Sex shouldn’t matter in politics. Let’s all be gender-blind!

Here’s what happens when USA Today tries to write from a feminist point of view: you end up with a headache.

Women are more kind and nurturing than men. They are natural altruists, placing the common good — including education, health and the environment — ahead of their narrow personal interests. And that’s why we need a woman president. Right?

Wrong. We don’t need a female president, any more than we need a male one. Instead, we need to jettison the gender stereotypes that block half the population — the female half, that is — from participating equally in our politics.

Oh boy.

Now, unfortunately I don’t know enough about Jonathan Zimmerman to know what he’s trying to do here. If I give him the benefit of the doubt, he’s trying to promote gender equality but believes that the general American public, particularly the audience for USA Today, isn’t going to buy an even-remotely feminist message without a conservative version of what “equality” means and a healthy dose of gender-stereotype reinforcement. If I take him simply for what’s written in this article, he’s a clueless guy who thinks that he believes in “equality” but has never set foot in a Gender Politics 101 class.

First, he spends three paragraphs explaining how the current dilemma of so few women in politics is really the fault of early women’s rights crusaders, and then one half-hearted paragraph saying “oh, well I guess that it’s a little bit of our fault, too” — maybe.

“So long as a fireside and a home exist, so long must woman exercise a boundless power over the destiny of man,” declared an 1838 advice manual, “A Voice to Youth.” Whereas men ruled the public world via laws and armies, women influenced the private realm “by persuasion, by kindness, by gentleness and affection, and by a soothing and forgiving spirit.”

In fact, women participated in all of the great political reforms of the early 19th century: temperance, anti-slavery, the quest for common schools and more. They gave speeches, wrote broadsides and circulated petitions. But they did so as women, vowing to make the nation more “home-like” by infusing it with their distinct domestic qualities. And they used high-minded moral appeals, of course, not the sleazy machinations of elections.

In the early 20th century, women used a similar claim to win the vote. Less selfish and corruptible than men, women would “sweep away” the vice and bribery of boss politics. And their ballots would usher in a new era of “municipal housekeeping,” whereby government provided social services for immigrants, workers and children.

But the very same characteristics that qualified women for politics — fairness, empathy and altruism — seemed to disqualify them as politicians. As the United States grew into a world power, Americans wanted leaders who were bold, tough and decisive. And they associated those attributes with men, not with women.

The fact that, by his own admission, this type of strategy dates all the way back to the 1800s, and the fact that we’ve undergone more than one feminist revolution since then doesn’t seem to count for much. Nor does the fact that, while certainly, many early feminists really did believe this kind of essentialist crap, a lot of them probably used it because they knew that it had the best chances of success, not because they thought it was true. Nor does he mention that even if they did think it was true, we ought to know better now.

Then he uses phrases like “gender assumptions,” briefly giving the idea that he understands that sex and gender are not the same thing, only to follow it up by using “man/masculine” and “woman/feminine” interchangeably:

Indira Gandhi governed India for 14 tumultuous years; nearby Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have elected women leaders. Eleven nations were led by women by the end of 2006, ranging from Germany and Ireland to Liberia and Mozambique. But not the USA, where our longstanding gender assumptions block female politicians from rising to the top. Such ideas have received a new boost from contemporary multiculturalism, which sometimes ascribes a distinct culture to women. So if a woman leader acts like a woman, she isn’t tough enough to be president; and if she is tough enough, she’s simply acting like a man.

And our kids are watching. After serving eight years as Iceland’s president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir quipped that some children in her country thought that you had to be a woman to hold the office.

In the USA, you still have to be a man — or behave like one. And you always will, so long as we continue to teach our own children that gender differences make the difference in U.S. politics.

Oy.

And like I said, I get it. The typical USA Today reader has probably never even heard of Judith Butler, let alone read her, nor do they probably pay any attention to her more contemporary peers. Sadly, to most Americans, sex and gender still probably mean the same thing. But you’d think that in an article that is supposedly about how we have to stop relying on gender assumptions, he might, you know, point out that they’re not.

