Stop expecting cookies (and other sage privilege-checking advice)

Dr. Isis has spent a goodly amount of time promoting feminism and diversity in scientific fields and, she says, met a goodly number of solid allies. But for every good’n, she says, she encounters a bunch that don’t get it — the cookie-seekers, the problem-solvers, the brilliant-idea-contributors who just don’t know why their brilliant contributions aren’t met with champagne and dancing-girls. Thus she has assembled The Straight, White Dudes’ Guide to Discussing Diversity, a list of six tips for contributing positively — or at least not contributing negatively, which is in and of itself significant — to discussions involving oppressions that aren’t theirs. And while she characterizes it as “helpful tips for engaging diversity issues as a straight, white man without earning yourself a big, old eye roll,” this could easily hold the subtitle “(as well as straight, white, cis women and other privileged individuals),” because desire for cookie delivery and affection for one’s own opinions aren’t solely dude-attached factors.

1. Get over your need for a cookie. It seems to be the operant conditioning of a white man to respond to the perception of any type of problem with a solution. He offers a solution, someone offers him a cookie. Even shitty solutions can earn you a really good cookie. Taking someone else’s solution and offering it as your own earns you a cookie. Solution, cookie. The vicious cycle continues. The problem occurs when a man walks into a group as an outsider and is too damned quick to want a cookie. Let go of your need for a cookie.

2. Know your history. Indeed, the problems begin when a man starts offering solutions without understanding the group’s history or the history of the problem. Or, worse, when he intimates that a group has not already been working on solutions to their problem and that he’s the first damned genius to ever realize that perhaps problems need fixing.

Even if you think you know the history, take the time and really learn the history. Chances are, you don’t really know your history and your solutions will suffer for it.

3. Understand the value in the stories. Then, shut the fuck up and listen to them.

4. Ask more questions. … Because, seriously, if I had a dollar for every time a guy offered me a solution without understanding what I had already been doing, I’d have a closet full of Louboutins by now. …

So rather than “You know what you should do…”, start with “Can you tell me more about this? What have you been doing?” …

5. Not every one of your opinions is a magical snowflake. Sometimes you really will make a valuable contribution. … Not everything you’ll suggest will work in my cultural context. Not every one of your brilliant ideas is going to be a magical snowflake, saving the world and liberating us all.

6. At the end of the day, don’t be a whiny little baby when your opinion aren’t praised en face or you will receive the eye roll. I spend most of my life stumbling in the straight, white male culture I am surrounded by. When you come to my party, attended by my friends, you might stumble too. You can’t expect that we’ll code switch back to your cultural values and hand you your plate of cookies simply because you walk through the door.

A note to those whose arms have reflexively come up: If it isn’t about you, it isn’t about you. That said, if you think it isn’t about you but you’re getting pissed anyway, it might be about you after all.

And now, having once again done my duty to save oppressed persons everywhere, I’ll thank you to give me my cookie. Any time now.

[h/t Skepchick]

Author: has written 261 posts for this blog.

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164 Responses

  1. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen July 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm |

    A man — or heck, any person — of true integrity would ask the community’s input before publicising zir brilliant solution. If ze wants everyone to accept it uncritically without peer review… well, that already says everything you need to know about the person claiming to be an ally.

  2. A4
    A4 July 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm |

    If we’re wishing about other people’s behaviors and thoughts, I wish that more people would stop trying to use objectivism to fight oppression, since all the identity based oppression I have experienced has been deeply grounded in personal assumptions that they understand what it is for me to be gay, even though those oppressors were not gay, and they certainly weren’t me.

    I think the attempt to objectively codify identity is doomed to failure and causes identity based marginalization and oppression.

    1. Nanani
      Nanani July 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm |

      Can I ask what you mean by objectivism here?
      I’m guessing you don’t mean the followers of Randian philosophy are trying and failing to fight oppression (though I can see how that would fail).

      1. A4
        A4 July 8, 2013 at 10:26 am |

        Wikipedia ain’t bad:

        Objectivity is a central philosophical concept, related to reality and truth, which has been variously defined by sources. Generally, objectivity means the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject’s individual feelings, imaginings, or interpretations. A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met and are “mind-independent”—that is, existing freely or independently from a mind (from the thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc. of a sentient subject). In a simpler meaning of the term, objectivity refers to the ability to judge fairly, without bias or external influence, that also occurs in a phenomenological way.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivity_%28philosophy%29

        My personal take on it:

        A fundamental issue with the concept of institutionalized oppression is that an objectivist conceptualization of widespread experiences of marginalization due to one’s socially required identity fools the unidentified with objectivist tendencies into a state of information security due to the conjunction of the tendency of objectivists to elide the underlying subjective nature of their knowledge and the fundamental limitation on the referential power of objectively constructed fact when the referent is a conglomeration of subjective experience.

        1. Alara Rogers
          Alara Rogers July 8, 2013 at 9:58 pm |

          Or,

          A fundamental issue with the concept of institutionalized oppression is that when someone talks about “the” experience of oppression based on a person’s identity, and they speak as if they are presenting the objective facts, people who believe that objective facts are a real thing are fooled into thinking that the speaker is telling the Objective Facts, because people who believe that Objective Facts are a real thing often pretend that their own subjective biases don’t exist and that everyone in the conversation is coming from the same perspective.

          Or: There is no such thing as Objective Facts when we’re talking about human perception, but lots of times, people talk as if there is anyway, and because they are trying to present their personal perceptions as Objective Facts, they totally fail to disclose their personal biases, which fools others into thinking that they are, indeed, describing Objective Facts when what they are describing is subjective perceptions. And this happens a lot when talking about institutionalized oppression.

        2. A4
          A4 July 8, 2013 at 11:02 pm |

          @Alara Rogers

          Yup, that’s what I’m thinkin

  3. B
    B July 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm |

    She could be talking about my brother; both of them. I wonder if they would see themselves if they read her 6 suggestions?

  4. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable July 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm |

    These are great tips for all kinds of privileges – appreciate the share!

  5. Barnacle Strumpet
    Barnacle Strumpet July 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

    The list is pointless because the kind of people that it’s aimed at are self-interested and there’s no stick to apply to allyship, and the whole point of the list is that no one’s giving out carrots.

    It’s a nice exercise in fantasy, I guess.

    1. gratuitous_violet
      gratuitous_violet July 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm |

      Well, I guess we better pack it all up and head for the seaside, since Barnacle Strumpet has decided nobody ever changes.

      I’m lucky enough to be close to several dear men who have successfully recovered from self-centered ‘splainitis. It took everything from reading (blog posts like this, in fact!) to self-reflection to arguments. Nobody’s perfect but they’ve come a long way. Just like most people have the potential to.

      But I’ll be sure to tell them a stranger on the Internet has decided they don’t exist.

      1. Barnacle Strumpet
        Barnacle Strumpet July 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |

        Sorry, but I don’t think that sounds lucky at all. I don’t think the sort of person who makes a disprivileged person argue, link to blog posts, and give them lots of time for self-reflection, just so they’ll stop being condescending, is the sort of person one is “lucky” to be around.

        Oh, I know men like that exist. I just don’t waste my time coddling those assholes into being half-decent people. It is not my job. If they want to progress and get their head out of their ass, it’s on them.

        The whole point is that yeah, it usually doesn’t work well. You have to hold their hand and spoonfeed it to them, in a way that doesn’t offend their ego (Oh, aren’t women just lucky that they get a chance to teach a man not to be a self-centered ‘splainer?).

        I am in agreement with the OP that it is bullshit and not our responsible to coddle them and give them cookies. Where I disagree is that I don’t think telling them to be decent and quit wanting cookies works. They keep on being assholes.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 6, 2013 at 8:40 pm |

          Oh, I know men like that exist. I just don’t waste my time coddling those assholes into being half-decent people. It is not my job. If they want to progress and get their head out of their ass, it’s on them.

          People aren’t binary; it’s not good/bad or socialjusticey/oppresive. I’ve simultaneously held some oppressive beliefs in my past while also fighting against others; I submit you might not be entirely perfect yourself along every single axis.

          So no, helping your friends figure this stuff out isn’t your job, but if nobody ever does it, we might as well pack up and head home.

        2. EG
          EG July 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |

          I submit you might not be entirely perfect yourself along every single axis.

          Surely not, amblingalong! Surely BarnacleStrumpet popped out of the womb perfectly respectful and sensitively attuned in every way!

          But sure, nobody ever changes. That’s why the intervention of some very kind and intelligent trans women did absolutely nothing to transform me from a knee-jerk cis-sexist person who didn’t believe in trans-ness–despite actually being quite good on other issues–to somebody who’s doing her best to support and help advocate for trans people. It wasn’t their job, but they did it anyway. And I certainly haven’t helped my parents move from an unthinking homophobia/heterosexism to a more nuanced understanding of and support for LGBTQ rights. We’re all just born perfect or there’s no hope for us.

          That doesn’t mean anybody has to help or educate anybody else, but nor is it necessary not to help or educate if one has the inclination and resources.

    2. gratuitous_violet
      gratuitous_violet July 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

      Yes, amblingalong, exactly. I mean, I also feel extremely grateful to the people who have taken the time to tell me I was being an asshole. I acknowledge that it’s everyone’s prerogative to have their own limits as to the extent they are willing to make that kind of effort, but that effort seems to have more potential than accusing those of making that effort of exercising fantasy.

    3. XtinaS
      XtinaS July 7, 2013 at 10:40 am |

      There should be a derailing entry for “let us all despair and do nothing, for nothing shall ever change no matter what we do”.

      1. A4
        A4 July 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

        There should be another for “person x is insufficiently optimistic in the face of patriarchy”

        1. XtinaS
          XtinaS July 7, 2013 at 7:05 pm |

          Ah yes: the real reason underlying my response was totally about “you must be shiny happy people forever or DOOM”. Hence my quoted comment there about how BS must display Sufficient Optimism. Well done, you grey-area thinker you!

    4. A4
      A4 July 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |

      I tend to agree with your sentiment Barnacle Strumpet.

      Judging by the responses to your comment, apparently you are not displaying sufficient optimism and vigor for the Feminist Education Effort.

      A few people paid lip service to the idea that you might be fed up with trying to slowly educate the misogyny out of society, but immediately followed that up with caveats for why that’s not really okay or doesn’t muster up to their Kantian ethics:

      “So no, helping your friends figure this stuff out isn’t your job, but if nobody ever does it, we might as well pack up and head home.”

      “I acknowledge that it’s everyone’s prerogative to have their own limits as to the extent they are willing to make that kind of effort, but that effort seems to have more potential than accusing those of making that effort of exercising fantasy.”

      “That doesn’t mean anybody has to help or educate anybody else, but nor is it necessary not to help or educate if one has the inclination and resources.”

      If they acknowledge that not everyone will feel like being nice and helping educate the privileged, I don’t know why they can’t just leave someone alone when they express that exact sentiment of being tired of trying to educate the privileged.

      Either there’s room to not be positive about the idea of marginalized people educating privileged people or there isn’t. Here we have 3 people claiming that there is room for it, but I guess they’ve decided that Barnacle Strumpet isn’t performing pessimism properly. It’s threatening their categorical imperatives.

      Whatever.

      1. trees
        trees July 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

        Either there’s room to not be positive about the idea of marginalized people educating privileged people or there isn’t.

        Great point. Barnacle Strumpet is talking about what works in zir life, but I’m not sure they’re saying this is the One True Way. I’m on the fence on this one. I certainly know that people are capable of change, but they really have to be willing to go there and put in the work. I have never had any success with the hand-holding and “educating” of a friend beyond pretty minor points.

