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Privilege 101: The Slant

Continuing on the topic of elaborating upon and understanding how privilege functions—as opposed to simply its effects—I wanted to talk a little about what I’ve termed “the Slant.” Part of how privilege behaves—the processes it uses to perpetuate itself as a vicious cycle—is a particular mental distortion inculcated within everyone growing up inside a power dynamic.

What makes it so insidious is that the Slant is entirely perception-based. The Slant describes two specific “cognitive biases” that are entirely based around the status quo: the reasonableness and trustworthiness of both the “empowered” and the powerless.

To clarify:

1. The “empowered” are:
a. Reasonable.
b. Objectively motivated.

2. The powerless are:
a. Unreasonable, irrational.
b. Personally or deceptively motivated.

Part A of the Slant is particularly important because the falsehood that humans are uniquely rational, reasonable beings, set apart from all other animals by a capacity for logical processes, is actually the freaking basis of human civilization.

It’s fairly obvious, given enough time and energy seriously dealing with other animals, that this is not the case: all animals have logical processes—they just aren’t necessarily based on sight-stimulus and technology the way humans’ information-gathering is. Animals come to logical decisions, like humans, but using different sets of information. Furthermore, animals only seem “irrational” if one is thinking of them specifically as not-person—as someone malformed because they were not born with a human interface.

And not to put too fine a point on it, tell me I’m the only bee in your bonnet the human concept of “logical” has always had quite a bit to do with whether or not you supported the status quo. Here’s where we get into the mind-boggling reinforcement of one oppression to another, which yes, means you support all of them if you are not vegan.

Women’s insistence that women were not inferior—not irrational, not child-obsessed dunderheads, not incapable of brilliance, not frail, needy histrionic cases—has always been used as an example of how women were inferior and irrational, and it still is. Evolutionary psychologists, MRAs, and trans misogynists use women’s belief that they are, well, people in order to argue that women are irrational. They’re delusional; they don’t get that we’re just the way we are because nature made us that way, which is not an argument for our extermination, somehow, but an argument against it and an argument that women should just, like, let us be evil. Women are just too stupid, self-absorbed, naive and idealistic to understand that the Kyriarchy exists because it is inevitable.

The fact that Black people did not want to be enslaved was used as evidence for how little they understood, and how much they needed to be “guided,” however brutally, by white people (men, generally). The fact that they didn’t agree that they were inferior was proof that they were inferior.

That fat people refuse to starve and emotionally torment themselves over the size of their body is evidence to the fatphobic, body-obsessive, carnist medical establishment that fat people just don’t understand how inferior they are. When fat people point out that any self-destructive endeavor would be fruitless—starvation, even with exercise, doesn’t work for somewhere around 98% of the population—they are assumed to be too stupid to understand “the facts.” Literally, fat people are expected to ignore the actual facts and embark on a terribly scarring journey of self-loathing—the more you agree that fat is evil and wrong, that fat is an indicator of a personal flaw, the more “rational” and “reasonable” you are. Surely we can all agree that you are weak-willed and immoral.

And today, too, if you are “mentaly ill” and object to the idea that you need to be institutionalized and “treated” into docility with psychotropic medicines—or if you and your others refuse to believe that integration is necessary in order to live a healthy and happy life—then it’s further evidence that you are just too mentally ill to understand you need to be controlled helped.

In our society, reasonable is a loaded word. It doesn’t take brilliance to see that.

Part B is simple but slippery, because it’s so easy for the “empowered” to wordle their way out of the claim. I can’t be responsible for what other people think of my motivations; are you implying my motivations aren’t pure? Yadda yadda, whine whine whine, what about teh menz/whitez/humanz.

But really, the best way to describe “assumption of motivation” is in terms of a good-faith/bad-faith argument. An assumption of good faith is the default: it’s reasonable to assume that a given human doesn’t mean you any harm unless you are given actual evidence to suspect otherwise—for example, the epidemic of rape perpetrated by men; the disenfranchisement of nonwhite people by white people; the abuse of animals by humans. It’s not unreasonable to assume that someone who was born and raised as an “empowered” person will be able or willing to see you as a person if you’re on the “powerless” side.

Bad faith is what is automatically attributed to those who are powerless, or who are fighting for the powerless. Their words are interpreted within the most unflattering meaning; on the other hand, when the “empowered” say bigoted things, they are defended and excused. Very often someone challenging the status quo is simply not listened to at all—my experience with trans commenters made me wonder, briefly but seriously, whether or not being transsexual actually impaired your reading comprehension. Simply by not agreeing, you can be accused of derailing or having impure, personally-motivated, bigoted motives:

1a. Animal experimentation has not brought about any serious medical advance; in fact, most medical advances have happened IN SPITE of animal experimentation and were slowed down by it instead of being helped. And in fact many diseases have afflicted humans specifically from their use of animals; it’s not good for humans, either.
1b. You care more about animals than humans!