I keep coming back to those first two paragraphs, though. They got under my skin the very second I read them, and I can’t seem to move past them.

What Zimmerman either believes or is pandering to, here, is the idea that if we stop paying attention to gender, it will go away, everything will be happy, and then the best man . . . I mean person! Person! . . . will win.

Because this strategy has worked so well for race, hasn’t it?

POC bloggers have been trying to explain for some time now why the concept of racial “color-blindness” is both insulting and unhelpful. You know what I’m talking about — you’ve either heard others say, or have said yourself, something along the lines of “I don’t see race” or “we’re all people, why can’t we just forget about race?” and “the people who keep bringing race up are the real racists.”

Many white people love this approach. I think that this can be traced back to a few things. The first is that people who are (usually willfully) ignorant of racism and race issues think that acknowledging race is the same as racism (it’s not). The second is that it’s an easy way out, without having to deal with the fact that racism exists or face up to the fact that they themselves are racist. It’s a great system for white people, and a pretty shitty one for everyone else.

Why? Well, because it’s a lie. Firstly, everyone person with sight can differentiate between skin colors, including actually color-blind people (and, as I’ve seen many disability-rights activists point out, to use the terms “color-blind” and “blind” to refer to people who see perfectly fine is pretty insulting). Secondly, racism is about a lot more than skin color — it’s also about actual and perceived cultural differences, and the fact that we have set up a hierarchy of “good” and “bad” cultures.

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, “color-blindness” allows white people to ignore racism and pretend that we’re “all the same” when that’s not how the world works. If you don’t see race, it doesn’t exist. It robs people of color of their very real experiences with racial prejudice and also works to silence their voices. It makes talking about race and racial discrimination, which is very important, something that in itself is seen as racist. The “color-blind” doctrine frowns upon open acknowledgments and celebrations of diversity, and it allows white people to go through their lives while ignoring and participating in racism, all the while denying that no way, they can’t possibly be racist, because they don’t even notice or talk about race.

It seems to me that Zimmerman is suggesting a similar worldview regarding sex and gender. Of course, in a perfect world, these things wouldn’t matter. Hillary Clinton’s sex and gender would be just about as significant a feature as the fact that Rudy Giuliani is short. But we don’t live in that perfect world. In fact, we life in a highly imperfect and highly gendered world. To act like gender doesn’t exist, with facts to the contrary absolutely everywhere, benefits men and men only. To act as though it is irrelevant whether or not we have a female president is also a huge lie, and I say that as someone who is not currently backing Clinton for the presidency. Teaching your kids about the importance of equality and treating male and female children the same is just the right thing to do. Telling your kids that gender doesn’t matter is a harmful lie that doesn’t set them up for the real world or for a future of critical thinking.

But it’s the argument that Americans swallow. In the same way that it’s taboo to talk about race and racism (unless it benefits whites), it’s also taboo to talk about sex/gender and sexism (unless it benefits men). Just look at all of the recent hullabaloo over comments about sexism that Hillary Clinton didn’t even make. Why? Well, because she had the nerve to mention sex at all, and to hint at the fact that a huge majority of federal politicians are men. If we’re going to support “gender-blindness,” this is exactly the kind of system that we’d be supporting. When we can’t talk about sex and gender, we can’t talk about very large and real aspects of women’s lives.

And though this is a nightmare for us, I’m sure that it will work just fine for everybody else.


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36 Responses to Sex shouldn’t matter in politics. Let’s all be gender-blind!

  1. Pingback: Sex shouldn't matter in politics. Let's all be gender-blind! : The Curvature

  2. janie says:

    Minor point, in addition to all the major ones already pointed out. Ireland hasn’t had a female leader in the same way Germany has. There has been a female president in Ireland but Ireland’s president isn’t the political leader of the country. The equivalent of the US office of president in Ireland has never been female.

