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Posts tagged ‘economics’

White Privilege is a Thing

As much as I enjoyed this post by FAB Libber—an excellent takedown of how transphobic hate crimes actually have to be motivated by transphobia—I read through the comments and I cringed, again, at something I’ve seen repeatedly from white feminists of radical and non-radical stripes.

Any privilege that a woman has is bestowed on her by the individual or group of males she ‘belongs’ to, and can be taken away in a heartbeat.

… Specifically referring to white privilege.

Now, I want to make two things clear:

1. I am not “calling out” FAB Libber; she just sparked the thought process leading to this post, and not in a bad way. I mean this absolutely respectfully; I liked most of what she had to say, this subject just itches.

2. I agree that misogyny is the commonality between all women worldwide, even the very privileged who don’t think they experience any oppression or bias, and that women of color have their race used misogynistically against them and their sex used racially against them.

Privilege can best be conceptualized not as an object or substance, but as a set of behavior and reactions. There are two sets: “empowered” and “powerless,” that is oppressor and oppressed, because it takes some blinders to miss the fact that the “empowerment” of fun-fems is about making the oppressed into oppressors and pretending it’s all “individual choice” so that the systematic nature of oppression is obscured, not about actually eradicating oppression.

It is not inborn, regardless of what many misogynistic transsexuals would have you believe; if you swap and raise a child at the other end, they develop the “powerless” set of behaviors and reaction. The sets are learned, and very deeply; you also do not suddenly lose your set if your appearance changes. Many MTFs are, to put it politely, confused about privilege, mostly because they (like 99.9999% of men) don’t want to face the reality of their privilege—that it is not dismissable by being hurt or exploited at any point in your life; that is not canceled out by some other oppression; and that any recognition of it and attempt to counteract its effect is not somehow “oppressing” you.

That’s because privilege is not some kind of substance floating aimlessly in the air, just kinda hangin’ out bein’ malicious and crap; the behavior/reaction sets you learn from being socialized as empowered/powerless is the enforcement arm of the Kyriarchy. Behavior will out. The powerless are socialized to be deferent, meek, excessively respectful and polite, to keep their head down; the empowered are socialized to be aggressive, arrogant, sure of the objectivity and rightness of their own worldview, the superior quality of their suffering.

The behaviors of the “empowered” are calibrated to induce passivity and fear (specifically, fear-based passivity) in the powerless; their reactions are designed—perhaps not consciously, but viciously nonetheless—to reinforce the fact that the “empowered” poses a threat to the powerless, and to rub their face in it.

The behaviors of the powerless are mainly reactionary; they’re harm-reduction. “Powerless” behaviors are damage-control responses to a threat; a system that institutionalizes and legitimizes very real, very dangerous choices given to the powerless. Speak nicely to the man/white person/police officer; they have the ability to seriously fuck up your life if you aren’t polite enough.

And, of course, a large part of the set socialized into the “empowered” is simply to take this deference, this excessive politeness, this fear based on a real threat, and see it as default—as baseline. So that when they are not being deferent, excessively polite, agreeing with your superior knowledge, letting you into their spaces regardless of how uncomfortable you make them, you—the “empowered”—will see them as rude, bigoted, castrating, unfair, shrill… misandrist, “reverse racist” and transphobic.

I find it incredible that someone could possibly conceptualize privilege as some abstract thing that is based solely on appearance or some wishy-washy, internal “identity,” but somehow I’m not surprised.

The first MTF who ever commented on my blog invaded my space(poorly, since it is the internet); zie posted one over-the-top comment insulting me, and when I hadn’t posted it in the next few hours (since, you know, I have a life), proceeded to completely flip zeir shit and post eight successive comments, some of which were just copy-pastes of the original comment and two of which were just “GET UP STAND UP” one-liners about how zie wouldn’t let me quash zeir right to… post a comment on my blog!

The same person also asked me whether I understood what male privilege was.

Lest I fail to mention the similarities between the two, I have also experienced similar incidents from MRAs. Those people also completely lose their shit when someone in the world shows signs of disagreeing with them, and attempt to do the internet equivalent of shouting you down, because they can’t just loom over you and threaten you into silence that way.

The person who insisted that, because of zeir transsexuality, zie did not have male privilege acted with male privilege. Because that is what privilege, fundamentally, is: it means you get the right to bully others into acquiescence.

Because they fear you. Because you are a threat, and your behavior—not your appearance—is the primary indicator and proof of your ability to hurt them.

