Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?

Being a white guy who likes women, here’s how I would do it:

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

Now, once you’ve selected the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, you still have to create a character, and how many points you get to start — and how they are apportioned — will make a difference. Initially the computer will tell you how many points you get and how they are divided up. If you start with 25 points, and your dump stat is wealth, well, then you may be kind of screwed. If you start with 250 points and your dump stat is charisma, well, then you’re probably fine. Be aware the computer makes it difficult to start with more than 30 points; people on higher difficulty settings generally start with even fewer than that.

As the game progresses, your goal is to gain points, apportion them wisely, and level up. If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you. But because you’re playing on the “Straight White Male” setting, gaining points and leveling up will still by default be easier, all other things being equal, than for another player using a higher difficulty setting.

Likewise, it’s certainly possible someone playing at a higher difficulty setting is progressing more quickly than you are, because they had more points initially given to them by the computer and/or their highest stats are wealth, intelligence and constitution and/or simply because they play the game better than you do. It doesn’t change the fact you are still playing on the lowest difficulty setting.

You can lose playing on the lowest difficulty setting. The lowest difficulty setting is still the easiest setting to win on. The player who plays on the “Gay Minority Female” setting? Hardcore.

And maybe at this point you say, hey, I like a challenge, I want to change my difficulty setting! Well, here’s the thing: In The Real World, you don’t unlock any rewards or receive any benefit for playing on higher difficulty settings. The game is just harder, and potentially a lot less fun. And you say, okay, but what if I want to replay the game later on a higher difficulty setting, just to see what it’s like? Well, here’s the other thing about The Real World: You only get to play it once. So why make it more difficult than it has to be? Your goal is to win the game, not make it difficult.

Oh, and one other thing. Remember when I said that you could choose your difficulty setting in The Real World? Well, I lied. In fact, the computer chooses the difficulty setting for you. You don’t get a choice; you just get what gets given to you at the start of the game, and then you have to deal with it.

So that’s “Straight White Male” for you in The Real World (and also, in the real world): The lowest difficulty setting there is. All things being equal, and even when they are not, if the computer — or life — assigns you the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, then brother, you’ve caught a break.

(Update, 11:07 pm: The comment thread hit 800 comments by 11pm and I’ve turned it off, because now I’m going to sleep and tomorrow I travel, and this is the sort of comment thread that needs to be watched closely. I may turn it back on at some later point, but inasmuch as 800 comments already made it slow to load up, don’t necessarily count on it. But after 800 comments, most of what could be said has been, I think.)

(Update 2: Here’s a follow-up article addressing some common questions/comments regarding this piece.)

(Update 3: Some final thoughts here.)

801 thoughts on “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

  1. I should note that I’m planning to Mallet anyone who decides to start a debate on the word “privilege” in this thread. I’ve already established that straight white dudes often cannot deal with the term rationally; there’s no need for a) any of them to prove it, b) anyone else to reiterate the fact.

    This is also one of those threads where I will remind people to be civil to each other because there is a lot of opportunity here to slip into incivility. The usual suspects, I assume, know who they are.

    I should warn people that I’m feeling slightly cranky today so my tolerance for rhetorical nonsense and bullshit is going to be lower than usual. Bring your very polite “A” game today, kids.

    Finally, I will credit the genesis for the “lowest difficulty setting” concept comes from this article at Cracked, by Luke McKinney, in which “straight male” is described as being the lowest difficulty setting for sexuality. I’m expanding on the idea a bit.

  2. Well, you’ve made your point abundantly clear to the straight white male nerds, I’ll give you that. Not 100% sure if the metaphor will work for non-nerds, but any progress is good progress, right?

  3. Well, I’m a nerd, but I’m not a gamer, so the terminology is a bit less familiar to me, but overall, I found the metaphor fairly simple to grasp. I’m actually surprised I haven’t seen privilege explained in this terminology before because the framework does work pretty well.

  4. While I agree, sometimes there’s an element of “oppression Olympics” that ties into the difficulty level you’re assigning. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m saying that it’s a useful analogy up until the point where it’s not, and I’m hoping that pointing out where it’s not useful helps future conversations.

    Anyhow, as usual, thanks for posting about it.

  5. Also, if you are assigned straight white male, you have a much higher likelihood of starting out with more points.

  6. Y’know, there’s a reason you ended up being a writer. You’re damned good at it. This is a very readable and cogent explanation of something I’ve been much less effective at explaning.

  7. Josh Jasper:

    It’s certainly true that any analogy only goes so far.

    Brain Mac:

    I think the metaphor works for anyone who plays video games, which is generally includes most straight white males under the age of 40.

  8. This post is spot on, but there are two things I want to add.
    1. There are other variables involved. Stephen Hawking comes readily to mind. He is successful, but I wouldn’t call his life easy.
    2. The quickest way to fail at this or any other game is to spend all your time complaining about how unfair and difficult it is rather than playing.

  9. *attempts to fiddle with game settings on Life*

    Dammit. There’s a reason why I always choose to play video games on Casual when it’s offered, but this is clearly one of those games that won’t let you change the difficulty settings midway through.

    (Though, considering the metaphor, I suppose one can adjust the difficulty settings up by coming out in various ways. Down? Not so much.)

  10. “In fact, the computer chooses the difficulty setting for you. You don’t get a choice; you just get what gets given to you at the start of the game, and then you have to deal with it.”

    Explaining the Rawlsian theory of justice via computer game design, well played, sir.

  11. Well, if one were to pull one’s mind out of the fantasy world of science fiction books and video games and actually look at the stats (you know, reality) they’d find that the only conclusion they could come to is that “Straight White Male Privilege” doesn’t actually exist any longer.

    And that’s a GOOD thing.

  12. Straight white female, probably nerdy, non-gameplayer over 40 and I understood the metaphor just fine. :D

  13. As most people in this country do, you ignore the very real impact of the social class of your parents on your “difficulty level.” So you’re feeding the myth that the USA is a classless society. Certainly people who aren’t white and male are disproportionately affected by the effects of class, but I’d take the odds of an African-American daughter of doctors over a white male son of incarcerated drug addicts any day. None of which is to deny the reality of privilege, but green privilege trumps just about every other kind.

  14. Scorpius, once again proving that he doesn’t get out much.

    Brendan, you have appear to have wholly missed the commentary on the “wealth” stat.

  15. The percentage of children playing video games is usually given at over 90%. Suggesting only nerds will understand this seems a bit dated.

    (Brain Mac typo – Sounds like an unfortunate Kraft dinner.)

  16. Robert Enders, can you see how those complaints might be easiest to dismiss from the lowest difficulty setting? And how it might seem as though the complainers are likely to lose when actually those who are losing because the game is rigged are those who are most likely to have something to complain about?

  17. Don’t forget to mention that most of us players only have an NPC level role in this game, and as a whole, by playing our role more civil and respectful, we remove a tiny fractional amount of the difficulty divide. not much, but a little.

  18. But every game character needs a core motivation. A catalyzing event.

    What is John Scalzi’s core motivation, or catalyzing event, for needing to beat a bunch of white nerds over the head with a “You lazy punks have it so easy!” message?

  19. Thank you from someone with a (merely slightly) higher difficulty of white female… brilliant analogy. I would say that there are time elements too, as risks and opportunities change over the duration of the Game. The player ages and acquires baggage, be it mental, physical or metaphorical, even as they add skills and points.

    No analogy is ever perfect; nor will it reach all the potential populations needing the message; but this should be food for thought for many.

  20. My problem with the use of the word ‘privilege’ is the reflexive implication that in a perfect society no one would have ‘privilege’ and everyone would be treated like a ‘gay/minority/handicapped/female’ – i.e. badly. I haven’t thought of a good word to use instead, but that word needs to imply that the default we all want is to be treated with a reality-based version of the dignity, respect, and opportunities with which many straight white males are treated. More fairness equals more good.

  21. I can’t argue with the metaphor — it’s brilliant.

    However.

    It’s not that we (straight, white, male) nerds can’t understand the concept of privilege (Latin, essentially, for “private law”) and how we’re benefiting from it, I believe. It’s the fact that yes, we didn’t have any more say in the character we were issued by the computer than anyone else, and we get tired of other players grousing like we did. No matter how good or how bad we do, it’s used as a justification for why we are, somehow, inherently at fault for our stats. And therefore most of the rest of what is wrong in the world. I’ll cop to straight white male privilege and how I’ve exploited it as much as anyone else would in my position, but I didn’t cheat to get that card. And having it doesn’t make me an inherently evil, unjust, selfish or immoral person any more than any other sociographic racial stereotype would.

    Psychologically, that leaves you with two options: acceptance of your status, and developing some method of dealing with the guilt that being socially privileged forces upon you, like philanthropy or serial monogamy, or check out of the cultural matrix that imposes both the privilege and the guilt upon you. A movement known as Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), advocating Straight White Males abandoning those roles of ever-increasing social and financial expectation/privilege/guilt here in the West and pursue more fulfilling interests off the grid or in exotic foreign lands where you are merely one of many minority populations.

    I mean, when you’re stuck with the lowest default setting and you have no way to correct it, why not abandon the Big Quest and indulge in little side-quests off in the hinterlands? You have just as much fun . . . and no one can call you a loser if you aren’t playing the Big Game. Hey, it beats enduring the ‘privilege’ of socio-racial guilt — what else are we supposed to do?

  22. Nice come-back, Scalzi. Which is just a tacit admission that you ain’t got much to support your assertion. “much” meaning “anything”.

  23. I’m thankful for all the advantages I have over Herman Cain’s daughter. I really dodged a bullet there.

    The trouble with the privilege argument is that at the core, it’s really just the same old divide and conquer tactic. Poor white straight men do have advantages relative to a poor gay woman of colour, but anyone with enough money has insurmountable advantage over both. The former would be far better off working together to even the scales with the latter than fighting each other for the scraps.

  24. There was a story on ESPN last week about a baseball team forfeiting rather than compete against another team that had a girl on the roster.

    Reading the comments (always a daft move, I know…), I was somehow still shocked by the appearance of men (likely white and straight from what evidence I had) outraging against the outrage toward the quitters, generally with a sentiment surrounding “They won’t let boys play on girls teams, so…”

    Sadly, there is no way to let these people know that we are not, actually, engaged in some game or battle where we are defaulted onto the same teams. Nothing is more embarrassing/annoying than when some hateful twit draws that line and uses “we” to mean all white people or all straight people or, science forbid, all men as if we were collectively drawing on our strengths and accomplishments as a unit.

    The flaw in this piece, in my opinion (based on my experience, of course), is that you’re using gamer terms, and I’ve always found the world of nerdy gaming to be filled with people who are all too happy to do everything they can to put themselves into the shoes of someone else, giving them an edge in the empathy category. The terms and descriptions as laid out are likely lost on the target audience.

    Maybe not. I could be wrong. I’m just some straight white dude.

  25. “The quickest way to fail at this or any other game is to spend all your time complaining about how unfair and difficult it is rather than playing.”

    Speaking as someone whose difficulty setting is on the higher end of “moderate,” I think you’d be surprised at how few people—if any—spend their time complaining about privilege, or using it as an excuse for their shortcomings. The fantasy of the marginalized person who constantly “complains” about marginalization is just that, a fantasy. What they will say is that, when trying to understand broad trends or public policy, it’s important to point these things out. Moreover, they might also work to ensure that everyone begins life with the same chance at success. Say what you will about it, it’s not complaining.

  26. The point at which this discussion always gets tangled up is when the logical next question is asked:

    OK, we’ve managed to get everyone on the “Straight White Male” setting recognize that they didn’t hit a double, they were born on second base. Now what? What, exactly, are they supposed to do to address that, beyond a general awareness of their position?

    Because I have yet to hear any person railing on this point (who, let’s agree, are themselves usually playing on the “Educated Middle-to-Upper Class Western World” difficulty setting, which affords the time and energy to level Social Justice criticisms) have an answer to that.

    …and, without an answer to the “what do you want me to DO about it” question, it just often seems like a method of dismissing somebody entirely for something they have no control over.

  27. Robert Enders @ 12:05 pm:

    1. There are other variables involved. Stephen Hawking comes readily to mind. He is successful, but I wouldn’t call his life easy.

    I agree that his life hasn’t been easy, but it’s easier than it would be if he were a gay minority female and still had motor neurone disease. For example, there are people in physics that still harbor sexist attitudes. A woman in physics has to work harder to prove herself to colleagues who are automatically more skeptical of the value of her work because of her sex.

  28. Speaking as a SWM, I agree completely with the metaphor. I just never know what the proper play style should be.

    The game is obviously an MMO—how do you play well with others? Obviously, PK and griefing are not good ideas, particularly towards people playing on tougher difficulty levels than yourself. But even collaborative play is full of hard decisions.

    Should I pair with lower-level players just because they’ve got a harder road ahead of them, even though it means that I’m not going to progress as fast? Should I play less well to avoid outpacing the people around me? People at my level, but playing a harder difficulty level, are often my competition—should I defer to them, even though we’re technically the same level?

    It might be that the metaphor falls apart because it treats life like a zero-sum game, but life often feels like a zero-sum game…

  29. It seems like even removing the “p” word from the discussion doesn’t stop people from making the same “p” word type arguments.

    Saying that a straight white male can have a disability and therefore have a hard life is not up for debate. Having a disability is challenging. The point is that being a straight white male with a disability is, in general, less challenging than being a gay, middle eastern woman with a disability. When all other factors are the same, that is, when you look at two individuals with the same level of wealth, the same disabilities or lack thereof, the same access to resources and education, the person who is a straight white male is statistically likely to have an easier go at things.

    And with all that said, there are cases where straight white men are under represented. There are cases of straight white men being assaulted, abused, discriminated against and treated unfairly. This is not about individual cases, this is about overall trends. Most CEOs of fortune 500 companies are men. http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/story/2011-10-26/women-ceos-fortune-500-companies/50933224/1 Most politicians are men http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_government. The breakdown gets even worse when you break things out by race or religion. About half the population is female, while the mix of races and religions are far more complex and less easily defined and vary from state to state and city to city.

    But overwhelmingly, the people with the most power in the western world are straight white men and that impacts how people view the qualities of being straight, white and male.

  30. Excellent. I’d only add some nuance to an already pretty complete game: Your highest difficulty setting isn’t quite high enough. I think perhaps you ought to add “unpopular religious affiliation” and perhaps “handicap” to “gay minority female”, as these are also conditions that usually impede people and are often reacted to in knee-jerk, stereotyping ways. That and the fact that the game can end unexpectedly, often right in the middle of the best parts and more often than not it can not be rebooted.

  31. your point about
    “But because you’re playing on the “Straight White Male” setting, gaining points and leveling up will still by default be easier, all other things being equal, than for another player using a higher difficulty setting.”

    feels like a dig at “Straight Whit Males” being more intelligent or being able to gain skills and or concepts better then others is kind of ridiculous

  32. John… as a straight white male–in his mid 40’s–I can honestly say that you have hit the nail squarely on the head. I learned at a very young age that my status in life was a bit better than others. I live in a town–that while small–has a very high percentage of ‘minorities’. In this town you can drive from affluence to poverty in less than 5 minutes and anyone–even from outside–can guess who holds which poker hand.

    As I grew a bit older and entered into the working world, I gained even more exposure to the facts of the game of Real Life. I have worked with Vietnamese, Laotions, Cambodians, Albanians, Kenyans, Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatamalans, Venezualans, Costa Ricans, Jamaicans, and some other ‘ans that I’m sure–shamefully–I’m forgetting about.

    The majority of friends I’ve had in my life turn out not to be Straight White Male, but anything else… including gays, lesbians, and a crap ton of people who didn’t even speak English as a native language and barely as a second language. I wouldn’t trade a single on of them either. Their stories about the shit they have lived through have made me realize that no matter what I am personally going through at anytime, I CAN and WILL survive.

    From a guy walking 60 miles to attend his father’s funeral–after taking the last bus to the nearest town (and having to redo the walk after it was all done–to knowing talking to someone from a place where trading cattle to a girl’s father for her hand in marriage is not only good since, it is very polite, onto someone who was drafted into an army at age 10 and sent to war (and managed to escape it all by age 12!) to just and average everday guy trying to earn enough money to send back home to support his wife and sons…

    Yes… even being without a job, Straight White Male is the easiest setting to have the program dump you into by default!

  33. Crap, you mean we had a choice?? Someone tell me what I was thinking when I chose: “slightly bent white girl with daddy issues, a traumatic childhood and a badly edited genetic code that makes life without health insurance complicated?”
    LOL…oh well I guess I have gotten used to her by now.

  34. Scorpius:

    “Nice come-back, Scalzi. Which is just a tacit admission that you ain’t got much to support your assertion. ‘much’ meaning ‘anything’.”

    Actually, it’s me noting that you’re entirely oblivious on the subject and satisfied to be so, that I have no interest in engaging in consciousness-raising 101 with you as you have no interest in having your consciousness raised, and there’s no use giving you much attention when there are other, less troll-like commenters here. A dismissive comment is what, historically, you’ve shown you deserve. Which is why you got one.

    Now, shoo, Scorpius, people who actually have something useful to contribute are discussing things.

  35. This is a great concise metaphor. I constantly seek methods of explaining things like privilege, othering, and similar concepts.

    The one major aspect that thi metaphor lacks, which is the next things that often “breaks” the concept of privilege in the heads of “nerds” is that privilege is directed graph, with cycles! The nodes in the graph are properties rather than holistic combinations, so in some contexts a gay white male is privileged over a richer straight black woman and in others the reverse is the case.

    Perhaps RPG concepts such as efectvreaistance can be utilized, but that reduces the elegant simplicity of this particular metaphor. Still a great initial introduction.

  36. What about straight white males who play the game with more difficult optional conducts, like vegan, never wielding a weapon, or voluntary poverty (e.g. starving artist)? In this metaphor, are we obligated to respect them as better players, or is it more appropriate to dismiss them for failing to play the character they were assigned as munchkin as possible?

  37. Class is definitely enormous, though (which obviously you know) so I’m not sure it’s on the stat level. Ditto nationality and stuff. (Constitution might be like axes of disability?) I guess maybe in my head I’d reframe all the things about your social situation as the difficulty setting, and the traits that are inherent to you as stats, although of course sorting those out in The Real World is by no means trivial since nature/nurture is an interconnected little beastie. So maybe, in my framework, wealth–difficulty level (like Oregon Trail!) and creativity–stat.

    I’m overthinking the metaphor, which I think is apt, and obviously the point is best made by choosing a few qualities to emphasize, instead of writing a difficulty level that’s about 20 items long. ;-)

  38. John, as a hetero white male, this article comes as no surprise. That you have to discuss it at all is rather depressing (although having seen many other of my counterparts not understanding the concept, I know why you wrote it). Honestly, I think it is as much a societal issue as anything else (not being willing to consider another person’s point of view or issues), but I could be wrong.

  39. I would only add that the hardest difficulty setting would actually be trans minority woman with disabilities, not cis gay abled woman of color.

  40. Nice analogy, though in my personal opinion (as one of the “easy setting” players who has encountered many a challenge) any baseline privilege likely fades significantly (note: I didn’t say “entirely”) into the background when the enormous complexity and multiplicity of individual and family factors is brought to bear. Nonetheless, I think most people will probably read this piece the same way they’ve read the thousand other explanations over the past forty years: “straight white men have it easy — the overprivileged, oppressive bastards.” Assuming for a minute that’s correct… please, help me understand what I, as one of the privileged, can do? How can I make the world better? I really want to know. I don’t want to play with loaded dice — but if what you’re saying is true, I don’t have any choice, do I? Nobody with a moral bone in his body wants to win because of an unfair advantage.

  41. Straight white male privilege still exists. In a country where more women graduate college than men (hard work even with a full ride), men still make significantly more than women after adjusting for career path, time on job, and age.

  42. If you’re going to really stick the metaphor I think you need to add that folks with a different setting are going to find it impossible to go into the same specializations as you do. It won’t tell them that’s why, but a lot of them will just find the selection disabled. Their charisma score might be the same as yours, but in certain places it won’t seem to work as well as yours does. They won’t be able to party up with everyone they want to. Sometimes they’ll get randomly attacked in areas that are perfectly safe for you. Stuff in the same store will for some reason cost more for them, or they’ll get sold inferior stuff without warning.

    I’m unsure that folks who need it spoon-fed to them this carefully can get it – if “your path is always going to be easier than theirs” isn’t clear enough then I’m not sure more words will be.

  43. Robert, Stephen Hawking had his difficulty level turned up by missing out on the able-bodied setting, another, um, easiness factor. (avoiding the word privilege is hard)

  44. “OK, we’ve managed to get everyone on the “Straight White Male” setting recognize that they didn’t hit a double, they were born on second base. Now what? What, exactly, are they supposed to do to address that, beyond a general awareness of their position?”

    Well, acknowledging that it exists and that the playing field is skewed from the get-go would be a nice start. The fact that this is not the first time John has had to make this post is due to the fact that just getting people to understand what privilege is and that it exists can be a frustratingly monumental task.

    Outside of that, the most general way of addressing the problem is to recognize the inequities in the game and extend your hand to help those who do not have your privileges in whatever way you can. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture, but every little bit helps to even out the field so that it’s more fair to more people. This should be a simple concept to grasp, but clearly it isn’t, so educating others to be more aware is also a way to help – which again, doesn’t have to be anything like a giant lecture, it could be as simple as calling someone out on making a privilege-blind statement and saying “Hey, you know it’s not as simple as “hard work will bring you success, and if you’re not successful, it’s because you’re being lazy, right?”

    Basically, once you’re aware of your privilege, try to use it to help others who don’t have it, LISTEN to the experiences of those who don’t have your various privileges to try to understand how it affects them, keep learning and understand that you will probably make mistakes and be called out for being blind to your own privilege at various points no matter how good your intentions are (and when that happens, again, remember to LISTEN), because privilege is deeply embedded in the way we live and no one is going to completely understand or grasp all of it without a lot of self-examination and work – in other words, don’t be an asshole.

  45. Robert Enders, while it’s true that Stephen Hawking’s life hasn’t been easy, and he has done incredible things considering the adversity he has faced, I find it difficult to imagine that a person born into different socio-economic conditions would have had similar opportunities to reach their potential. To use Jennifer’s analogy, he went on a trip to Mars (not an easy task) with a fully stocked spaceship, whereas many other non-SWM are doing well to have enough to to survive a trans-Atlantic flight.

  46. i agreed with ian ironwoods point about “straight white males” getting the same random start in life and it just turning up in the better end of the scale, i dont see why we should be victimized for taking advantage of a good deal, lets face it most people regardless of their “difficulty setting” would jump at a fast track or free bonuses, the game is the way its is and we all just play the best we can, some with better odds

  47. Ways to counter privilege include but are not limited to: voting in support of equal pay measures, rational health and family policy, and pro-choice legislation; supporting services for women, children, impoverished persons, and others from whom privileges often withheld; recognizing when you are benefiting from privilege and ACTING on the knowledge; speaking out when you hear someone being racist, misogynist, or homophobic–TELL your raconteur friend that the rape joke is not funny.

  48. Marie Viv, et al:

    I’m not actually aware of saying “gay minority female” is the hardest setting, just that it’s a hardcore setting.

    Prof Pedant, et al:

    “My problem with the use of the word ‘privilege’”

    Why are we discussing the word ‘privilege’ at all when I’ve made it abundantly clear that it as a word is something I don’t want discussed in the thread? Lots of people will take the opportunity to talk about the word and avoid everything else. So stop talking about that specific word, please, so we can avoid the whole Pavlovian Avoidance Issue regarding it.

  49. I just want to comment on how well you packaged your point. And it seemed so effortless. I recently worked on a blog entry using a metaphor and it took me longer than usual. But you’re right on schedule!

  50. Don Whiteside:

    I like your points. Although I note that I am now trying to figure out how to write The Real World as a game which is not helpful.

    Unrelatedly, isn’t this kind of similar to the premise of one of Stross’ novels?

  51. I’m impressed. That’s an excellent analogy. It explains it handily, and in a way most of your readers should be able to grasp.

    I’m also impressed by the comments harping on the p-word following your disclaimer, but that’s a different kind of impressed.

  52. If the dreaded P-word doesn’t scare you away there’s the “Parable of privilege” that tries to illustrate how that all works (and it, too, isn’t perfect. Turns out that “real life” isn’t so accommodating that it can be completely captured in a simple story): http://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/

  53. Ian Ironwood, it’s not that having privilege makes you an evil person, any more than being white makes you a better one. Both are stereotypes.

    Privilege says not one damn thing about YOU as an individual. It says a lot about your EXPERIENCE.

    You have a third choice besides guilt or rejection. That third choice is “acknowledge your privilege, respect that it’s informed your perspective, practice listening more than you talk in discussions of equality and rights, and use your privilege to end itself.”

    If you’re already doing those things, then go you and thank you for being an ally. If you’re not, then that’s a path that’s available to you. Privilege cannot be ended solely by those who do not have it; women demanded the vote, but men who already had it extended it to us, because they saw an inequality, they saw an advantage they had, and they felt everyone ought to have that advantage. So they *shared* their privilege, elevating everyone, instead of *giving up* their rights.

    We’d all be equal if those born to privilege placed artificial barriers to ‘level the playing field’ so we all play at the highest difficulty level, but we’ll be equal AND happier if those with privilege work to unlock that easier difficulty for everyone instead.

  54. Excellent metaphor, frames the issue quite nicely. I’d suggest a further parameter, one that offers a means of addressing Ian Ironwood’s query: so what do we do about it?

    By playing the game, and advancing through levels, one gains skills and abilities that can be used to change the game. You cannot change any player’s initial character assignment or difficulty setting, but you can tinker with the code that controls how the differences among the settings are manifested. You can choose to make them larger, or can choose to reduce them. As with everything else in the game, the SWM characters have an easier time gaining access to the game code, and greater influence on it once they do, but understanding that fact is the first step for such characters to realize that they have a disproportionate responsibility to do what they can to debug the code, and work toward removing any meaningful distinctions among the difficulty settings.

    It’s a lot of code to go through. It’s taking a long time. The difficulty settings don’t have the same effects in all regions of the game, because some regions have made more progress than others. But overall, we’re making progress. You can’t change your own difficulty setting, nor those of others, but by playing the game, you gain the ability to change the game so that the difficulty settings matter less and less.

  55. Well the white bisexual female class skills much faster but her elemental damage sucks against most boss monsters.

  56. This is all true. However the relative difficulty of playing different roles varies widely by geography.

    E.g. I’d rather play as a gay Asian male in the San Francisco area than in many other parts of the country.

    You also have to admit that, albeit slowly, attitudes are changing. Forty years ago, a successful black baseball player tried to rent a house in the next town over. There was an outrage and he had to have police protection. These days, there is no controversy. Interracial couples are common here.

  57. I myself take offense to the term “privilege,” and it drives me exactly as insane as Scalzi’s opening paragraph indicates. As Ian indicated, I didn’t choose to be straight, white, or male–and it also hasn’t meant that my life has been necessarily easier than others. It’s been anything but easy. That term is people assuming I’ve been given a break somehow–and I absolutely haven’t. Many millions of other SWMs haven’t either.

    Would life be even harder if I were a minority? Or a double or triple minority? Of course. But it hasn’t exactly been a picnic for me either, and that term assumes that it has. And that makes me crazy.

    /end 2 cents

  58. Joshua – no one is saying you should be victimized. It’s not victimization when you don’t get extra privileges.

  59. Joshua Mcdermott @ 12:43 pm: I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about their difficulty setting. I know that there are things I have achieved that would be harder if I were a woman, if I were gay, or if I weren’t regarded by society as white. (I’m not completely white, but I am generally regarded by society as white.) I don’t go around feeling guilty about this, because that’s not constructive.

    However, you should feel guilty if you use your difficulty setting to reinforce the system of difficulty settings. For example, you should feel guilty if you laugh at, or tell, sexist, racist, or homophobic jokes. You should feel guilty if don’t take these issues into account when you vote. You should feel guilty if you tell your daughter that girls can’t grow up to be scientists. And so on.

  60. Being a liberal, I read posts like this pretty much every single day. Being a SWM, I acknowledge my advantages, even though my life is in the toilet.

    But I have to agree with a couple other commenters. There’s a question here no one ever answers: OK, privilege acknowledged. Now what? What do they want us to do about it?

    Because other than voting, there seems to be little a nobody like me can do. I can’t help but feel all of these posts are directed at SWM who go online and bitch about affirmative action or whatever, and that you just want them to shut up.

    Understandable. But you’re addressing all of us, which feels a little weird, in order to get a message across to people who won’t listen to you any way.

    So forgive the 4chan’ism and affront to grammer, but: wat do?

  61. An excellent essay and a good start.

    But as Gareth Skarka says, this is only the first step. However, if this is Skarka the rpg designer, I’m surprised he doesn’t understand what the next step is: making new rules in order to balance play. Kathy (above) somewhat jerkily refers to racial quotas as “cheat codes,” implying (I think) that they are wrong and ruin the game for other people; rather, we could (still sticking with the analogy) refer to them as a patch–a fix to the game that helps to balance out the experience. I mean, if you were playing Scrabble with a million-point Z, we might say, let’s tone that down, bring it more in line with the values of the other letters. That doesn’t completely change the game–you’re not playing Battleship because we changed the value of a letter–it merely makes more equitable.

    As a straight white dude, I was deeply affected by a mock game of “Jeopardy!” we once played in elementary school where each team had to pay to choose a question and your team got the first chance to answer–and one side got a lot more money to start out with. Of course, the side with deeper pockets was able to take more risks, bounce back from missed questions, and dominate the choosing.

    Also, I love that recognition of reality and talking about comes to be considered shrill complaining. It reminds me of William Dean Howells’s review of Charles Chesnutt’s excellent book, The Marrow of Tradition which was a fictional account of an actual race riot where a bunch of white people killed a lot of black people. Howells had championed Chesnutt’s early work, but his review of Marrow was “bitter, bitter”–as if a book about a mf’ing race riot doesn’t have a right to be bitter.

  62. I agree with Scorpius, to a point. To use the analogy given (although I think it is one-sided and presumptive):

    Just like in an RPG, we all get experience points when we are born. Race, gender, and socioeconomic status all affect how many points we start out with for certain attributes (for example, as Brendan pointed out, some people are born with more Wealth points that others). But by receiving many points in one area – like Wealth – it means there are less points for other areas – like Compassion and Empathy. Or someone born with very few Physical Attractiveness points might be born with higher Intelligence or Creativity or whatever.

    That’s somewhat important, and it does affect how you play The Real World, but there’s a secret most people don’t realize: you earn *more* points as you experience life and *you get to choose where to allocate them*! So even though you don’t start out with much Wealth, you can choose to work hard and gain more! And if you meet someone weaker than you are, you get to choose to add Friendship/Protection or increase Bullying! And upgrading these stats has more of an impact on your eventual happiness than what you started out with.

    That’s where the analogy falls apart, in my opinion. Because anyone can complain that they were born into unfortunate circumstances (or most people, anyway). But what we choose to do with life, and how we choose to treat other people is the ultimate endgame.

    Let’s face it: by being born in America, we are all lottery winners. Look at a kid in Sudan – a kid who has to search for water and food every day and has no education or career to look forward to, a kid who is likely to contract AIDS or some other life-ending malady if they aren’t killed outright in a war or genocide. Straight White Male might be the easiest setting in America, but every other setting in America is easier than Normal and not even close to Hardcore if you look at the world’s population as a whole.

    By the way: can you guess my age, gender, and race? I bet not……..

  63. Camman – it might help to think of it as a systematic thing not a personal thing. The concept that you’re missing for applying to the personal is intersectionality. It’s the idea that advantages in one area can be either reinforced or mitigated by advantages or disadvantages in other areas.

  64. Gotta disagree with your easiest setting in our current world of diversity requirements and affirmative action. Wealth and intelligence our of the starting gate trumps race by far. And wealthy black female will actually have an easier time with lower requirements than a wealth white male. And I don’t think a straight white male in a trailer park in Mississippi has a bunch better chance than a straight black male in chicago. At least the black male in chicago has the 1 in a few thousand chance of landing basketball scholarship. Best the white trailer park kid can hope for is a stint in the military without injury to pay for college.

  65. Joshua mcdermott: You’re having the same knee-jerk reaction to this that other people have to the P-word, which is why Scalzi tried to frame it in a different way. It’s about awareness, not clobbering Straight White Males about the head and shoulders. Once you are aware that the game is skewed, then you can approach the world’s and the country’s problems more rationally without the mien of someone frothing at the mouth that this is the land of OPPORTUNITY for ALL and you just need to PULL yourself UP by your BOOTSTRAPS, son, and you don’t need to commie fascist socialist “safety net,” you get what you deserve and if you want to deserve better you need to work harder! *upchuck*

    Also: Victimized? Really? If you consider it ‘victimization’ in having your awareness raised that, yes, you got into the game with some extra perks, then you have an extremely skewed idea of the word. It does not mean what you seem to think it does. Not. Even. Remotely. I’d rattle off a list of ‘Being Victimized’ like Scalzi did for ‘Being Poor,’ but it quickly becomes a catalog of atrocity.

  66. @Jdack and others who ask, what we do, I think there are a few things we do: a) watch our own thoughts for bias (because I’m a liberal SWM and sometimes, when I read, say, Alyssa Rosenberg talking about the plight of women on tv, my first impulse is to roll my eyes, before I consider what she’s saying seriously).

    b) Vote and agitate for a more equitable political future; and vote with your money and time for a more equitable cultural situation.

    and c) Let your voice be heard. I don’t like to rock the boat, but maybe the next time I hear someone complaining about some (mythical) “minorities always complaining instead of making their lives better”, I should speak up and try to make this argument clear.

  67. Jdack:

    “I can’t help but feel all of these posts are directed at SWM who go online and bitch about affirmative action or whatever, and that you just want them to shut up.”

    Actually, from my point of view, this article is aimed at the people who want to hazard explaining these things to SWMs and need a metaphor for it that won’t make them immediately freak out. If a SWM who needs a consciousness raising happens by and feels things suddenly elucidated, so much the better.

    Kilroy:

    I don’t think you read the entry particularly closely before you commented.

  68. Great analogy.
    For all of you players with the easy settings who are wondering why you should be aware of this, it’s because you (and everybody else) can make choices during the game that lower the difficulty rating for everyone. And best of ll, it won’t make your easy rating more difficult. You can play and win the game, AND help others along the way, but only if you are aware of it.

  69. @ Jdack

    “I can’t help but feel all of these posts are directed at SWM who go online and bitch about affirmative action or whatever, and that you just want them to shut up.”

    Well, I might be going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that if you’re not one of those people, if you get the basic principle of what privilege is and how it works, the OP wasn’t meant to address you.

    I think Rowan Badger had a great answer to the “what can those of us who recognize privilege do now that we know how to see it?” – “acknowledge your privilege, respect that it’s informed your perspective, practice listening more than you talk in discussions of equality and rights, and use your privilege to end itself.” Especially the last part.

  70. Well, there are a *few* ways to change your difficulty setting. Change your gender and/or sexual preference. You have to get all new armor, spells, everything. Just *try* finding a female breastplate when you’re 6’+. Stupid game designer. :|

  71. That’s it. I’m selling an RPG that comes hardcoded with player data. The box you get is the player you are – kind of like buying a package of trading cards. Buy it again if you want a chance at a different player.

  72. There are other variables involved. Stephen Hawking comes readily to mind. He is successful, but I wouldn’t call his life easy.

    That’s a key reason why, when discussing my own priv– er, low difficulty setting, I went full bore: straight, white, upper-middle-class, non-religious, able-bodied, able-minded, average-height right-handed male.

  73. @benjb – See, I totally get the spirit behind this idea. I just don’t really think, beyond the voting thing, there’s much practical application in it. I mean sure it makes you feel better maybe.

    I guess I just think he’s mostly preaching to the choir. Not that I have any insight to the readers of this blog, but my experience online is that A.) most of Scalzi’s fans already agree with him, and B.) those who don’t, will not be swayed.

    As far as SWM who kneejerk to this topic, it’s understandable sometimes. When your life blows, people telling you how grateful you should be and lucky you are can feel… frustrating.

    It’s kinda like telling someone who just got shot in the arm: “hey at least you’re not on fire :)”

  74. Scalzi’s next book: Philosophy for RPGers. (As whump did, I saw what you did there :-) )

  75. Niiiiice metaphor, and it’s also good to see it in terms that are appropriate for geeks (which are just as prone to this sort of foolishness).

    I enjoyed the idea (from the comments) on having additional settings that add Real Bad-Ass Hardcore Action to one’s character, such as ticking or not ticking the “got a disease” checkbox. Makes everything much harder and a lot of things that might help any other player simply have no effect.

    Very nice. Thanks for posting this!

  76. “And wealthy black female will actually have an easier time with lower requirements than a wealth white male.”

    Justify that.

    “And I don’t think a straight white male in a trailer park in Mississippi has a bunch better chance than a straight black male in chicago. At least the black male in chicago has the 1 in a few thousand chance of landing basketball scholarship. Best the white trailer park kid can hope for is a stint in the military without injury to pay for college.”

    So… black people have an advantage because a minority of them are athletic? No poor white people ever end up in the arts or athletics?