        1. gratuitous_violet
          gratuitous_violet July 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm |

          To be clear, I didn’t have a problem with stating what works for them. I had a problem with implying that everyone else who makes a different decision is somehow deluded, living in fantasy, or actually just coddling some asshole.

        2. trees
          trees July 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm |

          To be clear, I didn’t have a problem with stating what works for them. I had a problem with implying that everyone else who makes a different decision is somehow deluded, living in fantasy, or actually just coddling some asshole.

          Oh yes of course, that was understood.

      2. gratuitous_violet
        gratuitous_violet July 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm |

        This is pretty rich, what with the people pointing out that sometimes one has to talk to others in a society cast as Orwellian optimism-enforcers, while the people trying to convince us that you can’t change anyone ever apparently aren’t selling us an agenda either. I know which feels more like piss on my leg.

        The insidious lie that oppressive systems sell us is that nothing can be done in face of them.

        And I have a feeling we’re creeping dangerously close to a “woe-is-me I have no agency under the Patriarchy” pity party, which is neither releant to praxis or my discursive cup of tea, so I’m out of this one.

        1. gratuitous_violet
          gratuitous_violet July 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm |

          “relevant,” obv.

        2. Ally S
          Ally S July 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

          “The insidious lie that oppressive systems sell us is that nothing can be done in face of them.”

          Grade-A quote, right there.

        3. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date July 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm |

          “Orwellian optimism-enforcers” is my phrase of the day.

        4. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet July 8, 2013 at 4:14 pm |

          This is pretty rich, what with the people pointing out that sometimes one has to talk to others in a society cast as Orwellian optimism-enforcers, while the people trying to convince us that you can’t change anyone ever apparently aren’t selling us an agenda either.

          I’m not claiming, “you can’t change anyone ever.” I am claiming that there are some people you can never change. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put forth, they won’t change.

          And then there are the kind of people that, in my opinion, require so much ego-stroking and begging and effort to get them to stoop to consider that a person who’s different is an equal human being, that it’s insulting to expect any marginalized person to do it.

      3. Willemina
        Willemina July 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

        I do love how many assumptions you make about how others identify with social justice movements and feminism. Barnacle’s proposition that any effort put forth is “fantasy” is patently untrue, and while it is a personal position, they phrased everything as a universal. Non-engagement might work for some people, but others don’t get a choice and calling those efforts pointless is doing pessimism wrong. It’s just some run-away nihilist bullshit at that point. You don’t like Kant, I don’t like nihilism.

        Someone commenting how down they feel about the whole thing: Gets a cookie.

        Someone trying to pull everyone else down with them: Eyeroll

        1. XtinaS
          XtinaS July 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm |

          Non-engagement might work for some people, but others don’t get a choice and calling those efforts pointless is doing pessimism wrong. It’s just some run-away nihilist bullshit at that point. You don’t like Kant, I don’t like nihilism.

          +1000

        2. Alexandra
          Alexandra July 7, 2013 at 7:57 pm |

          Great comment. You and gratuitous_violet are just owning here.

        3. trees
          trees July 7, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

          Non-engagement might work for some people, but others don’t get a choice and calling those efforts pointless is doing pessimism wrong.

          @Willemenia
          I’m confused by this quote. When you say you don’t have a choice but to engage, what sort of situations were you thinking about?

        4. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 7, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

          What Alexandra said!

        5. Willemina
          Willemina July 8, 2013 at 10:00 am |

          @trees

          I was thinking primarily of situations in which non-engagement would mean walking away from important people or places in one’s life. It’s a Hobson’s choice at that point. It hinges upon the specific dynamics of that relationship, but writing all those efforts off as fantasy makes it sound like a molehill of ignorant asshole takes just as much pain and effort to move as a mountain.

        6. trees
          trees July 8, 2013 at 7:20 pm |

          I was thinking primarily of situations in which non-engagement would mean walking away from important people or places in one’s life. It’s a Hobson’s choice at that point. It hinges upon the specific dynamics of that relationship, but writing all those efforts off as fantasy makes it sound like a molehill of ignorant asshole takes just as much pain and effort to move as a mountain.

          Gotcha. I suppose for me, just sucking it up most of the time seems like the only workable way to deal with these situations, molehills and mountains. I’m marginalized on multiple axes and I sometimes have to put up with a lot of bullshit. Sometimes change requires a level 10 education, but a person might only be at level 3 yet is announcing “Mission Accomplished” like GWB on that aircraft carrier.

      4. EG
        EG July 8, 2013 at 8:52 am |

        Yes, because saying “I have no interest in doing X” is exactly the same as saying “You’re foolish for even considering X and X never works.” Well done.

      5. EG
        EG July 8, 2013 at 8:55 am |

        Further, if somebody says “X never works,” and a bunch of people show up and say “X worked for me and for people I know” they’re not accusing the first person of insufficient optimism. They’re demonstrating that the first person is wrong.

  6. Donna L
    Donna L July 6, 2013 at 6:10 pm |

    Ask more questions\

    This isn’t always such a wonderful idea. Especially when the questioning comes across as interrogation.

    1. gratuitous_violet
      gratuitous_violet July 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm |

      I agree. More “tell me more about that,” less “are you sure about that?”

    2. Ally S
      Ally S July 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

      Yes. The less JAQing off, the better.

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra July 7, 2013 at 6:04 pm |

        I fucking hate the “let me interrogate you about your beliefs” style of conversation so common to White Dudes. Yes, it’s true, if you cross examine me for long enough I’ll say something that’s untrue, inaccurate, poorly phrased, etc. But that you approach all conversations about feminism as an opportunity for you to find the flaws in my First Principles proves to me that you’re not interested in working with me or understanding my point of view -you’re just interested in proving me wrong so you can dismiss me.

  7. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date July 7, 2013 at 7:20 am |

    If it isn’t about you, it isn’t about you.

    Really this should be Tip #7, I think.

  8. SomeGuy
    SomeGuy July 7, 2013 at 10:26 am |

    Hmm… isn’t that only one tip in a couple of rephrasings?

    “Ask yourself twice if you’ve listened enough before you say something, you may not know as much as you think you do.”

    Which, btw, is pretty much the only level on which the “check your privilege”-thing is a fair suggestion.

    As for #1 – we’re men. We fix things ;)

    1. Librarygoose
      Librarygoose July 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm |

      “Ask yourself twice if you’ve listened enough before you say something, you may not know as much as you think you do.”

      *hint hint*

    2. Sb
      Sb July 8, 2013 at 8:20 am |

      As for #1 – we’re men. We fix things ;)

      That mentality isn’t at all a dude-exclusive one. Most of the women I know do it too. Heck, I know I’ve done it, in similar context, as a white woman talking about racial diversity. So maybe ditch that stereotype if you want to help.

  9. Hugh
    Hugh July 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm |

    While the points are all solid, I can’t help but think that a lot of the language used here isn’t accessible to the kind of dudes (specifically) who display the problems identified here.

    I mean, right off the bat, if you tell these guys ‘stop wanting a cookie’, they’re probably likely to think you’re talking about an actual biscuit, possibly one with chocolate chips in it.

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra July 7, 2013 at 6:02 pm |

      This was my thought, also. There are a lot of slangy terms in feminism that get thrown around based on an assumed common understanding (mansplaining, Nice Guy, Not My Nigel!, Do you want a cookie, etc) that people outside the community aren’t going to grasp intuitively.

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong July 8, 2013 at 2:57 am |

        This was my thought, also. There are a lot of slangy terms in feminism that get thrown around based on an assumed common understanding (mansplaining, Nice Guy, Not My Nigel!, Do you want a cookie, etc) that people outside the community aren’t going to grasp intuitively.

        Again, let’s try to remember that internet-blog-feminism is not synonymous with feminism or the feminist movement as a whole- in fact, it’s a tiny (though growing) piece. Those terms are not even close to universal among feminists.

        1. Alexandra
          Alexandra July 8, 2013 at 6:52 am |

          Wow, thanks, I had no idea.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 8, 2013 at 10:45 am |

          Wow, thanks, I had no idea.

          I was just responding to the quote “there are a lot of terms in feminism,” when in fact those terms aren’t even particularly widespread in feminism outside this little corner of it.

        3. Alexandra
          Alexandra July 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

          No, you were being condescending. “Let’s try to remember” isn’t exactly neutral language. You are of course correct that “internet feminism” =/= feminism, but I kinda fail to see how that’s germane to this conversation, given that the entire point of my comment was that the language used in the blog post under discussion was opaque and likely to confuse people outside of this particular circle, despite the fact that the blog post seems like it was written for a wider audience.

          One aspect of online feminism I wish weren’t quite so universal is the pleasure which internet social justice warriors take in correcting their so-called allies over trivial misstatements and inaccuracies of wording when the actual meaning of a comment is totally clear.

        4. amblingalong@gmail
          amblingalong@gmail July 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm |

          Well, since many internet feminists do genuinely seem to believe their’s is the only brand of feminism, no, it wasn’t totally clear (to me) what you meant. I appreciate you clarifying, and I’m glad we’re on the same page now.

    2. Willemina
      Willemina July 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm |

      The cookie principle exists outside of online feminist circles though. If they’re on the internet there’s a good chance they’ve seen something like it. For the less netted up crowd it does probably lack some transparency at first.

    3. Echo Zen
      Echo Zen July 7, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

      If they don’t understand what cookies or Nice Guys™ are, they’re probably not in a position to be (competent) allies in the first place…

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong July 8, 2013 at 12:19 am |

        If they don’t understand what cookies or Nice Guys™ are, they’re probably not in a position to be (competent) allies in the first place…

        That’s some fucking stupid bullshit, right there.

        Being up on one very specific brand of English-language Internet feminism is not a litmus test for being a feminist.

      2. Echo Zen
        Echo Zen July 8, 2013 at 4:03 am |

        I suppose I’m speaking more in the context of online spaces (like this one, for instance). An ally who claims to have followed the feminist blogosphere forever but has never heard of mansplaining is, to me, a red flag of someone who hasn’t done basic research. And by basic, I mean any ally can easily Google this stuff instead of asking and expecting others to educate zir. There are exceptions, of course, but that’s my take — the mileage of others may vary.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 8, 2013 at 10:48 am |

          I guess I’m just tired of the assumption by so internet feminists that their form of activism represents the one true feminism and their culture is the definitive feminist culture. Shouldn’t have taken it out on you.

        2. Echo Zen
          Echo Zen July 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm |

          I don’t mind when people force me to be more specific with my generalisations!

      3. Sb
        Sb July 8, 2013 at 8:26 am |

        I think it depends on whether you want this list to be read by non-Internet junkies. Especially older folks — my dad is a big ol’ feminist, and would agree with everything on here, but he would be so confused by the cookie thing that he wouldn’t understand it.

        I run into this a lot, looking for resources to point older relatives a lot. Just google it isn’t appropriate there — while they can all google to shop or for specific info, teasing out Internet slang is beyond them.

    4. Kerplunk
      Kerplunk July 8, 2013 at 5:35 am |

      Reading the post, I assumed that it was not actually directed at or meant to be read by the white men (and others mentioned) who are its supposed target, but rather that it was written for those who are subjected to what is being described, in order to help clarify that particular dynamic. Otherwise, it would be extremely foolish. Is anyone ever persuaded by condescending snark (even if they arguably deserve it)?

