkers keep hitting on me. It’s really getting to be a problem.
  • Bill: Well, hitting on people can be very important.

Likewise, when someone wants support for a bad thing that happened, that is probably not a good time to have an abstract conversation with them about the nature of the words they’re using.

For instance:

  • Bruce: This is such an awful work schedule. My boss keeps telling me it doesn’t matter because we’re doing such awesome things. He’s so freaking invested in his privilege.
  • Leo: I don’t know that I’d call that privilege. I mean, obnoxiousness sure, but I’m not seeing the privilege. Doesn’t privilege mean being part of a privileged group? How’s your boss privileged?

Bill and Leo might be right, but what they’re saying isn’t appropriate in context. They’re changing the subject to make it about something else they want to discuss in an abstract way, rather than listening to the problem the person is actually talking about.

That’s obnoxious. (And it’s different from calling people on bad things they do, which can be important too. This subject-change to an abstract topic rather than the problem at hand is a different thing than saying “hey, you’re saying something messed up here”.)

Some things I think I know about dirty jokes

This post I think is not quite right. It’s something I know a bit about, but there are parts I don’t understand too. Anyway, here are some things I think I know about dirty jokes.

Jokes about the following subjects are usually considered dirty (some of these jokes are relatively innocuous):

  • Sex
  • Masturbation
  • Genitals
  • Breasts
  • Defecation
  • Urination
  • Vomiting
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Doing drugs
  • These jokes can be good or bad, it depends on the joke, and the context in which it is told. 

Rude jokes that are dirty because they deal with impolite subject matter can be ok to tell in some circumstances, but not others:

There are three basic situations in which these jokes are usually ok:

  • People who are social equals and have an equal friendship, and both like telling rude jokes to one another, or:
  • People in a profession that deals with impolite areas, making trade-related jokes to colleagues (eg: people who work concert security making jokes to one another about bodily functions and weird things people do at shows) 
  • When someone is doing a comedy routine and other people are listening to it on purpose

It’s almost always a bad idea to tell rude jokes to people you have power over:

  • Partly this is because it’s not ok to tell rude jokes to people who dislike rude jokes. And people you have power over might not feel comfortable or safe telling you to stop.
  • It’s also threatening in a few ways that go beyond this.
  • Telling rude jokes is a sign that you regard someone as a social equal, and emphatically expect that they share that view
  • This can be a sign that you aren’t willing to acknowledge the power you have over them. That’s threatening.
  • It can also be sexually threatening. The rules about dirty jokes are part of the rules about sexual boundaries. Telling a dirty joke in an inappropriate contexts is often the first step a sexual predator takes in testing someone’s willingness to enforce sexual boundaries. Even if you have no such intent, telling a rude joke, especially a sexual rude joke, can be seen this way.
  • That’s especially true if when someone objects to the joke, you tell them to lighten up because it was just a joke.

There’s also another kind of dirty joke: the hate joke. Hate jokes are about hurting people. Hate jokes say bad things about other groups, or express violent desires, then make somewhat more socially acceptable by phrasing it as a joke:

  • Jokes that contain slur words are usually, but not always, hate jokes
  • Jokes that rely on asserting that stereotypes are true are usually hate jokes
  • For instance, dumb blonde jokes. 
  • Or “ironic” racism (eg: telling a racist joke, where the joke is that it’s so hilarious that someone who is so not-racist would say such a thing)
  • Some hate jokes are explicitly violent.
  • Here’s an example of a joke glorifying violence towards women with physical disabilities, in scrambled text that can be decoded at decode.org. The end of this block of scrambled text says “scrambled text ends here”.
  • N thl vf wbttvat qbja gur ornpu jura ur pbzrf npebff guvf ornhgvshy tvey fvggvat va n jurrypunve pelvat ure rlrf bhg. Fybjvat qbja ur nfxf ure, “Jung'f jebat?” “V'ir arire orra xvffrq orsber,” fur fbof. Srryvat onqyl, ur yrnaf qbja, xvffrf ure naq pbagvahrf ba uvf jnl. Ba uvf jnl onpx ur frrf gur fnzr tvey fboovat rira uneqre. Ur gevrf uneq abg gb fubj uvf rknfcrengvba. “Jung'f gur znggre abj?” ur nfxf ure. “V'ir arire orra fperjrq orsber rvgure,” fur fbof. Ur tenof gur unaqyrf bs ure jurrypunve, chfurf ure qbja gur obneqjnyx naq bss gur cvre. “Abj lbh'er fperjrq,” ur lryyf nsgre ure. Scrambled text ends here.
  • That kind of joke normalizes violence. The violent abuser in that joke is the sympathetic character.
  • Hate jokes are only ok when it’s actually ok to hate the people the joke is about. That’s almost never the case. But sometimes hate jokes about an abuser, or general hate jokes about rapists, can be ok jokes to make.
  • There’s a difference between telling hate jokes with the intent of harming members of the target group, and telling hate jokes without active ill intent because you think they’re funny. But it’s a difference of degree, not kind.
  • Sometimes members of target groups tell hate jokes as a form of self-hatred. That’s also a difference of degree
  • Sometimes members of the target groups tell hate jokes as a way of mocking the way people hate them. This is a difference of kind, not degree.