  3. D.N. Nation says:

    Regarding motivations for “color-blindness”:

    I think you’re missing a big and mostly-less-sinister one, Cara, that concerns race-promotion. I think many Whites see various pro-POC entities (think your NAACP, your Black Caucus, etc.), put them in context with the widely disdained pro-white ones (think your Klan, your skinheads, etc.) and think, well shoot, that isn’t fair. They also look at culture across the board and see things that are clearly identified as “Black stuff,” but nothing in particular that screams “White stuff” (they’re wrong about that, of course, unless you’d like to open my eyes to the Black Twee Folk sub-genre of indie music, and so on) and think, well shoot, that’s pretty unlevel. And don’t forget about the White guy who thinks he shouldn’t point out Black guys because, we’re all guys, right? Isn’t that what the Black guys want us to think? (No.)

    The solution to this, in their mind, is this we-are-the-world silliness that supposedly breaks down racial barriers, because we’re all people, you know. It’s wrong, of course, because the color of race is only the tip of the iceberg; race is the sum of historical experiences that can’t be simply wished away. But I don’t think the motives are necessarily sinister and self-serving. Just…confused.

  4. D.N. Nation says:

    And I say this as a White guy who used to be confused himself, but now puts it upon himself to understand people as they wish to be understood.

  5. Thomas, TSID says:

    DN, in an oppressive system, it is difficult and maybe impossible to establish a positive, non-oppressive meaning for an identity co-extensive with the definition of the oppressor class.

  6. Thealogian says:

    Once a friend of mine decided to go around asking white people “why do white people do thus and so?”–her favorite was “why do adult male white men drink plain milk with a meal?”–she’s Latina and milk is for children (though cream in coffee is a-okay). She’s often asked, “why do Latinos do thus and so” as if one member of a race could answer such a question for all persons. There must be something about Blackness that is inherent to all that causes “X” cultural trait or something like that.
    Its great to turn it on its head and start asking White people, why do you thus and so–not so much for the “answers” because again, one person can’t answer for a whole population–but for the mind-bending benefits. To GET IT–how can I be responsible for all people who look like me? Exactly–how can anyone? This is not to dismiss race as social experience, but rather to get white people to stop thinking of themselves as the “default” human being–and Anglo-culture as default society.

  7. Lotte says:

    The Klan is not a pro-white organization, though: They’re an anti-POC organization. To confuse the two is pretty amazingly and willfully stupid, so any conflation of the NAACP and the Klan is similarly moronic.

    I don’t give clueless white people a pass for not being aware of the reality of racism , DN, any more than I give clueless men a pass for not being aware of the reality of sexism. POC and women have been trying to talk to clueless people again and again, but the clueless people plug their ears or shout back to drown us out. And that’s malicious and oppressive.

  8. Charlotte says:

    Agreed. BUT, let’s face it, the demographic of USA Today is neither highly intellectual nor lefty–so, you can’t expect a Judith Butler 101 in this article. However wrong the argumentation in this article might be, at least it addresses an issues that’s been smouldering below the surface. And while it’s not optimal, I’ll take it over an article that’ll completely go over that demographic’s heads …

  9. dinogirl says:

    Yes, Janie is right. Marys Robinson and McAleese, while both excellent presidents with great liberal credentials who have done a ton of good work for Ireland, are NOT political leaders. They’re figureheads, like the Queen of England.

    Ireland has a shitload of work to do before we get a woman Taoiseach – our Dail (parliament) is 88% male. Gender equal, we ain’t.

  10. D.N. Nation says:

    The Klan is not a pro-white organization, though: They’re an anti-POC organization. To confuse the two is pretty amazingly and willfully stupid, so any conflation of the NAACP and the Klan is similarly moronic.

    Hold up. I didn’t mean that these aformentioned brains viewed these entities on equal footing; in fact, the opposite is true. Thus, “that isn’t fair” is rooted in self-reference, not bequeathed from any universal grading system.

