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Posts tagged ‘history’

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.

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.

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.

The Transactional Model of Sex

Okay, you know what, no more. ATTN WORLD: Stop using monetary and transactional analogies for sex and rape. It doesn’t work in a thousand different ways, and in fact the transactional ideology is one of the very basic ideas underlying rape: that one action justifies another action.

Capitalistically*, paying for an item in the store gives you the right to use it. The store originally holds the right—perhaps privilege would be a better word—to the item and you buy it from them.

Payment is a widely accepted action that justifies another action, i.e. you taking it out of the store and using it.

Now, in rape culture, the same standard holds. If you are in a relationship, you are entitled to sex in a similar manner to your entitlement to a potted plant if you pay for it. It is widely accepted that if you do not receive the other side of the transaction—sexual activity, foliage—you are entitled to take it by legal (plant) or coercive (sexual activity) force.

We’ve been over this. That’s Feminism 101 shit right there. Men the world over still believe that if they buy you dinner, they deserve sex in return.

“Entitlement” is a neat way of saying that you feel you deserve something from someone else that a) goes beyond necessities and basic standards of living, b) must be given by them to you (e.g. attention/time/respect, as with mansplaining) and c) that you want it with no regard to any damage it may inflict upon the person you’re demanding from.

When entitlement is widespread and unquestioned, it results both in privilege and power, and vice versa. Rape is not about desire (which would involve caring about your partner desiring it too); it’s about privilege (everyone assuming the transactional method of sexuality is valid), power (ergo, everyone bowing to your “right” to sexual activity) and the ensuing entitlement (that women should also follow the transactional model of sexuality).

Rape is about entitlement—believing that if your partner won’t put out willingly, you can force zem to because you deserve it. The transactional model of sex is a fundamental part of how much you think you deserve to, because you have societally-sanctioned situations in which the onus of rape will be transferred to the victim instead of yourself. Though, if you think about it it’s pretty damn funny, because basically everything is one of those situations.

Here’s another stunner about the transactional model of sexuality—it primarily works to the benefit of men, even non-rapists, because the cultural leverage of transactions can be used to informally coerce a woman into having sexual activity—now with 50% less effort! The transactional model of sex has also historically been used to justify many, many forms of sexual assault as mere sex—and it still is, if you haven’t noticed all the pornography arguments going around.

Because it provides the pretense of women being compensated for sexual activity (an idea which is like, holy shit, anti-sex), the transactional model of sex prevents women’s reports of sexual assault from being culturally validated. If a woman is raped and paid, it doesn’t matter; she must have consented in some way, shape or form—because the transaction itself is taken as implicit consent on the woman’s part. And, vitally, men have historically shaped Eurasian and African cultures so that women often need to accept “payment” for the bare minimum of survival.

Going out to dinner with him was consent. Wearing a short skirt was consent. Flirting with him was consent. Accepting the drink he sent over was consent. Staying in the relationship with him was consent. Not calling the police was consent. Having children with him was consent. Everything she did or didn’t do meant she wanted it.

Today it’s not better, just more codified—and, as always, there are women that are more rape-able than others. Women of color, indigenous women, non-gender conforming women, poor women and foreign women are all exceptionally vulnerable. They’re also seen as exponentially greedier than “normal” women (which is not necessarily white women, but usually depends on the country in which you live) so that every line becomes impregnated with suspicious ulterior motives. And in some cases—Duke, anyone? Assange, anyone?—a rape accusation itself is seen as “payment” for a vicious, vengeful, racist survivor. The cultural stereotypes of women being sexually conniving is ramped up to 11 when it involves a woman who isn’t “normal.”

Fundamentally, the transactional model of sexuality is wrong. Literally (it doesn’t fit human sexuality), ethically (see preceding text) and functionally (it does a massive disservice to virtually everyone who uses it).

And I have no sympathy for anyone who engages in a sexual relationship with this idea in their head… and finds out later that they raped someone. Let’s talk about how you have approximately 0.00% of room to complain.

But I have negative one google sympathy for anyone who, on the basis that their ex might come back and say they were raped, uses transactional analogies** to justify ignoring them.

There isn’t enough NOPE in the world for all that.

*I do not support capitalism in any way, shape or form. This analogy should not be construed in any way as support for any transactional system of oppression.

**Comment: May 12, 2007 at 1:39 pm, but also infinite variations thereof all over the goddamn web, all by men and sex poxes.

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