      I know I find that sort of attitude very tiresome, even though (perhaps because?) it is so popular among bloggers. (Not only feminist bloggers, but it is certainly prevalent in that sphere.)

      1. A4
        A4 July 8, 2013 at 10:29 am |

        Is anyone ever persuaded by condescending snark (even if they arguably deserve it)?

        Condescending snark is the preferred brand of feminism advocacy on Feministe. It’ll save the world, donchaknow

        1. Kerplunk
          Kerplunk July 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm |

          I strongly disagree with the link posted by XtinaS. The issue of whether it is alienating to other feminists, and to potential feminists (i.e. all women), to frequently use insider lingo and sarcasm within a particular circle of feminism is, in my opinion, a very relevant and even crucial issue.

          Are we engaged in activism, which is meant to be persuasive, inclusive, and welcoming if it is to yield results, or are are we content to simply talk among ourselves?

          And if we value the voices and stories of the people who are members of the oppressed group for whom we are advocating (which, in the case of feminism, would be all women), then why aren’t more women whose views don’t neatly dovetail with a particular view more welcome to speak their minds? It’s no secret that many, many women choose not to identify with feminism. Are we contributing to that when we post articles like this one, or is this an effective way to outreach?

          I don’t mean to derail, and I apologize if I have.

        2. Echo Zen
          Echo Zen July 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm |

          If “The Daily Show” weren’t sarcastic, nobody would watch it, for one simple reason — reporting on unrelenting misogyny and homophobia is depressing without a carrot to help us with making the medicine go down. I don’t know how any human can survive exposure to the feminist blogosphere without snark to make the ugliness more bearable.

          As for whether such snark is persuasive to non-feminists, let’s ask this: Are ordinary people more persuaded by Jon Stewart (or Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers, or whatever), or by CNN? I have my own opinion, but being a consultant my POV’s a bit skewed…

        3. XtinaS
          XtinaS July 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm |

          This entirely depends on whether you (general or specific, either way) think that one can only promote feminism one way. As though the only way to promote feminism or do feminist activism is through earnest dedication to always educating on a 101 level.

          (I know for a fact this convo has been had before elsewhere, but I can’t find it, alas.)

        4. Kerplunk
          Kerplunk July 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm |

          @Echo Zen

          I am a woman, a longtime feminist, a political lefty, a graduate of a liberal arts college, and the snarkosphere is alienating even to me. I’m all for using humor, but not humor that is demeaning and judgmental even when it is talking to or about potential allies (which is something that Jon Stewart does not do, btw).

          If you want to snark about Dick Cheney or whatever, then go crazy, and I will happily laugh with you. But given the dispiriting opinion that so many women have regarding feminism, I would venture to say that insulting them, or men in general, for not being sufficiently versed in Patriarchy 101 is not likely to work.

          @XtinaS

          I do not believe nor do I advocate that feminism can or should only be done one way, but the link you posted certainly makes the argument that there is one right way, and does so pretty darn strongly.

        5. Alexandra
          Alexandra July 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

          I had a longish comment, but the internet ate it.

          When I first got interested in online feminism – the only kind of feminism accessible to me as a shy sixteen year old – I found the lingo, the snark, and the distinct, vocal unwillingness of some community members to do any pro bono education to be intimidating and off-putting. At the same time, I was sixteen, I was ignorant, and I frequently made comments that showed that ignorance and my unexamined privilege in a way that must have been at least as off-putting to other members of the community.

          I think one of the biggest problems online feminism has is the low barrier of entry to participation. This low barrier is also one of online feminism’s greatest virtues, because it gives people (like me) who would not otherwise have access to these conversations the chance to talk with and learn from a far more diverse array of people than might be available in our fairly parochial lives. But one of the side effects of the low barrier to entry is that repeatedly, over and over again, communities will have to deal with well-meaning but ingorant newbies who, like everybody, don’t enjoy being told that they’re ignorant, that their privileged, and that their comments are unhelpful and even hurtful to longstanding members of the community.

          I lurked for months before I began commenting, and even then it took years for me to acculturate, learn the lingo, and get the basic familiarity of the most common types of conversation in order to stop stepping on everybody’s toes. I have no idea whether I contribute usefully at this point, but for the most part I am not an egregiously offensive ass any longer. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who entered as newbies at least as ignorant as I was who left, often after FLOUNCING NOISILY (something I was guilty of at least once…) and taking up the time and energy of longstanding members of the community.

          There are great blogs out there that do 101 conversations, but they’re not as heavily trafficked as places like Feministe. I think recent changes in moderation policy, particularly the spillover threads and an increased willingness (at least in my perception) to squelch certain threads before they get too nasty, have helped make Feministe a much less rancorous place to have a conversation than before. I for one salute our new giraffe-led overlords.

        6. Kerplunk
          Kerplunk July 9, 2013 at 1:54 am |

          @Alexandra

          I’m not exactly sure what this is referring to, but there’s a common assumption, at least one that is often made, that if someone disagrees or expresses a concern over how a certain issue is framed, then they must be uninformed, or don’t understand the culture of a particular blog or forum. Perhaps that is why discussions sometimes tend to become quite homogenized.

    5. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers July 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm |

      “Stop wanting a cookie” = “stop expecting a medal.”

      Not My Nigel ™, NiceGuys ™ and mansplaining have no really good analogues in everyday speech as far as I know, but “whattya want, a medal?” is a very old staple for “what you did isn’t something special and wonderful, it’s something basic everyone should be doing”. It’s actually so close that I didn’t realize until this moment that “stop wanting a cookie” is internet feminist slang, because it’s so close to “stop expecting a medal”, which I have been hearing my whole life.

      Now, the one I really wish would go mainstream is spoons… I would love to never have to explain what it means when I say I don’t have enough spoons for that.

      1. Andie
        Andie July 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm |

        What I wonder about spoons is whether it’s appropriate to use as a currently able bodied person (given my understanding of its origin amongst people with invisible illnesses). Is it okay o used it as shorthand for “I don’t have the time, patience or energy” or would that be a type of appropriation?

      2. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve July 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm |

        “Stop wanting a cookie” = “stop expecting a medal.”

        Not My Nigel ™, NiceGuys ™ and mansplaining have no really good analogues in everyday speech as far as I know, but “whattya want, a medal?” is a very old staple for “what you did isn’t something special and wonderful, it’s something basic everyone should be doing”. It’s actually so close that I didn’t realize until this moment that “stop wanting a cookie” is internet feminist slang, because it’s so close to “stop expecting a medal”, which I have been hearing my whole life.

        Now, the one I really wish would go mainstream is spoons… I would love to never have to explain what it means when I say I don’t have enough spoons for that.

        I disagree, saying ‘whaddya want a medal?’ is an extremely obnoxious way of dealing with someone who’s feeling under-appreciated whereas saying ‘stop wanting a cookie’ is way of dealing with someone who’s being obnoxious.

      3. Barnacle Strumpet
        Barnacle Strumpet July 8, 2013 at 11:12 pm |

        Please no.

        The spoon thing is a metaphor that makes no sense in itself. “Mansplain” can be figured out with a little thinking (portmanteu of the words man + explain), even “Not my Nigel!” is kind of self-explanatory to some extent “Oh, not my Sally. Not my Jim. Not my loved one. They’re different.” you can gather that from it’s own direct meaning.

        The spoons thing makes no sense in itself, you have to make a very abstract leap for it to make any. Spoons have nothing to do with disability, and I can’t recall anyone, ever, expressing a desire for an endless supply of spoons.

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 8, 2013 at 11:35 pm |

          Very true. I had no idea what that saying meant until I looked it up just now. It’s anything but intuitive.

        2. XtinaS
          XtinaS July 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm |

          Spoons have nothing to do with disability, and I can’t recall anyone, ever, expressing a desire for an endless supply of spoons.

          Oo, I have! Plenty of times!

          Stories: it’s how we make sense of the world, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Unless you know your onions, of course.

    6. shfree
      shfree July 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm |

      *shrugs* The whole cookie thing has been in common use in the lefty circles I ran with before the internet. I honestly think that if someone is dabbling in lefty politics and they claim to not know what the whole cookie thing means, they are being willfully obtuse and should have whatever pastry or baked goods one sees them holding next taken away from them.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 8, 2013 at 11:31 pm |

        Not everyone “dabbling in lefty politics” is USian, or involved in US politics, or has English, let alone US English, as a first language.

        1. shfree
          shfree July 8, 2013 at 11:53 pm |

          Ack, crap, my bad. You are absolutely right.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve July 9, 2013 at 12:58 am |

          Not everyone “dabbling in lefty politics” is USian, or involved in US politics, or has English, let alone US English, as a first language.

          Yes, but surely they could say ‘dejar de esperar que las galettas’ or ‘وقف تتوقع الكوكيز’ or whatever the case may be.

        3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help July 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm |

          Thanks, shfree! :)

          Fat Steve – I’ll take your word for it!

          They’re BISCUITS dammit, biscuits!

      2. Niall
        Niall July 10, 2013 at 11:55 am |

        I honestly think that if someone is dabbling in lefty politics and they claim to not know what the whole cookie thing means, they are being willfully obtuse and should have whatever pastry or baked goods one sees them holding next taken away from them.

        Agreed. I think the only pastry/baked good said person deserves is a pie in the face. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

        1. Niall
          Niall July 10, 2013 at 11:57 am |

          Ugh. Forgot to blockquote the first paragraph for that one.

    7. Niall
      Niall July 10, 2013 at 10:43 am |

      I mean, right off the bat, if you tell these guys ‘stop wanting a cookie’, they’re probably likely to think you’re talking about an actual biscuit, possibly one with chocolate chips in it.

      I disagree. The metaphorical “cookie” isn’t an expression that’s exclusive to social justice blogs / circles. I first heard it when I was in grade school. For example when someone stated they did something that was considered routine and expected behaviour with an air of pride like. “I got up, made my bed, came to school on time and came prepared with all my homework done”, they were typically responded to sarcastically with something like “Good for you! Wanna cookie?” The message being imparted was that one shouldn’t expect praise or exaltation for doing something that should be normal and expected by default; much like some one coming into a space like Feministe shouldn’t expect praise for achieving minimal standards on non-oppressive behaviour.

  10. taz
    taz July 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm |

    I must point out that the male is not the only one that does this! More then once I have had both sexes come up to me and let me know their view on something that had nothing to do with them.

    1. XtinaS
      XtinaS July 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm |

      And while she characterizes it as “helpful tips for engaging diversity issues as a straight, white man without earning yourself a big, old eye roll,” this could easily hold the subtitle “(as well as straight, white, cis women and other privileged individuals),” because desire for cookie delivery and affection for one’s own opinions aren’t solely dude-attached factors.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve July 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm |

        Xtina,

        I honestly don’t understand what you mean. Like I’m not following the structure of your sentence. I read it like three times. Is that what you meant to say?

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve July 8, 2013 at 11:16 pm |

          Sorry, I get it now. Sometimes I have to read things FOUR times.

  11. C.S.
    C.S. July 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm |

    4.1.) Think about the POV of the source before publishing it on your site. A lot of news articles publishing stories on WOC/POC/immigrants/etc. are written by white journalists and/or second or third-generation immigrants. They may speak the language, but they’ve often never lived in the country for an extended period of time. Consequently, they really don’t understand the issues as they exist today. Case in point: China’s gender issues, particularly the marriage market and suicide dynamics.

    4.2) When someone tries to point that out, see rule #3.

