Get up, stand up

5 03 2013

I’m not much for trigger warnings.

I’m not opposed to their use—I think bloggers who have a sense of their readership and who actively cultivate a “safe space” are justified in warning their readers—but I’m not someone for whom a safe space is a priority. I don’t actively try to cultivate an “unsafe” space, but I neither do I take care of my readers in terms of helping them to avoid topics which upset them.

I’m sorry if I do—that is not my intent—but as I generally take a chin-up and tits-forward approach to political and social matters, I presume my readers will as well.

Thus, my mixed reaction to Oberlin’s cancellation of classes in response to a series of racist incidents on campus.

On the one hand, I get it: take the time instead to address this as a collegiate community, make sure everyone is okay, safe.

On the other hand, I think: really? Cancel classes on account of some hateful assholes?

Back to the one hand: Some students undoubtedly are upset by the actions of the sheet-covered dipshits, feel targeted, threatened, and otherwise singled out. And other students are undoubtedly upset that these sheet-covered dipshits are wrecking their community by targeting, threatening, and otherwise singling out their classmates.

These students need to be supported by the administration and their fellow students in both public and private, and the racists need to be called out for the hateful shits they are.

However—and this is the other hand—I don’t know that dropping everything to have a campus-wide conversation “challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks” is the best way to go either. I wonder if this doesn’t make conversations about racism, sexism, and homophobia an emergency phenomenon, something to be dropped after the emergency passes.

Even more, I wonder if the emergency approach doesn’t somehow disempower students and faculty, as opposed to saying, We can—and will—handle this.

It’s also possible that shutting down the campus gives too much “credit” to the  hateful shits: Someone who parades across a campus with a long and honorable tradition on issues of equality in a fucking Klan outfit should be mocked for the troll s/he is.

And how should trolls be dealt with? If one can’t ignore them—and the Oberlin community probably can’t ignore them, not if if wants to support those who feel targeted—then they should be confronted, mocked, and in no way given any satisfaction for their shitty deeds.

Both hands: this is a tough call. I hate cancelling classes, but if Oberlin sees fit only to cancel a day or two’ s worth to address this, that’s not an unreasonable response.

But it would also be good if, as part of that not-unreasonable response, instead of focusing solely on the harm and the recovery, they offer a sense of resilience. Support those who feel threatened, absolutely, but also let it be known that the trolls who scrawl hate are small and mean and to be pitied rather than feared.

What was that old fake-Latin phrase? Nolite te bastardes  carborundorum—don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Those dipshits in sheets aren’t worth it.

What are words for?

6 08 2011

A few words about words:

Privilege. I have used this word, and will continue to do so in the context of “privileges and liberties” and “privileges and/versus rights” and “privileged information”.

I have also used in terms of “skin privilege”, as in I, as a white chick, have skin privilege: I don’t have to think about skin color/race because, through no effort of my own, I have, in this country, the default skin color.  There are things I don’t have to worry about because I’m white.

The term, in other words, can do some real work; unfortunately, it can also do some real damage.

What was meant at one point to lead to greater understanding now gets in the way of that understanding. It has become a term of opprobrium, an insult to be hurled at anyone who hasn’t had the worst of everything and therefore can contribute nothing to understanding anything.

It shuts people down, and, as a general matter, I don’t see the point of that.

I do see the point of trying to prod folk into critical (self-)reflection, to encourage people to be mind-ful of what in their lives was unearned and, perhaps, to then gain some perspective on what was earned. It’s not about individuals versus structures, but about individuals within structures, how individuals move structures and structures move individuals and the multivarious ontological and practical implications.

Good times.

Wielders of the privilege weapon, however, too often try to guilt the individual for the existence of the structure itself, that someone who’s rich is responsible for the class system, that the individual man is responsible for patriarchy or each straight person wholly owns heteronormativity (yet another word which should be confined to the academy), or that ablism is the fault of every person who’s able-bodied and ageism, each and every young whippersnapper out there.

How is this helpful to anyone? What role does such shaming have in creating a more thoughtful people or a more equal society?

The ends may not justify the means, but they should inform them.

Triggered/trigger-warning: This is not a term I’ve used, although I have some sympathy for those who do.

There are some topics which are known to set off intense reactions in those who read or hear them; knowing this, some people choose to offer a warning before diving into those topics. That’s a decent thing to do.

Now, perhaps I don’t do this because I’m not decent—entirely possible—or maybe it’s because I don’t know what’s going to set people off. And because I don’t know where to set the line I prefer not to set one at all.

I’m going to write what I write, and while (with some notable exceptions) I don’t intend to offend, I know I’m going to, regardless. If I worry too much about that offense, I may end up not writing, and I’d rather write and offend (and apologize, if necessary) than not-write so as to not-offend.

I don’t know if that’s better or worse than those who append a TW before a topic; it’s a choice and a preference, nothing more.

Swearing: You may have noticed I do not restrain myself in this area.

The best argument I’ve heard against swearing (thank you, Ms. G, my high school English teacher) was that it wasn’t creative (although, with all respect to Ms. G, I have heard some mighty creative curse constructions). Even that, however, was not and has not been enough to stop me from littering my blog and speech with blue words.

Now, if I give a formal presentation, I don’t swear. If I prepare an article for publication, I don’t swear. Professional situations? Ixnay on the ursecay.  I try very hard not to swear around little kids (let ’em learn these words from the older kids, the way I did), or, for that matter, around people who I know are offended by swearing—especially if I’m a guest.

But this blog ain’t a formal presentation: it’s a cyber-conversation, and in conversation, I tend to lay down the low language.

I’m not proud of this, and I periodically try to clean it up—but more for aesthetics than morality.

Goddess forbid I’d let morality get in the way of my rampages. . . .