"Check my what?" On privilege and what we can do about it

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"Check my what?" On privilege and what we can do about it

  1. Learn What is Meant by “Privilege”
  2. The Free Dictionary defines privilege as, “a special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste” and, “such an advantage, immunity, or right held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others”. The first step that needs to be taken in order to go from pro-equality in spirit to pro-equality in deed is to understand this concept and what it means in an anti-oppression activist context.

    Some useful primers:

  3. Accept Your Privilege
  4. Once you have a basic grasp on the system of privilege, the next step is one simple self-realization: you are privileged. Chances are, your reading that has made you feel defensive. While it’s a perfectly natural, and common, reaction, don’t let it get in your way of actually thinking about what the statement means. What you need to realize is that we all have privilege to some degree: white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc. The hardest thing is to do is to get over your instinct to fight and say, “But I’m not like that!” If you can do it, you’ve completed the first step towards being a pro-equality in reality rather than simply saying and believing that you are.
  5. Understanding Your Privilege
    This step is one of the most important ones I’m going to talk about. Understanding privilege is an ongoing process that will help you to understand how to participate in minority1 discussion/movements without taking over their space or feeling left out.
    • Learn to Listen Rather Than Speak

      This one is a lot harder than it sounds, and I say this as someone who loves speaking and voicing her opinion on things. One of the greatest things we, as privileged people, can bring to a discussion being held by non-privileged groups is our closed mouths and open ears/minds. When you enter a minority space, you need to realize that this is their soapbox, not yours. Your privilege gives you many other soapboxes that you can take advantage of, so when participating in a discussion held by a non-privileged group or individual your primary goal is to pay attention to what they say about their issues, lives, and oppressions.
    • You Aren’t Bad for Having Privilege
      You don’t have any control over the privilege you were given, and we get that. It’s important for you to get that, and get that we aren’t saying that, and then realize what that means when combined with your privilege to pretend that you aren’t privileged. Confused? Simply put: you aren’t bad for having privilege, but not being able to give up your privilege is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for bad behaviour. So, what, then, to do about it? Well, finding a balance between accepting your privilege and fighting against it is not easy. I still struggle with it on a daily basis. But, one way to start is to listen to and take feedback from non-privileged groups. They are a good judge of how your actions come across to them. Not everyone’s opinions will be the same, but eventually you’ll come out with some semblance of balance that works for you and those around you.
    • Criticism is Not Hatred
      Any time a non-privileged individual busts out with an angry critique (or even a nice one), someone will eventually come up with the, “I’m sorry you hate men/whites/heterosexuals/etc.” line. With rare exception, non-privileged individuals do not hate privileged individuals, but we do hate how many privileged individuals act! Learn to take criticism. Learn to not deflect it with excuses about how the non-privileged person is just angry, hateful, etc. Even if the person in question is angry, hateful, etc. Even if you, personally, don’t act that way.
    • You Can Only Sympathize, Not Empathize
      This is probably the hardest one for me, personally, to wrap my mind around because I’m all about drawing links between oppressions. But, no matter how strong the link is, the facts remain that no two oppressions are the same. And it’s you, as the privileged party, who needs to be extra careful about when and how you draw links. While the intent may be to show solidarity, the result is all too often that you come off as defensive, trying to one-up the non-privileged groups and appropriate their oppression. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever try to make connections, but rather that you should think about how the connections you’re drawing will come off to others.
    • It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
      The road to understanding your privilege is one full of trial and error. What works in one situation may not work in another, and we may be clueless as to why. What is acceptable in society, may not actually be appropriate. Part of understanding our privilege is understanding how to apply it, and that will come with us screwing up now and again. We may be called on it, we may not be, but the important part is to learn from it. If you’re confronted about your behaviour, use what your confronter says to change your mind, don’t try to change theirs.
  6. Adopt a Language of Respect and Equality
    Chances are you’ll begin to do this on your journey to understanding your privilege, but it bears repeating because it’s an important aspect. So what, exactly, is a language of respect and equality?
    • Revisiting “Politically Correct”

      Your first instinct might be to dismiss words like “womyn” and being asked not to use “gay” as an insult as “that PC crap”. If so, sit back and think about that. Your privilege gives you the power to dismiss the decisions of non-privileged groups, and further deride them by turning “politically correct” into a slur. Part of engaging in a language of respect and equality is in recognizing the validity of a person’s choice to use language, and “politically correct” terms, even if you may not understand or agree with them.
    • Debunking the “Reverse -ism” Argument
      The foundation of this argument — that we’re all just people and so -isms are -isms, no matter which group they’re targeted at — is one I sympathize with. Would that we lived in such a world! But the world is more complex than that. The same power dynamics that create privilege have created a hierarchy of prejudice so that discrimination against a privileged group is not the same as discrimination against a non-priivleged group. This is because discrimination against a non-privileged group is backed up with institutionalized power, whereas discrimination against a privileged group is often a singular act and therefore easier to avoid. I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that discrimination sucks, but glossing over the inequity of the two discriminations helps keep the inequity in play.
    • Don’t Make It About You
      First of all, there’s a difference between using your own experience as a foundation for understanding, and making something about you. The former requires you thinking abou a situation and trying to understand it the only way you can – through your own personal lens. The latter, however, is often a defensive reaction (especially around non-privileged groups, because privileged groups have been trained to keep the focus on ourselves) that will shut down dialogue faster that you can say “moo”. Make sure that what you’re saying is relevant and appropriate before you bring your privileged experience into a conversation by and/or about a non-privileged group. And, furthermore, if people in that group react badly, don’t get angry at them! Reflect on the situation and use that knowledge to foster a better discussion next time.
    • Intent Isn’t an Excuse

      For the most part, I believe that all human beings have the best of intentions. Most of us don’t go about our days seeking to hurt people with words or actions. But, the result of our actions can be that it causes hurt/offense to others. So, while malicious intent may add icing to the cake, it does not dictate whether or not an offense has been made. “That wasn’t my intent,” all too often translates into “your reactions to what I did are invalid because I didn’t mean any harm.” The result is that it’s a defensive reaction that silences discussion on the issue and puts the words/actions above criticism. It, in essense, privileges the sayer/doer’s opinion/feelings over that of the non-privileged person or group that they have offended.
    • Make an Effort to Learn the Lingo
      Standard language just isn’t equipped to deal with the concepts that non-privileged groups have to engage with on a regular basis. And why would it? The language we’re taught is designed for the masses. But, just as you have to learn a bunch of new terms for things like science class, so to do you need to do so for non-privileged groups. Not understanding terms can and will cause problems in the beginning – I know because I’ve been there. We all have. But just sticking it out and continuing to listen and learn will help. There are also places specifically designed for those who have no background in the area. In some, but not all, cases starting up a dialogue around a specific term is fine. What’s not fine, however, is telling a non-privileged group that their terms are wrong. You, as the privileged participant, don’t get to define what is and is not appropriate usage in a minority space.
    • Don’t Use the Language of Opression Against Minorities
      I cannot stress this one enough. Your foray into identity politics will inevitably give you a new set of vocabulary with how to define oppression, discrimination, prejudice, etc. This can be a powerful tool if used right, but can also can turn you into a Grade A Asshole if used wrong. Don’t forget that, with many groups, a sincere apology and inquiry as to the correct terminology will go a long way. And remember that you will find that different groups have different definitions of what language is acceptable. It can be annoying to keep the rhetoric straight, but do your best and you should be alright.
    • Call Others of Your Group on their Crap
      Privilege is perpetuated in part by the silence of people when one of their own group does something questionable. This can be an inappropriate joke, or someone admitting that they committed a crime against a non-privileged person (eg. rape), etc. We’re conditioned to not say anything, especially if we’ll be the lone voice of dissent among a peer group, but when you tell the offender that hir behaviour is not cool, you may be pleasantly surprised by the group’s response. Or you may be ridiculed. I’ve had both happen to me, and with certain groups (like my family), I try to pick and choose my battles. With others (like most of my friends), I’ll risk losing them rather than keeping friends with questionable values. It won’t always work, and you have to find your own balance, but just saying something, or even backing up another dissenter, can go a long way to improving a situation. And, please remember, while it’s a good thing for you to be engaging in this, you shouldn’t expect to be rewarded for your efforts; oppression may be a new experience for you, but it’s something we live with every day of our lives.
  7. How to Approach Minority Spaces
    Minority spaces exist, whether they be safe-spaces, places where we can go to not have to focus on priviliged groups for once, or even exclusionary ones. No matter what the purpose is behind these spaces, however, they are never truly free of people from the privileged group. Some are invited, some are not. It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: never go into a minority space uninvited.
    • Why Minority Spaces are Needed

      Contrary to popular belief, spaces for minorities only aren’t the same as spaces for privileged groups only. For the most part, it’s not about excluding but rather having a space to address our issues without told that they just aren’t as important as “real” issues. Since privileged groups have the privilege of being the “default” person (whether it be default gender, race, sexual orientation, etc), “default” spaces are naturally focused on them. In a nutshell: minority spaces are needed because they are the only place where non-privilged people can truly focus on our own issues.
    • Respect That It’s Not About You
      There are many issues in this world that are about you, but non-privileged groups are not the place to discuss them unless specifically invited. Yes, men are negatively affected by the patriarchy. Yes, they get raped too (and have their own set of victim blaming rhetoric). Yes, privileged groups can and do come into contact with prejudice and discrimination. Are those discussions valid? You bet. But, are they appropriate when the topic is on the discrimination and/or oppression of a particular non-privileged group? Not a chance. If you think the subject may not be appropriate, don’t bring it up. There’s always a later discussion, a new thread, and especially proper forums for discussions like those.
    • Accept That Ranting May Be Directed at Your Group
      We all need a rantspace sometimes. Whether it be to blow off steam at a friend, a collegue, a boss, or a group of people whose actions drive us up the wall, we will all whine, moan, and insult just to keep ourselves sane. In discussions held by non-privileged individuals, those rants will sometimes be directed at privileged groups. It’s hard not to be hurt the first time you hear someone say something like, “Ugh, I really hate men/white people/heterosexuals/what-have-you today!” I know. I’ve been there, done that, but then learned that it’s not about me, it’s about my privilege. It is not me, personally, that is being attacked in those rages, but rather the privilege I have unfairly been given to the detriment of the ranter. Instead of getting angry, I now try to do my best to apply the underlying points to my privileged position and give support to the ranter.
    • All Opinions Are Not Created Equal
      This is the phenomenon that’s talked about in The “What About the Mens?” Phallusy, in which a discussion on an issue that primarily affects non-privileged groups is not allowed to continue unless “equal” time is given to how the same issue affects the privileged group. Inequal arguments do not deserve equal airtime! Repeating what was said in the Respect That It’s Not About You section: it’s important to acknowlege that sometimes problems happen disproportionately to non-privilged groups and to give them the space to discuss that without having to digress into the “it happens to men/heterosexuals/Christians/etc. too!” debates. There is a time and a place for those discussions, but it is not on a thread focusing on issues that affect non-privileged people.
    • Trust Needs to be Earned
      We often feel that it’s unfair to be judged by what others have done; for example, my family is Jewish and didn’t come to America until the early 1900s, why should I be blamed for slavery? The problem is that we, as privileged groups, tend to get the benefit of the doubt on many issues (ex. the practically obligatory “not all men/whites/heterosexuals/etc. are like this!” type arguments that preface so many posts on issues that affect non-privileged people) without extending that same benefit to non-privileged groups who are speaking out against oppression. The facts are, there is a long history of bad behaviour of privileged groups towards non-privileged groups and because of that, we need to realize that the onus is on us to prove ourselves as allies, not on the non-privileged group to disprove it.
    • Give Minorities the Benefit of the Doubt
      I think this one is a hard one to accept, especially given the section on Trust Needs to be Earned. Yes, it’s unfair: why do privileged groups have to earn trust, only to then be told that they should give it to non-privileged groups? Simply because non-privileged groups, coming from an insider perspective, are in a position to understand their issues in a way that privileged groups, as outsiders, never can. This does not mean that you must agree with everything a person from a non-privileged person says about that group’s issues, but rather that it’s important to remember that what’s theoretical discrimination for you is an inescapable part of their lives.
  8. Treat Us Like Humans, Not ‘The Other’
    Don’t pull out the protest that you do this already. I’m sure you don’t believe that you are superior to any non-privileged groups, and many of you probably think that you’re gender-blind, and colour-blind, and what have you. If you didn’t, I’m guessing you wouldn’t have bothered to read this far. But saying you believe in the innate equality of all people, regardless of privileged status, and actually treating us that way are two very different things. And, when you understand your privilege, you’ll be able to understand that distinction and more-or-less where you fall.
    • We’re Not Here For Your Pleasure

      That includes viewing pleasure, entertainment, physical/mental enjoyment, and any other act that makes us into toys for your amusement. Having fun with someone? Cool. Thinking that you have some kind of right to their bodies, minds, time, etc.? Not so much. This includes assuming a person is (or could be) attracted to you simply because they don’t have a significant other. Or because they’re in your subculture. Or, really, any reason outside of them actually flirting with you. And then you need to believe them if you ask and they say, “No thanks.” No matter what their reason. No matter if they were flirting with you. Because, guess what? People have the right to change their minds without being shamed into doing what you want with phrases like “you led me on”. You are not entitled to anything from another human being, so don’t treat non-privileged people like they owe you something – neither an explanation, nor a fuck, nor anything else.
    • Treat Us As Individuals
      What we want, how we react, our dreams, desires, lives, etc… Guess what? They’re just as diverse as yours. What non-privileged people want is the right to all of the life choices that privileged groups have. In order for you, as a privileged person, to assure that, you need to not try to control our choices because of tradition, or your personal morals, or what have you. We have just as much of a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as you do – so instead of assuming something about us because of our gender/race/orientation/etc. try to get a sense of who we actually are.
    • Communicate, communicate, communicate!
      Contrary to what society teaches us, all relationships – from a conversation between strangers to one with a love interest – are partnerships. It’s a word we throw around a lot, but we don’t really know what it means. It may help to think about it this way: both partners have to continually earn, and reaffirm, that they deserve to be part of the relationship by treating the other person properly, communicating their needs and desires, and acknowledging the right of the other person to have the final say in what they do with their own bodies/minds/time. One thing to remember, however, is that, coming from a position of privilege, when you enter a minority space you need to first show that you are willing to be respectful of them before you can hope for them to be respectful of you. Why? Because in general society, people from your group as a whole are unwilling to form any kind of real partnership with people from our group as a whole. It may not be fair for you to be judged by the actions of others, but it’s even less fair that non-privileged people are automatically treated with less than equal respect than the privileged groups.
  9. If You’re Not the Problem, Then You’re Not the Problem
  10. But if you feel the burning desire to leap to your own defense and declare, “I’m not the problem!” then you just might be. The facts are, people who have followed the steps I’ve outlined will most likely not be the problem. If they are the problem, they accept that and will be working on a way to be less of the problem. If they’re not the problem, then they feel no need to protest the critique by saying that since they aren’t the problem, then the poinit is obviously invalid. So, whenever you feel an urge to defend yourself against a criticism about your privileged group, think about why you feel that way. Chances are, the more aware of your privilege you are, the more you’ll see it as a knee-jerk reaction about having your privilege challenged (even if you don’t, in fact, engage in the behaviour being ranted against).