    4.2 — more than anything else — is why I don’t usually go to forums dominated by white feminists, no matter how hard they try to be good with supporting WOC/POC.

  12. JBL55
    JBL55 July 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

    desire for cookie delivery and affection for one’s own opinions aren’t solely dude-attached factors

    Thank you for this reminder.

    I often get annoyed by my husband’s annoyance at not having every unsolicited piece of advice adopted quickly and gratefully, whether it’s given to me or to someone else about whom he waxes resentful.

    But of course I do it, too, and as the saying goes, what annoys me about others are often the things that annoy me about myself.

    You phrased it well:

    So rather than “You know what you should do…”, start with “Can you tell me more about this? What have you been doing?” …

    I do this in my work as a systems analyst, and sometimes I forget to do it when I’m not at work, which is unfortunate as it can affect those relationships most important to me. :-)

  13. moorepark
    moorepark July 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm |

    seems like the simple solution is to say nothing.

    why “join the conversation” when the people having it only want to talk to like minded individuals? Attempting to input just seems like an excuse for somebody to raid your frame about something.

    1. XtinaS
      XtinaS July 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm |

      If being reminded to listen first before talking over someone’s experiences is too difficult, then yes, not talking is preferable.

      1. moorepark
        moorepark July 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm |

        I didn’t say speak later, I said don’t speak, as in at all. It’s not like feminists encourage men to speak to anybody but other men, and even then only to advertise and if possible enforce feminism, not debate it’s implementation.

        pretty much every feminist position I’ve ever read explains feminism (among other things) as a counter point to (specifically) straight, white, male, voices. If you say anything at all that asserts an opinion, eventually somebody from any or all of the “oppressed classes” is going to disagree with you and since they dictate the narrative your just going to be designated wrong and worthy of whatever attack somebody decides to throw at you for not “listening enough”.

        so why “speak last” when it will inevitably put you at risk and do no good? Why not just stay silent period.

        1. trees
          trees July 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm |

          @moorepark
          You sir have the floor; care to elaborate? If there’s something you’re aching to say, there’s an off-topic thread here.

        2. moorepark
          moorepark July 11, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

          You sir have the floor; care to elaborate?

          no, as I just stated I see no reason it would succeed in doing anything but facilitating personal attacks.

        3. trees
          trees July 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm |

          no, as I just stated I see no reason it would succeed in doing anything but facilitating personal attacks.

          So what’s the point of commenting here? If you have nothing to say, why are you saying anything? You’re reading like someone with disillusions of persecution who is full of self-pity.

        4. moorepark
          moorepark July 11, 2013 at 8:19 pm |

          My comment was simply “to those who would attempt to listen first and speak second, your probably better of not speaking at all”

          I was attempting to help those who would voice their opinions, get attacked, and accomplish nothing, who might be reading the thread

    2. Fishing for Insults
      Fishing for Insults July 12, 2013 at 11:41 am |

      to those who would attempt to listen first and speak second, your probably better of not speaking at all”

      [sic]

      Yeah, but…you *said* that.

      1. XtinaS
        XtinaS July 12, 2013 at 1:33 pm |

        Eine giraffe, bitte.

        1. Fishing for Insults
          Fishing for Insults July 14, 2013 at 11:56 am |

          I believe the giraffe alert is only triggered by a specific phrase.
          http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/02/07/moderation-note-do-you-see-a-need-for-a-giraffe/

          If I have unwittingly been abusive, derailing, or otherwise in breech of the comment policy, I am terribly sorry. You’ll not see me again in this thread.

  14. a lawyer
    a lawyer July 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm |

    1. Get over your need for a cookie.

    That isn’t a white thing. It’s a human thing. People (not just white people!) like, and generally seek out, positive stimulus. If folks want to limit their rewards to a selected few, that’s cool. But they’re a great way to modify behavior.

    Chocolate chip are my favorite.

    2. Know your history. Indeed, the problems begin when a man starts offering solutions without understanding the group’s history or the history of the problem. Or, worse, when he intimates that a group has not already been working on solutions to their problem and that he’s the first damned genius to ever realize that perhaps problems need fixing. As if the group hadn’t been smart enough to recognize that their problems might need fixing and hadn’t already been doing some stuff.…

    Well….

    In real life, solutions are often sparked by the contributions or questions of people who are not entrenched in the particular visions, dogmas, and “this is OK” concepts of the group at issue. It’s pointless to walk into a racism conference and start asking “what does POC mean?” But there are times when being bound by detailed “this is how we think of things, this is how we talk about things” rules is a disadvantage. This is by no means unique to race or class discussions; it’s a fairly universal trait.

    3. Understand the value in the stories. Then, shut the fuck up and listen to them. I’ve never understood how someone can come into a discussion about a problem that disproportionately impacts the non-majority and tell that group that he doesn’t want to hear about, you know, the problem. How can you fix a problem you don’t want to take the time to understand? Or, be so brazen as to suggest that you already understand it?

    Because sometimes the problem that is presented is individual, and isn’t representative of a group issue. Or, the problem that is presented isn’t a problem which can be solved (no, there is no way to ensure that we do not have a single public employee who is not beatifically perfect in every way) but there exists a partial workaround. Or, the problem is actually very general and fairly clear, and the extra specific details aren’t really relevant even if the storyteller thinks they are. Or, the story is simply an incredibly inefficient way of presenting a problem, and the listener doesn’t have days of time. Or, the problem that is presented can have other issues. And so on.

    Sometimes a story is really valuable. Sometimes it is not.

    Too often, storytelling is equated with whining, but many of us come from cultures where a strong tradition of oral history and storytelling is primary mode of communication. Problems are communicated in the context of a story.
    And I would argue that telling a story can sometimes be harder than suggesting solutions because the stories are rooted in the deeply personal. Solutions are rooted in the analytical

    Right. The benefits and the detriments come from the same place.

    The deeply personal highly detailed approach is often a great basis for a solution which affects that person. The deeply personal highly detailed approach is not always a great basis for a solution which addresses that entire class of problem. After all, the more personal you get then the less similar things become.

    In fact, specific consideration of a single individual in the context of a broad solution can often have bad results because people are inherently biased towards “what is in front of us, now.” They can’t easily adjust to consider the other 9,999 people in the group. Those people are equally important, though.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with stories and there is nothing superior about them. It really depends on context.

    4. Ask more questions. Rule 4 is the logical evolution of Rules 1-3. Anytime you find yourself about to say the phrase “You know what you should do…”, stop, drop your trousers, and punch yourself in the nuts. Because, seriously, if I had a dollar for every time a guy offered me a solution without understanding what I had already been doing, I’d have a closet full of Louboutins by now.

    Well, if I had a dollar for every time someone assured me that they had fully considered a problem and then turned out to have missed some pretty basic solutions, I’d be rich, too. And there would be a lot of folks with sore body parts.

    That’s not because I am especially smart: I’d owe other folks as much money as I’d collect. It’s usually because we have widely differing backgrounds and as a result we BOTH tend to think of solutions which the other one didn’t fully consider. Not to mention that things which may be possible for them to accomplish might not be possible for me to accomplish, and vice versa: in other words, even if they (or I) thought of a solution and discarded it as unfeasible, they may have incorrectly judged how hard/possible it was to implement.

    Asking questions and making suggestions (even bad ones) is a valid and highly efficient way of figuring out what you each missed, what you’re in agreement on, and what you dispute. There’s absolutely no reason to assume that anyone can efficiently and cogently tell you everything you need to know as you just “shut up and listen.” Such people are incredibly rare. Often you’ll get a lot of incredibly valuable information if you ask “why don’t you just ______?”

    5. Not every one of your opinions is a magical snowflake. Sometimes you really will make a valuable contribution. When you do, I know that, personally, I will be really, really thankful for it.

    Of course not. Nobody’s opinions are right all of the time–not mine, not yours, not anyone’s. Most of us are probably wrong more often than not.

    Is that not OK? Should people not have opinions unless they are right? You seem to have a huge intolerance for anything which is not a “correct” question or suggestion.

    You’ll earn yourself a place on the Mantle of Allies for engaging respectfully and offering thoughtfully.

    Seriously? THIS is what puts someone on the Mantle of Allies? Tone?

    You would prefer respectfulness over correctness, perhaps? Maybe thoughtfulness over content? Making “offers” over stating opinions? I don’t see effectiveness up there at all; is that intentional, too?

    Your mantle, your trophies, your call. But if you are holding yourself out as someone for whom tone/process outranks content/results, then, well…. it should be no surprise when people fail to assume that you have carefully considered every single one of the possible solutions.

    you also have to appreciate that we are frequently going to come at issues from different perspectives, with a different set of cultural values. Not everything you’ll suggest will work in my cultural context.

    Sure.

    That said, most cultures are very heterogeneous when you get down to the individuals. Just because you say that something won’t work w/r/t whatever group you decide to speak for at the moment doesn’t mean that you’re right.

    You may not be as representative of “_____ group” as you think. Most of us probably are not, which makes it pretty tricky when discussing large group issues.

    To use an obvious example, I know some radfems who would think that they “represent” feminism and women generally. But I’d bet that my own views on transfolk (which those radfems would call “mansplaining,” “patriarchal,” etc.) are probably fairly close to yours. They are women; they speak for women; they are still wrong.

    And even if your own values happen to be a good match for the group, your judgment may not be so hot. Even if I knew exactly what every white male thought, I might well be inaccurate if I tried to predict their response. So might you.

    When you come to my party, attended by my friends, you might stumble too. You can’t expect that we’ll code switch back to your cultural values and hand you your plate of cookies simply because you walk through the door.

    No, of course not. Nobody can expect that. It’s your party, you can do what you want to your guests.

    but…

    Aren’t you addressing this post to people who are trying not to do that to you? These don’t appear to be people who are actively trying to stomp you into the gutter. These are (in theory) people who are actually attempting–however inartfully–to engage some points which they think–however inaccurately–might be relevant to you.

    To stick with your analogy: You set your own invitation list. But if you invite someone to your party just to have the satisfaction of kicking them out; or if you invite someone and refuse to make even the slightest accommodation for their comfort, then you are being a jerk. If you want to laugh when someone accidentally stumbles, the solution is not to invite them at all; Barnacle Strumpet has a very ethical position here. And that’s true whether you and they are straight, trans, white, POC, or anything else.

    1. A4
      A4 July 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm |

      I enjoyed this.

    2. Kerplunk
      Kerplunk July 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

      Wow. Thank you for this very thorough and thoughtful comment. I think this quote is what stuck with me the most:

      Should people not have opinions unless they are right? You seem to have a huge intolerance for anything which is not a “correct” question or suggestion.

      I am very troubled whenever there is any suggestion that there isn’t room for discussion or for diverging opinions, and even, sometimes, for experiences that don’t fit a particular narrative.

    3. Alexandra
      Alexandra July 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

      There’s a lot of good, meaty stuff in this comment. The blog post above has a sort of tone which always strikes me as weird, and which is hardly original to the author, where the person writing at once chastises people for “wanting a cookie” and then provides detailed instructions about how to earn said cookie. Those instructions usually include statements to the effect of, “Don’t correct me,” and, “If you annoy me or say something I don’t like, you’re in the wrong.”

      I’ve mostly experienced this sort of dynamic from the “other end”, so to speak, in a livejournal community called Debunking White five or six years ago. For a while, it was de rigeur for white community members (self included) to begin any statements with the preface, “In my white opinion…” which got shortened to “IMWO”. In other words, the more privileged members of a community would begin any comment by cringing, metaphorically, and then just go on and blather about whatever. We’d sort of apologize for our “whiteness” beforehand, as if that were the most pressing thing, and not our behavior or our words. It was weird, and eventually fell out of fashion.