  77. Keep in mind that the game is not a zero sum competition with only one winner. It’s an ongoing MMO RPG, so it would certainly be cool and newsworthy, if as a community, people got together and did what they could to even the playing field for those who were handed a tough difficulty. But first you have to recognize that different difficulty levels exist.

  78. It’s certainly the case that some of those stats look impressive. However, what counts is not what stats you start out with – it’s your likely score. There are several different ways to keep score, and it’s worth looking at each of them.

    There’s wealth of course. That’s a major indicator, all right, and if you’re a SWM, your final score is likely to be high. However, while that correlates with being a SWM, it also correlates even more with your initial allocation of funds. As a SWM, you’re more likely to have that higher initial allocation, but if you don’t, you don’t get any benefit from the other SWM’s who do. Will they share with you in the multi-player version? A SWM might buy another SWM a drink, but he will ask a SWF to share his house with him. Being a RSWM is obviously good, but the RWSMs are not a huge amount of help to the PSWMs.

    Do a comparison with the SBMs and the GWMs, and the game stats are pretty clear. If your ability to play the game is equal, your scores are going to be higher. Don’t even mention GBMs – they start the game way, way behind, and you have to be a very good player to catch up.

    Compare with SWFs, however, and it’s not so obvious. For a start, the SWM is going to see “GAME OVER” a lot sooner. Not as soon as the SBM, but five years or so sooner than the SWF, and sooner even than the SBF. If the game is really easier for M, then shouldn’t they be able to play longer?

    Why is this? Well, lets look at what kind of game it is – The Sims, or Call Of Duty? Well, if you’re a M, then it’s going to be more like Call Of Duty for you than for the F’s. You’ll find a number of other M’s around you playing a shoot ‘em up, and even if you just want to play The Sims, you can’t help getting involved. You are more likely to be a victim of violence. You’re more likely to be murdered. You’re more likely to be homeless. You’re more likely to be in prison.

    Is there such a thing as male privilege? Clearly. To some extent, privilege for a SWM is like water for a fish. It seems natural. However, the rest seems normal as well. Having your opinions taken seriously is nice. Being punched in the face by a drunk isn’t. Does it all add up to the EASY setting? YMMV. However, I’m not going to tell my son that life will be good for him and that his sisters are going to have all the problems.

  79. @ Muse – I agree. A discussion of how intersectionality works and how it relates to privilege is very useful when expanding on the concept of privilege, once the basic fact of its existence is established.

  80. “Now what? What, exactly, are they supposed to do to address that, beyond a general awareness of their position?”

    Awareness is a good thing, precisely because it makes it easier to rally people behind mitigating action. I assume the question really being asked is, “what actions should we be encouraged to take?”

    Let’s stick with the game setting analogy here: we have a game that you play once, on a randomly assigned difficulty setting, where you initially spawn in some random location (and may legally be prevented from leaving that location), where your long-term stats depend heavily on both the stats given to you by your parent gamers and by their treatment of you early in life. Every one of these factors is out of your control, and heavily influences how successful you’ll be in the game.

    What can be done, both as an individual player and as a collective of players, to give as many people as possible a satisfying gaming experience?

    There shouldn’t be much onus on those who started out poorly positioned to improve their own positions; that’s the goal of the game in the first place. Nor can we expect those who got a good start to voluntarily worsen their own positions for the benefit of the less fortunate; that runs counter to the rules of the game.

    That leaves us with societal action, which usually means government intervention. Mechanisms include progressive taxes, guaranteed access to the necessities of life, quality education, customs and laws that prevent discrimination and profiling, protections and guarantees for those on other difficulty settings, etc.

    Play balance will always be tricky. There will always be people who try to game the rules. It’s much more difficult than just throwing up your hands and saying, “Life’s unfair. Nothing we can do about it.” But when we do that, we doom a significant portion of our population to a world where they can’t even begin to express their own potential. And that’s bad for everyone.

  81. I’d say that “victimization” is the wrong word to use, obviously — I prefer my choice of “dismissal”, earlier.

    Because pretty much, that’s what it feels like: I *am* aware of my “difficulty setting” (not using the word, as Mr. Scalzi has requested). I do what I can to address it. And yet, I still get Social Justice Warriors throwing it at my head, as if I’m Rush Limbaugh who just told them to suck it up and find a man to take care of them. Any attempt I make to convince somebody that, no, I get it, I really do — is automatically dismissed because of my gender, ethnicity and class.

    Telling me, as “The Pint” does above, that I should LISTEN and “don’t be an asshole” — pretty much assumes that I’m NOT listening and that I AM an asshole. That’s not victimization, but it sure as hell is dismissal.

  82. It would be interesting to create a real video game around this concept. I believe there’s a game out there somewhere that shows people what it’s like to be poor. It would be possible to create a Sims-like game where minority/female/handicapped/gay characters encounter discrimination and cruelty, while the white characters pass through obliviously. It would be easy to make it more difficult to befriend certain characters if you were non-white or gay or something. You could have random instances of mean-ness mirroring real life. Characters could fail to get a job, or be fired from jobs. You would have to play the game a couple of times with white male and non-white male characters to get the full effect, though, and I’m afraid that real life white males would give up in frustration, disbelief, and disgust after only a few rounds as the gay minority female.

  83. I wonder if the people discussing the word “privledge” didn’t read the directions because they are playing on the lowest difficulty setting and therefore get to do what they want.

  84. @camannwordsmith

    “Would life be even harder if I were a minority? Or a double or triple minority? Of course. But it hasn’t exactly been a picnic for me either, and that term assumes that it has. And that makes me crazy.”

    I hope you’re aware that you just proved Scalzi’s point. If you have a hard life, but your life would be harder if you were a minority, then there must be something about your life as it is that mitigates the hardship. Could that thing be…your easier difficulty setting?

  85. “Fortunately, cheat codes abound.”

    Tempted to dismiss this comment totally, but it does get at something the ‘Easy setting’ analogy misses — that higher difficulties are the result of large-scale, often unconscious (and often not) discrimination on the part of folks who are playing on easy. And people playing on easy tend to take umbrage whenever anyone playing on hard gets a tiny break: “Hey, they’re playing on hard! Why should they get access to the University Graduate stat buff? You should only get that if you’re playing on easy. Giving that buff to even a tiny percentage of hard players is cheating.”

  86. Well, if one were to pull one’s mind out of the fantasy world of science fiction books and video games and actually look at the stats (you know, reality) they’d find that the only conclusion they could come to is that “Straight White Male Privilege” doesn’t actually exist any longer.

    And what stats are those? By all means, provide us your plentiful evidence, since unsupported claims don’t amount to a hill of beans.

    Nice come-back, Scalzi. Which is just a tacit admission that you ain’t got much to support your assertion. “much” meaning “anything”.

    This from a guy who, as far as I can tell, has not once backed up his own assertions in the entirety of his posting history on this website.

  87. I’m not even vaguely surprised that I didn’t get here before someone said, “It’s not my fault the game handed me the Straight White Male character! Don’t blame me! It’s not fair to punish me, by making the game harder for me, when I didn’t decide to be the Straight White Male!”

    Heck, the top news story when I woke up this morning was about a California assemblyman complaining, in front of two of the world’s top female athletes who were there to be honored, that Title IX steals money from male athletes who need it. Opressed male athletes who won’t get the athletic scholarships they need because some WOMAN stole their school athletics funding. Won’t somebody think about the poor men? (Let me join the athletes themselves in eyerolling at this guy, and everybody like him.)

    The closest I’ve come to explaining this is, to extend your metaphor Mr. Scalzi, If you use the fact that you’re planing on the easiest difficulty mode to help yourself, you’re playing a bad guy; if you use it to help the people who are struggling with hardcore mode, you’re a good guy. Which one are you going to play?

    (Actually, the Diablo screen at the top of this post is very appropriate. If you’re playing Real World as Non-White, Queer, and/or Female, let alone all three, you really are playing by Diablo’s Hardcore setting: if you fail even once, you die.)

  88. [Deleted because inasmuch as the author of it admits to not reading the entry at all, anything he has to say will be aside the point for the thread -- JS]

  89. [Deleted for pointlessness. Did some site with exceptionally stupid readers just link in? -- JS]

  90. I’ll admit that my viewpoint is somewhat skewed from my perspective as a lawyer, which is probably a field where diversity and affirmative action make a much larger difference than in other areas. But black female from a wealthy family with a 168 LSAT and 3.8 GPA is going to get admitted to Harvard for law school. White male from a wealthy family with exact same stats and other experience points (clubs, extracurriculara, etc.) is not going to get into Harvard, but will be pushed down probably out of the critical top 14 law schools. Upon graduation in middle of her class at Harvard, black female from wealthy family will get interviews and easily land a position with one of the top big firms that find it very difficult to full the necessary diversity positions and are lucky to find a double minority. She then starts at $160,000 per year and is pretty much guaranteed Partner in 8 years. Straight White male from wealthy family graduates top 1/3 of his lower level law school, gets hired by a Big Firm in a small city making $130,000 per year and has about a 1/20 chance of making partner or being squeezed out in 3 years.

    As far as the straight black male from Chicago ghetto compared to the straight white male from the Mississippi trailer park, you just hear a lot more stories of that occasional success story, usually through athletics at least to get a foot in the door at a university, compared to the white male. Off hand, can’t think of any success stories that start in a trailer park in Mississippi.

  91. lets face it most people regardless of their “difficulty setting” would jump at a fast track or free bonuses, the game is the way its is and we all just play the best we can, some with better odds

    And yet plenty of people with those “better odds” consider their good luck to be proof of their inherent superiority over those who drew a higher difficulty setting. In fact, quite a few politicians will blame those with higher difficulty settings for those same settings, even though the settings are determined by random chance/the computer.

    If the goal of the game is for only SWM to win, then I guess that’s okay. But if we want everyone to win, then castigating people for what is, in the end, random chance, seems not only unfair but counterproductive.

  92. Changing the words around isn’t going to make a difference if the argument is the same.

    If you want to engage people’s empathy, it’s wise to try to help relate a situation to something they may have experienced. For example: All straight white men either are or have been young men at some point. Did you notice how cops, border guards and the like treated you with less respect and deference than your female friends or your grey haired parents? It’s like that for people of colour, but worse.

    If you frame the, er, advantage debate around the idea that straight or white or male or cisgendered people always have to give things up, people who are all of those things aren’t going to be very keen. If you point out that they do are victims of the system (even if less so), then they’ll have more reason to pitch in.

    TL;DR: You attract more flies with honey than vinegar, and empathy is a two way street.

  93. @Rowan Badger
    “You have a third choice besides guilt or rejection. That third choice is “acknowledge your privilege, respect that it’s informed your perspective, practice listening more than you talk in discussions of equality and rights, and use your privilege to end itself.”

    Okay, but . . . why?

    You say that to end the very privilege that I’m accused of having, that I get blamed for having, that I am despised the world over for having, I have to use that privilege –regardless of whether or not it has done me, personally, any good. Yet despite over a hundred years of constant and sometimes very quick erosion of this privilege, has the over-all respect for Straight White Males climbed? No. Has the abandonment of privilege by SWMs led to a better social view of them? A better historical view of them? No. From our sexuality to our employment to our education, SWMs have been stepping back from our “privileged” status like it’s a hot coal, and the level of respect we get gets lower, not higher.

    SWM no longer enjoy exclusive access to finance, the franchise, education, and a hundred other privileges that we used to have. Fair enough. But what argument do you have for asking us to work against our own self-interest? What other race/class combo are you asking to work against their best interests in order to make things “fair”?

    It seems to me that you are invoking concepts of noblesse oblige, chivalry and grace from us in an attempt to get us to sacrifice yet more of our assets for the common good, without giving us any compelling reasons other than “it would be more fair”. Since the impulse towards fairness necessarily discredits the concepts of noblesse oblige, chivalry and grace — see “feminism” — then I can’t help but see your third “choice” as being intellectually dishonest. You want us to acknowledge our privilege — done — respect that it’s informed our perspective — done — practice listening more than you talk in discussions of equality and rights — done, but not with the results you were hoping for — and use our privilege (the one big thing we have going for us) against itself.

    But I still don’t see, outside of some abstract concept of “fairness”, why it is in our interest to do so. Has our lives as SWM gotten better since we began ditching our “privileges”? That’s arguable — and very much informed by our perspective. As SWMs. I think we’re going to need a far more compelling and intellectually honest argument than that before we can proceed any further.

  94. What to do? Well, for starters, don’t complain if the game designers throw in a patch that gives those other players an extra buff or two for the purposes of balance. Boosting other players is not a nerf for you. Don’t act like it is.

    Also: don’t go around kill stealing or loot camping just because it’s easier for you. It’s just as rude as an overleveled character hanging out in the newbie areas and snagging their resources because you’re in no danger from the local fauna. If you don’t have any nearby competition, then sure. Have at it. But if someone else wants to play there, then let them. It’s common courtesy, just like it is to give up one’s seat on the bus to someone aged or with a disability.

    Just because luck gave you an awesome set of stats doesn’t mean you actually deserve to be ahead of everyone else. A simple question to ask yourself: did I do anything to earn the position I’m currently in? If the answer is “no” or “not much” then that position doesn’t actually belong to you. Straight, white guys are not at the top of the leaderboard because they truly earned that. They’re there because enough of them lucked into positions of power (see: monarchies, nepotism) that they were able to subjugate everyone else (often violently.) There’s no such thing as the right of conquest when you’re vastly overleveled v. your opponent.

  95. @ Gareth Skarka

    I think you’re taking my words out of context. In response to several comments asking “well, what can I do once I’m aware of my privilege,” I said that people should to continue to listen to those who don’t have privilege (because you know, learning is a continuous process) and not be an asshole (which usually results from not listening or considering other people’s viewpoints), both of which seem perfectly reasonable pieces of advice and generally not difficult to follow. It’s certainly not dismissal – it’s an acknowledgement of the fact that those who have privilege usually aren’t going to recognize when it’s coloring their viewpoints until it’s pointed out to them because, as someone else said, having privilege is like being a fish in water – a fish doesn’t know water is “wet” but a non-amphibious creature certainly does – and that quite often, pointing out the existence of someone’s privilege can be met with hostility and a refusal to listen (which again, is being an asshole).

    I think it bears repeating that if you don’t react like that, if you are someone who listens, who considers and is generally NOT an asshole when your privilege is pointed out to you, that statement isn’t a condemnation of you.

    It’s funny and yet frustrating how discussions of privilege end up taking a similar tack to those about bigotry, in which much hand-wringing and pearl-clutching is done over how people’s feelings might be hurt by having it pointed out to them that their actions are bigoted (or that one has privilege which has resulted in unfairness toward others, no matter how unintentional), rather than having concern over the actual harm being done by bigotry or by how the playing field is skewed towards those who have privilege.

  96. This is very nicely written.

    I think the solution, if you’re feeling guilty/undeserving at all, it to offset how easy quests are for you by making guilds with sprites from other difficulty levels and help them level up faster so that they get “equal pay”, “respected when they speak” or “unlikely to be attacked” buffs or focus on dispatching discrimination-bosses alone or in a guild.

    I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be PvP, this game.

  97. I’m a bit disturbed by the leap from recognizing your difficulty setting to the idea that SWM are being “victimized.” People with lower difficulty settings aren’t under attack, there aren’t punitive damages assessed for rolling high in life, and I don’t think anyone is asking for them. Others have better addressed the issue of “winning” (Newberry, above)- life is not a zero-sum game. Here’s how I see it: it’s not about having to give up the things I have gained so that others can have them, it’s about making sure that I am not impeding, actively or passively, access to those things for others. It’s about defining success as the advancement- in health, wealth, love, whatever- of everyone, not the denigration of some for the advancement of a few. If I’m really playing to “win”, then it’s about ensuring that I not only leave room for players on higher difficulty settings to win with me, I actively work to help them do so.

    And the idea that SWM are playing Call of Duty while SWF are playing the Sims? I see this type of argument a lot, that somehow, by virtue of being male, my life is all guns, violence and hardscrabble fighting for success, whereas if I were female, my life would be somehow softer… I think this viewpoint is interesting, as it seems to accord people only one mode of life- the one where men are policemen, firefighters and soldiers, and women are teachers, nurses, and mothers who always survive childbirth. For most of the world- both in countries where women are able to choose risky physical work and men are able to choose quieter work and in those places where no one, male or female can avoid physical risk every day, this Call of Duty/Sims distinction is rubbish.

  98. I was deleted because opposing views are not tolerated by liberals? One day i hope i can evolve & be liberal.

  99. So Ian – even stipulating your premise (which I won’t agree with but will stipulate for the moment) this is ridiculous.

    “SWM no longer enjoy exclusive access to finance, the franchise, education, and a hundred other privileges that we used to have. Fair enough. But what argument do you have for asking us to work against our own self-interest? What other race/class combo are you asking to work against their best interests in order to make things “fair”?”

    Why is not being a flaming jerk not good enough?

  100. You’ve got yours, so go ahead and crap on everyone else. After all, it’s the American way. When I read a newspaper, I see that those like me are being continually demonized by the press. When I go to church I get told that I am an evil oppressing patriarch (and since I have never married, I wonder about the ministers user of the term patriarch). If I have any troubles in my life, I don’t deserve any help or support. Those are the realities of being a straight white male in today’s society.

    I’ll never have a family because men don’t deserve a choice. If I want to simply reproduce then my best option is to become a convicted criminal, their reproductive rate is far higher than honest, law-abiding, straight white males.

    Have you really been paying attention to the world or are you just living a fantasy life out there in flyover country?

  101. So, if life is a video game, then the equivalent of beating a horde of Brutes and Banshees in Mass Effect 3 is successfully asking Natalie Portman on a date. Since I’ve done the first, the second should be attainable, no?

  102. @Kilroy “one of the top big firms that find it very difficult to full the necessary diversity positions”

    Why do you think the ‘top big firms’ find it difficult to diversify their staff? And what do you mean by ‘necessary’ here? AFAIK, there is no legal requirement for a law firm to maintain a certain level of diversity; they just can’t legally discriminate.

  103. On “SWM” setting, you keep getting prompted to pay for some additional DLC quests that just seem to take up your time and money and put you in uncomfortable situations with low-payout. But it gives you some advantages with a few of the guilds.

    Many of the quests seem to be tied to some kind of convoluted alignment sub-system that doesn’t seem to convey any direct in-game advantage,

    A lot of the rumors on the internet is that the new version coming out in a a few decades will build on those DLC quests and the game will be much better then.

  104. JT:

    “I was deleted because opposing views are not tolerated by liberals?”

    You were deleted because your comment was pointless and idiotic.

    Sigh:

    “I’m a bit disturbed by the leap from recognizing your difficulty setting to the idea that SWM are being ‘victimized.'”

    This is indeed a fundamental problem relating to SWM.

    Matt:

    Your post is appallingly stupid. Please rend your garments stupidly somewhere else.

  105. I’m a straight white male, 54 years old, the 4th of 5 children.

    My family of origin was (lower) middle-class. My younger sister has Down’s syndrome. My parents paid for my college education.

    I have an IQ that’s been measured as pretty high. I got really good grades in high school, because it was easy, and got really mediocre grades in college, because it was not easy.

    Because I have a very small, narrow comfort zone, am fearful and socially awkward, and am not particularly ambitious, I didn’t get a “real” job until I graduated from college twice, with two engineering degrees.

    I’m an alcoholic, though I’ve been sober for a really long time, and because of that, I lost that “real” job and it took 7 years before I had an engineering job again.

    Overall, I haven’t had to work particularly hard at becoming a successful mid-level engineer. I’m also a husband and father of 3 boys.

    If there were a major “drag” on my path to success, say if I were non-white, non-male, non-American, etc., there’s no telling where I might have ended up professionally or socially, but I doubt seriously that I’d be as successful as I am.

    I was dealt a really good hand, and since I generally take it for granted, I actually do appreciate having it called to my attention from time to time.

    Life, society, the world in general has treated me really well regardless of whether I’ve earned it, in most instances. I know that this wouldn’t be the case if I weren’t a SWM.

    So thanks for reminding me of that, John.

  106. Beyond a general acknowledgement of my good luck in being straight, white, male, and from an upper middle class background, it’s tricky to know what to do next. I do try to extend a helping hand to anyone in need of same. I do think very carefully (and listen) to people of other backgrounds when considering my position on an issue. I try to be vocal if I hear or see something out of line. But I can’t really give up my history, or even point to any one particular event and say “well, that only happened because of my lucky draw.” Loaded dice seem to be the best illustration. The probabilities were better for me than for most, and I guess I am trying to help reduce or eliminate that effect in future.

  107. I agree that’s a great analogy.

    But by analogy with your incredible “being poor” essay, would it be simpler to simply list things that you experience as a woman, or black person, or non-straight person, etc.

    “Being X is getting on a metro and keeping one eye behind you to see if someone will grope you”
    “Being X is being scared whenever you see a police officer, in case he/she harases you”
    Etc, etc

    I find that (of a very very small sample of people I know) most people (who are not already completely intransigent) have a generally sympathetic reaction to that, saying things like “Oh my god, is that really true? I guess I should have really known, but I didn’t.” It turns out that most people (from all demographics) don’t verbalise this stuff, and people in group X assume it’s obvious that they’re harassed by the police, but people not in group X literally never think of it. And people OUGHT to know it, possibly, but when they don’t, “you’re better off than me” is very abstract and they keep forgetting it, but if they have specifics, they have some chance of sticking.

    And from there it’s a comparatively small step to “most people experience this sort of ingrained societal harassment, and they shouldn’t have to”.

    It seems like the concept of privelege is relative, and most reasonable people could accept “you have a privelege relative to me” because it’s obviously true. (Some people will still object, but not everyone.) But it seems like “you have a privelege” produces a massive defensive reaction, even amongst people who use the terminology, because everyone instinctively seems themselves as “normal” and they’re terrified of being seen as above “normal”, even if a sensible baseline for “normal” would be “what most people experience”. It seems very common to start an explanation by emphasising how someone is priveleged, and I agree that people SHOULD be able to accept that, but since it produces SUCH a negative reaction, if you actually want someone to understand, it seems much, much easier to simply emphasise how everyone else’s experience differs, without insisting people understand that they are exceptional as a prerequisite. (Eg. In your analogy, you could choose levels “easy, normal, hard, very hard” or “normal, hard, very hard, extremely hard” and have the same difference between the easiest and the hardest but I speculate people would raise fewer spurious objections if you used “normal” as the level they’re on rather than “easy”, even if “easy” might better reflect the demographics. But you’re better at this than me, do you think there’s a point here?)

  108. Query: Are we talking about the US/Europe (i.e., Western civilization) or worldwide? I can think of several locations where being a SWM is not the lowest difficulty setting. Maybe “cis-gendered het. male” would be more accurate for world-wide lowest difficulty setting? Or something like “being a member of the majority population”?

  109. I’ve never really knew what a “white” person is, except for the caricature that’s popular today. The problem is, that caricature is…a caricature. It makes for easy, flippant essays, though.

    White males are Greeks living in Athens, where poverty and crime and desperation are rampant. White males are part of gangs in Liverpool because they’ve always been poor and dealing drugs and beating others out of their money is how you get by. White males are Mexican (yes, they are) living in Coahuila and desperately trying to scratch out a living and stay away from the drug gangs. White males are standing in unemployment lines all across the country, losing their homes, living in shelters with their families. The popular target of ridicule, the mythical “middle class white male”, is disappearing fast.

    And so on. “Privilege” has been studied to death, and if there’s one thing I know it’s this: *poverty* and *community environment* are the strongest factors, not the color of your skin. It’s a difficult thing for Americans to understand, because they focus so intently on race and ethnicity (and increasingly, sexual orientation) as an explanation for every social problem they see.

  110. “Why is not being a flaming jerk not good enough?”

    Because far too many people consider me a flaming jerk just by existing as a SWM . . . so why take the heat? Even the SWMs who go out of their way not to be flaming jerks get crucified, not understood and accepted. Being told how powerful you are and how despised you are for it is one thing, but having that and not actually having any power? And then, when you do try to do your part for making things more fair, what reward do you get? Respect and admiration? No, more resentment and social blame, more ample justifications for further erosion of SWM status — and it just keeps going?

    That’s why the MGTOW movement is gaining such traction. These younger dudes are looking at the older dudes’ lives, and they’re shaking their heads. All that hard work, dedication, and devotion gets you . . . this? Why bother? Better to emigrate, find a hot Latin American girlfriend, and teach English in some tropic country than end up as yet-another divorced, unemployed Beta dad estranged from his kids — but still guilty of his “lowest difficulty setting”. When you take away the possibility of victory, then the only reason to play is fun, and this “blame the white dude” game just isn’t fun for us anymore. Better to retreat and withdraw than play a game you have no hope of winning.

  111. A bell curve with x-axis for weath would probably portray the advantages of being a straight white male. Towards the very bottom and very top of the wealth scale, it is probably easier to be straight black female than straight white male. Of course, it still sucks at the bottom and rocks at the top, but its just a measure of relative ease at those levels. Towards the middle, it is probably easier to be a straight white male. But how much of this is just because of the relative cultures and not because of the game code? Even towards the middle, relatively intelligent straight black female will have a lot of advantages of relatively intelligent straight white male as far as access to colleges and jobs, as they as they don’t get caught up in the welfare multiple children by multiple fathers trap.

  112. Scalzi: thank you for this.

    Dear people who are saying “I know that, why did you post this?” or even “I know that, what should I do about it?”: See those folks up and down the thread (or in your life) think SWMs don’t have any significant advantages? They are both the reason this was posted, and something you can do.

  113. Thanks so much for writing this — as a multiracial queer trans woman (and also a gamer) I find it makes a tremendous amount of sense. I have a particular perspective on this whole idea that might be useful, because at different times in my life I’ve been perceived as falling into different categories — by institutions, my family, friends, strangers on the street, prospective employers, etc. I know first-hand what it’s like to be seen as a straight man, a gay man, a lesbian, a straight woman — at least temporarily; a lot of queer women know what it’s like to be read as straight by say, a guy hitting on you.

    I’ve gone through periods of being seen as more and less of a “normal person” and an “unintelligible outsider” due to how I’m presenting my gender, and like many multiracial people, I find that people interpret my race differently depending on context, their own preconceptions, how deep or light my tan is at the moment, etc. (Some people ask the standard “what ARE you I mean where are your ANCESTORS from?” question, others don’t but you can see it in their eyes!) I am, however, very fortunate in that I’ve almost always been able-bodied in life so far, and had some pretty lucky rolls at the beginning.

    Still, I think I’ve developed a weird extra ability due to having switched my own difficulty setting, and having had it switched FOR me at times in complex, nigh-random ways. I have a “difficulty setting sense” that picks up contextual cues (some overt, some subtle) and gauges how I’m being perceived — what privileges are being afforded me or denied me at the moment, to use the old-school terminology. It’s like knowing the system of a game well enough, because you’ve played on multiple difficulty settings and can tell that the AIs are behaving differently, that your health doesn’t regenerate as fast, or whatever!

    As far as Gareth-Michael Skarka’s question about “what to do” — we SHOULD live in a world where everyone can choose to play on the easiest setting, especially because many of the difficult settings are so deadly. When you play on an easier setting — and if you have lucky rolls, because that counts for a ton too — there are many ways you can use your good fortune to make change, or simply give a hand up to someone who has to play on a harder setting. Isn’t that what you’d do for a teammate who’s stuck on a more difficult setting while you’re on an easier one? Watch their back, give them a boost because they weren’t able to buy the “jump over the wall” level of Jump Power — stick around to help instead of racing ahead. Plus, these difficulty settings are created by ALL the players collectively, not by some godlike game designer or programmer outside the system! We’re the only ones who can change how a lot of this game works. We COULD make a world where everyone can pick their difficulty setting.

    Finally, I want to say that although playing on a harder difficulty setting doesn’t come with any extrinsic rewards, the same is true in a lot of games — and it still can be worthwhile. I play with my difficulty setting and deal with the shifts and challenges because it’s who I am, and I wouldn’t erase that even if I could have a RESET button that lowered my difficulty level to the bottom. I’m proud of what I’ve gotten done in this life with the obstacles in my way, and I’m proud of other people who are in solidarity with me. I’m not saying we’re “better” or “more worthy” in any way — practically EVERYONE has bad rolls in one way or another, at one time or another, regardless of your difficulty level, and I want to be proud of all who struggle for better lives and a better world. But there are bands of us who have found ways to play with what we’ve been dealt — strategies and solidarities, jokes to lighten the mood, all of it — and that experience is it’s own reward. Being yourself is its own reward. Playing on the difficulty setting that shaped you, informed who you are, is its own reward.

  114. If ever there was something that could be defined as “wrong”, this article fits it perfectly. Good job at being wrong random self-important internet blogger!

  115. Sigh. Kilroy:

    “I’ll admit that my viewpoint is somewhat skewed from my perspective as a lawyer, which is probably a field where diversity and affirmative action make a much larger difference than in other areas. But black female from a wealthy family with a 168 LSAT and 3.8 GPA is going to get admitted to Harvard for law school. White male from a wealthy family with exact same stats and other experience points (clubs, extracurriculara, etc.) is not going to get into Harvard, but will be pushed down probably out of the critical top 14 law schools.”

    Do you not see that you are missing the core of the argument? That black female (and her parents) are playing on a much higher difficulty setting than the white male. The inherent structural racism and sexism in the country made it SO MUCH MORE difficult for her to achieve that 3.8 It made it so much more difficult for her family to acquire wealth. I don’t see how you have missed that aspect of the argument so completely. The black female was on a higher difficulty setting FROM BIRTH. Her difficulty setting didn’t start at age 22 when she decided to apply for law school. She had to work so much harder than the white male to get to the same place.

    Also, as to your comment about “Off hand, can’t think of any success stories that start in a trailer park in Mississippi.” I think you are being willfully ignorant. How many white, male politicians do you hear proclaiming they were the “son of a mill worker” or the “son of a poor coal miner”? It happens ALL THE TIME. Don’t act like it is harder for poor whites than poor blacks. That is just total BS.

  116. I understand why people get so angry and defensive about this. It feels like an attack. It took me until some time in my early- to mid-30s before I even started to grasp the concept. I remember always being angry, because I was an ally, so why was I getting shit or something inocuous I’d said.

    This pointing out of privilege isn’t done to make people feel guilty (well, maybe some people do that, but Scalzi is most certainly not doing so here), it’s done to encourage you to consider the point of view of people with less privilege than you, to try to show why you shouldn’t dismiss their experiences out of hand.

    My advice is, get angry about articles like this if you must, but try to keep the arguments in mind when you’re dealing with other people later. Try empathizing, not just assuming everyone’s involved in a zero sum game and any concession will weaken your position and contribute to your losing.

    There, a white man mansplaining to other white men.

  117. >> Telling me, as “The Pint” does above, that I should LISTEN and “don’t be an asshole” — pretty much assumes that I’m NOT listening and that I AM an asshole.>>

    No, it doesn’t. No more than, say, those scanner things at bookstores and libraries assume that you’re a thief. What it assumes is that some people are thieves.

    If the message is that SWMs should listen more and not be assholes, and you’re already doing that, then good. But being affronted because a generalized message is not tailored specifically to you is silly. If the shoe doesn’t fit, you don’t have to put it on. It’s there for people it does fit.

  118. As a 6 foot tall, 200 pound, greying white straight male I can assure you that the main feature of the “easy” setting is that the rest of the world gives you a certain amount of respect when you walk into the room that they tend to not give other players on “harder” settings. There is an assumption, that I know what I am doing and/or if I fail I made a “honest” mistake. The “ref’s” are less likely to call fouls and assign penalties. So, the issue is what can we do about it??? First, what I try to do is make sure that I give others the same respect they give me and I second I actively confront others who treat those on the harder settings with less respect. I view it as an obligation for having been smart enough to figure out the game is rigged.

  119. Amazing the contortions some of us will go through to avoid acknowledging the simple fact that if you’re in a position to make life a little fairer for someone else, that’s the thing to do. “But it isn’t in my interest…”…sheesh.

  120. Ian Ironwood:

    “Even the SWMs who go out of their way not to be flaming jerks get crucified, not understood and accepted.”

    1. How awful it is to be prejudged by conditions you have no control over. If only others could possibly understand this pain.

    2. Also: No. I find generally speaking when I get crucified, it’s not for going out of my not to to be a flaming jerk, it’s when I show my ass and then refuse to acknowledge the ass-showing.

  121. Pat wrote: “That’s somewhat important, and it does affect how you play The Real World, but there’s a secret most people don’t realize: you earn *more* points as you experience life and *you get to choose where to allocate them*! So even though you don’t start out with much Wealth, you can choose to work hard and gain more! And if you meet someone weaker than you are, you get to choose to add Friendship/Protection or increase Bullying! And upgrading these stats has more of an impact on your eventual happiness than what you started out with.”

    But you’re missing the more important contrary rule: starting with extra points puts you in a better position to acquire yet more points, and makes it easier to allocate the points you do receive in a way that benefits you in the long term.

    For example, say Jay start Kindergarten with a mere +3 Reading (never learned the alphabet, dyslexia), while Kay starts off with +14 (already reading at a fourth grade level). Clearly Jay needs to be grinding on his Reading stat, while Kay should probably be focusing on something where she’s weaker. But without drastic intervention, Kay is going to be the one doing lots of reading, because it’s generally more fun to do something you’re very good at. Jay will avoid reading at every opportunity, perhaps even coming up with clever tricks for hiding his deficiency. So by the beginning of first grade, Jay might have earned one more point, while Kay might have earned another five.

    Wealth is even more obvious. If Kay starts out with parents who are earning $300K/year, you can expect that they’ll have ample opportunities to save, invest, and make that money grow. So it’s very likely that Kay’s college education will be paid for. But Jay’s parents make $30K/year, and are stuck with a high mortgage because they needed to live in a certain area to give Jay access to a good reading intervention program. They’re constantly late with their bills (and getting hit with late fees as a result), they can’t afford Internet access (which makes it harder to do all sorts of things, including earn money).

    So when Jay finally graduates from the Derek Zoolander School for Kids Who Can’t Read So Good, his parents really can’t assist him with college. While Kay is graduated debt free thanks to a grant from the First National Bank of Mom and Dad, earning money for a down payment on a house, Jay is loaded down with debt, working a part-time job, and still three years from graduating.

    I speak from personal experience here: I spent perhaps five extra years in school and out of the professional job market because I wanted to graduate debt free, so I only took as many classes as my finances and work schedule would allow.

    And social capital works fundamentally the same way. If you start out with poor people skills, you’re less likely to have opportunities to practice those skills. At best, you can hope to make friends with similarly deficient peers, but by definition they aren’t great role models. At some point, you’re very likely to give up on trying to interact with your peers in any way.

    Points earn points. Only the best athletes in school are going to be invited to go to basketball camp. Only the kids who are good at chess will be attracted to the chess club. You have to have wealth before those with amazing investment opportunities will seek you out.

    It’s very easy for people who started with lots and leveraged it into even more (Mitt Romney seems to think he got to where he is in life on his own). And it’s just as easy for those same people to think that the people who don’t do so well just suck at life.

  122. Actually, one cannot change one’s sexual orientation. One can change how and whether one chooses to express it. Also, “trans” has effects whether one transitions or not: pre-transition (male presenting) trans women make about what cisgender women do, and their incomes go down even further after transition. The part that demonstrates this is clearly about sexism? Pre-transition (female presenting) trans men’s incomes _increase_ after transition. (This article summarizes the research article: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/before-that-sex-change-think-about-your-next-paycheck/ )

  123. As another white male named Chuck standing at 6’6″, 300+ I can safely say the nail has been hit on the head. It’s easy being white. Anyone who says otherwise is an asshole.

  124. Some of the players in the SWM difficulty are fond of using game hacks to skip levels and exploit code bugs. Scripting is very popular if your wealth stat is high enough… you can download a few that will send you through all the college levels while you go off to get more coffee, whatever, and when you come back you’ve collected all the badges and immediately get a token that takes you to the employment dungeon. And whenever the devs try to introduce re-balancing code to kill the hacks, a lot of SWM players complain that the devs are ruining the game.

  125. @ Ian

    “SWM no longer enjoy exclusive access to finance, the franchise, education, and a hundred other privileges that we used to have. Fair enough. But what argument do you have for asking us to work against our own self-interest? What other race/class combo are you asking to work against their best interests in order to make things “fair”?”

    Why is sharing privileges with others working against your own self-interest? Isn’t is in your best interest to have a more level playing field, which would go a long way to ease tensions between various privileged and non-privileged groups? A more equitable society benefits EVERYONE involved, not just the privileged few who don’t want to share if it means “giving up an advantage.”

    I’m paraphrasing from another explanation about privilege I read awhile ago, but I think the point is relevant here: “Those who have traditionally held societally-enshrined privileges realize that those privileges are in decline. They interpret this as persecution because privilege is all they have ever known. The defense of privilege is a defense of dominance and discrimination, but for those who benefit it’s a defense of their traditional way of life. But in a free society, such privileges are inappropriate.”

  126. Great analogy. I think the problem with being in a specific demographic is that it is very hard to “experience” what is actually happening to other folks of other demographics. This dynamic creates a problem of perspective unless said demographic tries to immerse themselves into the challenges of other demographics or until an issue hits the mainstream that provides some needed context. Some will choose to ignore the implications or historical context of these mainstream issues.