This is just one list by one woman. But, at the same time, it is a list of frustrations (and hopefully some potential solutions) that I have experienced time and time again – sometimes from both sides of the fence – and that I have seen other non-privileged people experience. I wrote this in response to a question, but also in response to the frustration of a man who felt that he was always told what not to do, but never enlightened on strategies for what to do. My hope is that what’s here can help privileged people who are struggling with their place in non-privileged groups and who can’t understand why they get such negative reactions so often.

I intend to update this list when I feel something should be added or modified, so feel free to share your stories, voice your opinions (politely, of course), and what have you.2


1 I use the term “minority” not necessarily in the numbers sense, but rather in the sense as we are treated as if we are people in terms of rights conferred to us (ie. significantly less than “majority” groups).
2 This article originally posted for Blog Against Sexism Day.

Appendix I: List Origins

Please note: This message was originally written at the top of the list, but since it is more of an aside I have moved it to the bottom underneath the Appendix heading. It is not necessary to the list itself, but has been preserved exactly as it was for those who want to know what events lead up to me writing this list to begin with.

A while back I got into a discussion with OS.CB reader yocibox on his LJ about my open letter to geeky guys. For whatever reason (perhaps because I’ve been really thinking about it), I’ve been noticing a lot of posts griping about the entitlement guys I described in my letter. The open letter on Definition I highlighted here is one example of this.

I’ve been wanting to write more on this subject for quite some time, so it was rather perfect when yocibox asked me this question:

how does one successfully prove that one doesn’t consider said female gamer to be just a pretty face, and subsequently convey that the initial approach is not loaded with priviliged expectations?

Appendix 2: Why Write This?

I wanted to create something that was both a resource for anti-oppression activists dealing with privileged groups as well as something that would, hopefully, reach the people who were well-meaning but didn’t get why people who weren’t in their privileged groups got so angry at them sometimes.

I also looked around and saw a lot of lists dealing with specific privileges — male privilege, white privilege, etc — but none that dealt with privilege as a general concept and had as one of its core messages the realization that we all simultaneously benefit from privilege and are victims of it. I think understanding this intersectionality could go a long way to help people accept and understand that none of us — not a one — is totally exempt from privilege.

I don’t think this list has achieved its goals yet, but I do think that I get closer with every revise.


Last Updated: June 30, 2008.

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This entry was posted in Carnivals, Blog Against -ism Days, etc., Eradicating Divisive Discourse, Gender issues, The Evil -ism's, The Privilege List. Bookmark the permalink.

226 Responses to "Check my what?" On privilege and what we can do about it

  1. Pingback: Definition - A Feminist Weblog » Links

  2. Ampersand says:

    Terrific post! Very well-said and thorough.

  3. Lake Desire says:

    Having fun with someone? Cool. Thinking that you have some kind of right to their bodies, minds, time, etc.? Not so much. This includes assuming a person is (or could be) attracted to you simply because they don’t have a significant other. Or because they’re in your subculture. Or, really, any reason outside of them actually flirting with you.

    I’d like to add, for clarification (because this happened to be recently), that what you interpret as flirting does not give you a right to that person–even if she or he intended to flirt. It’s okay for someone to change her mind. Forcing someone into a relationship by accusing her of leading you on is a form of coercion.

    As usual, you’ve written a fabulous post, Andrea.

  4. Pingback: New Game Plus » A Lara Croft I Can Be

  5. yocibox says:

    thanks for the post, as I have been waiting anxiously since you initially said you were preparing a post on the seemingly ubiquitous “nice guy” and his general failings. As I mentioned in our initial discussion I had some annoyance at the term nice guy being synonymous with asshole, mostly because whenever I found myself reading about someone using the “nice guy defense” I consistently thought to myself “well that dude was clearly an asshole”. Of course the fact that the statement in question invariably starts with the phrase “I’m a nice guy but…” or something similar leaves me more annoyed at people erroneously hiding behind the title. So it is obvious to me that my problem with the nice guy defense is not that it is called what it is, but rather that people engage in it. As a final less serious note, I have become enamored with the idea (unfeasible, possibly even stupid, yet entertaining) of reclaiming man as a neutral genderless form and reinstitute (something I realize never was instituted in practice) the proper prefix to denote maleness, namely wer. No longer would there be a difference between men and women, instead we would all be men (a non loaded gender neutral term for being homo sapien, like I said impossible, possibly stupid) and wermen and women would have different naughty bits (or sometimes the same naughty bits and different self identifying personality, or sometimes no naughty bits, or really all the different possible combinations of naughty bits and psyche that add up in such a way that a person feels they have to identify with one gender or another). Heck, I’m even open to jettisoning the word man, wermyn and womyn, just so the neutral state is inclusive, and the genders are parts of a whole rather than the current setup.

  6. Rupert says:

    Well done! I understand your perspective a bit better, and you’ve helped to, ah, cement some ideas in my privledged head. But…

    I’m still blury on this:
    “Having fun with someone? Cool. Thinking that you have some kind of right to their bodies, minds, time, etc.? Not so much. This includes assuming a person is (or could be) attracted to you simply because they don’t have a significant other. Or because they’re in your subculture. Or, really, any reason outside of them actually flirting with you.”

    Obviously, no one has any right to anyones body, mind, etc, ever (including in a commited relationship or long term friendship). That’s easy. From personal experiences, though, and as a male, I’ve found it difficult to tell when someone is being a flirt versus when they’re just being nice. (I’m not the only one, either). If I’m attracted to someone, I generally assume there is a possibility that they feel the same way about me, and I act accordingly. Am I supposed remain passive until they do something about it? If I’m not allowed to flirt until they flirt, and they’re not allowed to flirt unil I flirt, how does anyone start to flirt?

    • Tether says:

      As a woman, I think it’s reasonable that heterosexual men will initiate flirting with me. I can also politely decline their advances. If you, as a man, are courteous enough and perceptive enough, then usually you should be able to tell when the object of your attention declines your advances. However, if you can’t tell (meaning, you think she’s interested, but turns out she’s not), this is why it’s good to ask for explicit consent. And ask in a non-threatening way, so that the other party may decline you without feeling “bad” (e.g. shame, fear, pity, etc.). And in general, regardless of your sex/gender identification, try to take rejection in stride. It happens to us all, and better to find out someone’s not interested from the get-go, than figure out later that you’ve somehow coerced another person into doing something they didn’t want to do. I hope with all of my heart that as long as you’re trying to be aware and sensitive to the other person’s feelings, then you can probably figure out if they don’t seem to be into you all that much. I’m sorry I can’t offer much more advice. I do sympathize with men on this issue as they are generally expected to initiate flirting and be more dominant, but not dominate… sigh, life.

    • Kayle says:

      step one: turn down that loudspeaker that is making the entire experience about whether or not someone will accept you. (funny enough, this one helps get the flirting *started* as well as helping you know when to end it.)
      step two: look at it from the other person’s point of view. if you felt similarly vulnerable, how would you perceive your own actions? try to imagine their thoughts and desires apart from your existence in general. this helps depersonalize the rejection, should it come.
      step three: look for counter-initiation. always look for counter-initiation. If you do something, look for reciprocation. someone who can’t do that is probably a passive or passive-aggressive partner anyway, even if you can chalk it up to “shyness” *at first*. if they never counter initiate welcoming or attachment behaviors, walk the ***** away. Be aware that someone who catches up with you after that, if they don’t come clean about why they were less responsive is probably a wishy-washy flip-flopper and proceed with caution.

  7. earlbecke says:

    Rupert: If I’m attracted to someone, I generally assume there is a possibility that they feel the same way about me, and I act accordingly. Am I supposed remain passive until they do something about it? If I’m not allowed to flirt until they flirt, and they’re not allowed to flirt unil I flirt, how does anyone start to flirt?

    This is obviously a real issue, and I know a lot of people have trouble with it. I don’t know about Andrea, but I personally would say that it’s okay to initiate flirting with someone you’re interested in. (Keep in mind, however, that some people’s definition of “flirt” seems to be: act like a total creepy asshole, make derogatory sexual comments and get pissed off when a woman doesn’t respond favorably, stare at her breasts, and try to bully a woman into giving you her number. Obviously unacceptable behavior, and it’s mostly this kind of “flirting” which upsets women so much. If you’re friendly and pleasant there probably won’t be an issue.) If they don’t respond by flirting back or seem uncomfortable, then…you don’t continue to flirt once you realize they’re not interested. It’s the polite thing to do.

  8. Pingback: Ally Work » how to be a real nice persyn

  9. Ragnell says:

    Andrea — This is an awesome post, and I am going to find some way to justify linking it to When Fangirls Attack even if I ends up writing a response to each of the points with comic book panels. Some of our visitors need to read this.

    Actually, do you mind if I do that?

    (Hey Rupert, in addition to what earlbecke said, if you’re that confused by flirting, it may help to toss in an “Are we flirting or am I confused?” to clarify things. It has less risk of offense than continued one-sided flirting, and it is always better to be sure of these things because sometimes the other person gets confused too)

  10. Hi—I came across this post linked from another blog (blackfeminist.org). It’s incredibly useful and I plan to pass it along.

    Just a comment on section 3, “Call Others of Your Group on their Crap”: I would add to that the comment that it’s not necessary to report back to marginalized people the racist/sexist/homophobic/ablist/classist thing that the other privileged person said. For example, often a white friend will feel the need to tell me (a black woman) about the horribly racist thing that another white person said to them. Guess what? I already know that racism and other forms of discrimination run amock. This is particularly hurtful when the friend did not call the person on their crap. It’s as if they’re asking me for some kind of forgiveness for not standing up for what’s right. In fact, they’ve let themselves down. I can also understand that the friend might not’ve known how to respond and is asking for advice, but it makes it no less tedious to be the go-to person for snappy responses to bigots—snappy tho I am! : ) Thanks again.

  11. tekanji says:

    Thanks for the praise, everyone! I was hoping that not too much quality was compromised in my effort to get it up for Blog Against Sexism Day.

    Lake Desire: Yeah, I was trying to get that point across with the accepting “no thanks” but when I update the list I’ll be sure to make it more clear.

    yocibox: First off, welcome and thanks again for sparking my mind onto this post.

    So it is obvious to me that my problem with the nice guy defense is not that it is called what it is, but rather that people engage in it.

    I 100% agree. If people would call these so-called “nice guys” on their asshattery, then I think it would be a less viable excuse for their bad behaviour.

    Heck, I’m even open to jettisoning the word man, wermyn and womyn, just so the neutral state is inclusive, and the genders are parts of a whole rather than the current setup.

    I’m a fan of the word “hume” myself. I don’t think it’s inherently a bad thing to have subgroupings of people based on gender identification, but the current binary system is 1) male-normative, 2) way too contingent on perceived chromosomal state, 3) used to determine proper roles and actions in life, and 3) not nearly as inclusive enough for the multi-faceted states of our existence (eg. trans, genderqueer, and intersexed).

    Rupert: My reply to you got too long to include in this, so plz see next comment.

    Ragnell: Dooooo iiiiiiit. And tell me when it’s up so I can link to it. The whole comic book angle sounds fantastic!

    Kimberly: That’s an excellent point. Do you mind if I put it in an update to this post? I’ll credit you with a link back to your site, of course ^_^

  12. tekanji says:

    Rupert: earlbecke and Ragnell have given some excellent advice, and I’d like to add my two cents to it.

    Obviously, no one has any right to anyones body, mind, etc, ever (including in a commited relationship or long term friendship). That’s easy.

    But, that’s just it, it’s not easy because so many men do it without thinking about it. I’d even wager that you do it. It’s all about the invisibility of entitlement and privilege. You don’t see what your actions do to the women you’re doing this to because you’re conditioned not to see it.

    Honestly? I would talk to some of the women you know, especially ones you’ve been interested in, and see what they say. Ask them if you’ve ever made them feel uncomfortable, or if they think that you have ever not taken ‘no’ for an answer, etc. And, if you do this, make sure not to argue with them about anything they say! Listen, go away and think about it for a few days, then come back with questions. Use what they say to change your mind, don’t try to change theirs.

    From personal experiences, though, and as a male, I’ve found it difficult to tell when someone is being a flirt versus when they’re just being nice. (I’m not the only one, either). If I’m attracted to someone, I generally assume there is a possibility that they feel the same way about me, and I act accordingly. Am I supposed remain passive until they do something about it? If I’m not allowed to flirt until they flirt, and they’re not allowed to flirt unil I flirt, how does anyone start to flirt?

    Flirting is very much like being extra friendly. It’s not just a male thing; I often don’t know if someone is being flirty or friendly. But, the difference is that I don’t assume anything. Not even the assumption that there’s a possibility that they feel the same way. They may not be into my gender. Or my subculture. Or, really, just me. If I like someone, I always hope that they’ll like me back, but I assume unattracted to me until proven otherwise.

    It’s not about not flirting, but rather regarding them as a potential friend first, and then being extra nice to them and seeing what they do. If they don’t return your flirting, then back off. If they flirt back, then pursue the friendship and if it comes to that ask them on out on a date. But you have to realize that a date does not equal anything but a date. At any time – from starting flirtations, to dating, even into any real relationship you might have with them – they have the right to say “no”, in whatever manner they choose, and it’s your job to accept that.

    I’d also like to second earlbecke’s caution about the kind of “flirting”. I don’t have any experience with how you flirt, but again it may be good idea to go to the women in your life and ask if you ever give off a “creepy” vibe. The listening and not arguing applies here, too.

    And I’d like to second Ragnell’s advice as well: good communication with your potential love interest is always a good foundation to lay early. It helps mitigate dating disasters and later on relationship angst (if things go that far).

  13. Lake Desire says:

    Any other gamer geeks think of Bastok at the word hume? I didn’t realize it was used outside Vana’diel.

  14. tekanji says:

    Haha, I actually think more of PSO ’cause that’s where I first saw it. I haven’t seen the word use outside of video games, but it seems pretty common in Japanese RPGs.

  15. Perinteger says:

    Ragnell said:
    Hey Rupert, in addition to what earlbecke said, if you’re that confused by flirting, it may help to toss in an “Are we flirting or am I confused?” to clarify things.

    Ragnell, you absolutely rock. Ok, in fairness, your point absolutely rocks and I’m assuming someone who would make it rocks just as hard. I’m constantly frustrated by people who feel they’ve got to beat around the bush about everything. Altogether too often it’s more out of a desire to save face then out of any consideration for their fellow humekind. Please, please, please keep it simple! Most rational people will appreciate the honesty.

  16. Ragnell says:

    Andrea — I need to compile enough “Green Lantern acting like an idiot” panels first, but I’ll tell you when. I know just who needs the lesson, too.

    Perinteger — Well, it’s a decent assumption if I may say so myself. Thanks.

  17. Winter says:

    Brilliant post Andrea.

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  19. Burton says:

    You mean give up such male privileges as:

    1) Military conscription.
    2) Child support for children that are not yours.
    3) Getting to pay for dates, holding doors open for womyn.
    4) Being at the short end of the VAWA act (i.e. violence against women is bad, violence against men is ok).
    5) Loss of children in divorce cases.
    6) Being jailed on false charges of paternity and rape.

    I’ll settle for the draft. How many women are ready to share in this male privilege. Are you ready to be marched on down to your armed forces induction center, have your heads shaved and then be sent to Afghanistan to fight for women’s equality?

