Guilt, Mine, and Paying It Forward, Me

You know, every now and again some dude will read my “Straight White Male” piece or one of the similar follow-on pieces, decide to put me in my place, and barf up a blog nugget consisting of straw men, bad logic, projection and anger issues with me as its target. This is fine, of course. Everyone needs a hobby and at the end of the day I’m not generally psychically or materially injured by the venting, and indeed I’m often amused. So let the blog nuggets fly.

Be that as it may, it’s worth it every once in a while to note a particular poor argument about me and point and laugh at it. The one I’d like to address today is the one which asserts that I have guilt for being white and/or straight and/or male and/or what passes for “liberal” here in the United States. The “guilt” assertion is a favorite tactic of bad rhetoricians, because, oh, I don’t know, if you feel guilt then you are weak, and if you are weak then your arguments aren’t good because SHUT UP YOU PATHETIC WEAKLING I LAUGH AS YOU MEWL IN THE DIRT STOMP STOMP STOMP or something along that line.

Let’s put aside for now the inherent poor logic of “You feel guilt therefore your argument is invalid” and ask the relevant question of: Do I, in fact, feel guilty for being white and/or straight and/or male and/or what passes for “liberal” here in the United States?

Short answer:

BWA HAH HA HA HA HAH HA you gotta be kidding me.

Longer answer:

BWA HA HA HA HAH AH HA HA HAH HA HA HA AH HA HA HA no, seriously, you have to be absolutely, totally, completely joking. And if you’re not, that’s about seven different tangy flavors of stupid.

And now, the answer in that offers detail and some nuance:

So, not too long ago, I was at an amusement park with a friend of mine who is notable in his field, which is not my field. And because he is notable in his field, he has fans. At least one of those fans worked at this amusement park and said to my friend, hey, if you come to the park, let me know and I’ll make sure you get the VIP treatment. And who doesn’t like getting the VIP treatment? Very few, that’s who.

So we went and we got the VIP treatment and I have to tell you it was pretty sweet. For example, all those lines everyone else had to wait in to get a popular ride? We totally didn’t. We went down an open path and got escorted right to the head of the line. We passed all those folks who had been waiting for 90 minutes or so while we did it and slipped into a car for the ride. It was a fun ride.

Do I feel guilty for breezing past all the folks who had to wait an hour and a half to get on the ride? Nope. I was offered a break and I took advantage of it, and was happy to do so. It meant that I had an extra ninety minutes to go on more rides, and that my overall amusement park experience was not one of complete exasperation. It worked out well for me.

But let’s be clear: I got a break there, something other people don’t always get. And in my particular case, it was a break that I did nothing to receive — I got a break because I knew a guy. I don’t feel guilty about getting that break, but I also don’t pretend that it was deserved or earned, or that the people we walked past wouldn’t be within their rights to be irritated with me blowing right on by. And I don’t pretend that, for the fact that I just happened to know a guy, I wouldn’t have been in that line for an hour and a half. So, no guilt, but come on. I know what I got out of that situation, through no effort of my own.

Out here in the real world of the United States, me being white and straight and male is kind of like me going to the amusement park with my notable pal. I get some breaks and advantages, at least some of which I didn’t do anything on my own to get. Do I feel guilty about them? No. I have things I want to do in my life — and things I’m happy to avoid in my life — and if I get breaks that let me do/avoid them, I’ll take them. I do take them. But again, I don’t pretend I’m not getting breaks other people aren’t, and avoiding aggravations that other people have to deal with. I recognize what I get that’s due to me and my efforts, and what I get because of things that aren’t fundamentally about me at all.

Now, if you’re unsophisticated enough to confuse this sort of self-awareness with guilt, then yes, I suppose that indeed looks like guilt to you. If you are the sort of person who then additionally confuses guilt with weakness, because you don’t think things through, or because your own set of insecurities and neuroses compel you to do so, or whatever reason causes you to make such transmutations in your head, and you fear or despise weakness for whatever reasons you might have, then I can see why you might be inclined to treat people you see has having guilt with contempt, and their thoughts and opinions unworthy of your consideration.  So sure, I get that.

It makes you look like a fucking idiot, however. I really wish you would stop doing that.

(Likewise, the whole bit about “liberal guilt.” Dude, please. Your 1993-era set of Newt Gingrich™ Brand “Mean Things to Say About Liberals” Cue Cards are worn from all the thumbing through they get.)

I don’t feel guilty about the breaks I’ve gotten. I don’t feel guilty about the breaks I still get. But — and I think this is relevant here — I also think it’s important that today and moving forward people who aren’t straight and white and male get access to the same set of breaks that I’ve gotten. I also think that as someone who’s gotten breaks that have worked to my advantage, I should be willing to put in the effort to make that happen. With great breaks comes at least some responsibility.

Now, as it happens, this belief dovetails very nicely with a central tenet of the Science Fiction and Fantasy community: “Pay it Forward.” This means, in its most basic form, that when you’re helped get to where you are, the way to repay that debt is to then help others who need it — take what’s been given to you and send it on. The fact of the matter is that I’ve been given a lot, by people and by the culture I live in. I have a large debt, so to speak, that can be repaid only by paying  it forward. I am happy to do it, and I’m especially happy to do it in a way that makes sure that the largest possible field of people, of all sorts, have to chance to pay it forward from there.

So, no. I have no guilt about being a Straight White Male. Why should I? What I would have guilt about is if, as a Straight White Male, with all the advantages I have, earned and unearned, I wasn’t working to make my various communities better for those in them (and for those who wished they would be welcome as part of them). If I weren’t doing that I would feel very guilty indeed. It’s much better to believe in “Pay it Forward” than “I Got Mine.”

316 thoughts on “Guilt, Mine, and Paying It Forward, Me

  1. Oh, yeah, there will be notes for this.

    1. The Mallet is in its warming chamber. If you can’t be polite and passably rational, try not commenting. For those who need it, the Site Disclaimer and Comment Policy. Read it. Love it.

    2. The notable friend in this case was not Wil Wheaton. Since I’m sure someone will ask. It’s also not worth speculating; if I were going to name the person I would have already.

    3. If you are going to post something along the lines of “You think all straight white men have it easy WAAAAH” or “People who aren’t straight white men have advantages too WAAAAH” or other stuff like that, then no I don’t to the former, and how nice for you that you have at least a very rudimentary grasp of intersectionality to the latter, and in a general sense let’s try to avoid derailing for the sake of derailing. Please stick to the subject under discussion.

    4. While we’re on the subject, not everyone who disagrees with me, re: Straight White Males is automatically wrong or may not have reasonable points to make. The assertion about my feelings of guilt, however, is not one of those reasonable points.

    Thanks.

  2. A thought…

    To me, guilt implies that you think the world is basically fair and that when it is unfair in your favor, it is right and proper to feel uncomfortable, just as when it is unfair against you, it is right and proper to feel outraged.

    The world isn’t fair, but it should be more fair. So, yes, that implies ‘pay it forward’ and also ‘don’t be a jerk’ (which is kind of related to ‘pay it forward’). It feels more… more proactive than guilt, and also acknowledging that you can’t do everything (not even as a Straight White Male), but you can do something.