    We have such a mainstream issue hitting the airwaves right now with Gay Marriage. We keep hearing rich, married, white males tell the country how we cannot evaluate over a thousand years of tradition just because people ask them to. They then tie that “tradition” to religion in an effort to make it harder for folks that disagree to do so by relying on words like “sin”, “abomination”, and other rhetoric. Very reminicient of the issues of slavery and separate but equal. I bring this up because we have some folks right now playing the game at a harder difficulty setting getting slapped in the face just because they want the same consideration as everyone else in the U.S.

    I think your article is very well timed Sclazi. Thanks for posting!

  127. Chris writes:
    How can I make the world better? I really want to know. I don’t want to play with loaded dice — but if what you’re saying is true, I don’t have any choice, do I? Nobody with a moral bone in his body wants to win because of an unfair advantage.

    “Honey, you’re cute, that’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off, that’s not fair. You were born in America, that’s not fair. Darling, you had better get down on your knees and pray that things don’t start getting fair for you.” — P.J. O’Rourke to his daughter.

    Actually, I think to a significant degree, people are generally willing to do well in life because of a better starting position, even moral ones. Parents give enormously of themselves for the very purpose of loading the dice for their offspring as much as humanly possible.

  128. Catherine Shaffer:

    I disagree! I am a PARTICULAR SELF-IMPORTANT INTERNET BLOGGER. So THERE.

    Also: Is there another type of blogger besides an Internet blogger?

  129. A more equitable society benefits EVERYONE involved, not just the privileged few who don’t want to share if it means “giving up an advantage.”

    Indeed. But I have to say, I appreciate Ian being so straightforward. He’s fully aware that the situation is unfair and imbalanced to his benefit. And he’s willing to say, in public, “That’s okay. I got mine.”

    Not everyone is okay with admitting their selfishnes so openly.

  130. Also: Is there another type of blogger besides an Internet blogger?

    Yes.. there is the Interweebs!* blogger.. namely yours truly

    *Interweebs is a wholly owned trademark/copyright/subsidiary of DigitalAtheist Ink. Violaters WILL be prosecuted, or at least recieve a harsh stare from across the Interweebs!

  131. A quick note directed at those upset about affirmative action policies that give black and Hispanic folks a leg-up over white folks (like Kilroy @ 1:24). Right now, in the college admissions game, white folks, as a result of those exact same policies, have a leg-up over Asians. See (http://chronicle.com/article/Asian-Americans-the-New-Jews/131729/): “According to the Princeton sociologist Thomas J. Espenshade, Asian-Americans need SAT scores about 140 points higher than white students—all other things being equal—to get into elite colleges.”

    I think that article has a whole set of other issues, and I disagree with a lot of it, but I thought that one stat was interesting and worth calling out.

  132. @raesh: I think when you start with wealth, it is automatically easier from birth. And a straight black female starting at birth from a wealthy female has an easier path than a straight white male starting from the same wealth. This is usually because affirmative action and diversity don’t actually help those that need the help, but tend to be of most benefit to the minorities that are already from upper middle class families.

  133. I’m afraid you’ve been playing Life 1.0. The new version Life 2.0 has been adjusted to make straight white male just as hard or more difficult than the other classes. This is especially true if you start the game with the default Christian setting (SWCM). Consider:

    – A SWCM that tries to stand up for his religious beliefs is ridiculed. Even though this country was founded by SWCM that wanted a place where they could be free to stand up for their religious beliefs.

    – Non-SWCM that stand up for their beliefs are all protected by free speech laws, anti-hate laws, and more, nobody seems to care when a SWCM is mocked for their religion, but mock a non-SWCM for anything and you better hope you never need to run for public office or start a company.

    – Non-SWCM that want to advertise, solicit, or promote their life style or ethnic pride are encouraged and allowed.

    – SWCM that try to do the same are sued, ridiculed, and in some cases have their property vandalized.

    – A non-SWM has an endless list of resources available to them that SWCM are forbidden to take advantage of:
    — Minority-only scholarships (one example: http://tinyurl.com/3zxubyk),
    — Laws that require colleges to admit a certain percentage of non-SWCM even if there are SWCM that are more qualified.
    — Laws that create incentives for organizations to hire non-SWCM even if there are SWCM that are more qualified.
    — Laws that give non-SWM incentives and grants when they start a business.

    — Not only are none of these incentives available for SWM, if someone tried to start a SWM-only scholarship, legislative action, or grant program, they would be sued into oblivion by the ACLU.

    I agree that Life 1.0 was lousy for non-SWM, and non-SWCM. But given all the resources and incentives available to them, I just can’t believe that Life 2.0 is any harder for non-SWM than it is for SWM.

  134. You’re brilliant, you.

    Also: really wish your blog’s comments came with a youtube-style like/dislike counter, so I could insert a “x straight white males have poor reading comprehension” comment here.

  135. I’m… stuck thinking that it’s kind of a poorly-stated analogy, since it leaves social class to the side with a throwaway comment on wealth.

    As it is, “Wealth is the god stat in that game; it’s so broken it’s not funny” wandered right through my head.

    If he’d explained it as “lower class”, “middle class”, and “upper class” are three whole different games, and “straight white male” is the lowest difficulty setting on each one (and it’s a setting that makes character exports upwards between game easier), I’d be with him much more wholeheartedly.

  136. Tom G:

    “The new version Life 2.0 has been adjusted to make straight white male just as hard or more difficult than the other classes.”

    You’re apparently playing a very early alpha build, Tom G. One that’s not likely to get past the development stage.

    Also, your “victim” module seems not to be working nearly as well as you apparently seem to believe it is. Please file a bug report.

    Everyone else:

    As I’ve noted over at Twitter, there’s a whole lot of 101 going on around here. For those of you engaging in it, bless you. There’s a lot to do, apparently.

  137. As one whose initial reaction to the word “privilege” was pretty much exactly what John describes in his post, I really appreciate this–and I’m not even a gamer.

  138. I just can’t believe that Life 2.0 is any harder for non-SWM than it is for SWM

    That would be a failure of imagination on your part I’m afraid.

    Like the ‘war on Christmas’ and other made up things, this is most probably a selection effect based on the quests you’re undertaking and the Guild you’re hanging around with. If you try changing Guilds and spend a little more time talking to other NPCs you might discover that what you think is Life 2.0 is actually marketing hype from a rival game company and hasn’t been released yet and probably never will be.

  139. Scalzi: I know, I know, expecting a Leftie to spell out facts, pay attention to statistics, make a good argument and all around deal with reality is too much. Much better lay out the convenient-to-the-leftist-powers-that-be mythology and dismiss or bully through mockery and intimidation those that actually ask pointed questions or bring up “inconvenient truths”.

  140. Scorpius, I think you’re conflating “what I believe to be true” with facts. There’s a significant difference.

  141. And “consciousness raising 101″? Could you be more of an un-self-aware parody of yourself?

  142. Scorpius:

    As you neither bring up pointed questions nor inconvenient truths, how would you know?

    You do often attempt snark and make unsubstantiated assertions that you don’t bother to source, but that’s not the same thing, now, is it.

    When you can bring something to the party other than tiresome reflexive spew, do let me know. But not on this thread, because three (four!) contentless comments is your limit, and you’re off it now.

  143. For those who are asking now what. We know we are playing on easy, but what do you want us to do about it? James King brought something up earlier. Each of us is an NPC in the lives of everyone around us, and as such we actually SET the difficulty level of the game for everyone else. You want to make a difference then start examining your own life and behavior for ways that you treat Straight White Men differently from everyone else, and try resetting your defaults. The problem is that it is harder then you might think because the bias is so deeply ingrained in our culture that many people apply it completely unintentionally. Overt sexism/racism, etc. is relatively easy to fight, both in other people and in yourself. It is much more subtle stuff that really does the damage. Like this blog post about how women are not crazy, society just sets out to make us think we are. http://thecurrentconscience.com/blog/2011/09/12/a-message-to-women-from-a-man-you-are-not-%E2%80%9Ccrazy%E2%80%9D/. That is just one example (that came quickly to both mind and google), but it is the kind of thing that gets under the skin and really adds up over time. So you are playing on easy and you really want to make a difference, just remember that you are on of the characters handing out experience to other players, you can ignore their difficulty setting if you want to.

  144. And, Kilroy, I have to add one more thing. You keep looking at this on the career / wealth axis, and saying rich black women have it easier. That’s just one axis. Sure, your hypothetical rich black woman might have a better chance at getting into law school and getting a good job and making partner after. (Right now, in this particular historical moment, when there are some companies and societies trying hard to level the career playing field.)

    But she still has a way higher chance than your hypothetical rich white man of getting assaulted on the street, date-raped in college, beaten up by a boyfriend or husband, and/or killed by the same. Never mind the host of diseases she might get that research neglects because the smart money focuses on men’s health problems, the specific risks of pregnancy and childbirth, the specific mental issues that come with being a teenage girl in our society (anorexia and bulimia are endemic) etc. and so on. Career success is not the only measurement of ease in life, or of success.

    I have a daughter and a son, both very small right now. They will both grow up smart, well-educated, relatively wealthy, and if they are lucky, healthy. But unless the world changes overnight (or possibly if we reinstitute the draft), I am likely to worry a lot more about my daughter’s safety in the next few decades.

  145. Okay – Tom, let’s take this point by point.

    ” A SWCM that tries to stand up for his religious beliefs is ridiculed. Even though this country was founded by SWCM that wanted a place where they could be free to stand up for their religious beliefs.”
    How many non-Christians are there in government? In what way are Christian’s ridiculed (No, not being able to oppress other people doesn’t count). This nation was founded by a lot of Deists, on a principle of secularism – which is to say religion doesn’t belong in government. Period.

    “- Non-SWCM that stand up for their beliefs are all protected by free speech laws, anti-hate laws, and more, nobody seems to care when a SWCM is mocked for their religion, but mock a non-SWCM for anything and you better hope you never need to run for public office or start a company.”
    See above. The fact that you are losing the ability to be more special doesn’t mean you’re oppressed. I get that you’re used to being above the fray, but coming down to the level with the rest of us isn’t oppression.

    “- Non-SWCM that want to advertise, solicit, or promote their life style or ethnic pride are encouraged and allowed.”
    Because Virginia just didn’t prevent a gay man from being a judge because he was gay – oh wait, they did. Also, see the NYC Mosque.

    ” SWCM that try to do the same are sued, ridiculed, and in some cases have their property vandalized.”
    Well yes, if you want to advocate that other people are sub-human on the basis of color, creed, or orientation (or a laundry list of other things) you can’t really do that.

    ” A non-SWM has an endless list of resources available to them that SWCM are forbidden to take advantage of:
    — Minority-only scholarships (one example: http://tinyurl.com/3zxubyk),
    — Laws that require colleges to admit a certain percentage of non-SWCM even if there are SWCM that are more qualified.
    — Laws that create incentives for organizations to hire non-SWCM even if there are SWCM that are more qualified.
    — Laws that give non-SWM incentives and grants when they start a business.
    – Not only are none of these incentives available for SWM, if someone tried to start a SWM-only scholarship, legislative action, or grant program, they would be sued into oblivion by the ACLU.”

    All of these are to affect the fact that you already have those things. SCWM already *have* that leg up. What d you think legacy students are? Also your second point is a red herring – that’s illegal.

  146. I’ve never read your blog prior to this post. This is a great metaphor. I plan on integrating it in my teaching, and I’ll credit you for it. Thank you.

  147. This is the geekiest sociological discussion I’ve ever read. Well played, Scalzi.

    My $.02: I think a lot of discomfort with the word ‘privilege’ has to do with the individualistic nature of American society. Guys don’t like the idea that we’ve been ‘given’ anything because it challenges the belief that we all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Our society is geared to make us uncomfortable with the idea that such privilege exists, even though it completely does.

    Whether I’m (as a SWM) comfortable with having that described as privilege is irrelevant, because it doesn’t make it less true.

  148. Ian wrote: “Has our lives as SWM gotten better since we began ditching our “privileges”? That’s arguable — and very much informed by our perspective. As SWMs. I think we’re going to need a far more compelling and intellectually honest argument than that before we can proceed any further.”

    So, I’m supposed to make the “stop doing the things that make your life better at the expense of others” argument based entirely off of why it’s in your own best interests? Was it in the best interests of white American slaveowners to get rid of slavery? Is it in the best interests of straight couples to allow their special legal standing to also be conferred on gay couples? Is it in the best interests of the extremely wealthy to give more of their money to the poor? Was it in the interests of South African whites to ditch apartheid?

    Or, in every case, is action spurred by empathy, shame, and fear of being a douchebag?

    In case you haven’t been following the discussion, the point of nerfing the easy setting is NOT to make life better for the people on easy setting.

  149. Note: several solutions to the above problem are being tested on the “Academia” PvP server (whose use is essentially mandatory for all new players). These solutions include radically different server configurations and a reversed difficulty curve. However, long-term SWM player use of this server is not advisable due to repeated documented bugs, including documented instances of moderator-approved anti-SWM instakills, an unmoderated and easily exploited kick system, kernel instruction corruption, privilege escalation exploits, and most worrisome, statistics showing gaps in achievement between players on different difficulty settings in spite of adjustments.

    Which wouldn’t be a problem, except some QA testers think these are features, not bugs, and wish to see them applied to all servers in order to solve the difficulty curve issue described in the above report…

  150. Tom, I was just quoting research on college admission, which I don’t think in dispute. You’re talking about Ph.D.’s granted in the sciences — that’s going to include foreign students, yes? Foreign students are just one factor that’s likely to lead to more Asians in the sciences. Massive parental pressure on young Asians in college to major in sciences is another. I could go on.

    I actually totally understand why colleges might want to set the admissions bar higher for Asians than for whites. I’m just pointing out that they do, for those who might not be aware.

  151. “You’re apparently playing a very early alpha build, Tom G. One that’s not likely to get past the development stage.”

    Considering the current trends, I don’t see how you can believe that:

    – Compare the rights of minorities 100 years ago, to 50 years ago, to today. Which way is that trend going, up or down?

    – Compare the number of non-SWM PhD holders over that same time period, which way is that trend going?

    – Likewise for political positions, business leadership, number of states that allowed gay marriage, etc…

    It’s true that most current legislation favors the majority. Welcome to democracy, that’s how it works. If you want to minority viewpoints to dictate legislation than you’re either going to have to:

    1. Work hard to become a leader (like Obama did)
    2. Start your own country where you’re no longer the minority (like the pilgrims did)
    3. Convince the majority that your ideas are better than traditional ones (like MLK did)

    Sitting around and complaining about how unfair life has historically been a recipe for failure.

  152. Um – our democracy explicitly protects the rights of the minority from the tyranny of that majority.

  153. Compare the rights of minorities 100 years ago, to 50 years ago, to today. Which way is that trend going, up or down?

    Hopefully up. Doesn’t change the central thesis one jot though,

  154. Some things here. First, I think that Scalzi has come up with an excellent metaphor for the starting state of things. I could think of a few, slightly geekier ones that would be more applicable (such as rolling for stats in D&D without a reroll option), but it’s a good starting metaphor.

    What it does not account for is a clear statement of tribal loyalties (which is just lazy, given how much of this is implemented on existing games. Scalzi, I’m doubting your console gaming cred here.)

    Whichever tribe you belong to, you have a bonus in dealing with members of that tribe, and a penalty in dealing with members of other tribes. So SWM have a bonus in dealing with other SWM, but perhaps a negative chance of getting special treatment from GBF- they may feel he’s gotten enough of a break as it is. GBF may have a bonus in dealing with other GBF, who will work hard to give her a leg up, but a severe penalty in dealing with SWM. The tribal actions are remarkably similar. However, the size and influence of the tribe are not comparable. There are more SWMs, and more powerful SWMs, then there are GBFs. So there are more opportunities for SWMs to have an easy time than there are GBFs. At the same time, there are more SWMs, so they gain a lesser individual advantage all time. Yet the effects are cumulative, so they come out ahead.

    Where this often goes wrong, is that we, as liberal, enlightened individuals, ask the SWMs to either remove themselves from the protection of the tribe (refuse to take benefits not accorded to others) or to work to collectively lower the influence of their tribe. (Benefit programs come out of taxes, etc) So we are asking them to work against their tribe, /at the same time/ as we are asking the other tribes to really unite and work for the interests of their tribe in the interests of solidarity.

    And many of these things /are/ zero sum games. Affirmative action brings neither more seats to universities nor jobs to employers: it merely forces both to be more diverse, thus lowering the amount of slots available for SWM and making each individual’s chance of getting their desired goal less likely. They are being asked to work against their interests in the name of “fairness.”

    I’m not a SWM, but I think if we’re going to have conversations about race with them, we need to acknowledge that.

  155. Just because you’re on the easiest mode doesn’t mean that you won’t hit a ceiling once you get to a certain level. Just ’cause you’re on the easiest mode doesn’t mean that the grinding won’t get to you.

    It just means you’ve got fewer mobs and they don’t inflict as much damage.

  156. @Matt W: obviously, there are a lot of people that “absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair” – Crimson DNA.

    As I said earlier, my view may be skewed by my profession and I’m open to the possibility. But I think starting wealth is a more important variable than starting race and race and minority status can be an advantage at certain levels.

  157. @ Tom G. You’ve confused not being able to have your own way all the time with actual oppression.

  158. “I just can’t believe that Life 2.0 is any harder for non-SWM than it is for SWM”

    Then you’re not listening hard enough because countless people here have asserted that this is not the case. For example, just because the Civil Right Act was passed in 1964, racism still exists, and institutionalized racism still borks the playing field in many occupation fields/geographic regions for people who are not white. It’s 2012 and we’re STILL debating whether women have the right to control their own fertility instead of being treated as babymakers. The Violence Against Women Act hasn’t been renewed because the GOP objects to language in the renewal that extends to transgendered people, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants.

    And THIS??

    “- A SWCM that tries to stand up for his religious beliefs is ridiculed. Even though this country was founded by SWCM that wanted a place where they could be free to stand up for their religious beliefs.

    – Non-SWCM that stand up for their beliefs are all protected by free speech laws, anti-hate laws, and more, nobody seems to care when a SWCM is mocked for their religion, but mock a non-SWCM for anything and you better hope you never need to run for public office or start a company.

    – Non-SWCM that want to advertise, solicit, or promote their life style or ethnic pride are encouraged and allowed.

    – SWCM that try to do the same are sued, ridiculed, and in some cases have their property vandalized.”

    That’s not persecution, that’s a reflection of a reality in which SWCM aren’t being treated as a special protected class – privileged, one might say – as much as they used to be. It’s not being oppressed, it’s being treated in the exact same way non-SWCMs have traditionally been treated. It’s being made to share all the cookies in the jar with everyone, instead of doling them out when you feel like being magnanimous (and being angry at others for wanting their fair share when they should be satisfied with the pieces you’re willing to give them).

    I’m just going to repeat from my earlier comment because apparently it can’t be repeated enough: Those who equate the decline of their privilege with persecution do so because it’s ALL THEY HAVE EVER KNOWN. They need to become conscious of their privileges and realize that in a free society, SUCH PRIVILEGES ARE INAPPROPRIATE.

  159. Muse:

    Don’t confuse him with facts!

    Tom G:

    “Considering the current trends, I don’t see how you can believe that”

    It’s because your alpha build seems to be coded by paranoids who seem to believe that making life less institutionally biased for others means HORRIBLE HORRIBLE things for the people currently getting unearned advantages. Don’t think it’ll get out of play testing.

  160. As a straight white female, I definitely understand the lower difficult setting analogy, and agree that it would be even less difficult had I been born male. This was very well explained and very intelligently discussed. For the most part. Though I admit that I mostly read the comments to see the smack downs… they’re really quite enjoyable.

  161. @John Scalzi:

    “I find generally speaking when I get crucified, it’s not for going out of my not to to be a flaming jerk, it’s when I show my ass and then refuse to acknowledge the ass-showing. ”

    Funny story: know a dude, SWM, liberal, graduated from college and professional school, married a fellow professional, felt properly guilty about his SWM privilege (lowest difficulty settings) and set out to make up for that guilt and make the playing field more fair for everyone. In the process he gave up, voluntarily, a more lucrative career and time he would have preferred investing in a family to work for political and economic equality for women. Became a towering beacon of straight white male sensitivity for the entire community. Marched, voted, organized, agitated, used his Whiteness and Maleness for good, all the while being a devoted husband and respected (as well as a SWM can be) member of his fairly liberal community. He wanted to start a family, but his wife persuaded him to wait until they had better established themselves and struck a blow for justice before they settled down. He reluctantly agreed, but he agreed. And he put everything he had into it.

    The moment his wife had an affair and started divorce proceedings, this towering pillar of virtue was abandoned by nearly every non-SWM friend he had. Women who he’d worked for on issues for years shunned him for no other reason than his wife had left him and he was therefore just another SWM asshole — despite any assholish behavior on his part. His wife just wasn’t attracted to him anymore, met someone, and when they split . . . well, she got the community (and their sympathy) in the divorce. The years of his working for the benefit of the community were forgotten, his service was discounted and ignored, even his presence at events of common interest with his wife were met with aggressive resistance. Once he had lost the non-SWM validation his wife provided, the rest of the community turned on him for no particular reason except his race, gender, and sexual preference. He was “them” after that. So “them” that he felt compelled to move thousands of miles away because the well was so poisoned against him.

    Aw, poor white dude, I know.

    I tell this to you for two reasons: first, the dude isn’t me, it’s a friend, and seeing a profoundly committed idealist run head-on into the realities of social interaction and get unjustly personally destroyed within the community he had such a long history defending and advancing was one of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed. He didn’t show his ass. He didn’t make himself a flaming jerk. He quietly liquidated his assets and moved away, all the “good” he’d done with his Whiteness dismissed for no particularly good reason. They still talk crap about him, and the dude never did anything to warrant that kind of vitriol. Anecdotal? Certainly. But instructive.

    And secondly because this man should have earned the respect of his community through doing as you and so many of your commenters has advocated — yet his reward wasn’t commiserate with what he sacrificed. He used his Whiteness for Good, and it got him exiled. Now he’s a lawyer who sues people for a living, not a social activist. He quit trying to make life fair, because all of his efforts to do so, every fiber of idealism he had, evaporated because of his gender, color, and sexual preference when the social situation changed. He considers himself “wiser” for the experience, and feels that he wasted a good chunk of his life attempting to make a system fair when it was ultimately he who was in the crosshairs.

    I’m a SWM. I acknowledge the benefits. I also acknowledge the negatives, which can be substantial if you’re not very smart. I happen to be smart enough not to let the negatives get in the way . . . but I would be hard pressed to counsel my sons to casually adopt an attitude of masculine noblesse oblige in a society which will forever condemn them for the evils of their male ancestors despite anything they themselves do or do not do. Once you’re a SWM, you’re guilty. Of everything. Fair or not, you are going to be judged for that, and you need to learn to live with it . . . or quit playing a game where the other players call you a cheater for just being there, everyone wants you to forfeit your best advantages for the “benefit of the party”, and where even if you weren’t born a king, you’re going to be condemned as one for just looking like him.

    Sure, “angry male whining” . . . so we’re dropping out. We’re marrying less, and when we do it’s later in life. We’re not taking jobs, nor promotions and we’re not going to grad school as much as we used to — why bother? More younger SWM are getting vasectomies, abandoning any serious attempt at starting a family, and seeing the world instead of becoming the responsible, guilt-ridden citizens they were intended to be. We’re “commitment-phobic” and “flaky” Guys who really just don’t care any more, because all of the impetus for us to care is tainted with unassailable guilt and no hope of respect for the future. And if everything we do and care about is tainted in the eyes of others, withdrawal and rejection are, really, the only sane options for a self-respecting SWM these days.

  162. I’m afraid you’ve been playing Life 1.0. The new version Life 2.0 has been adjusted to make straight white male just as hard or more difficult than the other classes. This is especially true if you start the game with the default Christian setting (SWCM). Consider:

    That should read as “Straight White “Alledged” “Christian” Male. Having been one of those in the past I’m able to say that just claiming you are “Christian” boosts the stats in your favor a lot more than you would believe.

    – A SWCM that tries to stand up for his religious beliefs is ridiculed. Even though this country was founded by SWCM that wanted a place where they could be free to stand up for their religious beliefs.

    First off… this country was not founded on such principles. If you will read the relevant documents–The Constitution and The Bible*–you will realize that one has nothing to do with the other. TTo quote Thomas Jefferson: “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
    Also: “What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.” James Madison.

    – Non-SWCM that stand up for their beliefs are all protected by free speech laws, anti-hate laws, and more, nobody seems to care when a SWCM is mocked for their religion, but mock a non-SWCM for anything and you better hope you never need to run for public office or start a company.

    Amphigory at best, bullshit at most common. Try being a non-“christian” in this U.S. of A. and see what response you get. Atheists such as I are the most despised people around, never mind that we fight for our country or equal rights for everyone in it.

    – Non-SWCM that want to advertise, solicit, or promote their life style or ethnic pride are encouraged and allowed.

    “Christians” are allowed to promote their faith ad nauseum on billboards, in state constitutiona amendments (see recent NC stupidity on same sex unions), and by the very fact that I can’t travel more than five miles without stumbling over a “church”.

    – SWCM that try to do the same are sued, ridiculed, and in some cases have their property vandalized.

    Except that they get to do it every wher in public: see also: MLB, NFL, NASCAR, NBA, various and sundry governmental assemblies… Etc… ad naseum/ad infinitium

    – A non-SWM has an endless list of resources available to them that SWCM are forbidden to take advantage of:
    — Minority-only scholarships (one example: http://tinyurl.com/3zxubyk),
    — Laws that require colleges to admit a certain percentage of non-SWCM even if there are SWCM that are more qualified.
    — Laws that create incentives for organizations to hire non-SWCM even if there are SWCM that are more qualified.
    — Laws that give non-SWM incentives and grants when they start a business.

    awwwwwwwwwwww… someone “nerfed” the playing field and made things level. Tough shit. You are a SWM… you are suppsed to have hair one your Scrotum of Privilege… deal with it!

    – Not only are none of these incentives available for SWM, if someone tried to start a SWM-only scholarship, legislative action, or grant program, they would be sued into oblivion by the ACLU.

    See above as regards “Scrotum of Privilege”

    I agree that Life 1.0 was lousy for non-SWM, and non-SWCM. But given all the resources and incentives available to them, I just can’t believe that Life 2.0 is any harder for non-SWM than it is for

    Try actually talking to/interactin with people who are actually stuck with “Real Life 1.0″. It exists every where.. just because we currently have a non-SWM President does NOT mean that we have equality in any way/shape/form.

  163. There’s a pretty (simple) way to deal with being a self-aware SWM and where to go from there: Don’t be bigoted, sexist, etc. Help those in need who were born into a more difficult position than you. Defend them from others if they need it, and don’t allow others to use their features they were born with against them. Play nicely with others and be openminded. Always be aware and don’t be a dick.

    No, it won’t solve All The World’s Problems but it will go a long way from all the SWM’s who care little about those on a harder difficulty than themselves and refuse to believe others don’t have it harder than they do (nor care.) If you already fit these quota? Great. Keep doing it. Go further and try and encourage others to be openminded and helpful to others.

    If me, a female nonheterosexual poor unemployed college student, can be openminded and still give to others who have it harder than me and open my heart to other’s need, it should be cake for ya’ll (unless you have literally no money and live in a box under the freeway – in which case you probably aren’t on the internet right now.)

  164. I wonder if one part of the communication-difficulty here is that (either consciously or subconsciously) some people are playing what they see to be a zero-sum game and playing to win, and don’t see any personal advantage to leveling the playing field (and, in fact, can only believe that advantages for others are going to make it harder for them to “win”). As opposed to people who see an alternate way to “win” (like, say, a world where a bigger win is to raise everyone’s score above a certain threshold, instead of just a high score for one individual.) If you’re playing for the first place, high score in a game that ranks players, it’s going to be harder to see why you should share your advantages, or even why you should admit that you have any.

  165. Just, you know, as a general point:

    No one is mad at you personally for being a straight, white guy. Or virtually no one.

    People might be mad at the sociological power of straight, white guys.

    But very, very few people hate straight, white guys.

    There are feminists who breathe more fire than I do, but as stats go, I’m definitely on the extreme leftist, feminist side, and neither I nor those I associate with are mad at straight, white guys for being straight, white guys.

    Some of my best allies (note that I didn’t say friends, although that also applies) are straight, white men, including, on a practical level (since we blog together) Barry Deutsch, Jeff Fecke, and Richard Jeffrey Newman.

  166. Excellent post. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to these issues and writing about them (specifically, on how to purge our own attitudes that contribute to racism/sexism/whateverism). You nailed it.

  167. I cannot get along with this article. I’m a straight white male, and The Real Life has been anything but easy. I come from a single-parent home. My mom had very little money; my dad didn’t contribute a huge amount of money. I had very few toys. The only way I was able to afford college was because my mom was in a very bad car accident and sued the guy and won a sizeable sum of money. That didn’t do anything for her physical well-being, and she’s had back problems because of it for almost as long as I can remember.

    Everything I’ve ever had in my life I’ve had to work for: house, car, etc. No special doors were every opened for me, unless I made the extra effort to force them open.

    This isn’t to discount the difficulties that minorities face in social & economic advancement. But to put all SWMs into the same bucket denies the complexity that is modern life.

  168. I’m pretty sure Senor Scalzi does not pretend to be covering every aspect of the issue he’s brought to light here regarding what is essentially a default setting in society. I would hope this kind of excellent, cogent post encourages further discussion of other aspects of the issue, such as using guilt as a motivator, class warfare, and populist rhetoric.

    But all things considered, as a straight, white, male Christian Mormon, who is also pretty libertarian, I really agree with the fundamental points made here.

    Sure, there’s plenty more to discuss, such as political will and who really benefits from legislation today, as well as the proper and appropriate role of government, but honestly, straight white males who argue against the historical precedents that support Scalzi’s point need to freaking well gain some humility.

  169. geekyknitter says this too.

    First step (for SWM types, or other easier difficulty levels): Recognize the game’s easier for you than it might be otherwise and that there’s nothing intrinsic in your deserving this. John’s post helps in doing this.

    Second step: Take action, help others with a higher difficultly level get a leg up in the game. It’s more fun to play the game like that.

    Third step: Recognize it’s only a game to those who are find it easy.

  170. “Also: Is there another type of blogger besides an Internet blogger?”

    Yes. They are the ones that blog on post-it notes on their bathroom walls. Comments are much more interesting, there.

  171. Ian, I’m really bewildered by part of your position. You seem to think the world will care if SWM decide to not marry, or not have children. “Sure, “angry male whining” . . . so we’re dropping out. We’re marrying less, and when we do it’s later in life. We’re not taking jobs, nor promotions and we’re not going to grad school as much as we used to — why bother? More younger SWM are getting vasectomies, abandoning any serious attempt at starting a family, and seeing the world instead of becoming the responsible, guilt-ridden citizens they were intended to be.”

    Dude, if that makes you happier, go for it. With my blessing. What’s the harm?

  172. Dang, when I found myself a single parent, I knew it was to darned easy, even when everybody kept heaping praise on me.

    Sarcasm aside, that was my standard answer.”I’m awhite male, the world is a white male world. This is not nearly as hard as it gets.”

  173. My main problem is having someone say “Your life was an easier setting because you are a SWM.” You have not lived my life. You do not know what I have faced. You don’t know anything about me. My life has been as impacted by the choices of others as much as anyone else.

    This is the problem when you try to look at any population and take that down to the level of the individual. I know there are ways to look at populations that are good when it comes to making policy and laws. I just feel that some of these conversations get out of hand when they get personal.

    Maybe my life has been harder than yours, maybe it was easier. Why don’t we not judge each other. I am not going to claim I had not help, why don’t you not claim I had it easy.

  174. I suspect that those using wealth as a distraction from the analogy either haven’t experienced the reality of not being SWM and/or have not experienced true poverty.

    I grew up (in the southwest US) living below the UN’s definition of absolute poverty—in fact below the level of deprivation of basic human need for youths. I am now in the upper middle class of the US income bracket, which makes me richer than most people in the world. I am a SWM.

    Many of my friends and family who did not have the SWM difficulty switch set for them are still stuck in the same (or nearly the same) situation into which they were born. In fact, most of the people I went to elementary school with (my family were the white minority in school) are either dead, strung out, or still living in the same conditions they were born to.

    Research shows that, all things being equal, it is easier to stay in the class to which you were born. But all things being equal, it is significantly easier to advance to a higher class if you have the SWM switch set for you at the beginning of the game.

  175. @Rachel Swirsky

    “No one is mad at you personally for being a straight, white guy. Or virtually no one.”

    I’ve been dragged over the coals repeatedly by “virtually no one” then, most of my life. There are indeed plenty of people who are pissed off with you just for being a straight white guy. But it doesn’t matter, because straight white guys have to sit there and take it, or they’re assholes — and then they really get the beat-down. But just being straight, male and white is enough for plenty of people to have a problem with you. And yes, they can get very, very personal.

    Perhaps you don’t see it as personal because it isn’t directed at you.

  176. Ian Ironwood:

    “And if everything we do and care about is tainted in the eyes of others, withdrawal and rejection are, really, the only sane options for a self-respecting SWM these days.”

    Yeeeeeeah, no. One, anecdote is not data, and you’re sharing anecdote. Two, what does any of this have to do with the fundamental thesis that “Straight White Male” is the easiest setting in life? As noted in the entry, “easiest setting” doesn’t mean “automatic win.”

    It really does seem you’re upset that everyone does not treat you with the respect you feel is your due. And, well: Life is like that. Doesn’t mean that as a Straight White Male, your defaults aren’t still on the “easy” setting.

  177. The analogy is excellent but imperfect on one point: the origin of the rules and the difficulty settings. These originate from the collective actions of all the players. How we each behave individually adds up to the entire rule set. Further, the game that we’re playing is like Nomic, where changing the rules is part of the gameplay.

    The real question is: are you happy with the rules as they are? If you’re not then you can use some of your moves to help change the rules. That doesn’t mean changing laws as much as it means keeping your actions in line with the rules you want to have. How you act and how you treat people every day matters.

    For my part, I have a fairly low difficulty setting, but I do my best to lower other people’s difficultly settings where I can.

  178. And Daniel, “I cannot get along with this article. I’m a straight white male, and The Real Life has been anything but easy. I come from a single-parent home. My mom had very little money; my dad didn’t contribute a huge amount of money. I had very few toys. ”

    Again, the point of the article was simply — if you were a gay black woman, born into the same circumstances as you were otherwise (single mom, not much money, etc.), your life would have been even harder than it was. Yes? That’s all the article is trying to say.

  179. All right, a little more about me so you gain some context and so we can all bloody well accept that ‘straight, white male’ is a description of a person’s general status, not a description of their history or a whitewashing of their individual struggles in life.

    I was raised as essentially an orphan in a hippy-founded fringe cult for the first 17 years of my life, whereupon I left. I then fought to join society and feel like I belonged. I found a place during my one year of public high school, then found another place a little while later. I paid for college, paid for travel, paid for cultural experiences here and abroad, and did so by working my @$$ off and making sacrifices. Married at 24, with 6 kids now (38 years old now), I’ve made mistakes that have screwed up my family, just like anyone else.

    I’m unique, just like the rest of the straight white males, but I’m not unique in the area of my general status. Scalzi’s metaphor is very accurate. I have no doubt that my already challenging life would have been perceptibly harder had my general status not been what it is.

  180. “As noted in the entry, “easiest setting” doesn’t mean “automatic win.” ”

    Is it possible to put that in big, bold letters? Because that seems to be a point that’s being missed repeatedly.

  181. @tibbets
    While the game is more difficult for anyone who chooses to play for the Vegan goals… It’s easier to stop being Vegan than stop being a Straight White Male.

    Also I was going to quibble about if the difficulty-setting really applies globally… But I remembered that for the recent archived versions of Real-Life there have been large economically prosperous regions where Straight White Males have reaction-stats bonuses, and where if you were a Straight White Male, you would be able to cross the border without a great deal of scrutiny. Of course, some Straight White Male subclasses are easier than other Straight White Male subclasses, but they’re all easier than any other class.

  182. Kilroy says: “Off hand, can’t think of any success stories that start in a trailer park in Mississippi.”

    You’ve never heard the story of a successful white man who pulled himself up out of poverty and became a successful in Business, or sports or some other avenue in Life?

    I can think of dozens off the top of my head, some of whom I know personally. (my Business partner: Rural Oregon born, trailer park living child of working class poverty and former marine for one. My rural Indiana born/povertystriken/foster-cared step dad who become a successful lawyer for another). Since you seemingly don’t have a wealth personal experience to draw upon, I’ll just point to two people off the top of my head:

    Poor white kid becomes successful millionaire athlete:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey_Huff

    How about the founder of wallmart? Poor white kid from Rural America.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Walton#Early_life

    This story happens all the time. If you don’t see it, its because you don’t want to, or are extremely sheltered or both. The Horatio Alger mythology is one that permeates American Culture, and there are literally too many “successful white males who were born into poverty but managed to escape it” to count. And before you say “that doesn’t happen to white people anymore” I’ll point you back at my business partner, who somehow managed to succeed and escape the trailer park, despite all that affirmative action out there.

  183. It is a great post, am surprised I was able to follow it so well without sweating the fact that am not a video game player. I do take issue with the comment on Dr.Stephen Hawkins-despite his incredible physical challenges, he received the privileges of being a straight White Male-his disability only served to enhance his privileges. Source? His book on his life.