2a. The gender dichotomy is fucked up. We should destroy it so that no one is gendered; then we can all be free to be people, instead.
2b. You’re transphobic! I worked HARD to be seen as a woman!

3a. Dude, what you just said is really racist; affirmative action doesn’t give non-white people an advantage.
3b. You’re just a reverse racist who doesn’t want to work for what you have!

And on a deeper level, the experiences and feelings of the powerless are unconsciously demeaned. Women are hysterical and overreacting about rape; women of color—people of color in general, but especially women of color—are “angry and militant” when they object to being alienated from a group (yes, as if it were undesirable); children and animals aren’t as complex or as rational and logical as adults, humans; and women who were forced to be “women” from the day they were born are just expressing “insecurity” about their “femininity” when they object to male-socialized people in their spaces.

Unreasonable. Hysterical. Irrational. Doesn’t know anything. Ignorant. Naive. Idealistic. Delusional. Doesn’t understand how the world works. Illogical. Emotional. Silly. Empty-headed. Airhead. Man-hater.

The Slant makes it impossible for you to know whether you agree with, or find persuasive or intelligent or competent, any “empowered” person because of the behavior/reaction sets they and you were indoctrinated into; similarly impossible to know whether your opinion of anyone on the “powerless” end—on the basis of age, race, sex, species, body shape, etc.—is based on your cultured filters of power or on who they really are.

No, scrap that: the Slant virtually guarantees that your opinion of anyone will be, in part, based on the place of power they are given in the Kyriarchy, regardless of how reasonable and logical you think you are.

And there are no easy answers. You can’t watch porn and pass out condoms to encourage sexual liberation; you can’t buy cage-free eggs and grass-fed cow products to encourage animal rights; you can’t put a Black or Asian person smack-dab in the middle of the photo amidst a group of white people and expect to be hailed as anti-racist or inclusive. You can’t decide that it’s okay for people to switch sexes in the gender binary, but not for anyone to object to the existence of a gender binary at all, and ever help anyone except the most privileged male-socialized people.

It is a long, hard, fucking cold road, and it’s one you have to take alone; there are no quick fixes. You can decide that every animal can feel and deserves not to be used as property, to be farmed; or you can give the fuck up and resign yourself to the fact that your unwillingness to dispense with the idea of property—with gender, with capitalism, with a “right” body to have, with the idea that sex can be power—has doomed everyone you claim to be fighting for. Because you are too fucking obsessed with getting yours to ever do anyone any fucking good.

Take people seriously. Listen to them; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings as valid; and don’t ever justify anything that is done to them in the name of oppression and power as “not as bad” as something happening to another person elsewhere.

Hunting: Dom/sub

Hunters are one of those groups that no one really feels neutral about. Fauxgressive carnists hate hunters because the regressive carnists love them; even the halfassitarians—whoops, I meant to say vegetarians—adore hunters because they can “respect” their ability to “look their food in the eye.” Which is just about the dumbest thing I have ever heard; if you think you’re perfectly justified because you have a big manly, uh, gun, you’re going to be able to look whoever you want in the eye and tell them, “Yep. I am perfectly justified in doing whatever the fuck I want,” without a trace of goddamn irony.

And as someone who lives on $25/week for groceries, you have absolutely no place to be telling me that they hunt for food. If you have enough money to buy and maintain a gun license, a hunting license, a good gun, ammunition, safety gear and a vehicle to take you into a hunting range, you so have enough fucking money to eat goddamn beans. You didn’t grow up with a family that needed to hunt—you grew up with a family that wanted to hunt. Beans provide more protein than the human body even needs and won’t give you diabetes, and probably not cancer, either. Meat does not have any magical properties, especially if you’re claiming you’re an omnivore, who are very traditionally scavengers, not predators. Okay, do I need to cover anything more? Okay, good. Go argue with someone else about how you need to hunt because you are a magical protein-deficient fairy (that also happens to be, just as magically, not an animal). That bullshit doesn’t fly here.

More to the point, I want to cover the rise of the hunter ideology by a cross-section on property/submissiveness.

Defiance of power creates a backlash; this is a pretty big fucking reason for deference among all the inferior classes—nonwhite, nonmale, prepubescent, etc. Watch anyone who’s never been enrolled in any military training converse with a cop; the difference between how they’d treat a “normal powerful person,” and how they’re treating the cop is startling. When someone can really fuck you up, you spend a great deal of energy showing that you are not worthy of their backlash—you’re still obediently conquered. No resistance here; you don’t need to apply any pressure to get me to obey.

That’s how it goes. The conversation between the average person and a cop is just all threat politics writ large: you get nervous and you get deferential because this dude can fuck your shit up. It’s the dynamic of fear, where one person has nothing to fear and the other person has everything to fear.

But the same submissiveness that white men try to effect on everyone else in the world is also counterproductive to one rule of Patriarchal Physics. Also one of the most important ones: thou must continually prove thy superiority by dominating others.

