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.