  184. Reminds me of the story of the monk and the samurai. You know, the samurai asks the monk where is hell, and the monk insults him with a very base comment. The samurai is stunned, yet continues in hopes something was amiss in the communication. The samurai asks again and is met with another, even worse, comment. The samurai is mad now, and tells the monk to be careful what he says next, his hand upon his katana now. The monk offers yet another insult. Just as the samurai unsheathes his katana, the monk says, “Here is hell.” Oh, and the monk lives in the end.

  185. “If you frame the, er, advantage debate around the idea that straight or white or male or cisgendered people always have to give things up, people who are all of those things aren’t going to be very keen.”

    Well it’s true, ain’t it? It’s why people get their knickers in a knot over Title IX in sports – when you insist on parity it means that the previously advantaged group isn’t going to have as many open seats at the lunch counter as they used to. But I think you can simultaneously point out that they didn’t have some inherent right to those things in the first place: they were enjoying them at an advantaged rate.

    As far as dealing with that negative reaction I think it makes sense to just say that living a moral life isn’t always easy. It would be simpler to just walk out of stores without paying for things, cut ahead of people in line, make deals we don’t have any intention of honoring, etc.

    But living an ethical life has advantages as well, and not just being able to sleep at night. I feel the lack of diversity in my life working in the computer field, and when I have been at more diverse places it’s been a better environment in a lot of different ways. Applying to work at places that would only hire folks of my ilk might have meant less competition but some games aren’t worth winning.

  186. Kilroy:

    I’ll also note I lived in a trailer park when I was a teenager. True, in California, not Mississippi. Maybe getting that extra sun made a difference?

  187. Daniel, in your rush to feel personally attacked by John’s metaphor, you seem to have missed the part where not all SWMs are, in fact, being lumped in the same bucket. In addition to the S, W and M categories, a number of other categories also randomly applied at birth (er, I mean, at character creation) that will affect the difficulty level- amount of wealth, socioeconomic status and education of parents, stability of childhood, absence or presence of disabilities, etc. No one denies that, and no one is trying to deny your skill at succeeding despite your difficulty setting, or tell you that you were just lucky, rather than worthy of your successes. Instead, you’re being asked to recognize that difficulty settings themselves are randomly applied, and that they significantly effect the game in ways that have nothing to do with the skill and determination of the player. You already recognize this from your own experiences, and can apply it to your interactions with others, making choices based on this recognition, rather than ignoring it.

  188. @Jared: The details of my life are quite inconsequential… very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds- pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum… it’s breathtaking- I highly suggest you try it.

  189. @John Scalzi
    “As noted in the entry, “easiest setting” doesn’t mean “automatic win.””

    If you will please educate the rest of the players on the server about this, that would go a long way towards fixing this bug. Apparently there are an overabundance of them who make just this assumption, and then attempt to incorporate that into their strategies. It’s making the system unstable enough where the game is getting more and more frustrating for said players, which could have a dramatic impact on the game’s long-term viability. While many in the Design department want to see this as a feature, not a bug, the fact is that without these particular players future versions are going to become increasingly unstable and, ultimately, unplayable. Unless the ultimate goal of the game is the elimination of this player class altogether, which certain design teams see as an eventual benefit, then a dramatic re-framing of the game in regards to the lowest possible difficulty setting must happen before further constructive development can be undertaken.

    And yeah, it was anecdotal, not statistical. It was meant to be. Statistically, SWM are putting off marriage up to 10 years later — if at all — in response to their fallen estate. There are, apparently, elements of this game that are indeed zero-sum.

  190. as metaphors go, this seems pretty clear and kids these days have all pretty much played some video game so”difficulty level” should be something they’re all familiar with. The metaphor also works in making it clear that the goal is to get everyone’s difficulty setting down to “easy”.

    The problem I have with the term “privilege” is that privilege is commonly understood to refer to something that can be taken away, versus a right which should not be taken away. Driving is a privilege. Get caught driving drunk and the state can take your drivers license away. Things commonly described as “privilege” that a straight white male has are more often than not actually things that should not be taken away from straight white males to create equality, but rather should be granted to everyone. Straight white males usually dont have to worry about being stopped by the police for being straight, white, or male. But if that is a “privilege” then that implies it can be taken away, like a drivers license, to create equality. The goal, I would hope, is not to make straight white males subject to police profiling, but to end the practice of police profiling for everyone.

    Most things called “privileges” arent things that ought be taken away to create equality. More often they refer to things that everyone should enjoy but some do not.

    The “difficulty level” metaphor is way better in describing the problem and the etymology doesnt suggest the wrong solution. Everyone should start out on the “easy” level.

  191. Damn, all this time I’ve been playing on the EASY setting? Shit, I must SUCK at this game.
    Makes me wonder why more people don’t choose QUIT more often. Look, no one short of a sociopath thinks the playing field is even, but I think characterizations such as those in this article are not really helpful in the end, unless your goal is to have every straight white male feel guilty and self-loathsome. It’s patently absurd, like the Eddie Murphy “White Like Me” skit from SNL.

  192. I love how this article comes out and is completely sexist… just because someone is of a particular sex, doesn’t make their life any easier or harder… Today’s society is a lot tougher for white males period, compared to 50 years ago.

  193. Did Reddit’s /r/mensrights board link to this essay? I’m not going to step into that particular cesspool of cray-cray to find out.

    In any event, they’re doing as good a job in displaying the issues the piece presented as the piece itself.

  194. Easiest level for human player in “the game”: Wealthy, Intelligent, First World Country Citizen.

    All other considerations are far behind.

  195. This would be interesting if someone factored in all the relevant variables and turned it into a real game. It might add some insight to the whole discussion and prove some arguments and disprove others. Years ago Yale did a study on the effects of having an economic advantage. They used Monopoly with players starting off with different amounts of money to illustrate the advantage it created. WIth our advanced game development capabilities, this essay could go to the next level.

  196. Not only is this the best and easiest to understand metaphor on the subject of privilege, it might be the best metaphor ever

    When having this conversation in the future, this will now be my default setting for trying to explain the concept of advantage to those who have no perception of having one

  197. @JT Yeah, when I was 20 or so, I used to think simply offending someone was the same thing as making an actual point. It isn’t. You certainly CAN offend someone while making a point, but that’s incidental.

    Pissing someone off can, (and often does), fill one with a sense of accomplishment, but the accomplishment is that you managed to push someones buttons. That you manipulated someone into getting emotional. Congrats, it’s usually not too difficult to do. The problem is when you confuse that with “being right”. Is denial of “being wrong” the ONLY POSSIBLE explanation of someone taking offense? Think about it.

  198. Great discussion… one thought for those who claim that some person of color got a job or got into a university instead of a WSM who was “more qualified.”… What is it that makes you believe they were “more qualified?” When someone needs to pass a test to be qualified for a job or admission into a school, scoring higher on the test, doesn’t make the person “more qualified.” When I got my drivers license, I didn’t get a special license because I got a perfect score…. I qualified for a driver’s license. Its the same thing for admissions. Once you cross the qualified line you are qualified. They could draw lots if they wanted to for making selection or use any other criteria. Classic SWM thinking that one should not only pass the test that may or may not have anything to do with the job or ability to perform in school but that one should also be the BEST test taker…

  199. Good think you tried to distance yourself from the word “privilege,” so as to not let the discussion be overrun with overly defensive “SWM” commentary.

  200. This is a clever article about a lie (but I’m just so lucky and don’t know it!). It could have just as easily, and more accurately, been written with “wealth” or “class” as the difficulty level, and “race” and “sex” as stat points. But if your point is that “we white boys have it so easy”, then I suppose it’s easier to do it that way. Clever way of describing a stupid and untrue assertion.

  201. oh, and the game metaphor really helps on on another important front: just because the game setting is “easy” doeant mean you will automatically win and doesnt mean that the random position on the map the computer puts you at, or the random supplies and skills the computer gives you at the beginning, cant make the game harder for you than for others.

  202. Apparently this ‘Game’ has a lot of flaws, one major one is that in any RPG you have beliefs represented by sects, cults, religions, philosophies, gods… what have you. Followers of certain beliefs actually get bonuses and new abilities applied to a characters overall abilities… much like the profession they choose, provides them abilities and specialties that other characters only long for… Strictly speaking, if you are going to make it more “realistic”… you need to account for these in your game. Spouting platitudes in a made up game that is limited by the message you are trying to convey… really makes this a one sided issue, and hardly objective… and completely unrealistic. It really makes you sound like the guy that makes up new rules in Monopoly, when playing with their kid brother, just to get an advantage. Why dn’t you imagine these “Religious” additions, and maybe a few other items such as how the country compares to others in opportunity… and give bonuses for living in the USA. From what I read… at this point, this argument is not based on any real game theory or unbiased perspective. Seriously… if you simply added Budhism for example, the game would change quite dramatically… since their message is quite different: (i.e. ”A man once told the Buddha, ‘I want happiness’. The Buddha said remove the ‘I’ that’s ego, now remove the ‘want’ that’s desire, now all you are left with is, Happiness.”)…It sounds like maybe some budhist philosophy might make your character sheet… grow in some areas of thought that might help him succeed in his life. Heck, you might just be one of those that realizes happiness… right after they read that tidbit. If so, would your character be considered a winner in your RPG game?

  203. It seems a bit offensive to boil advantage and disadvantage down to simply Race, Sex and Orientation. I’m sorry, but there are plenty of other ways your can start out with an ‘advantage’ or a disadvantage in one area or the other, and your simplistic argument is offensive to those of us who have overcome significant challenges that don’t fit in your narrow definition of ‘easy’

  204. @jlassenjlassen Nope, not trolling, just stating the obvious that is blatantly spattered all over this article.

  205. @Scalzi: have to live in a trailer park to afford going to a high school with its own museum? I don’t think that fits the nature of the claim.

  206. “Today’s society is a lot tougher for white males period, compared to 50 years ago”
    Oh, thank goodness your comparison was time-based, because if you’d ended that with a comparison to any other group of people, I’d have been on the floor laughing at the absurdity.
    However, I still think you’re wrong. 50 years ago, everyone had it harder. Sure, some people (actually, some straight white able bodied males with money and education, and a vanishingly small percentage of people with most of these traits) had it way easier than anyone else. This was because often, they were the only people allowed to play the game at all. But they were fewer and further between, even among people with the same characteristics, in particular with respect to the issues of money, education and able-bodiedness. 1962 was no picnic for the majority of people. The blessings heaped upon the few are now accessible to, if not the many, at least more, how is this a bad thing?

  207. If you want to take the idea further I suggest reading:

    Monday Original Content: Non-Western SF Roundtable (Part 1)

    Original Content: Non-Western SF Roundtable (Part 2)

    Where a round table of non-SWMs discuss the issues of writers who could well be SWMs writing about non-white non-western cultures and what implications it may have and how to in part 2 that shouldn’t stop you trying though passing it through someone of the culture you are writing about might not hurt.

    They also address the ideas of the ‘universal’ using a great example of how white woman are used to sell cosmetics and what being white in that context may represent.

    The problem with SWM default is that it’s viral automatically assumes that infecting everyone around it makes the world better like having a Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere you visit including the Arctic

  208. Ian Ironwood:

    Speak for yourself. I put off having a kid until I was 30 because
    1) I wasn’t emotionally ready to support a kid in my 20s
    2) I also had enough foresight to want a stable financial situation, and
    3) my parents, school, and church weren’t stupid enough to teach me abstinence-only.[1]
    4) I had my parents as a negative example of what happens if you have a kid too soon.

    Might it be that people with more education are putting off having a kid until later in life?

    [1] as a nerdy introvert, I had a preexisting advantage here.

  209. >> And if everything we do and care about is tainted in the eyes of others, withdrawal and rejection are, really, the only sane options for a self-respecting SWM these days.>>

    I could have sworn I heard someone say, “How awful it is to be prejudged by conditions you have no control over. If only others could possibly understand this pain.” Maybe just an echo.

    Withdrawal and rejection are, presumably, your recommended strategies for everyone else, too, since they’re the only sane options you see for not being fulsomely appreciated for all one’s sterling qualities. But I can’t agree with your arrogation of the term “self-respecting.” I think there are plenty of self-respecting SWMs who disagree with your assessment of the sane options, just as there are plenty of self-respecting non-SWMs who’ve helped improve things for all by not assuming withdrawal and rejection are the only sane responses to tribulation.

  210. @CJSF the proper term for QUIT is EXIT. And yes there are plenty of players who try to EXIT the game of LIFE. Som are stuck in “Program nor responding” and some hit CTRL/ALT/DEL. (no this isn’t some slam: as noted above… way above… I’ve had friends of all levels and one whit C/A/D a few times ’til he got it right/wrong).

    As a SWM player, I long ago understood I’ve got it “good” even though I’m on the low end of SWM’dom.Better than being Cambodian drafted at 10 to fight in war-dom!. ;-)

  211. “Today’s society is a lot tougher for white males period, compared to 50 years ago.”

    All evidence to the contrary, I’m sure. Although if by “tougher” you mean “having to compete with non-SWMs on an increasingly more level playing field,” sure. Movement to a more equitable society isn’t a bad thing at all – unless you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to share.

  212. Awesome, I have been trying top find a way to explain this to those who claim that they did it all on their own. This is a great place to start well done

  213. Not much I could add to this post, and I’m afraid I don’t have time to read the whole comment thread (though I will later if I have time). I just wanted to make a quick observation, and I apologize if I’m repeating what’s already been said.

    While there are plenty of straight white dudes who are oblivious to their privilege, I suspect many who have an allergic reaction to the term do so out of a misconception that it’s a form of indictment for catching a break, and most people naturally don’t care to be blamed for the circumstances, whether fortunate or unfortunate, of their birth. Which is why your metaphor is such an awesome way to describe privilege. Again, there are definitely straight white dudes who don’t realize they’ve caught a break in three categories, and still others who realize it but don’t care that others haven’t. And there are some non-straight non-white and/or non-dudes who do resent and/or blame those who caught those breaks.

    But I firmly believe that most non-straight non-white and/or non-dudes simply resent that society gives people breaks for how they are born, and do not resent the existence of the straight white dudes or blame us for the circumstances of our birth. In most cases the bitterness that may infuse the word privilege is directed at the lottery itself, not its winners, and that can be confusing since the privilege itself is indeed ascribe to the winners.

    @ John

    Sorry I used the word privilege four times (technically five now) and, strictly speaking, did not follow your admonishment. If you decide that my comment does not add anything constructive to the debate, or is otherwise off-topic, I accept the business end of the Mallet without protest.

  214. Spot on post, etc. I find it humerous that some SWM here question what we should do with our privaleged setting. There are many quotes such as “To whom much is given, much is expected” and “With great power comes great responsibility” to answer that question, but one reason I think this post is so spot on Right Now is because we are all living in a world entirely at the whims of Straight White Males. There are things that can be accomplished by one straight white male that entire societies of minorities can’t change. Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, The Bill of Rights, all of it was protested by throngs of people, but it wasn’t until a few Straight White Men did something about it that things changed. That should make me proud as a SWM, but it doesn’t because rights granted by Straight White Males can easily be voided, forgotten, or ignored with frightening ease by other SWMs.

    And anyone who doesn’t believe SWM privilege exists needs to work as a male administrative assistant as I have for a decade. Many SWM admins either complain that they are mistaken as gay or that other men don’t respect them or they go to the opposite end and try to portray themselves as boundry-pushing pioneers in a female driven field. In actuality though I’ve seen women and minority men work very hard to get opportunities that I can get just by showing up to work one day in a tie. When female admins dress up for work they are criticized for using their looks to get ahead. When minority males dress up for work people think they have job interviews or something going on after work. When I dress up for work I’m congratulated on my initiative and people outside of the organization think I’m in management.

  215. I’ve been thinking about all the guys asking, ‘okay, I acknowledge the unfairness, what do you expect me to do about it?’ And about my partner, Kevin, a SWM who was born into wealth and health too — he really got the easiest setting possible in a lot of ways. And he’s not particularly into social justice activism — he’s a mathematician, and an introvert, and he wants to spend the bulk of his days doing his work, getting paid well for it, and playing video games. That’s fine — he doesn’t have to dedicate his life to activism. But here are some of the things he does that do help the overall situation:

    – in twenty years, I’ve never heard him make a racist or sexist joke or comment. And sure, he probably wouldn’t make them around me, his brown female partner (although some men wouldn’t hesitate), but his character is such that I’d be pretty shocked if I learned he had said anything like that. And I HAVE heard him (quietly, tactfully — sometimes even silently, but nonetheless effectively) making it clear he disapproves when others make that kind of comment.

    – even though he was hesitant about taking on the labor and responsibility of child-rearing, once he became a father, he committed to doing his 50%. And sometimes he desperately wants a break. Often. Me too. We acknowledge to each other that small children are huge energy sucks, we hope it’ll get better soon, we try to spot each other through the roughest patches, and we keep aiming for a 50/50 partnership on childcare, despite the huge cultural weight that pushes him to do less, and me to do more.

    – ditto housework, although Kev has a harder time with that. But he tries to do 50% there too, even to the extent of going along with me making up a chart that marked out exactly how long all the chores took, and dividing them up evenly.

    – even though he makes twice what I do, he doesn’t act as if that gives him twice the household buying power; he understands and acknowledges that he’s gotten some big cultural bonuses on the salary front (both in getting access to his cushy job, and in what he gets paid for it). That doesn’t account for all the discrepancy — for one, he’s in the sciences, and I’m in humanities, and of course for a second, he may just be better than I am. But the cultural bonuses are there, and they’re real.

    – he supports me when I’m doing social justice work, because he believes in the overall goal of a more fair and equitable society, with a level playing field for all. On a concrete level, that means extra childcare and housework sometimes, so that I can do this work, with less videogame playing for him.

    – he supports my career, ditto. And my writing about sex, and being openly poly and bi, all of which could cost him, career-wise and society-wise.

    – and on the rare occasions when it’s difficult for him to do the fair thing, Kev grits his teeth and does it anyway. For example, when our daughter was an infant, he had to go to a talk at the same time I was taking a class. He could have stayed home and skipped the talk, which would have been less socially awkward, but instead, he put her in the Bjorn and went to the lecture, figuring she would either sleep through it, disturbing no one, or if she woke up and got fussy, he could step out. He did that specifically because he knew there were women in the department who had this situation come up often, and he knew that if he, a man (and one more senior in the field), modeled this as professionally acceptable behavior, it would make life (and work) easier for the women.

    A lot of these instances are very specific to our lives. But maybe they serve as a model for the kinds of ways a SWM can commit to social justice, on a daily and personal level, without taking up a life of activism.

    (And of course, if you want to do more, you can be like John, and start this kind of conversation in your own communities, dedicating a goodly portion of your day (days) to managing it and keeping it civil.)

  216. I love this analogy, thanks John!

    From someone who is playing on the Hardcore setting, but has managed to accumulate all sorts of prizes and bonuses through kick-ass gaming, I think that what “EASY” players can do to even the field and make the game more fun for everyone are the same things that us Hardcore players do to help each other.

    Vote, in every election, and do volunteer work on behalf of candidates that you support. Hold signs in the rain and go door to door with voter registration forms. Go to City Council meetings, read the minutes, and write letters. Instead of surfing the web, write to your Reps and Senators, county council-members. Pick a cause and send your political representatives a letter or email a day for a year, on a rotating roster.

    Put your money where your mouth is, and not just to charity – spend your food dollars at businesses that are owned and operated by women and/or minorities, or businesses that have strict Social Responsibility standards. They are not hard to find; such business promote those standards proudly. Buy fair trade goods, as much as possible, and when it’s not possible, buy used or make your own. Invest your retirement savings into a Social Justice fund, not the Lawyers, Guns, and Money funds. If a company isn’t transparent about where they source or invest, they are probably not socially conscious.

    Recycle and reuse. Volunteer at a food bank, shelter, or Adult Training program. Donate your old clothes to a charity that helps people re/enter the work force. Give your old sofa to a women’s shelter or community center. If you work in procurement or HR or sourcing, actively seek minority candidates/vendors/sources, and advocate within your company for justice and equity.

    Make justice a habit, like putting on your seat-belt or wiping your ass.

    Or don’t. But quite a few of the nifty prizes I’ve won in The Game have been the result of playing hard and helping other players. In my experience, it has been true that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

    /my $.02

  217. Oh, this is perfect. And I note that there is -still- a lot of 101 going on in the comments, even on points that you made abundantly clear in the original post. Le sigh. There are none so blind as those who will not see…

    The thing about Real Life (the worst MMO ever): there are a lot of multiplayer interaction options. If you’re playing easy mode, you may be upset when somebody else you like who is playing on a harder mode has problems. You may be upset when somebody disparages the challenges you experience in the game because your base setting is easier to begin with. You may ask, as I almost immediately saw one commenter asking, “What can I do about it?”

    You can 1. LISTEN to people who are using more hardcore settings. Sometimes they know the rules better than you do, because they have to, and sometimes they’re just playing a more difficult game. 2. UNDERSTAND their point of view. You -can’t- play the game on their setting, but when you brag about how easy a boss fight was and they say that they couldn’t get it after months of attempts, don’t just dismiss them as being bad players; realize that they are facing challenges and difficulties that you have never seen or had to work against. 3. HELP them, when possible. There’s a lot of ways to do this; the obvious one is to throw money around–being on the default easy setting, you -will- be able to farm gold faster and more easily than those on other settings. But that isn’t always possible, or even helpful. Fortunately, there are a lot of other ways to help. If you see another player in a potentially difficult PVP situation (against town guards, say, who may be corrupt), just bring your easy mode on over and hang around. Watch. Listen. Pay attention. Write down names. Your mere presence as a Straight White Dude MAKES A DIFFERENCE, because the town guards will be on better behavior around you, and if something happens they will listen to you more readily than they will any other type of player.

    Imagine that your Easy Mode setting is actually an aura that radiates for several feet (or yards, or -miles-, depending on how many points you’ve been able to shove into the Wealth stat) around your actual body. This has positive and negative consequences, which you can’t help, can’t stop, and can’t change. Learn to be aware of your White Straight Guy aura. Learn to see how it changes the behaviors of other people. And learn how to speak up when you see somebody who doesn’t have that aura being treated unjustly. Because your Straight White Guy Easy Mode Aura -makes your observations and participation more important-.

    You may be thinking, “But I don’t see people who aren’t Straight White Guys being treated unjustly!” Actually, you’re constantly surrounded by it; you just don’t see it because -it’s not happening to you-. If you see anyone who isn’t a Straight White Guy, pay a little more attention, especially to their interactions with other Straight White Guys. Truly, honestly, just paying attention, listening, and understanding is a huge step forward in using your Easy Mode Aura to -help- others, instead of using it to brute force your way through the game at the expense of all the other players.

  218. Easiest level for human player in “the game”: Wealthy, Intelligent, First World Country Citizen.

    From the article: Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world.

  219. Excuse me, Tom G. I think you meant your second point (below)

    2. Start your own country where you’re no longer the minority (like the pilgrims did)

    To read:

    2. Take over an existing country filled with non-white natives by eliminating, relocating, and shaming them, in order to repopulate it with SWMs.

  220. @ThePint notes that “in a free society, such privileges are inappropriate.”

    I think this idea, more than any other, is the problem with why there can be so little effective communication around this. Because essentially, it /is/ asking people to come down from one standard of living to another, lesser, (and often shitty) standard of living.

    Anecdotal case in point. I would be playing on Hard difficulty level, personally, in Scalzi’s reckoning, but I happen to have another card, let’s call it a Merit, that I purchased with my points. It came hard earned, but it often acts as a cheat code in interactions. I’m not a cop, but it’s a good enough analogy, so I’ll go with that.

    As a cop, my Hard difficulty level is often negated. When pulled over while driving by other cops, they often let me go, even though I’m starting on Hard. If I’m involved in a protest, and everyone gets arrested, I may be let go with a warning while other people spend the night in jail. If I get into a fight, my word will be believed. If I need a lawyer, the union of my fellow cops will likely find one for me. I do not run as high a risk as others of going to jail for a mistake. If I want to stop being a cop and look for a different job, when I am interviewing, people are more likely to hire me. Other cops go out of their way to help me when I’m having trouble. This means I am likely, on average, to lead a comfortable life. This means that I’m not going to suffer from my original Hard difficulty, because I have a magic cheat that gets me through.

    I don’t want other people to suffer. In the things that are not zero-sum, I would like everyone to have them. I’d like everyone to be let go with a warning. Ideally, I’d like cops to stop writing traffic tickets at all. I’d like for there to be less petty annoyances that make life harder.

    But I don’t want to lose my cheat code. In some ways, it’s because I’m starting off on Hard as it is, so if I lose my cheat code, I am immediately plunged into a very, very difficult life. I don’t want to start having to pay all of these tickets, or suffer consequences for laws I don’t believe in. I don’t want to have my own life get even worse.

    Though the arguments here are all about SWM, following that chain of logic, it would seem that many here would argue that it is my moral duty to put aside my cheat code, because not everyone can have one. But I simply don’t understand why. I don’t understand why I would ever want to make it harder for myself and my children, simply so that other people might get ahead. It’s argued above that it is better for everyone if the playing field is completely leveled, but I’m not sure that is true. Where does the playing field sit when it’s completely leveled? What does that world look like? How expensive is that world?

  221. Also, disagreeing with the assumption that being a single white male makes your life easier isn’t “trolling”, it’s “disagreeing” with how the metaphor is laid out. People ignore other factors when they claim white males have it easy, then whine when you point this out because you don’t get the metaphor’s accounting for other factors. But if you really believe that SWM’s have it easy due to factors over which they have no control, yet are so insidious as to propagate it, then there’s nothing I can say to convince any of you. You’ll see what you want to see.

  222. John, in a thread as long as this, a convenient way to navigate is often to scroll down to the next green post and then see what it was replying to, since, hopefully, the author of the post is motivated to seek out the most insightful comments and respond to them.

    Unfortunately, this methodology did not work well for me here, since you seem, despite your admonitions against troll feeding, only interested in responding to the trolls. This confuses me a bit – I know it can be fun to engage with trolls sometimes, but it doesn’t seem nearly worth the degradation in the quality of this thread.

  223. not my fault I lucked into the easy setting, I’m tired of people giving me crap about my family heritage and albedo. you want to give crap, pick on people for having a dumb culture, you can change cultures, and some of them definitely raise your difficulty setting. This is why race is dumb and should be ignored. Anything beyond your control should be beyond notice. if you want to fight racism, first, jettison Race.

  224. not my fault I lucked into the easy setting, I’m tired of people giving me crap about my family heritage and albedo. you want to give crap, pick on people for having a dumb culture, you can change cultures, and some of them definitely raise your difficulty setting. This is why race is dumb and should be ignored.

  225. Let me see if I can paraphrase some of what I’m reading in the comments…

    Original post: Indoor cats have an easier time of it than cats who live their whole lives outside.

    Commenter A: As an indoor cat, I get my tail pulled by the three-year-old. How dare you say my life is easy!

    Commenter B: Why do you hate indoor cats?

    Commenter C: That might have been true in the past, but now all of the indoor cats are choosing to give up and get themselves fixed. Why do you keep marking your own kind with a pungent spray of guilt and loathing?

    Commenter D: I know this one dude who taped bacon to his cat. You see? Indoor cats have it just as rough as the outdoor cats…

    #

    Catsplaining aside, it’s been pointed out many times that the fact that you belong to a group that, statistically speaking, has certain advantages over other groups does not mean that your life is therefore easy or wonderful or completely without struggle. Likewise, the fact that your life has been challenging doesn’t mean you do not have certain unearned advantages over people in other groups.

  226. I like how being told you aren’t inherently better than anyone else is somehow being “given crap”.

  227. Easiest level for human player in “the game”: Wealthy, Intelligent, First World Country Citizen.

    False dichotomy in my opinion. It’s an attempt to say we’re all better off than other people so that people with a good reason to whinge shouldn’t. Doesn’t alter the central premise one bit.

  228. This is so very well said. I am glad you appreciate that for some reason white male nerds seem to think they don’t have to own their privilege, and just because they might have got teased in high school doesn’t mean they don’t have to acknowledge that racism/sexism/able-ism are a thing.

  229. @Kevin

    I was speaking for myself — Mrs. Ironwood and I waited until our late 20s-early 30s. The problem with my friend’s case is that his wife (another activist) wanted to put off kids until the couple were in their late 30s, early 40s, well-settled in their careers. So my friend took a low-paying job doing public advocacy to fulfill his wife’s noble requirements — and then she got a case of baby-rabies and jumped ship for the first well-off Alpha who showed her interest. I’m not arguing that they needed to jump into having a kid right out of college, but the fact is waiting (for a woman) until your late 30s/early 40s dramatically decreases her ability to conceive and carry, and her insistence on his career direction (she had even more guilt about race and class than he did) put him in a completely untenable position. Like all too many Beta dudes out there, he believed that if he made proper atonement for his Lowest Difficult Setting while doing what his wife told him and being properly contrite for his gender and race, then people (and his wife) would Like Him more . . . but when the feces hit the fan, it was so much easier to write him off as another pathetic, entitled SWM than it was to face her infidelity and ask her to take responsibility for messing up the relationship. I overheard her complaining, during the depths of the divorce, that he had never been really committed to their ideals, and that he was incapable of ever doing so based on his background — despite the fact she came from a more privileged background than he. He was a dude. He was expendable.

    Sure, it was a massive rationalization on her role in the relationship, but no one got hurt, so it was okay. Oh, no one but him. He doesn’t count.

    And that’s why you might feel a little defensiveness from some SWMs out there. We kept getting told how much better things will be if we just quit being so . . . SWMy, but the fact is, things never do get better. And when we do make the effort, its largely unappreciated because in the minds of the non-SWMs, we just don’t count.

    At just what point is it permissible for a SWM to stand up for himself and his interests anymore without being accused of being an asshole?

  230. >> But it doesn’t matter, because straight white guys have to sit there and take it, or they’re assholes — and then they really get the beat-down. But just being straight, male and white is enough for plenty of people to have a problem with you. And yes, they can get very, very personal.>>

    I’ve rarely seen so unaware a statement. You’re complaining that unless you “sit there and take it” you’ll be treated like someone “uppity.” Except your idea of a beatdown isn’t lynching or rape or murder, it’s that people might not be friends with you.

    As if no one else in the world knows what it’s like for their sex or ethnicity or sexual orientation to be seen as a problem, and have it be very personal.

    Wake up. Even with the agony you’re going through what with your friend not being loved for his nobility, that’s STILL better off than the kind of prejudice the non-straight, the non-white and the non-male face.

  231. For the SWMs who are arguing against the concept of privilege: Ask yourself would you rather be black? Would you rather be a woman? Do you think your life would be easier if you weren’t a SWM in America?

  232. Kilroy:

    When I went to that school with the museum, my mother was making rather less than it cost to attend. I was fortunate to attend, which is in fact rather to my initial point.

    Sean:

    “Today’s society is a lot tougher for white males period, compared to 50 years ago.”

    Which is a point, even if it were generally true, that contradicts absolutely nothing in the original entry, but rather points out how stacked the deck was in 1962 to the advantage of straight white males.

    The rest of your post is just ridiculous spew.

    Generally:

    It does seem rather a lot of the complaints about the post here in the comments are from people who did not read the post or did not read it particularly well, since many of the issues are either addressed directly in the post or are completely aside from it. It’s not too much to ask for a close read before commenting.

  233. The essay is fantastic, but what blows my mind more thoroughly is your (Scalzi’s) dedication to the conversation in moderating and replying to all the comments, and in so doing giving up a lot of your time. Bravo, John.

  234. So instead of invoking “privilege” you create a simplistic analogy to World of Warcraft, based on the conceit that young and straight white men are so shallow, narrow-minded and generally stupid that they cannot comprehend – let alone engage – your point of view unless it is explained in video game terminology. All you’ve done is showcase your own conceit.

  235. @Kilroy, what you’re missing with your worry about the black woman and white man with the same LSAT and GPA is how many extra hurdles were likely put in the way of the black woman to achieve those scores. And that doesn’t mean that the white man didn’t have hurdles to overcome. We all do. Just that chances are high that the black woman had more. Yes, even though she was born rich.
    Money doesn’t buy your way out of racism and sexism, I’m afraid- or if it does, I have yet to figure out how. I have heaps more money now than I did in college, and I am still on the receiving end of sexist crap.

    And +1000 or so to @Rowan Badger’s post. It is awesome. Particularly the last line: “we’ll be equal AND happier if those with privilege work to unlock that easier difficulty for everyone instead.”

    I’m a straight white female born middle class is a place with decent public schools and to a family that didn’t screw me up. My character in this game started at a fairly easy level. That doesn’t detract from what I’ve achieved- my kids are getting to start at an even easier level, and like most parents, I’m doing everything I can to set their characters up to do well in this game.

    But I’m also doing what I can to make accidents of birth less relevant in character set up, and I plan to teach my children to recognize the advantages we pre-loaded their characters with, so that maybe they, too, will grow up to try to fix this problem.

    And I try to really listen when people explain how my experiences aren’t relevant to them because they are playing at a harder level. Not because I want to feel guilty or bad, but because I want to figure out how we can extend the benefits I’ve had to more people, and the only way I can see to figure that out is to listen to the people who haven’t had those benefits.

  236. Unfortunately, this methodology did not work well for me here, since you seem, despite your admonitions against troll feeding, only interested in responding to the trolls. This confuses me a bit – I know it can be fun to engage with trolls sometimes, but it doesn’t seem nearly worth the degradation in the quality of this thread.

    Wait, you mean that he’s letting the conversation run without interfering with it? And is stepping in so it doesn’t get derailed by morons? How annoying of him!

    or (alternatively)

    You’re confessing that don’t actually want to read the entire thread and complaining that the Cliff Notes aren’t immediately being provided for you?

  237. Scalzi, have you read Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse?

    That as an upper-class 6’4″ athletic straight white male I started play with the “easy” settings I understand. I can understand that other players want to blame me for my luck. (This is a good metaphor, Scalzi.) Some of the other settings I had were more difficult. Life’s tough, I got on with it, won some, lost some, some got rained out.

    What I do not understand is how frequently when I tried to reach out and help someone playing other settings, I got active hostility for asking if I could help. There’s a training effect there that some of the more extreme players should take note of.

    Meanwhile, I’m of an age and had enough of my corners knocked off that I’ve wandered over to the corner of the field. I’m going to sit in the sun, sipping my adult beverage of choice, and I’m going to watch you folk try to do better than we did. So far, things not looking too good, you seem to have missed some of the basic math and econ classes.

    As far as the word itself, I think this use is intentionally intended to provoke controversy. “Boon”, to my ear, is closer to the meaning desired. As the laws change (as opposed to custom or practice), we are indeed becoming a society of (word), and I think that’s sad.

  238. >> I’ll also note I lived in a trailer park when I was a teenager. True, in California, not Mississippi. Maybe getting that extra sun made a difference?>>

    My parents lived in a trailer home early on in their marriage, but my father managed to work his way up from refrigerator repairman to corporate VP of a tech firm, and his kids all did pretty well. That was Massachusetts, so the sunshine ratio was doubtlessly different.

  239. “But what can I do?”

    – Buy and read at least as many works of fiction by people who are not straight white men as you do works by SWMs.

    – Listen rather than waiting to talk, and don’t interrupt people.

    – If you live with other people, figure out how many hours per week are spent on housework in your household, and readjust your schedule so that you’re doing at least your share of it. Make sure to count executive tasks, like keeping track of what’s in the pantry and whether the kids have enough clean socks, towards the total.

    – Practice the phrase, “Dude, not cool.” Trot it out whenever a fellow SWM says something homophobic, racist, sexist, or expresses other bigotry.

    – Consider the possibility that the non-SWM who is “crucifying you” because you’re a straight white guy is, in fact, speaking to you very calmly about something you *did* or something you *said,* not what you are. Consider the possibility that, in fact, they’ve understated their case because you react to criticism from non-SWMs by throwing tantrums about how you’re being HORRIBLY HORRIBLY ATTACKED.

    Already doing some or all of this? Here, have a cookie.

  240. @ Mary Anne – Why that just sounds so…. so… reasonable! Seriously though, I think that you illustrated a very important point about creating a more equitable society: it’s not just activism that helps to create that better world, it’s the little choices we make as individuals within our relationships with others – family, friends, co-workers, etc. – that advance the changes we want to make. And it takes away the excuse of “Well, I don’t have time to be an activist or the ability to make a big statement, so why bother trying?” EVERY level of effort contributes to the overall move for change, even if it doesn’t come as fast or as noticeable as we’d like.

  241. @jackiegamber A fair point.

    @scalzi I still don’t understand why think 2.0 “isn’t going to come out of play testing” as you put it. Historically, large scale socio-political trends in the US have continued to grow rather than the contrary.

  242. Back when we played D&D, choosing Human as your race gave you the best all-round chance of success with the most amount of character types. It didn’t mean you would be the biggest badass around, but gave you the most freedom to choose. I think being any one of straight, white or male gives us a boost but a combination all three provides the best opportunity for success.

    So the word isn’t really privilege, it’s opportunity. And in our capitalist-based western society, it’s all about opportunity isn’t it?