A submissive target is a good one for reinforcing power roles amongst your peers—gang rape, lynchings—but it simply won’t do when you need to keep asserting your dominance. Someone who will just lie down and think of England isn’t fun to torture. When you prove your power, you need to break their soul—although their body can do just as well, provided no one will care if you keep them alive or not.

So you go hunting.

No one cares when you hurt and kill property because straight-up property will never fall in line with the kyriarchy; they’re either incapable of it due to language barriers, as with non-human animals, or they’re just slightly isolated outside your realm of social influence, like children. Patriarchy is a religion that has three tiers: one, for the elite class, is orthopraxic—it matters how you practice. The second is orthodoxic—it doesn’t matter how you practice, because you have no power; what matters is that you believe. If you’re on the second tier, you’re partially property, but because you admit you’re property, you have some limited means of protection. Maybe. Provided you don’t go thinkin’ silly things like that you have a right to your own body, and to not be raped or forced to bear children whenever someone of the elite class wants to stick his dick in a hole.

The third tier is at the bottom: they’re the infidels, the unbelievers—the ones who will never, ever fall in line with the kyriarchy, so you get to kill and rape them at will. Hell, breed them and then sell pieces of their corpse so that other believers can feel they are drawing strength and vitality from their flesh, having a fucking mystical experience where every cell in their body is coming alive.

Although you may never reach the status of not property, there are degrees of property status—not that lesser degrees protect you in any meaningful way, because they’re still property; but they protect you from the other second-tier denizens and allow you to abuse the third tier with impunity. For the first tier, abuse isn’t an opportunity—it’s a requirement. You have to keep on subjugating people, violently, and even as fucking ridiculous as patriarchy gets, unless you can get off on it? Punching someone who’s just submissively letting you isn’t impressive.

It is more attractive to dominate (through whatever means, be it rape or killing) someone who will not submit to your ideology—who won’t internalize the belief that they are inherently not worthy of not being abused—because someone who submits is easy prey, a nice wife you keep locked up at home. The patriarchal ideal of domination, though, is that you must assert your power and dominance successively. You can’t stop doing it or you’ll lose your place of power in a ranking system where there is no place for “equals,” only rivals: those you must beat out or they will beat you. FYI, this is where we get the “stupid hypothetical question” shit like, if you had to choose between a 200-year-old tree and a mosquito, which would you choose? In patriarchy, there is. no. in. between.

The kyriarchy is a proselytizing religion: you convert and you slaughter the infidels, though it doesn’t really matter which you choose. Columbus raped, tortured, mutilated, and massacred Caribbean natives, in ways that I couldn’t even come up with in my worst nightmares—he did it as sport. He made his hunting dogs tear them apart. Literally, to him, his atrocities were sport—hunting. Fun. Entertainment.

The Americans did, and are still doing to a degree only limited by population size, the same thing. You went huntin’ those Injuns, so you could scalp them and bring back a trophy. White men hunted them down, unarmed, so they could score “points.”

You know, I’d run a slideshow of every single invading army ever to happen ever, but unfortunately I have no idea how I’d embed that on the page. But if you don’t get my point by now, you need to go back and read this post from the beginning, and keep doing it until you understand.

Patriarchal power rests on the basis that you will go out and deliberately and intentionally violate others to maintain your kyriarchal ranking. However, you can’t do that to the people who are already submitting to you, because you need to use force, not coercion. The more an inferior individual submits to you, the higher a “personhood” status they get, which also means that you can’t violate them except if they try to defy you. So you go hunting.

Fat, Brown and Animal: Being Other

When people want to insult a fat woman, they say, “she’s such a cow.” Well, and even if she doesn’t fit any cultural definition of fat—though it’s usually accompanied by a verbal illustration of how said Cow Lady is fat-like, e.g. she breathes heavily or is clumsy. Similarly, a man who’s fat is said to be a pig.

Insults aimed at fat people have more to do with the inferiority and deficiencies ascribed to animals than they do with humans or body fat. A cow is supposedly clumsy, stupid, emotionally and mentally placid, lazy and gluttonous. Pigs are also supposedly clumsy, stupid, emotionally and mentally placid, lazy, gluttonous and messy/filthy/unclean. Are they any of these things? Probably not to themselves, or another pig or cow; they are to us because they are patently not human, though, in a similar way that non-Westerners are assumed to be immoral, filthy, scheming and/or barbaric. They refuse to play by our rules, because they don’t look and act like us.

Am I getting this through yet? Patriarchy, as we know, is a proselytizing religion: infidels are to be converted or used as hunting-sport with which our patriarchs can prove their masculinity by destroying. As is heterosexism; the Abrahamic West imported homophobia (as well as misogyny to a large degree) into Japan as it did with leftie hatred into China as did the Romans import a new and even more abusive form of slavery into Kemet. White westerners have very typically assumed that because they were, well, them, their culture, their beliefs, their history, their politics and their actions were better than anyone else’s, ergo anyone who differed in any of these things could be justifiably enslaved, imprisoned, killed, ripped off, or just generally treated like crap without qualm or consequence.