      On the other hand, I think the author of this post is completely right that there’s a big cost to always having to answer questions and justify yourself to privileged outsiders to an unprivileged group every time you try to work on a “problem.” I find particularly frustrating a certain kind of Educated Dude Common Among My Acquaintance whose favorite activity is interrogating people about their belief systems before they will accept that any problem exists at all, or else playing devil’s advocate and arguing for a side they don’t necessarily believe in at all.

      It’s true that there are plenty of beliefs common in lefty groups in meatspace and online that could use some questioning, and that outsiders are particularly well placed to point out when the emperor has no clothes. But I don’t want to have to do that every time I point out sexual harassment in the workplace or sexism in the creation of reading lists. But particularly in philosophy it seems like every time somebody wants to start a discussion about a particular problem and its solutions, a privileged outsider to the conversation wants to drag everything back to fundamentals so he can show us all how flawed our assumptions are.

      1. XtinaS
        XtinaS July 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

        Yeah, I think what I’d like in the world is some sort of middle ground. On the one hand, people do have valid opinions sometimes, and they shouldn’t be devalued just because they’re [white/able-bodied/thin/cis/&c]. Sometimes people are too close to the problem.

        On the other hand, once in my life I’d like to find a feminist blog that doesn’t cater to people “just asking” basic fucking 101 goddamn questions. “No no, they might just not know! We need to educate everyone!” Which means no one gets around to the 201 or 301 discussions, because we’re stuck back in “yes, dear, harassment does happen”. Or the allies who Very Helpfully suggest “have you considered ignoring the catcallers?!?!!?!?!”.

        If someone wants to write that article, I’d read the shit outta it.

      2. Echo Zen
        Echo Zen July 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

        If people ask questions in the realm of “Did Not Do Research,” we can always punt them here: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/the-faqs/faq-roundup/

      3. Hugh
        Hugh July 8, 2013 at 7:57 pm |

        “It’s true that there are plenty of beliefs common in lefty groups in meatspace and online that could use some questioning, and that outsiders are particularly well placed to point out when the emperor has no clothes. But I don’t want to have to do that every time I point out sexual harassment in the workplace or sexism in the creation of reading lists.”

        Yeah. In principle, I am sure that feminists, just like any other group, often succumb to groupthink and unquestioned assumptions, and could do with an outside perspective every now and then. This isn’t a criticism of feminism as a belief system, it’d be literally amazing if they didn’t, since it’s one of the features that’s innate to being in a group.

        I just doubt that the helpful outside perspective is going to come from a white man – or, even more narrowly, that the perspective needed is that of a white man (as opposed to some other perspective that happens to be given by a white man). Part of the patriarchy is that the white man’s perspective is kind of omnipresent, so almost all feminists are aware of it.

      4. wembley
        wembley July 9, 2013 at 9:32 am |

        I didn’t enjoy the comment you’re replying to — sorry, A Lawyer, I feel like I’ve read your exact comment a thousand times before, and yeah, you really should just sit down and yield the floor to the people whose relevant *ism is being discussed — but I liked your reply, Alexandra, because I also get frustrated with the seemingly impossible task of, on the one hand, not inviting burnout by being endlessly patient with n00bs, but on the other hand, not wanting to turn into Shakesville/sf_drama/ontd_feminism/choose your culty poison, with all the ridiculousness that goes along with that (the pre-cringing on the part of privileged folks, the bullying that masquerades as activism, the echo chamber effect, I could go on).

        I think it also comes down to the fact that liberal-left blogs often serve a variety of functions that might be better served by separate spaces/threads/forums. A place for activism doesn’t always work well as a space to vent, which doesn’t always work well as a space to educate… Like, a place to educate n00bs might have rules for both the educators and the educate-ees, the venting area could have a “no 101-type questions rule” (sort of the way Shit Reddit Says is explicit about being a “circlejerk” — the main area isn’t for arguing or disagreement, they put it right out there, there are separate areas for those things), that kind of thing.

        I’m not saying Feministe or really any existing feminist or left blog should do this, btw… I don’t think the interface really works well for it. It’s not what Wordpres was designed to do. It’s something that would work better with forums. Also, I really like the changes Feministe has made to make discussion less arghhhh-causing (yay mods, yay giraffes, yay spillover threads!).

    4. trees
      trees July 8, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

      Is that not OK? Should people not have opinions unless they are right? You seem to have a huge intolerance for anything which is not a “correct” question or suggestion.

      @a lawyer
      People with more relative privilege feel entitled to come at people with less privilege with all manner of fucked up ridiculous bullshit comments and questions. I’m intolerant and have a problem with that.

    5. Angel H.
      Angel H. July 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm |

      If folks want to limit their rewards to a selected few, that’s cool. But they’re a great way to modify behavior.

      And thus begins everything that’s wrong with your comment.

      When the movie The Help came out, Martha Southgate wrote, “Within the civil rights movement, white people were the help.” POC began anti-racism way before Tim Wise. Feminism began way before He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named**. LGBT activitism began way before Obama. If people with privilege want to become allies, the first thing they need to realize is:

      It’s not about you.

      People with privilege who want to be allies to the oppressed must recognize that they aren’t the ones making the ones making the rules. At the end of the day, success or failure does not affect the privileged as much as the oppressed, if at all. The lives of the oppressed are the ones at stake. I’m not saying that every person with privilege is seeking to be an ally out of some idea that they’re the ones who are going to offer all of the solutions and fix all of the problems. I am saying that being an (unintentional) symbol of the oppressor and asking for recognition for not oppressing anyone that day is pretty damn entitled.

      It’s pointless to walk into a racism conference and start asking “what does POC mean?” But there are times when being bound by detailed “this is how we think of things, this is how we talk about things” rules is a disadvantage.

      You don’t walk into a class on Advanced Calculus and ask, “How do I solve x+1=3?” You’re surrounded by people who have spent years studying the subject. There are volumes upon volumes written by scholars who have painstakingly picked apart every formula and every theorem. Excuse us for thinking someone entering the discussion needs to have some vague idea of what the fuck is going on.

      Asking questions and making suggestions (even bad ones) is a valid and highly efficient way of figuring out what you each missed, what you’re in agreement on, and what you dispute.

      Oppressions don’t just pop up like some rash. “Have you tried a cold compress?” and “Have you tried this old remedy?” don’t really work when you’re talking about an illness that’s lasted for hundreds of years.

      Generations upon generations have been affected by the oppression. And yet somehow Straight White Dude is going to come up with solution that nobody else has thought of yet?

      Seriously? THIS is what puts someone on the Mantle of Allies? Tone?

      You honestly can’t see how the tone of someone with privilege can or can’t be effective in speaking to an oppressed person?

      **For the new visitors: Just. Don’t. Ask.

      1. Hugh
        Hugh July 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

        “You don’t walk into a class on Advanced Calculus and ask, “How do I solve x+1=3?””

        Yes, but this post is claiming to be communicating to people with no specialised knowledge, so the metaphor isn’t necessarily apt.

        To me, a better metaphor would be ‘You don’t tell someone you’re going to teach them math and then crack open an Advanced Calculus textbook’.

        1. XtinaS
          XtinaS July 8, 2013 at 8:12 pm |

          Usually I say “Uhhhh this isn’t basic math, how did I even get here?!”, and leave the room to talk to whoever assigned me to this class.

      2. trees
        trees July 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

        @Angel H

        Word. I’m too pissed off by that comment to say much more beyond that.

        1. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll July 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm |

          yup

        2. BBBShrewHarpy
          BBBShrewHarpy July 8, 2013 at 11:08 pm |

          Phew. Thanks Angel. I was looking for the snark in the approving comments above yours and, failing to see it, wondering whether I was having an epic insight breakdown.

          In addition to the examples you gave, the one that got my heckles up the highest was this:

          Asking questions and making suggestions (even bad ones) is a valid and highly efficient way of figuring out what you each missed, what you’re in agreement on, and what you dispute. There’s absolutely no reason to assume that anyone can efficiently and cogently tell you everything you need to know as you just “shut up and listen.” Such people are incredibly rare. Often you’ll get a lot of incredibly valuable information if you ask “why don’t you just ______?”

          Never ever in my many years of existence has that been true.

          It is possible that in practical matters having nothing to do with oppression or privilege, you might be pointing out a solution that was missed, but the manner of the delivery serves only to make the receiver feel stupid.

          In any situation where you are speaking from a position of privilege to someone who is not, then a sentence beginning “Why don’t you just…” is about the worst way to communicate that you can imagine. In fact, other than as a way to begin phrasing an obscene dismissal, I can’t think of any reason to start a sentence this way. Ever.

          Sorry, still trying to believe I’ve missed something here. Please tell me I have.

        3. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen July 12, 2013 at 11:23 am |

          Thirding this, and pheeno and BBBShrewHarpy. I wouldn’t know where to begin dismantling all that.

      3. a lawyer
        a lawyer July 8, 2013 at 9:33 pm |

        Angel H. July 8, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Permalink | Reply
        And thus begins everything that’s wrong with your comment.

        When the movie The Help came out, Martha Southgate wrote, “Within the civil rights movement, white people were the help.” POC began anti-racism way before Tim Wise. Feminism began way before He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named**. LGBT activitism began way before Obama.

        I have been here for a while and I’m still not sure who Voldemort is. but:

        If people with privilege want to become allies, the first thing they need to realize is:
        It’s not about you.

        Isn’t this joint? I mean, sure: people need to want to be allied. But the other side needs to want THEM to be allied, because alliances work that way. Who the heck wants to try to “ally” with someone who doesn’t want them around? Like I said: if you don’t have interest, just don’t play the game.

        (Of course, some folks just want people to play the role of “the help,” and some folks like that role. OK–but that isn’t an alliance, it’s a power trip. And it doesn’t magically become an alliance just because the “help” is rich, or straight, or white, or male.)

        People with privilege who want to be allies to the oppressed must recognize that they aren’t the ones making the rules. At the end of the day, success or failure does not affect the privileged as much as the oppressed, if at all.

        That is simply obtuse.
        In reality, the privileged people are usually VERY involved in making the rules, which is–of course–why they make valuable allies.

        Also, most of the gains in relative power are actually accompanied by reducing the power of the privileged. That is as it should be (how the heck else would you change things?), but there’s no Magic Logicproof Pill which makes that reduction completely irrelevant. If you want more benefits for poor people, by raising taxes on rich people, then it affects both groups. Don’t insult our intelligence by pretending otherwise with the “…if at all” stuff.

        Besides: are we all supposed to be Jesus or something? I mean: hell, I like to help poor people out, and I do pro bono all the time, but all things being equal (a) I’m more likely to do it again if I get a “thanks!” at the end; and (b) I usually tend to avoid helping out people who act like they are *entitled* to my work, because they are not; and (c) I like to pat myself on the back when I’m done because if I am not getting paid I may as well feel good about myself for a while.

        Is this Evil? Making It About Me? Acting Like Teh Oppressor?

        Bullshit.

        Self-righteous entitlement is fun on teh Internetz. It’s not especially effective in real life unless you’re lucky enough to be around some people with serious image issues. The reality is that pretty much everyone’s help comes with some sort of strings, the most basic of which is “be reasonably polite.”

        The lives of the oppressed are the ones at stake.

        Sometimes.