Basically, the bottom line is that it still matters what you’re saying if you’re making a joke while you’re saying it.

rockinlibrarian:

Social skills for autonomous people: rockinlibrarian: Social skills for autonomous people: another thing…

Agh, wow, this is exactly why I don’t like Tumblr (I say even though I’m using it now)! I CAN’T JUST REPLY to all the nice people who replied to my confused-emotional-rambling-that-I-thought-no-one-would-read-anyway yesterday! I’d like to say thank you and yes I like all your thoughts and you are not alone and thank you for showing me that I am not alone to EVERYONE who commented on my comment, but I’m afraid that would mean “reblogging” this at least five times.

So for RealSocialSkills, at least, I can say, oh, please don’t worry, it was a good post and obviously lots of people appreciated it as is. My problems are my problems alone and shouldn’t be anyone else’s responsibility! I think when ones heart is in the right place, even when what they do isn’t perfect, it’s not wrong. Thank you for engaging me in conversation, especially when I didn’t think anybody was reading what I was saying anyway!

Thank you for both of your replies.

desktopwithsources:

realsocialskills:

rockinlibrarian:

Social skills for autonomous people: another thing about privilege

sarahreesbrennan:

realsocialskills:

If you have a lot of privilege, you’ve learned to take up all or most of the space when you’re around people below you in the hierarchy. 

It’s important to learn to stop doing that. It’s important to learn how to be in a space without dominating it. It means learning to listen to people you’ve been systemically taught that it’s ok to talk over.

This can be hard to learn. When you stop dominating spaces, you have to live with less control, space, and attention than you’ve become accustomed to. You’re going to feel constrained, and like the other people are taking up all the space — even if you’re still taking up most of it.

And, once it becomes clear that you’re trying, people will express anger at you a lot more than then used to. This might feel really unfair, since you’re acting better than you ever have before, yet you’re attracting a lot more anger and criticism. 

The reason it works this way is because people used to put up with you treating them badly because they didn’t see any point in objecting. Most people who have privilege and power over others don’t especially care about how it hurts people. Further, a lot of them get really angry and retaliate when it’s pointed out. You’ve shown that you’re someone who might actually listen. That means you’re the one who gets yelled at.

It’s not fair, but the people who are yelling at you aren’t the ones responsible for the unfairness. Don’t get angry at them for it - get angry at the people like you who aren’t getting yelled at because they don’t give a damn. And maybe start calling them on it and make their indifference cost them something. You’re probably in a much better position to do this than the people below you in the hierarchy. 

And keep in mind that the situation faced by the people who are yelling at you is a hell of a lot more unfair than the situation you’re in.

That said, don’t beat yourself up for feeling frustrated, either. This is hard, and it’s ok to find it difficult. You’re going to make mistakes, and some of this is really going to suck. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you can’t learn how to act right. (Also, sometimes people will tell you that you’re oppressing them when you’re not. You can’t automatically assume that everyone is right when they tell you off — but if you’re in a highly privileged group and you think *everyone* who is telling you off is wrong, you’re probably the one who is wrong.)

Just keep trying, and don’t make the people below you responsible for making you feel better.

It can be TRULY HORRIBLE to be yelled at, while others (often doing stuff you think is terribly, terribly wrong, often who are much more successful and powerful than you) are not yelled at… and sometimes join in the yelling at you. It feels extremely unfair.