Carnism is a proselytizing religion, too. I have never met a carnist that, hearing I was vegan, didn’t try to convince me that veganism was too extreme, too privileged or too unhealthy. (Naturally, you want to defer to people who personally and economically benefit from carnism on the subject of veganism vs. carnism.) WIC emphasizes a diet heavy in dairy and devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables, and by the same hand gets rid of a good amount of the unsellable dairy in the country. Heifer Int’l imports the European reliance on animal products into poor, non-white, non-Western (UK, US, AU) regions, starving them by taking away food, poisoning them by introducing nonhuman-to-human pathogens and parasites, and rapidly increasing the speed and spread of desertification through killing off grazing foliage and drinking enormous amounts of water. I shouldn’t have to go further. The subversion of non-Western cultures by the Western Three relies a great deal upon the importation of animal product-heavy diets.

At the same time, patriarchy didn’t get as far as it has by merely vilifying and maligning women. It had to convince men (and women) that being a woman was a horrible fucking thing to be, since they were so… inferior and childbearing and yucky. Part of the slanderous misinformation against oppressed groups was making sure that those who weren’t oppressed wouldn’t sympathize too much with them, or they might be them. So too with animals. Animals are routinely used as a placeholder for every vile human on the face of the Earth: they’re animals, they say, like animals construct fucking rape prisons. I’m not arguing animals are innocent or pure or whatever; I’m just arguing that they haven’t constructed a proselytizing culture that actively traps, imprisons, and punishes those who don’t fall into the “right” categories and belief systems, so they haven’t given themselves nearly as many opportunities to fuck themselves up. Trust me, were, say, finches doing what humans were right now, they’d be just as fucked up too—although I guess that presupposes that you can do what we’re doing without being fucked up.

Effective oppression requires that you not just place the oppressed group within a property category, but that you convince anyone not oppressed just how unworthy of help they are, and how much like them—and therefore a target—you will be if you actually try to do anything meaningful for them.

And if they want to treat you like property, all they have to do is compare you to someone who’s already property. Fucking listen to me! If they want to treat you like they do animals, all they have to do is compare you to fucking animals.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that every group of humans on the face of the Earth that they have imprisoned and forced to labor have been compared to farm animals and beasts of burden? Pele’s exploding tits. Black people were shown off at what were essentially latter-day livestock shows. Black people were said to be animalistic: stupid, large, clumsy, lazy, gluttonous—like cows. Do you think it’s a coincidence that every group of humans on the face of the Earth that they have wanted to exterminate have been compared to—drawn as—”pest animals”? Japanese, rats. Ditto for Chinese. Vietnamese, dogs. Mexicans, rats, dogs. Arabs, snakes.

Snakes, rats and dogs—animals who have committed the mortal sin of refusing to stay still and be exterminated because humans wanted them to, making them Incomprehensible!

How can people be this stupid? Do I really need to spell it out for you? Fine. Oppression of humans will never be fully eliminated without taking down carnism—the idea that animals are just fine to use as property and the actions underlying it—because there is still that fundamental exception. Carnism is the basis for humans’ belief that it is okay to treat someone who experiences their life as property.

It is a fucking excuse, and you fucking know it, or you would actually educate yourself about veganism, and not from carnists—people who benefit, personally and economically, off of carnism. You got exactly no right to be angry at me for tellin’ you the truth: were we in a different time period, you would be just fine with doing this shit to a given group of humans, because you believe this is okay, period.

Away from 101, back to fat. When someone is compared to a given animal group (quarry, farmed, pest, pet, and another group that’s “beautiful” and worthy of their habitat), the stereotypes from that animal group pass over to the brand-spanking-new fucked-over human group.

Fat people are compared to farmed animals: pigs (hogs), cows. Implicitly, then, fat people are what these animals are supposed to be—as I mentioned up at the beginning of the post. I am not saying these assumptions about fat people are justified—in fact, just the opposite, because I don’t believe those assumptions about animals are justified in the first place. Oppression justifies oppression. Farmed animals are like this, thus it’s dandy for us to do this to them; fat people are like this, thus it’s dandy for us to consistently fuck them over and shame them, etc. etc.

No oppression exists without another to precipitate that. Funny, that. Also, as an aside, humans are alarmingly unoriginal if you look at the history of oppression in the world.

Before I end this, I want to note one more thing, and that is another similarity in perceptions of farmed animals and fat people: they are seen as unimposing, impotent and non-threatening. Despite the fact that farmed animals are actually quite dangerous to humans in ways that suggest we wouldn’t be hunting them in natural circumstances, they’re essentially seen as ridiculous because we were able to dominate them. Fat people, too. A fat man, furious at being treated like an immoral, lazy eating-machine, only comes across as comic relief—a fat woman comes off as even less impressive than that, the most impotent and powerless of them all.