That’s how privilege functions and continues; that is the process. Privilege is not some mysterious woo-woo magical stuff that, like, sometimes you have but sometimes not; it’s a conglomeration of behaviors.

They are designed to produce the appropriate effect: submission.

And it’s universal to all power dynamic schemes. Adults intimidate and pressure children into obedience with the threat of hurting them unless they acquiesce; men do the same to women, and this doesn’t necessarily change when the former takes hormones or looks like the latter, since privilege does not have a biological fucking basis; thin people do the same to fat people; and white people do the same to non-white people. Humans do the same to animals, but animals aren’t necessarily expected to participate in their own oppression (they’re too stupid to see how superior humans are, after all), and anti-human supremecist humans will do just as well as a target.

So it seems unnecessarily obtuse to declare that privilege is something you just magically lose when you decide you don’t want to be part of a privileged group anymore, or because you “never really agreed with privilege,” when you still act like an oppressor. You still act arrogantly; you still act like you have the right to define the lives of a group of people whose oppression you weren’t socialized into; you still act like you have the right to be listened to above and over them, because you decided you are one of them and you think you have more right to decide who belongs in their group than they do; you still mistake the emotional upheaval you experience from being rejected from that group as de facto evidence of oppression.

And even more, proclamations that you don’t “really” have privilege, that you never really, like, had power because these other oppressors have more and they don’t like you—things like that seem to me to be very little more than a clear indicator that you do have privilege, but that you’re refusing to consider your own behavior. Because you enjoy, far more, being automatically listened to, and privilege warps your worldview enough that you can’t see clearly within it.

Privilege is not something we need to fight each other about; I think that “calling out” and aggressively confronting people on their privilege is counterproductive. And there are easier ways to address privilege internally—though not so much on the internet. Fucking listen to people; treat them with basic fucking respect; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings valid and important; and actively reject the urge to turn and listen more closely to someone with power—an adult, a pornographer or pimp, a vivisectionist or farmer, a thin person, a rich person, a white person, a man or someone who was raised to be a man.

In other words: if someone experiences their own life, they get to be treated like a person.

That is the only way you can fight privilege on a massive scale; humans are, after all, social little buggers, and they’ll imitate each other without really knowing what the hell they’re doing. Behavior, in that way, is contagious; if you treat people with gratitude and respect, and not like property, those around you will follow suit.

Hard Work and Capitalism

I find it immensely amusing and tiring to talk with capitalists because they never actually hear what I say; it’s more like they’re continuing an imaginary debate with me than responding to my points. I have a pretty good idea that this is just a symptom of being too ignorant of capitalism to know anything about any other social system, but it’s still funny/irritating when they come out with one of my “favorite” points: you just don’t want to work hard.

I’ll save the capitalist vs. anarchist (and civilized vs. primitive) analysis for later. Capitalists claim that “hard work” is a virtue within capitalism; so success within capitalism means an abundance of “hard work” and failure within capitalism means a sorry lack of it. (You can smell the victim-blaming already, I know.)

Bullshit. Capitalists do not believe hard work is a virtue, because the reward system for “hard work” inside capitalism is the absolute opposite of what a capitalist ideal of “hard work” would look like.

Before I go on, think about what “work” means. It includes: producing a physical object, producing a physical state (cleanliness), and organizing people or things so that these two “production” states can be carried out most efficiently (therapy, management, etc.). What work does not include is socializing, because socializing is enjoyable.

The lower down on the pay scale you are—the less successful you are at capitalism—the less you are allowed to socialize, regardless of how it affects your ability to work. I’ve seen cases where managers have actually separated crews because they thought “socializing” was a uniquely anti-hard work evil, making it harder for them to get done in a certain amount of time, and still they refused to allow the crew to work as they did best.

But the higher up on the pay scale you are, more and more of your “job” is actually just socializing. You don’t “work” under the same definition; you eat lunch with someone.

Capitalism cannot value “hard work”—that is, a dedication to productivity that eschews social and personal needs in favor of more work—when the most highly-valued positions are the absolute antithesis of that same “hard work.”

It’s even more ridiculous to believe that capitalism values “hard work” when socioeconomic inheritance happens. Very, very few CEOs got to be where they are by “working hard.” Most got their job by being born to rich, famous, or powerful parents. They did not have to work hard—ever. Hell, there are very few lawyers who weren’t born into a place of privilege.