  243. Great piece. I especially love this part:
    “It’s certainly possible someone playing at a higher difficulty setting is progressing more quickly than you are, because they had more points initially given to them by the computer and/or their highest stats are wealth, intelligence and constitution and/or simply because they play the game better than you do. It doesn’t change the fact you are still playing on the lowest difficulty setting.”

    I like to say that privilege isn’t when you get sent to the front of the line; it’s when other people are sent to the back of the line. But your video game analogy is more thorough and lively. Again, great job.

  244. You should have said that you got the idea for this article from a Cracked article from the beginning, now that would really get the attention of straight white guys.

  245. This is not going to be a helpful way of explaining this to anyone who does not agree with you. This is still attacking straight white men for being straight white men. Choosing to play video games on the easy setting is generally looked down upon by people who you would try to use this metaphor to explain your idea to. So to them you are basically saying “you CHOSE the easy way to play, what a n00b”, they will take this as an attack and will respond as such. As a straight white man I know that I have it easier than basically everyone else, but these sorts of blog posts make it very hard for me, and anyone else who tries, to have actual productive conversations with other straight white men who do not think that they have it easy. These sorts of posts are a big problem, and if your goal is actually to have a conversation in which you can actually explain or even convince a straight white man that he has a lot of advantages these sorts of posts are your worst enemy. I have been shot down in my attempt to have conversations on this issue with straight white men because of posts like this which make them feel as though anyone who is a feminist or “liberal” is directly assaulting their manhood. So please try to think of a way to express these ideas in a way that is not an attack. It is possible to do this, and if we can focus on ways to talk to people in a way that does not make them feel like they are being attacked then we will have a lot more success in these dialogues.

  246. John: best birthday present ever. :-)

    Ian, earthdog7900, et alia: so check it, the thing is, first of all, nobody’s saying “your life is easier than mine because you are a straight, white, able-bodied, Protestant, male American citizen with a credit card” (go ahead and add or subtract other variables as you think of them); they’re (we’re) saying, “your life now is easier than YOUR LIFE would have been if you had subtracted any of those variables”. See?

    Secondly: you can’t ditch your Words We’re Not Saying. Sorry. That’s where liberal guilt comes from. If you can choose not to have it, then someone else can choose to have it, and choice is not involved in un-earned advantages. That’s actually why my downlist variables there are weaker than the original ones – you can choose to shoot yourself in the foot and thus render yourself a person with a disability; but short of trying to avoid the draft, what person in the world would do such a thing just for the purpose of faux-leveling the playing field? What you can do is become and remain aware, educate others, and not bitch when you have to stand for eight blocks on a kneeling bus it took someone in a wheelchair five minutes even to board right after you bounded up the steps two at a time.

    signed,
    +S,W, Am. cit., native English speaker, able-bodied, educated, good credit; -F, religious minority, more than 30 pounds overweight

  247. Todd DuBois:

    As someone who plays video games, has critiqued video games and is currently writing a video game: Using a video game metaphor implies the audience for it is shallow, narrow-minded and generally stupid? Fuck you.

  248. While I like the metaphor, I think the the Easy / Medium / Hard difficulty makes things a bit too simplistic. It’s more like, there are three difficulty settings, and a bunch of gameplay options, none of which we are able to change once the game begins. Some of those gameplay options may make the “Hard” setting actually easier than the “Medium,” depending on which you get.

    Yes, Hawking is at a “harder” setting given his disease. But he’s also a mathematical genius. (I’m not saying he didn’t have to work very hard to get where he is––he most certainly did.) No matter how hard I might work, I will never understand Black Holes in the way he does. I simply do not possess the brain for it.

    My father has a photographic memory, which, sadly, did not get passed along to me. This makes the Latin class I am currently taking much harder than it would otherwise be. This is something I just have to live with. Instead of wallowing over it, I just have to accept it and take advantage of what was passed to me.

    If you will allow me to quote Don Draper: we are not always able to choose where our talents lie.
    We *all* have “loaded dice” in some form or another. The questions then become:
    1. How do I use *my* loaded dice to both my and society’s benefit, without harming others?
    2. Not all loaded dice are created equal, obviously. How do we “fix” this without creating a Harrison Bergeron-like future?

  249. damienk, I’ve never been told that I ‘was’ better than anyone else. The Crap I was referring to was people belittling me for the world as i found it. I did nothing to cause history, I like everyone else did the best I could with the world I was born into. I wasn’t poor nor did I have a silver spoon. the main racists I run into say they are fighting for equality. I’m annoyed by the presumption of racism and evil I live under. It’s not as bad as others but still annoying.

  250. Tom G: your assertion is based on a “large scale socio-political trend” that does not exist. Or, to not dismiss you out of hand, does not exist as you define it. The large scale socio-political trend in the US that we are working toward, and want to see more of, is that the difficulty settings go down for all people, that the cheat codes are accessible to more people, and that those with advantages work to ensure that they aren’t denying others access to the places those advantages take them. If you see expansion of rights and benefits to all as reduction of your own, then I suppose you could argue that things are getting worse. But that’s a pretty untenable way to look at the world, which consists of so, so many more individuals than yourself, all of whom are playing the game, and all of whom deserve the chance to win. Right along with you, not instead of you.

  251. “At just what point is it permissible for a SWM to stand up for himself and his interests anymore without being accused of being an asshole?”

    It’s pretty easy, actually – standing up for one’s self and one’s interests doesn’t always have to entail being an asshole. Approaching a discussion with compassion and empathy for those who haven’t had the same advantages (both earned and unearned) as you and being willing to listen with an open mind also helps. But generally speaking, if doing so translates into any variation of “Why should I have share with anyone, I have mine so screw the rest of you, you’re just all whining,” it’s a pretty decent bet you’re actually being an asshole.

  252. @iiii
    I agree with most of your post (especially the “Dude, not cool!”) on what can be done, but just have to say that I think the first bullet, “Buy and read at least as many works of fiction by people who are not straight white men as you do works by SWMs.” is one of the ones that frustrates a lot of people, even ones who /aren’t/ SWMs.

    I’m 3 for 3 on “not a SWM,” but I /hate/ being told that it’s my duty somehow, if I want to make things better or fairer, to change my consumption habits to actively make my sad, just to “fight the good fight.” I generally have no idea the race or sexual identity of the authors that I read. I know the sex only by the gendering of the first name. Neither is what I look for. I read the back covers. I read books recommended to me by friends. I read other books by writers that I like.

    Some time ago, I was hit by the consciousness stick and actively tried to seek out writers that were not SW, or whose protagonists were not SW. (Reading a lot of fantasy meant my shelves at least were roughly equally gendered) I even asked people who were in the front lines of all this stuff who I should be reading. I went and bought it, and read it, and realized that I hated it, almost to a man. I don’t think it had anything to do with sexuality or race-based quality of literature, but just that books I was recommended specifically for race and sexuality were less likely to be good than books I was recommended solely on the basis of quality.

    Do I know that there’s a lot of stuff that goes into those recommendations, and who’s promoted, and who’s published, and what’s published? Absolutely. But at the same time, I want to read high quality literature much more than I want to spend money solely to support a racial and sexual diversity in authors. And I think it’s hard when myself and people like me get blamed for this choice.

  253. Yes, having people assume things about you because of your race IS annoying isn’t it?

  254. As someone who passes for “straight white male,” I prefer the term, “lucky bastard,” over privileged. But this might be my STM part niggling over details. Regardless, I think the metaphor used in this article is spot on.

  255. I’m into practical solutions. How do we fix this? How do we eliminate racism without engaging in racism?

  256. The Pint @ 2:44 pm:

    “As noted in the entry, “easiest setting” doesn’t mean “automatic win.” ”

    Is it possible to put that in big, bold letters? Because that seems to be a point that’s being missed repeatedly.

    THIS. It seems like half of the people disagreeing haven’t carefully read the damn essay (as opposed to skimming it for a point or two that you can quote in your vociferous knee-jerk disagreement). Perhaps someone should invent a WordPress plug-in that requires readers to take a short reading comprehension quiz before being allowed to post comments.

    Also, several people here have called Scalzi a liberal. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a liberal—I consider myself a liberal—but I don’t think Scalzi has ever identified himself as one. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  257. I have this reflexive reflex when someone tells me “You’re a white man, you had it easy.” ’cause I grew up in an area where, actually, being white was a disadvantage, in a lot of ways. How dare you repress me, I grew up on the mean streets, yadda yadda yadda.

    But as I’ve matured, I’ve come to realize it’s wrong. That doesn’t make it go away. But it does mean I try to think about it before I react to it.

    The video game metaphor is a rather good one.

  258. Ian – you’re sounding a lot like a you’re taking arguments out of the MRA/PUA camp. This does not speak well.

  259. Thank you so much for this. I hope it is ok if I sometimes borrow this for my intro applied ethics courses. I think my students would engage with this in a way that they often don’t when I use more familiar starting line/race analogy, in large part not just because this analogy may be more familiar to them, but because it is more nuanced and allows for more fiddling with the details to get at different aspects of a big problem.

  260. Damienk, Sure is. Why are the most racist people I meet proclaiming that they are working for equality and justice? I sometimes wonder if they are trying to continue racial inequality just so that they can keep their jobs. Activist groups often become what they hate.

  261. Lots of comments here, and I didn’t read through them all, but I wanted to make the following points in response to Scalzi’s excellent article. (I apologize if I repeat anything above.)

    1. Based on your point of view, the difficulty setting of life is most impacted not by gender, race and sexual orientation, but simply by the country and circumstances into which an individual is born. For example, it is quite conceivable that a gay black female born in the USA would have an easier setting than a straight white male born in a rural area of Russia. Now, if birth country is always the same, then absolutely the straight white male has the easiest time of it.

    Of course, my statement comes with a natural caveat: most straight “white” males are born in western cultures with the very best of the ample opportunities. The “cultural bonus” granted by life is almost always included as a free upgrade when you are born as a straight white male. If you are not, then receiving the “cultural bonus” as an upgrade is granted to only 5% or so, because straight white males take up so many of those particular “bonuses”.

    Still, one cannot discount the role that country plays in the relative difficulty of life. However, I am sure there are some simple farmers in Thailand who would argue that their lives are much more balanced than anything this “priviledged” straight white male could ever conceive. Lesson: be a simple kind of man (or woman).

    2. Another bonus category would be “Christian”. I did read a few people going on above about how bad this country is for Christians and other religious groups. Uniformed is the only word I can use to describe people with that conception. If you have the bonus of “Christian” (be it Protestant, Catholic, heck, even Mormon), you automatically have it easier than most other straight white males. It is estimably permissable to be “Christian” in Western cultures. The title comes with its own set of basic upgrades, that others would have to work toward.

    The best example I can give for this is the fact that most USA politicians classify themselves as “Christian”. If you are not “Christian”, you have a real uphill battle to be elected in just about any Southern state and in my hometown Ohio. My friend recently ran for city council. He has a PhD in political science, is a professor at the University of Akron, was appointed to a criminal justice committee by the governor, and is a family man with two kids. He was running against a kid with a high school diploma who lives with his parents. Do you know what question most of the good citizens of Stow asked him? “Are you a Christian?” Not: “What are your religious beliefs?” It was: “Are you a Christian?”

    How telling is that? His opponent was a Christian, and yes, his opponent won the election.

  262. Is it really an advantage to be male? Because my impression is that being female gives you plenty of privileges.

    People, especially men, are more likely to be nice around you if you are female. Being female often gets you extra attention. If a boy and a girl fight, adults are more likely to believe the girl. For women, it’s acceptable to choose to quit their job in order to raise their kids, while men are expected to earn money and often get to spend little time with their family. Then, there are many programs to specifically promote girls/women in technical fields, politics and so on. For women, it’s acceptable to act irrationally and show emotions, for men it’s not. Last but not least, it’s definitely easier for a woman to find a sex partner.

    The belief that women are underprivileged is rooted deep in our society, but honestly I don’t think that’s true anymore. It certainly was 50 years ago, but nowadays, if anything it’s the other way round IMO.

    Disclaimer: This is my perspective from Germany, the situation may be different elsewhere.

  263. Speaking as a SWF, I figure maybe throwing out a quick story might help illustrate.

    I have a teenage Son, SWM. I also have Son’s Friend, who happens to be SBM and stays with us temporarily for the current school year while his mother couch-surfs elsewhere, working on finding more work and a new place to live (part-time employment + slum-lord-esque combo resulted in them losing housing and most of their stuff). We live just outside Baltimore (as in, I could throw a rock and hit the city line – well, maybe not me, ’cause I can’t throw to save my life), one of those cities where a minority is, in fact, a majority.

    A few weeks ago, a stomach bug was making the rounds of the household, and Son decided to stay home from school sick. Son’s Friend left for school, thinking he didn’t feel great, but not terrible. Some time after I left for work, and after being on the bus for a little while, he decided the bug was a little too much to handle through class, and returned home. Not having a key, he sat down in a chair on the porch, called Son and awaited Son’s opening of the door. He noticed the blonde woman across the street, but didn’t think much of it, since we’re all very friendly with our neighbors. Son opened the door and let him in, and they proceeded to Son’s room to watch Minecraft stuff on YouTube.

    A little oblivious while later, Son hears, “Anybody home?” from the living room. Thinking it’s the SWM from next door, he bounds down the stairs to be greeted by several officers already standing in the living room, the nearest of which has his weapon out and trained on Son. After a tense and confusing next few minutes, they sort out what happened, and call me. Apparently, they received a call from a woman that a young black man was entering the home of a family she knew to be white, and she believed that I, the white female, was at home. (Why she thought that, I’ve no idea, because there were no vehicles at the house.) It was called out as a home invasion, which resulted in cops crawling all over my house and yard, and even the skies. Eight police cars, at my neighbor’s count, two canine units out back, and the county police helicopter overhead.

    All just because a young black male happens to be living with a white family, and came home from school early. While I appreciate that one of my neighbors was looking out for us, I shudder to think of all the ways it could have gone wrong, starting with what would’ve happened had the wrong kid come down the stairs first.

  264. CLP:

    “Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a liberal—I consider myself a liberal—but I don’t think Scalzi has ever identified himself as one.”

    I would assume that compared to their own positions, I would be a liberal.

    My own personal politics are largely “liberal” in the US and probably slightly conservative everywhere else on the planet.

  265. John,
    You are one of the few writers that I read very word you deem worthy of sharing. I don’t always agree but I always appreciate that you make me think. Thank you for that.

    In this case I do agree. I personally have benefitted from it. I had a terrible childhood. Part of the terrible was being poor. I had several encounters with law enforcement which should have led to juvinile hall. It never did. In one case my friend who was a minority was sent and I wasn’t. The only discernible difference was our skin color. I kept getting breaks others didn’t. Eventually I got lucky and a few wonderful teachers turned me around.

    I worked hard. I took advantage of public education and I grew up to be a semi-productive member of society (it might be more than semi but I go to comic conventions so my wife docks points). I often wonder how different it would have been if I had ended up in juvinile hall. If my bad decisions had been held against me. If I hadn’t had a chance to make it right without any strikes against me. I worked hard but I caught a lot of breaks and I try to never forget that.

  266. What does being moderately muscular and 6’+ tall do then? Is that like the easiest difficulty plus cheat codes? It’s not a bad metaphor but you can always find some subset of any arbitrary group to consider more privileged than some other group. I would think the ultimate privilege in the US would be a tall good looking white guy around 30, lapsed mainline protestant, with a distinguished last name, family money, father believes in nepotism, low hereditary risk of heart disease and cancer, intelligent but not too intelligent, extroverted but not quite sociopathic, no fear of public speaking, with perfect vision and no cavities.

  267. Just over 300 comments in 4 hours. More than a comment a minute.

    Having fun keeping up John? :)

    btw – spot on……as always!

  268. There are plenty of “straight white dudes” born into poverty, with crappy parents, and no opportunities, who often end up in jail. You can ask them if their life was “easy mode.”

    Generalizations based on race, gender, and sexual preference are still useless and offensive even when applied to white people. Privilege, in any society, can show statistical, racial bias, but no real discussion can be held based on those statistics; discussion about the predominance of white male privilege in the USA is as meaningful as discussion about the predominance of criminals who are black or Hispanic.

  269. No Scalzi, using a video game metaphor isn’t inherently shallow. The implication that your fellow SWM’s can’t or won’t appreciate your point of view unless you explain it to them in those terms, however, is off-putting and more than a little arrogant.

    But thank you for your response, which affirms my first impression of your capacity to contribute to meaningful dialogue about this topic. Very interesting to see what your idea of “civility” is on your blog is as well.

  270. I’m an honest to goodness Moderate. far right on some issues, far left on others. this means that I’m comfortable in almost no group. I all so tend to agree with people for all the wrong reasons.

  271. >> Is it really an advantage to be male? Because my impression is that being female gives you plenty of privileges. … Disclaimer: This is my perspective from Germany, the situation may be different elsewhere.>>

    What are the rape statistics like in Germany? How about sexual assault? What are the pay disparities? Are those advantages you postulate there for women who aren’t, say, slim and good-looking? Is it really an advantage that women are the ones expected to forgo a salary so they can do the amazingly-hard job of childrearing? Is being dismissed as emotional and irrational really an advantage?

    Think it through. It’s a little more complicated than “Pretty girls get attention, so being male is a hardship.”

  272. cofax:

    Not everyone is okay with admitting their selfishnes so openly.

    That depends on how many times you’ve read Atlas Shrugged.

    This problem that I have with this analogy is that the easiest setting is “straight white male born to a middle class or better nuclear family with expectations of personal growth, above average intelligence, normal physical and psychological development, in a suburban setting with plenty of enrichment activities, and no undue family commitments.” I may have forgotten a few factors in that list. I think that boiling down a person’s life to three factors, even if they are important factors, is too simplistic.

    Also, if a person refuses to see that they are starting life with a winning hand (I’ll use a 20th century metaphor), then adding a video game analogy won’t help. The only way for them to see how lucky they are is to have life pull out the rug from under them and have them climb back up on their own. People learn from experience, not explanation. (That is why the educational system in America is failing, but that’s another discussion.) Focusing on labels will never result in a civil conversation.

    The real lesson should be very simple, if you’ve got more than you need, get over your self and help out. If you are struggling through life, try to work so the next generation can start on an easier level. My parents worked hard to get out of a trailer park and put me through college. The only thing they asked in return was that I do the same for my children. Leaving a better world for the next generation is a win in my book no matter where you start.

  273. Everything you say about SWM priv– er, “difficulty setting” is completely true and accurate, but let’s not pretend it doesn’t belittle or diminish SWMs. Playing on the easy setting doesn’t mean “instant win,” but it does mean that winning is meaningless. How can you take pride in any kind of accomplishment if you’re playing on the easiest setting? You can’t.

    If the easy difficulty setting exists — which I stress again that I believe it does — then I don’t see how we can logically avoid the perspective that SWMs are “the bad guys” at worst, inferior at best (like the player that beats Skyrim on Novice compared to the player that beats it on Master — the Novice is, by definition, the inferior player). I mean I understand why we say otherwise, but it’s nothing but a polite lie.

  274. “All that hard work, dedication, and devotion gets you . . . this? Why bother? Better to emigrate, find a hot Latin American girlfriend, and teach English in some tropic country than end up as yet-another divorced, unemployed Beta dad estranged from his kids ”

    I’m not sure if it’s been noted explicitly that, while our host used the metaphor of games, he didn’t say anything about the criteria for winning. That’s up to you to decide.

    The passage above, on the other hand, reads like something straight out of philosophies of “Game”, a theory of male-female relations that in turn is a variant of the old “Nice Guys and Jerks” whine, but with a somewhat older audience, and with the narcissism and misogyny somewhat closer to the surface.

    Given one shot at the game of life, I don’t think Game is anything like what I’d want to play, let alone try to win. Those who do play that particular game (most of whom I’ve encountered have been straight white males) and think they’re being scorned because of their sex or their race may be missing another more likely cause.

  275. Todd DuBois:

    “The implication that your fellow SWM’s can’t or won’t appreciate your point of view unless you explain it to them in those terms, however, is off-putting and more than a little arrogant.”

    Meaning that in fact you do have some problem with a video game metaphor, in the sense that you find it negative in some way, or think that using the metaphor reflects negatively on the intended audience. In which case, the “fuck you” response still most definitely applies.

    As for civility: You get what you give, Todd DuBois. You definitely earned that “fuck you.”

    The Dismissed Minority Truth:

    “There are plenty of ‘straight white dudes’ born into poverty, with crappy parents, and no opportunities, who often end up in jail. You can ask them if their life was ‘easy mode.'”

    There’s some irony attempting to make that point to me.

    Also, please read the actual article.

  276. Things aren’t harder for SWM than they were 50 years ago. They just aren’t completely slanted to entirely benefit ONLY SWM. Even men are harmed by some of the things in today’s society such as gender roles. Men are the providers, no way can they change diapers or clean a house and still be a “man.” (Note: that was sarcasm)

    Yet despite how much less benefit SWM have than they use to have, they still get benefit of the doubt. Who gets pulled over more often by the cops, white people or black people? Who more often gets put in jail for drug use despite the usage being the same for white and black people? Black people are the answers to both questions. Then you put in sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender presentation, etc. and it’s even clearer that despite how hard EVERYONE’s life is; when you are a minority, you’re treated with less respect and given a benefit of the doubt hardly at all.

  277. >> There are plenty of “straight white dudes” born into poverty, with crappy parents, and no opportunities, who often end up in jail. You can ask them if their life was “easy mode.”>>

    Then check into what it’s like to be gay, black or female in those same circumstances, and see if those straight white dudes weren’t better off than they would be if they weren’t SWDs.

    “Lowest Difficulty Setting” does not mean “Everything else will be cake, too.” As was mentioned up top.

  278. Once again line by line for Isopod
    “People, especially men, are more likely to be nice around you if you are female. ”

    Women are expected to be nice all the time. They are expected to be nice if someone hits on them, nice if someone is rude. Women cannot get away with out being nice.

    “Being female often gets you extra attention.”

    Because being hit on, catcalled and body policed is wonderful attention.

    ” If a boy and a girl fight, adults are more likely to believe the girl. For women, it’s acceptable to choose to quit their job in order to raise their kids, while men are expected to earn money and often get to spend little time with their family. ”
    Women are expected to raise the children. They are expected to provide all the childcare. They are expected to leave their jobs if they can, and even if they can’t they have to do the majority of the work.

    “Then, there are many programs to specifically promote girls/women in technical fields, politics and so on.”
    Yes – because there are so few women IN those fields.

    ” For women, it’s acceptable to act irrationally and show emotions, for men it’s not.”
    And not be taken seriously if they ever show any emotion.

    “Last but not least, it’s definitely easier for a woman to find a sex partner.”
    Citation please? Also – men have a significantly lower risk of sexual violence.

  279. Damn it, Scalzi, life isn’t like a game, and it’s frivolous of you to suggest it is! Unless the game is football, which we all know is a perfect metaphor for everything.

  280. >> Playing on the easy setting doesn’t mean “instant win,” but it does mean that winning is meaningless. How can you take pride in any kind of accomplishment if you’re playing on the easiest setting? You can’t.>>

    I take great pride in my accomplishments. The fact that Dwayne McDuffie had it harder doesn’t mean my successes are meaningless. It means that his may well be more impressive. But I’d say both of us had reason for pride. That I started out on the easiest setting doesn’t mean things were easy. It means they were easier. There’s a difference.

  281. John, I’ve used your “Things I don’t have to think about today” post for my Freshman Seminar. This year I’m teaching one on Race, Gender and Big Multinational that makes lots of movies and has theme parks. My next one is going to be on the same topics in WoW; I expect it’s for the same reasons you wrote it. It’s not that I have anything against WoW — I play it myself. I just think it tends to attract a lot of people who aren’t aware of the difficulty settings in Life 1.0, and so don’t get the cultural appropriation, the underlying messages about race and gender, and, IME, are often clueless that some of the other players, even the ones playing female toons, might not be male! (no seriously — I did a random instance one night with some very nice young men who seemed shocked, and were confusedly apologetic, when I pointed out that their jocular conversation about what they’d like to do with some actress amounted to kidnapping and rape. Then I had to point out that I wasn’t offended because I’m a woman, but because it was offensive.)

    May I have your permission to reproduce and post on Blackboard, rather than link? Otherwise I’ll have to ask you to erase my comment so that I can keep my pseudonym separate from my work-nym :-)

    Actually, I would rather link, so that students can also see what civil argument on the interwebs looks like. So maybe you could delete if I have your permission, but leave a comment? :-)

  282. “There are plenty of ‘straight white dudes’ born into poverty, with crappy parents, and no opportunities, who often end up in jail. You can ask them if their life was ‘easy mode.’”

    There’s some irony attempting to make that point to me.

    Gotta admit. There’s some comedy gold here.

    Also: predict that more than a few commenters will STILL not bother to read the article. AND read up on Scalzi’s background.

  283. I’m not worried about the future of women. Women graduate from college at a higher rate than Men. I foresee a coming future Gynarchy and welcome our Female overlords.

  284. F. Martin: I don’t understand your argument, and I guess this probably applies to a number of comments here and ones I’ve heard in other contexts. Why do you think that pointing out that some people simply fared better in the natural lottery is the same thing, or necessarily entails, attaching a negative moral judgment to those people?

    I think it is a dishonest misrepresentation of the debate to try and skew it this way. Nothing in Scalzi’s essay or other reasonable discussion about this issue says “SWMs have it easy, therefore they are bad guys” or anything of that nature. What the debate says is that maybe we ought to be more aware of, and seriously entertain different ways to address, the different kinds of difficulties which individuals face based on the (completely out of their control) circumstances they were born into.

    Also, I would point out that acknowledging that those circumstances are completely out of their control goes a long way towards understanding why there is not a negative moral judgment entailed by stating that, ceteris paribus, SWM have it easier than other subgroups of the population.

  285. Isopod, I wonder if it might help to show your list of “advantages” from another perspective? I can’t speak for the entirety of human experience, but as you are generalizing and throwing out unsubstantiated assertions, here are a few things I’ve seen/heard women discuss:

    People, especially men, are more likely to be nice around you if you are female.
    – Nice, maybe. Respectful of business acumen? Attentive to opinions? Engaged in debate? Not so much. Which one has more worth to the woman probably depends on the individual, but the women I know would rather a colleague was paying attention to what they said, rather than being “nice.”
    Being female often gets you extra attention.
    – Whether you want that attention or not. Whether the attention is positive or not. And whether the attention is appropriate to the situation or not.
    If a boy and a girl fight, adults are more likely to believe the girl.
    – Hmmm. I think this very specifically depends on the nature of the fight in question. I have definitely seen parents react negatively to a boy who reacts physically, but also to a girl who reacts emotionally.
    For women, it’s acceptable to choose to quit their job in order to raise their kids, while men are expected to earn money and often get to spend little time with their family.
    – There are so many issues wrapped up in this that I think I’ll leave it to women and men who have dealt with parenting/work balance to respond.
    There are many programs to specifically promote girls/women in technical fields, politics and so on.
    – In direct response to eons of being told “you can’t do that, you’re a girl.” Also, there are plenty of programs to promote men in these fields through networking and mentoring. For example, in England, they’re called clubs, and women can come for drinks on Tuesdays.
    For women, it’s acceptable to act irrationally and show emotions, for men it’s not.
    – Acceptable, possibly, but also a reason to dismiss the woman. And, worse, often expected, so used as a reason to dismiss even prior to actual irrationality and emotion. Also, who defines irrationality? I shall give you a hint: it’s not women. Although if you’re making the point that all people should be able to be emotional and not be dismissed for it, I’m not going to disagree.
    Last but not least, it’s definitely easier for a woman to find a sex partner.
    – I’m gonna leave this one alone. I, personally, have no problem, and I can’t imagine how one person’s ease or difficulty in finding partners has anything to do with mine or anyone else’s.

  286. You comment and complain that people who don’t agree with you didn’t read or understand what you wrote. It just isn’t true, you’ve created an analogy you’re so in love with you refuse to see the gaping holes it contains. Trash like this serves only to continue racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and you hide behind the veil of righteousness… you pompous hack with a keyboard.

  287. @Todd: It’s his blog, he doesn’t need to be civil. From what I see, he calls them as he sees them and is pretty spot on.

    As for all of the whiny people who are upset at how their life has been labeled as “easy”… that word was NOT used in the post. The word used was “EASIER”, as in “LESS DIFFICULT”. You’re the ones who started bitching about how you didn’t have it easy just because you’re a SWM. Mr. Scalzi is only asking you to consider how much MORE difficult your situation would have been had you been a minority, or homosexual, or female… or mix and match. That’s what you people can’t seem to understand… how much MORE DIFFICULT your life would have been. Take a moment to consider that and stop behaving like Mr. Hines’ inside cats. (That comment was made of win, btw!)

  288. Scalzi: you insist there is absolutely nothing negative about it and that you are not talking down to anyone, even though you also say that SWM’s are incapable of engaging the issue because they can’t get past the buzz word of “privilege”. I honestly don’t want to believe you’re being dishonest, so I’ll settle for the assertion that you’re being blind.

    As for civility, I make no apologies for taking a harsh view of what I consider to a condescending post and very weak, narrow arguments. To a point I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but context is everything and you are doing this very badly. It’s unfortunate you confuse a strongly negative reaction with incivility – check 90% of other comment threads on the internet if you want to know what that is REALLY like.

  289. The question everyone seems to have is, I’m aware, now what can I do? (Okay, everyone who isn’t defensive as hell). So: support minority representation and depictions in movies and books. Create works that use them, if you’re a creator. Don’t assume an unknown person is a he (“I got a new boss at work.” “What’s he like?”), or white, or straight, or Christian, or fully able, all of which I know seems small, but it’s pervasive and happens all the time. Actively engage with minorities to find out how you can possibly positively impact situations. Be careful and thoughtful. Little steps, taken by a good number of people, can make a goodly impact.

  290. Argh, I refreshed and then edited, and thereby missed Muse’s excellent post. My apologies for the heaping on.

  291. “I’m not worried about the future of women. Women graduate from college at a higher rate than Men. I foresee a coming future Gynarchy and welcome our Female overlords.”

    Funny considering women weren’t allowed to even attend college until the last few decades. I doubt this number would be so upsetting to men if it’d always been that way.

  292. What should be the default setting? If we do not experience different advantages does that mean that we are all supposed to operate at a disadvantage? If I recognize that my life has probably been better because of an unearned advantage – what am I supposed to do about it? Is there any amount of self-sacrifice that can remove the disfiguring stain of unintended cheating from me? I did not ask to be born who or what I am, and I see no justice in a sentiment that in a just universe my life would have been worse. Why is it that the idea of _everyone having it better_ is such a hard concept for people to grasp? If being a ‘straight white male’ is a form of cheating then why don’t we simply arrange it so that everyone has the same ability to cheat? Why must talk of unfairness always assume that everyone must be treated badly in order for ‘justice’ to exist?

  293. In an attempt to be constructive, as a SWM, here’s one thing that we can do that isn’t dependent on governmental or other collective action:

    Don’t have conversations and make jokes with other SWMs that make the work environment hostile to non SWMs.

    This is an active problem I battle in software development, where we desperately need more programmers, but the environment is one that frequently discourages more than half the population from considering programming as a field that is open to them. It also makes the non-SWMs that are in the profession more likely to leave to pursue other things.

    If the environment was better then the next project manager in my position might actually be able to hire the programmers they need, because half the population might have considered it as a possible career when they were in high school. Really, EVERYBODY WINS! this is not a zero sum game.

  294. “Don’t have conversations and make jokes with other SWMs that make the work environment hostile to non SWMs.

    This is an active problem I battle in software development, where we desperately need more programmers, but the environment is one that frequently discourages more than half the population from considering programming as a field that is open to them. It also makes the non-SWMs that are in the profession more likely to leave to pursue other things.”

    As a female programmer, I can absolutely attest to this being the right way to go about it. I really wish there were more SWM programmers like you out there.

  295. Dani: “Bad guy” may have been a poor word choice, but “inferior” definitely follows inevitably.

  296. “Scalzi: you insist there is absolutely nothing negative about it and that you are not talking down to anyone, even though you also say that SWM’s are incapable of engaging the issue because they can’t get past the buzz word of “privilege”. I honestly don’t want to believe you’re being dishonest, so I’ll settle for the assertion that you’re being blind.”

    Because no one here at all has had reacted to the word “privilege” with thoughtless, knee-jerk responses. Someone’s being blind in this discussion, all right, but it isn’t John.

  297. I worked as the sole male in a few workplaces, I understand where you are coming from Timid Atheist.

  298. @Muse

    Condemning me for my political perspective? I’m proudly a Red Pill taking member of the Manosphere. The PUA/MRA dichotomy is outdated, however — all areas of masculine interest are part of the Manosphere now. Why does that not bode well? Is that a little pre-judgement I detect?

    “But generally speaking, if doing so translates into any variation of “Why should I have share with anyone, I have mine so screw the rest of you, you’re just all whining,” it’s a pretty decent bet you’re actually being an asshole.”

    I guess a lot of that depends on perspective. What seems like “screw you, I’ve got mine” to some people might be seen by others as “you mean I planned and worked and warned you that winter was coming, and you still didn’t do anything — but now you want half of mine?”. Subtle distinction, I’m sure. The problem is that it’s easy to see “Straight White Male” and assume the former when they mean the latter. It’s a common mistake for those who are wedded only to their own perspective.

  299. Great analogy, John!

    It’s very clear and accessible, but I wonder if it can get past the defensive response that accompanies other discussions of privilege. I just did a bunch of gamer interviews for my master’s thesis and discovered that “EZ mode” is a powerful insult.

    Gamers don’t like to hear that they’ve taken the easy path. They want to hear that their success was hard-fought and truly earned. Telling someone that they’ve been facerolling their entire life (for people who don’t play games, this means that the game is so easy you can win it by mashing your face into the keyboard and rolling it back and forth) may get a hostile or evasive reception.

    That’s not to say that it isn’t true. It’s just that “life on EZ mode” requires just as much introspection and just as many difficult realizations as any other discussion of privilege. No matter how well you explain it, the person hearing it has to do a lot of the difficult work on their own. Until they see it and acknowledge it for themselves, no explanation, no matter how perfect, will change a person’s mind on this issue.

  300. “Why must talk of unfairness always assume that everyone must be treated badly in order for ‘justice’ to exist?”

    Why is it always assumed that SWM should be treated badly because of their default setting by the SWMs? Just making you aware of your default settings isn’t treating you badly. Asking you to remember that you have better default settings when dealing with others who do not have good default settings is also not treating you badly. The idea isn’t to make you feel bad, it’s to make you think about how you treat others and not be dismissive of them in your dealings with them. Not everyone is like you, so being aware of that makes it less likely you’ll be offensive when interacting with everyone else.

  301. Isopod asks: “Is it really an advantage to be male? Because my impression is that being female gives you plenty of privileges. People, especially men, are more likely to be nice around you if you are female.”

    Oh, this only holds true if you are cis, white, attractive, usually thin woman who isn’t too challenging to men. Start asserting your opinion, gain some weight, or you know, be Not White, and you’ll find that a lot of men start to ignore you, dismiss you, or harrass you.

    ” Being female often gets you extra attention.”

    Of the kind you don’t want. People making judgements about your weight, your job, your lack of job, your attitude, your sexiness, your smile or lack thereof. All this attention is predicated on how well I’m doing what they see as my first job: being there for their gratification. I’ll never forget the dude who when I took my seat on an airplane said, “They promised me a blonde.” I wanted to say, “They promised me a non-asshole.”

    “If a boy and a girl fight, adults are more likely to believe the girl.”

    Yeah, that’s why we have a social trope about false rape accusations although rape is a statistically under-reported crime because many women know they won’t be believed.

    ” For women, it’s acceptable to choose to quit their job in order to raise their kids, while men are expected to earn money and often get to spend little time with their family. Then, there are many programs to specifically promote girls/women in technical fields, politics and so on.”

    Oh, god. I bet nobody ever justified paying you less because “you’re just gonna have a kid in a few years anyway.” Have you been lectured about pursuing a career and how it will impact your kids? Have you ever had people doubt that you could juggle a career and family? Have you ever had a relative tell you to study something in university because it will be a useful skill as a mother? Try politics–childless women are seen as suspect and incapable of understanding what average folks have to deal with, while women with children are constantly asked if they could balance the demands of the job with family life. Nobody ever asks male politicians that.

    “For women, it’s acceptable to act irrationally and show emotions, for men it’s not.”

    And again, this is why we have jokes about PMS and hysteria and crying like a little girl, all of which are intended to be demeaning. (BTW, the feminist websites I frequent often decry the position men are put into re: expression of emotions. It does suck that you dudes are socialised to suppress certain behaviours, but at least there aren’t demeaning terms used for when you do act according to traditional values. And it isn’t assumed of your gender that the default is irrational/emotional.)

    ” Last but not least, it’s definitely easier for a woman to find a sex partner. The belief that women are underprivileged is rooted deep in our society, but honestly I don’t think that’s true anymore. It certainly was 50 years ago, but nowadays, if anything it’s the other way round IMO.”

    Citation needed.

    My lived experience (and I was definitely born before your 50 year mark) contradicts this. The lived experience of many of my friends also contradicts this. (And I still have it pretty good, since I’m on the second easiest setting being a white, cis, mostly-able-bodied, attractive-to-some, middle class woman.)