Oppression is oppression is oppression. Human oppressions are only branches of this oppression: carnism is the trunk from which all human oppressions are justified, and property status and human supremecism are the roots. I’m going for the roots. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell out of my way while I’m swinging my axe.

What Does Life Say About Those Who Die? Submission and Ventriloquism

I found an article on Gary Francione’s blog, The Abolitionist Approach, a post entitled And What About the Four Other Dogs? In it, he talks about how five dogs were scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter; four died, but one—a puppy—was found to be still alive after being given two lethal doses of euthanasia medicine. The dog’s survival was posted by a veterinary technician on a pet adoption website, and hundreds of people over North America began clamoring to adopt the dog.

He asks, as with the title, what about the other four dogs? The ones who didn’t make some kind of miraculous escape?

This story is similar to the stories about farm animals who escape from slaughterhouses and are then given homes to live out their lives. They, too, are “special.” They escaped from the institutionalized exploitation that we have established. They have cheated death.

Many people think that when an animal escapes death in this fashion, it is some sort of divine sign. These sorts of events ironically reinforce our view that because there is no divine intervention for all the other animals that are killed at “shelters” or in slaughterhouses, then this is the way things ought to be for those other animals. They are killed as part of the “natural” order.

This is true. I have heard exactly this kind of “argument” used against veganism, although I last encountered it several years ago, perhaps because the most obvious inaccuracies are hard to ignore: “If animals cared about not being killed, why don’t they try to escape? [Kidnapped African] slaves did, after all.”

That’s paraphrased, but I did not actually add in the part about the kidnapped Africans. She put that in on her own. There’s the obvious problem with the argument, which is that many animals have escaped and that slaughterhouses are built to prevent that from happening—a la Temple Grandin—but then there’s something else wrong that she didn’t realize. The fact that most kidnapped Africans did not try to escape, or successfully escape, was used as evidence for the idea that slavery was perfectly fine.

I. After all, if the kidnapped Africans really objected, they would be escaping, successfully, in droves. II. After all, if she really felt it was rape, she would have fought him off. III. After all, if she really didn’t want to be beaten by her husband, she would leave him. IV. After all, if he really didn’t want to be bullied, he’d fight back or go to a teacher. V. After all, if zie really felt zie was getting cheated by zeir boss, zie would have sued. VI. After all, if zie doesn’t want to be poor and starving, zie would have gotten a job. Et cetera.

This is a variation of the No True Scotsman No True Rape Victim fallacy—the idea that if someone being oppressed really thought it was unjust, they would fight back against it. And they would win. But the idea of the Iron-Willed Escape invalidates not just those who can’t imagine fighting off their abuser—it invalidates the people who do successfully manage to fight off their abuser, too. Rape victims are discredited because, given that he didn’t really manage to rape zem, he’s still Shrödinger’s Rapist and therefore, not really a rapist. The question is always, “But how do you know zie was really intending to hurt you?” because any resistance against power is always seen as fundamentally unjustified.

Thus, if zie was able to fight him off, zie couldn’t really know he was actually going to rape zem—he didn’t, so therefore he’s not a rapist! But if he does succeed in raping zem, then it wasn’t really rape because zie failed to fight him off so zie wasn’t really serious about not wanting it… so therefore he’s not a rapist!

That’s what rape culture is. That’s what victim-blaming is: placing the onus of rejecting violation on the victim instead of the violator. It is Lierre Keith‘s perfect philosophy because, no matter what, the oppressor is never to blame for oppressing. An abuser can’t be held responsible for their actions: you just let it happen. You just let him sell away your children. You just let her beat you. How were they supposed to know it wasn’t okay if you didn’t force them to stop?

“If you don’t like me hurting you, then you shouldn’t let me hurt you.”

The oppressor becomes invisible and the oppressed becomes solely responsible for their own oppression. If they don’t like it, then they should have tried harder to keep it from happening. Somehow, the abuser is never held responsible for their decision to abuse and never expected to actually treat anyone like people. The victim is portrayed in a black room, empty save for zem, shuddering as an unseen hand batters zem—something that is assumed, because of the absence of any visible perpetrator, exists entirely in zeir own mind, that zie is submitting to. A personal pathology. An individual flaw. No atrocity to see here, folks; move along.

You should perhaps question why it is easier to hold the victim responsible than the one who victimized zem.

I draw together all these examples not to show similarities between different forms of oppression, but to show how all oppression is fundamentally the same. Oppression and its justifications are all the same—they’re utterly unoriginal, just a repeating pattern of the same thoughts, the same arguments. Every carb-starved fuckneck thinks that “but plants are alive too” is a unique and compelling argument against veganism, and so does every porn-addled fuckneck think “women’s choice” is a unique and compelling argument against anti-exploitation, consideration of abuse, capitalism, coercion, reality. Then they wonder why they keep hearing the same rebuttals in response, over and over again, and conclude that those desperately trying to scrape their way out of a fucked-up, oppressive world and into a new one, those people simply have nothing else to offer.

