tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
[personal profile] tim
A few thoughts based on reflecting on a post by a friend for five, oh, maybe six minutes:

"Alice" just said something oppressive or dehumanizing in your presence. You know, maybe like calling you by a pronoun associated with the gender you are not, or using a word that's historically been used to describe people like you as a synonym for all that is wrong or misguided in the world. And then, mincing no words, you tell them how you really feel about that.

What usually happens is that Alice assures you she didn't really mean it, she didn't intend to cause you any harm, and she just didn't know there was anything wrong with what she just said. (Alternatively, she may go on to explain why what she just said wasn't wrong.)

What's the subtext in Alice's response? I think it has to do with power. When "Alice" says something hurtful, there are a few different courses of action. You could choose to never speak to her again, but let's suppose you want or need to continue the relationship. Then, another possibility is for her to do the work of seeing from a point of view she's not used to assuming (and which it may be more difficult for her to assume, as she may not want to think about what it's like to be a person like you), and understand why even though the words she used didn't mean anything to her, they are hurtful to someone like you. Or, you could save her the work by doing the work yourself of understanding why Alice is really a nice person and couldn't possibly have meant anything hateful or hurtful.

When Alice says "I really didn't mean it, I didn't intend to cause you any harm", she is asserting her privilege not to have to do any work; and that's where it comes in that usually, in these situations, Alice has a social status that is accorded some additional political credibility and prestige compared with your own. She gets to use that status to save herself the effort of considering the feelings of anyone who isn't as privileged as herself.

Get it? When you say, "You shouldn't be angry with me about that, because I didn't mean any harm," you are demanding that someone else do your emotional labor because you're too privileged to have to do so. And that is generally worse than the original thing you said, because while the original thing may have been unthinking, the response is a not-so-thinly veiled attempt to leverage one's superior political position. That, my friends, is busted. And is it what you really intend to say?

(no subject)

Date: 2011-01-12 06:09 pm (UTC)
sixolet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sixolet
Thank you for explaining so succinctly that ugly feeling I get whenever someone does that to me (usually about pronouns). That and the more blatant "but it's so hard"....

I'm working on a post that'll be up at http://offtopic.akrasiac.org sometime soon about "oh, yeah, it's hard, here is how you can expend a bit of effort and actually not fuck up so much anymore"

(no subject)

Date: 2011-01-17 07:28 pm (UTC)
sixolet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sixolet
I am glad you liked them! And now the post about how to use correct pronouns is up

(no subject)

Date: 2011-01-12 11:38 pm (UTC)
winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)
From: [personal profile] winterkoninkje
Excellently put. I'd never really thought about it before, but that does explain why that phrase feels like ...such a copout for not addressing issues (I wanted to call it "derailing", but it's not quite; is there any good, short term for this manner of expressing privilege in order to get out of accepting the responsibility for one's actions?).

(no subject)

Date: 2011-01-15 05:23 pm (UTC)
commodorified: My hair, flying in the wind, and my right arm, in sunlight (Default)
From: [personal profile] commodorified
Thank you for this.

I struggle a certain amount with ways to say "I've said something sketchy and I don't want to dodge that but I do want to say that I didn't say it with the intent of being hurtful, or because I thought it through and decided it was a perfectly reasonable remark, and in fact I wouldn't knowingly hurt you for the world" without falling into that mess. At least, when it's someone I know well enough to assume that that makes a difference to them.

This is a helpful thing for making that distinction.

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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

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