But how much more horrible is it for other people who have had to deal with unfairness for years and years, unfairness they cannot opt out of.

Huh. Privilege? I’m supposed to be more privileged than average: white, American, straight, highly educated, (raised) middle-class by loving-and-still-married parents— I don’t think being female and now educated-working-class makes me underprivileged enough to consider myself NOT highly privileged. So is this really about privilege? Not just a personality trait thing and it may be EASIER to have certain traits with certain privileges? Because it’s the exact opposite of me. Lord HELP me, it’s the exact opposite of me. At some point in my childhood I developed the Invisibility “superpower.“ Seriously, people who claim they’d want Invisibility as a superpower obviously have never EXPERIENCED Invisibility. The thing is, right now in my life, in my psychological therapy exercises, my general attempts to grow as a human being, I’m trying to stop being invisible. I’m trying to become aware of how I unconsciously try to take up as little space as possible. I’m trying to convince myself that I DO have just as much right to exist as everyone else in the world does. I’m trying to learn to SPEAK UP, and assert my opinions, and acknowledge that I have needs and wants of my own (even though I’ve been so good at denying this that MOST TIMES I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THOSE ARE). So, since I’m Privileged… do I NOT need to do this? Because if I do I WILL be automatically taking up too much space? I know, I’m being stupid. I’m missing the point. I’m derailing the Important Conversation that needs to take place. (But how derailing can I be if only 3 people follow this Tumblr anyway?) I’m making it ALL ABOUT ME. PITY ME, BOO-HOO. Yeah, I guess I’m taking up too much space already just because I have feelings and confusions of my own. But at the same time I’m SUPPOSED to start doing this, expressing myself and all. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m not trying to derail anybody. I’m just trying to speak up about how hard it is to convince myself that I have a voice that needs to be heard when so many well-meaning people keep saying that my SORT of voice needs to be heard less. Maybe I’m just hoping somebody will tell me otherwise. That NO, obviously, nobody’s saying that if you’re Privileged at all then you need to go dig a hole for yourself and fall into it rather than try to be an active, creative person. But then again, the other thing I need to learn is to stop relying on other people for approval. GAH. Growing is hard.

This is a reason I think I wrote that post wrong. I’m sorry.

Privilege is — a concept that I think is kind of wrong shaped. It doesn’t quite mean what I’d like it to mean, to communicate the kind of power dynamic I’m talking about.

I agree that being taught to be invisible is horrible, and common, and hard to overcome. For whatever reason it happens. And that you have to think for yourself, and work through your own perspectives on things. You can’t learn to do right by others if you’re trying to erase yourself.

And, all too often, discourse about privilege can get people to think they should be deeply ashamed and try to erase themselves. Or that privilege is something they should be constantly naming and atoning for. And no good comes of that. The point is to be aware of power relationships, and things that hurt people, and treat people well in the face of what is.

Everyone has some sort of privilege. Everyone has some sort of power over others. It’s not a sin; it’s something it’s important to be aware of and deal with. Because unacknowledged power is dangerous.

I think it’s worth being away that learned invisibility is harder to overcome if you’re also being held down by racism. Or by being dependent on people who want you to stay invisible for medical care you need to survive. Or sexism. Or poverty. Or any number of other things. Especially if a lot of them apply to you.

Because stuff like that matters. But it doesn’t mean that your problems aren’t real, or that it’s all a matter of box checking or anything. Isms are — part of the world. But not the only part. And, push come to shove, you have to think for yourself, rely on your own judgement, and do what you can to make it as good as possible.

I’m sorry I posted that post prematurely.

This is a problem that I really had/have too - having discussion of privilege just reinforcing my anxiousness that I shouldn’t talk, shouldn’t have needs, etc. And realizing some stuff has helped me with that, so I wanted to say about the thing above - first, actually being female is *huge* for this. There were posts going around about studies with this - here’s one and here’s one. 

if there’s 17% women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33% women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.

and

Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 90 per cent of his attention to the girls. And so did his male pupils.

So even for people who are privileged in other ways, sexism does enormous amounts of damage. 