  3. Great piece, John. As someone who has been on the poverty end of society more than once and has had to rely on the kindness of others, I completely live by the “Pay It Forward” philosophy—especially since I now have lots of different ways that I can help others.

    When I started writing, several amazing authors who were Paying It Forward did some incredibly nice things for me, and I’m paying those things forward as well. It just makes like so much more enjoyable to live in a community that offers each other a hand rather than a fist. :-) Thanks for Paying If Forward.

    Also, I like the green theme on the page. Sorry for going off topic here…just wanted to let you know it looks good.

  4. Speaking as a white heterosexual female with children, you would be amazed at how much random strangers (and NYTimes columnists…) attempt to make me feel guilty for every choice that I have made, particularly the ones dealing with work and children. As a white heterosexual male, I bet you’re not getting that! Lucky!

    I’d never thought about the idea that people who feel guilty are somehow weak in some people’s minds. If that’s so, then well, gosh, it makes a little more sense why the constant attacks on women– it’s just another form of attempted domination. Such bullshit.

    I definitely agree with you that the thing to do with privilege is to make the playing field more level for others. Though I don’t know how that could translate in the amusement park example (an example which totally reminds me, btw, of Wil Wheaton vs. Sheldon at the movie theater back when he was still Evil Wil Wheaton on Big Bang Theory).

    Great post!

  5. As a straight, white, able-bodies cisgendered man … yes. I do feel some guilt. A little.

    And you know what? I don’t feel particularly defensive about feeling guilty. I think a little bit of guilt can be constructive — it certainly imbues you with sympathy for those who haven’t had the same breaks you have (and real sympathy, “this system sucks and I need to help change it,” sympathy, not “Oh, you poor dear,” type of sympathy).

  6. Matthew Bogard:

    I think guilt can indeed be a catalyst for positive change, which is of course another reason why anyone who equates guilt with weakness is not quite getting it right.

  7. Well-said, sir. Another clear, nicely-illustrated version of a silly claim lots of empathy-challenged people make, thanks. I’m glad you’re on the side of, and are one of, the people who can manage to care about someone else.

  8. I’m straight, white and male and was raised Jewish. Of course I feel guilt. But that has more to do with my mother than any of the issues you’re talking about here, lol.

  9. I think what they’re getting at is something similar to survivor guilt, which appears to be a real thing. I don’t get it, but it appears to exist. So I think the argument may not be that it’s weak, but that it’s irrational. So the idea is, feeling bad because you got extra stuff isn’t an argument that other people should get the extra stuff too.

    I’ve been really fascinated watching the SF/Fantasy communities, in general, trying to figure out how to deal with these issues. We’re certainly not there yet, as the recent SFWA Bulletin stuff shows, or the problems with things like Orycon’s autism panel. Which always freaks me out because I always thought the desire to communicate with people who seem different was pretty central to the geekdom community, but apparently a lot of people don’t feel that way.

  10. I’m also a Straight White Male, and in South Africa where, I would risk to say, we were even more advantaged due to the Apartheid system. Sure, I was ten years old when that system was abolished, but I have no illusions that even in the New South Africa my race and gender has opened doors for me. At the very least I had a significant head start.

    I don’t feel guilty either, but many think I should, even though I didn’t actively take part in the system. At almost every race-relations workshop white people have to apologise for what we did, even if we were not even born when the incidents being apologised for took place.

    We’re also at a stage where white men are actively being disadvantaged, being denied opportunities in favour of people less qualified, experienced, able, dare I even say deserving? It’s almost as if white men over here are now being made to pay it back rather than being encouraged to pay it forward.

    I believe the inequalities of the past must be addressed, but sometimes the way those in power try to bring it about cannot help but breed resentment. On the other hand, if more Straight White Males made a serious effort to pay it forward, the powers that be might not have to resort to these kinds of strategies.

  11. And then there’s the envy thing. If you think that the game is increasingly being rigged in favor of the rich and well positioned — and, obviously, it is — that must mean you’re envious of the ones who are doing the rigging, or at least benefiting from it, and reaping the lion’s share of the goodies.

    But, nuh uh. Not everybody’s into being a consumer. Sure, I grew up as part of the working poor (which is not an accurate description — we were always poor, but sometimes there was no work). But freedom always drew me more than material stuff. That’s why I never got into the nine-to-five; instead, I spent most of my life as a freelance speechwriter.

    Curiously enough, I often wrote for members of the one or two per cent. I can’t say I envied them; some of them looked like they were heading for an early grave by grabbing for every brass ring that came by.

    Now I’m writing sf and crime fiction (which I always wanted to do) and not making a ton of money at it. But by giving up paying rent and utilities to be a full-time housesitter, I’m having a ball. Right now I’m in a penthouse apartment a twenty minute walk from the Acropolis in Athens. September and October, I’m booked for a place in Paphos, Cyprus. I’m waiting to hear back on a possible one-year gig in Ireland. I’ve already been in Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland (north and south), and a few places in Canada, where I grew up.

    I’m about as free as you can be. And when I tell people how I get around, quit a few admit to some envy.

  12. It seems to be a point of lexical confusion, so I want to clarify what your interlocutors mean by “weak”. It means “disinclined for any reason to employ any and all means available to psychologically disable and cripple such other humans as may be encountered, since, as is known, life is a zero-sum winner-take-all competition and disdaining tactical advantage is what losers do”.

    Like many dysfunctional worldview dynamics, it is the more desperately clung to the more poorly it functions, since identity is much less threatened by trying to do the same broken thing harder than by trying something new.

  13. “It’s much better to believe in ‘Pay it Forward’ than ‘I Got Mine’.”

    Could we have this screened onto the T-shirt worn by a plushy Gamma Rabbit? Because this is pretty much it in a nutshell.

    Creating awareness =/= creating guilt – if *you* feel guilty because you’re now aware of things, that’s not anyone else’s fault but your own. And if you feel guilty about those unearned advantages, is firing back at the person who made you aware of them *really* going to make you feel better, as if by doing so you’re going to erase the fact that you have those advantages? Why not pay things forward and adjust your actions based on your new awareness to make things *better* for everyone, including yourself, instead? Whining about how the societal privileges you have aren’t your fault and making you aware of them is just to make you “feel bad” – and then doing nothing to share those advantages with others – makes it pretty obvious that you don’t care about anything other than yourself.

  14. Right on, sir. Thank you. I am often embarrassed by the re-interpretation of “I want other people to get the same opportunities I did and to get treated as well if not better than I get treated as a daily matter” as “guilt for being born a particular way.” I’ll openly admit I feel guilty at times, but that’s for not thinking things through (i.e. being an idiot) and showing my ass, not for being the thing I was born as. I get to blame my parents for the latter. ;)

    Additionally, there’s a nasty implication in the argument you’re pointing out (and laughing at) – if x person thinks you or anyone else would *only* say such things out of guilt, then probably somewhere in their head *they think they are qualitatively better in some way* than those persons without privilege. (Cue people saying “DUH, Mz. Flux – remove the probably from your sentence and you’re a bit closer.”) And that, sadly, is not a laughing matter.