    I don’t give clueless white people a pass for not being aware of the reality of racism

    And you shouldn’t. You should, however, be aware of the nature of this beast.
    Back in ’03, I attended a human rights event in Birmingham, Ala. Special guest speaker was the former head of the Black Panthers (an interesting choice). She ended up boiling her argument down to its essences at the end of her talk, and said that the only way to improve human rights in the world was to just plain do away with that whole USA thing. What an exciting argument!!!!1. It was a crying shame, though, that she didn’t have much of an answer when I inquired how exactly she intended to do this. Or how she would deal with the tremendous humanitarian crisis that would certainly stem from the USA evaporating (unless she intended 300 million people to up and die. Or maybe just some of those. Hmm.) Which brings me to:

    POC and women have been trying to talk to clueless people again and again, but the clueless people plug their ears or shout back to drown us out.

    Kill ’em all! Or, barring that, understand where they’re coming from and the true nature of their wrongness*. You don’t do that, and you’re just flailing about.
    * Understanding =/= Acceptance. Don’t go Bill O’Reillying around and confuse the two.

    DN, in an oppressive system, it is difficult and maybe impossible to establish a positive, non-oppressive meaning for an identity co-extensive with the definition of the oppressor class.

    Again, understanding =/= acceptance. Is their way of thinking ultimately wrong? Yes. Do they actively seek this wrongness? No. Is that an important distinction to make? I definitely think so, as to properly confront that aformentioned beast.

  11. Cara says:

    I agree with you, DC, that motivations regarding “color-blindness” are not always sinister or malicious. And I stated so here:

    The first is that people who are (usually willfully) ignorant of racism and race issues think that acknowledging race is the same as racism (it’s not).

    But then again, I also agree with Lotte that after a period of time, willful ignorance does in fact become malicious. And I think that this ignorance is oppressive, period, no matter what the intent behind it. I also think that if you are a full grown adult and completely ignorant of race issues, that is in fact willful ignorance.

  12. D.N. Nation says:

    Not really buying the willful ignorance bit; it takes no effort to be a clueless moron. That the clueless moron also believes he’s got the right views on race (as opposed to the clueless morons of majorities gone by, who were fine with being racists) presents a whole new challenge.

  13. D.N. Nation says:

    I think my post up there just broke the internet.

  14. Cara says:

    Kill ‘em all! Or, barring that, understand where they’re coming from and the true nature of their wrongness*. You don’t do that, and you’re just flailing about.

    I don’t think anyone suggested killing anyone. i think that it was suggested that we should hold people responsible for their prejudice instead of making excuses for it.

    Not really buying the willful ignorance bit; it takes no effort to be a clueless moron.

    Not true. If you don’t listen to people of color when they talk about oppression, that takes effort. When you ignore racism, it takes effort. These things are actions, they are chosen, and there’s no excuse for them.

  15. nonskanse says:

    I thought it sounded like he was saying
    “these are past strategies and they played off of society’s view of women and femininity. but now these views are holding women back whereas they used to help, and a history of playing off of ‘feminine qualities’ may be hurting present day female politicians. We should get rid of these views because they aren’t true. People should know better but they don’t.”

    I mean he wasn’t very good at it, the message was garbled, but it seemed like an honest effort…

  16. D.N. Nation says:

    Cara- I want to make this exceedingly clear.

    There is NO excuse for racism. There is NO excuse for the ignorance of “color-blindness.” They are both a rancid, seething evil that have mucked up our world for centuries.

    There ARE REASONS for racism. There ARE REASONS for the ignorance of “color-blindness.” Yes, they are bad, but THEY EXIST. THESE MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT. If they are not, then we haven’t even put a foot forward to stop racism. Or sexism. Or anything.

    Some Art of War stuff is all I’m advocating.

    Not true. If you don’t listen to people of color when they talk about oppression, that takes effort.

    Here is where we will agree to disagree.

  17. tannenburg says:

    I’d say there’s a difference between “listen” and “understand.” People are very good at filtering what others say through their own predispositions, as well as performing masterful acts of self-deception. After all, it’s a truism in my field of study that almost every die-hard Nazi had his own “good Jew,” the “exception” to his ironclad racist beliefs. Take a look at the head-butting going on now in most political debates, where no amount of experiential reference, evidence, or explanation can shake, for instance, the conviction of some rightist thinkers that welfare recipients = cheats and that $60K a year in New York City is “upper middle class.”

