January 02, 2015

Thoughts on Privilege and Structural Bigotry

A friend of mine who I respect a tremendous amount pointed me to this  SJW screed....approvingly.

The article is actually thoughtful and well written, and I don't mean "by the standards of SJW screeds" either.  I'll elaborate on my disagreements with it in a moment, but I urge you to read the whole thing. 

The article ( by a Laurie Penny) is actually a response to a blog comment by MIT Professor Scott Aaronson . The comment (which the author doesn't directly link to) is here. It is also  thoughtful and I encourage you to take time to read it. 

If you've read both article and post, you've already lost 12 minutes of your life so you won't miss what you'll lose by reading on. 


Laurie Penny's article quotes this excerpt from Dr. Scott Aaronson of MIT. 
 "Much as I try to understand other people’s perspectives, the first reference to my 'male privilege' — my privilege! — is approximately where I get off the train, because it’s so alien to my actual lived experience . . . I suspect the thought that being a nerdy male might not make me 'privileged' — that it might even have put me into one of society’s least privileged classes — is completely alien to your way of seeing things. I spent my formative years — basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s — feeling not 'entitled', not 'privileged', but terrified.” 

In an all too rare moment of empathy on either side of this debate, Penny responds with considerable understanding to this.

However, after her commiseration, she responds with this. 

 What fascinates me about Aaronson's piece, in which there was such raw, honest suffering, was that there was not one mention of women in any respect other than how they might relieve him from his pain by taking pity, or educating him differently. 

Seriously WHAT!?
The comment is about his experiences. 

Furthermore, the comment in question is a defensive one by a very left leaning feminist dude who has just been accused of sexism*. I do not recall ANY feminist ranting about imagined or very real injustices talking about men in any way other than how they might relieve her pain by taking pity, educating her differently (or just shutting of and getting out of her damned way). And I think it would be presumptuous and generally rude to insist that they do so. 

However,  to my surprise, Ms. Penny is actually trying to find some sort of common ground. She fails ultimately because she can't shake the habit of lecturing on the dubious concept of 'Male Privilege'.

If you went to Oxford and Brighton and have a job where you are paid to opine on the hurt feelings of groups currently in the lefts favor, the criticism of which can cost a person their job...you do not get to call me privileged. It's just a thing.

That being said...

I know some women who have dealt with sexism. Real sexism....actual "You can't do this job because you are a woman..." sexism. I've known women who were raped and women who would have been but for having had a fork in arms reach, and I know there is a dark undercurrent of misogynistic bitterness in fandom and geekery. 

I also know, having seen and opposed it first hand,  that it is not traditional manhood that is its cause but rather its absence. Bitter angry beta males who wouldn't understand chivalry. honor or stoicism if it bit them on the ass are overwhelmingly the culprits, and generally not men who epitomize 'Heteronormative' ideals...or even Walter Mitty's like myself who aspire to them. 

The author is right to call that out.

However, straight men in todays society are not nearly as privileged as some seem to think. 

Privilege is a funny thing.
If one can eavesdrop on two people and in the process of eavesdropping take offense at a joke they tell each other and for that transgression get the peasants fired...one might just have a certain privilege. 

If one can target with impunity the personal political donations of someone and upon finding that years before, they donated to legal causes you disagree with and then destroy the persons previously illustrious career you might have some privilege. If no one dares cross the group you belong to for fear of similar attacks....certain collective elements of that group might well be privileged too. 

If a straight boy is considered so worthy of contempt that, as Dr Aronson writes,
 My recurring fantasy, through this period, was to have been born a woman, or a gay man, or best of all, completely asexual... 
..then that boy may in fact be lacking a certain privilege. 

The author is making a legitimate point but she is missing the bigger one. There are certainly guys to whom women's traumas are not real...they are called jerks. 

However, an awful lot of people, (and for perfectly reasonable, rational reasons this is especially true of women who have lived through real sexist bigotry) simply do not grok how powerful women and other favored groups on the left have become. In college I see a huge number of young men who epitomize Dr. Aronson's quote above. They've been broken and tormented by schools that see them as second class humans.  
One  problem I see that contributes to this blindness is a lack of understanding regards proportionality and free speech. The verbal affronts that they take such umbrage at have no consequence that they do not let it have. The actual bullying of false accusations, and removal from school or termination from ones job has long lasting and very tangible consequences. 

At work I've seen women save their jobs by claiming that their tardiness and absenteeism were due to men making comments they found it opportune to take offense at. The accusations were often dubious. The men were fired. I nearly lost my job some years ago. A young lady asked that I come to her work area to deal with a leaking package. There was no leaking parcel but she began screaming at me and demanding that othere "Witness this!" The young lady was worried about her attendance and claimed I has used anti-semetic language in a misogynistic screed against her. Fortunately, because a female was among those refuting her story I kept my job....so did my accuser. True privilege means being always being believed. 

The US Military takes an exceedingly dim view of bigotry as it destroys unit cohesion...though towards the end of my service there were exceptions allowed...making nasty comments about Southerners and men was not actionable and asking that it stop was a form of harassment if one's supervisor was a woman. 

Somehow, in college, the Orwellian term "micro-agression" does not cover constant celebration of everyone who is not white male and "cis" nor jabs at men in college for being stupid, brutes...or worse. 

So yeah...I'm not going to concede the "privilege" point and I think the MIT professor has the better argument. To paraphrase a thoughtful writer, This is why Academia and journalism are screwed up. Because it's built and run by some of the most privileged people in the world who are convinced that they are among the least.

Furthermore, despite what Penny says, neither I nor most men want to return to the days when women were told that they could not be astronauts or Watson and Crick were able to gain a nobel prize by stealing a woman's work with impunity. That's evil. 

It's also important to state (though it should be obvious) that pointing out how things have gone way too far in some areas (mostly academia) does not in any way mean that there is not major work in women's rights issues to be done in others (like the White House Staff). Likewise, pointing out that traditional manhood has some important societal benefits and need not be synonymous with gay bashing ( a lot of gays I've known have been more 'manly' than a lot of straights) or misogyny is not trying to oppress women via the patriarchy. For example one of the dreadful, cis-normative principles we traditionalists hold to is that a gentleman earns a woman's respect and consent....and does not expect a steak a blow-job and a Bronze Star for simply being courteous. Furthermore, a breach of this basic point is considered by men to be the height of vileness. This is in fact the exact opposite of "Rape Culture".

Now none of that  in any way minimizes the crap that a lot of women, minorities or gays have had to go through. 
 It is to gently remind that the goal is respect and tolerance, which are both two way streets.

While I've held forth on the things Laurie Penny has, because of her experience, nigh aristocratic class and education missed, it is a certainty that there are other things about which my own experiences have not informed me adequately. However, there is some hope in that Penny has written a remarkably civil piece that displays a very real attempt to understand the other side. While I disagree with some of the conclusions I still greatly appreciate that it was written. It gives me some hope that discussions on this topic can be had without descending into bitter recrimination and the loss of friends

*because he does not think that another professors lectures and research should be removed from public view because that professor has been accused of sexism

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 02:27 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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