It’s the other way around. Being aware of oneself requires an accounting of one’s bigotries, one’s life, one’s actions. It requires a vicious, snarling demand for self-inflicted honesty and ultimately, honesty requires change.

In a society that wants to view oppression as normal, as neutral, as right, it becomes much easier to blurt some self-indulgent nonsense and let yourself fall into the ensuing applause.

To Be Property

Part and parcel of property status is maligning the intelligence of the property class: their experiential, emotional, and mental capacity and complexity. Everyone assigned property status at any point in the world has been said to be simplistic, not in control of their actions, incapable of grasping or using dense logic.

Slaves were—one of the justifications for making it illegal to teach slaves to read and write was that they were incapable of learning. (Apparently it makes sense once you’re dealing with enormous cognitive dissonance; whatever.)

Women were—they had to maintain entirely domestic lives to prevent the atrophy of their frail ladyparts, and also to prevent their descent into violent, frothing craziness. (Which I have to wonder, were they just tired of laying back and thinking of England?) Except for poor women, anyway—the “lower classes” had no problems of the sort because, well, they were lower class, and already had those labels applied to them.

Speaking of, working class people were said to be like that—even now, our stereotype of a McDonald’s worker is completely unsympathetic: a vacant-eyed, slackjawed imbecile flipping burgers with a limp wrist.

Children are supposedly inferior, which only holds up as long as you refuse to take into consideration a) adult dissociation from their childhood and b) that not being able to argue effectively in a language you’ve only had a few years to learn, especially when everyone treats you like you’re fucking stupid, might make accurate results a bit hard to come by. Animals are supposedly inferior, too, in the same ways children are—driven by instinct; impulsive; simplistic and lacking in logic. The idea that animals are inferior falls prey to a lot of the same problems, too—but the one I want to talk about here is that believing they are stupid, crazy, and untrustworthy solidifies others’ power over them.

This is not some convoluted fucking theory, either, that makes you feel like you have to be on drugs to see it clearly. You have to believe that their thoughts and emotions are inferior and unworthy of being taken seriously because if you didn’t do that, you wouldn’t be able to keep doing this shit to them. To feel justified in consuming a cow’s corpse, you have to believe that the cow’s experience wasn’t worth taking seriously; to feel justified in forcing a child to eat that steak, you have to believe that the child’s experience isn’t worth taking seriously.

Zie just doesn’t know what’s best for zem. Pele’s erupting tits, that has been heard for centuries. Let me point out:

Crusades: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Conquistadors: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Native American Genocide: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
U.S. Slavery: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Women: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Farmed Animals: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.

Et fucking cetera. No, seriously, white fucks actually argued that slavery was a good thing because otherwise black people would just run around being violent and tribal and natural (omfg!1) and crap and not knowing what was good for them, and it was up to the Good White Christian Men to kidnap them and submit them to horrendous lifelong multilayered torture to break their spirits for Jesus. And that runaway slaves didn’t say anything against slavery itself, because guess what: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.

Obviously, there’s that lingering, strikethroughed “Us” right before the Them, unspoken but not unheard. It’s present in every rape, every unspeakable act of violation on another’s body and soul. You just don’t know what you want; you don’t even know your own mind, and that’s why I get to do this to you without feeling a twinge of empathy or regret. You just don’t know that you’re perfectly fine with this, you stupid dog.

This needs to be repeated to you, over and over and over again. Whether it has to do with women, non-human animals, indigenous peoples, children, it does not fucking matter, you need to fucking understand this: the property status came first, the justification after.

It was not: “Animals are, like, retarded, so we’re gonna feel just dandy playing tiddlywinks with their social structures before killing them.”

It was: “We want to play tiddlywinks with animals’ social structures before killing them. Not because we need the food, mind, because there’s plenty of that all around us: we want to because being able to subjugate someone means that you are powerful, and we want that power. But, um, we’re gonna feel pretty shitty if we actually consider their feelings like the non-predatory species we are, so… They’re retarded! Take that, conscience!”

It was not: “Women are simplistic and irrational, so we get to own them and rape them whenever we want.”

It was: “We want to own women and rape them whenever we want… and women are simplistic and irrational, so we are perfectly moral in doing so. God/Science/Nature/Darwin/Psychology says so.”

Part of privilege, part of oppression, is being brainwashed into thinking that it was the other way around. Because if the justification came first, the oppression has a reason to exist—that’s rationalization, right there. It’s never been true, but if the oppression existed for a reason, then you have your reason to disregard it and continue the power structure.