  15. I really, really like this post. It puts being advantaged (in whatever way comes to mind) back into perspective. Being enabled to overcome obstacles just a little bit more easily is more reason to help the less fortunate than it is an excuse to discard any sense of community and start railing on the similarly fortunate who are actually doing something for others.

  16. The problem is that not everyone can get the VIP treatment. If they do, then everyone is back in the 90 minute line.

    So ya, I do feel guilt because I can get special privileges and because I am going to be sad when those privileges disappear; since I believe we as a society can’t afford to have everyone operate at the ‘privileged level’, I don’t look forward to the day I have to relinquish the perqs.

    But then again maybe we will figure out a way…

  17. @kokkieh – you sound like my So-Far-To-The-Right-He-Considers-Bush-A-Damned-Libburul kid brother. Yes, I’m sorry he’s on Unemployment (again) – same as I’m sorry the bottom fell out of the Consumer Electronics Writing market a decade ago. At least he has a “damned libburul” older brother and sister-in-law willing to let him live in our spare room rent-free for three years while he “gets on his feet again” – and sorry if that stings your Randian sense of self-reliance!

    You can either whinge about the “unfairness” of it all as you go extinct, like a dinosaur crying about the “unfairness” of the Ice Age – or you can move forward, learning new skills so you can continue to contribute to society.

    And Scalzi’s wrong that an opinion that disagrees with his on this has ANY validity whatsoever. Certainly not after thirty years of Right Wing Whinily Entitled White Males using it as a club to beat everybody else – including other White Males who may challenge their long-held petty privileges. Any valid opposing view has long since been drowned out by “Screw You, Jack – I Got Mine!”

  18. I’m just pissed that things like VIP treatment at amusement parks exist, but I suppose that’s not the point we’re discussing.

  19. I think your conclusion is essentially correct, but I worry that your analogy suffers from a bit of a false equivalence.

    Being straight, white, and male are immutable factors. The privileges that come with those things aren’t chosen by you but by society. Awareness of that fact is proper and enlightened, and so guilt attaches not to the fact of having those privileges, but in not using the advantages to improve the situation for others. You certainly do the latter, and can’t change the former, so far so good.

    Where the amusement park analogy fails is that those perks don’t put you in a position to help anyone, or improve the station of those around you… quite the opposite. Moreover it’s a perk you can choose, or not choose. It seems you do believe it’s unfair for some people to get to walk up and ride the rides while others (who paid their money too) get to watch them stroll by and take the spot they’ve waited 90 minutes for. Given that, it seems a little guilt is appropriate.

    In one case, you’re taking advantage of an inherent inequality and using your success to help reduce the scope of that inequality. In the other case, you’re being offered the ability to take advantage of an inequality and choosing affirmatively, with knowledge of it being unfair, and without interest or ability to reform it.

    The scope is small, and obviously (i hope) I’m not suggesting you’re a Bad Person now, but it’s nonetheless not really the same argument.

    Cheers & thank you for all the good you do.

  20. So now Scalzi is a rich Manhattan housewife that knows a disabled kid with passes to Disney Land? Wasn’t the whole point of that incident that they should feel guilty for bypassing the lines when they don’t deserve it?

  21. There’s something that doesn’t feel quite right to me about the OP, and I think @kokkieh has helped me to pin it down (and Bruce T and timeliebe brushed on it while I was figuring out my WP login). At least some of the time, at least some of the solution is not so much “people who aren’t straight and white and male get access to the same set of breaks that I’ve gotten”, but that some of the breaks go away. Instead of letting other people cut lines, some manager steps in and says, “no line cutting, even for notable infielders.”

    At which point, it seems to me that the important thing for those of us with privilege is not to consider this as being “denied opportunities,” but to shrug and say something like “bummer, I guess that means if I want to ride I get to stand in line for 90 minutes with everybody else”.

    Sometimes, in fact, it might be worse: imagine that there is a VIP line (10 minutes long) and a hoi polloi line (90 minutes long). I just bought an extra hot dog and watched a juggler for half an hour because I expected to get through the VIP line in 10 minutes. Now all the VIPs are told that there’s no VIP line anymore and they’ll have to join the end of the hoi polloi line. I don’t think there’s a good argument that I should get to cut into the line at the 40 minute mark just because that’s where I would have happened to be if I had gone straight to the hoi polloi line. Is that unfair? What would be more fair?

  22. @Kilroy: Maybe we could just start with, when the people in the 90-minute line say, “Holy crap, this line is long, I’m baking to death”, the response is something other than “Oh, well, I didn’t have a problem, so clearly you just want attention” or “Maybe you should try knowing somebody with the hookup like I do, loser”.

  23. Kilroy:

    Nice try attempting to mess with the analogy. But no.

    Beyond that, to folks generally, be aware no analogy is 100% perfect. However, if you were then tempted to make the argument “your analogy is not 100% perfect, therefore straight white men do not have certain advantages in our society,” allow me to suggest you’re gonna have a bad time.

  24. @chaosprime: If we’re trying to get back into the analogy, when a gay/non-white/female complains about the long line, we should not blame them for being gay/non-white/female or someway of making them not gay/non-white/female? The analogy just isn’t working for me.

  25. Folks:

    Let’s take as read the idea that the analogy works less well for some people than others, otherwise we risk wandering into the World of Derailment, and keep as the focus the topic of guilt (or lack thereof) and the concept of paying it forward.

  26. @scalzi: straight white men do have advantages in our society. There is nothing to feel guilty about being a straight white man and recognizing that you have predetermined advantages. But that is different than pulling out a (non?)race card in order to get to the front of the line and purposefully pass people.

    There is a thought rolling around that I can’t express yet. I’ll get back in a while when it blooms.

  27. As someone who is privileged in the same way you are John, I find your discussions of SWM-ness very much on target. In most ways I agree with this post completely – I am fully aware that the wheels of life are better greased for me, and I make use of those advantages most of the time. There are times,though, when I choose not to use those advantages because I don’t think it’s morally right to do so.

    In your example of the theme park, how would your reaction differ if your jumping the line meant that two people at the end of the line would be turned away without a ride? What if a project contract was offered to you and not another writer because you are a SWM and writer B is not?

    I find that in some situations, the use of my unearned advantages is damaging to someone, and I try not to do that. If I took that advantage, and harmed someone when it wasn’t required, then I would have a reason to feel guilty. On the other hand, if it’s something mundane and no one is harmed as a result (like walking out of discount store and NOT being forced to show my receipt) then there’s no reason to feel guilt. Recognizing those breaks and acknowledging them for what they are is all we can do in those cases.

  28. @Kilroy: Progress would be anything in the vague direction of not deluging them in smug bullshit aimed solely at silencing them so as to forestall any chance of losing the privilege under question.

    I know a lot of people have so little confidence in their admittedly feeble abilities that to ask them to voluntarily let pass a chance to shove another human being down some miniscule rung on some pathetic hierarchy is tantamount to asking them to cut off their own hand, and meets with much the same reception. Can hardly blame me for asking, though, can you?