I’m actually gonna assert that within capitalism, “hard work” disqualifies you for a more highly valued position; it’s a disadvantage to be hard-working. The biggest reason is that, because hard work is so closely associated with poverty and capitalist failure, hard work is coded inferior by capitalism. It’s devalued because the people who are the poorest are expected to work the hardest, and because very often they do.

But another thing is that power within capitalism is also based on socialization—you get power by getting people to give theirs to you. And one of the simplest and most ridiculous part of any status quo institution is the circle-the-wagons reflex: protect yourself against any untoward implications by refusing to break ranks.

That’s more than capitalist, by the way—carnists do it (well sure that animal abuse is wrong, but I eat tasty animals and I can’t care if they’re abused because I want some cheese har har har!), pro-porners (well I can’t say anything about their clearly-unhealthy “kink” because I know mine is unhealthy too and I don’t want to draw attention to it), anti-feminists (first it was our right to rape, next time it’ll be our balls!). It’s pretty par-the-course for injustice.

I don’t think capitalists do it intentionally, but people who work hard and the people who take the most shit are shut out of higher-paying positions; once I had a friend working at a U.S. pharmacy/corner store who was fucking amazing at it and impressed the hell out of the district manager. This wasn’t weird; it was just how zie did zeir job. After three months of doing everything literally perfectly, though—and if you’re familiar with those shitty pharmacy/corner stores and their turnover rate, you’ll understand how hard it is—the assistant managers started whispering about how zie was trying to suck up into the position of manager. They found excuses to write zem up when nothing had been a problem before and, within another month and a half, they’d made the job so fucking unbearable zie left.

And this is pretty common; if you work hard, you’re seen as a threat and cut down to size.

So in reality, hard work isn’t a virtue of capitalism; it’s a mark of failure. The best thing you can do to succeed within it is cultivate charm and appearance and schmooze the hell out of powerful people in hopes that they’ll give you some of theirs. This has been how it’s been working for quite a long time—and they’ll have the gall to say women didn’t earn their way to the top.

Of course, the whole socializing thing is boring, because trying to pander to others’ prejudices is really annoying; and a low-paying job sucks because you have to take a lot of shit. I prefer actual work, upcoming.

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.

Honestly

This is not an issue that directly relates to any form of rights I’ve spoken about. It’s about boundaries, finding an ethical code that won’t tear you up inside with hypocrisy, and protecting yourself.

I was, like a lot of people, brought up to believe that honesty was one of the biggest virtues someone could ever have; at least where I grew up, kids were inundated with feel-good stories about “doing the right thing,” and not getting punished because they had the goodness of soul to stand up and proclaim The Truth. No, the world doesn’t work like that, which makes it an even shittier propaganda tactic to use on children, but the idea of honesty as paramount still looks awful good until you take a look at it in the context of reality—power, prejudice, inequality and defense.

Much like pacifism, the people most likely to benefit from widespread “honesty” are also the people least likely to have to practice it, because the power imbalance is heavily tilted to their side. The rich, the powerful, the white and the dickled have much less to lose from practicing (or not practicing) pacifism and honesty; there’s less of a line between a choice to do so or not to do so for them.

What’s the worth of a white person’s choice to be a pacifist in a society that does not target them with violence, inequality and disenfranchisement? It’s not like that white pacifist won’t be hurting the people of color who do suffer those things; they’re institutionalized. One white dude’s symbolic gesture of non-participation—especially while zie is still participating in other oppressions that highlight and entrench racism like capitalism, carnism, technocentrism, for a start—doesn’t do a whole lot to reduce the impact of racism on actual people. Not even talking about it will stop that shit; it’s not in your hands.

And what does pacifism symbolize to the power structure when taken up by a person of color, except a willing acceptance of victimization?

I’m not asking about the personal value of these beliefs, whatever they may be. I’m asking about what they do. I’m asking where these supposed “subversions” of the power structure become actual subversion, actual sabotage. Especially since I do want to enact violence against the power structure—I want to destroy it utterly. Again: I’m trying to chop down the tree of oppression. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell outta my way while I’m swinging the axe.

What effect does honesty have on the power structure? How does it help, or harm?