DNA is a damn good self-perpetuating system. But I think oppression may be a little bit better—because even when it’s eating you from the inside until you’re an emotional and ethical cripple, you’ll continue on. Even when you’re killing vast swaths of your habitat and your community, you’ll continue on. And when someone gives a damn good post underlining why those prejudices you hold aren’t trustworthy, you’ll use the prejudices themselves as an argument for why they shouldn’t be listened to.

That’s fucked up, man.

No Word for Young Rebels

Still thinking about love, this time in the context of Western language norms and prejudices.

It’s been apparent to me for years that English is a language made by the powerful, for as much as many survivors’ words have been co-opted into the language for use by “regular people.” It’s ridiculously strict and shallow: a word can have many meanings, but there are no words for the depthless things.

I can describe joy in terms of behavior: that joy is a feeling that resists being kept private, a feeling with its own impulse to share, with generosity implicit in its nature, not of the thing that gave you joy, just of joy itself. That joy creates this radiant aura so you think you’re grinning out your eyes… When I hear capitalists speak of “joy” as a private experience, I know they’ve never experienced the thing I have. It transcends happiness. But in the wake of a society that cripples your emotions with civilization, imprisonment for indoctrination, carnism and technological mind-thinning, people apply the word “joy” to the only experiences they’ve had—ones that, to me, seem pathetic and muted, although I used to think the same things when I accepted and submitted to the system.

The value of limited vocabulary is something restricted to the privileged and powerful, because it is a privilege associated with power to be interpreted in the blandest and least-incriminating way. The words of those who aren’t white, who aren’t male, who aren’t rich are looked at with an eye that is thousands of times more critical.

A white man is allowed to say, “White people are privileged, and this privilege is killing people of color.” He’ll even be applauded for it in many circles. But Pele forbid a Black or Hispanic woman say the exact same thing… because that white man’s very whiteness and maleness suggests that he is not a serious threat to the system—he is part of the system, and those benefiting from a power structure very rarely actively dismantle it. The same damn words will get a woman of color FBI notice.

Those holding power are given the benefit of the doubt: their words are taken at face value. Look at the interactions between MRAs and feminists—when the MRA says he’s not a misogynist, that he doesn’t hate women, it’s taken as truth even when he goes on to call women whores, manipulative fuck-holes; when the feminist says she’s not a misandrist, she’s assumed to be lying for the benefit of her feminazi agenda, even repeating over and over and fucking over again that men are people too, she just wants them to act like they are—for them to act like they, too, are bound by all the interpersonal responsibilities and care that women are.

Words mean all of jack shit for those fighting the system. Truth means all of jack shit, because someone who is fighting the kyriarchy is automatically assumed to have sinister ulterior motives. People who suffer from the system are untrustworthy. People who want to fight the system are absolute liars.

It’s a remarkable self-perpetuation scheme.

Words mean different things depending on who uses them. What does love mean when a man says it, as opposed to a woman—what if they’re white, Hispanic, Black, first nations?

My experiences have taught me that words mean a whole fucking lot when white men use them, because they can correct someone who “misinterprets” them and be taken at face value—oh, that’s okay then, it was just a misunderstanding. People who challenge this—um, you say that, but your actions and other words prove you do actually think that—are taken as so mean, so unreasonable, so volatile, so angry.

Because they’re allowed to tell someone seeing the truth that it’s all a “misunderstanding,” words essentially mean whatever the powerful—white, rich men—want them to. It just compounds the problem of a limited vocabulary.

The oppressed aren’t allowed words for their experiences, thoughts, feelings and beliefs: I’ve had people argue with me that Biting Beaver’s Rapist Checklist wasn’t right because of the definition of rape that was in the dictionary. He actually pulled out a dictionary and showed me, as if it meant anything—as if it weren’t constructed by white men, as if it meant more because it was constructed by rich white men.

A dictionary could wipe out an entire populace’s experiences because the book meant more. I realized then that words—not the use of them, but their definition and their limitations—can be genocidal and gynocidal. You don’t kill someone by using words. You kill them by making it so that there are no words for them. You just… erase them, make them stop mattering. Words mean so fucking much in Western cultures: sometimes your entire value can rest upon using them correctly, in a way and a manner that the kyriarchy is sympathetic to. You need to be “articulate” and “well-spoken” if you’re not white; “rational” and “logical” if you’re female. Without words that win over the kyriarchy, your value is nil.

An absence of words doesn’t stop the experiences that would be named by them: they just stop those experiences from mattering. Do I need to point out how this benefits the power structure, again? Lacking words for my gender doesn’t stop my “flavor” from exiting the mainstream entirely. It’s never stopped anyone from feeling anything, but it’s stopped them from being heard.

So love means what it is appropriate to mean for the kyriarchy: ownership, a power dynamic, sexual preoccupation. It’s popular in the BDSM community to think they’re “deviant.” I could laugh until I coughed blood. There are no words for the feelings I have for my friends and my lovers: in the face of the overwhelming glory and intensity of those sensations, “love” is pale and anaemic, washed out. The Japanese color (roughly) for death is white; for life, red. My love needs a red word, my life a new language.