The other thing is - people talk about ‘taking up space’, but they don’t always elaborate on which space they’re talking about. So, first, the spaces this applies to in its most ‘extreme’ form so to speak are safer spaces meant for people on the oppression side of the privilege in questions. So, if I’m white at an anti-racist meeting, or a man at a feminist meeting, etc, that’s where I should generally be quiet and listen. 

And then the next space in question is basically any space you share with people on the oppression side of privilege you have. So again, if I’m white and, for instance, at a planning meeting for something, I need to make sure I don’t contribute to an atmosphere where only white people are talking and everyone else gets talked over. 

But, conversely, if I’m female and at a planning meeting (or in a relationship, or in a group, etc), then I might get that issue in the opposite direction, where male-privilged people are not giving *me* space. So it’s not ‘I’m have X amount of privilege, so I should talk less’. Privilege isn’t about numbers. It’s ‘I have this specific privilege over some people, so it’s very easy for me to talk over them without noticing, so I need to watch out for that and work on not doing it’. 

And, finally, I am always allowed to take up as much space as I want when that space is mine to begin with. So on my own tumblr, or blog, etc, making my own posts, I get to talk about myself all I want. I’m not pushing anyone out - that’s *my* space. 

Reblogging for commentary.

I want to think more about how this applies to things like activist spaces, art spaces, and businesses - because sometimes it is possible to create a space but then have some obligations in terms of representation and taking up space.

I agree that on your own blog you get to talk about whatever you want and that can’t be pushing people out; your blog is your platform and it’s not one others are entitled to stand on. Some things are similar to blogs in that regard; some aren’t. I want to think more about where the lines are.

tenlittlebullets:

realsocialskills:

rockinlibrarian:

Social skills for autonomous people: another thing about privilege

sarahreesbrennan:

realsocialskills:

If you have a lot of privilege, you’ve learned to take up all or most of the space when you’re around people below you in the hierarchy. 

It’s important to learn to stop doing that. It’s important to learn how to be in a space without dominating it. It means learning to listen to people you’ve been systemically taught that it’s ok to talk over.

This can be hard to learn. When you stop dominating spaces, you have to live with less control, space, and attention than you’ve become accustomed to. You’re going to feel constrained, and like the other people are taking up all the space — even if you’re still taking up most of it.

And, once it becomes clear that you’re trying, people will express anger at you a lot more than then used to. This might feel really unfair, since you’re acting better than you ever have before, yet you’re attracting a lot more anger and criticism. 

The reason it works this way is because people used to put up with you treating them badly because they didn’t see any point in objecting. Most people who have privilege and power over others don’t especially care about how it hurts people. Further, a lot of them get really angry and retaliate when it’s pointed out. You’ve shown that you’re someone who might actually listen. That means you’re the one who gets yelled at.

It’s not fair, but the people who are yelling at you aren’t the ones responsible for the unfairness. Don’t get angry at them for it - get angry at the people like you who aren’t getting yelled at because they don’t give a damn. And maybe start calling them on it and make their indifference cost them something. You’re probably in a much better position to do this than the people below you in the hierarchy. 

And keep in mind that the situation faced by the people who are yelling at you is a hell of a lot more unfair than the situation you’re in.

That said, don’t beat yourself up for feeling frustrated, either. This is hard, and it’s ok to find it difficult. You’re going to make mistakes, and some of this is really going to suck. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you can’t learn how to act right. (Also, sometimes people will tell you that you’re oppressing them when you’re not. You can’t automatically assume that everyone is right when they tell you off — but if you’re in a highly privileged group and you think *everyone* who is telling you off is wrong, you’re probably the one who is wrong.)

Just keep trying, and don’t make the people below you responsible for making you feel better.

It can be TRULY HORRIBLE to be yelled at, while others (often doing stuff you think is terribly, terribly wrong, often who are much more successful and powerful than you) are not yelled at… and sometimes join in the yelling at you. It feels extremely unfair.

But how much more horrible is it for other people who have had to deal with unfairness for years and years, unfairness they cannot opt out of.