The first time dishonesty as a political act, instead of as simple self-protection, was driven home to me was when Aslan and I were homeless together, living out of a tent bought with the money I’d saved up as our last vestige of hope. We had an average income of $0/mo. I’m the black sheep of the family and have never had any kind of financial support from them; Aslan grew up on the streets under a welfare mother and zeir working-class stepfather was seven hundred miles away, assuming he’d be willing to help the kid he abandoned at four. No trustifarians we. So you can imagine how we got food. Not through a dumpster; they’re mechanizing them all nowadays. Anyway.

We ate better than we had in months, even walking a minimum of 30,000 steps every day. Not particularly because we got “a lot,” but because we managed to get enough. It helped that we’re vegan—carnist foods are much riskier to shoplift than anything else. Some karma thing, I dunno. But it struck me, the first time I went in with Aslan with a goal in mind, just how much capitalism has invested in imbuing this strange, distorted “honesty” into you: the entire structure of a corporate grocery store is designed to hide the underhanded shenanigans occurring on every level of the capitalist establishment while at the same time trying to make it so that you do not have the ability to hide anything from them.

And most of that attempt consists of psychological tactics. Most people don’t know not to twitch, to act as if you have a right to be there, and to do your best to remain as invisible, unforgettable, and impersonal as possible.

There is a direct line from one to the other here. You have to ask: who is profiting from these beliefs? In other words, who is profiting off of making you too nervous and guilt-ridden to ensure that you can eat, regardless of whether or not one of the upper caste will accept your petition to work? Because the answer is fairly clear. Instilling the belief that honesty is a necessity, even and especially when it harms yourself, in order for those who hold power over you to cement that dynamic straight into the ground.

Put another way: if you are honest, who is going to hurt you?

As a matter of policy, I don’t particularly believe that anyone is obligated to tell the truth when they are long the power imbalance. There are a few caveats to that—the consideration, for example, of whether or not you’re going to be directly hurting someone else by lying—but the rest stands. In many cases, I see lying as an obligation, such as with the quintessential “he went thataway!” misdirection of oppressors in search of a revolutionary. The only person you should ever make a policy of total honesty with is yourself. And maybe your best friend/long-term lover, but I’m pretty sure that requires negotiation. A lot of people start “opening up” and then take it way too far because they have no experience with what is an acceptable and desirable limit to that.

Question these social norms you are given at their premise. Why is honesty desirable? Why is pacifism? Why is femininity? Why is carnism? Why is nationalism? Why is the human race? Ask not just why but how—how are these things desirable, and whose interests do they serve?

Your ethical code needs to be informed of this, to be malleable, so that you needn’t sacrifice yourself to the power structure in order to live by your ethics, and so that you needn’t betray your ethics in order to protect yourself. Revolution is not an easy path to walk: you need to set aside a lot of your honesty for yourself, so that you will be neither willing nor able to tolerate or make excuses for yourself when you veer too close to being the kind of person you do not want to be.

“I Paid for You.” Capitalism’s Inherent Property Ethic

Even amongst the less capitalist circles, there’s not a whole lot of talk about the totalizing objectification created by a system run by exchange. Pretty much everyone understands the basics of classism: that you’re perceived as being inherently worth more and a better person if you’re richer, and given more opportunities based on that, whereas the reverse is true if you’re poorer. In other words, socioeconomic class is perceived as a reflection on one’s personality in capitalism in a similar way to beauty in medieval Italy. The richer or more beautiful you are/were, the better a person you are/were.

Yeah, that’s basic. And pretty obvious. But classism is inextricable from capitalism in another way—and ageism, racism, and sexism insofar as these groups are capitalistically disadvantaged, too—because, to put it gently, our entire system is based on the value of currency given to anything in general… and it invades everything.

There’s a particular transactional model of oppression that states thus: the more money that others have to give you in order to support your survival, the less you are worth and the more you are owned by them.

You see this everywhere. Look at the anti-welfare crap going around; look at the anti-socialized medicine crap going on in the U.S., the fire being rained down on unions in Wisconsin and Indiana, the sabotaging of jobless benefits. Resentment is bred because the people who feel they are “paying” for these things without benefiting feel as though they’re getting ripped off—because they’re having to buy something without getting to benefit from it.

When you look at it from an item perspective, it makes sense: if a store charged you for items you didn’t buy (and therefore didn’t get to use), you’d be pretty pissed too. It makes sense, except for the fact where we are talking about peoples’ lives instead of an actual object.

… But thanks to capitalism, the monetary value assigned to someone’s life and/or quality of life is the signal that they are property—an item or a product that you are having to pay for without being able to use.