  29. ” I also think it’s important that today and moving forward people who aren’t straight and white and male get access to the same set of breaks that I’ve gotten.”

    I understand and agree with the point that everyone should have the same opportunities, but at the same time, the line above raises some concerns. If everyone has access to the same set of breaks, are they really breaks? If everyone can skip the line and go up the stairs at the amusement park, aren’t the stairs the new line? Or, paraphrasing The Incredibles, when everybody is special, no one is.

    In the end, we need to work to create a society where everyone has an equal opportunity to pursue happiness. That’s a lot different than having a society where everyone is happy.

  30. David:

    Personally speaking there are times when I am offered advantages I don’t take advantage of. The point in those cases is that regardless of whether I take advantage of them or not, the opportunity was there. Likewise, I don’t have to take every advantage offered to me for being a SWM; the fact the advantage is there is still something to consider.

    In the case of me going on that particular ride, I don’t know (and at the time didn’t worry about) whether my going on the ride meant someone else didn’t get on the ride. I don’t feel particularly guilty about that. If it had been presented to me as “if you go then others won’t be able to” I suspect I would have passed (and wondered about their line management), but again, the fact I could speaks to the opportunity available, and I wouldn’t have felt guilty about being able to make that choice.

    Which is to say that being able to have the choice to say “no, thanks” is still in itself an opportunity not everyone gets.

  31. in the real world of the United States, me being white and straight and male is kind of like me going to the amusement park with my notable pal. I get some breaks and advantages, at least some of which I didn’t do anything on my own to get.

    As a fellow straight, white, male (SWM) I agree with this. To me the point where it breaks has to do with how other people treat it moreso than the analogy itself. Being successful as a SWM still takes work, more work, and then some more work even with the breaks/advantages. For non-SWM you have to throw an extra work or two in there. Being a SWM certainly gives advantages to being successful and we should be cognizant of them, but that success still doens’t happen in a vacuum.

    It just bugs me when people forget that part and think that success just automatically happens if you are a SWM.

  32. I really appreciate this post, but I think Indrifan hit on something important. The “pay it forward” idea works in every case only if we posit unlimited resources – time, money, and stuff. Since that’s not the case, we need to ask: to whom do we pay it forward, and why them and not somebody else? If helping someone negates our own advantages, how much are we obligated to help? If we don’t help everyone, are we fulfilling our moral obligations?

    Most of the time, it seems like we have to do our best, and not expect to solve the inherent unfairness of the world. We can try to ameliorate other people’s suffering as much as possible, but each person has to decide for themselves how much they’re willing to give up to do so.

  33. Luke:

    As I’ve noted elsewhere (and hinted above), there’s not the suggestion here that being being a straight white male means everything is handed to you, or that you don’t have to work for things.

    As this is something I’ve noted numerous times (and I am not responsible if people outside this blog would assert otherwise), let’s take that point as read moving forward, please.

    Scott:

    I don’t personally find this to be much of an issue. For example, in terms of donating money, there are enough organizations with a wide enough remit that I can be assured my money is spent generally for a community, and there are enough organizations that when I want to focus, I can. You may be worried that you have to focus on everything, all the time. But I personally think it’s find to do things as they come.

  34. @erick –

    If everyone has access to the same set of breaks, are they really breaks?

    I’ve always thought of it like a ladder. Right now the rungs are not evenly spaced for everybody, making it easier or harder to climb based on who you are and where you start. The idea is to get it so everyone is climbing the same ladder.

  35. @Luke: I don’t think anybody worth mentioning actually thinks SWM status brings automatic success. Folks pretty well know that all it brings is fewer points of automatic vulnerability on which you will be continually attacked by the society around you. It’s even known that SWMs are themselves attacked on whatever points of vulnerability they manifest. I think we’re doing okay if we just recognize that those extra points of automatic vulnerability make a meaningful difference in lived experience.

    Of course, we could possibly ask the question of how we came to build a society that continually attacks everybody on every possible pretext, and what interests and purposes that serves.

  36. @kokkieh –

    We’re also at a stage where white men are actively being disadvantaged, being denied opportunities in favour of people less qualified, experienced, able, dare I even say deserving? It’s almost as if white men over here are now being made to pay it back rather than being encouraged to pay it forward.

    This sounds a lot like what we in the US are calling Affirmative Action, and it brings up the inherent disconnect between treatment of demographic groups, and treatment of individuals. The ideal would be that all individuals, regardless of the group they may be a part of, would be considered on their own merits; the reality of the situation is that it often boils down to “oh crap, we better hire some [$group_member]s to get our numbers up.”

    This is further complicated by the fact that, say, members of one group may have (through historical circumstances beyond their control) experienced disproportionate opportunities in their education, acculturation or whatever, that directly result in their current situational advantage.

    It would be nice if, say, every orchestra auditioned all its performers behind a curtain and hired based on musical ability alone–but when 80% of applicants are white and male (because they’re the ones who are directed and supported in that field), you end up with a disproportionate number of white male hires. Which means non-white-males will view that field as closed to them, and won’t take up concert musicianship…rinse and repeat. So, to compensate for past inequities in one direction, we see at least the appearance of inequities in the other.

    That’s in the short run. The thinking is that in the long run, it’ll all even out. If I’m a [$group_member] inclined toward a particular field, and I see that the number of [$group_member]s in that field is proportionally similar to the number in the world at large, I’ll view that field as open to me, and I’ll aspire to it, pursue it and achieve it.

    If I’m good enough–as opposed to privileged enough.

  37. Disney, with someone that draws comics? Not looking for a confirmation, just sort of what my brain pinged on.

  38. Short-form Scalzi:

    “Gentlemen, think twice before you charge at me in order to show off your antlers. Also, please think twice before you challenge me antler-to-antler. I say this only because I’ve got gigantic antlers, and gentlemen who get into antler-fights with me tend to lose. Do I feel guilty about this? Shoot, not me!! It’s just the way it is. Anyway, now you’ve been told. Any questions? Okay, that will be all.”

    …classic…

  39. Bottom line for me: be compassionate. Do for someone else what you would want someone else to do for you. Because, believe me, that day will come.

    On the other hand, there is no well defined fine line to follow. Everything has a context and must be seen within that. In every case, however, qualify from the compassionate if you care about others.

    It doesn’t mean you have to completely save the world of everything every second of the day. That would eventually crush you and warp you. Rather, when the situation presents itself, act accordingly. Be aware, as opposed to ‘on a mission.’

  40. @John – My apologies

    @chaosprime – That is certainly an interesting question, though I think outside this debate.

  41. Oh goodness gracious. @Erick, I think you did not think through what you quoted from The Incredibles. Seriously. In this context, instead of being a point about equal playing fields vs. universal access, (which was not the point), it sounds like “sorry, straight white male, but you’re not special.” “but if i’m not special, then no one is!!” *headdesk* I don’t think that’s where you were going, but DAMN it sounds 99% like it.