  20. tekanji says:

    Burton: Your trollish behaviour breaks discusison rules 4, 6, 8, and 10. If you are unable to comply with the rules of this blog you will be banned. I neither like nor tolerate trolls here.

    Also, if you aren’t going to bother to actually read what I write, and #3 is specifically addressed in a post of mine linked from this one, you shouldn’t bother posting. Your obvious chip is not welcome here if all you’re going to do is judge from a place of ignorance. If you honestly wanted a discussion, you would have done better to ask my and my readers opinions on said matters, because then you’d be fostering an exchange of ideas and opinions instead of being an (incorrectly) assumptive asswipe.

    And, lastly, thank you for illustrating exactly the kind of man who needs to follow the steps I’ve outlined. You’ve come into a minority space (a feminist blog) and tried to make the conversation all about you. Maybe if you actually listened to what I have said and do say you’d learn that your arguments are total strawfeminists, especially regarding this feminist.

  21. humbition says:

    As a rather older male looking back on my life, I want to firmly recommend the “shut up and listen” method of learning. On the other hand I really rebel against “make oneself inoffensive and harmless” as a method of being in the world. Often the people who put themselves forward and make “mistakes” do better than those who worry endlessly about being taken for being right (or, even, being right with a particular group). (I realize am following a troll here so please don’t assume I’m endorsing mindless offensive/ insincere oppositionism as exemplified by a certain previous poster).

    I would endorse most of the pre-relationship advice given here but I am afraid that it might be taken by shy or introverted or inexperienced persons (or those with little self-esteem or confidence) as a reinforcement of these tendencies, and I think this is bad in the long term, even if it helps them avoid “mistakes” in the short term. And what is wrong with (privately, in one’s own heart) cherishing the hope, or assuming the bare possibility, of someone’s attraction to oneself? Personally I think what is key is to act with hope but to accept (sometimes inevitable) disappointment with grace. (Which means, in part, that one’s disappointment is not the other person’s problem.)

    And I would also strongly affirm that, while one does not have the right to the affection of some particular person that one has set one’s heart upon, one still does have the right to love and be loved by someone (eventually, and hopefully not too eventually). It can be easy for a person of a particular temperament to deny their own needs and desires altogether. This is, I think, in the long term dangerous, even if it renders that person inoffensive in the short run.

    These haven’t been live issues in my life for twenty years. Yet I do worry about pitching advice to one certain kind of male actor, stereotypically full speed ahead and in need of some caution and “brakes,” and having it too easily accepted by someone of a different type of temperament, one who is trying to overcome a tendency to inaction and self-inhibition. Not that this tendency is any particular advice-giver’s problem in a personal sense either. But in the end I think we are all better off in a world full of people in fulfilling relationships, and so I would err in the direction of encouraging people to seek them out and even make “mistakes” rather than pulling back from seeking them because one is afraid of doing something “wrong.”

  22. Kallen says:

    I just have a simple neutral question for you. He asked a simple valid question, why didn’t you answer it? I’m honestly just curious.

    p.s. I don’t know where you are from, but at least here in the States women are not a minority. In fact 50.9% of the people in the United States are women. Just thought I’d give you a little heads up on that.

  23. Lake Desire says:

    Kallen, I think you need to reread tekanji’s reply to Burton. She said, “If you honestly wanted a discussion, you would have done better to ask my and my readers opinions on said matters, because then you’d be fostering an exchange of ideas and opinions instead of being an (incorrectly) assumptive asswipe.” A feminist analysis of the draft is valid, however, not when it’s hijacking another topic and in turn preemptively invalidating the participants who disagree.

    Tekanji discusses her use of the word minority here. She knows women are the literal majority.

  24. Kallen says:

    I will concede the later point. That is information I did not have. Though she is still using the word minority incorrectly. Not really important though.

    But as for the former. I don’t believe it off topic to ask her, your or anyone elses point of view on females in the draft. I’ve never been able to get a straight answer. Consider it curriosity if nothing else.

    But I would still like an answer.

  25. tekanji says:

    Kallen: I am not using the word “incorrectly.” English words have many different meanings that can be ascribed to them, and if you had read the discussion rules (like you’re supposed to), you’d realize that this is a feminist blog that utilizes feminist terms, and the particular application of minority that I am using applies in such a context. You can question a usage of a word I use, but do not inform me what is right and wrong. You have neither the knowledge nor the right.

    And, again, if you read the discussion rules you’ll see that it is off topic for him to “ask” (and I use that term loosely, because he was not truly “asking” anything, but rather trying to show me how close-minded I am by making incorrect assumptions about my beliefs) said questions on this thread. If he had followed the other rules and been polite, respectful, and obviously interested in a discussion, I would have engaged with his subject regardless. But he did not, and I’m not interested in justifying myself to a troll, especially since the answers he’s looking for are obvious if you 1) read what I have said in response, and 2) actually read my blog.

    And, well, you want an answer and I want men to stop treating me like I owe them anything. Oh, and I’d like it if no one ever commented on my blog from a position of ignorance. Or, really, trolled it at all. But we don’t always get what we’d like to have. I don’t owe you an answer, and if you’re unwilling to read my posts (starting with this one) and see that some of the assumptions are answered explicitly and the others are pretty obvious to extrapolate from there… well, why should I bother to make the effort and tell you, when you aren’t making the effort of being respectful on my blog by actually reading before speaking?

  26. tekanji says:

    humbition: I’m not asking men (or any privileged group) to make themselves “inoffensive and harmless” but rather to not be assholes, especially when engaging in a group that is at a societal disadvantage for no reason other than tradition. And I’m not asking privileged groups to be infallible; that’s an impossible request. I’m asking them to learn from the mistakes they will inevitably make – the mistakes we all inevitably make – instead of blaming the minority group for calling them out.

    And what is wrong with (privately, in one’s own heart) cherishing the hope, or assuming the bare possibility, of someone’s attraction to oneself?

    Nothing’s wrong with hope, but when it passes into assumption that’s when it often causes the person to act in ways such as being irrationally posessive, or overbearing, etc. And, frankly, I think the best thing to do is ask and then live with the answer. If your love interest says no, then accept it and move on. Too many men that I, my female friends, and the females in my larger communities have encountered have a huge problem hearing “no”.

    And you don’t have the “right” to be loved by someone, because that love is not yours to control. You do not have the right to something that is someone else’s to give – not their love, not their time, not their respect, nothing. Anything they give you is a privilege, just as anything you give them is a privilege. And that privilege has the right to be revoked as soon as one person stops being worthy of having said privilege. It also has the right never to be given at all, even if the reason is simply that the person does not wish to give it to you, however genuinely nice you may be.

    And I don’t really understand how you get “deny their own needs and desires altogether” from me, and others, saying that you need to be respectful when dealing with another person – which includes being careful how you flirt, communicating your desires as politely as possible, and then accepting whichever answer your love interest gives you regardless of whether it’s the one you want to hear. Treating someone like an autonomous human being should not be tantamount to “deny[ing] [your] own needs and desires altogether”, and if it is, then it’s you, as the person who feels that way, who has a serious problem, not anyone else.

    But in the end I think we are all better off in a world full of people in fulfilling relationships, and so I would err in the direction of encouraging people to seek them out and even make “mistakes” rather than pulling back from seeking them because one is afraid of doing something “wrong.”

    I agree that we’re better off in a world full of fulfilling relationships – including aquaintenships, friendships, and even dealings with strangers. And my advice is aimed at getting well meaning people to step off and look at the way they treat other people. It’s about a whole mindset that is tangibly detrimental to all people who want to have fulfilling relationships in their lives. Part of that mindset is the unfortunate prevalence of men who believe that if they’re interested in a woman that they have some right to her love, time, body, etc. And, I’m sorry, but that mentality, which is accepted by most people in our society, is more detrimental to communication (and therefore fulfilling relationships) than my advice of taking a step back and examining yourself and your behaviour will ever be.

  27. winterlion says:

    respect me and I’ll respect you.

    “political correctness” can be rude and degrading – and can be considered hatred when it crosses to sexist/racist lines, no matter the target. Misuse of the English language not only is an insult to the Queen’s English but also to the origin of the terms. It’s also terribly confusing to those to whom English is not a first language.

    There is no entitlement – don’t expect anything from me that you haven’t earned. (as someone who’s been homeless, jobless, starving and been threatened by excessively dangerous armed people, I’m not interested in any of these games)

    Don’t assume membership in a culture. Just be aware of your own and act respectfully from it. (basic diplomacy – which everyone should learn) (this article says this in much longer terms, mixed in with a lot of other stuff)

    all that said, this brings up any number of positive points and I do agree with a fair portion of it.

  28. tekanji says:

    I’m getting pretty fucking sick of the trolls. Winterlion, for not reading nor respecting the discussion rules, you are banned. Thanks for playing, goodbye. Anyone else who fails to abide by the rules will have their comment deleted and will be banned. I don’t care if you have a good point somewhere in your bile or not, if you can’t play by the rules you are not welcome here. I will not tolerate my discussion being hijacked by misogynist assholes. This is not your soapbox, so stop treating it like it is. This is a feminist blog and if you are not willing to respect it, and me, then you will not be allowed to post here. End of story.

  29. humbition says:

    tekanji, thank you for your detailed and thoughtful reply. Really I don’t so much disagree on the merits, but I’m concerned with how people, particularly young and/or inexperienced ones, might take what you say. Anyone with a certain amount of experience in life and a reasonably thick skin can certainly profit from it.

    Saying that people have a right to love and be loved — as a general statement that says nothing about the right to this from some particular person, still less that one is entitled to this from anyone one has taken it upon oneself to have a crush upon. I suppose Hollywood, and a few centuries of literature before that, has confused a number of people on this latter point. But I stand by the strong “rights” statement, maybe I’m being a little provocative but of course what I mean is that everyone deserves to have the chance to love and be loved in their life. (well, perhaps not absolutely everyone…)

    If there is really an epidemic of not accepting rejection in your circle then of course you are right to condemn this. Being possessive of someone who isn’t “yours” seems like madness of some kind. And how could I possibly be saying that someone has the right to love from someone who does not love them back? On the other hand your courtship advice seems strange, like someone who does not see the courtship aspect at all — it is not that one just goes about with a checklist, do you love me, yes, no, check, ok it’s no. “Flirting” and courtship is always difficult and risky and it is mentally healthy to do it with a certain amount of optimism, even if pessimism is the better calculator of the odds. You totally missed my saying that the person must accept what happens with grace, and that rejection is not the problem of the person doing the rejecting.

    Nevertheless I think it is better to risk than not to risk, better to make mistakes than to submerge one’s needs and desires. Certainly you don’t explicitly advise anyone to do that yet in the midst of all the “thou shalt not”s you hardly paint an encouraging picture. Meanwhile all of us have to try to live and find love in the world as it exists, hopefully in a manner respectful of others. One can always do better, of course. The autonomy of others is very important to me and a key principle of ethics, yet sometimes I have had to rebel from even well-meant criticism — criticism that was even in some ways correct — in order to protect my own equilibrium and inner strength in a fragile period of my own life.

    I don’t much sympathize with entitlement, but there is a certain minimum of entitlement that I think is everyone’s right without exception, and love is a part of that. Not from a particular crush object, of course, as I seem to have to reiterate. Certainly there are many people with many forms of privilege who think they deserve many things, because they confuse the hand they’ve been dealt with their personal merit. On the other hand, there are plenty of people (many who are privileged in gender and other ways) who don’t feel they deserve very much at all in life, and it is exactly that kind of people who can take the kind of criticism you and others offer and turn it inwards upon themselves like a knife (and twist). I am only suggesting to that sort of person that they not do so. Nor do I think it is really your intention that they do.

  30. tekanji says:

    Really I don’t so much disagree on the merits, but I’m concerned with how people, particularly young and/or inexperienced ones, might take what you say.

    I get that, but I am concerned about how young people, particularly young and/or inexperienced ones, are used and abused by other young people who have never heard anything even remotely like my advice. I hate it how too many young people, particularly young girls (which is a socialization issue; women are in general trained to take people’s problems onto themselves, while men are in general trained to take out their problem on other people), have shitty relationship after shitty relationship and then come to expect that unfulfilling relationships are par for the course.

    And if my advice means that people are more hesitant about entering into unfulfilling relationships, well, I’m not so sure that’s any worse than what happens right now. Maybe we should hold off until we’re more confident about ourselves to do that; a clean slate is easier to work with than several years of horrible emotional baggage.

    I suppose Hollywood, and a few centuries of literature before that, has confused a number of people on this latter point.

    Definitely. I could rant for days about how Hollywood and “romance” – which is not so much actual romance and more the glorification of abusive behaviour.

    But I stand by the strong “rights” statement, maybe I’m being a little provocative but of course what I mean is that everyone deserves to have the chance to love and be loved in their life. (well, perhaps not absolutely everyone…)

    It’s mostly a semantics issue. I think that using the word “rights” conveys too much of a possessive undertone, especially when dealing with a group of people who have been taught that women are theirs to possess (even if they would not consciously acknowledge such a thing).

    I also would like to second that defintely not absolutely everyone, even under your definition, has the “right” to be loved. My first boyfriend was deliberately emotionally abusive to me – he cut me down as small as he could because he got pleasure out of hurting me. He’s moved on and done it to at least two other women. I don’t think he deserves to be loved; not only has he done nothing but cause pain in women’s lives (not just his girlfriends), but he has done nothing to earn the right to be loved by another human being and everything to show that he is incapable of properly loving them back.

    That said, I still think it’s a better thing to convey that all relationships – from the kind of conversation we’re having now, to one with a love interest – are partnerships. Both partners have to continually earn the right to be loved (liked/respected/etc) by the other by treating them properly, communicating their needs and desires, and acknowledging the right of the other person to have the final say in what they do with their own bodies/minds/time. And, at any time if the partner fails to uphold their end of the relationship, then things need to be hashed out. If that doesn’t work, then the relationship should end; no one should ever put up with anything less than a completely fulfilling relationship.

    If there is really an epidemic of not accepting rejection in your circle then of course you are right to condemn this. Being possessive of someone who isn’t “yours” seems like madness of some kind. And how could I possibly be saying that someone has the right to love from someone who does not love them back?

    You would be surprised how many people do think just that, and it wasn’t so much that I assumed you were one of them, but rather that I felt your word choice had a high likelyhood of conveying that message to someone who hasn’t sat back and examined how they interact with others. It is a madness to think you have a right to another person, but unfortunately it’s a maddness still condoned and encouraged by our society’s “boys will be boys” mentality.

    On the other hand your courtship advice seems strange, like someone who does not see the courtship aspect at all — it is not that one just goes about with a checklist, do you love me, yes, no, check, ok it’s no.

    That’s because communication in our culture is seen as “unromatic”. If we just shifted to romanticize respect, honesty, and openness rather than possessiveness, assumptions, and sneaky behaviour, then my guess is that particular complaint wouldn’t hold water any more. And, indeed, when you are in a community where explicit consent is a must for any kind of interaction (beyond “hi, how you doing” type stuff), you realize that it’s not the approach that’s sexy, but rather engaging in activities that both you and your partner are interested in – whether it be something as small as flirting or as large as having sex.