        Not everything that affects someone’s life is a “life at stake” discussion. I mean, if it is then the whole “it has nothing to do with you” is a bit of bizarre spin unless you simply count everyone else’s lives as irrelevant.

        And of course, there’s also a reality check. Like, say, a woman’s solidarity with other distant women that she will never meet…? Or, perhaps, one who I know well? Yes, there are people who honestly believe that they care more about my daughter than I do because they are female. You might have seen some on the Internet.

        I’m not saying that every person with privilege is seeking to be an ally out of some idea that they’re the ones who are going to offer all of the solutions and fix all of the problems. I am saying that being an (unintentional) symbol of the oppressor and asking for recognition for not oppressing anyone that day is pretty damn entitled.

        Most folks who help don’t want to fix all of the problems. They just want to feel good about helping, and be treated well for helping.

        Asking for recognition for “not deliberately oppressing someone” is like asking for recognition for “not hitting someone in the head.” Asking for recognition for “giving up privilege” is a bit like asking for recognition for “giving money to charity.”

        They’re not the same thing; they don’t deserve to be treated the same way. Your decision to conflate them is a poor choice.

        Since most people are inherently selfish, they like to get a bit of recognition when they proactively go and help someone. You don’t need to give the recognition if you don’t want to. But you’re a fool if you chastise them for WANTING to be recognized: there are very very very few people with the mental imagery to avoid that desire.

        You don’t walk into a class on Advanced Calculus and ask, “How do I solve x+1=3?” You’re surrounded by people who have spent years studying the subject. There are volumes upon volumes written by scholars who have painstakingly picked apart every formula and every theorem.

        Bad analogy. Horrible, actually.

        This is not math. If it WERE math, then pretty much everyone would agree on what the problems were, and (usually) what the solutions were.

        This is more like philosophy, or law, both of which are more akin to opinion. That is much of the reason that you have a wide body of people who spend a lot of time thinking about this and end up everywhere on the scale from “god tells us what to do” to “only communism is just.” That is much of the reason that there isn’t a meaningful and universally accepted definition of, say, “feminism.”

        Or (in the legal context) it is the reason why nine incredibly smart highly educated people on the Supreme Court can have such wildly divergent opinions based on the precisely identical cases before them.

        Excuse us for thinking someone entering the discussion needs to have some vague idea of what the fuck is going on.

        Ya know, in MATH this would make sense. But here, it does not.

        That is because this is usually a True Scotsman fallacy in disguise.

        IOW: “you must have an idea of what is going on before your opinion is worthy of consideration” appears to track very closely with “you must agree with me before your opinion is worthy of consideration.” Those who disagree are merely disagreeing because they have not been sufficiently educated.

        Ironically, this position is taken by people across all political spectra. But it’s still wrong, even when applied to liberals or minorities.

        Oppressions don’t just pop up like some rash. “Have you tried a cold compress?” and “Have you tried this old remedy?” don’t really work when you’re talking about an illness that’s lasted for hundreds of years.

        Generations upon generations have been affected by the oppression. And yet somehow Straight White Dude is going to come up with solution that nobody else has thought of yet?

        Sure. So might the dissenters, and the people who are annoying, and the people who never clean the dirty plates off the communal dinner table, and the other people you don’t like, and…

        If the problems were easy to solve, they’d be solved already. Who the hell knows what it will take to solve them, or who will end up contributing what? Why on earth would you be so incredibly opposed to the concept?

        Is it more important that the solution be reached by a consensus of trusted elders after a culturally appropriate delay, or is it more important that the solution be reached? Mind you: there are certainly valid reasons for preferring the process over the result. But if that’s what you want, be open about it and don’t complain when folks (accurately) tag you as ignoring potential solutions.

        And sometimes solutions are practical rather than theoretical. They might depend on technology, or specialized knowledge, or a personal connection to the governor’s best friend, or something which other people simply don’t know about.

        Also, the reality is that specialization works both ways–at least to some degree.

        Does your world of solutions exist only within the realm of your particular minority group? Are you imagining that you can solve your problem of the moment without involving, affecting, getting the approval of, taking money/power/privilege away from, attacking, befriending, some OTHER group than yours?

        Usually that isn’t true. And if you need to involve a group other than yours, you might also consider that the people who might know best about what works in that group, or who might hold the most power in that group, or be able to convince that group, are MEMBERS of that group. A/k/a “allies,” at least in most cases.

        Your perspective seems a bit like the jaw-droppingly stupid but depressingly common concept that feminist men should not express an opinion in discussions about how to stop/prevent/deter/punish rapists, because it’s “not about men” even though men are the vast, vast, majority of rapists, rape defendants, police officers, judges, lawyers, legislators, and prosecutors.

        You honestly can’t see how the tone of someone with privilege can or can’t be effective in speaking to an oppressed person?

        Of course I can see that. Tone matters for everyone, because we’re humans and humans are affected by tone. I’m not arguing that tone is irrelevant, though I do find it amusing that you apparently expect a particular subset of people to PRETEND that your tone doesn’t matter as a entry fee to getting to call themselves “allies.”

        But what your argument comes down to is that tone matters more than results. I simply don’t agree with that in most cases where a larger cause/policy is involved. Or I suppose it’s more accurate to say that I don’t care: If I thought I had a solution that would help 100 people I’d happily say it even if I pissed you off–and I’d be shocked if you would want me to stay silent.

        1. Miranda
          Miranda July 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm |

          I don’t want to get too much into this comment, as I dislike internet opinion wars, but I just want to bring in a different perspective here on how “getting a pat on the back” is pragmatic, in that it makes the helper more likely to want to help.

          You mentioned that you like when you get “thank you” notes for the pro bono work you do.

          I had a close friend who received lots of aid during the holiday time during his childhood–you know, those “turkey dinner” baskets churches put together, and the cheap toys collected under Christmas trees? He said the single most demeaning part of the whole process were the thank you notes he was required to write to his “benefactors” every year, who often gave very poor quality stuff but felt they deserved to be Sainted and Fawned All Over because they spent 5$ on this destitute kid instead of 0$.

          He did it year after year as a kid and it really, really affected him; he gets angry about it to this day.

          Just another perspective on how “cookie giving” can have long-lasting harmful psychological effects.

        2. Miranda
          Miranda July 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm |

          Actually just to add to that, I’m a scholarship recipient and I know a couple other kids who are scholarship recipients, and part of the deal is that every year you have to schmooz and kiss the butt of the person who donated the money so that they feel like they are the most wonderful saintly person in the world. On the one hand, yes, I’m really grateful for the aid. On the other hand, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t feel very demeaned and put off by these occasions. There’s just something really icky about it.

          Really, I wish everyone would just understand that you should do the work because it’s good work, not so that you can get warm fuzzies when people fawn all over you for doing the decent thing and spreading some wealth or time or privilege around.

          I know, I know, that’s not how the human brain works, people like to be told how wonderful they are. But you know who bears the brunt of all of this ego assuaging? Again, the people who are already disadvantaged to begin with.

          I feel like in some ways these issues of thank you notes and ass kissing banquets for charity are analogous to cookie giving in SJ circles.

        3. xenu01
          xenu01 July 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

          I want to add on to Miranda’s comment here.

          I wasn’t in quite the same boat as your friend, Miranda, but I did grow up wearing hand-me-downs (on one notable occasion, the hand-me-downs of my babysitter’s male offspring- I’m female and have one sister). I lived in a perpetual state of terror that the person whose clothes they were would 1) recognize said clothing and 2) point out their former ownership of said clothing in public.

          In a remarkable twist of fate, my babysitter’s oldest son never remarked on either our relationship after school or my wearing of his cast-offs, even though he was one of the beautiful popular people at my middle school and later high school. In hindsight, the fact that his single mother had to run a daycare business out of her home shows that perhaps we were more empathetic than I realized at the time.

          I will carry that stigma of being “the charity case” for the rest of my life. So much so that there is a very beautiful and flattering dress that I am careful never to wear around a friend because it used to be hers, and I cringed through two loud declarations of “hey! Isn’t that my old dress?” before deciding it was better to just never wear it in her presence. She is wealthy, so doesn’t do this to be cruel but rather because she doesn’t understand what it feels like to be a charity case.

        4. A4
          A4 July 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm |

          I couldn’t get through this comment because it was so condescending and insulting and completely unnecessary.

          I liked your original post because I like high level theoretical rhetoric and you were challenging some assumptions and narrow definitions in the article, but this post is so overwhelmingly dismissive of Angel H.’s perspective that I find it to be really disgusting. How many pages of your own thoughts do you really need to see here?

        5. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll July 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm |

          Moral of the story- Never ever ever think you get to make the rules as an oppressed group. Ever. Because that’s goddamn unfair and unrealistic (even though the oppressor groups get to do it) and if you don’t hand over information they want (so they can help you, you ungrateful git) in bite sized, sweetened bits of thinkystuff then you’re just stupid and don’t know how humans act.

          The NERVE of oppressed people! How can they get sick of this and expect members of an oppressed group to pick up a goddamn book and know what they hell they’re allying themselves to! And my god, without any sweetness and help from the oppressed group there’s no motivation to help them (aside from it being a human rights issues or moral or something)

          It’s not my job to ask you to get your boot off my neck, it’s your job to pick up your goddamn feet. My not asking nicely still doesn’t make ME the asshole here.

        6. Ms. Kristen J.
          Ms. Kristen J. July 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm |

          Isn’t this joint? I mean, sure: people need to want to be allied. But the other side needs to want THEM to be allied, because alliances work that way. Who the heck wants to try to “ally” with someone who doesn’t want them around? Like I said: if you don’t have interest, just don’t play the game.

          You should be an ally because it is part of an ethical obligation you have particularly as a person who receives the benefits of an unequal society. Period. Full Stop. People should not have to be kind to you for you to treat them with fairness and compassion.

          Or what pheeno said.

        7. rain
          rain July 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm |

          Miranda and xenu01, your comments made me revisit Kristen J’s Fuck Gratitude.
          Probably the most relevant to this discussion is Cagey’s comment:

          Speaking as a person of color and as a queer person, ‘gratitude” is something I often hear that I am supposed to have. I’m supposed to be grateful to allies who do the minimal amount of work to examine their own privilege. I’m supposed to be grateful that they care enough to do what any human being with empathy and a sense of decency would do. I’m supposed to be grateful for how far we’ve come in their personal journey. It seems that kind of social performance of gratitude is nothing but a silencing tactic: Don’t remind us of how awful it still is out here and how much more we actually need to do, just make us feel good about the things we have done, no matter how small”. It’s another way of asking for cookies–no–demanding cookies with the implicit threat that the positives they want you to celebrate may be revoked if you are deemed insufficiently pleased by them.

        8. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

          I see a separation between moral duty and effective tactics, though. It’s wrong to say oppressed groups have a responsibility to play nice with their oppressors, or owe their privileged allies anything. It’s entirely plausible to say that working to attract and maintain allies can be an effective strategy to begin to dismantle systems of oppression.

          I say this as someone with a fair number of oppressed identities myself; I think there’s something to being said for tactical ally-evangelism, and easing people into allyship. I’d rather a whole bunch of white people be gradually less and less coddled until they were legitimately useful to the anti-racist agenda than have them turned off before that process can even begin, even if the things that would turn them off are good and true and correct, and their being turned off is morally wrong.

          I have no problem with any member of an oppressed group who feels differently, but speaking only for myself, I think it’s OK to approach such matters with long-term goals in mind.