    I believe that underlying Mr. Sclazi’s point is a belief that you give a hand up to those who are talented, not those who you think should be talented based on some arbitrary set of socialized expectations. And you don’t refuse hands up due to some arbitrary set of judgements that have nothing to do with the value of that person’s contributions.

  42. I should probably have prefaced my comment (and I hope it was mostly clear) that I’m pretty much in complete agreement with the original post. I’m all for paying forward, I just hope that those of us in a position to do so try to spread it around as well. For myself, it means, among other things, buying more books, music, art, etc from women, people of color, and LGBT folk. I don’t feel like I’m getting second-rate stuff. And I still own and buy plenty of stuff from SWMs, including most of Scalzi’s books.

  43. John: Thanks for replying. I think your plan works pretty well, especially if one wants to remain sane. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the fact that life is radically unfair, especially when I realize how much better I have it than most. Occasionally, I am confronted by guilt, and I try to deal with that on a case-by-case basis. As an example, I’m a vegetarian. It prevents a (very) small, but real amount of animal suffering. I consider it important enough to make a sacrifice, but that’s my choice, and I don’t expect anyone else to make the same choices I made. (I mention this not to make myself look particularly moral or whatever, but because it seemed like a good example.) But, if there came a time when I had to choose between dying and eating meat, I’d eat meat.

  44. I was in a good place about Scalzi’s position on all this. MZW’s blog nugget was as poor as advertised, and I agree with the original video game analogy. And now this?

    The post does a good job of getting at the fact that guilt isn’t a weakness, but Mr. Scalzi, why don’t you feel a little guilty about the unearned breaks you’ve gotten? I’m certainly not implying you shouldn’t take your breaks where you can, and unearned breaks usually follow hard work and talent, but a little guilt seems appropriate if you ‘re going to acknowledge all the people that didn’t get it.

    Paying it forward is the right thing to do, but the very act of doing it seems to be borne from a little guilt.

  45. A major reason why there is a concept of guilt and such is that people think that any privilege or deprivation takes place in a zero-sum world, If you have such a world view, my gain is your loss. If your concerned about others, perhaps a liberal, then the privileged causes harm to the deprived. But it seems clear that we don’t live in such a world, else we would still be living as people were in pre-industrialization, or even pre-civilization conditions.

    Pay it forward is a good touch stone of how this works, Person B is helped by Person A with person A expecting no return, other than a group think when your helped and cannot help another but when you can, do it. So when person C, D & E gets help from B, A’s initial investment in the community is greatly multiplied.

    This is not rocket science, but damn, I have had the hardest time showing conservatives that concept of increasing returns is the actual world that we live in.

  46. Bekabot:

    Actually, it’s more like “I understand you wish to challenge me to an antler fight, but your ‘antlers’ are actually Red Vines and tin foil, stuck on a colander on your head. You should probably go look up what antlers are, and get back to me after that. Thanks, though.”

    W:

    “Paying it forward is the right thing to do, but the very act of doing it seems to be borne from a little guilt.”

    Well, no. In my case it’s borne from the understanding I didn’t get where I am strictly under my own power, and the belief that when one is in an opportunity to help others, one should. That’s not about guilt; that’s about responsibility. Not the same thing.

    Also, in a larger sense I’m not going to pretend to feel guilt when I don’t. Inasmuch as guilt in this case isn’t a lever for me to do what I think is correct moral action regarding others, I think that’s fine. I acknowledge that guilt might make a fine motivator for other people, or for me in a different circumstance, however.

  47. I think the guilt argument, deliberately as a red herring or by accident, is an interpretive one. You know how you’ll hear about something bad happening to someone and say, “I’m sorry,” as a social convention to express your sympathy and sorrow, and then sometimes — but becoming more frequent, IMO — people respond with something like, “Well, don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault.”?

    I think the “guilt” argument is an attempt to re-cast the argument in a similar light. For some, guilt is a good term for that social convention of an uncomfortable awareness of some unfairness. But for others, guilt is a feeling that one has deliberately done something wrong.

    So re-casting privilege in terms of guilt is a way of moving it from an objective recognition that things are not fair from everyone and, “Hey, could you pass some of those rolls down this end of the table, we haven’t got any yet?” to a more subjective view that things aren’t going to be fair, so it’s better they’re unfair in my favor, and everyone can — and by this argument, should — do whatever they’re “comfortable” with. Now privilege is more like bringing your shopping cart of 20 items through the 5 or less express aisle: “Eh, some people may think I’m a jerk, but screw ‘em. I don’t feel guilty, they could do it too, if they were as smart/ballsy/whatever as me.”

    Recasting privilege as guilt means it’s only something you have to deal with if it bothers you, it makes it a personal decision, and attempts to reduce the original complaint from objective observation “things aren’t fair” to opinion “should I tip 15% or 20%.” And then the complainer isn’t pointing out a real problem, they’re whining about how they feel, and since it’s just opinion, you can ignore them.

  48. @Kilroy: The traditional response to someone who is not a straight white male raising an objection to some sort of poor treatment that was allotted them on the basis on their non-straight-white-male attributes is to deploy any or all of a veritable panoply of dismissive, discrediting, denigrating tactics — which, though multifarous, are so standardized that people have fun constructing Bingo cards full of them — all of whose semantic value reduces to “shut up”.

    I am saying that it would be progress if we could not do that.

  49. I can see in the comments that people have deeply passionate and visceral feelings about issues of identity and privelege, ones that it’s hard to put into words. The things I take away from the conversation include that a) in some ways I have privelege, b) in others I am disadvantaged, c) many of these things are built into our societal fabric. The questions remain of what, if anything, I can do about it. I may or may not be able to impact the system in big ways, but paying it forward is a way to say I notice, I care, and to impact it in small ways. It’s part of balancing the despair/hope cycle of this conversation. I don’t want to be so overwhelmed/guilty/despairing that I give up but I also don’t want to be so naive/hopeful/oblivious that I think our problems have been fixed.

  50. No words except Blog nuggets!!!!!! (some joined-up white breeder lady with very few breaks)

  51. Guilt is a word, like rich, where there’s a lot of wiggle room at certain borders and sometimes it’s just not all that useful as a result. Certainly we can all agree that someone who can buy and sell entire islands can be called “rich” and anyone who sinks entire islands with people still living on them should feel “guilt.”

    Haggling about whether it’s “guilt” when you bypass an amusement park line and then recognize your good fortune and recognize that other people don’t get to do so doesn’t seem all that worthwhile. I think in a case like that the person feeling the feelings gets to decide what to call them.

    Luke – your ladder analogy reminds me of something I remember reading Ted Turner saying, about being aware that he used certain ladders to climb to the top and thinking that it would be bad form and pretty f’n unfair to kick them down now that he was up there. I think wanting to make sure the ladders are well-spaced and usable is a pretty excellent goal.

  52. I find it hard to feel guilt over being a SWM because I didn’t do (or not do) anything to cause that. A little shame because I can’t fix that part of our culture that makes such foolishness continue itself. Cutting in line because “we’re special”, sometimes I feel guilty about it, sometimes not. I feel worse when the line is short; that makes little sense, because even if the line is long, it includes a short line that I’m cutting. Doesn’t happen often in either case.