  302. Does anyone remember those bumper stickers from the ’90s that read, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”? I think the people who find Scalzi’s metaphor profound, poignant, and/or accurate are starting with this kind of materialistic mentality. Life offers much more than money and opportunity to get more money.

  303. Ian “Condemning me for my political perspective? I’m proudly a Red Pill taking member of the Manosphere. The PUA/MRA dichotomy is outdated, however — all areas of masculine interest are part of the Manosphere now. Why does that not bode well? Is that a little pre-judgement I detect?”

    No – condemning you for being part of a movement that is founded on misogyny.

  304. Todd DuBois:

    “you insist there is absolutely nothing negative about it and that you are not talking down to anyone, even though you also say that SWM’s are incapable of engaging the issue because they can’t get past the buzz word of ‘privilege’.”

    The inability of a group to deal with one metaphor does not imply that a differing metaphor is inferior, merely that it doesn’t have the same set of issues that the other, problematic one has. Which is why one uses it, duh.

    So, yes, in fact, I insist that there’s nothing negative about it. It’s also clear that you have a problem with it. However, it is your problem, so stop projecting it on me.

    “I make no apologies for taking a harsh view of what I consider to a condescending post and very weak, narrow arguments.”

    Considering how you’ve bungled your initial argument with bad assumptions and a poor argument, I’m not exactly going to lose sleep over what you think.

    I’ve already said “fuck you” to you Todd, but here’s a new one: Fuck off. Come back when you actually know how to argue better and aren’t cluttering up my site with projections of your own insecurities. On a different thread, however; this one is off limits to you now.

  305. F Martin: Go back and read the original essay. “Inferior” does not necessarily follow. Someone who beats the game on the easiest setting may still be the very best player out there. Part of the point is that those who get the “least difficult” setting no more chose their starting point than those who get the “most difficult and with zero starting points” setting. You can even have the “least difficult” setting and lament that fact – or simply wish that everyone had the same starting setting. But not being able to change it is a fact of the game Real Live.

    One can be in either group and win, and more importantly one can be in either group and *deserve* to win. It is just that, all things considered, if you are in the group with the “least difficult” setting, you are more likely to win than if you were in another group. (Note, again, the all-important ceteris paribus clause there.)

  306. Last but not least, it’s definitely easier for a woman to find a sex partner.

    Huh. I definitely think women in general find it easier to find a sex partner than ME.

    But that’s personal, and not at all germane to the larger discussion. I think some people are over-generalizing from their own personal experience to the wider world. Not sure it’s warranted in all cases.

  307. @JMO

    “The passage above, on the other hand, reads like something straight out of philosophies of “Game”, a theory of male-female relations that in turn is a variant of the old “Nice Guys and Jerks” whine, but with a somewhat older audience, and with the narcissism and misogyny somewhat closer to the surface.

    Given one shot at the game of life, I don’t think Game is anything like what I’d want to play, let alone try to win. Those who do play that particular game (most of whom I’ve encountered have been straight white males) and think they’re being scorned because of their sex or their race may be missing another more likely cause.”

    Your understanding of Game is limited, and a little out-dated. Anyone who dismisses it as “nice guys and jerks whine” doesn’t understand it, hasn’t studied it, and doesn’t realize the implications. Game isn’t about just picking up women, it’s about how to manage male-female personal relationships from a perspective of masculine strength. I know that threatens a lot of insecure people, but Game isn’t about singles bars and dating profiles, it’s about marriage, MGTOW, and a whole lot of other stuff. There are usually two reasons why people dismiss or otherwise diss Game: first, because they want to believe an ideal more than they want to accept reality. Secondly, because Game actually works, and that really, really irritates those who insist that there’s no possible way it can.

  308. [Aaaand now Scorpius has earned a place in the moderation queue. Enjoy it, Scorpius! You'll come out again when I decide you're not trolling -- JS]

  309. Isopod, the fact that you treat “woman” and “sexually attractive young straight woman” as synonymous through much of your comment is revealing.

  310. I don’t understand people who act like Scalzi’s is making some wild, unfounded claim when he said that, generally, SWM tend to have issues with the word privilege. It seems like every third post here is some dude who apparently majored in Not Getting It followed by a masters and PhD in Deliberate Misunderstanding being all like “WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY LIFE IS LESS DIFFICULT, NO ONE GAVE ME A TRUST FUND!”

  311. I still think the easy setting is more of a cultural issue that a racial issue. I know plenty of SWM that belong to idiotic Subcultures and they have their difficulty set to 11. I also know of people with minority family heritages that belong to easier subcultures that are succeeding. how many juggalettes are going to Grad school? Does the Gang subculture provide decent odds at a 6 figure salary? Granted, it is difficult or dosen’t occur to people to change their sub-culture, but it can be done.

  312. @Muse

    Feminism was founded on misandry, but I don’t think you have a problem with that. I don’t hate women. Never have. Just don’t agree with some of them. Apparently you’re one. Why does that threaten you?

  313. Also, it’s not clear to me why accepting Scalzi’s point in this essay entails a kind of materialism. However you construe “winning” (i.e. “value”) it is likely that you could slide having more of “winning” into the game metaphor, and it would still be the case that starting out as a SWM, all things considered, makes you more likely to be able to achieve/accomplish/gain/reach “winning.”

  314. Lots of good and worthwhile stuff going on in this thread, which I am too deep in today’s work to contribute to. But I did want to say:

    To all the awesome dudes upthread, of which there are too many to name: thank you. It is deeply heartening that you outnumber the assholes. This, I really believe, reflects Life As It Is. But we can only see that when we all speak up.

    And to the people doing the heavy 101 lifting: you are saints and deserve all the cookies.

  315. Feminism was founded on misandry

    Feminism was *not* founded on misandry. Good lord, that’s an appalling statement.

  316. David I was just about to say the same thing.
    Ian I think I’m starting to see why you might have been “raked over the coals” as you complained about earlier.
    John great post. I always enjoy the creative ways you say things. This might turn into another one of those “turn comments off when you go to bed” ones.

  317. folks looking for something to *do* about racism could push for data collection on police stops in their area and if they have such information and it reflects racial profiling, demand it be fixed.

    Those looking to *do* something about sexism could support equal-pay-for-equal-work laws.

    Those looking to *do* something about homophobia could support gay marriage initiatives in states that dont allow them.

    .
    Just because you are straight, white, and male doesnt mean there is something you are doing that ia rCist, sexist, or homophobic that you need to stop doing. It could be that you are doing everything you can do on an individual level, and the next place to go is fix te problem on the systemic level.

  318. Kilroy, you might be well advised to do some Googling before posting about how hard guys have it:

    Non-Latino people represent 66.2% of all college students and 65.2% of all athletic scholarship recipients. Men are 45.2% of all college students and 53.7% of all athletic scholarship recipients. White guys are getting at least their share, maybe more, of athletic scholarships.

    Similarly, black people are 13% of the US population, and 11% of the student body at Harvard Law. So to the extent that black folks are getting a leg up in Harvard Law admissions, it’s outweighed by all the factors that are keeping them from proportionate representation in the pool of applicants.

  319. As a poor, unemployed, uncredentialled, lesbian, divorcée parent, middle-aged, not particularly passable, transsexual woman of mixed-race color, I thank you for pointing out all of this in relatively easy to understand terms. I’m even on the verge of not being entirely able-bodied. Lucky me!

    This is not about “oppression olympics”, it’s about intersectionality, and it’s about reality. About the only advantages I have on my side are that I apparently got a bonus to my intelligence stat at the time of character creation, and I’m a native Usamerican.

  320. What I’m not sure a lot of people are getting is the implication of the article. Recognizing that, as a SWM, I had a bunch of built in advantages doesn’t make my accomplishments something that I regret or feel bad about. It just means that maybe I’m not too quick to use the old, “Well, *I* was able to survive my stupid drug addiction, get straight, and make something of my life” too readily. I was able to move on in part because, being a SWM with a certain shared cultural index and vocabulary, I was GIVEN a second chance.

    Yes, once given that second chance, I had to prove myself, and it was harder than it would have been if I hadn’t screwed up the first time. But how easy is it for a random non-SWM, especially a person of color, to explain that, yeah, there’s sorta 6 months missing in the work history, and it’s because I had to get clean and learn to live? If they do that, do they still get the job?

    That’s what you’re talking about when you say that I’m playing the game on an easier setting. I still had to win. I don’t regret winning. I don’t regret my success, nor do I think it “unearned.” But I recognize that I got certain chances others didn’t, and I both try to now give those chances to others and don’t resent when they get the next chance ahead of me, despite my paper qualifications.

    Because of my setting, I’ll get another chance. A non-SWM might not. I know that, and can let certain things go. So hire that qualified person of color ahead of me. There will be another opportunity down the road for me, perhaps even at your company. At some point, you might need my unique skills, and you’ll reach out for me instead. But I got those skills because I got a second chance, and that second chance had a lot to do with the color of my skin and the cultural undertone that I didn’t earn.

    If you’re a SWM, it all works out in the end. Recognizing that just shouldn’t be that hard.

    Oh, and John, if you only wrote SF I liked, I’d be a fan. Writing this makes me rather upset that you’re not coming to DC on your Redshirts tour so I can hug you. Thank you.

  321. @Ian

    Feminism was founded on misandry? Oh course. Because not being allowed to vote or own property or have control over their own bodies was never a problem for women.Thanks for clearing that up.

  322. [Further deleted because That Guy is nowhere as clever as he seems to believe he is -- JS]

  323. Patti, I’m going to assume you cross-posted with me.

    However, future replies to Ian’s assertion via feminism are going to be deleted; let’s not derail, please.

  324. [Deleted -- please see previous notation on not following up on the feminism thing. Don't take it personally, Xana; it's not you -- JS]

  325. I want to make it really clear that I’m only agreeing with Ian Ironwood in one paragraph, because boy, howdy, is there a lot of stuff there that makes my brain bleed otherwise! But in this area, he is quite correct.

    “I guess a lot of that depends on perspective. What seems like “screw you, I’ve got mine” to some people might be seen by others as “you mean I planned and worked and warned you that winter was coming, and you still didn’t do anything — but now you want half of mine?”. Subtle distinction, I’m sure. The problem is that it’s easy to see “Straight White Male” and assume the former when they mean the latter.”

    I think there are a lot of assumptions in this thread that people who want material gains so that they can pass them on to their children (the next generation, but specifically THEIR next generation) are assholes, ‘screw you I’ve got mine’, misogynistic idiots who we don’t have to pay any attention to. And I don’t think that’s fair at all. I think a lot of people who want to achieve material gains so they can pass them on are compassionate, kind people-who just happen to want the ones they love to prosper.

    It is nontrivial if you’re being asked to give up, say, a third of the inheritance you want to pass on to your children, to eliminate the inequities you see. It is nontrivial if you’re being asked to leave lower chances of success to your family, in order to remove inequity.

    I think it’s quite probable that people can see that inequity exists, but I think it is unfair to demand that whenever anyone notices inequity, they be asked to resolve it at personal cost to themselves, or be labeled foul names.

  326. When people started talking about actual implementation, it struck my geek nature that this idea is even better suited to some of the pencil-and-paper RPGs a la GURPS where characters are built with skill points, advantages, and disadvantages.

    In this view, SWM would be a “character kit” that doesn’t affect your starting point total, but gives you an all-or-nothing bundle of advantages and disadvantages (note: wealth and wide-world status are /not/ part of the starting bundle). Other character kits give different bundles – but SWM would be worth more if the advantages were bought separately than any of the others.

    You can use your starting points to buy stats, more advantages, or (house rule) potentially buy down selected starting disadvantages. However, unlike GURPS, disadvantages don’t refund character points, they’re just disadvantages.

    The point of the exercise is not even necessarily how many points it takes to offset the differences in your starting kit, it’s how different the kits play, even (possibly especially) the low-level stuff – like Enemy:Police (roll of 6 or less on 3d6) or a permenent -2 Status (Business World).

    The object of the metagame is to change both the way advantages/disadvantages function on a global scale, as well as the composition of individual kits.

  327. I should perhaps point out that “Game” being discussed is a very different critter than that described by Carse in Finite and Infinite Games, which is usually shelved in theology or philosophy.

  328. Sorry, in my comment on athletic scholarships, “guys” should have read “white guys” and “Non-Latino people” should have read “Non-Latino white people.”

  329. “Does anyone remember those bumper stickers from the ’90s that read, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”? I think the people who find Scalzi’s metaphor profound, poignant, and/or accurate are starting with this kind of materialistic mentality. Life offers much more than money and opportunity to get more money.”

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a prime example of a privileged statement.

    I find it profoundly frustrating that being upset about inequities in the system, especially one such as ours in the US that is *supposed* to reflect the ideal of everyone being created equally and deserving of equal rights and protections, is being equated with being overly focused on “money and materialism.” It’s easy to dismiss concerns about income and material possessions when one comes from a position of having fairly easy access to both, but for those who are living paycheck to paycheck, wondering whether to pay the electric bill or pay rent or go hungry, as a result of said inequitable system, this sort of sentiment is condescending, callous and just plain clueless.

  330. AS, I agree, I probably wouldn’t appreciate being called foul names because I have a big six bedroom house and will probably leave it to my two kids.

    On the other hand, when we were moving into this house, more than one apartment dweller on the block asked me how many kids we had, and when I said we had two, said something like, “That’s a big house for four people!” or “You should have more kids!”

    If you clearly are better off than everyone else, then it’s not surprising if they’re going to be a little snarkhy about it sometimes. Even if you’re not interested in giving away your wealth / etc., you can at least be gracious about their understandable frustration with the overall situation. Surely that’s not too much to ask.

    And frankly, I’ll be happier if my kids do well enough on their own that they don’t need to inherit this house, and we can sell it and donate the profits to those less fortunate.

  331. For those who say that it’s really just about wealth: All the money and status in the world wouldn’t allow my partner and I to get married in any of the four states we can call home. A small point, but to me, at least, an important one.

    (This has, obviously, come up kind of a lot in the past few days, and the sheer outrage of people who think that it’s not important because it doesn’t affect them – and the president should focus on something important, i.e. something that affects them – is exhausting. Over and over again, the message is “you’re not important enough.” Or my new favorite, “If we call everything a right the word becomes meaningless; this isn’t about rights.” Where do you even go from there?)

    My own difficulty setting isn’t awfully high: I’m a cis white gay woman who is mostly-able and from a working-class background, if you want something like a complete list. So yeah, low wealth stat to start, plus gay and female and some health challenges, but still: it’s not a bad setting, and I’ve managed to do some things well and screw up some others. I really think this concept is FAR easier for those of us who aren’t at the lowest setting. I know some of the ways that being gay makes my life harder, and a lot of them translate pretty easily to ways that being black WOULD make my life harder. I’ve had this conversation with black friends, and finding the parallels and divergences is really enlightening. But I can’t do that with people who have never experienced actual discrimination.

    It’s like, you know, that part where a person is treating you a little bit strangely, and you think it’s about your sexual orientation or race or whatever, but you don’t want to make that assumption because people will think you’re being too sensitive, so you just assume it’s something you did wrong, and wonder why people don’t like you? And then someone calls you a fucking dyke and won’t let their children look at you, and after the shock of it is gone, you’re almost grateful because they were so very blatant that you KNOW what just happened was awful. Yeah. Every minority member I know understands this – it’s part of the burden of being a member of a minority, the “double consciousness” as W.E.B. DuBois said. Microaggressions – those little tiny interactions – can be so tiring. I wonder how to fit that concept into the game analogy somewhere. Each difficulty session requires you to make more decisions? Or your decision trees are less likely to have truly positive outcomes?

  332. “I think it’s quite probable that people can see that inequity exists, but I think it is unfair to demand that whenever anyone notices inequity, they be asked to resolve it at personal cost to themselves, or be labeled foul names.”

    That poor strawman is getting tired from being waved around. No one has suggested anything of the sort, unless of course asking people to be aware of their privilege, listening to those who don’t have it, and doing what they can to address it in their daily lives (see Mary Anne’s comment for a beautiful illustration of how even small gestures make a difference) is something that comes “at personal cost.”

  333. So.. if my life has been on “easy mode” all this time, what of my accomplishments? Do they mean less? Have they simply been handed to me no matter how I remember working for them? Or would a comparable accomplishment by someone of the ‘correct’ race or gender or sexuality be considered more valuable than my own? How valuable am I as a human being if my life has simply been made easier? Does it make me less valuable? Does this mean that works of art or creativity or .. any other accomplishment by white men .. should those be considered less valid? Do jews count as white? If I take on the attributes of another race or class.. do I then get partial credit for changing my life’s setting? How does one escape an identity once that identity has been condemned? Is a thing lessened by the identity of who created it? I just want to know if my work lives on after I’m dead. If even that is denied to me, I think I really do want to die. I wish I knew the answer.

    I have to tell you, I really start to feel like I should dig in and resist this notion that my life has been easier because I’m not sure you (any of you) know anything about me- I’m a real person, I have a real identity, a real history. I’m not just a collection of attributes that can be weighed on the Scalzi-scale. All of us are real people, and have those same storied histories.

    Yet, I see that anyone who disagrees with you (above) is called an “asshole” and there is much celebration of those who agree with you. There is so much shame and resentment out there, it’s heartbreaking.

    Do you really believe this, or is this a convenient way to say that you just don’t like certain people for who they are (with exceptions made, of course, for your friends).

  334. Estuary: What would you say to someone who, having been born into immense wealth, asked you those questions about his or her accomplishments?

    Also:

    “You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: ‘now, you are free to go where you want, do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.’ You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe you have been completely fair… This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity—not just legal equity but human ability—not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.” —Lyndon Johnson, 1965.

  335. Estuary @ 4:40

    You are making great, horrible leaps of reasoning that are not borne out by what’s under discussion. Note that “easier” is a gradient, not a binary.

    See some of the comments above, from others who have worked hard and value their accomplishments, while still seeing how their difficulty level gave them a boost at one time or another.

  336. @Estuary
    So.. if my life has been on “easy mode” all this time, what of my accomplishments? Do they mean less?

    They are worth exactly what they are worth to you. No more, no less. If you think it makes them worth less, then that is on you 100%, because the only person who can set value on what the achieve is the person who achieved them.

    And even if they were somehow worth less, so what? Just because you don’t like a fact does not make it any less a fact. You do not have a right to have the world bet set up to cater to your likes (no one does), expecting it to is another example of that SWM-mindset we are discussing.

  337. That game friggin’ sucks. Graphics are kind of ace, though. I’d see being born in various nations more as different servers you could log into; the Sudan server is at hardcore level, with PvP enabled, frex.

  338. “Why is it always assumed that SWM should be treated badly because of their default setting by the SWMs?”

    The assumption about ‘treated badly’ is there because of the way that ‘SWM advantages’ are contrasted with the disadvantages faced by many women, many minorities, etc., disadvantages which suck. Thus it is extremely easy to assume that anyone without ‘unearned advantages’ will be ‘treated badly’. There is never an assumption that everyone should be treated as well as a ‘SWM’ (a generality which specifically includes having ones ‘non-SWM’ characteristics as ‘valued’ as ‘SWM’ characteristics are).

    “Just making you aware of your default settings isn’t treating you badly. Asking you to remember that you have better default settings when dealing with others who do not have good default settings is also not treating you badly. The idea isn’t to make you feel bad, it’s to make you think about how you treat others and not be dismissive of them in your dealings with them. Not everyone is like you, so being aware of that makes it less likely you’ll be offensive when interacting with everyone else.”

    But those are all things that I would do regardless of my status as a ‘SWM’, those are all things that anyone should be doing regardless of whether or not they are ‘SWM’. Even at my advanced age I continue to be astounded that these things are apparently not obvious to everyone. Consistent with that astonishment, there seems to never be a recognition in these discussions that some people are aware of their own advantages, know that not everyone has those advantages, and who recognize that identifying an advantage in another person, or a disadvantage in oneself, does not mean that other disadvantages or advantages are irrelevant.

    If the alternative to ‘SWM advantages’ is ‘everyone is treated respectfully and considerately’ then that needs to be made clear. Instead there is always an assumption that anyone without ‘advantages’ is – because of human nature, physics, or something – automatically treated poorly, and anyone who is a ‘SWM’ is not aware of his own advantages (including that his lack of disadvantages are bizarrely labeled ‘advantages’) and that because of his assumed non-awareness it is reasonable to assume that he treats others poorly.

  339. what of my accomplishments? Do they mean less?

    The Big Mac tastes just as good if you have a coupon for it.

    I think a lot of the problem here is not with John’s original analogy, which is not only insightful but has the added bonus of being amusing, but with the crabs-in-the-bucket syndrome. Let’s don’t be crabs in the bucket.

  340. Because this invariably happens — someone mentions straight/white/male privilege, and a certain percentage of straight white men fall over themselves to see who can cry the loudest about how unfair this talk of privilege is to them*, how it’s absurd to say society favours them for in fact we live in a new world where straight white men are the most oppressed of all — and because, when this happens, the frustration I feel often swamps my ability to summon relevant facts, I’ve recently started trying to compile a compendium of links to facts about inequality, so I’ll have them handy when I need them. It’s very new and far from complete –it’s not only Western-centric but British centric — in fact, so far, it’s a bit of a disorganised mess and thus I’m only going to excerpt some links on gender for now — I hope this is in order.

    RESEARCH

    The Equal Opportunities Commission says that at the current rate of progress, women will be equally represented in politics in about two hundred years. (Britain)

    About 34% of female murder victims are killed by a husband, compared to 3% of male homicide victims. Just to rephrase that slightly, straight men: when you marry or enter a relationship, your partner is accepting an elevenfold greater risk that you will eventually kill her than the reverse. (USA)

    Britain has had equal pay legislation for forty years, but women are paid on average, 15.5 percent less than men.

    Gender bias in journalism still acute, research shows.

    Quite possibly acting without conscious malice, orchestras are less likely to hire female musicians when they know they are female. When women audition from behind a curtain, their chances of being hired rise significantly — provided the floor is carpeted so that no one hears the tell-tale sound of high-heeled shoes.

    Men outnumber women on television by two to one.

    “Men and women are still unequal, even when they are dead.”

    “Eight is the peak age for women’s leadership ambitions” (video with a lot of hard statistics, not anywhere near as focused on body image as the surrounding text implies, not that body image isn’t important.)

    EXAMPLES

    * “Warner Brothers president of production Jeff Robinov just made a bold statement over the weekend: “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead.” (2007)

    * “Why I didn’t report my rape”

    * When I was about to be published I was told not to mention so many female writers as influences and instead to cite some male writers I hadn’t read. The person who did this was a woman — women can absolutely perpetuate this sort of thing– but see how it’s men that benefit and women who are erased.

    * My colleague-in-sci-fi, Jaine Fenn, was strongly advised to publish as J. N Fenn, explicitly so readers would not know she was a woman. This was, I believe, in 2008/2009.

    That’s all I’ve got for now. Like I say, incomplete. But isn’t it enough to illustrate that in a world where this happens, something remains wrong?

    (*not all straight white men, as Scalzi’s authorship of this wonderful post proves nicely. I actually think that’s worth noting here. Having privilege does not make it impossible for you to behave well, and if people are complaining about your behaviour, they’re complaining about your behaviour,)

  341. It’s not Easy Mode. It’s Easier If All Other Factors Are The Same Mode. Big difference.

    I doubt most people feel that their life has been on Easy Mode. But when compared to a lot of folks, it is definitely easier. Surely you can understand that? It’s not saying that your accomplishments are less, just that to achieve them, you didn’t have to deal with things other folks did. Your spawn point was on a map next to the BFG, the health pack and the quad boost. It’s a better spawn point than the one next to the nail gun or the gauntlet.

  342. >> So.. if my life has been on “easy mode” all this time, what of my accomplishments? Do they mean less? Have they simply been handed to me no matter how I remember working for them? >>

    It depends. Is the only level of “easier” (not “easy”) you can imagine one that means “effortless”?

    Because if not, the question makes no sense. If you have a bicycle, it’s easier for you to travel 20 miles than it is for someone with no bicycle and only one leg. But does that mean you didn’t even have to ride the bicycle? You just teleported the 20 miles?

    No. That’s not what it means.

  343. No one wants to bash straight white males.

    People who think that, as straight white males, social justice advocates are “raking them through the coals” or “crucifying” them all the time, or whatever, are you know–I’m just going to say it–wrong. Seriously. You’re wrong.

    Also, those metaphors are dismissive in predictable ways — http://www.hugoschwyzer.net/2010/07/09/words-are-not-fists-on-male-strategies-to-defuse-feminist-anger/

    And often offensive. If you find yourself thinking that you’ve been “crucified” because someone said something you don’t like on the internet–or even shouted at you in person–or refused to go out with you–or hired someone that in your (totally objective) opinion isn’t as qualified as your awesome self–then there’s a problem.

    If you are, in fact, experiencing something closer to crucifixion–if you have endured systematic violence, for instance, based on your sex–then okay and I withdraw the complaint. And I hope you’re okay and having your needs met now.

  344. Love it. The metaphor helps to avoid a common situation, where the statement “some people have significant advantages over others” is read as “and therefore those with advantages are bad people.”

  345. “If you find yourself thinking that you’ve been “crucified” because someone said something you don’t like on the internet–or even shouted at you in person–or refused to go out with you–or hired someone that in your (totally objective) opinion isn’t as qualified as your awesome self–then there’s a problem.”

    Specifically, a problem with your sense of perspective.

  346. If you’re going to compare being a white guy in real life to being a WoW character, being a white guy is like being a Death Knight circa Wrath of the Lich King release. You get to skip many of the terrible things in life like leveling from 1 to 60, overcoming racism, and glass ceilings. Statistically, you start out with better gear and better skills. You have an easier time finding a raid slot (job) once you get to the level cap (adulthood).

    Much like in real life, some people are better at the class than others. Much like in real life, the powers that be come down hard on you occasionally with the nerf bat. The thing is, at the end of the day, you still have more versatility than any other class. You won’t succeed just because you’re a Death Knight, but the odds are in your favor.

  347. “Baby-rabies”? What the fucking fuck?? Seriously, I’m beginning to question whether your friend is quite the saint you (and perhaps, he) seem to think he is. Just on your description, he’s staring to sound an awful lot like a Nice Guy™.

  348. While I can see, through these comments, that people can and do interpret recognizing the relative ease of one’s own difficulty setting and acting on that recognition as a hardship, or coming at personal cost, I am baffled by that view. I see it as coming at great personal gain. When I recognize my advantages, and work to offer them/ensure that I am not denying them to others, I am sharing in the success of a much wider universe. I can’t think of a single excellent thing that I have in my life that would be better for my being the only one to have it, and many excellent things that are made more excellent when I get to experience them with people from all sorts of different difficulty settings, whether I think those settings are easier or harder than mine. My world is better shared than hoarded.

  349. Estuary, I think there are some people who would tell you that your accomplishments dont mean as much because you are straight, white, male. But there are all kinds of vindictive and judgemental people in the world and you would go crazy trying to make them all happy. Had sex with your fiance before you got married? Some would say your marriage isnt as good as other marriages. Dont tithe ten percent? Some will tell you you’re going to hell

    You’ve made accomplishments in your life. It might have helped that you didnt get shot by a cop for being black, didnt get paid less because you were a woman, and didnt get blocked from marrying because you were gay. Mostly, people are asking that everyone get these same bits of help that you got. Some might ne trying to put you in the dungeon for being straight, white, and male. But most are kust trying to get everyone on the “easy” difficulty setting that you are on. Not to take anything away from your accomplishments, but kust so everyone else can play at that level too.

  350. From a non-gamer who loves this metaphor, and wants to be able to explain it to others like me: What is a “dump stat?”

  351. I still think that “easy mode” does indeed mean inferiority. To take the example of traveling 20 miles — the person who rode the bike accomplished a lot less than the person walking on one leg. That person’s struggle is less than that of the walker. Their achievement is objectively less than that of the walker. The biker is, by definition, inferior to the walker.

  352. Kurt, I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time. I guess I should start by saying that.

    But I also don’t believe that I have the equivalent of a bicycle while all around me are one legged. I get that this has become a matter of liberal faith, which in just about any other case I’m right there with you. But this seems so full of generalization. I can’t imagine telling any person “well, of course, your life is easy compared to..(whatever)” based on a race or a gender.. . It’s certainly true that some peoples lives are easier than others, but this is a very dark and scary path. I look at my work and I feel like “so now, it doesn’t matter what I do, because in the end.. it will still be me who created it”.

    Is it ok to make a sweeping generalization about a race if it’s, you know, the race that everyone feels comfortable putting beneath the others? Or if it’s the one that it’s politically acceptable to? Because right now it’s (apparently) politically acceptable to say “oh yeah, straight white male, their lives are easy”. But that race that it’s ok to say stuff about.. that changes over time, doesn’t it? And depending where you live, it’s not even the majority.

    But isn’t the real problem not the variable race or gender or whatever.. but the act of making the sweeping generalization itself?

  353. As a SWM myself, I am annoyed that I’ve missed this terrible conspiracy to get me and my kind! It’s weird because it was only the other day that my SWF wife and I were discussing how she’s paid slightly less than some of her co-workers even though she has an MBA and they don’t… Likewise, our GWM friends seem to have to be a lot more careful about picking where they go on vacation than we do because some people get upset at the fact that two grown men in the their 30s share a bed… or that a SBM friend got pulled over test driving his new Jaguar purely for a ‘documents’ check and no other reason…

    Likewise, I had a bunch of advantages on the way up. Strong middle class background, good schools, university and the like – and yet I don’t feel that makes anything I’ve achieved since then of less value because I could, just as easily, even with all the advantages, screwed up totally. I didn’t. Good for me.

    All of this still doesn’t mean that I should be annoyed that people don’t have a problem with the fact that women get paid less than men, black people in America are more likely to be arrested and go to jail, or that of the Fortune 500 companies there have only been 18 non-white CEOS, and only 12 woman ones.

  354. dump stat: a stat that gets sacrificed so points can be put into a different stat. Charisma in a gaming perspective offers few advantages. Strength offers a lot of advantages. Charisma often becomes a dump stat and the points get pushed over to strength.

  355. I still think that “easy mode” does indeed mean inferiority.

    Haile Berry doesn’t get the same calibre roles as Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet. And she had to fight through arguably more difficult crap than Meryl and Kate.

    But all three won Oscars. Ain’t nobody taking them away from any of them.

  356. Angelle:
    The cyclist may have gotten there, but so what? He took the easy way, and is therefore not entitled to feel pride in the “accomplishment,” which isn’t really an accomplishment at all compared to everyone else. He is objectively inferior.

  357. @Ian Ironwood: They still talk crap about him, and the dude never did anything to warrant that kind of vitriol. Anecdotal? Certainly. But instructive.

    The saddest fact is that Scalzi will never recognize your story as one which could ever happen to him, despite constantly being one blog post/bad interview/unfortunate life circumstance away from it. Hell, the bad event wouldn’t even need to have actually happened. One plausible but fictional account of how some convention-going gamer girl “just got leched on by John Scalzi”, and every single one of these sackcloth-and-ashes posts would be discounted as he becomes that month’s “potential rapist”.

    But then, willful ignorance is an obvious tell of privilege, isn’t it?

  358. I sympathize with all you straight white men who find this post offensive and hurtful. Fortunately, yoisthisracist.com hosts much gentler, more civil discussion on the same topic.

  359. @ThePint:
    Yes, people have mentioned this. You have implied it yourself, even. This is not a strawman. At 12:41, you mention “extend your hand to help those who do not have your privileges in whatever way you can…in other words, don’t be an asshole.” While this isn’t explicit, it implies the idea of giving what you have to the less fortunate OR you’re an asshole.
    benjb at 1:02 notes, “I mean, if you were playing Scrabble with a million-point Z, we might say, let’s tone that down, bring it more in line with the values of the other letters.”
    Bryce at 1:14 notes, “Mechanisms include progressive taxes, guaranteed access to the necessities of life, quality education, customs and laws that prevent discrimination and profiling, protections and guarantees for those on other difficulty settings, etc.”
    BradHicks at 1:22 notes, “If you use the fact that you’re planing on the easiest difficulty mode to help yourself, you’re playing a bad guy”
    Muse, at 1:32, notes, “Why is not being a flaming jerk not good enough?” in response to asking why someone should put aside their advantages
    You, at 1:56, reference “But in a free society, such privileges are inappropriate,” which I already responded to in an earlier post, but repeat for reference.
    Cofax, at 2:00, notes of Ian Ironwood: “He’s fully aware that the situation is unfair and imbalanced to his benefit. And he’s willing to say, in public, “That’s okay. I got mine.” Not everyone is okay with admitting their selfishnes so openly.” -thus implying that to accept the benefits of an unbalanced situation is selfish.
    Bryce, at 2:21 notes, “Or, in every case, is action spurred by empathy, shame, and fear of being a douchebag? In case you haven’t been following the discussion, the point of nerfing the easy setting is NOT to make life better for the people on easy setting”
    Constance, at 3:06, notes, “Put your money where your mouth is, and not just to charity – spend your food dollars at businesses that are owned and operated by women and/or minorities, or businesses that have strict Social Responsibility standards. They are not hard to find; such business promote those standards proudly. Buy fair trade goods, as much as possible, and when it’s not possible, buy used or make your own. Invest your retirement savings into a Social Justice fund, not the Lawyers, Guns, and Money funds.”
    iiii at 3:20 notes, “Buy and read at least as many works of fiction by people who are not straight white men as you do works by SWMs”
    At 3:28, you point out, “if doing so translates into any variation of “Why should I have share with anyone, I have mine so screw the rest of you, you’re just all whining,” it’s a pretty decent bet you’re actually being an asshole.”
    Ron Zucker, at 4:23, notes, “So hire that qualified person of color ahead of me.”

    To be fair, most of the profanity is coming from Scalzi.

  360. I want to salute and hug everyone who has done work in the trenches here today patiently trying to explain to people what Scalzi explained in the original post.

    I also want to salute people who disagree with Scalzi’s post who are open-minded and actually interested in this issue. Even though you are wrong.

  361. @Estuary: “It’s politically acceptable to say “oh yeah, straight white male, their lives are easier than those of females, minorities and gays”

    There, fixed

  362. Thanks for explaining Dump Stats @crypticmirror , I was confused by that bit in the first read.

    Very interesting article, I liked the metaphor. Though I personally think that sexual behavior is a choice rather than something assigned to you by “the computer”, it is really lousy that when things that you don’t have control over make life harder.

    I also agree with @F. Martin that people born into a disadvantaged situation get more praise when the achieve something (first black this, first woman to do that, etc…), but I personally think it is deserved. I don’t think that praising one person for an accomplishment lessens the achievements of anyone else. There isn’t a finite amount of awesomeness available in the universe.

    As a father of multiple daughters I like to hope that by the time they are old enough to notice that the world will judge them based on their merits rather than gender.

  363. F. Martin:
    Perhaps you have chosen an awkward analogy? I mean, the cyclist who cycled 20 miles did objectively difficult physical work. That work is not diminished by the fact that a walker’s objective work was more difficult, or that a one-legged athlete’s work was objectively even more difficult than that. No one is telling the cyclist that he should have just sat on the couch, because that 20 miles means nothing, or that they can’t take personal pride in those 20 miles.
    All that said? I don’t know a single cyclist (okay, weird personal note here, I know quite a few) who would feel like they were entitled to more external recognition or acclaim for those 20 miles than the walker or the one-legged person. A personal sense of accomplishment should not be affected by the recognition of work done by the others. You can be simultaneously impressed by the feats of others and proud of your own.
    And really, we’re not talking about those who reach the 20 mile mark. We’re talking about the one-legged athlete whose crutch is stolen at mile five and the walker who is beat up at mile six. And, more importantly, all the would-be athletes turned away at the starting line or told that the course is only going to be five miles for them.

  364. Angelle:
    Well, technically, right now I am. But it’s really just a necessary logical extension of realizing that one path is easier than the other. If one way of playing the game is easier than the other, the person playing it the easy way is, by definition, less of a player. If one path through life is easier than the other, the person living that life is, by definition, less of a person.

    And it matters because as one of those guys stuck on easy mode, I would like to feel some pride in myself and my “accomplishments” in life. I don’t want to feel inferior, but logically, I can’t escape it.

  365. “This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. ”
    “The player who plays on the “Gay Minority Female” setting? Hardcore.”

    Steve Moxon’s book, The Woman Racket explained that being a low status male is/was a hard setting, easily harder than an average female. That explains the success of feminism. Considering that Marie Curie is more well-known than Maxwell, I won’t stress on the low status part.

    “The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. ”

    Like joining the army or the odds of a boy competing for a sports scholarship? Or being one year behind in reading comprehension than the other sex?

    “You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for.”

    Feminists gained entry into the socio-political-economic complex built up by white guys, and now are trying their damnedest to prevent them from joining in their victim industrial complex, unless it’s on their own terms. (stuff like acknowledging that you are a victim of patriarchy, and feminists are here just to show you the reality how it harms even men like you!!)

    http://www.shakesville.com/2012/05/this-is-so-worst-thing-youre-going-to.html?m=1

    Equality today is giving women reparations for not rolling out the red carpet for them in men’s institutions, instead of men asking for royalties on every men’s invention that women use.
    The patriarchy fiction has to be built up to gargantuan proportions, otherwise the female achievement of breaking its shackles pales in comparison to what the white guys accomplished. It still does.

    “In fact, the computer chooses the difficulty setting for you.”