Huh. Privilege? I’m supposed to be more privileged than average: white, American, straight, highly educated, (raised) middle-class by loving-and-still-married parents— I don’t think being female and now educated-working-class makes me underprivileged enough to consider myself NOT highly privileged. So is this really about privilege? Not just a personality trait thing and it may be EASIER to have certain traits with certain privileges? Because it’s the exact opposite of me. Lord HELP me, it’s the exact opposite of me. At some point in my childhood I developed the Invisibility “superpower.“ Seriously, people who claim they’d want Invisibility as a superpower obviously have never EXPERIENCED Invisibility. The thing is, right now in my life, in my psychological therapy exercises, my general attempts to grow as a human being, I’m trying to stop being invisible. I’m trying to become aware of how I unconsciously try to take up as little space as possible. I’m trying to convince myself that I DO have just as much right to exist as everyone else in the world does. I’m trying to learn to SPEAK UP, and assert my opinions, and acknowledge that I have needs and wants of my own (even though I’ve been so good at denying this that MOST TIMES I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THOSE ARE). So, since I’m Privileged… do I NOT need to do this? Because if I do I WILL be automatically taking up too much space? I know, I’m being stupid. I’m missing the point. I’m derailing the Important Conversation that needs to take place. (But how derailing can I be if only 3 people follow this Tumblr anyway?) I’m making it ALL ABOUT ME. PITY ME, BOO-HOO. Yeah, I guess I’m taking up too much space already just because I have feelings and confusions of my own. But at the same time I’m SUPPOSED to start doing this, expressing myself and all. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m not trying to derail anybody. I’m just trying to speak up about how hard it is to convince myself that I have a voice that needs to be heard when so many well-meaning people keep saying that my SORT of voice needs to be heard less. Maybe I’m just hoping somebody will tell me otherwise. That NO, obviously, nobody’s saying that if you’re Privileged at all then you need to go dig a hole for yourself and fall into it rather than try to be an active, creative person. But then again, the other thing I need to learn is to stop relying on other people for approval. GAH. Growing is hard.

This is a reason I think I wrote that post wrong. I’m sorry.

Privilege is — a concept that I think is kind of wrong shaped. It doesn’t quite mean what I’d like it to mean, to communicate the kind of power dynamic I’m talking about.

I agree that being taught to be invisible is horrible, and common, and hard to overcome. For whatever reason it happens. And that you have to think for yourself, and work through your own perspectives on things. You can’t learn to do right by others if you’re trying to erase yourself.

And, all too often, discourse about privilege can get people to think they should be deeply ashamed and try to erase themselves. Or that privilege is something they should be constantly naming and atoning for. And no good comes of that. The point is to be aware of power relationships, and things that hurt people, and treat people well in the face of what is.

Everyone has some sort of privilege. Everyone has some sort of power over others. It’s not a sin; it’s something it’s important to be aware of and deal with. Because unacknowledged power is dangerous.

I think it’s worth being away that learned invisibility is harder to overcome if you’re also being held down by racism. Or by being dependent on people who want you to stay invisible for medical care you need to survive. Or sexism. Or poverty. Or any number of other things. Especially if a lot of them apply to you.

Because stuff like that matters. But it doesn’t mean that your problems aren’t real, or that it’s all a matter of box checking or anything. Isms are — part of the world. But not the only part. And, push come to shove, you have to think for yourself, rely on your own judgement, and do what you can to make it as good as possible.

I’m sorry I posted that post prematurely.

I think the whole concept of “privilege” as it’s commonly used in social-justice spheres is flawed and, as you said, wrong-shaped. I can’t explain my problems with it succinctly (I’ve tried just now, several times, and had to delete it because it was starting to take over the whole post), but the end result is: it’s not constructive. It approaches the problem of unacknowledged power from the wrong end, and in doing so, it suggests no solution and provokes no reaction beyond guilt and resentment.

I think the most constructive way I’ve found of framing it is this: privilege is a blind spot. When you belong to a group that is treated as the “default" for human beings and everyone not in it is considered “other,“ you are trained not to see the ways that affects the out-group(s).

Read More

I like this way of thinking about it.

karenhealey:

Social skills for autonomous people: another thing about privilege

sarahreesbrennan:

realsocialskills:

If you have a lot of privilege, you’ve learned to take up all or most of the space when you’re around people below you in the hierarchy. 

It’s important to learn to stop doing that. It’s important to learn how to be in a space without dominating it. It means learning to listen to people you’ve been systemically taught that it’s ok to talk over.

This can be hard to learn. When you stop dominating spaces, you have to live with less control, space, and attention than you’ve become accustomed to. You’re going to feel constrained, and like the other people are taking up all the space — even if you’re still taking up most of it.