    Not that I don’t feel guilt about things I’ve done or not done, even if those deeds had “innocent” psychological reasons. Understanding why I was a jerk doesn’t make things better. I can’t change the past, but I attempt to avoid being a jerk in the future.

    Survivor guilt is real. It some ways, it might more properly have been called survivor grief. It was first recognized as Concentration Camp Syndrome, but it’s existed for as long as there are people who survived horrors. Now it’s considered to be a variation of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and there are somewhat successful efforts to treat people after a traumatic event in an attempt to prevent PTSD.

  53. I’m sure it’s been said before, but the biggest problem with your “Straight White Male” piece is that you offer no data to back up your hypothesis and the facts that you link to (via Jim Hines) have very little to do with your post as you wanted to disregard wealth/class as part of the difficulty setting because “wealth and class are not an inherent part of one’s personal nature”. Do I feel attacked by the article? Not particularly. I know all the difficulties I’ve had to deal with that others may or may not have. I just feel that the article was an attempt to stir up controversy where none was needed. If the article had been “Poor Minority: The Highest Difficulty Setting”, I don’t think anyone would have responded negatively. But then again, controversy is what sells.

  54. Originally I deleted this message, not because you made me mad, but because it was so long and I already know how you feel. I reconsidered and decide to post a little response.

    I am a straight/ white/ male/ conservative. No apologies. I feel if I don’t like what you say I can ignore the post and delete it or I can shake my head and say that damn Scalzi’s running his mouth again. I can also reply and try not make a fool of myself. I really think what I want to say is I am what I am and you are what you are. I enjoy your books because I find them interesting. If you had of been one of my students when I taught at the college I think I would have enjoyed your comments.

  55. As an admirer, friend, daughter, sister and roommate of straight white men, I want good things for them. Hell, I want good things for everyone. Sure, I am greatly relieved that things are getting very, very slowly better for everyone else, but c’mon, I’m not a monster.

    How can I be happy to see and hear the jittery terror that settles on a SWM who just realized that, as meager as his portion of success might be, he might have even less if the playing field had been completely level from the beginning? Answer: I can’t.

    Especially in light of the straight & male parts, which mean that society has convinced him his value as a human is tied up in achieving a level of prosperity that will attract a quality mate and then providing for the resulting family for the rest of his days. That’s just a recipe for suffering. More so if you think that you’re not *allowed* to feel unenthusiastic about Mr. Scalzi’s observations, because that makes you into one of those bad things they brought up at diversity training.

    I suspect this post will either be ignored or jeered at, but this needs to be said: If you’re a SWM and you’re filled with a swirling pool of emotions by Mr. Scalzi’s observations, that is okay. That is normal. It doesn’t make you a bad person. You certainly *can* shout down those emotions with posts about how he’s wrong or stupid or whatever, but you don’t *have* to. You’re okay. You didn’t do anything wrong. (At least, not vis a vs being a SWM; if you kicked a dog this morning, that’s on you.) You didn’t set out to hurt anyone or take something from someone else, and nobody’s asking you to apologize or atone or gonna show up at your front door to take back your iPad.

    But consider this: We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, as a species. We have to figure out a long-term energy solution; we should probably be a little smarter about where our food comes from and what goes into it; we have a whole bunch of diseases that we still haven’t cured, and my god, that Man of Steel sequel isn’t going to write itself. So all things being equal, would you rather take all the responsibility for fixing ALL this stuff yourself, or would you like some help? And, like the AT&T pitchman says, what’s better: A little help or more help?

    When someone like Mr. Scalzi writes a post like this, it doesn’t mean some stranger is coming to take your stuff, you big awful SWM. But if you can move through your understandable emotional reactions, you’ll be in a position to act on this information, to pay it forward. And the more that happens, the more people there will be with the education and resources to help all of us solve the problems we face. And on the plus side, I’m pretty sure they’re gonna get a SWM to write Man of Steel sequel, so… yay for that.

  56. Kevin Riley:

    This isn’t the place to have a further discussion of the “Straight White Male” piece. Thanks.

    Ron Grant:

    I certainly do run my mouth a lot (or my fingers, in this case).

  57. John, if you want to pay it forward on you own, I have no problem. If you want to pay it forward with my dime (AKA Candidate Obama’s response to Joe the Plumber), I have a major problem. You can try to change the world with your posts, articles, etc. – I am all for it. But if you get lazy and take a short cut by regulating it thru government mandate, you end up with 1984 group think.

    Kitten fodder follows.

    [This graph in fact deleted -- Dude, lazy snarking at my friends is not cool - JS]

    As for you, today you got a shortcut at Disneyland, tomorrow will you be like Nancy Pelosi? Hey I need my 757 – after all, I brought home the bacon to my constituents.

    End kitten fodder. If you have to mallet me, can you keep the 1st para? :)

  58. [Deleted because as noted earlier, this is not the place to rehash the "Straight White Male" article and/or the comment thread. Folks, please stick to the current piece. Thanks Pat Morris, please feel free to comment otherwise -- JS]

  59. I haven’t read all of the comments, so it may very well be that somebody else has already said this better than I can, but it occurs to me that some of the vitriol you get may itself be caused by guilt.

    I happen to think you are dead on about paying it forward, but one of the impressions I get from conservatives is that they feel they DON’T need to pay it forward. The problems of are due to their own failings, and are therefore nothing for a conservative to feel bad about. Much of their posturing and poo flinging comes from them trying to convince THEMSELVES that this is correct, but deep down inside, they know it’s not.

    So, the see your Straight White Male piece as being aimed at them, and it stings enough that they need to react to it.

  60. John, if you want to pay it forward on you own, I have no problem. If you want to pay it forward with my dime (AKA Candidate Obama’s response to Joe the Plumber), I have a major problem. You can try to change the world with your posts, articles, etc. – I am all for it. But if you get lazy and take a short cut by regulating it thru government mandate, you end up with 1984 group think.

    When you’re perfectly fine with government mandate maintaining the SWM status quo but all of the sudden get a little itchy when people with several centuries of explicit disadvantages and several decades plus current de facto disadvantages are allowed to get just the tiniest taste of that privilege, you’re Doing It Wrong.

  61. Kevin Hicks:

    I don’t think every political conservative is in the “I got mine” camp. I can speak from personal knowledge about a number of people who see themselves as politically conservative who also feel obliged, as a matter of personal ethics, to help others in a “pay it forward” sense. Conversely, and without naming names, I know at least a few people who consider themselves liberal who I see very much in the “I got mine” camp.

    So while I do see a lot of dude who identify as politically conservative in the “I got mine” camp, I don’t know that I would say they’re there because they are politically conservative. They’re just, you know, jerks.

    Also, in a more general note to the thread, let’s not make this is all about general kvetching about conservatives vs. liberals, please.