    Women need not worry, in the bright future economy, as mentioned in that shakesville link, the lowest difficulty setting will be female. Hanna Rosin’s TED grrl power talk should cheer up even the most depressed feminist. Once women and minorities have changed the conditions to their suiting, with a little help from the NPC that is the the USG, we will have achieved peak equality.

  366. A better metaphor would be the EA sports games, where instead of a few discrete difficulty levels you have a large number of sliders controlling multiple aspects of the game difficulty (passing, tackling, etc.) “Straight white males” or “SVM” has always struck me as being too arbitrary and broad to be all that useful of a category in thinking about this sort of thing (for example, it implicitly ignores issues like anti-Semitism or discrimination based on health conditions).

  367. Angelle, F. Martin, etc.

    The bicyclist got there! Yay!

    The point is to try to help other people get there, too, not to take anything away from the cyclist.

    OK, new metaphor. I did theater in high school. I was a terrible dancer. Good singer, actress. I knew this guy who worked super, super hard to get leading roles. And he did! Yay! There were only like… 5% of the people auditioning who were blokes, though, and even so most musical leads are male. So if you were awesome, like he was awesome, and you worked hard, then there were, say, 15 excellent, hard-working dudes competing for 5 spots, and he totally had to work hard to beat them out.

    But there would be like 50 girls who were equally hard-working and only 2 spots for them.

    It’s not that dude didn’t work hard. It’s not that dude was objectively inferior. It’s not that dude shouldn’t have been happy he was successful, or that I shouldn’t be happy that he was successful. Again: yay for his success!

    But a lady-type person who worked just as hard as he did would find herself facing harsher odds. She could be equally talented, work equally hard, but be competing with a much larger pool of people who were also excellently talented and hard-working, all while trying out for fewer available roles. For the purposes of simplicity here, let’s say all these people are about at the same level of achievement–he has to be the lucky hard-working and talented guy who beats out two others; she has to be the lucky, hard-working and talented girl who has to beat out… twenty-four others.

    No patch on successful dude. Yay for successful dude! But if he’d been a lady, even if he was equally talented and hard-working, that might not have translated to the success that he had as a dude.

    That’s, of course, not getting into other stuff. He was, for example, well-off enough to have been trained at the important dance studio in the area since he was small. He could have a private voice coach. His (very cool) mother had the time and resources to get really involved in the theaters where he had roles.

    That stuff all existed. It doesn’t mean his success is worth less. But it’s also not worthwhile to pretend that it didn’t exist.

  368. Daveon, I guess you win. You successfully sabotaged my sentence to make it say what you wanted it to say. I simply don’t beleive that. Our lives are easier than all women? all minorities? all gays? Like.. is my life easier than Kanye Wests? He’s got like a million dollars.

    My second thought: Isn’t the lack of respect around this issue- the intolerance of dissent, the suggestion that well, those who disagree have no voice in this.. part of the real issue as well?

    I’m not trying to pick a fight, but this is making me think “this is about people who are full of hatred, and it’s not really about what its pretending to be about at all. I came to talk, because I disagree.. but they’re here to beat us verbally, in the service of a political point”

    I admit that I’m hurt by this, that I have a different perspective. I guess that’s it.

  369. OK, actually throwing my hat in the ring here. Sorry if I’m repeating anyone else’s arguments here. I have read several comments along the lines “but it’s not my fault I was born straight, white and male, don’t beat me up for that. I really hate sexism/racism/heterosexism.” The point is not to beat anyone up for being this or that, but to get them to understand that others have it much harder as a result of systems that make their life easier and that if they really do hate sexism/racism/heterosexism, they will help to fight each of those and be aware of and hopefully even call out those that treat them better as a result of their status. They will hopefully also take the time to recognize when the revel in, however unconsciously, the benefits of their status. How often have the liberal men on this thread thrown casual sexual innuendos in the direction of conservative, female pundits/politicians they don’t like? How many have enjoyed the outing of self loathers like Larry Craig on more than just the hypocrisy angle. No one is saying you are terrible for your status, they are just asking you to exercise a little introspection.

  370. Just skimming the comments is making my eye twitch in a flamenco rhythm, so I’m guessing this excellent post hit some nerves.

  371. F Martin: I think you’re looking at that wrong. What about all the other people with bikes who failed to make the 20 miles? Or didn’t bother? Yes, aspects of my life are easier than other peoples. But I’m still playing and playing the best game I can. I don’t think we can view Elon Musk, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg as being somehow less successful because they were SWMs…. They still blew through the game much better than hundreds of millions of others with pretty much the same start.

    You can’t look at life with regrets provided you’ve played the best game you could(*). Otherwise what on earth would the point be?

    (*) – note, I’m not making any comments on what winning means, because it’s not just about collecting tokens.

  372. As far as the extended metaphor goes: Meh. It’s facile, silly, and myopic. Here’s a better one for the same audience:

    Life is a Kobayashi Maru test. Playing it straight involves buying into the rules, which claim that “how the game is played” matters more than the outcome. That said, on the individual and cultural levels, there are ways to not play it straight — to change the test. The modern culture of straight white males is the recipient of the best currently-known strategy for changing the test in a way that benefits for the test-takers.

    Corollary: Anyone who complains about straight white male privilege has chosen Picard over Kirk in the “who was the better captain of the Enterprise” debate.
    Extended corollary: Those people are wrong, and should be mercilessly mocked.

  373. Rachel Swirsky:

    “Yay for the successful dude,” but he’s still inferior to the woman who overcame the greater odds.

    Greater odds = greater accomplishment = better at life = superior.

    Lesser odds = lesser accomplishment = worse at life = inferior.

  374. I came to talk, because I disagree..

    Then, talk, lay out the points. Do facts and figures. Otherwise, it just looks like you’re doing what you’re accusing others of.

  375. “Yay for the successful dude,” but he’s still inferior to the woman who overcame the greater odds.

    You keep saying that.

    She’s not saying that.

  376. 2 questions:
    First – By what standard do you define “easy”? It’s already subjective, and you offer no empirical data to substantiate or quantify it; merely your own declarative statements.
    Second – Does this only apply to westernized nations? As a straight white male living in Asia, I assure you I have almost no real “privilege” to speak of.

  377. >> But I also don’t believe that I have the equivalent of a bicycle while all around me are one legged.>>

    Nobody said any such thing.

    It was a response to a question about whether achievement is meaningless unless we pretend it’s all just as hard for everyone to do anything, which it patently isn’t. It’s an example chosen to illustrate a principle, not a claim that there’s only one person in the world with a bicycle, and it’s you.

    >> But this seems so full of generalization.>>

    It’s a generalization.

    >> I can’t imagine telling any person “well, of course, your life is easy compared to..(whatever)” based on a race or a gender.. >>

    Perhaps that’s because you’re trying to individualize it. It’s actually a general case. No one has argued that every straight white man has an easier life than every non-SWM. The argument is that straightness, whiteness and maleness are easier settings than the alternatives. That’s a general description, not a specific one, so if you’re thinking it means that some poor straight guy in a dead-end job at Burger King has it easier in life than the Obama children, that’s nonsense.

    But if you think that the Obama children prove that sexism and racism aren’t factors, because they won’t suffer them as much as the vast majority of black women, that doesn’t make sense. General cases are not true of all individuals, individual examples do not apply generally.

    >> I look at my work and I feel like “so now, it doesn’t matter what I do, because in the end.. it will still be me who created it”.>>

    That’s a bizarre way to feel, I’d say. Do you really think that achievement only counts if you achieved against the highest odds available? I don’t, and I doubt most people do, but it seems like you’re taking it as axiomatic. If so, I’d suggest rethinking that, rather than building a value system that says that J.K. Rowling accomplished nothing because she isn’t black and gay, too.

    >> Is it ok to make a sweeping generalization about a race if it’s, you know, the race that everyone feels comfortable putting beneath the others?>>

    If you can’t generalize, you can’t talk about general things. What you seem to be doing here is mixing up “generalization” and “stereotype.”

    >> Because right now it’s (apparently) politically acceptable to say “oh yeah, straight white male, their lives are easy”.>>

    This is another misreading, perhaps because you think “easier” and “easy” mean the same thing, and perhaps that they also mean “effortless.” They’re not and they don’t.

    >> But isn’t the real problem not the variable race or gender or whatever.. but the act of making the sweeping generalization itself? >>

    No. It’s a generalization to say women are at a disadvantage compared to men. It’s also true. It’s a generalization to say that blacks face prejudice in the United States. It’s also true. So when you say that it’s politically allowed to say that men are advantaged or white men face less prejudice, and therefore these are unacceptable statements, what you’re trying to do is deny that patterns of behavior and experience exist, or at least that we shouldn’t talk about them for fear of…some sort of labeling.

    There is a difference between saying, “straight white men have advantages” and saying “You are a straight white man, therefore you have nothing but advantages and no one who is not straight, white or male has any advantages themselves.” I hope you can see the difference.

    And glad you like my work; I appreciate it.

  378. @ AS – your objections still seem to boil down to “Why should I have to share? I don’t wanna.” Not sharing *once you’ve realized that you’ve been given an unfair advantage* is by definition, being selfish, and an asshole.

    And you’re assuming that all we’re asking to be shared is material advantages, which isn’t so – as others have pointed out, the benefits one gets from privilege aren’t limited to material things. Those benefits also include societal acceptance, approbation, not being treated as “strange,” “exotic” or “abnormal,” not to mention having one’s civil rights defended or assumed as a matter of course (see: the fight for legalized same-sex marriage). Sharing those intangible benefits is just as important as the material ones because they are just more ways in which a society signals that you are included, you belong, you are valued.

    Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not you believe that a society ultimately benefits from a more equitable system of distribution and equal treatment of its members. If “sharing” the benefits – both intangible and material – in whatever form is possible for you is something you see as “asking too much” I don’t think there’s really anything else that can be said to change your mind.

    Also, if you’re not a SWM acting like a privilege denying asshole to others, those criticisms *don’t apply to you or anyone else not acting like a privilege denying asshole* so why are you taking offense to them? If you’re more concerned about the hurt feelings of SWMs because it’s been pointed out to them that they’ve likely benefited from having privilege in a system that values heterosexuality, being white and being male, rather than the inequalities and harm that have resulted from that system, then you clearly have a set of priorities that I don’t agree with.

  379. Namae Nanka:

    “Considering that Marie Curie is more well-known than Maxwell, I won’t stress on the low status part.”

    Two Nobel prizes in physics have gone to women in over a hundred years. You want to argue that one of the two being better well-known than a physicist who did not is evidence of the “triumph of feminism”?

    If you really want to make the argument, name to me the other woman who won the award. Try it without Google! And while you’re at it, tell me if Madame Curie (or this other woman, whose name you are almost certainly unaware of) is more well-known than, say, Einstein. As long as we’re cherry-picking examples to give credence to specious arguments.

    Your logic-fu is less than compelling, Namae Nanka.

  380. I know she’s not saying that. I am, because it’s simply a fact. If you have it easier than someone else, your achievements mean less than those of that other person. No way around it.

  381. Is it ok to make a sweeping generalization about a race if it’s, you know, the race that everyone feels comfortable putting beneath the others? Or if it’s the one that it’s politically acceptable to? Because right now it’s (apparently) politically acceptable to say “oh yeah, straight white male, their lives are easy”. But that race that it’s ok to say stuff about.. that changes over time, doesn’t it? And depending where you live, it’s not even the majority.

    Your life has been easier as a white man than your life would have been if you were not a white man. This is almost certainly true.

    Making empirically-based statements about race categories is, well, empirical. White is a race that comes with some advantages. These can be observed and even, in some cases, measured. How they play out in your life (or mine) may be difficult to determine.

    It’s also hard to justify your apparent perception of “you have advantages” as somehow being a racial slur. Dude, you have advantages! Your life is easier than it would be if you weren’t white! That’s definitely some harsh discrimination, there. Every damn day I manage to encounter the idea that I probably rape children and should be put to death. One of these things is not like the other.

    What you call “sweeping generalizations” are aggregated data analyses. This is sometimes not the best approach, it’s true; if we only look at aggregates, we don’t see individuals. However, aggregates provide evidence of inequality that we would have trouble seeing otherwise. Pick a pair of individuals, similar in many ways, one straight, one gay: maybe the straight person has a chronic illness and the gay person is a healthy professional athlete. In aggregate, though, we find that gay people are less physically healthy on average, due partly to the stresses of living gay in a homophobic society and partly to diminished access to health care or lower quality of care. This doesn’t mean it’s bad to be gay or all gay people are unhealthy, but there’s nothing about being gay that *should* mean I have a higher risk of heart disease than a straight person, and yet, statistically, I do. And that lets us see the results of discrimination.

  382. F. Martin:
    If you’re the one judging yourself as wanting, then I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do about that.

    I’m trying to point out that life is not a zero-sum game, divided into hard and fast winners and losers. One person’s accomplishment only diminishes your own if you let it. As in most solo sports, we are competing against ourselves, our own limitations and our previous bests.

    And as Lee Fallin said above: There isn’t a finite amount of awesomeness available in the universe.

  383. @Esturary: Do you feel the same because you’re less successful than a bunch of SWMs too? Because Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Elon Musk, Mitt Romney and a LOT of other SWMs have more than a million dollars and are more ‘successful’ than you or I can ever dream of being.

    The issue is that when you look at the stats, there are a lot more SWM Gates, Romneys, Zuckerburgs, Musks and so forth than there are Wests, Obamas, Whitmans and the like.

    If you are born SWM, you’re more likely to earn more than any SWF, you are less likely to go to jail than any SBM and you’ll find a LOT easier to go to any hotel/place in the US and book a room for you and your partner without having disapproving looks or problems than any homosexual.

    That’s the way it is. Sorry you’re hurt by that, or you feel it devalues the challenges you’ve had in life, but whatever you’ve faced would, on the whole, be a LOT worse if you were a woman, gay or black. Sorry.

  384. Thanks, John, this is excellent.

    One of the things I don’t understand is why people of all sorts seem to be so low on gratitude. Yeah, I started with a few strikes against me and I worked hard to get out and overcome, and I’ve done well, but I sure as hell didn’t do it on my own. I had a good family growing up (and missed out on the addiction gene), I had family support through good times and bad, I had good teachers in a good educational system, and I had a lot of just plain luck — such as getting into the computer industry just as it was taking off. For all that, I’m eternally grateful. I’m grateful that I live in a country that has both the wealth and the social structure to permit that kind of mobility. I try to pay that gratitude forward, helping others when I can. I try to be generous, not just to people less well off but generous in attitude. What does it harm me to assume the best instead of the worst of that panhandler on the corner, or the woman with a drug problem.

    The truth is, if people play together instead of against each other, life gets a lot better for everybody.

  385. F. Martin:

    Yes, it’s terrible that you have advantages that other people have to work for.

    I know! Help make it so everyone else has those same advantages, and then you’ll have that even playing field you’re craving so much!

    It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work!

  386. even my significant other can understand this, and he’s not a gamer, or even computer literate! Thank you!

  387. Lee Falin: I also agree with @F. Martin that people born into a disadvantaged situation get more praise when the achieve something (first black this, first woman to do that, etc…),

    I find this statement to be odd.

    Can you, without looking it up, name the first man in space? on the moon? What about the first woman to go to space? to walk on the moon? The non-white black man to go into space? to walk on the moon?

    Oh, right. Only white men have been on the moon.

    Now, go look up the first woman (hint, it isn’t Sally Ride) and the first black man in space, because unless you happen to be a space historian or huge space nerd, I’m certain that you don’t know their names.

    They’re not being held up as examples of how meaningless Yuri Gagarin’s or Neil Armstrong’s accomplishments were, but as examples of how others may overcome adversity to do something amazing.

  388. Caucasian heterosexual male poster here! (Don’t worry, I’m not really putting it to good use.)

    Just wanted to say, we didn’t really need this metaphor — and this is coming from a game designer. Most people know there are privileges to being white, or male, and so on. Just as there are privileges to not being, say, severely physically disabled or extremely unintelligent or from a broken home. What people should realize is, it’s not an insult to be called “privileged,” nor should it be. Nor is it a conversation-ender.

    I don’t see how this simplified argument improves anyone’s understanding of the concept. That, or the constant implications that this is something that needs to be patiently explained to white male dullards, or that we’re unable to discuss the concept without freaking out. It’s just going to put people on the defensive (as we’ve seen) and turn people off the “cause.” Especially when the reaction to critiques is either to delete their post or tell them off.

    We need to address privilege and level the playing field, undoubtedly. Your heart is in the right place, but I think your approach (or reproach) has been backwards.

  389. Ian Ironwood @ 3:14pm:

    Sounds to me like your friend’s problem was that he was, bluntly, a doormat. It had nothing to do with his societal position vis-a-vis his ancestry, gender, or sexual orientation and everything to do with a lack of assertiveness on his part.

  390. Scalzi: Totally. I dispute none of that.

    I’m just saying, until the playing field is leveled, SWMs are, by definition, inferior to non-SWMs. It’s an unpleasant truth, and one that may drive some SWMs to get defensive and turn away from the good fight, but a truth nonetheless, and we do no good by sweeping it under the rug or pretending it isn’t true.

  391. >> If one way of playing the game is easier than the other, the person playing it the easy way is, by definition, less of a player. If one path through life is easier than the other, the person living that life is, by definition, less of a person.>>

    Then as long as there’s someone worse off than you, none of your accomplishments matter. Unless we pretend no one is worse off than you.

    That strikes me as a stupid value system, one that says that difficulty is the only yardstick that matters. I don’t think most people buy into it, so if you’re insisting on it, that seems to be your choice, not some unassailable logical conclusion.

    I’ve won awards for my work. I know there are people who did not have the opportunities I’ve had. This doesn’t make me think the work is crap; it makes me aware that I didn’t overcome poverty to get where I am, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t achieve anything.

  392. Brilliant stuff. As a straight white male I agree. It’s easy being me. This was always my problem with white supremacists – what’s your next campaign, chaps, grass green, sky blue? I’m moderately successful but the fact I’m not more successful ain’t nobody else’s fault but mine.

  393. [People who comment to tell me that they didn't read get deleted! Because they're jackassed trolls who have nothing to add to the conversation! -- JS]

  394. It may be obvious, but Straight White Males can “up” their difficulty level any time they choose:

    1. Start having sex with men.
    2. Move to a place where most people aren’t white.
    3. Transgender themselves. (At which point they will have to revert to having sex with women again if they already did #1…)

    If they want to…

    I think this description is mostly apt, and any tweaks I might make have already been offered by others. John addresses the biggest issue I have with these types of conversations, which is that people equate “the lowest difficulty level” to “easy,” and to assume that the level of difficulty is homogenous throughout the game. (“If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you.”)

    Sometimes the game is easy. Certainly, SWMs living in non-third-world countries probably do have it easier than non-SWMs, all else being equal (which, of course, it never is). However, “easier” and “easy” are not the same thing. We’re all human, and the game of life sucks for everyone at different times and for different reasons, regardless of what difficulty level you’re playing at.

    The reason I generally dismiss discussions like this is that the tone almost inevitably turns Bergeronian. In game terms, people might want to, say, make an SWM do more to earn the same amount of gold (because earning gold is harder for those on harder difficulty settings), or take away what another player who played before him gave him so that he wouldn’t have to start on the lowest levels (because those playing on harder difficulty settings didn’t get the same things to start with). In practical conversation, it’s my experience that people typically express the desire to handicap SWMs and create their own priv…uh, I mean, reset their own game to the lowest difficulty level…rather than change the system to be more fair to everybody. That’s a perfectly natural desire — just as it’s perfectly natural for SWMs to dislike it.

  395. Perhaps the solution to the problem that people with bicycles have it easier if to work toward a day when everyone has bicycles. It seems more productive than saying that it makes you feel bad about yourself to recognize that having a bicycle is an advantage, so let’s not be truthful about bicycles getting you places faster than walking.

  396. Ace Minority Female here rolling my eyes so hard at this article. I have problems in my life, because life isn’t fair and I rolled up crap for wealth and family connections. It IS a hard life, and it isn’t remotely fun, but it has NOTHING to do with the fact that I am not a Straight White Male. If I make something out of my life it’s not because I overcame my ‘handicaps’, and it wouldn’t be any easier if I had ‘training wheels’ on. In fact, because I AM female if I really wanted to, I could move up in life far more easily than a male could. Saying that straight white men have it ‘easy’ is just a crutch to hang back and feel good about yourself for not succeeding, because it’s not YOUR fault, if you were just born a little bit differently, all the effort you put into things would have more than equaled enough to succeed at whatever.

    It’s an archaic, ignorant and frankly problematic belief that does no one absolutely any favors. Yes, you can be born on the easy road if you’re in just the right place or family or time, or you can jump to an easier difficulty if you suddenly get lucky, but none of that has to do with being straight, white, or male. The ONLY factor of the three that could ‘influence’ whether you are born in a good position for the easy route is ‘white’, and even then it’s a pretty offensive implication to say only white families have enough wealth or family connections to pass on to their children. How about we stop trying to point at people and decide who has it more difficult so we can feel better about ourselves over it, and instead just concentrate on doing what it takes to get whatever it is we’re looking for? That’s a whole lot more effective than trying to make white boys feel bad for being born the way they were. Or is it okay to make straight white males feel horrible about not succeeding because ‘they can’t even do it on very easy mode’?

    I guess other people’s feelings don’t matter if it comes to us feeling like war-torn badasses for chiseling out a meager living on life’s ‘very hard’ mode.

  397. I think the reason you might have difficulty communicating your ideas to straight, white males is that you make it sound like every straight, white male is either a) part of a conspiracy to make life better for each other at the expense of everyone else, or b) don’t care that somebody else might have it harder.

    Generalizations generally don’t communicate well, even if they are largely true.

  398. I love that you added the bit about not being able to change the difficulty setting. So many people try to do that their whole lives. My message: quit trying to change your initial settings and just play the game — you can still win.

  399. John Scalzi @ 3:38 pm: Fair enough. I was just wondering if people were leaping to conclusions on this.

    Mothgar @ 5:40 pm:

    Most people know there are privileges to being white, or male, and so on.

    It would be nice if most people knew this. However, based the comments posted here, this knowledge is clearly not universal.

  400. kurtbusiek:

    It’s not that difficulty is the only yardstick that matters. But it does matter. If a man on a bike and a man with one leg and no bike race, the man on the bike may very well win the race, but he would not and should not get any credit for doing so.

    To boil it down to its simplest terms:

    Two people are working toward a goal.
    One person has a significant starting advantage.
    Both achieve the goal.

    Which one are you more impressed with?

  401. @ Mothgar

    “Most people know there are privileges to being white, or male, and so on.”

    Ideally, this would be the case. But judging from some of the comments here, and the fact that this is not the first post John has written attempting to explain the concept (not to mention the vast, vast plethora of blog posts attempting to do similar and having similarly frustrating comment threads), this is not the reality we currently inhabit.

  402. There are a number of points of disagreement I have here, which I will try to phrase in a reasonably non-loaded way:

    1. The assumption that the primary determinants of difficulty level are race, gender, and sexual orientation–not other factors such as class, culture, or attractiveness. There are lots of anecdotes in the thread so far, so let me add one: One of my best friends from high school was an attractive, intelligent, black girl from a family of upper middle class professionals (both doctors). Culturally, suburban, went to the same high class private school I went to. She was expected to go to an Ivy League school–she did, and ended up at Harvard Law. My fiance, who is white, came from a lower-middle class broken family, with an awful father and a mother who suffered from serious medical issues through her early childhood. In her family, just going to college was a huge achievement. Who had the tougher difficulty level? I had the same background as my friend, but as a white male; my father abandoned us when I was 13, I’m fat and not very attractive, and I didn’t have parental financial support as an adult. I know the answer from previous commenters was “yeah, but it would have been even tougher if you were black!” Putting aside the question of whether that’s true, so what? None of us are responsible for the circumstances of our birth, and we’re all born with certain advantages and disadvantages. It should be obvious from observation that race, gender, and sexual orientation aren’t such huge advantages as to outweigh less controversial advantages, so why should I care particularly about race, gender, or sexual orientation privilege?

    2. The assumption that race, gender, or sexual orientation is only an advantage or disadvantage. Most obviously with gender, but also with the other categories. I’m not expected to be a nurturer…but I am expected to be a breadwinner of the family. If I wanted to be a stay at home dad, I’d be treated badly by others. If I want to volunteer with kids because I like kids, I’m automatically suspected of being a pedophile. And if I’m unlucky enough to get divorced, I’m more likely to get the worse deal on custody. On race, I get the benefit of being “normal,” but also the negative side of being “normal.” At the professional end of the scale, overt discrimination is likely to be in favor of minorities, not against them. Quantifying and adding up all the advantages and disadvantages looks like a fool’s errand, and to what end?

    3. The assumption that massive social action is needed to remedy this “difficulty level.” My grandparents wouldn’t have been considered “white” in their day; they were Jewish. My great-great-grandparents were even worse off, because they were Jewish in Russia. Most American Jews were impoverished from 1910-30, and then World Jewry suffered the horror of the Holocaust, Somehow, we became successful, and we didn’t do it by carping about privilege and demanding special treatment from the majority. Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans did much the same thing, and now get the double-whammy of being a minority and being discriminated against in college admissions because they’ve gotten too successful.

    4. Finally, the assumption that the solution to this “difficulty level” issues (brought up by the comments, not by John) is essentially “be a leftist.” (see AS’s post above for a comprehensive list) Progressive taxation? Fight for “social justice?” How does that solve the problem? Should I get a boost or a weight for being Jewish? For being fat? For having doctor parents? For having divorced parents? To go back to the game metaphor, so many pixels are spilled trying to figure out how to remedy this difficulty level issue, and it sounds a lot like the trolls on MMO forums whining about game balance while everyone else is having fun just playing the game, and if the difficulty level is too hard, they deal with it or change their goals. Because if it’s so hard to balance SWTOR or WoW, how do you expect it to be remotely possible to balance Life?

  403. This is too hard to understand. Can’t someone give me the Internet Standard Car Analogy?

    gd&r

  404. Brad:

    As nothing in the entry suggests either a) or b), I’m not. But it’s interesting that you appeared to read it that way.

    That Person says:

    “Saying that straight white men have it ‘easy’ is just a crutch to hang back and feel good about yourself for not succeeding”

    And oddly enough, no one else seems to be saying this, either. Certainly I have not made such a suggestion.

    Strange how people are reading so much that isn’t there! How does this happen?

  405. @Curtis:

    It may be obvious, but Straight White Males can “up” their difficulty level any time they choose:

    1. Start having sex with men.
    2. Move to a place where most people aren’t white.
    3. Transgender themselves. (At which point they will have to revert to having sex with women again if they already did #1…)

    Wow.

    1. Gay is an identity, not a behavior. You don’t choose to be gay.
    2. Being of an advantaged race but a local minority is not actually a disadvantage, although it’s less of an advantage than being in a majority racially homogeneous enclave.
    3. Transgender isn’t a verb, and this is also not a choice, although whether or not to act on one’s gender identity (by transitioning) is.

    Because what you’re saying is that if I’m tired of getting shit for being gay, I should just start having sex with men. You’re not so far from “go back in the closet if you don’t like it.”

    So, assuming you weren’t intending to say that sexual orientation and gender identity are easily changed, perhaps you should restate…

  406. F Martin: If you are asking am I more impressed that a 1 legged person ran a marathon than a two legged person then yes.

    Does that devalue the achievement of the 2 legged person who ran it?

    No, it does not. I couldn’t run a marathon myself.

    Anymore than I think that being a SWM devalues what Mark Zukerburg or Bill Gates or Elon Musk etc… have done. I’m about the same age as Musk, but he’s done better than me. Does that make me feel like I’m a loser? Not really. It would be nice to be him, but kudos and all that.

    I’ve been thinking about Black friends who are similarly ‘successful’ as I am and thinking does that make me feel bad? No. No, it doesn’t.

  407. F. Martin – If all other things are equal and if two people have exactly the same accomplishment, then the one who had the more difficult time achieving that goal is better. However, all other things are never equal. No two people ever achieve exactly the same thing. If I ride the twenty miles in forty minutes and a healthy walker takes a week to go the same distance then I did better even though having the bike is an advantage if you want to get to a town that is 20 miles away.

  408. I think that The Pint is trying to play a game where it’s the sum total of everyone’s score that counts, and F. Martin is trying to play a game where it’s your personal score that counts.

    I think there are people reacting to the suggestion that one should put a multiplier on score that accounts for the difficulty level that you play on—100 points on hard being worth 2X 100 points on easy. Which is great if you’re playing the first sort of game and obnoxious if you’re playing the second sort.

    I think anyone who plays for personal score exclusively is probably a bit of an asshole. I think anyone who claims to be playing for group score exclusively should probably make sure that they’re playing at Mother Theresa levels before calling people who care about their personal score “selfish”.

  409. Well, at least this metaphor isn’t as offensive as “privilege”, with its implication that we straight white men are coercively taking things in a zero-sum way from others. As a stereotypical truth, that is. (I am glad that y’all liberal-minded folks are now happy in dealing with broad racial and sexual stereotypes — perhaps I will remind you of it in future.)

    Me, I prefer “advantage”. See, my parents and forebears gave me great advantages. Not just my awesome straightness (easy enough to get), and white maleness. As well as other genetically determined advantages — which I have several of. But also environmental advantages: a roof over my head, food, a stable home life growing up. An education, if not money, although of course I do share some credit for that. Just living here the West under the rule of law. Living in the most future time yet. All of these advantages — none of them privileges — I am happy to have had. My ancestors rock: thanks, Mom and Dad. Yeah, life is pretty easy. And that’s good.

    So what’s so wrong with “game in easy mode” as a metaphor?

    For one thing: this “game” actually counts; that is, it’s not a game. Games are, among other things, optional, and they have an outside context in which they are meaningless. If it were a game, I’d learn it in easy mode, maybe for a little while. Perhaps even for game “years”, until I am just as old as I am now. Then — assuming it was a game that held my interest — I’d play on hard. I could accomplish that by, for example, killing a man in cold blood, so that I could be sent to prison and get a felon’s record. Just to spice it up, you know? Perhaps Anders Breivik thinks it’s a game in this sense. To call it a game is nihilism, in other words, and I do not think most people here are really nihilists.

  410. >> It’s not that difficulty is the only yardstick that matters. But it does matter. If a man on a bike and a man with one leg and no bike race, the man on the bike may very well win the race, but he would not and should not get any credit for doing so.>>

    Ah, I see. You’re assuming that since someone (me) used the idea of a bicycle and a one-legged man as an example, that this scenario can be turned into a race (because it’s not about getting to the destination, it’s about “winning” something), and this can then be used as a perfect parallel to real life.

    I think you’re mistaken.

    If I write a graphic novel that delights a lot of people and brings in money that pays my mortgage, and Scalzi writes a novel that delights a lot of people and brings in money that pays his mortgage, who won?

    Do we look to see who started worse off? Do we count the money? Do we test the two of us for happiness and see who’s ahead?

    I’d say the question makes no sense. We weren’t racing each other. We both won, in that we both achieved a goal. Beyond that, our readers won, our mortgage holders won, lots of people won.

    Rather than moan that our achievements don’t count because we’re not gay — or perhaps argue that we “won” over Larry Niven because he grew up rich — I think we can both feel pride in our accomplishments. And we can both work toward giving others a chance, too.

    Because it’s not about beating the other guy. It’s about reaching the goal. The more people who reach such goals, the happier we all might be. I’m certainly happy that Scalzi writes novels, because it make my life better to read them. I’m not trying to “win.” I’m trying to achieve.

    You keep ignoring the idea of achievement and looking only at an imaginary competition. If that makes you feel your achievements are worthless, so be it. I think that’s a silly way to look at things, but you’re doing it to yourself; it’s not being imposed on you.

    If Niven gets there on a hang glider, I get there on a bicycle, Scalzi arrives on a unicycle, Rowling shows up on inline skates and someone else crawls across the finish line on stumps, we all won. Because we weren’t racing each other.

  411. “I should perhaps point out that “Game” being discussed is a very different critter than that described by Carse in Finite and Infinite Games, which is usually shelved in theology or philosophy.”

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I haven’t read that one yet, but based on its Wikipedia page it sounds like an interesting work, and yes, quite different from the “Game” Ian and I refer to above. (If you really want to know more about that, you can do a Google search with keywords

    game male female alpha beta

    and go through the list of readings as far as you care or can stand to read through. (If you think what matters in life is mastering dominance contests to win prizes, and see desirable women primarily as particularly valuable prizes, you may find some kindred spirits in the literature.)

  412. I’m surprised at the number of detractors. I thought this was pretty well known and documented. I would add that a TALL straight white male would be a cheat code in the Game of Life. Malcolm Gladwell had some interesting insights in Blink:
    http://www.gladwell.com/blink/blink_excerpt2.html

    I am a tall straight white male and I had to work very hard to get where I am today as my family did not have many points in the Wealth category. But a person of color or the opposite sex would have had a tougher time with it than I. Which frankly stinks but ignoring the discrepancy is even worse.

    I think so many white men admonish the word “privileged” because they feel it undermines the hard work that they have done over the years. Does someone working harder than you to accomplish the same goals diminish the work that you have done? I don’t know. If I go to the gym and have a good workout I don’t feel I did worse if a friend has a better workout.

    It is hard to overlook the fact that race and sex are still an advantage in this day and age. If we consciously accept his, we can on day move on to where there is only one Difficulty selection.

  413. More racism guised as “teaching” white males how awesome their life is by default. Sorry, but painting such a wide and diverse group in such a broad brush is always bullshit. Whatever your aim, you do more harm than good.

  414. Excellent post, John Scalzi, thank you very much. I’d like to offer this follow up: The next step is what you do with your difficulty setting: Do you exploit it to get as far in the game as you can or do you use it to help your fellow gamers who are playing with a less advantageous setting to do better –to level out the fairness? Do you speak out against your fellow gamers who make derogatory remarks concerning another players’ disadvantages or do you allow those remarks tacit approval by your silence? The next step is to use your advantages to help stamp out the disadvantages by words and deeds and level the game for everyone. When you work together with those of all difficulty settings, you can work to make all the levels easy settings. This is what you can do.

  415. F. Martin: I am very, very glad that I do not live in your sad world.

    I’m also glad that many of the other commenters here don’t live there either. I’d try and explain what it looks like here, and why I find the view so much better than the one in your world, but I doubt that you would even make an effort to understand. You’re more likely to insist that I actually live in the same world as you do, but I just don’t see correctly.

  416. We’re never going to have only one Difficulty selection: the world doesn’t work that way.

    But I wish we could get to a point where the level of difficulty wasn’t taken as a symbol of inherent worth by anyone. Having advantages doesn’t make you morally superior those who didn’t (unless you’re an asshole); and vice, most definitely, versa.

  417. Your ground rules seem to consist of “only a chorus of agreement will be tolerated.”

  418. SWMs are an outrageously privileged group…impossible to deny, and for those that are SWMs their position at the very apex of privilege should be easy to see and appreciate…less easy to appreciate perhaps is when you are relatively less privileged than those at the apex, but really, in the big picture you are still pretty much starting the game at easy…and there are many, many of us who don’t fit the SWM category but still fit into that much larger category of the privileged.

  419. @bbeck310:
    “It should be obvious from observation that race, gender, and sexual orientation aren’t such huge advantages as to outweigh less controversial advantages, so why should I care particularly about race, gender, or sexual orientation privilege?”

    1. Because they are systematic, which means that your society as a whole suffers because those people in those circumstances are not hitting the mark.

    “On race, I get the benefit of being “normal,” but also the negative side of being “normal.” At the professional end of the scale, overt discrimination is likely to be in favor of minorities, not against them. Quantifying and adding up all the advantages and disadvantages looks like a fool’s errand, and to what end?”

    2. Because you want to know whether the systematic bias is at an end, and more importantly whether it has been for long enough that the system will not reset itself.

    “Progressive taxation? Fight for “social justice?” How does that solve the problem? ”

    4. By establishing a minimum starting level and progress mechanisms that are minimally sufficient to allow people to overcome bad starts

    It’s funny, I actually have problems with the original post myself, but these are pretty laughable objections.

  420. If life was a MMO, North Korea would be the worlds 2nd largest super power, just after South Korea.

  421. Your explanation of The Real World is awesome. You really get it. I’d add another factor in, however: if you’re disabled and need disability access it doesn’t matter what your race is, you’re automatically below minority races. I’m white by heritage and, *worse still* I’m white by disability. I’m an albino. You may be aware that the entertainment industry fairly consistently depicts albinos as evil, insane or, at best, mentally unstable when albinos are depicted at all. There is a group lobbying for better representation of albinos in the entertainment industry, which would help albinos intrinsically (see Edward James Olmos and his analogy of a glass of water in the desert) but would also help in the way others perceive and treat albinos.

    After years of studying and hard work, the pinnacle of my career was a Community Health Worker for CNAHS, part of the Department of Health in South Australia. The senior social worker there told me my disability was my choice because I was too vain to wear ‘coke bottle glasses’. I was repeatedly refused disability access, both verbally and via email. One of the managers bullied me repeatedly for my inability to sit ergonomically at a computer screen then, after refusing disability access a couple of times via email, the subject was raised in a team meeting. I was publicly humiliated for being disabled. Then I was singled out alone as having to reapply for my job even though I was working well above my pay scale and working extra-long days, taking the early clients, lunch-time clients and late clients all in one day. The only other applicant for the position was a student social worker with no post-graduate qualifications and no professional work experience. Three months before being given my job the senior social worker had refused to allow her to counsel anyone because the senior social worker was trying to teach her the basics of counselling first. The student social worker played tennis with the manager who bullied me. Of course she got the job. I’ve been unemployed ever since, 6 years.