And, once it becomes clear that you’re trying, people will express anger at you a lot more than then used to. This might feel really unfair, since you’re acting better than you ever have before, yet you’re attracting a lot more anger and criticism. 

The reason it works this way is because people used to put up with you treating them badly because they didn’t see any point in objecting. Most people who have privilege and power over others don’t especially care about how it hurts people. Further, a lot of them get really angry and retaliate when it’s pointed out. You’ve shown that you’re someone who might actually listen. That means you’re the one who gets yelled at.

It’s not fair, but the people who are yelling at you aren’t the ones responsible for the unfairness. Don’t get angry at them for it - get angry at the people like you who aren’t getting yelled at because they don’t give a damn. And maybe start calling them on it and make their indifference cost them something. You’re probably in a much better position to do this than the people below you in the hierarchy. 

And keep in mind that the situation faced by the people who are yelling at you is a hell of a lot more unfair than the situation you’re in.

That said, don’t beat yourself up for feeling frustrated, either. This is hard, and it’s ok to find it difficult. You’re going to make mistakes, and some of this is really going to suck. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you can’t learn how to act right. (Also, sometimes people will tell you that you’re oppressing them when you’re not. You can’t automatically assume that everyone is right when they tell you off — but if you’re in a highly privileged group and you think *everyone* who is telling you off is wrong, you’re probably the one who is wrong.)

Just keep trying, and don’t make the people below you responsible for making you feel better.

It can be TRULY HORRIBLE to be yelled at, while others (often doing stuff you think is terribly, terribly wrong, often who are much more successful and powerful than you) are not yelled at… and sometimes join in the yelling at you. It feels extremely unfair.

But how much more horrible is it for other people who have had to deal with unfairness for years and years, unfairness they cannot opt out of.

Personally, it helps to hold onto why I’m engaging in this process in the first place. I’m not trying to check my privilege because I want people to be nice to me; I’m trying because I want to address the pain that inequity causes, and a foundational step is improving and monitoring my own behaviour.

Mmm goals-focused processing.

On reflection…

…I kind of don’t like my original post anymore. I don’t think it was ready to be posted. Because it seems like it’s endorsing things that I actually don’t think.

I think everything I said was true, but I also think it was misleading.

Because someone being mad at you doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong. Even if someone is mad and thinks of what they’re doing as calling you out. It’s possible, and common, for people to think that and be wrong.

I think what I wrote was too general, and too misleading. And, as written, a bit removed from what I’m aiming for here. I want to explain stuff in a clearer way and not be shaming people for innocent mistakes, and I think I failed with that post.

And, also - I feel like  I’m missing something important about this, and that ignoring the part I’m missing is going to hurt people.

And I really wish that I would have sat on that post for longer before posting it.

another thing about privilege

If you have a lot of privilege, you’ve learned to take up all or most of the space when you’re around people below you in the hierarchy. 

It’s important to learn to stop doing that. It’s important to learn how to be in a space without dominating it. It means learning to listen to people you’ve been systemically taught that it’s ok to talk over.

This can be hard to learn. When you stop dominating spaces, you have to live with less control, space, and attention than you’ve become accustomed to. You’re going to feel constrained, and like the other people are taking up all the space – even if you’re still taking up most of it.

And, once it becomes clear that you’re trying, people will express anger at you a lot more than then used to. This might feel really unfair, since you’re acting better than you ever have before, yet you’re attracting a lot more anger and criticism. 

The reason it works this way is because people used to put up with you treating them badly because they didn’t see any point in objecting. Most people who have privilege and power over others don’t especially care about how it hurts people. Further, a lot of them get really angry and retaliate when it’s pointed out. You’ve shown that you’re someone who might actually listen. That means you’re the one who gets yelled at.

It’s not fair, but the people who are yelling at you aren’t the ones responsible for the unfairness. Don’t get angry at them for it - get angry at the people like you who aren’t getting yelled at because they don’t give a damn. And maybe start calling them on it and make their indifference cost them something. You’re probably in a much better position to do this than the people below you in the hierarchy. 

And keep in mind that the situation faced by the people who are yelling at you is a hell of a lot more unfair than the situation you’re in.