You know those old “jokes” about how wives are merely bad prostitutes—they take men’s money and then don’t even put out in return? This is why. They are being “paid for” as products, but the men, their “purchasers,” don’t get to use them at all. This follows other forms of oppression, too—ageism, for example. Literally, by paying for their children, parents feel an entitlement to force/abuse them into doing something just so because they are effectively buying them.

A person becomes a product when a monetary value is assigned to them for whatever reason—their survival, their quality of life, maybe just a momentary indulgence. It even applies to employers: Aslan, at a previous job, would be stocking about $20,000 of product every night—usually mostly on zeir own, too—but zeir manager wouldn’t even let zem get fucking overtime. That’s another problem with the product-purchaser capitalist worldview: it brings into play the “natural” desire of a purchaser to get the most for their money.

This is endemic, too, unless and until we cut the line tying someone’s survival and basic quality of life to a monetary value. Food, shelter and water must be upheld as basic human rights, inalienable, such that they cannot be sold unless they are luxury products—as with exotic fruits like passionfruits (in some places), animal products, several kinds of sweeteners, sodas, prepackaged “junk” foods, etc. Outside of luxuries, whole foods are your right. So is shelter. Until capitalism falls or compromises, you will be objectified just by surviving.

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.

The Only Thing I Learned from Therapy

There’s a longer post coming up on this in the meantime, but the transactivists who’ve been commenting seriously need to get a grip.

You want recognition and respect of your gender ID? Gotcha. There you go; you’re a man or a woman (or your choice of words). Yes, real ones. Unless you happen to be a balloon masquerading as a human animal. There you go. Problem solved.

If that’s what you want, then that’s what you get. I won’t bow to you or shut up simply because you don’t like what I say. That’s not a privilege I give to anyone. And hey, guess what? I can still disagree with you and respect you. Happens all the time. I can even disagree with you on the way your identity came about and how it can be helped and still respect you; I disagree with my friends, several of which are transsexual, but we get along great otherwise. Because… I respect them, and they don’t confuse agreement with respect.

In fact, I don’t need to agree with you on what causes your problems or how your problems can be solved in order to give you exactly what you say you want: respect and recognition. I do not need to agree with everything anyone-who-is-oppressed believes is in order to not be -ist. And, given that I’m a full person and I don’t particularly enjoy the limits compartmentalization would bring to my life, I can even believe several things at the same time! Some of which neither side of A Controversy wants to believe! Amazing.

I don’t need to agree with you on every single fucking facet of the world in order to think you’re a person that deserves respect. (Because that is my priority: that you are a person and all rights flow from that, not that you are someone that needs to be treated nicely because you’re so pitiful, or something.)

And in fact, this works everywhere, with every kind of oppression. Just because you suffer doesn’t make you enlightened on the specific mechanics of that suffering—only the experience of it. Hell, even I don’t claim to know what will fix X with me a lot of the time.

I don’t need to believe in capitalism and socialism and Marxism and anarcho-syndicalism, all of which are believed in by some poor people, in order to be anti-classist.

I don’t need to believe that Black people are better than animals because they’re human in order to be anti-racist.

I don’t need to believe that fat is inherently genetic and that environment plays a minute role in being fat in order to be anti-sizeist, and believe that fat people are people who deserve to be treated with basic dignity.

… But basic dignity doesn’t include the idea that if you say Y, because you experience X, you are automatically right. That’s never been true, but this is the impression I’ve gotten from the commenters I’ve had so far.

Let’s get this down. Among my many beliefs are:

– That everyone, regardless of assigned genitalia/gender-conflation, deserves to have their identity respected. Because they are people.
– That you are entitled to do anything you see fit to your body in order to feel okay with living in it, provided it doesn’t harm anyone else (SRS doesn’t affect anyone but you, so that fits).
– And for free.
– And with a minimum of hassle, too. I don’t have any aversion to people making “bad choices,” (whatever that means), as long as they’re not harming anyone else.
– Everyone has the right to not be harassed or attacked, because they are people. (Mind, I can’t really help it if you still want to believe I’m attacking you. Y’all need reading comprehension stat.)
– Everyone has the right to not just automatically assumed to be lying, or acting in bad faith.
– Everyone has the right to have their experiences listened to, have those experiences seen as valid. Maybe not objectively, I-feel-like-this-therefore-it’s-true valid, but objective gibberish is hardly necessary to treat someone with respect.
– Miscellaneous not-treating-you-like-the-devil item here.