    It is difficult to believe that there are people out there who are completely tabula rasa, without any exposure to at least the basics of racial/feminist thought. Their exposure may be limited to vitriol or mockery. Still, many people are constantly surprised when confronted by evidence that things are not “as they should be,” that young women are raped, that people of other races are oppressed even in their own good old USA, that infants starve or old people are abandoned in the streets by HMOs…the effort to educate without the aforementioned vitriolic or mocking filters continues.

  18. Cara says:

    Of course there are reasons, DN. And I got into them briefly, here. I think that it’s a lot more important to explain to people who hold these views why they are wrong, though, than it is to explain to people who don’t have these views why the ignorant are ignorant. In fact, since most white people have in fact been ignorant of race issues at some point in their lives, and surely around others who are, most probably already understand these reasons.

    And you can say “agree to disagree,” if you wish, but suggesting that ignoring prejudice that is right in front of your face and refusing to learn about oppression when someone is speaking to about it somehow you does not take effort and does not amount to willful ignorance is pretty fucking confounding to me. It’s also pretty insulting to anyone who has ever been in the situation of talking about oppression and being ignored and treated as though their experience doesn’t matter.

  19. Cara says:

    Tannenburg, I had a comment like this yesterday on my blog, where someone was talking about whether or not intent matters when it comes to prejudice, and also about how we should be “nice” when explaining things like racism and sexism. I linked to a pretty old post on Pandagon, which I thought made my argument about why I disagree better than I could. This comment really spoke to that person and in fact seemed to help change his mind. And it is indeed a rather exemplary comment, and I surely couldn’t do a better job. So I offer it as a response.

  20. ACG says:

    Not true. If you don’t listen to people of color when they talk about oppression, that takes effort.

    Here is where we will agree to disagree.
    And I’m going to have to disagree with your disagreement. Maybe once upon a time, ignoring the plight of women or POC was an easy thing to do, but that’s just not the case anymore. There are so many advocacy groups, so many lobbyists, so many Very Special Datelines and history months and history classes and sociological specialties that no person who’s being honest with him- or herself can pretend that it’s not out there. Ignorance these days comes not from a lack of information but from a conscious decision to look at the information provided, look at the information countering it, and deciding to go with the latter.

    You said that there are reasons that people are still prejudiced, and that’s entirely true, but you can’t argue that maybe folks just don’t know. If someone is arguing that oppression of women or POC doesn’t exist today, it’s because they’ve heard one group arguing that it does and another group denying it, and they’ve gone with that second group. That’s willful ignorance.

  21. rich says:

    Glad to see you’re widening your sphere of influence Cara, congrats. I think your definition of a willfully ignorant person and DN’s definition of a clueless moron who is certain of their views are probably referring to the same person and mentality.

  22. Mnemosyne says:

    Once a friend of mine decided to go around asking white people “why do white people do thus and so?”–her favorite was “why do adult male white men drink plain milk with a meal?”–she’s Latina and milk is for children (though cream in coffee is a-okay).

    That’s an interesting thing to do. Did she actually listen to the answers, or was it just a way to put people on the spot?

    This is not to dismiss race as social experience, but rather to get white people to stop thinking of themselves as the “default” human being–and Anglo-culture as default society.

    That’s why I asked the above: I don’t think the solution is for people to stop asking questions. I think the solution is for people to be asked questions that point out that, despite what they think, their experience is not universal. Asking what seems to be a simple, obvious question — like why do white guys drink milk with a meal * — is a useful way of pointing out a cultural difference if you actually listen. If it’s used as a way of shutting people down, that’s different.

    * White guys drink plain milk with a meal because it’s a carryover from when the US was much more rural and dairy products were cheap and easy to get. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in the mid-1970s and we still got early-morning deliveries from the milkman. No one would buy milk at the grocery store since it was brought right to the house.

  23. Cara says:

    Mnemosyne, my immediate guess would be that she was trying to point out the ridiculousness of such questions. To ask why any whole group of people does something is nonsensical. All white guys don’t drink milk with their dinner. In fact, I know very few who do. Just like any other one group of people does not act in any specific way.

