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Posts tagged ‘counterproductive strategies’

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.

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The Erasure of Dicks

In about forty different ways.

Now for your daily dose of transactivist transphobia!

This time it’s “the majority of transphobic violence is committed against MTFs.”

It’s a general sentiment, but Julia Serano has actually written this in her book Whipping Girl (very closely paraphrased). And it is an unexplodey piece of shit.

This claim is bullshit because of two things: first, it’s unsubstantiated; and second, if you actually consider the actual way the world works, it’s very likely false. For simplicity’s sake (and honesty’s), I’m going to consider “violence” to be specifically physical violence, because even I know that having something shouted at you from a passing car is not nearly as traumatizing and intimidating as being physically attacked.

The first problem is self-explanatory; let’s focus on the second. Without any actual evidence, for example a survey that takes into account the relative time spent outside versus online, we don’t have any idea how often MTFs:FTMs are attacked—we don’t actually know how often either of them are attacked. Surveys are not very enlightening when it comes to the most vulnerable and abused, because they are the least likely to have the leisure and safety to fill one out.

And that’s part of the problem. From my observation, corroborated by the FTMs I’ve had the pleasure to meet, MTFs are by far the most prominent voices in the trans community. Put simply, FAAB men are not heard or counted as much or as loudly as their male-born counterparts.

This is not a trend isolated to the trans community. Reporting of eating disorders are similarly confused on a class and race basis: because of the way eating disorders are reported, they are incorrectly assumed to be largely specific to upper-middle class young white women. Here are the problems with assuming eating disorder reporting is correct:

1. Reports are gathered from medical and psychiatric authorities. Consider monetary and time expenditure, as well as cultural values and expectations (stigmatization, bootstraps fuckery, et cetera).

2. Eating disorders are often well-hidden until an extreme point; for example, Lierre Keith has gone more than twenty-nine years with an eating disorder without anyone recognizing what it was.

3. Those who are typically victimized by “authorities” are more likely to be suspicious of medical and psychiatric authorities, for good reason, and thus more likely to hide their eating disorders, if they go to aforementioned establishments at all.

4. The majority of eating disorders are not recognized and acknowledged; severe emaciation and/or constant self-induced vomiting is required for it to be seen as a “real” eating disorder.

5. Whether or not someone’s eating disorder qualifies as a “real” eating disorder is also highly dependent on sex, size, age, race/ethnicity and class.

That’s a lot of societal crap standing in the way of that nice, neat conclusion. Fact is, street kids—generally the poorest of the poor and marginalized so much that the word doesn’t even work to describe it—have eating disorders. All the time. All of the street kids I’ve met have eating disorders; the vast majority of the street kids Aslan has met (dude, Denver Five Points Area) also have eating disorders; almost none of them were white. I’ve got way more than enough evidence that the “profile” of people with eating disorders is worth less than the bananas I ate yesterday.

And even then, street kids have one more thing working against them—something that FAAB men do, too: they’re usually starving anyway, so any intentional starvation on their part is obscured and rendered as invisible as the lives of street kids generally are.

Same with FTMs, which the people crowing about how MTFs are the primary target of trans-related violence always miss: when violence is perpetrated against FTMs, how much of it is just violence against women? How much violence against FAAB men is identified as “merely” another woman killed, raped, beaten?

Certainly, that’s what their attackers mean it to be; it’s virtually certain that an FTM’s attacker is going to be MAAB, and even more certain that he is going to be viewing the violence as not against someone who is trans as it is a woman. Generally, MTFs get beaten, raped and killed for being “freaks” and “fags”; FTMs get beaten, raped and killed because they’re girls. The reality of violence is different for MTFs and FTMs, and it is exceedingly male-centric to deny these two things: first, that MTFs are more visible because of their at-birth assignment (that is to say, as male); second, that MTFs are not the standard by which transphobic violence can be measured.

We can see that to deny these things is patriarchal, also, because of the history of homophobic violence and the focus of the recent gay rights movements. When gay men are beaten or killed, it is horrific, although not so much for rape (since sexual violence is still a big no-no in the hot-to-trot social justice scene); when lesbians are beaten, killed and raped, it’s more of the same. The rape of lesbian women is so institutionalized, in fact, that we have a fucking name for it: “corrective rape.” And you can bet how widely-used that is—I found it via surfing a bunch of feminist blogs.

What about the New Jersey Four? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were lesbians? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were women? What’s the fucking difference between those two things? The life of women—people who are put into boxes labeled “women,” a fucking social reality—that landscape is covered with so much blood and violence that it becomes virtually meaningless. Violence against women is normal; as it is said, “the water we swim in and the air we breathe.” When an MTF actually goes beyond a refusal to see and avoid dealing with the privilege and behaviors she was socialized into from birth, when she reaches the point of being just a woman, when that woman experiences rape, battery, abuse, murder at the hands of men, she isn’t experiencing it because she’s trans. She’s experiencing it because she’s a woman. That’s what life means; that’s what the social reality of “woman” is.