Basic dignity, right there. I can’t and won’t do any more for you than this. And if you’re so bent on acting disrespectfully to me—I’ll note that not a single fucking transactivist has actually asked me anything; you’ve just assumed your initial misconceptions to be true—then, yeah, you don’t need to be here. Go take a walk in the sunshine. It’ll do you more good than running up comments here.

If you want to ask me things, and not assume that I am a horrible fucking person for not believing everything that you happen to immediately, then awesome. I have a lot to ask you too. Most of the comments I’ve let through, I’ve done so in an attempt to learn better—to goad someone into actually having a conversation with me. Alas, “to learn better” is actually entirely different than “accept everything so-and-so says as right.” What I’m asking for is not assertions; it’s descriptions.

But until you’re willing to treat me with basic dignity, too? This is an incredibly annoying phrase that, even when necessary, is still incredibly annoying:

I’m sorry you feel that way.

Now, on to actual posting! Also, comments disabled because y’all can go for a day without having to tell me I’m the Antichrist, I’m sure.

Transactional Models of Sexuality are Anti-Sex

The transactional model of sexuality is horrendous, and we know this already. But even outside of the paradigm of straight-up rape, it creates the implicit assumption that whenever women are having sex, it’s because they got paid for it somehow, and that whenever a man does anything nice for a woman, he’s entitled to sexual activity sooner or later—justifying rape, since the fact that she accepted the gift (or that he offered it at all) is taken as prospective consent.

Yes, that little bastard of an ideology is also the culprit behind any variation of, “all women are money-sucking whores.”

And it’s also the driving force—and one of the primary justifications behind—defenses of pornography and prostitution. That payment should ever be accepted as a sign of consent is absolutely anti-feminist. This is not the radical feminist stance, it is the feminist stance: that true consent cannot exist in circumstances that require one to “consent.”

When anyone is forced to submit to sexual activity in order to fulfill their basic needs (for example, trading sexual favors for food), we consider that sexual assault at minimum. It’s not like it’s hard to see why consent is problematic in that situation.

Even aside from the sex pox redefinition of “rape” to exclude having to submit to sexual activity because you will starve or freeze, though, the transactional model of sex is harmful to women’s sexual liberation in the view of sexual pleasure at all. Rape can and has been conflated with sex, often. However, as I mentioned earlier, the transactional model of sex also includes the tenet that all women demand money or gifts—payment—for sex, because women have no fundamental interest in sex itself. Men need sex; women do not. Women have no intrinsic interest in sexual pleasure or orgasm.

Because if women did have an intrinsic interest in sexual pleasure and orgasm, it would be unacceptable to approach sex without the assumption that you both were going to try to make sexual pleasure mutual… and it would be downright insulting to offer payment—whether it’s money, jewelry, clothing, relationship stability, whatever—whether sexual pleasure was going to be involved or not. Because it wouldn’t be necessary: if women are human, like men—if women belong to a species with an innate capacity for round-the-clock, non-estrus sexual pleasure—if women are human, like men, then women have an equal interest in mutual, reciprocally pleasurable sex.

Sex is pleasurable. And you can’t really argue that nature doesn’t actively encourage hedonism, even if it is tempered by empathy. Ergo, women have an interest in sex in their own right: because done right, it feels good. There is no reason for men to try to bribe women into sex—and in fact, a bribe implies that consent is not genuine.

And if men are willingly participating in and perpetuating a society that forces women to have sexual activity regardless of whether or not it’s pleasurable for them, but for survival—then men are actively encouraging sexual assault, not because women are not willing to have sex, but for only two reasons: a) men are not willing to consider women’s interest in sexual activity as just as valid as their own, OR b) men get off on sexually assaulting women, and that’s why they perpetuate a society where women must have sex for their safety and survival. Sexual assault comes in a continuum because consent does—however, unlike the sex poxes, I am absolutely unwilling to accept effectively forced consent as anything other than sexual assault.

Because sexual assault strips you of your personhood. It is perpetrated on you whether or not you like it, and often because you don’t like it. And all too often, you have to submit to it because to resist endangers your survival. This is a feminist statement: the decision to have sex should never have to be any part of a calculation on your survival and basic quality of life.

This is not sexy. Being paid for sex is not sexy. But then, anyone who’s been near a porn set knows that it is basically one of the unsexiest places in the world—hospices notwithstanding.

