Thursday, November 12, 2015

Definitions

I've got a question I need answered.  To whit:  why aren't you supposed to ever apply the standard social-justice terminology to traditionally oppressed groups?


Seriously, doing this freaks people out.  You want to make a Social Justice Warrior completely lose their shit all over you, suggest that (for example) women enjoy privilege.  Try it, I dare you.  I double dare you.


I recently had a Social Justice Warrior tell me that when people talk about "privilege" they aren't telling the people who have it that they should feel guilty or ashamed of themselves.  Privilege, she said, means "making my fears, concerns, and troubles less important than your annoyance over me talking about my experiences."  If this definition is for real, then that sounds like something that a woman can do just as well as a man.


Let me give you a for instance.


I've heard a lot of men talk about how scared they are of living their lives alone, but how simultaneously they are utterly terrified of asking women out because -- let's be honest -- there are horrible consequences to getting the entire "dating" thing wrong.  I understand their pain, and most men I know also understand their pain.  Dating is scary.  Men are expected to do all the heavy lifting.  They are supposed to ask the woman out, choose an activity for the date the woman would be interested in, pay for everything, and all the while act in such a way that's appealing but not threatening just so there's a chance at a second date.


But I've also heard women say that these men's feelings aren't about fear and loneliness, but rather about how the men in question think they own womens' bodies and that they are owed sex by women and that the real problem isn't fear of rejection.  Instead, if you can't get a date its because you're a misogynistic creep who secretly hates women because women won't give them sex.  Now, call me crazy, but that sounds precisely like the women who say this are making the fears, concerns, and troubles of these men less important than the womens' annoyance over the men talking about their experiences..


I'm not sure if that definition is for real.  Could be.  Might not be.  There have to be as many totally innocuous and unobjectionable definitions of "privilege" as there are people in this country.  But every one of these definitions shares something in common:  if you take them at their face value, the possibility of a woman showing privilege to a man is so certain that its not even worth arguing over.  But if you ever mention this possibility, then you've earned yourself a one-way trip to a condescending lecture about how the idea of female privilege is insane.  You'll immediately be painted with the "woman-hating misogynist" brush while you are told just how absolutely wrong and dangerous you are for even thinking the phrase "female privilege", because all "female privilege" really is, is a condition common to misogynists known as "whiney male syndrome."  Because mentioning "female privilege" is a form of victim blaming, don't you know.  If you're lucky, you'll even have someone tell you that you, your neck beard, and your fedora deserve to die in a fire.


The entire subject is the proverbial exposed nerve of the Social Justice movement.


For further confirmation of the idea that privilege is being used as a weapon, watch the ongoing knife-fight between different social justice groups as they debate, with almost berserk ferocity, which groups do or do not have privilege over other groups.


If you really want to have some fun, ask a Social Justice Warrior whether transwomen have male privilege.  From what I have garnered, the argument goes something like this:  transwomen are more privileged than cis women because they have male privilege carried over from that time in their lives when they presented as a man.  And they also simultaneously apparently have less privilege than cis women because they are transexual.  Depending on who you ask, of course.  (There is a similar argument going on involving transmen.)


The important thing to notice while watching these fights is that every individual group is trying their hardest to prove that they absolutely and without a doubt are less privileged than any of the other groups.  And the transwoman argument is one of thousands of similar vicious, destructive fights going on right now in which everyone involved is insisting that they are the least privileged individual on the planet as if their lives depended on it.


Again, if the concept of privilege is all about how you shouldn't be making someone else's fears, concerns, and troubles less important than your annoyance over them talking about their experiences. -- but definitely not something you should feel shame or guilt over -- why are all the groups who participate in these arguments so desperate to prove that, whatever else, they don't have privilege at all?


The very same thing happens when the subject isn't social justice, but rather racism.  We all know that everyone is a little bit racist in some way or another, because racism is holding an unconscious bias against one ethnic group or another and everyone -- and I mean everyone -- holds these biases.  The point is to acknowledge them, be aware of them, and always resist acting on them.  Its understandable if you don't like people from Group X -- just don't let that dislike affect your treatment of them.


People of color are, naturally, part of the "everyone" I mentioned, and they use the same sort of in-group identification as every other group of humans on the planet.  But they can't be racist.  I know this because I've been told repeatedly by people who say things like, "When white people complain about racism, they're actually just complaining about losing their white privilege."  I've also been told that anyone who points out that a person of color is being racist "doesn't understand the term."


Generally, the term "institutional racism" will be trotted out.  If a person of color attacks a white person solely because the victim is white, that might be unfortunate, it might even be motivated by hatred, but it will not be an act of racism because racism has to be "institutional" to be real.


I can't argue with these people.  Literally.  When I try I find myself so gobstopped that I cannot be rational.  Look:  there is no disputing the definition of words.  If you say racism is actually a rare type of fairy who lives under toadstools, drinks the morning dew for breakfast, and farts rainbows, then all I can do is point you to the dictionary and tell you that, sorry, but the rest of the world disagrees with you.  I've had people tell me that "the dictionary is wrong" and how "no one uses the word racism correctly."


Sorry, but as Huey Long said, "That's the biggest pile of hog turds I've ever seen in my life."



Think about it.  The definition of the word found in all major dictionaries, the overwhelming majority of common usages of the word, and pretty much every sociologist on the planet all define the word "racism" the same way, but here comes the Social Justice Warrior who insists with amazing conviction that the way those dictionaries and most people, and all those sociologists define the word are wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong and that the word must be defined specifically in a way that excludes all ethnic groups save one:  white people!


No.  One cannot change the definitions of words just to make those words fit your dogma.  If your dogma doesn't fit the definitions, then your dogma is horse shit.



Why are they so insistent anyway?  Why is it required that you include the word "institutional" when you talk about racism, instead of just use the original, commonly used definition?  Why can't people who want to talk about the inherent structural racism of society make up their own word, thus ending the confusion?  Why not just admit that the entire argument is pointless and that we -- by which I mean all human beings -- should try not being dicks to one another for once regardless of which word you use to describe being mean to one another?


And how come this sort of bullshit redefinition happens with every single Social Justice buzzword?  Why is the internet clogged with blog posts and magazine articles and think pieces proclaiming that black people simply cannot be racist against white people, or why women cannot have privilege?  That there is no such thing as cisphobia, and that you should be ashamed to even think the word misandry.  This phenomenon is utterly unique to the realm of social justice, as far as I know.


Why?


We shouldn't be arguing over what words mean.  Its stupid.  We should be trying to solve the problems the words were coined to describe in the first place.  If we did that, we might actually get something done for a change.

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