And it is important too to ask the questions: Who is doing the beating? Who is doing the raping? Who is doing the abusing? Who is doing the murdering?

If transactivists are genuinely interested in stopping trans-related violence, then the answer to that question cannot be fudged. You can’t argue these words are beating, raping and murdering you. I am doing no such thing and, furthermore, no person who ever reads these words and agrees will be doing any of those things to you, either. Get over yourself. You either care about trans-related violence or you don’t. And if you want to stick the responsibility of violence to people who are not perpetrating actual violence against transfolk, then you don’t care about ending that violence at all.

FTMs are not given this extra-special kind of respect by the holders of power (that is to say, MAAB men as a social reality) because they want to be one of the guys or whatever. They’re still seen as women. When they get attacked, they get attacked because they’re seen as women. And their safety is exponentially more at risk, because they are traveling into the domain of those who are most likely to beat, rape and kill them. Invisibility is paramount. Invisibility is passing, and passing is safety.

But when you’re an MTF, and you’re exploiting that invisibility to argue that you’re the most specialest and oppressed, you’re just acting like everyone born with a dick is trained to act. Which is, well… a dick.

Pathology Doesn’t Heal

Usually, when people talk about pathologizing, what they’re referring to is the emotional-abuse tactic of, “that’s crazy, you’re crazy,” to basically everything a person says. But the other day I had a discussion with Aslan about pathologizing as a defense tactic in social movements, however counterproductive. It began as a discussion about transsexuality in general while we were walking to the store, as Aslan is one of those lifelong genderfuckers you meet so rarely, and ended up on pathologizing as a pity-evoking attempt towards gaining rights.

That’s what I mean here: pathologizing not as something done to someone you want to dismiss, but as someone you want to support.

I got fed up with the gay rights tagline of no one would choose to be gay! when I was just a wee, barely pubescent little radical. My initial response was that it wasn’t true: I vaguely remember having a NM conversation on Neopets, back in the heyday where it wasn’t “family-friendly” and run by a bunch of people with a very poor opinion of anyone under 18, where I asserted that it was better to be gay because “you could understand each other more.” Mind, I was eight. However, I’d grown up all my life hearing about how men and women were so different that they basically came from different planets, and the only way for them to really get along was for one of them (generally the women) to start thinking and acting like the other. In other words, men and women, for all the talk about the glorious human species etc., were incompatible at their core.

I’m willing to wager that it wasn’t the message those assorted authors had intended me to take away.

The same influence also has some effect on the fat rights scene—sure, mostly by concern trolls, and not so much with the “fat rights scene” (it’s largely rejected by, well, everyone). The script goes pretty much the same way: “It’s so horrible to live a life that’s so fat and disgusting because of that fat and disgusting body. Haven’t they suffered enough? I mean, being fat is worse than anything!”

In a slightly different way, pathologizing children is used to “fight for their interests,” too. Look at how inferior they are! Look at how ignorant and illogical they must be to not know everything about civilization! Clearly, their brains just don’t work right, and that’s why they’re pure and innocent. And let’s not forget that many cultures assume that being a teenager is essentially an unfortunate temporary mental illness.

And to another point, it’s something that pisses me off a lot in the “pro-choice” community. Nobody ever wants an abortion; it is a horrible, bad, wrong thing that we’d absolutely do away with if we could figure out a way to stop women from whining about their rights. Because, really, come the fuck on—it goes beyond adoption, beyond financial and emotional means, beyond every ridiculous fucking excuse out there: sometimes, you just don’t want your genes to go on. Sure, 99.999% of everyone with a uterus would prefer “not getting pregnant in the first place” to having an abortion. But pathologizing abortion—and the choice to have one—is just more support for the concept that abortion is a horrible, shameful thing, no matter who you are.

The pity game isn’t something that pleases me. It’s obviously counterproductive—arguing that you should be treated equally because you aren’t really equal people, but it would hurt your feelings not to be isn’t the most brilliant tactic to take—but even further than that, it’s wrong.

Carolyn Gage points out the same thing I’ve been saying for a while: that, basically, so what if it is a choice? I’ve always admired radical feminist-lesbians for saying, straight out, that they do choose to be lesbians. It’s fucking awesome. Fuck you, I like liking girls. Gayness not as a horrible, dreadful affliction, but as a part of your life that brings you joy, companionship, and love. (Also orgasms. Can’t forget that.)

If something is inherently painful and distressing, it stands to reason that it should be fixed—erased out of existence, merely because it inevitably causes pain to the people bearing it. Not as a judgment, but as a mercy. Pathologizing works on the part of your enemies—as a means to seem “compassionate” for wanting you to be eaten by a pack of wild Sheens—and not ever for you.

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