“Sex work is like any other job,” is part and parcel of the transactional model of sex because if you boil it down into its most succinct meaning, it is: “Sex is a job.” Or, alternately, “I have no problem with my lovers feeling as though sex is a job as long as I get laid.” It is something you do in order to get payment from it—without passion, without happiness, because it is a “choice” that is inherently forced, inherently constrained. Pleasure has nothing to do with it. You simply cannot say no.

And believing that is acceptable—that is anti-sex and anti-feminist.

I believe sex is a profoundly good and awesome thing, and that choice should mean something more than just a buzzword that allows you to do whatever the fuck you want, however exploitative, coercive, or depersonalizing it is. Your orgasms are not the only ones that matter. Welcome to women’s sexual liberation.

Car Culture as an Additional Oppressive Strategy

I’m reading about and watching videos of the protests women are doing in Italy against Berlusconi’s ideology that women are there to be used as toys and entertainment. And while I’m doing this, I’m struck by two separate sensations: first, pride and excitement for the women who are taking to the streets to do this, and the community they share; then despair, because I know how unlikely this is in the U.S., how impossible it is even though it shouldn’t be.

How many protests would I go to if only I had the community for it? How many conferences would I attend if I had the money? How different would my life look if I had this many people who cared about their lives and the lives of others, enough to take to the streets as comrades?

And then a smaller, simpler problem: how would I even get there?

I realized this just now. My life is ruled by transportation: the presence of it, the lack of it, the accessibility of it and the extent of it. I’ve been discontent for a while now with being relegated to a second-class citizen because I don’t have a car (up here, “walking while Black” is just “walking, anywhere, at any time”), but I’ve never really grasped just how much of everything in my life that determines for me.

As a small child, my parents moved us to the suburbs because my mother didn’t want to live in the “bad” neighborhoods, the ones that happened to be walkable. The first neighborhood was fine, because it had sidewalks; but then my mother decided that she deserved a bigger house and we moved several blocks away, where there were no sidewalks and you needed to climb up and down several steep hills to get where you needed to go. I developed agoraphobia in that house—a painful anxiety that came up whenever I thought about going outside, because I couldn’t just roam: I had to go somewhere. Being outside needed a justification, a goal, because the neighborhood was constructed in a way that it became deeply uncomfortable to go anywhere without a car. This sounds like hyperbole—the few friends I had, all of whom were used to walking, came to agree with me: it was just too fucking much, especially coming from an abusive environment.

It’s even more of a disadvantage now that I live off minimum wage in an apartment complex meant for the poor and nonwhite who serve the rich. They are in every rich community—or just outside, anyway. It’s so fucking invisible that most people don’t even believe you can be poor and live in the suburbs. My $900/mo total living expenses say otherwise. (To repeat: I do not live with my parents. I have as little contact with them as I possibly can.)

I’ve already recognized that choosing a neighborhood where I would need to be completely dependent on her for transportation was part of my mother’s abuse, because it was deliberate and it kept me from getting away from her. But I’ve only just now realized that a lack of public transportation—they don’t even shovel the fucking sidewalks, for pumice’s sake—is in itself a form of abusive control, especially when combined with construction sprawl that places shelter, rest stops, food/water supplies and everything else very, very far away from each other.

The fundamental problem in having a community that shares my values is that, because of distance and transportation, I can’t. Because my mother decided that the suburbs were the only place safe and white* enough for her, I have even less ability to participate in the world around me than someone who lives in the city. I mean.

Holy fucking eruptions.

That’s all true as can be, but hold on a second. Let’s deconstruct this, U.S.-politics style.

The suburbs were rolled out as a way to make entirely white congressional districts, in addition to segregating money, whiteness and power away from the poor, nonwhite (and occasionally re-gentrified) city. By moving that power out into the suburbs, white parents were better able to terrorize their own children privately and maintain strict ideological control over their family and their surroundings—neighborhood covenants in the middle-class are swiped directly from the US/UK aristocracy. At the same time, the lack of transportation wasn’t an issue—1) because they were already privileged as hell and had little to lose from making it more difficult to participate in society-changing endeavors (which is to say, protests, or community); 2) because they had the power and privilege to buy cars, they weren’t as disadvantaged by such a move as anyone else would be; and 3) because proper adherence to family ideology would ensure access to wealth and cars.

Having power and privilege makes it possible to live a lifestyle that is otherwise completely unsustainable. Carnism is more expensive, resource-intensive and difficult to obtain without these things—unless, of course, you’re only eating imaginary animal products. Capitalism, because suburbanites practice it as oppressors instead of the oppressed, doesn’t really need anything more said about it. What the hell would I call this—suburbanism, carism?