It’s why words need to be made up. The English language has no words for these things. But making up words and changing the meaning of existing ones is a power given only to the privileged and even then, only to the most privileged. I have been told so many times that “carnism” is not a word by carnists who thought they were radical and anti-oppression. If we didn’t make up words where there were none, no oppression would ever get noticed. Ultimately, their resistance to carnism was the same as the resistance to sexism and racism… they benefited from it, and they didn’t think it should matter or be heard: so any word that named it for what it was had to be inherently illegitimate. Rape has always been illegitimate… from its very beginnings, rape was about men. A property crime: rape was about men. It’s still about men; to make it about those who survive it and those who don’t has always been illegitimate.

Love has always been a privilege of the powerful, too—its definition and its use. Love your wife; serve your husband. Love is not necessary from an inferior; after all, it’s not like you have a choice. And while they may want to force you to love them, the fact that you can’t escape—you can’t escape from their love—is enough.

The more I think about this, the more convinced I become that we need a new language, one full of red words to give voice to all the brittle and tender nuances of thought and feeling that are the right of all animals: the birthright of experiencing your life.

I Ain’t Dumb II: Accents as Racial Discrimination Justifications

Re-reading my I Ain’t Dumb: Language Fluency and Perceptions of Intelligence post previously, I was inevitably reminded of the race and class issues on the same subject. You can see why: one of the stereotypes of Black people, historically—it was used as a justification for slavery—has been that they aren’t intelligent because they don’t talk right. Nevermind that it was the best that kidnapped Africans could do under the circumstances and it actually ended up being perfectly adequate—it was taken as something inevitable.

Slaves couldn’t speak right because they were too stupid to talk “proper English,” regardless of their native tongue, regardless of the fact that they were deliberately manipulated to be that way—given a chance to decide between whether it was biological or cultural, white people chose to believe that it was biological, because it shored up the power structure. And if it hadn’t been speech, it would have been something else—said kidnapped Africans being hard workers was used to justify their lack of intelligence, as was the fact that most Africans weren’t Christian. It would have been something, but because it was so obvious, the fact that they couldn’t talk right became the figurehead for everything that was stupid and ignorant and uncultured about African-descent people.

And it still exists, too, though now it’s oftened defined by negative space—an African-descent person who speaks with a middle- or upper-class accent is “articulate,” and “well-spoken,” even when there’s virtually no difference in wording.

The tradition has been faithfully upheld, too. I’m sure you can come up with examples just off the top of your head, and so can I—when the Chinese were shipped and kidnapped to be used in U.S. labor, the heavy Chinese accent was taken as evidence that they were extremely stupid, albeit cunning and manipulative. Irish and Italian immigrants, often used the same way, were seen as stupid for the same reasons: they couldn’t speak English fluently. The Polish were stupid, too—good for nothing more than manual labor. The Russians were stupid, enormous behemoths, and thugs on top of that. Blind people are stupid, as are deaf people and those with speech disorders. Et cetera.

Some are even less concrete than that—floating ideas, representations of the preality—an animated cartoon of a Native American, raising his hand and saying, “How.” Speedy Gonzales. Sven and Olga jokes. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Tonto (“stupid” in Spanish), who was cowardly, too.

Face it: Western society is all kinds of hung up on how you talk.

And a lot of that has driven the anti-Hispanic sentiment lately. How likely would it be that “LEARN ENGLISH, MORANS” would exist if Mexicans were portrayed as speaking midwestern English? And how much of the resentment aimed towards Mexicans is based on the idea that they speak broken, unaccented English?

Given how much and they don’t even speak English! is used as a constant refrain in anti-Hispanic rhetoric and opinions, I’m gonna bet that language bias is a huge, enormous part of that. Having the right accent decides so much of your worthiness and value in a community that if you don’t have it, you’ll be looked at with suspicion and wariness a priori—as a likely thief, lazy sonuva, con artist and general good-for-nothing.

And look at that list: how many of those stereotypes do we regularly apply to Mexicans? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to shift uncomfortably while a neighbor starts ranting about those thieving Mexicans will steal everything you have because they’re too lazy to work for a living—lol—and try not to interrupt with, “Um, my grandfather was full-blooded Mexican. My dad’s an ex-patriot. My brother’s visibly Hispanic. I have a Hispanic last name. You’re talking about me and my family when you say those things.”

Actually, my roommate, who’s half-Hispanic and passes depending on who’s looking at zem, has done that. Zie even used to have the stereotypical “Hispanic” accent, because zie grew up in the inner city in a largely Mexican and Latin@ area—but zie was moved by family out into the suburbs and had to adapt out of that accent to pass. I’m sure you’ve already realized the response zie’s gotten: “Well, you don’t sound like them.”

… Accents are a class and racial cipher key in modern-day U.S. to determine how worthy the person is of being around you, and being in the U.S. at all.

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