That said, don’t beat yourself up for feeling frustrated, either. This is hard, and it’s ok to find it difficult. You’re going to make mistakes, and some of this is really going to suck. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you can’t learn how to act right. (Also, sometimes people will tell you that you’re oppressing them when you’re not. You can’t automatically assume that everyone is right when they tell you off – but if you’re in a highly privileged group and you think *everyone* who is telling you off is wrong, you’re probably the one who is wrong.)

Just keep trying, and don’t make the people below you responsible for making you feel better.

Something about privilege

I’ve noticed this dynamic:

  • People will learn about privilege
  • And realize they’re doing a lot of bad things
  • And then think this means they should never interact with or listen to anyone with less privilege than they do
  • Like it’s somehow appropriative or invasive
  • And that they should just keep to people who are just as privileged as they are

Some examples:

  • White English teachers who only teach books written by white people, because they think it would be appropriative to teach books written by people of color.
  • People who think it’s appropriative to read this blog or think about what I’m saying because I write from an autistic perspective and they’re not autistic
  • Folks who avoid people with disabilities because they’re worried about staring or using the wrong words
  • Men who won’t hire women because they’re worried that they will be offended by the current culture that has a lot of sexist jokes and pinups on the walls

These kinds of things are functionally identically to the way that people who are intentionally upholding privilege hierarchies behave. Continuing to act that way, but giving different reasons for it, doesn’t actually make anything better.

Being aware of privilege only helps if you do something

Talking about how privileged you are and how much you acknowledge your privilege doesn’t do much, on its own.

It has to actually change what you do.

It can actually make things worse, if all you do is mention it.

Because then the implication is “yeah, I know I’m privileged and have all kinds of unwarranted power over others, but I don’t really care and it’s not going to change what I do. Please to be praising me for noticing this. I’m pretty great.”

And people you have power over can come under a lot of pressure to give you the praise you want, and to help you feel ok about the discrimination you participate in. Don’t do this to people.

When you have privilege, you have obligations that go along with it. You have unwarranted power that you can’t renounce, and the obligation to learn what to do with it. If you’re not willing to think about your power and examine what you do with it, you’re not going to be able to avoid abusing it.

There are any number of other implications too. And there are things it’s not ok to participate in even if it would benefit you, and even if it’s hard-to-impossible to get those things otherwise.

Don’t expect noticing and naming your privilege categories to be enough.

unicornismforever:

Social skills for autonomous people: Don’t assume marginalized people are safe

realsocialskills:

youneedacat:

realsocialskills:

Sometimes people who are marginalized assume that other marginalized people are safe by definition. This is really dangerous, and it sets people up for a lot of gaslighting. We need to make sure not to encourage this in activist and otherwise pro-human spaces.

For example, some people do things…

Moreover, don’t assume that someone is safe or that their actions are acceptable just because they are, or appear, or pretend to be, more marginalized or more of a victim than you are.

My primary stalker loves to play on the sympathy she gets as an ultra-marginalized victim in order to do her best to destroy people’s lives. She only gets away with some of the things she has done because she claims to be ultra-marginalized and ultra-victimized and plays on people’s stereotypes to seem always the innocent victim when she actually is the most full-of-hate person I’ve ever met, who goes around finding the easiest targets she can come up with, to express that hate towards. All the way manipulating people’s images and stereotypes of good vs. bad oppressed people to make herself look good and her victims look bad (even when the things she picks on are rather ordinary, she has the capacity to twist them into looking menacing or wrong). It’s very complex and she relies on these stereotypes to get people to hate the people she wants them to hate.

She’d have a much harder time getting away with things if she weren’t able to claim an ultra-marginalized status and get sympathy and absolution that way.

Yes, this. 

This is also why I think the rule that says “If someone from a marginalized group says you did something oppressive, then you did and you should apologize and fix it” is really dangerous.

Because there’s nothing about that rule that prevents it from being used by abusers to attack others.

(And nothing about this rule prevents it from being used by socially powerful people to silence people with far less power, either. Someone being good at manipulating these images is *not* the same as being the most vulnerable person in the room.)

I do a lot of angry about men, but women are dangerous too, and while one would hope we’d keep each other safe, we don’t as we’re socialized to hurt other people as well. Just differently.

Yes, and sometimes the same ways, too.

There isn’t any way of hurting people that is only done by men.