    Recently I was approached to be interviewed as part of a snapshot of the Australian SFF scene. I had concerns about this, especially when the website that gave information said, ‘…see[ing] who has lost prominence or relevance in the intervening years…’ and the interviewer said her goal for the interview was ‘As editor of a relatively new fanzine, I think it would be interesting to have your point of view on the importance of fanzines, particularly in light of new media such as podcasts, etc.’ I said I’d participate but without seeing the questions in advance I would not guarantee that I would answer all of her questions. She said ‘Actually, I don’t think any snapshot participant refusing to answer the questions, and last time we had 112 participants. Still, you obviously have some reservations about participating, so perhaps we’ll just leave it there.’ (this is a copy/paste, the errors are hers.) The same day she sent this statement to me, a male participant said he was either ‘unwilling or unable’ to answer two of the three questions she had given him. She sent him new questions. It’s interesting that even in the SFF scene, people are giving preferential treatment to white males over disabled women.

    In my interview with Christopher Kirby (Iron Sky, Matrix, Star Wars) he says one thing he likes about the science fiction genre is it tends to be colourblind. I wish the SFF community was likewise ‘blind’ to gender and disability.

  422. bbeck310:

    “The assumption that the primary determinants of difficulty level are race, gender, and sexual orientation–not other factors such as class, culture, or attractiveness.”

    Yes, strange that one would have those baseline assumptions in the United States. Because as we all know, the United States since its founding never found reason to discriminate against anyone based on race, gender or sexuality, or to encode those discrimination into its laws. But we did have laws against ugly people voting. I can’t seem to remember which Amendment to the Constitution gave ugly people the right to vote, but I know it will come to me eventually.

    That said, I’m perfectly happy to grant that there are several other factors that can make the game difficult for individual players, and that class, culture and attractiveness can be part of those; that’s why I note them (briefly and generally) as stat attributes, and make the notation that even on “easy,” the individual player can have a rough time of it. But particularly in the US, the assertion that race, sex and gender are not baseline difficulty settings is to seriously ignore the history of the nation, and also its current state.

    Trimegistus:

    “Your ground rules seem to consist of ‘only a chorus of agreement will be tolerated.'”

    That’s apparently because your reading comprehension is of an exceptionally low level, Trimegistus. However, it is true that I snip out egregiously stupid comments. Yours just barely survived! Aren’t you proud.

  423. As elderly white female who had two children to raise on a woman’s salary (a long time ago) I had to stop reading because of the recurring theme of – so I got it good, whadda you want me to do about it – I have a suggestion – If you are aware you are ahead of the game through chance only – how about giving others a hand up?.

  424. @ThePint:

    My problems are mostly around problems of how we as human beings are communicating with each other. It’s not “Why should I have to share? I don’t wanna” It’s, “Why are you failing to understand that often, there are some forms of privilege that people don’t want to lose, which is a perfectly valid and reasonable response?” Firstly, this mostly doesn’t apply to me: you may have missed it in the length of comments, but I am in no way whatsoever a SWM. I just have a lot of empathy for what it’s like to be asked to give up things so that other people can have them. I actually completely agree with you in terms of social acceptance and civil rights, and engage in a lot of activism (and donate finances and time) around those areas. I try to see this from other sides.

    Not sharing, even if you realize you’ve been given an unfair advantage, is not “Being an asshole.” That is a value statement which does not apply to everyone. Not everyone has similar values around sharing being the highest priority. There’s this great thing rumbling around the net that talks about how people’s value priorities informs their choices-that all people start from strong moral choices. People not wishing to give up material things in order to get fairness may be prioritizing “family” over “equality.” That doesn’t make them immoral. It means they make different choices than you.

    Your statement of “Also, if you’re not a SWM acting like a privilege denying asshole to others, those criticisms *don’t apply to you or anyone else not acting like a privilege denying asshole* so why are you taking offense to them?” That kind of defeats the purpose of this whole thread, doesn’t it? The point is that it’s okay to stand up for people even if you AREN’T like them, to stand up and be offended on behalf of people that you may not be like, when you feel they are being unduly wronged. That’s a moral principle I do believe in, strongly.

    Look, in personal life? I don’t like privilege denying jerks either. I rant about it. I work against it. But I also try to figure out how I can connect with them, in their language, and figure out the most mutually beneficial solution. And that is: don’t ask people to give up things that benefit them. Ask people to work together in ways that don’t hurt them, and celebrate them for doing it, not yell at them for not going far enough.

  425. @Newbury – because clearly it’s only possible to play for one of the two extremes. You forgot the third choice – playing for an overall score that benefits everyone *including me*. I would benefit quite nicely in an world where there’s less institutionalized discrimination because, you know, a greater variety of people learn from and interact with, less tensions caused by inequalities, etc., would make my life infinitely happier and less stressful. Like others have said, we all benefit from when more people are able to play the game with less handicaps.

    And yeah, refusing to share what you have after having been made aware of how you’ve benefited from advantages not given to others, despite having an ability to do so without it causing you undue harm, even if it’s something as simple as refraining from using sexist/ableist/gendered insults in your everyday language, is being selfish. Being less concerned about the harm done by the inequalities resulting from systematic privileges and being more concerned about those whose feathers get ruffled with said systematic privileges are pointed out, is short-sighted and indicative of some seriously messed up priorities. If that makes me sanctimonious, I can live with that.

    But do continue to straddle your fence, I’m sure the view is quite lovely from up there where you’re looking down at the rest of us. Also please don’t compare me to Mother Theresa – I don’t think it’s a blessing and a benefit for people to suffer.

  426. Beth:
    It’s not MY world, it’s THE world. Success is measured in terms of competition. What other measure could there possibly be?

  427. Brilliant metaphor. The only thing I can say is that it tends, as it often happens with theories coming from America, to extend the structure of America to the whole world. America is not the whole world. The whole world is not a mirror of America.

    If you are in China, being a white male is not the lowest setting: being a Chinese man is. If you are in Japan, it’s being a Japanese man. If you are in Middle East, it’s being Middle Eastern… and so on. In general, being ‘the average’ is the easiest: but we tend to forget that outside America and Europe POC are not always a minority.

    So I guess that the definition of what the easiest level is depends on the dominant ethnicity of the location. But extending American standards to the whole world because it’s clearly bound to be a mirror of America is, ehr… a very American thing to do.

  428. [Speaking as a white male, I have deleted the comment because of its abject stupidity -- JS]

  429. Strange how people are reading so much that isn’t there! How does this happen?

    But see, John, you cheated. You were supposed to use a term like ‘privilege’ that is easy to nitpick and pedantify so as to derail the conversation and avoid anything uncomfortable coming up. Instead, you used an excellent metaphor that still takes into account that being a SWM is about relative, rather than absolute advantage. My goodness, what other option to avoid unpleasant conversations besides pretending you failed to address certain arguments already?

    Less sarcastically, it truly baffles me to hear fellow pale people whine about how being ‘crucified’ because there is a widespread acknowledgement that racism exists and kinda sucks. I don’t get it.

  430. Success is measured in terms of competition. What other measure could there possibly be?

    Wow. You must have been a barrel of laughs at birthday parties. Were you the kind of kid who refused his scoop of ice cream of the kid next to him got a bigger one?

    And I guess your life is now worthless because you’re not Tony Stark?

  431. interesting if not flawed metaphor. Obama sort of blows the mold. After all he is the first black, female, gay president we have.

  432. >> The only thing I can say is that it tends, as it often happens with theories coming from America, to extend the structure of America to the whole world.>>

    Take another look: “Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game.”

  433. “It’s not MY world, it’s THE world. Success is measured in terms of competition.”

    Measured by whom?

    “What other measure could there possibly be?”

    You really can’t think of any others? How does “I accomplished the goals I most valued in my life, and I’m happy about that”, to take one example, not work as a measure of success? It seems like a clear success criterion to me, and it doesn’t depend at all on what or how anyone else did.

  434. @ F. Martin

    Personal subjective happiness, for starters. Some of us are only competing with ourselves.

  435. whatever indeed:

    Actually, the first gay president was probably James Buchanan. It’s rumored that Warren Harding was at least partially African American, although certainly there’s no doubt about Obama. And I’ve heard no one but you suggest Obama is the first female president we’ve had, so I’ll toss that out.

    So: one in three. Would you like to try again?

  436. @ Kevin Williams 5:40
    No doubt, he was doormat city. But here’s the thing . . .

    he didn’t start out that way. He started out fine, with a good life plan and a solid career doing what he wanted to do ahead of him. But he was so in love with his wife that he essentially let her take-over the relationship, unwilling to assert any authority (or spine, for that matter) because it might be perceived as him being another “angry straight white male trying to oppress” his wife in their marriage. So he doubled down on the Beta, became an envelope-stuffing, non-profit fundraising machine, because that’s what his wife told him she wanted . . . and then she dumped him, hard, for a far more stereotypical — but far wealthier — Straight White Male. And yes, one of the things that she complained about was his lack of backbone, after systematically berating him and finding fault with him for years whenever he tried to show one.

    He’s doing better now, but the whole incident burned several of us on political activism in progressive causes. When witnessing the feminist feeding frenzy rationalizing her behavior, all of that pretty ideology about fairness and rights and dignity and respect went right out of the window. He was just another clumsy, dopey, Beta who got rooked into a relationship he had no hope of happiness in . . and as a result spent ten years cultivating friends who had no interest of him if he was merely a Single Straight White Male.

  437. I think another thing to remember is: what’s the end goal? Is it to make us less racist, sexist, and heteronormative as a society? Or is it to aggressively take from others in order to avenge or assuage the difficulties that have arisen from our current societal settings?

    If you want to preach progressive social justice economic Guilty White Liberal talk as the only way to accomplish those goals, that’s cool. That’s great. It feels really, really good. There’s a segment of the population that’s going to stand up and cheer. But you know what? Those people /already agree with you/. Nothing you say is going to make them any more committed to changing the world. They’re already there. You’re preaching to the choir. (And look, I’ve been there too, which is why I know how good it feels.)

    But if you want to actually change the world and make it a better place to live in, you need to work from a framework of not demonizing the opposition. J. Smucker, one of the main media minds behind Occupy Wall Street NYC, makes some good points about this in his writing on narrative insurgency rather than narrative attack. “Rather than directly attack a creationist’s whole belief system, for instance, a “narrative insurgent” looks to foment home-grown insurgency against the most problematic beliefs by identifying ally beliefs and seeking to reinforce them. When speaking to creationists about environmental issues, for example, emphasizing humanity’s mandate to care for God’s creation can be an effective point of entry”

    You are probably not going to win the collectivism-vs-individualism debate. Definitely not online. There are entire swaths of the country that fight it out every year for a bare few percentage points. This is an old debate about the future of the country. I understand that anti-racism work often goes hand in hand with it. But the one fight is not the other.

    So again: try not being a jerk. Talk from common ground.

    I think it’s highly likely that everyone, everyone on this thread, even the SWMs with the most hostile ideas, can be brought to the idea that everyone deserves equal social and civil rights.
    That’s a winnable goal. Why don’t we work for that, instead of fighting out brutally over things that are unlikely to be achieved and deeply offensive to a large segment of the population?

  438. My problem with this article is that it tries to take a statistic and apply it to every individual. That’s what easy means in a game – you will face all the same challenges, but they’ll be dialed down because of this trait. We don’t face the same challenges in life, though. Luck and circumstance have a great deal to do with it, and it isn’t simply a matter of A and B being otherwise equal, because they aren’t otherwise equal, and it’s not because of differences in gender or race. So while I respect the intent, it’s just not a very good analogy.

    There’s also an argument around psychology and win conditions to be had, but I doubt I could make the points cogently enough to be worth posting.

    In general, this article is an oversimplification in ways that matter to the point under discussion. Privilege is a systematic bias. It doesn’t hit every life the same way.

  439. Maybe we can bring back the game metaphor for a second for you console gamers.

    For the many achievements, the XBox360* doesn’t care what difficult setting you have your game set to. It just hands out the achievement when you do the appropriate task. You, on the other hand, may realize you got it while playing the insanity level and feel pleased with yourself.

    The world just looks at your gamer score. It’s unfair, but that’s the way it works.

    *This also works with the Playstation 3 and trophies, doesn’t it?

  440. @F. Martin: No, actually, it is your world. “Success is measured” – darn interesting use of the passive, as others have pointed out. What you appear to mean is “I measure success in terms of competition, and I cannot imagine any other measure of success.” That’s sad, really.

    @AS: You seem to be asserting that one can never be an “asshole” if one is acting out of deeply-held moral beliefs, or a desire to protect one’s family, because that’s simply a different value system and one mustn’t be judgy. Am I misunderstanding your reply to The Pint? Because I assume you realize that assertion can be used to justify lots of unfortunate behavior. My family is worth more than your family in my value system, therefore it is not immoral or assholery, in MY value system, for me to empty your bank account or burglarize your home.

  441. It’s amazing how many people can’t deal with the idea of exceptions or top percentiles.

    If you view the world through the statistical lens of distributions the exceptional cases are there but they are obvious not as prominent as everyone else.

    I am getting sick of people listing off exceptional cases and then sweeping the rest of reality under the rug.

  442. mgb:

    “We don’t face the same challenges in life, though.”

    I’m not aware that the article says one does. It also doesn’t suggest that initial difficulty setting is the only factor in how one plays the game — indeed, it points out specifically that initial points and stats apportionment are a very significant factor.

  443. This article provides an intriguing metaphor for navigating the subjects of privilege and identity, which is a truly worthwhile endeavor. However, I think the framework of identity (which, let’s not forget, is itself socially constructed) has some important limitations. Namely, I think it can lead some people to become hyper-focused on our perceived differences, rather than the commonalities upon which we can build solidarity and community. Identity politics taken to an extreme can lead to a kind of solipsistic view of the world, which I find rather troubling and counter-productive. The way you’ve programmed The Real World seems to assume a kind of zero-sum game between individuals who fit into discrete categories. Here, then, are my some of my questions: How can we program The Real World in such a way that it reflects individuals’ perceived identities without necessarily pitting those individuals against one another or reducing them to something resembling tokens of types? Can our reality even be accurately reduced to a metaphorical reality that’s founded upon a binary system? Is the overall metaphor about life being a game problematic?

  444. Reasonable analogy, but I have a question: Why is it in the rational interest of a straight white guy to take actions that would knock him out of his privileged position, particularly when there’s no reward for “leveling the playing field,” and no do-overs? Even if you care about your kids’ future, wouldn’t you want your kids to also be playing on easy mode (and it is exceedingly likely that if you are a straight white guy in America, your kids will also be doing pretty fine.)

  445. mgb: My problem with this article is that it tries to take a statistic and apply it to every individual. That’s what easy means in a game…

    In general, this article is an oversimplification in ways that matter to the point under discussion. Privilege is a systematic bias. It doesn’t hit every life the same way.

    Did you read the same thing I read?

  446. Thanks, John! Does that mean you’ll delete my comment above?

    Also, can anybody explain to me the following things, because they don’t seem to make much sense to me:

    How is pointing out that some people (as a group) have more advantages starting out, and going through life, than do people belonging to other groups, bashing the people in the first group? I mean, don’t we talk about natural talents and advantages all the time? Tall guys tend to have an advantage in basketball. Petite and athletic women tend to have an advantage in ballet and gymnastics. It’s not like pointing out that those things are advantages means that we are saying that tall basketball players are less deserving of our praise than shorter guys who work really hard. The only difference here is that the easy setting is one that is socially constructed — which means it can be re-constructed, once people realize that.

    In the same way, why is pointing out that someone has done really well when the deck was somehow stacked against them being taken by F. Martin, et al., equated with saying that that person is superior? Again, we do this with sports all the time: think of the profiles of Olympic athletes, for example. Only one person wins, but it’s not like we look at the person who had a private trainer since childhood and say, “she didn’t deserve to win.” And if the person who comes second had parents who worked two jobs each just to pay for lessons, we don’t say, “she deserved to win, because life was harder.” We might say it’s too bad she didn’t win, because she had overcome so much and many of us identify more with an underdog, but if the other person was .4 faster on the day, then that’s how it was.

    And finally, why are people asking what they are supposed to do about it? Again, we learn this sort of thing as children, and even in sports. If we are taught that winning is fun and important, but not worth leaving any of us crying and feeling abandoned, we already know how this works. Actually, we know that if we learnt that winning is everything, too. If we buy into the latter, than we pick our teammates for their talents and advantages, and ignore the clumsy kid with glasses. The clumsy kid with glasses never learns to play, and gets excluded more and more as time goes on. If we buy into the former, as those of us who aren’t afraid to admit that we were by good fortune started on Easy often do, then we pick the good players AND the clumsy kid with glasses. Some of us might even do some extra practicing with the clumsy kid, which is helpful to everybody. And we might not win every game, but we know we played well and we played as a team, and no one sat crying on the bench. And at the end, when we go out for pizza, we might be bummed out if we lost, but we are a lot less likely to dissolve into a blame-fest.

    How is this not just obvious?

  447. I’ve been thinking about this metaphor since you posted it, and I wanted to add a nuance. I will ask the forbearance of the crowd on my lack of gamer vocab. I really only play Portal2.

    There are some ways that non-WSM players can gain points, such as having strong community ties, that can be unavailable for anyone at the “easy” setting. I’m thinking here of strong family ties in immigrant communities. I work with a group of Assyrians who really look out for extended family members to the point of working together to get recent immigrants set up here with jobs, etc. And also, when I read about Black Culture, I get the sense that there are advantages to being a part of that that relieves some of the pain of racism.

    I would certainly NOT argue that these alternative sources for points in some way balances out the initial bias. It does not. I would point out that arguments that run along the lines of “why don’t they just [insert some version of "act like white people" here]” fail to take into account that doing so would eliminate the alternative points source without replacing it with the advantaged play that race privilege allows. (And okay, I just broke down and used the p-word b/c I don’t know anything about games without portals. So, yeah.)

  448. Apologies if this has been discussed before in these comments; I am reposting my comments from a Google+ discussion about this article.
    _____

    I disagree, very strenuously. While it is convenient to think that this is the case, often it’s simply not true. Because the concept of white male privilege is often so entrenched in the culture, it’s easy to see it only in the light that it’s detractors have chosen to shine on it: that white men have life in the easy lane, all the time. The implication is that minorities and women have life harder than white men, and unfortunately the evidence simply does not support that conclusion as unequivocally some would like.

    The experience of a white male in an interview process competing against a “minority” or a woman poses a very serious challenge to the accepted order of the system. Because of various affirmative action programs, it is often harder for white males to get jobs with certain companies or in certain sectors; to get into colleges and universities or even to be accepted into certain scholarship or grant programs. In the case of academia, for instance, the admittance guidelines often restrict the number of applicants who will be accepted according to their stated race and their declared major.

    For instance, let’s say that the Engineering program at Cal Poly is only going to accept 450 students in a given year; of those 450 openings 200 are set aside for whites, 100 for blacks, 100 for hispanics, and 50 for asians. There are also gender standards – let’s be generous and assume that the goal is pairity between admitted student genders. Now, let’s look at our pool of applicants: although Cal Poly gets applicants from all over the country, there are some demographic truths involved here. First, white males will be the overwhelming majority of applicants to the Engineering program, based simply on the racial demographics of the US (wikipedia). Out of any given 1000 applicants to the Engineering program 637 of them will be white, 163 will be hispanic, 122 will be black and 48 will be asian (with a total of 30 “other or mixed”).

    Based on the above data, we can see that (assuming the national average of 1.03F:1M gender breakdown; let’s call it “50%” for the sake of easiness and just round up in fractions) there will be 318 white males and 319 white females competing for 100 available slots each, 61 black males and females competing for 50 slots each, 81 hispanic males and 82 hispanic females competing for 50 slots each, and absolutely no competition among the asians (48 in the applicant pool, 50 available slots). What that means is that as a white male, your chances of getting into the engineering program at cal poly are at best 31.8% (which is slightly under the 2011 admittance rate of 37.31% for all applicants). For a white female, 31.9%; for a black male or female, 81.9%; for a hispanic male 61.7%, female 60.9%; and 100% for both asian males and females.

    From this example, we can see that in any program where any kind of affirmative action or demographic-sorting admittance / hiring / acceptance programs are in place, the very worst thing you can be is a white male. While it’s tempting to think that the socio-political landscape of 18th century urban-center europe still reigns, that is both a literal falsehood and a logical fallacy. To say that being a white male is life on easy mode is to ignore the political realities of the society in which we live.

    NOTE: This analysis is deliberately void of gender-sorting of any kind; specifically, there are several kind of affirmative action programs aimed at getting more women into to help redress the seeming overabundance of males. In such a situation where both race- and gender-sorting is being employed, the white male is doubly deferred.

  449. Why are people so uptight about acknowledging advantage anyway? I know that I have a couple of massive bits of privilege; two massive strokes of luck on the easy mode settings. I’m white and I’m British. Either of those two things makes my life much easier. I’ve seen what other people in my position have to struggle with without those massive advantages, and I am so grateful to whatever powers that run the universe that I have had that leg up. Does it make me enjoy my own achievements in my life less? No, not a bit. If anything it makes me appreciate them all the more, because I can see how precious they are and how important it is to enjoy them if you’ve got them. I got it easy and I’m glad I did, I just wish more people could have that same level of advantage I did.

  450. 1. So, now that the SWMs have had their consciousnesses raised, what should they DO with the information?

    2. What would be the next highest setting after SWM? Gay White Male? Straight “Minority” Male, or Straight White Female? My guess is Straight “Minority” Male. We have a SMM as POTUS, which happened before a GWM or SWF.

  451. Dwayne:

    “Why is it in the rational interest of a straight white guy to take actions that would knock him out of his privileged position, particularly when there’s no reward for ‘leveling the playing field,’ and no do-overs?”

    You’re assuming that the character quests solely by himself?

    bpmitchie:

    “it’s easy to see it only in the light that its detractors have chosen to shine on it: that white men have life in the easy lane, all the time.”

    And yet, this is actually not what this entry says at all. If this is the thesis you’re going on relative to this entry, not only is it incorrect, but you’ve also just spammed my site with a position paper that’s not directly relevant to the discussion at hand.

  452. >>Why is it in the rational interest of a straight white guy to take actions that would knock him out of his privileged position, particularly when there’s no reward for “leveling the playing field,” and no do-overs?>>

    Because life isn’t a zero-sum game.

    I’m better off if I have access to novels by women, by minorities, by those who are not straight. I’m better off if I have access to medical discoveries by the best the world has to offer, not merely the best that straight white men have to offer. The more qualified voices we have in art, science, politics and more, the better we can all do out of it.

    >> Even if you care about your kids’ future, wouldn’t you want your kids to also be playing on easy mode (and it is exceedingly likely that if you are a straight white guy in America, your kids will also be doing pretty fine.)>>

    I hope my kids will do terrifically well, and I’d love them to be plaiting on “easy” mode. They’re not male, though. And whether they’re straight or not isn’t an issue that’s come up yet. So the best way to make sure my daughters get to play on easy mode is to try to make sure everyone gets to play on easy mode. Not to try to make sure it’s reserved to straight white males like me.

  453. Why is it in the rational interest of a straight white guy to take actions that would knock him out of his privileged position, particularly when there’s no reward for “leveling the playing field,” and no do-overs? Even if you care about your kids’ future, wouldn’t you want your kids to also be playing on easy mode (and it is exceedingly likely that if you are a straight white guy in America, your kids will also be doing pretty fine.)

    Why is it assumed that the benefits of a more fair and diverse world will not accrue to you and your children? Why is it assumed that your children will inherit all of your advantages, and no disadvantages? Perhaps one of your children will be gay, or disabled, or suffer from chronic illness. Isn’t it in your best interest to help ensure that they will have some of the opportunities you have had?

  454. John: this is 21st-century Western Civilization: the evidence for local multiplayer is shabby at best.

  455. Reasonable analogy, but I have a question: Why is it in the rational interest of a straight white guy to take actions that would knock him out of his privileged position, particularly when there’s no reward for “leveling the playing field,” and no do-overs? Even if you care about your kids’ future, wouldn’t you want your kids to also be playing on easy mode (and it is exceedingly likely that if you are a straight white guy in America, your kids will also be doing pretty fine.)

    Thankfully, humans aren’t actually rational actors and life isn’t a numbers game.

    Personally, I like equality. Social justice makes me feel good. And some of us would like to raise kids who would like to make the world better for everyone. It’s this whole pro-social thing I really really like, a sort of guiding ethic for life. Very pleasant. Disappears if you try to pretend humans are deciding things based on rational self-interest, but we’re mostly not, so that’s fine.

  456. @ AS

    “And that is: don’t ask people to give up things that benefit them. Ask people to work together in ways that don’t hurt them, and celebrate them for doing it, not yell at them for not going far enough.”

    If you’ve found that line of argument works for you, I certainly am not going to tell you to quit doing it. But I think ultimately we’re not going to agree because of where our sympathies lie – yours seem to weigh in on the end of those who have privilege, and mine in the end do not.

    “Why are you failing to understand that often, there are some forms of privilege that people don’t want to lose, which is a perfectly valid and reasonable response?”

    Actually, I understand that quite well – farther up the thread, I’d said something to the effect that one of the problems with privilege is that to those who have it, it’s a normal way of life, so naturally they’re going to react defensively to the perception that they’re losing it. Change is scary, I get that, and in case it wasn’t understood, I don’t think privilege is something people should be blamed for having because it’s not their fault they have attributes that are more highly valued within our culture, nor do I expect that it’s something people automatically going to grasp because again, “fish don’t know the water is wet.” The problem is, even though it’s “normal” to them, it’s still a discriminatory system that doesn’t belong in an equitable society, so it ultimately needs to go. Ideally, privileges will be eroded in part because those who have them will recognize that personal benefit resulting from the perpetuation of a system that harms others isn’t worth it. The Civil Rights Act and women having the ability to vote wouldn’t have happened, for instance, if the those who already *had* those privileges realized that what they would lose by sharing those privileges was fair price to pay for fixing an inequity – not to mention that society would benefit overall from widening the playing field.

    Ultimately, I can’t agree that one can’t ask people to give up things that benefit them in order to help fix an inequitable system. We all have give up things that benefit us personally in order to benefit our community/society as a whole on a daily basis. We pay taxes, even though having more disposable income would be great, because (ideally) we’re paying to maintain things – roads, sewers, fire depts., police., etc. – that everyone benefits from. I give up my seat on the bus to an elderly, injured or pregnant person even though I got there first because I can deal with the 20 min ride home standing up. When I can, I donate money to charitable causes I support even though that $10 or $20 could go toward me getting something for myself. And the things that privileged people would be giving up things that most of us would probably admit are morally questionable advantages anyway: better economic opportunities/less chances of being profiled/assumptions about one’s abilities or intelligence or character – all based solely on race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, educational level, physical abilities, etc. I don’t think those are difficult things, really, for one to give up. Also, I fail to see why sharing the benefits of privilege with others has to be interpreted as “a loss” – “sharing” isn’t the same thing as “losing”, it just means that more people are going to have access to the same advantages you previously had.

    You clearly prefer a less combative approach overall when addressing these kind of issues, and if that’s what works for you in your life and that’s what you are comfortable with, I can respect that. I would ask, however, that you consider that just because that method works for you, it doesn’t mean that a more combative or aggressive approach doesn’t ever work for anyone else. Some of my best learning moments have come from being metaphorically slapped in the face with my own assumptions or ignorance, which I might not have heard if someone were taking a more… diplomatic approach. I don’t like treating other people with kid gloves because I think that insults their intelligence and capability, either.

  457. But if you want to actually change the world and make it a better place to live in, you need to work from a framework of not demonizing the opposition.

    How does that work when ‘the opposition’ is going to claim to feel ‘demonized’ any time they are made to recognize that the world is not a perfectly fair place? How does one explain that the world is an unfair place without upsetting people who benefit from that unfairness? Do you believe that narrative insurgency requires pretending that unfairness doesn’t exist? You’ve made a lot of sweeping generalizations that are, charitably, rather slanted towards the conclusion you which to reach. Can you give a concrete example of a “narrative insurgency” that would work in the context of, for example, race?

    You don’t appear to acknowledge that communication is a two-way street. It’s important to present a message so that it stands the greatest chance of being heard. But if you water down that message so that it has no meaning or impact once heard – what good is it? And if the other person rejects the substance of the message, is the problem really a failure in the delivery?

    It’s like the hypothetical couple where A confronts B with solid evidence of B’s cheating, and B’s response is “You know I won’t talk to you when you’re this upset” or “How dare you spend time snooping into my private business!” The real problem is that B wanted to shut down the discussion – not that A failed to exert the superhuman effort to confront B in a totally neutral, acceptable way such that it was utterly impossible for B to nitpick.

    TL;DR – there’s value in crafting a message in a way that it will be heard, and that’s in fact what Scalzi’s post was intended to do. But the fact that the listener rejected the message is not, as you suggest, irrefutable proof that the messenger was a shouty guiltmonger who would absolutely have achieved their goal if they hadn’t fucked it up with improper tone.

  458. John Mark Ockerbloom — If you really want to know more about that, you can do a Google search with keywords == game male female alpha beta == and go through the list of readings as far as you care or can stand to read through. (If you think what matters in life is mastering dominance contests to win prizes, and see desirable women primarily as particularly valuable prizes, you may find some kindred spirits in the literature.)

    Rather than comment on their attributes, I’ll offer what matters to me:

    The important thing — winning, if you want — in life is being helpful to your fellow humans. The more you do this, the better you are at living. An unimportant thing in life is keeping track of your starting place in life, and other’s starting places in life, and where they are in their lives. If you focus on those positions and adjusting them, it seems to me, you are not going to be able to actually help anyone. People who are keeping score … are losing.

  459. let’s say that the Engineering program at Cal Poly is only going to accept 450 students in a given year; of those 450 openings 200 are set aside for whites, 100 for blacks, 100 for hispanics, and 50 for asians

    Let’s not. How about we use actual evidence, instead of imaginary?

  460. Dwayne @6:44 pm:

    “Why is it in the rational interest of a straight white guy to take actions that would knock him out of his privileged position, particularly when there’s no reward for “leveling the playing field,” and no do-overs?”

    Well, for one reason, maybe because the hypothetical straight white guy has people in his life he cares about who aren’t straight white guys. Like, say, his mother or wife or daughter. Or his best friend from India, or his son’s black spouse, or his gay son’s black male spouse …

    Even if he is only thinking in terms of “how does this benefit me?” rather than considering it a worthwhile goal to make the world better for everybody, perhaps he might want his daughter to live in a world in which she can have a life that is as rich and fulfilling as his sons’ lives.

  461. Why is it in the rational interest of a straight white guy to take actions that would knock him out of his privileged position, particularly when there’s no reward for “leveling the playing field,” and no do-overs?

    That’s the thing. The game of life is not a competition against your fellow players. It’s a raiding party that can work together to achieve great things (landing a person on the moon) or really screw things up (Rwandan genocide).

    A better example: Erik Weihenmayer is the first (and as far as I know the only) blind person to have summited Mt. Everest. Among the team that helped him—because he could not have accomplished this alone—were others who had previously summited. Not a single summit has been diminished by the fact that a blind man was able to do this, and not a single person on the team has been diminished by helping this man. The fact is that every summit is still a dangerous, awe-inspiring accomplishment.

    Similarly with life: just because you help others (by not abusing your status) does not weaken your accomplishments or weaken your progeny’s future. Most amazing things that the human race has done have been done in teams of people with diverse backgrounds and abilities.

  462. @Namae Nanka:
    “Feminists gained entry into the socio-political-economic complex built up by white guys, and now are trying their damnedest to prevent them from joining in their victim industrial complex, unless it’s on their own terms… Equality today is giving women reparations for not rolling out the red carpet for them in men’s institutions, instead of men asking for royalties on every men’s invention that women use.”

    Wait, so because white men built the socio-political-economic complex, I as a white man should get credit for that? And I as a white man should get royalties for the inventions of other white men that are used by non-whites/non-men?

    White men built the socio-political-economic complex because they prevented others from contributing. Today, we’re not giving them reparations. We’re just trying to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

  463. Great post, much excellent discussion. But I’m also frustrated that I keep seeing the same arguments from SWM:

    1) My advantage doesn’t make my life easy, and I haven’t won.
    2) If I got the easy setting then what I did/do isn’t worth as much as it is if a non-SWM accomplished it.

    Not only are both of these irrelevant to @scalzi’s original point which is that for two people who start in the same place with the same parents with the same wealth the SWM will have a better starting position than anyone who’s not a SWM, but they’re logical fallicies.

    Let me take myself as an example. I present mostly as a cis, hetero (not – I’m bi and polyamorous, but the partner I live with is male), white (again, not – I’m mixed race but reasonably pale), able-bodied (not – I’m disabled), female. I was born with further advantages like smart parents who loved to read and sent me to good private schools even after they divorced. I was also disadvantaged by not having much $, having been sexually abused as a teen and…, etc.

    Still, I worked hard in school, went to college (when my broken started to rear it’s head but it didn’t become disabling as in I can’t work until my mid-40’s) and earned my bachelors after 8 years. Then I went to graduate school and worked my ass off some more, only this time I didn’t graduate – as an opinionated female in a mainly male field who didn’t play department politics I couldn’t get
    agreement on my thesis (while the men had no problems with similar subjects/work leading to Masters degrees).

    But I learned a lot about myself and how to think, basic logic, and how to manage people. So I eventually worked my way into a job as a NOC manager for an internet company – but as a female in a mainly male world I once again had some major points hits too. And I had to quit jobs at two different companies several times to get equal pay for equal work/responsibility/experience as the males (none of us had degrees or certs in our field so that wasn’t it, and I had the most college so…).

    Does the fact that I had to be willing to quit my job to get treated equally to the SWMs make it clear that in my case by not being an SWM I had it harder? None of us were significantly better or worse at our jobs than the other, but the SWMs were automatically paid better and given better titles, even when they had less time in the field.

    I’d put my difficulty level (until I lost my job/became disabled anyway) in the middle, while the SWMs had a difficulty level of easy in both education (women weren’t supposed to excel at technical stuff) and the workplace. But I still had it easier than people who were visibly minorities or didn’t get the educational opportunities that I did. And my accomplishments aren’t worth less because someone else had to work harder nor are the SWM who didn’t have to quit their jobs to get the same wage.

    You can be the best you can be at what you do and do everything you can to help other people have equal opportunities without hurting anyone. My partner plays Eve online for fun, and whenever he’s in-game he’ll happily talk less experienced players through problems if he knows the solutions – he doesn’t lose anything and they level up a bit easier but they still have to work at it. The real world would be a lot better if people who are in a better place played the same way.

    Oh, and btw, for a while there I was doing pretty well, but by pretty much any measure that our society accepts I’ve lost the game. And you know what? I really don’t care – when I have a good day my brain still works well enough to post a rambling disjointed comment in an intelligent conversation, and that’s enough for me.

  464. Blech, it’s been a long day and I missed this typo. The section in my above comment SHOULD read:

    “The Civil Rights Act and women having the ability to vote wouldn’t have happened, for instance, if the those who already *had* those privileges hadn’t realized that what they would lose by sharing those privileges was fair price to pay for fixing an inequity – not to mention that society would benefit overall from widening the playing field.”

  465. This is a truly great blog post; thank you for writing it. I especially enjoyed the point about the goal of life being to “win,” and thus there is no need to play on a higher difficultly, and that there is no achievement or high gamer score for “black and gay.” One of the hardest things I’ve learned in life is what that “winning” means to me (and I do think it’ll be different for each person.) For me “winning” is about being happy, and that, for me, requires multiple tools like money and success to achieve. The difficultly level I have been assigned to play on certainly effects the challenges I face to achieve those tools. As someone situated in the Ivory Tower of Academia, I still note the predominance of Old White Dudes running everything. It isn’t that I want to take the Old White Dude’s toys (or prevent Young White Dudes from becoming Old White Dudes), I just want some toys of my own. This post, and these comments (!!!) are super aware of the difference between holding others back vs getting toys of ones own and do a great job of explaining that difference. I always love finding smart on the internet!

  466. I’m not sure if this has been addressed yet, but you said that straight white males are more likely to start with more points, intelligence being one of them.

    That’s pretty racist for someone who believes we’re all equal, isn’t it?

  467. So, now that the SWMs have had their consciousnesses raised, what should they DO with the information?

    There's a saying from the Talmud which, roughly, says that it's not your job to fix the entire world, but that doesn't excuse you from trying to make it a better place.

    The nice thing about recognizing and acknowledging one's advantages is that they become easier to notice: CANNOT UNSEE. Often, the solution presents itself pretty obviously; calling out bigoted comments, or catching oneself in making dumb assumptions, to recognize two very simple examples. Directing one's spare cash or votes towards things that one believes will make the world a fairer place. Learning about the experiences of others, even if it's a bit discombobulating. Listen

    One of the nifty benefits of this is that one learns not to flinch every time that someone raises the specter of disadvantage.