    And I will agree that dialogue is important, but we really do have to be careful with these types of questions. For example, one common complaint I hear is from black women with regards to ridiculous and demeaning questions about their hair. These types of questions are insulting and can make people feel like they’re being treated like some kind of oddity instead of a person for many reasons, including the one I discussed in the previous paragraph.

  24. D.N. Nation says:

    And you can say “agree to disagree,” if you wish, but suggesting that ignoring prejudice that is right in front of your face and refusing to learn about oppression when someone is speaking to about it somehow you does not take effort and does not amount to willful ignorance is pretty fucking confounding to me.

    Meet my relatives. They pretty fucking confound me too.

  25. Mnemosyne says:

    Mnemosyne, my immediate guess would be that she was trying to point out the ridiculousness of such questions. To ask why any whole group of people does something is nonsensical. All white guys don’t drink milk with their dinner. In fact, I know very few who do.

    Where I grew up in the Midwest, a lot did, and still do. It’s a regional thing. My dad still drinks milk with dinner every night.

    That’s where I was trying to go with it — a lot of these things are much more regional than people realize. Asking a guy from New York why white guys drink milk with their dinner makes about as much sense as asking a Cuban for their favorite recipe for mole (not mole, the animal, but mole, the sauce). Ask someone from the Midwest about milk, and there will be an answer.

    For example, one common complaint I hear is from black women with regards to ridiculous and demeaning questions about their hair. These types of questions are insulting and can make people feel like they’re being treated like some kind of oddity instead of a person for many reasons, including the one I discussed in the previous paragraph.

    And yet a lot of the time, especially among people in their 20s, the questions are asked out of essentially total ignorance. I know a minuscule amount about black women’s hair, and even that came from white-oriented magazines like Glamour and Allure. I’m sure that I asked — and continue to ask — plenty of stupid questions that were obvious to the person I was asking, but were about something I’d never encountered before because of where and how I grew up.

    I think a lot of PoC underestimate how insulated most white people are, especially in the suburbs and rural areas. In the suburb I lived in, we literally did not have one black family until I was 16 years old, and this was in the late 80s. As D.N. said, it’s not an excuse, but that’s where a lot of people are coming from.

  26. Nathanael Nerode says:

    This reminded me of some phrases from feminist theory:

    If we act “gender-blind” and “race-blind” without thinking about it, we will judge everyone by how similar they are to stereotypical white male upper management, because that is what you consider unmarked or “normal”, while women and non-whites and poorer people are marked as different “other”. This is pretty bigoted and unfair.

    In order to fight institutional sexism, people have to actually try to recognize individuals and fight individual biases in favor of masculine stereotypes rather than just saying “Let’s have more women, but only those who act like stereotypical men.”

  27. Mnemosyne says:

    Until my longer comment is out of moderation, here’s the short version and a clarification.

    A lot of white people are much more insulated than most PoC realize. That doesn’t mean you have any responsibility to fix their ignorance, but actually telling them that it’s a dumb question can be pretty useful, because most of us will be embarrassed and go try to fix that area of ignorance on our own. The people who don’t are the kind of people who give medical advice to strangers in wheelchairs and can be safely shunned in the future.

  28. Mnemosyne says:

    Oh, and here’s a passage from Black Beauty (yes, the book about the horse) that sums up the kind of ignorance I’m talking about to a T:

    “Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don’t you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness? — and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, `Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,’ they think it is all right. I suppose Martha Mulwash did not mean to kill that baby when she dosed it with Dalby and soothing syrups; but she did kill it, and was tried for manslaughter.”

    “And serve her right, too,” said Tom. “A woman should not undertake to nurse a tender little child without knowing what is good and what is bad for it.”

    “Bill Starkey,” continued John, “did not mean to frighten his brother into fits when he dressed up like a ghost and ran after him in the moonlight; but he did; and that bright, handsome little fellow, that might have been the pride of any mother’s heart is just no better than an idiot, and never will be, if he lives to be eighty years old. You were a good deal cut up yourself, Tom, two weeks ago, when those young ladies left your hothouse door open, with a frosty east wind blowing right in; you said it killed a good many of your plants.”