  62. Excellent piece John!

    From before the first election of President Obama I always had a problem with the term “white guilt”. It seemed wrong to use but I couldn’t quite put a finger on why it bothered me so. Then came the election and the people started saying that the only reason Obama was elected was “white guilt”. This is where I realized what that label is… it is racist. It says that I couldn’t have voted for Obama because he was the smarter candidate, or the better candidate, or the candidate who I most closely identified with. It says that I couldn’t have voted for Obama because I felt him to be the most qualified candidate. The term assumed none of those things and in fact denied them. Because to the wielders of the term “white guilt”, the only reason one would vote for Obama is because he was black and it was some attempt to “apologize” for past wrongs done to persons of color.

    From that point on I openly chastised those who used the term. I even lost someone who I thought was a close friend over his being offended that I was basically calling his words racist. But I am not sorry for it because it is the truth. The people who suggest white people take certain actions to benefit non-whites because of “white guilt” are basically insulting those non-whites by saying the reason they got to where they are is not because of ability or qualifications, it is because some white guy felt sorry for the person. It is racism, as plain as day, and should be exposed as such for all to see.

  63. @scalzi – my bad; I thought this was a discussion about the piece and/or your motivation for writing it. If this is just a discussion about guilt, only you know whether or not you feel guilty so I don’t think there’s much to discuss. As for paying it forward, I love the idea of helping anyone who needs it regardless of race, gender or sexuality and I think removing those as qualifications for assistance would be a good thing.

  64. Well, Matthew might disagree with me, but in general I think that guilt is unproductive. I mean in the short-term, sure, it can provide us with the motivation to apologize or make amends for something we’ve done. But if you’re feeling long-form guilt over something you can’t change, that’s nothing but a negative emotion. And this may not be the case for others, but in my experience, the fundamental goal of a guilty person (okay, a guilty me) is to stop feeling guilt, not necessarily to solve the actual issue at hand. That’s an important distinction, I think.

    Not that anyone should feel guilty for being a straight white male (or whatever), because there isn’t actually anything wrong with that. But even if there somehow was, from a practical standpoint, guilt isn’t helpful. There are other, better catalysts, like plain old empathy. In my opinion.

  65. Of course, there are no perfectly homogeneous groups of people, and I didn’t really mean to bag on conservatives so much. I really meant my comment to point out that, much like when somebody is extremely anti-gay, they often turn out to be gay themselves, people who are trying to paint you as feeling “liberal guilt” are probably feeling somewhat guilty themselves.

  66. If you want to pay it forward with my dime

    So, wait, society treats certain groups badly, but you don’t want society collectively to try to do anything about it?

  67. One day everyone will have a kitten! And then we’ll have furry, snuggly world peace!

    [NB: Meow]

  68. How about listing some specifics where you feel that being a white male made it easier for you than it would have been if you were non-white and/or female. I have trouble seeing how being a white male gave you an edge in getting published. If you have some examples of this, by all means state them.

    There is one thing people are ignoring in all this. Women in there 20s are now out earning men in their 20s. The Wall Street Journal had an article on it about 2 years ago. Far more girls are going to college than boys. I blame guys for this in general. I think the culture has changed and it is cool for guys to be lazy in school. Makes me wonder if women in their 20s tend to pick up the tabs more on dates cause their guy friend is broke.

    I think advantage comes more from socioeconomic than skin color. A poor kid growing up in a poor family irregardless of skin color is going to have it alot harder than a middle class or upper class kid irregardless of skin color. I find it difficult to believe that a poor white kid is advantaged over a black kid who grows up in an upper middle class neighborhood.

  69. Dav1d: My favorite thing about the “my dime” argument is how many people who make it didn’t feel bad spending MY dimes on the Iraq war. It’s just a such a lazy, self-centered argument. When do we ever get to pick how government spends our dimes on an individual basis? I’d much rather have my money used to help people in need and improve the lives of those less fortunate than me. Because to me, that’s what it is – good fortune – being born white and male in the US in the twentieth century. Man, that’s winning the damn lottery compared to the vast majority of the world…and even this country. Not something I feel guilty about but also nothing I did to take credit for.

  70. No David, I do not. To take your point to an extreme – Jewish bankers robbed good law abiding Germans, so the government made them pay – with their gold teeth.

    These same law abiding Germans have paid for this mistake for the last 50+ years.

    You want to change the world? Then start with yourself. Don’t expect some miracle from a politician in DC.

  71. Josh, you want your dime spent on helping others? Then do what John does, or what his publisher just did. Those donations are tax deductable, and thus the dime spent there is not being spent on the Afghan war.

  72. To take your point to an extreme – Jewish bankers robbed good law abiding Germans, so the government made them pay – with their gold teeth.

    Godwin’s law, so early in the thread?

    These same law abiding Germans have paid for this mistake for the last 50+ years

    Why, yes, the German government has paid large amounts of reparations to compensate the victims of the Holocaust. The Germans have, in fact, done exactly what abhor: use their collective national tool (the government) to make up for a collective national sin.

  73. David, Jimbot:

    Guys, we’re drifting. Back on topic, please.

    Guess:

    The comment I made at the top of the thread relating to intersectionality applies to you (albeit without the “waaaah”).

    As for how my life is easier, I thought this covered it reasonably well.

  74. Guess:

    You might be interested in this article about author James Chartrand. (http://www.copyblogger.com/james-chartrand-underpants/)

    He (she) details exactly how the experience of trying to earn a living as a writer changed when she started writing under a male name. A two-second google search will provide you with other articles that detail why women take male pen names, why JK Rowling couldn’t call herself Joanne, and the studies that show what a difference a name makes. But James’s very specific experience of trying to get the same jobs under both a male and a female name make the advantages of being male crystal-clear. (Is this a digression? Sorry. But there are plenty of examples of how having a male name is an advantage for writers for those who are willing to see them.)

  75. jimbot: What makes you think I didn’t? You may want to review the comments on that thread before you make assumptions. I’m also proud that we as a nation have organized systems for helping those in need and I’m disgusted by people who resent them.

  76. “Guilt” seems to mean something different to a lot of people than it does to me, in much the same way (as someone noted earlier) “sorry” does.

    To me, “sorry” can mean either “I apologize” or “I sorrow”; context usually makes which one it is clear.

    “I feel guilt” means, to me, “I have done something or failed to do something that caused harm to someone, when I could have easily acted/not acted differently.” If I have an unearned advantage, I might feel *regret* that others don’t have it, but I don’t feel *guilt*. Very different thing to me.

    Nor do I feel guilt if I don’t act to address every inequity – I do something small to help to alleviate some of them. This is what I can reasonably do.

  77. There are a few things I probably could say here, some in praise and some questioning, but what I am really interested in talking about is Guilt. Guilt seems to be thrown around as an incredibly loaded word nowadays. Our parents guilt us into lives we may not want; our partners guilt us into doing things we don’t want to. A movie called Guilt Trip recently came out that, at least in title, struck a chord with a lot of people. But Guilt, actual Guilt, typically comes from a place of self-worth.

    Those of us with low self-worth, and yes, your narrator here is “guilty” of having that, constantly question any praise of gift we get. Is it actually warranted? Are they actually implying something bad with it? Don’t they know they are just praising me for being myself? Do I look like I need this and nobody told me before now? Oh no, wait, I’m in the spotlight! Run! Basically, welcome to Anxiety with Steroids.