    Certainly you don’t explicitly advise anyone to do that yet in the midst of all the “thou shalt not”s you hardly paint an encouraging picture.

    There’s a lot of “thou shall”s in there too – thou shall treat the people in your life with respect, thou shall listen to them and see how one can use their advice to improve oneself, thou shall be communicative and open, etc.

    And, let me paint an actually bleak picture of relationships. One where my advice is never said, and never heard, and our concept of romance is never challenged. This is the picture of my teenage years, but it is not so dissimilar to most men-loving women’s first relationships with men.

    Right from the start, it was all about my boyfriends (I use the term very loosely; some I just dated) cutting me down – whether it was my sexuality, my intelligence, my personality… I was never as good as they were. Communication was about them telling me what to do, what I was doing wrong, what they wanted. It was never about them listening. All but one pushed my boundaries past the comfort zone without a thought to what I wanted. There was even one who repeatedly tried to engage in oral sex with me even when I physically pulled him away.

    I was probably more unlucky than most; I would say that three of them (my first boyfriend, the boy I describe above who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and an internet boyfriend I had for like a year) were geniunely bad people. I don’t know whatever happened to the last guy, but the first two continue to be sexual predators (they’re in the circle of friends of a guy I knew in highschool, so I still hear about them from time to time). The rest of them, however, I don’t think were predators; they were just taught that how they treated me was the proper way to go about things.

    They were what people would consider to be “normal” guys. The kind of guys most women have their first relationships with. The only guys I would ever have known if a change in scenery hadn’t helped me get my self esteem back up to the point where I realized that no, I didn’t have to put up with subpar and abusive relationships.

    They are the kind of guys that I want to learn from this advice because I think that they genuinely want fulfilling relationships. I also want girls to learn that they deserve to have my advice enacted on them; it is just as damaging for women to perpetuate the false idea that one must put up with unfulfilling relationships.

    It breaks my heart when I hear women say things about putting up with bad male behaviour because “that’s just the way men are”. No, it’s not! I have had friendships with males who, regardless of attraction, have not made it clear that they wanted to fuck me, but rather made it clear that they wanted to be my friend. I have had guys who have liked me who have asked me out and gracefully taken my rejection. I have had fulfilling relationships with men based on communication, honesty, and openness – and unsurprisingly, those are the men I continue to keep in contact with even though we are no longer romantically involved.

    It is that kind of relationship that is fostered by the advice I give, however “unromatic” and scary it may be. A partnership that is fulfilling to all involved, rather than being destructive to one or both people. I do think that people, for the most part, deserve to be happy – and as long as their happiness isn’t at the expense of another’s then I think they should seek it. But, my whole point is that, without knowing it, many men do pursue their happiness at the expense of others’ (particularly women, particularly the object of their affections). And, having been on the receiving end of that kind of unconscious entitlement, I’d rather have someone be overly cautions than underly so.

  31. tekanji says:

    Uh, just realized that I wasn’t being as clear as possible in one area, when I say:

    I also want girls to learn that they deserve to have my advice enacted on them…

    I’m not trying to imply that men don’t deserve the same thing, but rather that traditional romance is such (men = active pursuers, women = passive pursuees) that men are the ones most likely to be doing this, while women are the most likely to be the ones taking it. As I emphasized above, it is a two way street and both partners – regardless of gender – deserve the advice to be used on them, and also should use the advice on their partner.

  32. humbition says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time (and the risk) and being specific and personal. I think it will help everyone put what you say in perspective and I certainly hope it wakes some people up.

  33. tekanji says:

    And thank you for the conversation. I always appreciate when people of differing points of view come in and actually have a dialogue with me. I hope you continue to read this blog and speak up with your opinion on matters, as I think you have much to offer in the way of a different perspective than myself and my regulars.

  34. Rupert says:

    Thanks for the replies. Also, good dialog. Hmmm, I guess that’s kinda all I’ve got to say, but I’ll add more if I think of more. Sorry it took so long, but the end of the term was busy, to say the least.

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  38. Zil says:

    “Call Others of Your Group on their Crap”
    Can’t emphasize that enough. A group of coworkers and I were shooting the breeze one day, and one guy pronounced something he didn’t like to be “gay” – in front of a gay coworker, no less. Most of us just dropped our jaws … after a few frozen seconds I managed to blurt out “Um, junior high, much?” – not very articulate, I know, but at least it shifted the conversation around so we could call him out on his insensitive word choice.

  39. tekanji says:

    Good for you! Calling someone out can be scary and uncomfortable. I know that I still don’t know the right things to say, and I’ve been trying to practice what I preach for quite some time now.

    The World of Warcraft guild I used to be in would use gay as a pejorative all the time. And, you know, me being queer, objected to it. But I was “oversensitive”. Right. And they weren’t assholes at all. Or homophobic. *grumbles*

  40. pdf23ds says:

    I have to object to your phrasing here:

    “This includes assuming a person is (or could be) attracted to you simply because they don’t have a significant other.”

    I think it’s perfectly safe, and reasonable, and technically correct, to assume that a person *could* be attracted to you. Because, in fact, any given person that you know nothing about could indeed be attracted to you, and the only time when it’s *not* OK to assume that is if they’ve made it explicit that they’re not attracted to you, (at which point you should stop assuming that it’s possible), or if you’re aware that their sexual orientation (or current relationship status) excludes the possibility. Otherwise, you don’t know, but you do know that there is a possibility.

    On the other hand, I don’t think I disagree with anything else you’ve said, and I do think it’s important that people require a positive indication of someone’s attraction before they assume that it’s there. The presumption of attraction could be the biggest factor in how annoying some assholeish men are when hitting on women, and probably plays a prominent role in nice-guy syndrome.

    I suggest you revise you statement to read “assuming a person is (or is likely to be) attracted to you”. I bet that captures what you were trying to get at, no? As long as a man is aware that there is a real, substantial probability that a woman doesn’t find him attractive just because he’s deigned to give her positive attention, and he tailors his actions accordingly, there’s not a problem, right? But that doesn’t necessitate assuming that there is no attraction until proven otherwise.

  41. pdf23ds says:

    Also, about half of your captchas are pretty much unreadable. (And my eyesight isn’t bad or anything.)

  42. LC says:

    Hey Andrea,

    Thanks for a great post. A huge debate on privilege came up on a mailing list I was on some time ago and we could have used something this well laid out.

    (I had a longer post but your code verification thing ate it.)

  43. LC says:

    Since it now seems to be working.

    1) Concerning flirting: I am a shameless flirt, and try to make people aware of that as soon as possible so that they can ask me to drop it down a notch or six. (I also wholeheartedly support the ragnell “Are we flirting or am I confused” approach.) Mind you, I don’t assume flirting means “trying to get into bed”. Flirting is flirting. No assumptions are made (on my end) that flirting is anything more than enjoyable for its own sake or that it implies any agreement to anything.

    2) Communication as unsexy: THANK YOU! I hate this particular attitude. One day, I need to write down my rant about how Hollywood romance is virtually indistinguishable from stalking.

  44. pdf23ds says:

    LC, that’s a really interesting point. The commenter Charles at Alas, a Blog on this comment and some others, made the point very elegantly.

    So much flirting seems to be based on a seduction model, whereby it’s assumed that the woman must be “tricked” into bed, where any talk about sexual attraction before it’s been fulfilled is a turn-off. This is inherently about power relations, because in an equal power situation, there would be no reason for any sort of coyness.

    And an interesting part of his point is that a lot of people really tie up their sense of eroticism in power dynamics like that, so they’re turned off by communication, and then some people are just the opposite. And while we’d probably be healthier as a society if we were able to communicate openly about everything, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can judge people who eroticize power dynamics as being unfeminist. Because you can’t control how you were raised, and turn ons seem to be really hard or impossible to change as an adult.

    Anyway, Charles had said it much better than me.

  45. tekanji says:

    Sorry about the captcha, but so far I haven’t been able to find another one to use. And without it I get waaaaaaaaaay too much spam (we’re talking 1 to 2 posts an hour). I’ll check into modifying the way Veriword handles the images.

  46. LC says:

    pdf23ds,

    I think I may have read that long comment thread in the past. Charles`s arguments looked familiar.

    I happen to not have an issue with the eroticization of power dynamics. We are social creatures and creatures of hierarchy in many ways, there are ALWAYS going to be some power dynamics involved in human interaction. Like most things, I think too much to be dangerous, though.

    (Someone liking me is nice. Someone obsessed with me is creepy.)

    I once got into an argument with someone because I insisted I never seduced anyone. It turns out the argument had everything to do with my visceral reaction to the word “seduced” and its underlying meaning of “tricked into bed”. I want someone to want me, not to feel like they had to be convinced or tricked into putting up with me.

  47. tekanji says:

    pdf23ds said:

    I think it’s perfectly safe, and reasonable, and technically correct, to assume that a person *could* be attracted to you.

    It’s a matter of semantics. Like the word “right” I think that “assume” conveys too much of a problematic undertone, especially when dealing with a group of people who have been taught that women are theirs to possess (even if they would not consciously acknowledge such a thing).

    I will, however, look into clarifying that section in my next update.

    LC said:

    One day, I need to write down my rant about how Hollywood romance is virtually indistinguishable from stalking.

    Yeah, I keep meaning to do that, too, but everytime I think about it I want to foam at the mouth like a rabid dog. Part of it, I think, is because the issue of “romance” is too personal an issue, seeing as it’s directly linked to a lot of what happened to me in my abusive relationship.

    pdf23ds said:

    And while we’d probably be healthier as a society if we were able to communicate openly about everything, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can judge people who eroticize power dynamics as being unfeminist.

    The bleedingly stupid thing is that BDSMers need communicate openly about everything. Boundaries need to be drawn and redrawn when anything changes. When engaging in acts that have the potential to do a lot of harm, trust is a very fragile thing. And, frankly, I think that’s a much healthier way of handling relationships (the communication part) than most “normal” relationships which, as you both have said, often revolve around trickery and assumptions that are too easily made in error.

    That’s one reason why I can’t stand to read feminist threads on BDSM; half of the commenters always come out with statements that deride and dismiss those of us who are into the scene. Frankly, I’d much rather put the blame on the patriarchy, which has forced us into a fucked up hierarchy, than hate on the people who choose to play with the power dynamics outright. Which is not to say that there’s no room for criticism of the scene, but criticism isn’t the same as outright condemnation.

  48. pdf23ds says:

    And while we’d probably be healthier as a society if we were able to communicate openly about everything, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can judge people who eroticize power dynamics as being unfeminist.

    The bleedingly stupid thing is that BDSMers need communicate openly about everything. Boundaries need to be drawn and redrawn when anything changes.

    If I understand Charles correctly, the “seduction” phenomenon he describes seems to much more mainstream than just the BDSM community. Rather, it describes a very 50′s “traditional” kind of courtship/dating ideal. BDSMers, being more extreme, tend to realize more often the dangers and thus the need for explicit communication. But how many males still feel entitled to some action after buying a woman dinner? And for how many men would it not feel like emasculation to explicitly ask a date something like “may we hold hands?” or “can I kiss you”? Not enough, I say.

    For me, (as a guy,) it’s kind of interesting. I feel that if I were to be that explicit with a girl I was dating, it would probably get a really weird reaction. (And it has.) But beyond that, I don’t have a problem with it. (And I think it’s a good dating strategy too.) The first person I dated had to finally ask before she kissed me, because I never made any moves (another story). It was funny how much trouble she had bringing herself to do that. I think now that a lot of her hesitation was being caught up in expectations about the normal power dynamics that I didn’t share, being more egalitarian. (Part of it was obviously a valid fear that I just didn’t feel that way about her, but that doesn’t explain the extent of her hesitation, I think.) While I obviously think being explicit is far superior, it’s not an idea that’s really shared by many people.

  49. pdf23ds says:

    Ack. I was afraid of that. The first two paragraphs were supposed to be nested block quotes. Woe is me. Adjust your screens, etc.

  50. tekanji says:

    I edited yoru comment, using the LJ cheat of using an italic to indicate a quote.

    If I understand Charles correctly, the “seduction” phenomenon he describes seems to much more mainstream than just the BDSM community.

    I didn’t read Charles’ comment too thoroughly, actually; I was talking more about the overall phenomenon that happens when a feminist brings up the word “BDSM” in hir post.

    But how many males still feel entitled to some action after buying a woman dinner? And for how many men would it not feel like emasculation to explicitly ask a date something like “may we hold hands?” or “can I kiss you”? Not enough, I say.

    100% with you. That was part of what I was trying to get at with this post; that kind of “romantic” BS is unhealthy, and can often lead to some form of abuse.

    While I obviously think being explicit is far superior, it’s not an idea that’s really shared by many people.

    Enter the rant about the idealized form of romance :)

    I think my love life would have been much better if communication was the standard, rather than some freakish unromantic thing that is only talked about and never done. But I’m not bitter or anything.

  51. QLH says:

    Thanks for the post! You made a lot of really great points and articulated very clearly some thoughts that I haven’t ben able to verbalize. I’m a white woman who moved from an all-white existence to a neighborhood/social circle/community where 99% of the people I interact with are black, and a lot of the points in your post really hit home.

  52. Gilamonstre says:

    Thank you.

  53. Patrick says:

    I agree with most of what you wrote. What I’d like to know it is whether these guidelines represent an ideal to be followed or are temporary measures to be used until society can reach a point where minorities are given the opportunities and respect that they deserve. While your post contains many suggestions for improving the way any person communicates (e.g. listen more than you speak), the overall framework of the guidelines assumes an inherent categorization of people into “minority” and “majority”. Where does equality fit in to the mix?

    One of the guidelines, “How to Approach Minority Spaces”, explains that minority spaces are necessary because minorities need a safe place to communicate their feelings and ideas. To me, the inherent problem is not that there are too few minority spaces. Rather, the majority space does not respect the feelings and ideas of minorities. That beaing said, are these guidelines not simply a band-aid on a problem that requires a much bigger solution? I agree that minorities need a place to communicate safely, but doesn’t any space, majority or minority, have a responsibility to keep from marginalizing segments of its population? Isn’t that where a lasting solution lies?

    I’d like to see if a set of guidelines can be developed that is free of the concepts of “established majority” and “marginalized minority”, one that welcomes unity in diversity. There will always be numerical majorities and numerical minorities in any society, but I hope that we can reach a point where we truly appreciate the power of one voice.

  54. tekanji says:

    Where does equality fit in to the mix?

    If the hierarchies were no longer present, and everyone communicated on an appropriate level with everyone else, then there would be no need for this post. But, since it is not likely to happen within my lifetime, any good potential ally needs to come to terms with their privilege and actually sit down and look at the way they interact with the very groups they profess to see as equal.

    To me, the inherent problem is not that there are too few minority spaces. Rather, the majority space does not respect the feelings and ideas of minorities. That beaing said, are these guidelines not simply a band-aid on a problem that requires a much bigger solution?

    It is not a “band aid” if people actually follow the guidelines – learn to accept and understand one’s privilege, and engage in a language of respect and equality with minority groups. It is not a one-stop solution to ending oppression, nor was it ever meant to be. It is simply one guide in which to convert people who think they are allies, and want to be allies, into allies in actuality and not just words.

    I agree that minorities need a place to communicate safely, but doesn’t any space, majority or minority, have a responsibility to keep from marginalizing segments of its population? Isn’t that where a lasting solution lies?