        9. shfree
          shfree July 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm |

          A lawyer, I think you are confusing doing a favor (for which one generally thanks another) with stopping oppressing someone, which no one should be handed a cookie for, because it is the fucking decent thing to do. Just like fathers shouldn’t be praised when they stay home to take care of their kids on occasion, (it’s just as much their job as it is mothers’) white people shouldn’t get a pat on the back for calling out someone for using a racist joke, (because duh) and when people are speaking about their oppressions, talking about the best ways those of us who are in positions of privilege can be their allies, we don’t ask for a fucking cookie for waiting quietly until our turn to speak and then tell them what they are doing wrong and how they aren’t doing enough to make us feel welcome.

          I mean, for fuck’s sake. Stopping oppressing another human being isn’t giving them a gift, it’s being a decent human being.

        10. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll July 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm |

          Yes. White folks have been oppressing people on turtle island for 500 years. Clearly the issue is not enough coddling.

        11. rain
          rain July 9, 2013 at 11:05 pm |

          I’d rather a whole bunch of white people be gradually less and less coddled until they were legitimately useful to the anti-racist agenda than have them turned off before that process can even begin, even if the things that would turn them off are good and true and correct, and their being turned off is morally wrong.

          Has this ever happened? How would that even work in an internet discussion? Getting everyone to agree to coddle Straight White Dude until he’s primed for the process. Getting SWD to stick around long enough to get to the less-coddled stage. More likely, he’ll think, “Well, at least amblingalong sees my point of view,” and continue on his merry way.

        12. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 10, 2013 at 2:32 am |

          Has this ever happened?

          I mean, insofar as it’s been how the majority of political victories for oppressed groups have been won, yeah? Rejecting your privilege is hard work as it is, and so it’s tactically advantageous for oppressed groups to make the going slightly easier- not out of some bullshit sense of gratitude or worse, sympathy, but out of pure self-interest.

          Change happens incrementally. If you reject incrementalism in favor of demanding perfection immediately, you’re rejecting any possibility of change. This actually sums up one of my problems with lefty politics really neatly; the idea that because the solution to a given oppression leaves some different aspect of the patriarchy/capitalism/other problem in place, we shouldn’t even try to implement it.

        13. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 10, 2013 at 2:36 am |

          Letting everyone to agree to coddle Straight White Dude until he’s primed for the process. Getting SWD to stick around long enough to get to the less-coddled stage.

          Incidentally, am I the only one tired of using Straight White Dude as a stand-in for ‘someone with lots of privilege and zero oppressed identities?” This seems like a major intersectionality fail, considering that a trans, mentally-disabled, poor SWD has at least as valid a claim to oppression as a rich, cis, neurotypical black lesbian.

        14. tigtog
          tigtog July 10, 2013 at 6:43 am | *

          Incidentally, am I the only one tired of using Straight White Dude as a stand-in for ‘someone with lots of privilege and zero oppressed identities?” This seems like a major intersectionality fail, considering that a trans, mentally-disabled, poor SWD has at least as valid a claim to oppression as a rich, cis, neurotypical black lesbian.

          I’ve recently been using “mainstreamer” as a replacement in some circumstances for exactly that reason. This is, after all, at the core of social privilege – does one look and sound enough like the default social identities who make up the mainstream upon which the elite floats that strangers take that bit of extra care to give one some benefits of various doubts just in case you know someone who Knows Someone?

          For instance, because I have classical drama training along British lines, and also have to consciously struggle not to echo people’s accents/dialects back at them when I’ve been talking to them for a while, when I was living in the UK for a few years I confused a bunch of mainstreamers who were used to judging social class by how people sounded more than by how they dressed. I simply didn’t fit into any of their pigeonholes for how either Australians or Brits were meant to sound – because I was fighting the echo effect I didn’t sound fully RP British, but I didn’t sound at all Australian to their ears either. I suspect some of them thought I was some sort of expensively educated Continental playing games with them.

        15. Angel H.
          Angel H. July 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |

          I’ve been fighting a migraine all week, so I really don’t have the strength or the inclination to deal with this bullshit. Besides, pheeno, Hugh, Miranda, Ms. Kristen J, trees, rain, and shfree have already said much of what needed to be said. I just wanted to add on a couple of things. #1:

          The lives of the oppressed are the ones at stake.

          Sometimes.
          Not everything that affects someone’s life is a “life at stake” discussion.

          When you’re talking about a stubbed toe or (as I am known to do extreeeemely often) locking your keys in your car, then no, of course not. But oppression is ***systemic*** and ***institutionalized***. The same kind of mysogynistic thinking that tries to keep women away from STEM fields is the same kind that’s preventing a little girl in Chile from getting a life-saving abortion. The same racism that got my dad interrogated for 4 hours concerning a crime that was committed while he was deployed in Afghanistan by someone 20 years younger who just happened to have the same very common name is the same racism that killed Sean Bell. So, you can go run tell those families that lives aren’t at stake.

          #2: A person with privilege expecting cookies for being an ally is just another form of oppression. You already have privilege, but you also need some extra incentive from the oppressed? To go back to what pheeno said earlier, that would be like me giving you a dollar to take your foot off my neck.

          Of course it’s nice to get a cookie every once in a while. Just don’t be surprised when they turn out burnt.

        16. rain
          rain July 10, 2013 at 10:39 am |

          I mean, insofar as it’s been how the majority of political victories for oppressed groups have been won, yeah?

          No. I do not know of any political victory for an oppressed group that has been won by doing that absurd intervention-type thing that you described. The kind of coordination required of the people in a discussion to implement your process is impossible. If you have coddled SWDs, all you’ve done is made them think you’re their ally.

          And no to your characterizing my skepticism that your strategy is effective as “demanding perfection immediately”.

          And and, I used SWD because that is what the OP used. You are free to use the term you like.

        17. Fishing for Insults
          Fishing for Insults July 10, 2013 at 11:03 am |

          I’m still not sure who Voldemort is

          Apparently you’re still not sure what Google is either.

          While you’re at it, google “being gracious.”

        18. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 10, 2013 at 11:52 am |

          No. I do not know of any political victory for an oppressed group that has been won by doing that absurd intervention-type thing that you described.

          I have no idea how you’re getting ‘absurd intervention-type thing’ out of ‘intentionally cultivate potential allies even when it requires moderating how you express your irritation with their fuck-ups.”

        19. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll July 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

          Honestly- this is where existing allies need to step in and step up. Instead of leaving it to the people in the oppressed group to nicely express offense taken at privileged ignorance, existing allies can do that. If potential allies are too delicate to get kicked in the teeth with their privilege (like oppressed people get kicked in the teeth by privilege..generally as children. But grown adults can’t handle it I guess) then existing allies can sidled up, take their poor little hands and baby step them with binkies and blankets and pettings and coos, then lead them ever so gently into how to be an ally, not an asshole.

        20. rain
          rain July 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm |

          I have no idea how you’re getting ‘absurd intervention-type thing’

          I’d rather a whole bunch of white people be gradually less and less coddled until they were legitimately useful to the anti-racist agenda than have them turned off before that process can even begin,

          I even asked, but did not get a response to, how this would work in an internet discussion, which is the context we’re talking about:

          . . . the cookie-seekers, the problem-solvers, the brilliant-idea-contributors who just don’t know why their brilliant contributions aren’t met with champagne and dancing-girls. Thus she has assembled The Straight, White Dudes’ Guide to Discussing Diversity, a list of six tips for contributing positively — or at least not contributing negatively, which is in and of itself significant — to discussions involving oppressions that aren’t theirs.

          So SWD waltzes into a discussion, says the clueless or nasty SWD thing, and you, what, don’t call them on it? And, what, get everyone else to coddle them? And by coddle, are you saying agree with the shit they’re saying at first? Because you’d have to, you know, because even the gentlest, most polite rebuttal, even a hint of criticism, can result in a meltdown of epic proportions (see, for example Rebecca Watson and “guys, don’t do that”).

          So after a certain amount of coddling, whatever that is, if SWD is still there, do you send out a memo to all the other coddlers to tell them, yes, now would be a good time to pull back on the coddling, but gently, mind you?

          Seriously, how does this work in the real world? How can we distinguish between a coddler and a sexist racist homophobe? They’re saying the same things and reinforcing the correctness of SWD’s sexist racist homophobic views.

        21. amblingalong@gmail
          amblingalong@gmail July 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

          And by coddle, are you saying agree with the shit they’re saying at first?

          So that’s where we’re not connecting.

          By ‘coddle,’ I mean, in the process of pointing out where a potential ally is going wrong, being friendly and patient instead of snarky or angry, despite the validity of anger and snark, and even if the friendliness is faked. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thanking privileged people who make the effort to shed some privilege for doing it even though you shouldn’t have to thank people for being decent human beings, if it leads to more privilege-shedding. I care much more about (for example) how many people who will vote my way on a ballot initiative than whether they do it for the right reasons.

          I mean, if people believe the only allies worth having are those who withstand an initial storm of being called stupid assholes (and let’s be real- most people come across as stupid assholes on issues where they hold privilege) and persevere through until they see the light, fine. What works for you, works for you. But I also think there are a good number of people who can be cultivated into allies who would nevertheless be driven off by initial hostility.

          Please note that while this argument sounds a lot like the argument that oppressed groups owe it to their oppressors to play nice/be polite/stay calm etc., it is nothing of the kind. Oppressed people have every right to get furious and call their oppressors stupid assholes. In fact, I think sometimes it’s necessary to do. But in long-term strategic terms, I think there are other tactics that can be fruitful.

        22. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll July 10, 2013 at 5:07 pm |

          If feminists would just be nicer they wouldn’t alienate the menz who want to heeeeelp.

          If that worked, things would have improved drastically a long time ago. This is nothing new, nothing being said is new, the only thing is that the who must be nicer has expanded from women to everyone else who is oppressed.

          Been there done that, oh look, still oppressed.

        23. amblingalong@gmail
          amblingalong@gmail July 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm |

          I realize that wilfully misunderstanding/misrepresenting people’s posts is somewhat of a sport for you, but could you go do it somewhere else?

        24. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm |

          I mean, I was so painstakingly clear that I wasn’t talking about what oppressed groups *must* or even *should* do, but rather defending a tactic that *I* have found useful, that the only way you could possibly arrive at your conclusion (assuming baseline literacy) is an active attempt to be an asshole.

        25. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable July 10, 2013 at 6:02 pm |

          ambling, can you explain how what you said is functionally different than pheeno’s summary?

        26. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll July 10, 2013 at 6:20 pm |

          Awww, did I not coddle you enough? Others said it more nicely but you’re still plowing ahead with ” you don’t have to but really if you did you’d get better results cuz that’s what I think contrary to the fact it’s never actually worked but I said it slightly different so stop being meeeeaaaan to me” All you’ve done is repackage the same turd in a shinier wrapper of FMW! Noticing that makes me the asshole? No. Maybe we’re not the dumb b+riches after all, providing you’re aware I’m not the only one who cast the stinkeye at your “suggestion”. It ain’t us misunderstanding a damn thing. But please, do go on and on and on some more about what you find successful. God knows I never tire of mansplaining. I guess I’m just short sighted. Silly little female brain, yanno.

        27. amblingalong
          amblingalong July 10, 2013 at 6:23 pm |

          You don’t see the difference between “I think X is valid, since it’s worked for me before” and “Oppressed people must do X?”

