Today’s topic is: Counter-Accusations
Scene: As with last week’s edition, we’ll use our characters Vince (a man) and Marisa (a woman). Both are white. They enjoy a platonic friendship that largely revolves around talking politics and enjoying each other’s company—let’s say they’re into progressive politics right now. However, Marisa is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Vince’s company because of his habit of using sexist comments to deride female politicians he disagrees with.
So she brings it up with him, telling him that making sexist remarks isn’t okay no matter even if it’s directed at an “acceptable” target.
What Vince does in response is berate her. He tells her that it’s racist to defend these women because the group they’re politically affiliated with has a history of working against racial equality and that Marisa, as someone who believes in anti-racist politics, should know better.
Effect: Shaming, Silencing.
– Marisa has been positioned by Vince as the oppressor—by claiming that her criticism of him amounts to bigotry itself, because he was making sexist comments about racist women.
– Marisa has also been mortified; maybe publicly, maybe just in front of Vince—but the trick is that she still gives a damn about what Vince thinks of her, even though male privilege makes him essentially immune to really, seriously caring about what she thinks of him. Gathering the courage to confront Vince has backfired in a humiliating way, and Marisa has been emotionally incapacitated with confusion, shock and shame from being misunderstood so badly.
– Vince normalized and invisibilized sexist comments as not real oppression because they’re only important outside of the context of racism. Racism is a real concern, but sexism is only if his target didn’t do something to “deserve” it.
– He also perpetuated a form of rape culture—that some women “ask for it” or otherwise do something to deserve gendered oppression, with racism as the justification. That is, if a woman is racist or oppressive in a way displeasing to men, she deserves whatever slurs and gendered violence come her way.
– Marisa’s concerns have been more than just invalidated—they’ve been vilified by the claim that her motives are not just impure, but outright bigoted. This is also underscored by the unspoken threat that if she continues pressing the issue, Vince will determine that she is racist.
Discussion: Vince believes that when women violate a standard of “ethics” he may or may not live up to himself, his own motives in degrading them become unassailable. Even though he wouldn’t ever use racist stereotypes or suggestions to degrade a Black man who disagreed with him, a white woman is fair game. Marisa’s challenged his power and ability to engage in misogyny against what he sees as an “acceptable target,” so he’s come up with what is essentially a completely irrelevant argument—Marisa wasn’t saying those women were right; she was saying Vince was wrong for saying that kind of shit. The accusation of racism is a shield—putting the burden for action and reflection back on her so that he can retain the privilege of not having to think seriously about the fact that he is privileged, and changing his behavior to suit.
That is to say, he’s willing to use his supposed antiracism to “cover his dick” so he can appear to be speaking for magnanimous or altruistic reasons—he’s fighting for racial equality, bitch!—when really he’s just defending his privilege. They’re nothing more than tokens for him—Get Out Of Privilege Free tokens, interchangeable and useful only insofar as they allow him to continue behaving like a douche. If Marisa had been talking about veganism, Vince would have just as shamelessly brought up the Inuit to call her racist with—not because he actually values the Inuit (because if he valued indigenous peoples, why would he bring them up and ignore the many hundreds of other native peoples who do not live the way they do?), but because they justify him continuing to do whatever the fuck he wants.
Marisa has no way out of the minefield except to admit that she was wrong—and that Vince was right, which was the plan all along. If she argues, she’ll only solidify his concept of her as racist, and he will be viewed as reliable for any of their mutual friends that he decides to spout off to, whereas the opposite would not be true. If Marisa said that Vince was racist instead, the response would be, “No—he’s just not that kind of guy.”
So, Marisa’s fucked. Again. Sorry, Marisa.
Subsets: Well You Just Don’t Like [insert] People; You’re Such A Bitch, Can’t You See He’s Suffering?; We Have More Important Things To Worry About; Why Don’t You Do Something For This Acceptable Group Instead; NO U.
What You Should Say So You Don’t Ask Me, “Well, What Do You Want Me To Say (You Unreasonable Bitch)?”: Try, “Okay. I didn’t know it could be interpreted that way. What have I been saying?”