    It’s all well and good to say that the default spaces have a responsibility to stop being oppressive to minorities, but how, exactly, would one enforce that when the majority of privileged members of said spaces are unaware of their privilege, sometimes even willfully so? How can minorities feel safe in default spaces when their concerns are written off as “not real” and the majority groups continue to use oppressive language without being called on it?

    We cannot even begin to address the “lasting” or “bigger solution” until our allies get off their asses and start doing things right. The very problem inherent in minority groups is that we are silenced by the privileged majority. By those who claim to be “colourblind” or “genderblind” or what have you, all the while being completely unable to respect the spaces that we have set up, not to mention silencing us when we speak out in a default space.

    So, no, this is not an instant gratification solution to the world’s ills. But it’s a step in the right direction.

  55. Patrick says:

    I guess that I look at the concept of true equality as a meme like any other. You can’t enforce the adoption of a meme by a society or space (default or minority). You can, however, lead by example and encourage the adoption of the meme to add more and more people into a minority space until it becomes the default.

    I don’t see society as having only two distinct layers, privileged and minority. The terms “privileged” and “minority” are heavily contextual. I see layers within society, in which one minority becomes a majority in its own minority space and contains within it its own minorities. Within the scope of this blog, for example, you are the privileged. Your establishment of discussion rules and enforecement thereof demonstrate that in this limited scope, you and the people who share your views have power. As with any other, this space has its own minorities who deserve to be treated with the same respect as you deserve to be treated with in the privileged default space.

    I am a heterosexual white male and I acknowledge my privilege. I am here on this site, reading commenting on this blog because I feel that I have a responsibility to listen, learn, and share with those that feel marginalized by the privilege that I carry. In this space, I am the minority. The fact that I share your belief in your guidelines does not change that. It does not remove my privilege, and it does not make me part of the majority here. Fortunately, this blog is a space where I don’t feel persecuted for simply being a heterosexual white male. I, and similarly privileged people, can express their opinions as equals.

    As I have a responsibility to respect and support your needs when my privileged “peers” fail you, so you too have a responsibility to me and my peers when we venture here to share our thoughts and feelings with you. To me, creating spaces like this is the most effective way to bring about the change that we want. I feel that spaces that acknowledge that we all have responsibilities toward each other, no matter our privilege, are the ones that will be the most effective at attracting members from both sides of the fence. It takes acknowledging that we are all privilege and all marginalized, and it calls on us all to do what we can to support each other. I think that it sounds like a meme that can really catch on.

    How do we start changing the world? Change our own and invite others to join.

  56. Lake Desire says:

    Careful with the reverse privilege. We hear that a lot when people try to negate us by saying, “But I’m descriminated against, too!” Those feelings are valid and may help show you how we feel all the time, but it turns the discussion back to the privileged being at the center. It shouldn’t be our job to educate the privileged, to stop our discussions in our places to bring them up to speed.

    I don’t think a safe place for “minorities” is the place for the privileged to share the soapbox on an equal level… the latter group gets that enough in the mainstream they dominate.

  57. Kaka Mak says:

    Amazing and brilliant. Just found this site today … count me in as a regular reader!

  58. Patrick says:

    Lake Desire: I am not trying to negate anything that you say. I am expressing a differing opinion that I believe is not consistent with the privileged default space’s opinions but is consistent with the spirit of tekanji’s original post. If indeed I am not welcome to share my opinions here as an equal, please tell me now. I’ve had enough with men who discount the opinions of women because of their gender, and I’m not really interested in getting involved in a discussion with women who disount the opinions of men because of their gender.

    If the problem that you are reacting to is that the privileged do not treat minorities as equals, then to me it would seem to me that more equal discussions would be welcome. I want you to express your opinions and I want to learn about the beliefs that you hold, and I feel that healthy discussion is the best way that I know to truly learn something from another person. If my questions and opinions are not respected, there is little chance that I will learn and truly incorporate what it is that you believe. If that is the kind of space that this is, I will respect and support your right to have your own space where you filter out opinions and input based on any criteria you choose. But I will express my disagreement by going elsewhere to find what I consider to be an equal exchange of ideas. I will probably continue to visit this site as a lurker so that I might continue to learn from what is discussed here, however I know that I won’t have as good an opportunity to learn as if I could participate in discussions. But, as you state very clearly, it is not your job to educate the privileged (e.g. me). On that we will have to disagree.

    You seem to say that there is some sort of justice in discriminating against me because of my privilege as a heterosexual white male as you write “Those feelings are valid and may help show you how we feel all the time”. Sirens go off in my head like the 4th of July if ever in my ponderings I come to the conclusion that I am justified in discriminating against another. With all respect, I suggest that you take a second look to see if there aren’t sirens going off in your own.

  59. Lake Desire says:

    I’m not justifying discrimination because I don’t feel that I have the power to discriminate against you based on my gender. I don’t believe it’s the “minority’s” job to educate the dominant group because they aren’t the ones participating in that particular form of oppression. For example, it shouldn’t have to be people of color’s responsibility to hault discussions in their places to educate the well-meaning white person. Dialogue to develop solidarity should occur–we all want a world without oppression–but the “minority” doesn’t owe it to the dominant group. This is tekanji’s post so what discussion does occur is her call, but I think we do share similar goals and can talk towards them.

  60. tekanji says:

    Patrick, from your comments here I feel that you are saying that I have somehow not respected you and your opinions. I am not sure why you may have gotten that impression, as I have given you the same respect I give any commenter here that abides by the discussion rules: I have let your comments stand, not warned you about anything you’ve said, and I’ve done my best to engage with you in the topic at hand. At most, it has taken me a relatively long time to reply to your comment and perhaps I have been a little short with you. Part of this is that I find it frustrating to have this discussion. I know that sounds like an insult, but please bear with me.

    When I wrote this post, I knew there would come a time in which I would be faced with my target audience. The people I have banned are not my target audience; I could try to work with them until the cows come home, but the fact that they felt it necessary to troll my blog instead of create a meaningful dialogue stands testimony that nothing I could ever say would make a difference to them. Neither, however, are the people who have supported me and praised me for my efforts (which I appreicate very much!) my target audience. The value I want them to get out of this is to have a resource in which to open discussion with those who they know who are my target audience.

    So who, exactly, is my target audience? You are. You come onto my space, abide by the code of conduct I have set out, while respectfully disagreeing with some of what I said. As far as I can tell, you want to be a good ally while not compromising your morals. I can understand your arguments; indeed I have, in the past, made some of them myself. At the same time, I strongly disagree with much of what you say. And when I feel passionate on a subject, it is hard not to get snippy. Things that seem so obvious to me really aren’t to other people. As much as I remember being more-or-less where you are, I really don’t.

    And so, it’s frustrating having this conversation.

    Lake Desire is right; it’s not the job of the minority to educate the majority. I, however, have taken on that responsibility with this post. I want people like you to be able to read it and to start, or continue, taking those steps in order to translate their intentions into reality. But that’s not going to happen if I vent my frustrations on you, or anyone else from my target audience. And so I listen, and I think, and to some extent I avoid, but also I try to wait until I have a moment in which I feel able to do a response justice.

    In the end, as long as you abide by my discussion rules, you are free to say things I disagree with. Things that I hate. Things that make me see red. I, in turn, will likely disagree with you. Or, on a bad day, be snippy. But I’m not going to ask you not to post here simply because you disagree with me. I’m most certainly not going to ban you for it.

    I know I haven’t discussed any of the meat of what you were saying, but the moment I was talking about earlier is not now. I did, however, feel that your implicit criticism of my hospitality did need to be addressed, and I hope I’m doing so in a non-crappy way (it’s almost 3am, waaay past my bed time, so I may sound a little weird… uh, a little weird even for me, I mean).

  61. Patrick says:

    tekanji,

    My last post was totally directed at the comments made by Lake Desire. The tone of her comment had a ring of “Fixing this problem is your responsibility. Let me know when you’re done.” I feel that working together is the way that things really get solved.

    Thank you for your patience in discussing these topics with me. I am genuinely interested in understanding your point of view but, as you say, it goes against my own beliefs, specifically my understanding of equality and personal responsibility.

    I think the issue of whether or not it is someone’s job to teach another about their point of view is an interesting one. I don’t see this whole discussion as the process of educating one privileged person. I see it as collective collaboration on an idea. My role is that of Devil’s Advocate, but I’m not here to win any arguments. I’m interested in mutual understanding and appreciation.

    For Lake Desire: I am not asking anyone to halt a discussion. I took tekanji’s initial post to be an open letter to people like me. She reached out to men in a respectful way and went a long way to help explain the problems as she experiences them. I read it and wanted to incoprporate its lessons into my beliefs, but certain parts clashed with my own beliefs. I assume that if they clash with mine, they will likely clash with others’. I feel that I’m helping tekanji reach her target audience by engaging in this discussion here. I would respect her wish at any time to stop this discussion and move on to other topics. Until then, I want to learn more about what she is expressing, at very least so that I can answer the questions that come up when I discuss this article in my circles.

  62. Loosely Twisted says:

    That was an awesome post.. It said everything my heart wants to scream and more. I wanted to know if I can link this on my site?

    Loosely Twisted

    Thank you for saying it way better then I could.

  63. tekanji says:

    Go ahead and link it, I’d be flattered :) Glad you liked the post. I’ll probably update it at some point, but right now I still have a lot of other posts in the queue to be written, and not so much time/energy to write them with.

  64. Fuzake says:

    I, as a male of priviledge, wanted to say a heart-felt thanks. I have had big arguments with fiance over many of the topics that were discused. She actually sent tme this link as a last resort. I think it came at the perfect time, and may have saved… well, you get the idea..
    Anywho… The real reason I posted: The Article commented on “not being able to see the opression, becuase you were not conditioned to see it” (sorry if I quoted wrong, just paraphrasing). The more I look back over the three and a half years of our relationsship, using her sight, and the article, I realize how “stereotypically male” i was being. One thing that sticks in my mind is hearing her speak. Sometimes she will have to say somehting multipule times for me to hear her. Yes, she is soft spoken, but that is not always the case.
    Though I never realized it beofre, could it be I was “pre-conditioned” to ignore that first or second request for an ear?
    I have noticed it is only with her My male and female aquaintnces are not privy to this selective hearing. Is there anyway to “de-condition” myself to be more receptive?
    Thank you for the great post, and your time an attention…
    *~

  65. tekanji says:

    Fuzake: I’m glad that you found my article helpful. As for “deconditioning” strategies… well, it’s a bit tough because it’s a highly subjective issue. For me, when it comes to my attention that I have a bad habit, I try to be hyper aware of when it happens and then move to correct and prevent the behaviour. It sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

    If your partner is willing to help you, there may be a few other kinds of strategies that would be helpful. However, you must remember that it is not her job to educate you. If she agrees to help, it has to be on her terms and you can’t get mad at her if it doesn’t work.

    That said, one thing you can try is a “three strikes” rule. She can note whenever you don’t hear her speak – either verbally, or on a sheet of paper, or both – and whenever you get three strikes you have to do something that she wants to do that you’d rather not. If you go a whole week without getting any strikes, then she has to do something you like that she’d rather not. This, obviously, doesn’t apply to things that either partner has a truly strong aversion to, but rather little things – doing the dishes, going to a movie that doesn’t look interesting, etc.

    I would also highly suggest sitting down with her and just listening to what she has to say. Scheduling a weekly session of this, as silly as it sounds, may actually help teach you active listening that will spill over into normal conversations with her.

    And never forget that it’s ultimately up to you, and only you, to change yourself. No one – not her, not your family, or friends, or even random people on the internet – can do that work for you. I wish you and your fiance all the best.

  66. ChrisB says:

    First off, awesome post. For one of the people trying to become more aware of things like this, it’s good to see some well thought out rules to follow.

    Second: Sorry for posting so much later after the post date, but I just found it today.

    But there is one thing I wanted some clarification on (not the right word, but it’ll do). You say that it’s not the minority’s job to educate the majority, and I agree with you to the point where the majority should NOT expect to be catered to and have all our answers spoon fedto us. But is it not the job if the minority to bring attention to the areas where the transgressions are occurring? Because of the privaledged position, none of the privaged can see where the problems lie nearly as easilly as someone who is actively experiencing those problems.

    It’s certainly our job (the privlaged) to listen to the complaints and to change our behavior (and hopefully, ultimately, society). But it’s your job to -help- tell us where/when/how we’re screwing up, because we can’t see it nearly as well as you can. (I say ‘help’ because you shouldn’t have to tell us every single tiny thing we do wrong. We (most of us, I hope) aren’t ignorant and should hopefully be able to figure some of this out on our own)

    I apologize if I seem rambly or my words are a bit iffy. Just finished yet another 12 hour work day and my brain is melting out my ears, but I wanted to post before I lost the URL and forgot how to get back here.

  67. tekanji says:

    ChrisB said:

    But is it not the job if the minority to bring attention to the areas where the transgressions are occurring? Because of the privaledged position, none of the privaged can see where the problems lie nearly as easilly as someone who is actively experiencing those problems.

    The entire frame of it being the minority’s “job” to do something is really bothering me. It, once again, puts the onus on the minority group to enlighten the majority.

    The thing is, minority groups will talk about how we are oppressed. We’ll talk to each other as a method of finding support, we’ll scream it to the world as a method of venting, and, yes, sometimes we’ll even choose to take a privileged group head on (sort of like what I was doing with this post).

    But saying that it’s our “job” to do this because privileged people are blinded by their privilege? It’s just another way for the privileged group to dictate the situation — another way for them to make us responsible for their education.

  68. Pingback: other blog » Privilege And Its Discontents

  69. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » On The Feminist Carnival, Privilege, and Objectivity

  70. Sailorman says:

    Back on that “teaching” thing for a moment.

    Here’s the problem (and sadly I really am forced to summarize it in terms of a white male, as I’ll discuss below):

    -We have privilege.
    -We also have a problem. Stated as best as I can, that problem is one of blindness/incomprehension/lack of understanding. This is widely acknowledged among minorities as well.

    So what to do?

    Well, one option is to STFU. But in reality, the “listen and keep your mouth shut” tactic doesn’t really work. A lecture class is a well and good for an expert trying to get good details, but it sucks as an intro. Some things don’t make sense at all; some things are merely very confusing. Now, this may not seem so to YOU, because to YOU what you are saying is perfectly sensible, logical, etc. (Not incidentally, we feel this way too, and I’m sure you know how often you feel we are wrong.) But even though we want to understand what you are saying, and are trying to understand what you are saying, we cannot always manage to do so.

    So then another option is to ask questions. This then has its own set of problems. First, becasue we’re 1) privileged; 2) less knowledgable; and 3) not savvy in the language, we are almost guaranteed to piss SOMEONE off. Even if we try not to. This is not especially pleasant, even for the thick skinned among us. And yes, I know, this isn’t about how I feel, but bear with me for a moment.

    The reason I’m talking about how I feel at all is because it seems–to me at least, coming from who I am–that getting me, and those like me, happily educated and on your “side” is actually a Very Good Thing. If you think I’m a member of the power elite, which I probably am in a variety of ways (rich, educated, lawyer, white, male, etc) then you probably also realize that having the power elite on your side is a benefit.