    “A good many!” said Tom; “there was not one of the tender cuttings that was not nipped off. I shall have to strike all over again, and the worst of it is that I don’t know where to go to get fresh ones. I was nearly mad when I came in and saw what was done.”

    “And yet,” said John, “I am sure the young ladies did not mean it; it was only ignorance.”

  29. Gus says:

    Probably I’m not well-versed enough in feminist thought, and I come to this, and other, sites to educate myself. But I don’t see what’s so bad about advocating to “jettison the gender stereotypes”, and I don’t see it is the same as “stop paying attention to gender issues”. The ensuing discussion about “how did we get here” is certainly oversimplified, but I get the feeling that the article has been heavily cut.

    But my main problem is that IMO the article, and a lot of the discussions that one sees around, conflate two different issues. One is the issue of equality, gender steroeotypes and all that, and another one is the personalization of the politics, in the sense that one can’t talk about policiy issues without making it a question of personal character; at that point stupid sterotypes and assumptions start playing a role, but the discourse is flawed from the beginning. For the same reason, I cannot sympathize with those that would like to see Hillary become president for the sole reason that it would be the first woman president, without considering her actual record and the policies she would implement.

  30. kw says:

    I think Thealogian’s friend’s idea is really interesting and provocative. Even beyond showing how no one can speak for everyone who looks like them, it helps a person step outside their shoes when they realize that their experience is not as universal as they thought.

    What other questions would you (the collective you) like to see asked? What kinds of answers would you like to see? What results would you like to see come out of it?

  31. Hayley says:

    And I’m going to have to disagree with your disagreement. Maybe once upon a time, ignoring the plight of women or POC was an easy thing to do, but that’s just not the case anymore. There are so many advocacy groups, so many lobbyists, so many Very Special Datelines and history months and history classes and sociological specialties that no person who’s being honest with him- or herself can pretend that it’s not out there. Ignorance these days comes not from a lack of information but from a conscious decision to look at the information provided, look at the information countering it, and deciding to go with the latter.

    You said that there are reasons that people are still prejudiced, and that’s entirely true, but you can’t argue that maybe folks just don’t know. If someone is arguing that oppression of women or POC doesn’t exist today, it’s because they’ve heard one group arguing that it does and another group denying it, and they’ve gone with that second group. That’s willful ignorance.

    I do no know from where you are writing, but your assumption that everyone everywhere has been privy to such information as advocacy groups and lobbyists would spread is, for lack of a better word, rather ignorant. Take a quick look around the United States for example, and see where such groups, lobbyists, and other political activists tend to gather. Look at the places in which non-trad publications are distributed. Take a peek at the school systems who hire teachers with liberal education, the teachers who promote history months and who teach from different perspectives than the one traditionally taught. Chances are you are not looking at the United States anymore. You are looking at the urban areas of the States. Having just moved from one of the largest urban areas in the country to a rather forlorn, isolated area of the same state…I now see what it means to be truly ignorant. And not ignorant because one ignored something blatantly presented to him or her (much less because one heard two sides of the same issue and then went with one), but ignorant because there is no interest in the world of politicos and advocates to spread their views to the politically and socially “unimportant” rural areas of the world (or country, as I am referencing the States). There is a different between ignoring something and not recognizing something for what it is. This is where ignorance and willfull ignorance differ: yes, blatant racism is everywhere, especially where I live. Yes, blatant sexism, chauvanism, etc. is right in front of our faces. But in a place where this is completely normal and no voices stand out against it…how can you really believe that these people are being willfully ignorant of such issues?

    There, now you have heard the other side of the story. If you choose to ignore it now…well then, I guess that’s we’re talking about, isn’t it?

    Side note: I am becoming that voice for this place. If I can stand it long enough, there will be changes made here.

  32. Cara says:

    Hayley, I’m also from a rural area. People of color live here. They’re a very small minority, but they exist. So do women. We also have televisions, access to national newspapers, the internet and I went to a school where I was forced to read books and learn history by law. Even the very poor have access to most of these things on some level. I imagine that there are very few places in the U.S. that don’t met those demographic requirements.