Not that I believe that it’s an enormous, global oppression, because I don’t: it’s car culture. A facet of oppression, and oppressive in itself, but it is not a Big Ism. Nevertheless, isolation of underprivileged people and communities is one of the more covert and insidious forms of silencing in the world, and it’s more effective because they’re less likely to be able to overcome it. Even in Denver, this is at work too—the board of directors for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) is largely white, rich and male, and they have been systematically crushing public transportation services for the poor and underprivileged while simultaneously trying to extend more to the rich. They raise prices. They cut out stops so that it’s no longer feasible to walk. They make ridiculous route omissions (seriously, RTD? You can’t make a bus go by the fucking library?). They cut route hours and frequency. They cut routes—primarily the ones that serve the poor and the brown—under the guise of “low ridership.”

They’re trying to build a lightrail line going up to the fucking ski resorts.

This is silencing—by limiting the opportunities for underprivileged people to interact with the world around them without having to endure unnecessary discomfort and strain. By making it so that it is harder to live, on a day-to-day basis, and by sucking up what little money and time they do have to spare into a black hole. In the fifties, public transportation was systematically bought out and summarily dismantled by the automobile companies to make people dependent upon them. This isn’t to make the underprivileged dependent upon any company, though: it’s solely to maintain the status quo.

The only way someone can think of living without a car as privileged is if they themselves are privileged, because their own reliance upon cars is so normalized and invisible. Someone who cannot afford private transportation, like me, or who deliberately opts out of car culture, like me, has no privilege here. I can’t not walk. Walking is basic, and free—it’s not a luxury chosen only by those with the privilege to do so.

Even if I did have the ability to obtain and maintain an automobile, it wouldn’t be a privilege for me to choose not to. Deliberately choosing to live as minimally as possible is not a privilege—it’s a renunciation of it. And there’s a lot here to renunciate, clearly. I’m still only starting to grasp that.

*Which is even more appalling when you consider that my father was definitely not white in any way, shape or form. But of course, he was “civilized” and “educated” so he passed well enough, I guess.

News: Nature is Awesome, Humans Intent on Short-Term Gain (Still)

In animals and nature news today, another species of beetle native to the UK has been discovered. It’s a rove beetle with an average length of 6.5mm (i.e. pretty damn small). A handful of new beetle species are identified each year in the region, which doesn’t include other species of insects and animals. I find a great many people who insist that we know a whole fuckin’ lot about animals, which usually provides the basis for their assertion that we know non-human animals are inferior to us, but this just isn’t true. (And it doesn’t help when you repeat basic inaccuracies like, “bees aren’t animals, they’re insects!”)

Out of a scale of everything there is to know about humans, the knowledge humanity possesses accounts for probably one millionth of one percent. I say “probably,” because we know so little about ourselves—even separate parts of the body, like the circulatory system—that it is basically impossible to estimate unless you’re using my scale (which is extremely practical but widely ignored and/or denied).

For example: did you even know there were 1,500 varieties of potatoes in existence? (I did. Plants are awesome.) There are also over 600 varieties of mangos… although they are quickly being destroyed by global agriculture, capitalism, and… hey! Carnism.

When you include everything else in the world… well, dudes, our knowledge is basically the equivalent of a single single atom among all the atoms in all the molecules of every material thing in the world.

However, we do have some knowledge by trial-and-error—not passive knowledge (that something is), but active knowledge: what happens when you do something. Actually, humans have such a long history of fucking up that we have a massive repository of straight-up facts for what will happen if you try to fuck with the world around you… This is being stolidly ignored in the UK; to reduce tuberculosis rates in farmed cows, farmers want to shoot badgers.

Aside from the outstanding evidence that “pest management” is a bad fucking idea, shooting badgers actually increases the spread of TB outside of the immediate area because of the upset to their social networks, so any badgers that foraged nearby will range farther instead of remaining in the area. No, of course that doesn’t imply badgers feel so strongly about others in their social networks dying that they will actively avoid the area—that would be sentimental and obvious reasonable evolutionarily sound anthropomorphism.

Apparently, it’s a better idea to fuck up another animals’ social system than it is to simply eliminate the problem by not farming cows. Because if you did that, nature wins! And nature is an ecoterrorist.

That’s officially my new tagline.

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