    So in a way maybe you have to make a concession. (read this all, please, before you yell at me for using the word “concession” or for “demanding” one as a member of the privileged class.) The concession is small in absolute terms, and VERY small in relative terms of the benefit: If you want people to believe your statements; adopt your point of view; lobby on your behalf; attempt to change their personal and social and business lives in a manner which benefits you; and make decision which may be personally costly in order to benefit your group…. You have to be willing to teach them a little.

    And you know what? This probably sucks. It is, I imagine, pleasant to turn the tables on someone, or to enjoy feeling like you are the doorkeeper to an exclusive club. But every time I get told I’m a “fucking idiot for asking that question” or told “we don’t want you here” then (I’m only human) I tend to feel a little less friendly towards the speakers. I understand the ethical and moral appeals of fighting racism–they’re what drove me here–but to be honest, it’s hard to fight for a team which can’t manage to be polite to me, and/or which doesn’t seem to want my help. Privileged people who fight against their own privilege are acting AGAINST their own self interest in many cases.

    So you don’t “have” to teach, no. It’s not your obligation. But of course, we don’t “have” to do anything either; I suppose nobody really “has” to do something. Still in my white privileged view, conversations are mutual things. the RESULT of the conversation may be entirely onesided (I’m not trying to cinvince you to garner more support for white male privilege!) but the conversation itself, to be effective, needs to be mutual.

    Alternatively, we will STFU in your spaces, but will be able to have intelligent (to us) and relevant (to us) conversations only with ourselves, and/or your opponents. That’s no way to get us on your side. Which is where WE want to be, and (in my logical world and view of the way things work) also where YOU want us to be. But of course, maybe I’m wrong, and you don’t really care about whether I’m fighting for your side or not.

  71. tekanji says:

    I disagree that it’s impossible for a privileged person to learn by listening without participating. That’s how I got to where I am in ally work with issues such as race and trans rights. I took what I had read from the minority spaces and brought it back to my privileged space. I discussed it there, and as time went on I found that I was taking the minority view more and more because talking about it with other privileged people gave me the way to battle with my defensiveness without involving (and hurting) minority individuals.

    Beyond that, there are spaces that are specifically devoted to education: Feminist 101, Ally Work, and PHMT, to name a few. Some of them are minority run, some (like Ally Work and PHMT) are privileged groups reaching out to privileged groups. Not to mention this post, which is definitely falling in the “education” category. And it wasn’t completely written from a Privileged to Privileged perspective.

    The problem comes in when majority groups expect that if they’re to learn they must be taught, and furthermore that it is the minority groups that must teach them. They step up and say, “Educate me, Minority Group!” and if said Minority Group obliges (and, inevitably, there are a few individuals who are willing to beat our heads against that wall) then the privileged person spends their time coming up with reasons on why they don’t need to learn exactly what they asked to be educated about. It reads like a deflection tactic, “Well, I tried to learn but just couldn’t!”

    Before any real ally work can happen, I firmly believed that the privileged person needs to learn how to educate themselves. We live in an age where there are tons of great articles and blog posts on the matter available to us, and if one is sincere in understanding privilege, it’s not that hard to find them. This article provides a few, google is an excellent tool, and if you go into one of those “Minority 101″ spaces I linked above, it’s not out of the question to ask for resources and then discuss any questions you have about them. But, the point still remains: The privileged person must educate themself, rather than expecting the minority individuals to do it for them.

  72. Sailorman says:

    Hmm. I am unsure–as often happens in this particular situation–what level of response is appropriate. In particular, I am unsure whether I should feel encouraged, allowed, grudgingly permitted, or discouraged about disagreeing with anything you say. Before I reply, can you clarify?

  73. tekanji says:

    As long as you follow the rules and are polite, you’re always free to disagree with me. I may respond, I may not. Other people may respond, or they may not. But, as long as you respect the rules, I’ll post your comment.

  74. Sailorman says:

    Fair enough, thanks… I’ll reply piecemeal.

    # tekanji says:
    July 11th, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    I disagree that it’s impossible for a privileged person to learn by listening without participating.

    Well we are in “sort of” disagreement. I think you can learn by listening. I just don’t think you can learn as WELL, or as accurately, or as efficiently, or as pleasantly.

    Perhaps we’re disagreeing over motivation. But I’l discuss that below.

    That’s how I got to where I am in ally work with issues such as race and trans rights. I took what I had read from the minority spaces and brought it back to my privileged space. I discussed it there, and as time went on I found that I was taking the minority view more and more because talking about it with other privileged people gave me the way to battle with my defensiveness without involving (and hurting) minority individuals.

    I am sorry to say I think this level of commitment is rare. Personally, for example, I am less interested in having these discussions within a privileged-only space. As a result, I’m not sure that I can make the investment of time and mental energy required to simultaneously monitor minority spaces (for material) and privileged spaces (for discussion).

    This may be one of those “it worked for you, but…” areas. And I think you are correct: some people will always be enterested enough and able to follow your particular choice of path. But I think this is a relatively small subset of the folks who would like to reach a similar, if not identical, destination.

    ….Before any real ally work can happen, I firmly believe that the privileged person needs to learn how to educate themselves. We live in an age where there are tons of great articles and blog posts on the matter available to us, and if one is sincere in understanding privilege, it’s not that hard to find them.

    My experience has been eerily like an emperor’s clothes experience.

    If I ask a question, I am given an answer. Sometimes the answers don’t make sense, or seem contradictory, or confusing.

    But if I don’t understand the answer and want to ask a followup question, that is often because I was “not sincere enough” in asking the initial question, or because I “really don’t want to learn” or “don’t want to know”. In essence, I sometimes feel like I am only welcomed if I already agree. Sadly, that is not in my nature to do.

    On to motivation, which I saved for last. I should put it first as it’s probably at the root of my disagreement.

    Your perspective seems entirely based on the concept that the only/primary beneficiary of the learning is the privileged person. Am I missing something (you didn’t address this directly)? Because if not, I don’t think you’re doing the balancing right. You are leaving out any positive benefit which might accrue to the minority in question from having more members of the majority group join them.

    To use a religious example, the question is somewhat like the difference between some Eastern religions and some Christianity.

    Do you–like some Bhuddists–believe that one must “earn” a space into nonracism? That the process by which one gets there is as, or more, important than whether one is racist?

    Or is it more like Christianity, in which it is a very good thing that more people become Christians–so the religion, complete with prosteletyzing, is set up to that effect, process be damned? It’s OK to have a revelation without much forethought.

    Because I AGREE with you: If you don’t care about whether someone is a racist or not then you have no motivation to educate them. Or anyone else. But if the goal is “no racism” then this doesn’t make sense to me, because you need racists to have racism. So it seems like one of the most efficient ways to reduce racism is to “convert” lots of racists as fast as possible–more like the Christian analogy.

    But in my experience, the vast majority of race forums are selectively populated by people who do not adhere to that model. They are clearly intelligent; therefore I am clearly missing something in my assumption. I’m just not sure what.

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  77. Froog says:

    Okay, let me see if I can say this right. Sailorman, there is a lot to what you say, but I don’t think I like some of your assumptions. Yes, there is benefit to minorities having a person of the majority on their side. But *a life is personal, not absolute*.

    You say “Personally, for example, I am less interested in having these discussions within a privileged-only space. As a result, I’m not sure that I can make the investment of time and mental energy required to simultaneously monitor minority spaces (for material) and privileged spaces (for discussion).”

    I am just as entitled to say “Personally, I do not feel interested in making the commitment to spoon-feed a person everything he thinks he wants to know.”

    If a person comes up to me and asks a respectful question, and I am not too busy, or too distracted by something else, then I will generally give a respectful answer. If the person then asks for clarification, I will try to clarify. But there is a point where I get *tired* of beating my head against incomprehension. I’m not a teacher, I’m not getting paid for this.

    Everyone can benefit by having a world free of sexism or racism. That is not in question. But that is not going to happen in my lifetime. And if I burn myself out, spend all my energy on proseletyzing, then it will shorten my life far more than it shortens the time before we reach utopia.

  78. Rycuda says:

    Sailorman, unless I’m failing in my understanding somewhere along the line, part of the reason for this post is that the method of reaching the “not -ist” state is key to actually attaining it.

    It’s, as stated above, very easy to claim to be colour/race/age-blind. It’s another entirely to actually be able to act in full accordance with that statement.

    Is someone unwilling to exert effort to learn what needs to be corrected in their day to day attitudes likely to be willing to exert the (often considerable) effort to actually make those changes?

  79. Polymath says:

    “So, what, then, to do about it? Well, finding a balance between accepting your privilege and fighting against it is not easy.”

    Although I understand the need and desire for oppressed groups to fight their own fights, I might add that another thing you can “do about” your privilege is to use it to face up to the oppression. Only Nixon could go to China, and maybe only a man could initiate a workplace discussion on sexism without playing into the “what a whiny bitch” stereotype of the people who need the discussion the most. One aspect of privilege, I’m saying, is that if I’m perceived as having nothing to gain, my fight against oppression can be attributed to a genuine desire for fairness and the greater good (of course oppressed people who fight oppression usually have that desire, too, but it’s often seen as selfish by those who want to dismiss them).

  80. Kaethe says:

    Excellant post. We all need the reminder to shut up and listen, in particular. Blog comments seem to be particularly prone to encouraging a soap-box speech, and it’s something I constantly need to fight against.

    Thank you.

  81. C says:

    Single white hetero male in his mid-twenties, here. (Which reminds me of a gag from a comedian who commented, on being in a similar position, something along the lines of: ‘…and it kind of sucks because when I look at my life and try to find something to blame… I got nothing.) Levity aside…

    I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks chiefly for the rare, gentle tone and hand-holding, here. And the remarkable feat of keeping the post constructive. It’s really, really needed. Your comment on what seems obvious to you isn’t to others should be coming out of everyone’s mouth.

    Too often I’ve had to avoid discussions of feminism amongst those who are normally my friends and open coversants on all other subjects. I get knee-jerk defensive reactions at various feminist barbs and rants; the more vitriolic the more inclined I am toward picking at details and searching for a counter-argument. I admit I’m lazy: one of the symptoms of which is that I try to puzzle these things out on my own, when I have spare time and am working or doing something else (Free time I dedicate to more selfish self-gratifying pursuits). The more efficient and effective way would obviously be to read up on the subject. But. Trying to puzzle things out from the perspective I’ve experienced and grown up in, I can usually only express my thoughts and self-questions to the very closest of my friends who are… remarkably patient with me and my ignorance. Though I can tell they’re grinding their teeth sometimes. I really, really hate doing that to them.

    Your guide seems the best way to avoid testing the patience of the people I love, and while some parts are a little hard to swallow, or confronting (particularly given the feelings when I’ve experienced some of the things you’ve mentioned), I guess that’s kind of the point.

    So, uh… yeah. Using a whole lot of words to say very little is a bad habit of mine. So. For what it’s worth: Thanks. :>

  82. EB says:

    First, a lady in my LJ buddy list linked to this post and piqued my interest. Very interesting and up to the point.

    Second; as I see it, the whole point of this text is to say that members of privileged groups should learn to listen first. In that respect, let me adapt the religious analogy of Sailorman above.

    Buddhists do not practice missionary activity – they accept students who first have to learn to listen what their teachers have to say. Christian missionaries (those who do not try to convert by example) try to convert people by preaching, definitely not listening and trying to turn every argument into their point of view.

    You do not intend to do so, but you must understand that member of many minority groups are used to comments that are intended to belittle their point of view. So, when you start with the equivalent of “Okay, But” even if you see it only as a clarification, their reaction is “Jeez, One of Them Again”. You have become a missionary that tries to convert them and they dislike that.

  83. thomas says:

    I have been on the Internet, and posting, since Winter 92-93. Perhaps I have missed all the best sites to date, but I have never enjoyed reading anything online as much as I have enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for adding so much to an already wonderful day. I find your insight and clarity of expression to be quite dazzling, even though I am generally considered to be quite adept at these things myself.

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  87. I know this post has been around for a while and I’ve always been a big fan but today I thought I’d make a quick comment before I head out the door. It has been nearly 2 years since I got out of my last relationship with a well intentioned nice guy that turned out to be quite the over privileged straight white man. Recently I took interest in someone and thought – wow! finally someone different. I read through your list yesterday night and realized that – you know what? It isn’t. I guess what I’m trying to say is your list has helped me to remind me that nothing is worth the self respect I’ve gained over the last couple of years – nothing is worth my strength and my identity.
    Thank you.

  88. michelle says:

    Sailorman wrote: Well, one option is to STFU. But in reality, the “listen and keep your mouth shut” tactic doesn’t really work. A lecture class is a well and good for an expert trying to get good details, but it sucks as an intro. Some things don’t make sense at all; some things are merely very confusing. Now, this may not seem so to YOU, because to YOU what you are saying is perfectly sensible, logical, etc. (Not incidentally, we feel this way too, and I’m sure you know how often you feel we are wrong.) But even though we want to understand what you are saying, and are trying to understand what you are saying, we cannot always manage to do so.

    I found this comment particularly interesting given my own experiences as a white women connected with a people-of-color run organization that is deliberately open to white people’s participation.

    The thing about STFU and listening is this — it takes TIME to figure out what is going on.
    Yes, things will be said and done that don’t make sense at first. But since this is not about us privileged people, we should not have to always understand everything immediately. Over time, with a real commitment to STFU and listening (and in my case, contributing with my action as people requested), I learned a lot about the specific issues the organization deals with, its ways of doing things, its history, and overall perspective.

    I remember there were times my girlfriend (also a white woman) would listen to me talking about somethnig I had heard or seen that confused me and suggest that I just ask about it. Sometimes I would need to do research on my own. As for things specific to the organization — well, a lot of times, my response was that I was just going to wait and see what information came to me and when. And that worked really well for my learning, because I figured things out more on the terms and at the pace of the other people involved — they said and did what they said and did and I paid attention. They shared things with me in specific conversations when they decided to do so.

    Me asking a lot of questions in group spaces (meetings, for example) would have disrupted the flow and centered me, not the work that needed to be done. And, me seeking people out to ask questions privately would have put them in a position of having to decide how to deal with me if I wasn’t being appropriate in what I was asking or how I was asking it..

    So: Seems to me that STFU and listen means de-centering the privileged assumption that we always have to understand — that we need to have immediate mastry if we are going to be engaged in something. It centers our self-involved desire to “know” over what is going on for other people.

    Also, it occurs to me that the commentor’s metaphor of the world (or some part of it) as a classroom for privileged people also deserves critical attention. I mean, no it’s not your/our classroom. People have other things going on that have nothing to do with where the privileged people are at except to the extent that the privileged people are being disruptive (which happens pretty often).

    But then I feel like that is the implicit/hidden threat that comes up a lot from the space of privilege if fully explicit it would go something like … “If you don’t defer to us, we will continue to hurt you and you don’t want that so defer to us and keep us at the center because look what we do when you don’t.”

    Anyway. On my experiences: Over time, things have shifted a bit. I am somewhat more active now in asking questions if I am confused or speaking my opinion, because I have been asked to be more outspoken and because it seems to me that some of what I have more recently been asked to do requires that I have explicit clarity on certain things. There is an experience-based context that did not exist at first. I am still concerned about whether I speak too much. I am still concerned about what kinds of harm I can and will do as a white person in this space. That part won’t end until the system of white supremacy ends.