    And there are always voices. I have worked as best as I can to be one such voice. And what happens most of the time, even when I am purposely very, very polite, and try to ask questions rather than preach? They laugh at me or look at me like I’m crazy.

    To say that the voices are limited in some areas is 100%, without a doubt, absolutely true and I can attest to that fact. To say that there are no voices and that people in rural areas have no exposure to these issues is just not.

  33. Hayley says:

    (A) You went to school.
    (B) You had TV.
    (C) You can read.

    Those are some pretty hefty assumptions on which your argument is based. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it that a people who are predominantly educated by the faulty systems in which they live and who have so much more to deal with than paying attention to the outside world (namely, putting food on the table) are willfully ignoring things to which they do not have access.

  34. We also have televisions, access to national newspapers, the internet and I went to a school where I was forced to read books and learn history by law.

    Yeah, that’s also saying that all of those people don’t use TV or internet as nothing more than fluff entertainment. Just because serious news is on the TV does NOT mean people are watching it. Just because there is an absolutely fascinating treatise on the effects and ramification of a color and gender bias on such and such a website, doesn’t mean lots of folks are ditching the porn to read it. Yeah, it’s all there, but is anybody listening? That’s the better question.

    You said that there are reasons that people are still prejudiced, and that’s entirely true, but you can’t argue that maybe folks just don’t know. If someone is arguing that oppression of women or POC doesn’t exist today, it’s because they’ve heard one group arguing that it does and another group denying it, and they’ve gone with that second group. That’s willful ignorance.

    It could also mean they have seen none of the above. I’m not sure why everybody is so willing to assume they know all of the motives of others and label them according. Sorry, the world isn’t simply this or that, and none of the other thing. If it was, then we would understand everybody.

  35. Cara says:

    Yeah, that’s also saying that all of those people don’t use TV or internet as nothing more than fluff entertainment. Just because serious news is on the TV does NOT mean people are watching it. Just because there is an absolutely fascinating treatise on the effects and ramification of a color and gender bias on such and such a website, doesn’t mean lots of folks are ditching the porn to read it.

    Yeah, it’s all there, but is anybody listening? That’s the better question.

    I didn’t say that they were. The question was about access. And, again, if no one is listening, whose fault is that? I’d say that it’s the fault of the people who aren’t listening. Who else could be to blame?

    It could also mean they have seen none of the above. I’m not sure why everybody is so willing to assume they know all of the motives of others and label them according. Sorry, the world isn’t simply this or that, and none of the other thing. If it was, then we would understand everybody.

    Simplicity does not automatically lead to understanding. And I’m really not sure what is so difficult to understand about racism.

    Of course, racism is about a hell of a lot more than individual actions. It’s a system. But there is individual racism, as well, and yes, there are reasons for it. You say that our suggestions are wrong, but you don’t provide any of your own.

  36. I don’t think I said it was wrong, as much as simplified. There are people who understand the issue of racism very well. Whether they’ve experienced or witnessed it. But I also do not believe that every person who currently exists is willfully ignorant.

    Just as an example, I unfortunately spent some of my teen years in a VERY SMALL Ohio town. Having been a bit around the world, it soon became clear to me that the people had no clue what was out there in the world. The world to them was their own back yard. I’m damn sure people still live in that town, clueless to the world. People who go to work every day, get home, eat dinner, watch a bit of TV then go to sleep, only to repeat their day again. I don’t consider them willfully ignorant. Though I had a problem living among them.

    I spent several years in a school with several nationalities, they spent years with a bunch of other white folk. So far as I understand they’d never experience what I had. Some people’s experiences lead them to learn more about the world they live in, some people simply just try to live in the world.

    I notice quite a few people have shrunk the world down to their own back yard. Just like those people in that small town. Even people on this blog do it. The world is by their perception only, there are no inbetweens.

    But it’s just my 2 cents. I’m not seeing any right or wrong to trying to understand other people.

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