        28. trees
          trees July 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm |

          @amblingalong

          I get that you’re taking a very pragmatic approach, and I’m maybe inclined to agree with some of your points, but I’m really struggling to imagine how this really works. Did you have a particular scenario in mind? Would you please elaborate on this point:

          I mean, insofar as it’s been how the majority of political victories for oppressed groups have been won, yeah?

        29. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll July 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm |

          Do you really not understand that the gist of every post on this you’ve made is ” they can be angry and its justified, but it also drives potential allies away and doesn’t get big picture results like my tactic does” and also assumes no one but you knows this, no one but you does this and you getting x results personally does not mean other people with differing oppression obstacles will get the same results as well as implies no one else is seeing the big picture like you do. Not saying tgey have to or should do still does not erase the nutshell point- they would if they saw the big picture you see and wanted your results. Are you just that blind to sexism( for example) that you’re somehow unaware that even sugar coated criticism or correction from a woman is percieved as angry hatred of men by male allies who have not done all the homework first??? And that’s not just restricted to newish potential male allies,as it happens with experienced male allies too. So tell me, to get your big picture results when dealing with a male ally newbie who still views correction from a woman as an act of man bashing, just how nice does that correction have to be?

        30. Kerplunk
          Kerplunk July 11, 2013 at 4:19 am |

          @ A lawyer

          I agree with A4. I appreciated your first comment because I read it as challenging the assumptions of the original post, which I saw as being chock-full of assumptions, but here you are coming to conclusions that I don’t agree with and that I don’t think are warranted.

        31. rain
          rain July 11, 2013 at 5:53 pm |

          @amblingalong

          defending a tactic that *I* have found useful

          See, I’ve never seen that tactic work.
          Since you’re claiming that the tactic works, that it’s an effective strategy, and since we’re talking about internet discussions, can you link to one example where that strategy worked? Because I find your claim that “the majority of political victories for oppressed groups have been won” using this coddling tactic of “being friendly and patient instead of snarky or angry” to be outrageously baseless. I mean, I’ve asked how this works, trees asked how this works, I’ve given you an example of how I usually see that strategy *not* working, and yet you’ve given us nothing other than vague assertions.

        32. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen July 12, 2013 at 11:51 am |

          Asking for recognition for “not deliberately oppressing someone” is like asking for recognition for “not hitting someone in the head.” Asking for recognition for “giving up privilege” is a bit like asking for recognition for “giving money to charity.”

          No. If you’re aware that you have privilege in an oppressive system, and you choose to continue to take advantage of that privilege, then you are deliberately oppressing people. Privilege isn’t a bit of extra cash or a thing you just ‘have’ disconnected from other people’s lives. Its existence on your part is directly tied with someone else getting fucked over by the system you both live in. And if you are aware of that, but aren’t working against that, then you are enabling that fucking-over of another person by letting the system stand.

          You can’t make the neat split you are making there between “deliberately oppressing” and “giving up privilege,” as if deliberate oppression was only the sort of thing done by Bellatrix Lestrange on a night out torturing people and the rest of us aren’t deliberately hurting people, just sitting at home with our privilege. The only form of not-deliberate oppression here is ignorance of privilege, and the ignorant aren’t the ones asking for cookies. Once someone’s aware of their privilege they OWE it to other people to do their best to not fuck them over. That is, to stop taking advantage of their privilege in an oppressive system. Asking for a cookie for “giving up privilege” is like asking for acclaim for having stopped hitting people on the head as often as you used to.

          Or, what pheeno and Angel said.
          Fuck that.

        33. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen July 12, 2013 at 11:54 am |

          Ack. “Fuck that” was supposed to go BEFORE the seconding of pheeno and Angel, not after!

      4. xenu01
        xenu01 July 9, 2013 at 12:58 am |

        YES YES THANK YOU.

        Thank you, a million times, thank you for this amazing comment.

    6. trees
      trees July 8, 2013 at 8:33 pm |

      These don’t appear to be people who are actively trying to stomp you into the gutter. These are (in theory) people who are actually attempting–however inartfully–to engage some points which they think–however inaccurately–might be relevant to you.

      I am sick to fucking death of self-proclaimed allies demanding a pass for whatever toxic sludge they may vomit up, ’cause of good faith, best of intentions, and all the other warm fuzzies.

      1. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen July 12, 2013 at 11:57 am |

        This. Having to disentangle the ‘intention’ strand from all the other thornbush branches while being caught in the middle only worsens the hurt, in my experience. Having to put a privileged person’s mental intention above expressing my own hurt just acts as another form of silencing.

        1. trees
          trees July 12, 2013 at 6:24 pm |

          @moviemaedchen

          While folks are fantasizing about patrolling squadrons of PC armed guards, there’s a real lack of appreciation for the sheer volume of microaggressions that some of us endure in silence.

    7. TomSims
      TomSims July 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm |

      @ a lawyer;

      Very nice post. I might add the words of the late US Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

      1. trees
        trees July 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm |

        Very nice post. I might add the words of the late US Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

        But for Daniel Patrick Moynihan of “Moynihan Report” infamy, “facts” ain’t necessarily facts.

        1. Evan Carden
          Evan Carden July 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
        2. trees
          trees July 12, 2013 at 5:33 pm |

          I really recommend’s TNC’s revisiting of that report and the surrounding controversy:

          @Evan Carden

          Yes, I’m familiar with those two articles; my criticism stands.

  15. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm |

    This is why I bake my own cookies! Well, that and they taste awesome.

  16. birdie
    birdie July 8, 2013 at 7:36 pm |

    Can she write one specifically for the STEM fields, where almost everyone is a straight, white male who denies that oppression exists? Where does one even start?

    1. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers July 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm |

      My version isn’t nearly as simple as the one linked in the OP, but it’s very specific to the STEM fields.

      Assume that other people have the same fundamental motivations as you, but experience different things in life because other people perceive them differently.

      When you see that their observable behavior is different from yours, do not jump to the conclusion that it is because their motives are different and mysterious. Consider the possibility that the behavior of others is putting pressure on them in ways you cannot perceive, because no one treats you quite that way, and that if you were subjected to the same stimulus, you might behave the same way.

      If the statistics tell you that there is a gigantic proportionate differential between the prevalence of a behavior between two different groups of humans, where the groups were not selected on behavior but on an inherent characteristic that doesn’t fundamentally relate to the behavior, do not assume that this is because one group has completely different motivations than the other, because this makes NO STATISTICAL SENSE. Study after study has proven that humans are fundamentally similar in their wants and needs, but how they set about getting those wants and needs fulfilled is highly affected by the culture they live in and their identity within that culture. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that there is a statistical sorting effect happening at the level of the nature of the individuals in the group — because study after study has proven that for any given behavior we want to study, no such sorting effect exists unless the group is self-selected, or the sorting effect exists but is very tiny in comparison to the range of values within the group — Occam’s Razor suggests that the statistical sorting effect is much more likely to be the result of cultural pressures.

      In other words: If Greens and Yellows are categories humans are born into and they don’t get to pick, and there are a lot of Green blorgifiers and very few Yellows, and there are a lot of Yellow dabombles and very few Greens, there are two competing theories. One is that Greens and Yellows are just different, and their desires and motivations are fundamentally different from each other. But no study has ever found a large variation between humans’ fundamental motivations and desires based on a group they were born into. The other theory is that they are responding differently to cultural pressures. The fact that people’s behavior changes in response to culture pressures is a known fact and has been proven over and over. So if the immediate conclusion you draw is that Greens just like to be blorgifiers more than Yellows do and Yellows are just drawn to become dabombles, rather than that cultural pressures are pushing Yellows out of blorgification and Greens out of dabombling, then you are doing bad science: your *first* hypothesis should be the simplest one that fits the data, and speculating about alternate hypotheses before you’ve even bothered to test the simplest one is irresponsible science.

      Or, in other other words: when you declare that there is no oppression in the STEM fields because women and black men just don’t want to be engineers and white men and Asian people just do, you are proving yourself to be an idiot who does not actually comprehend how the scientific method works when applied to human beings… which is to say, the exact same way it works everywhere else. If you went looking for a bug in code by assuming that some really weird and rare phenomenon that has only been documented once in a blue moon is happening before you have ruled out the simpler phenomena that could explain it, you would be a crap programmer. If you saw a result in chemistry or physics that was easily explainable by a well understood phenomenon, but you resorted to a well-debunked theory to explain the result instead, you would be a crap chemist or physicist. So understand that even though social science is not your field, it is a science, it operates by the rules of science, and jumping to a conclusion that there is no evidence of, when a well-known and well-documented process provides an excellent explanation of the known facts, is crap science.

      Stop doing crap science.

      Oppression exists even if you can’t see it, just like molecules do. We deduce its existence from the disparities between people’s behaviors; even if we want to believe it’s ok to ignore those people’s own perspectives about what is happening, the objective statistics are there, and need an explanation, and given what studies have shown about human behavior, the easiest explanation for almost any disparity in the behavior of humans between different identity groups is going to be cultural. And any time the behavior results in one group of people dropping out of a career disproportionately, failing to pursue it disproportionately, or failing to succeed in it disproportionately, the most likely explanation is generally oppression.

      It’s science, people.

      1. xenu01
        xenu01 July 9, 2013 at 1:03 am |

        *Applause*

      2. Hrovitnir
        Hrovitnir July 9, 2013 at 6:17 am |

        Oh my, I love this. So damn much.

      3. wembley
        wembley July 9, 2013 at 9:45 am |

        Orson Welles clapping furiously.gif

  17. The Straight, White Dudes’ Guide to Discussing Diversity | Evan Reads Feminism

    [...] Found this excellent article from Dr. Isis linked in a post from Feministe. [...]

  18. Niall
    Niall July 10, 2013 at 9:29 am |

    Incidentally, am I the only one tired of using Straight White Dude as a stand-in for ‘someone with lots of privilege and zero oppressed identities?” This seems like a major intersectionality fail, considering that a trans, mentally-disabled, poor SWD has at least as valid a claim to oppression as a rich, cis, neurotypical black lesbian.

    I’ve got a bug in my ass about this too. For one thing, I find it to be erasing, just by mere omission. And as someone who is a straight, white cis male but also has mental health problems as well as being physically and cognitively disabled. That tells me that while my oppression and disadvantages aren’t recognized, my privileges and advantages sure as hell are and thus the former are, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant and insignificant.

    Note to self: I hope John Scalzi is reading this.

    1. Kerplunk
      Kerplunk July 11, 2013 at 3:15 am |

      Yes, I agree with this as well. Privilege is quite complicated, especially when it comes to individuals. Boiling it down to “SWD” seems not only potentially unfair to some SWDs, because as individuals they might not actually enjoy a whole lot of privilege in their lives, but potentially inaccurate, for the same reason.

      But I don’t agree with tigtog’s suggestion:

      I’ve recently been using “mainstreamer” as a replacement in some circumstances for exactly that reason. This is, after all, at the core of social privilege – does one look and sound enough like the default social identities who make up the mainstream upon which the elite floats that strangers take that bit of extra care to give one some benefits of various doubts just in case you know someone who Knows Someone?

      “Mainstreamer” sounds to me like someone who is not a member of a subculture (like a punk vs. a member of mainstream culture), which has nothing to do with privilege and is therefore unnecessarily confusing.

      But, more importantly, I’m surprised by the suggestion that privilege is primarily conferred by how one looks and sounds. Sure, if someone perceives you as having some kind of status or authority (or if you just look white, male, straight, able-bodied, and rich, even if you are not), that could grant you an artificial or temporary sort of privilege. But actual privilege, I would argue, comes from having power.

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