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  91. Mari says:

    I enjoyed this article and the discussion for the most part. Especially, the first three parts, however, I had some concerns over the fourth part. In particular “In minority discussions, those rants will sometimes be directed at privileged groups.” In feminism in particular this may not be harmful, but with most minoritys the ideas about who is “inside” or outside the group are more fluid. This kind of ranting only isolates these members and makes what should be a refuse a hostile space. To sit quiet seems to me to be the wrong answer. Anyways only adding my two cents, liked article.

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  93. 01d55 says:

    About the new banner at the top – the one that reads “Some tips on going from pro-equality in spirit to pro-equality in truth” Might it be improved if it were to read “from pro-equality in spirit to pro-equality in deed”?

  94. tekanji says:

    About the new banner at the top – the one that reads “Some tips on going from pro-equality in spirit to pro-equality in truth” Might it be improved if it were to read “from pro-equality in spirit to pro-equality in deed”?

    Yes, it would indeed be improved by using that and I have updated it accordingly. Thanks for the input!

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  96. Wow, this is awesome! thank you so much.

  97. Red Jenny says:

    This is great! I’ll be linking from my blog.

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  100. cbr says:

    Standard language just isn’t equipped to deal with the concepts that minority groups have to engage with on a regular basis. And why would it? The language we’re taught is designed for the masses.

    Do you believe that English as is generally spoken (I don’t mean to include ‘proper’ or ‘formal’ English) was ‘designed’ or is this hyperbole?

  101. tekanji says:

    cbr: I think you’re taking “designed” too literally. I meant that English, as most languages do, grew to suit the masses rather than developing words for those who don’t have as strong of a voice.

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  107. Llencelyn says:

    Thank you. Thank you Thank you Thank you. It has only been in, roughly, the past two years that I have ever truly encountered…I’m not sure how to put this. Let me try this: I grew up in middle-to-upper-middle white class suburbia. I am a girl, but thanks to happy chance that was never an issue of which I was aware while growing up. So, since leaving high school and entering the wider world, I have been overwhelmed by injustice. Just…shocked, absolutely, by all the terrible ways that people treat other people. Given my background, I was (and still am, though now to a lesser extent) lost. How could all of these terrible things have happened, without my knowing about them?

    Now I know a) about privilege, b) that I have it, c) that others have it, and d) what to do about it. Or at least how to handle myself.

    Thank you.

  108. Sarah says:

    This is my first comment on your blog (I think) although I have read yours among other feminist blogs for some time. I do in fact have my own feminist blog but I haven’t updated it properly for some time, mainly because the more I read of feminist blogs the more I realise I don’t know very much about gender politics/theory. Also, other people seem a lot more eloquent about things I have thought about than I ever could be! I’m gradually educating myself but where I really do fall down is on issues of race/non-heterosexuality, being white and heterosexual myself. However, I do have a question. Obviously I have certain privileges because of this, but when I read your summary of white privilege I don’t agree with all of it from my personal perspective. This is because my being female means that in all-male or mixed-sex situations, regardless of the racial mix, I don’t feel that I will automatically be listened to. For me, being a woman overarches being white in some situations. I’m not trying to make this all about me: I am genuinely interested in whether/how different privileges overlap and affect each other. Do some outweigh others? Reading this back it is hard to clarify what I mean, but I think it is that sometimes the feeling of under-privilege I get from being female outweighs the privilege I feel from being white. But then, is that just because my white privilege is inbuilt in our culture so I am unaware of it? I’d love to know if you have any ideas on this because it confuses me properly. This was a really good post – it’s both cleared a few things up and made me think yet more about my own pre-conceptions.

  109. Sarah says:

    Oh, and I’m not asking you to educate me on race/sexuality issues. I realise it may come across like that but all I was trying to do was acknowledge my ignorance – it’s more I’d like to engage with you about where the lines between race/gender or gender/sexuality privileges etc. begin to blur.

  110. tekanji says:

    Sarah: One of the underlying points behind this list is that privilege is intersectional. What that means is that our privileges interact with each other, as well as with our lack of privilege. This means that the way in which we experience privilege (and lack of privilege) in any given situation will be unique to us.

    If you’re having trouble imagining situations in which your privilege would overshadow the conversation, then I urge you to imagine yourself talking with women of colour and/or queer women. In such a situation male privilege would not be an issue, and therefore it is easier to understand how the playing field gets tipped in your favour.

    For me, being a woman overarches being white in some situations.

    Don’t you think that part of that might not be your privilege? Think about it this way: being a woman is disadvantageous in our society, and therefore it is something that is something that you take note of. Being white, however, is advantageous and therefore it is something that you don’t think about as much.

    I would highly recommend reading the posts in my Privilege in Action category for more illustrations on how privilege makes itself invisible to the privileged. I would also recommend White Trash Blues: Class Privilege v. White Privilege as an illustration of how privileges intersect. Actually, I would recommend the entire Blind Privilege blog.

    Do some outweigh others?

    Absolutely not. When people try to claim that, the response is often that they are playing “oppression olympics” and trying to prioritize one oppression over another, when all oppression is important.

    The important thing for us to focus on is personal: how do others have power over us, how do we have power over others, and what do we do about it.

    Simultaneously, being in a situation where there is no clear cut “oppressor” is common. What do you do when you are in a conversation with a queer man? Or a man of colour? He may have male privilege, but you still have racial or heterosexual privilege. The answer is that throughout the conversation the power has the potential to shift back and forth depending on who is exerting which privilege when. And the best thing that we, as individuals, can do about it is to be aware of our privilege and try not to exert it.

    But then, is that just because my white privilege is inbuilt in our culture so I am unaware of it?

    Bingo. Again, I recommend the Privilege in Action category for further illustration of that point.

    The best way to understand privilege is to do what you’re doing: read, read, and then read some more. It’s not an easy topic, and it certainly isn’t covered in normal education, but it’s a fundamental building block to understanding any form of oppression. Good luck with things and I hope you find the links useful (for more “Privilege 101″ you can check out the link list I have on the right side of the blog).

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  118. Shelby says:

    “In minority discussions, those rants will sometimes be directed at privileged groups. It’s hard not to be hurt the first time you hear someone say something like, “Ugh, I really hate men/white people/heterosexuals/what-have-you today!” I know. I’ve been there, done that, but then learned that it’s not about me, it’s about my privilege.”

    Are you saying that it is okay to say you hate a specific group like men or whites? This portion of the article seems incongruent because it does not support accepting race and gender. I am sure I am mistaken, so please explain in other words what you are trying to say here.

  119. tekanji says:

    Shelby said:

    Are you saying that it is okay to say you hate a specific group like men or whites?

    No, I’m saying that most of the time when it looks like a person without privilege is expressing hatred of a privileged group it’s not about hating the people it’s about hating the privilege and that’s an important distinction to make. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that non-privileged people will sometimes need to blow off steam and to consciously tell yourself to not take it personally if you see it, or if it’s directed at you. Of course, in the latter case you should take it as an indication to find out what you said to yield such a response, but even in that case it’s not about you personally it’s about your unintentionally expressed privilege.

  120. somasoul says:

    A “hierarchy of prejudice”? “Institutionlized power”.

    I don’t buy it.

    One white man calling one black a derogatory name has the same effect emotionally as one black man calling one white man a derogatory name.

    Earlier this year a DA and state authority attempted to lock up and label three young white college students “sex offenders” for a rape that never happened. While the DA and the media posted the pics of these men on TVS and papers nationally, and women and blacks shouted derogatory names outside these young men’s homes, and their entire futures were held in the palms of a greedy DA, the women’s rights movement, and African American race baiters……I’m sure these three white men were comforted by the thought that at least the racism directed at them wasn’t being done by any “institutionalized power” and that they were merely helping to level the playing field of racism’s past “inequity”.

  121. tekanji says:

    somasoul: Your gratuitous use of scare quotes and sarcastic tone make your comment borderline. This is your one, and only, warning: abide by the discussion rules and be polite, or don’t comment here at all.

    In terms of the subject at hand, I don’t think you understand the terms you’ve scare quoted. Which is partly my fault, because I’ve never updated this with a primer section, but partly yours for not following the Privilege 101 links in the sidebar before commenting. So, I would suggest that you go do that first,and then check out the What is “sexism”? post at Feminism 101, which isn’t directly related but does clarify what’s meant by institutional power addresses your point about emotional effect:

    What this imbalance of power translates to on an individual level is a difference in the impact of a man being prejudiced towards a woman and a woman being prejudiced towards a man. While both parties are human, and therefore have the same capacity to be hurt by the prejudice, whether they like it or not, the men have a whole system of history, traditions, assumptions, and in some cases legal systems and “scientific” evidence giving their words a weight that the women don’t have access to.

    Also, you talking about one example (which you didn’t even bother to give enough information on to identify the case and let us fact check your assessment for ourselves) does not a institutionalized disadvantage make. I can pull out at least five rape trials where the woman was clearly raped but the men got away (the Orange County one where the boys videotaped themselves raping an unconscious girl is a prime example), but beyond that with a little research I can cite you statistics on things such as rape convictions, the overall number of convictions for crime broken down by race, etc. That is part of what is labeled “institutionalized power”. So, while you may not buy it, those systems aren’t like the fairies in Peter Pan; they don’t need your belief to exist, but rather thrive on your ignorance.

  122. somasoul says:

    (Oh, this is going to be long.)

    I didn’t think my scare quotes were rude or impolite. I scare quoted terms I myself did not coin nor want to be associated with. They were not meant to be sarcastic or any such thing but were used in a correct literary manner.

    I checked out the privilage 101 link and got some of it. And while I can say I agree with some of it I don’t agree with it all. Thus my use of the aforementioned scare quotes.

    For instance, you’re finallyfeminist link says that women cannot be sexist because they lack power and are outside the “systematic framework of advantage created by the majority to privilege themselves”. Of course women are the majority by a fraction, thus not a minority, which opens an entire other can of worms. I won’t even go there. And I while I understand that I might be arguing semantics I wanted to correctly define what the finallyfeminist website means by sexism. Sexism: “The ability to carry out an action against another sex that said sex does not wish to be subjected to”. In other words, sexism is an action whereas prejudice is merely a belief.

    Let’s use the case I used in my previous comment. As you may have guessed I was referring to the Duke Rape case. This case is good to use because it includes aspects of racism run amok and sexism run amok, both by parties that deny they can be either. (You can read about University of Delaware’s program to get all white’s to admit to being racist on various links, use google if you wish)

    The idea that women lack power to be considered sexist is simply untrue. Let me use the events that unfolded to show that women do have the power exact actions against men that they do not wish, therefore fulfilling the definition that finallyfeminist demands.

    On March 13th a black woman accuses three men of rape and assualt.
    By the beginning of April the lacrosse coach, who was uninvolved in the event, was fired.
    A fliar was created that resembled a “wanted poster” with all 40 members of the lacrosse team pictured with their names asking rape victims to come forward against these men (Libel?).
    Three young men were expelled from the university.
    Three young men, one of whom had a rock solid alibi from the beginning, were thrown into court by a corrupt DA.
    Three young men were defamed, slandered, and had their lives posted all over the world declaring them both “racist” and “rapists” for a rape that never occured.
    Duke University itself perpetuated a mob mentality attacking these men, indeed, nearly the entire lacrosse team.
    Meanwhile, the stripper who made the false allegations managed to build herself a support fund from her own university.
    Protestors gathered outside the site nearly daily shouting derogatory terms at the lacrosse team.

    Again, I don’t even agree with finallyfeminst’s definition at all. But I think that even if I did, their definition would still be wrong. Women have the power to execute sexism against men. Indeed, they have the power to throw them in jail and ruin their reputations over a mere accusation.

    Lastly, you made a comment that you can site multiple cases where men clearly behaved in a sexist manner but escaped further punishment. I NEVER made a comment that the system never benefits men. I agree, sometimes the system is flawed and men get off scott free. But also, the system can favor women. I once worked at a place where an accusation of sexual harrasement was enough grounds for termination. Indeed, many places of employement have similar rules.

    Our difference is that I believe sexism is a two way street. You seemingly do not.

    Then again I think I walked into a trap by even posting here.

  123. Jay says:

    One white man calling one black a derogatory name has the same effect emotionally as one black man calling one white man a derogatory name.

    That’s wrong. I’ll illustrate with an example (not your example, but a valid one nonetheless). A white man insulting an Asian man with a small penis “joke” doesn’t have the same effect as an Asian man insulting a white man with the same small penis joke. More people will believe the first scenario than the second. Because the first message is so pervasive, and the second message is not.

    The impact simply isn’t the same.

    I’m not going to comment on the Duke case for now because I haven’t got the facts in front of me and I don’t have time to go look.

  124. somasuol says:

    What if a woman tells the small penis joke?

    That’s not sexism?

    How about the recent Dominoes commercial where they promise a delivery in 30 minutes? The man says something akin to: “You know what we can do with those 30 minutes?” (indicating sex) and she responds by saying something like: “What are we going to do with the other 28 minutes?

    That’s not sexism?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acCnKmZDpfA

  125. tekanji says:

    somasuol said:

    That’s not sexism?

    No. The first is an example of a gender based slur, which is a pretty obvious example of what I was talking about in the Finally Feminism post regarding prejudice without institutionalized power; it’s bad and it hurts, but it’s not the same as when it’s a man making remarks about a woman. Although if a white woman was telling the penis joke about an Asian man it would be racist as well as a gendered slur.

    The second example is more complicated*, because it reinforces stereotypes about men that are just as integral to maintaining a culture of sexism as said stereotypes about women. But the way those stereotypes impact men, again, doesn’t work the same as the way stereotypes impact women.

    In any case, this isn’t the place to discuss the nature of sexism and I don’t want to spend more time derailing the thread. If you’re honestly interested in this topic, I would suggest either trying to stir up discussion on the Finally Feminism thread or visiting one of the many blogs and LJ communities on my blogroll that are about men and feminism.

    * The first could be put in this category as well, if you look at it from a perspective of reinforcing particular masculinities.

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  131. Wow, this post is terrific! It’s the first time that I see something that synthesizes what I was told here and there, and what had to learn – sometimes clumsily – over the years through intersectional activism. Thanks a lot! You can be sure I am going to point friends to this.

    A friend and I are preparing a workshop that addresses privilege. It is going to take place during an LGBT conference, set in May 08 in Montréal. The sad thing is, there is a dearth of material addressing privilege in french :( I had to do some approximate translations for my class. We francophones never discuss privilege (or at the very least, I’ve only heard it from people who are familiar with the english privilege lists). I feel shy asking this, but do you think there could be a way we could produce a french translation of your list while respecting your copyright? I’d love to hear what you think of this and if you have any suggestion about it.

    Un grand merci du Québec! ;)

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  136. B13 says:

    Love this post. Was linked her from The Rotund, a fat acceptance blog. I encouage everyone to consider all kinds of priviledge, including size and ability. Also, my university uses the term targeted group rather than minority…not that this is more correct but rather a new phrase for folks who might be put off by the word miniortiy because of its literal, mathematic meaning.

  137. Sostenuto says:

    Somasoul,

    Is there a real trend? Do you know whether false accusations are as common as unpunished rape?

    Is the trend unjust? Do you understand that the consequences of rape can be as devastating and undeserved as the consequences of a false accusation?

    Does the trend mean what you think? Would you like to re-examine your example? I feel the Duke Case SUPPORTS an interpretation of institutionalised privilege, and does NOT suggest a trend toward persecution of white men.

    1. The outcry about the Duke case was exceptional, not typical of rape cases.

    2. Failure to report rape, and failure to convict are still typical, not exceptional.

    3. The victim was not typical of rape victims, in many ways significant to this discussion of privilege.

    4. There clearly was non-consensual (drugged, probably violent, certainly disrespectful) sexual activity, even though the defendants were not the men involved.

    5. Rape was alleged to occur at a real frat party which did clearly involve the defendants in play based on racial and gender privilege.

    6. The initial accusation was plausible, on the face of it, because our culture is full of celebrations of exactly the alleged misbehaviour (in movies, comics, literature, youtube, etc), which make it reasonable for women to be apprehensive of groups of men in ways that men generally do not fear groups of women.

    7. False prosecution is atypical: the prosecutor admitted to knowingly putting falsehoods to the court and the public, and was disbarred for it.

    8. The victim is now effectively disempowered from reporting any rape or violence that happens to her in the future, because she has in the past been found to be an unreliable witness. In sexual matters, she may find herself virtually an outlaw.

    For an arguably ‘consensus’ summary of facts, I relied on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Duke_University_lacrosse_team_scandal

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  142. Tan Kia Wee says:

    Hmm, might be a little after the fact, but regarding somasoul’s rape case example, I’d offer the opinion that using that to argue is a case of false dichotomy. The case is about a whole set of tragic screwups caused by institutionalized stereotyping. It’s precisely because gender relations are on a high tension point that such knee-jerk reactions happen. I disagree with classifying it as a case of male or female advantaged sexism, because that makes no sense whatsoever.

    No one wins when we play unconvicted rapist cases against unfairly fired coaches. I’ll put forward the case that society has a curious form of mental disconnect. Accusations of sex crimes are never entirely removed, at least in my country, and apparently judging from the poor coach, not in yours too. I would contend that both forms of sexism can exist within the same system and be backed up with institutionalized power. One form is a lot more prevelent, but denying the other isn’t the best way to spread the idea of equality.

    I also offer the opinion that since stereotyping has a strong network effect and scales a lot more than linearly with the proportion of people doing it, using the “Buddhist” way is a lot less effective. If people were so inclined to examine social structures closely and understand the sometimes rather confused way these constructs are built, we would live in a very different society. Perhaps it’s my environment, and I will admit I live in a society where critical thinking and debate are mere soundbites and dissent is viewed as subversive, but I still maintain that building a critical mass of social unacceptability regarding sexism is the more efficient method of tipping the metaphorical scale. People are born and socialized faster than you can reach out to remind people of their privilege, at least not without consuming a completely absurd proportion of distribution channels. Like P2P, tapping into the everyday channels of socialization by creating a critical mass of aware and vocal people is one of the best ways to keep pace with the bad socialization that happens whenever stereotypes are reinforced by social interaction among the socialized.

    Memes (such as the rejection of sexism) are viral, and I tip my metaphorical hat to writers of blogs such as the author.

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  149. Godheval says:

    Thank you. For every thousand little nicks by racists, deniers, and apologists, it only takes ONE insightful post like this to renew my faith in humanity. I will be linking you.

  150. Godheval says:

    You might consider adding Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” to your list of primers on white privilege. I’m certain you’ve heard of it, but in case you haven’t:

    http://mmcisaac.faculty.asu.edu/emc598ge/Unpacking.html

    You know, I’m probably guilty – even as a PoC – of being one of those people handing out “cookies” to white people for making strides against privilege. I’m always so impressed and grateful that they even exist, that I forget that it is not a merit, but an obligation. Even so, I think that McIntosh’s essay is a good one.

  151. tekanji says:

    Godheval: I have it linked in my sidebar under “Privilege Checklists” (as “White Privilege”), but I don’t really consider it a good primer. Not because it isn’t insightful or well-written, but rather that I consider it to be intermediate level rather than beginner level.

    Most beginners will look at McIntosh’s essay, and the various checklists it spawned, and start nitpicking the details instead of thinking about the underlying message. With the primers I linked, though, they don’t get into the details but rather use general explanations and try to illustrate the core of the argument in an easy to understand fashion. Once a person has accepted that they are privileged, then it’s useful for them to read up on essays like McIntosh’s invisible knapsack in order to get a more in-depth understanding of privilege and how it operates.

    If that makes sense.

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  153. Cos says:

    You write: “many of you probably think that you’re gender-blind, and colour-blind, and what have you. If you didn’t, I’m guessing you wouldn’t have bothered to read this far.”

    That statement took me aback a bit. I don’t think being “gender-blind” or “race-blind” is particularly useful or laudable; I do think it’s something found primarily among people who are both privileged *and* unaware of that fact. Which means, the very people least likely to be reading this.

    Believing in equality can mean different things, I guess. For some people, it may mean “believing we *are* all equal, and our playing field is level, and we should be race/gender/etc.-blind, in order to preserve that good state.” That’s a form of blindness that isn’t likely to lead someone to a post like this. Or, believing in equality could mean “believing that equality is a worthy goal, and trying to find ways to further it.” Being race/gender/etc.-blind is not really compatible with that attitude, once you examine it, IMO.

  154. Cos says:

    P.S. The link to the “driving a smooth road” article may be broken. It links to a cached version that doesn’t work for me. However, the original URL seems fine: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2005/12/02/privilege-is-driving-a-smooth-road-and-not-even-knowing-it/

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  156. Joy-Mari says:

    I love you and I want you to have my babies. Or the other way around. Hell, I don’t care. This is one of the most awesome anti-oppression primers out there.

    I’ll send this link to everyone who wants to be a part of my life. And yes, that includes my mom.

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  159. Both of the links (“feel” and “defensive”) under “Accept Your Privilege” are broken: https://geekyfeminist.wordpress.com/2006/03/10/men-in-denial/ and http://darkdaughta.blogspot.com/2006/01/what-i-do-when-politically-stunted.html

    The darkdaughta blog is still there, though it seems to have been reorganized a bit, and perhaps not all of the old content is there. It’s still available from the Internet Archive at http://web.archive.org/web/20080129022502/http://darkdaughta.blogspot.com/2006/01/what-i-do-when-politically-stunted.html

    The geekyfeminist blog seems to have been taken down, and is not available from the archive.

  160. Katherine says:

    Thank you so much for writing this detailed post aimed at people that don’t understand, but want to, and for engaging with some others on here. Even without asking I got to the end of the comments and felt like all my questions had been answered. I’m also grateful many bloggers link this.

    It is hard on other feminist blogs to know where to start to understand; seems a lot of people’s first reactions to not understanding is to ask questions, but in not understanding it is easy to ask bad questions. I guess I am beginning to understand (oops I’m making it about me).

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  170. Dale Innis says:

    I know it’s a million years since you posted this :) but I wanted to add my voice to those saying it’s wonderful. It’s so rare that someone gets past the “here’s how the ideal world would be”, to things that actually and directly matter in the non-ideal real world. And you do it with such patience and kindness!

    (You also chose a marvelously illustrative set of troll and near-troll postings to leave up, as examples of what not to do.)

    Thank you!

  171. Mark says:

    Please remove the use of the term “Phallusy.” It is a sexist insult.

  172. Llencelyn says:

    @Comment 171:

    No, actually. It’s not. I recommend trying any of the 101-type links on the website to begin an investigation into why.

    You are treading dangerously close to violation of Discussion Rule 3. Any further violations will result in deletion of any future comments.

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  179. Phil says:

    Thanks for taking the time necessary to write this up. As someone in the intersection of just about every privileged group in the US, it’s helpful to find an article that actually aims to enlighten and educate.

    There’s a small typo in your first paragraph. “pro-equaity” should be “pro-equality”. Feel free to edit this comment to remove this. :-)

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  191. this is great stuff AND i fell the comments about using oppressive language against minorities is slightly ironic since the very phrase “minority” is offensive to some non-white people. but thank you for all this

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  193. Amy says:

    applause, applause! thanks for this.

    typo alert from your friendly neighborhood eagle-eye:

    “In a nutshell: minority spaces are needed because they are the only place where non-privilged people can truly focus on our own issues.”

    Cheers!

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  198. Neil Satterlund says:

    I know, everybody already says, but this is really fantastic, and was useful to read, and I will try to actually do the useful things discussed. Thank you.

  199. David says:

    Fantastic post.

    Just a quick note: in number 4, “Debunking the Reverse-ism…” section, you have a typo: “discrimination against a privileged group is not the same as discrimination against a non-priivleged group.”

  200. Paddy says:

    Thank you for the insightful and informative list :)

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  202. ChristopherP says:

    This ABSOLUTELY needs a social networking share button.

  203. Erin says:

    I have a feeling this comment will be censored. However, in the event it is not, I must say that many of your suggestions are extremely divisive and discriminatory. Also, your hard line between “privileged” and “non-privileged” people seems arbitrary at best, as within any subgroup of humans, there will be a micro-hierarchy, as no two people are alike, and differences in human beings produce natural hierarchies based on luck, talent, appearance, intellect, etc. Even you yourself are viewed as a “privileged” one by someone less privileged than you. So does that make you the oppressee, or the oppressor? I feel that many of these suggestions do not provide any practical benefit to human interactions. Regards, Erin

    • Avatar of tekanji tekanji says:

      I have a feeling this comment will be censored.

      And for that line alone I almost did choose not to allow this past moderation. Frankly, only trolls call choosing to maintain respectful dialogue by implementing discussion rules and moderation “censorship”. And even if you’re not purposely trolling (which you may not be, given that the rest of your comment is reasonable, though it makes me suspect you didn’t read any of the outgoing links) that opening line makes it pretty clear that you aren’t really interested in arguing in good faith.

      no two people are alike, and differences in human beings produce natural hierarchies based on luck, talent, appearance, intellect, etc.

      You’re misunderstanding what’s meant by “privilege” here; my summary of it isn’t very good, but that’s why I provided several links to pages that explain it in detail. I suggest you read it because in order to understand what I’m saying here you have to understand the difference between “difference” and “privilege”.

      So does that make you the oppressee, or the oppressor?

      Perhaps one of the reasons you don’t see the suggestions as being helpful is because you have too much of a binary view of things? Privilege isn’t something that you can measure (“Well, I’m a woman and black and you’re only gay, so you’re the oppressor and I’m the oppressee”), but rather something that’s situational.

      For example, if I (a white woman) am having a conversation with a black man we both have privilege (I have white privilege, he has male privilege) then we both need to keep the above suggestions in mind when having a conversation. This is true for just normal conversation and even more so when we’re discussing things that intersect with our particular privileges/non-privileges.

      This requires that people communicate with each other on a more conscious level (and to also try to make sure they’re educated about how groups other than the ones they belong to have been, and continue to be, marginalized) but in the end it helps to create a more respectful environment overall where people can communicate w/out one (or both) parties feeling marginalized, dismissed, and/or ignored.

      And, for future reference, here’s a protip for getting heard in a space where you disagree: don’t insult the moderator of the space, especially not in the first line. Before you comment, try to make sure that you actually understand the arguments being presented and that the post is really saying what you think it’s saying. When in doubt, ask questions.

      • Erin says:

        I’m arguing with the things that you have printed here, not with arguments on some other corner of the web.

        “For example, if I (a white woman) am having a conversation with a black man we both have privilege (I have white privilege, he has male privilege)”

        If by your own admission “Privilege isn’t something that you can measure,” then how do you arrive at such concrete conclusions? Women can be just as privileged, if not moreso, men. When Paris Hilton is having a conversation with a homeless man, who is the ‘privileged’ one?

        Your arguments and solutions are misandric, which is just as much a folly as misogyny. Again, I don’t think the solution to sexism, racism, or classism is… well, sexism, racism, and classism, which is generally what is espoused here.
        Regards, Erin

        • Avatar of tekanji tekanji says:

          You know what, I began typing out a comment trying — yet again — to explain to you that you aren’t arguing with what I’ve wrote here because you aren’t understanding what I’ve wrote. But, really, why should I spend time communicating with someone who is quite clearly not willing to do the same for me?

          You don’t want to read the outgoing links and you excuse this by saying that, “I’m arguing with the things that you have printed here, not with arguments on some other corner of the web.” I call bullshit. This post doesn’t, and cannot, exist in a vacuum. The links are not just evidence to back up my arguments, but the basic context in which to understand why they are being made. What I have printed here means nothing if you don’t understand the greater context — which is precisely why I included links to other sites that can provide this context.

          You don’t want to take the time to understand what privilege means in an anti-oppression activist context? That’s your choice and your right. But don’t you dare claim that stating your uninformed opinion on the matter constitutes an actual “argument” to what I wrote (“No YOU’RE the bigoted one!” is a statement, not an argument).

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  207. Ronna says:

    As a newbie to this world of concepts, trying to understand everything and get to a point where I don’t always feel uncomfortable in case I offend everyone and anyone around me, I want to thank you whole-heartedly for this post. Really useful, both for understanding myself and how I view my privilege, and for getting some tips as to how to act around non-privileged people. Thank you so much!

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  211. Mike says:

    Thank you so much for this. As some one with a lot of privilege who wants to be the best ally I can be I found this very helpful.

    I was wondering about your and others opinions on male allies in the radical feminist anti-porn movement. Personally I think males should focus on outreaching to men, but do you think we should only outreach to men?

    Thanks again.

    • Avatar of tekanji tekanji says:

      For a general idea of the roles men play specifically in the radical feminist anti-porn movement, I would suggest reading up on relevant articles written by radical anti-porn feminists and (in cases where such questions would be welcome) asking various radical anti-porn feminists their personal opinions.

      My opinion isn’t really relevant in this case, because I don’t identify as a radical feminist nor am I anti-porn (though I do find various aspects of porn and the porn industry to be problematic).

      Good luck!

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  213. Phil says:

    I honestly have not felt ANY sort of privilege in my life, being a white male. I got beaten up for my skin color all the time as a kid, and had my teachers all throughout school telling me how people like me were responsible for every single bad thing that ever happened in the history of the world. It made me feel horrible about myself, and on occasions, it even made me consider suicide. I don’t think I’m alone in this, since boys are four times as likely as girls to commit suicide.

    If that’s what privilege is, then I WANT it taken away from me and other males.

  214. Well says:

    Do you screen comments before they are accepted?

    • Avatar of tekanji tekanji says:

      It’s stated clearly in the Discussion Rules that all comments are moderated. Usually before you comment on a site you should do a brief check to see if there is a posted discussion rules/guidelines and familiarize yourself with the code of conduct of that blog before posting. Blogs with some sort of policy will usually post there how their comment posting works.

  215. Steuard says:

    Thank you for writing the most accessible introduction to these topics that I’ve yet found on the web. I really appreciate it: I’ve been looking for a way of sharing the basics with people new to feminism (and working on them myself), and it’s not easy to find entry points that don’t make me feel any more defensive than they have to.

    As a side note: for some reason, one of your early links isn’t working for me. (It looks like it’s a link to some sort of cached version, but the site never loads in my browser.) It looks like the original, un-cached link works fine:
    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2005/12/02/privilege-is-driving-a-smooth-road-and-not-even-knowing-it/

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