    Does all this mean we are weak weepy men-children? No….well maybe, but that isn’t necessarily bad. It simply means something in our past, or a lot of somethings, colored our perception of not only ourselves but the world to make thinking this way not only normal, but correct.

    So when John talked about not feeling guilty for getting a thing he didn’t deserve I felt like I was reading something written by an alien for all intents and purposes. I had no frame of refernce as for what that would feel like. How would it feel to get something you don’t deserve, and just simply appreciate it and enjoy it? No sort of reprehensible behavior toward others, just appreciate that someone wanted to do something nice and you happened to be on the receiving end. It seems like such an amazing experience to me, to be able to just appreciate a thing without worry, and know, that, at some point, you will be nice to another person simply because they happened to be at the right spot then.

    I know I am not that person now, but I hope to one day get there.

  78. Josh, this country had very well organized private organizations that worked well on a fraction of the funds spent by the federal government. You want some numbers on how the welfare state has exploded during the last 5 years?
    Record numbers on food stamps.
    Record number on disability.

    Go find a pill for that disgust. I’m sure it’s covered by Obamacare somewhere.

  79. Am I supposed to lose sleep over that? We created a record need for social services by dismantling the safeguards around our financial system. I have a feeling you’re probably not at all troubled by that, though. Especially if you’re a fan of our profit-above-all embarrassment of a healthcare system.

  80. this country had very well organized private organizations that worked well on a fraction of the funds spent by the federal government.

    I suspect this is going off-topic. But this is one of those ‘facts’ that actually isn’t remotely true. The reason we have record numbers on unemployment, food stamps and so forth in the last 5 years is because we’ve had a record breaking recession the like of which we haven’t seen in 80 years. OTOH – this time around we’ve had lower unemployment in the US and people haven’t been starving to death.

    Go us.

  81. as mentioned earlier upthread – guilt / being guilty exists when you have done something thet you need to atone for (a “bad” action/inaction that you had control of/ did). I did not choose to be a SWM, that condition is outside of my sphere of influence- therefore it would be irrational for me to feel guilt over that condition. However it IS rational to acknowlege that ethnicity, gender, orientation, etc. (over which no one else has control of either) disadvantages some individuals. To ignore that reality is both irrational and unjust.

  82. The problem is that not everyone can get the VIP treatment. If they do, then everyone is back in the 90 minute line.

    Well, yeah – special treatment is a relational good. The wingnuts are right to resent progressive moves to greater equality because they will lose out, or at least they’re “right” given the values they regard as important.

    The problem is that a fair society is a better society overall. It’s like the choice is between a 90 minute line with VIPs being whisked past it, or a 60 minute line for everyone. If you’re a VIP who regards other people’s comfort as important, the second is preferable, even if you’re taking advantage of the first. But if you’re a VIP who is only interested in no.1, you’re going to fight tooth and nail to preserve the system regardless of the consequences for others.

    The American health system springs to mind as another example.

  83. Breadmaster — Yup. That’s what most days feel like. Every once in a while someone says or does something that really connects, “Yes, they meant to do this nice thing to me” that gives me a super-boost, and I can then coast slowly back down for days.

  84. I think “pay it forward” is a much more appropriate reaction to unsolicited advantage than guilt. There is no reason to feel guilty about benefiting from a broken system – you didn’t break it, after all. But the actions you take can help fix that system and whatever benefit you received just put you in the perfect place to do that. I’m not white, so I can’t speak to that, but I am a straight male. No matter what I say in criticism of our society’s inequality, I still benefit from that inequality. Outside of voting for marriage equality and not being a sexist, I haven’t done jack-all for the cause of LGBT equality or women’s rights. Yet I still accrue the benefits of being a straight male and I can do something with that growing pile of benefits (Hmmm…). It’s like getting an extra 20 bucks out of the ATM. I didn’t ask for it, but hey, free money just landed in my lap. What I am going to do with it? Spend it on myself? Donate it? Buy someone a lunch who can’t afford it right now? None of those choices should have any guilt attached to them. To me, “pay it forward” is simply a philosophy I would choose, in that moment, to practice.

    (PS – to the guy at 5:34pm, that was PRICELESS! I love how you actually used the phrase “I live in the real world”!)

  85. Long before I ever knew the word “privilege,” I knew I was lucky. At first I felt what I thought was guilt, but I hadn’t done anything wrong, so that wasn’t the right word. Then I wondered what all those people who had a harder life than I did would do if they had my good fortune. Why, they’d enjoy it, wouldn’t they? So it was part of my job in life to appreciate my good luck, have fun, and not waste it. And another part was to help others.

    Why are people so defensive about this?

  86. [Deleted because reasonable people don't go out of their way to be a dismissive ass in their first comment, which means he must be one of the people he decries, which I guess sucks for him -- JS]

  87. interesting post. I’d venture issues with alleged “white guilt” reflect very poor articulation between clear identifiable advantages from and speculated ones.

    in your illustration, some advantage is clear, the ‘why’ is not. as a bystander, I may assume the why is that you know someone famous, or otherwise influential. but I’d equally be right in assuming you worked there or in fact, did gain quicker access based on your own personal ‘efforts’ (won a prize, a prior mutual agreement with the park,…)

    likewise, ‘why’ I had certain advantages may be chalked up to being a straight white male. then again, given the complexity of human interaction, much of my advantages may be a result of other other factors.

    more so, I’d say people argue against ‘white guilt’ purely because they choose to believe they’ve earned, in some way, that which they’ve received.

  88. But you should feel guilty. Leaving aside straight, by identifying the unearned advantage of white and male, you encourage people to miss the real unearned and earned advantages. If you hold constant for coming from a two parent family, not having children, never been married and having an education (pick one, high school graduate or better) and then measure with variations in race and sex, you will find that white and male disappear as peaks in earning power as an example. It is hiding that fact behind claims of importance of sex and race that hinders people from seeing the predominant influences of behavior.

  89. Wow–I count three full Malletings and a Kittening since I last looked on here. You’d think that these adorable little gibbering moonbats would have something better to do than trolling prominent blogs.
    This next part is my actual contribution to the thread.
    Speaking as a (somewhat affluent) SWM, I have to say that, all other factors held constant, non-SWMs have a slight advantage in one respect: college admissions.
    Just to show that I am not an ignorant jerk, I would like to note that I added “all other factors held constant”, which is a rather important qualifier. It means that, compared to (for example) a Native American woman of similar intellect, personality, socioeconomic status, academic interests, and extracurricular interests to myself, I will likely stand a lower chance of being accepted to any particular college (except for some of the wacky fundamentalist diploma mills, but they don’t really count).
    In the above case, the primary advantage of the SWM is that all factors are *not* held equal. SWMs are regularly of higher socioeconomic status than non-SWMs, and frequently have the benefits of a more affluent upbringing than non-SWMs (e.g. more impressive extracurriculars).
    Finally, I can think of no other case where SWMs have any disadvantage, even if all factors other than race, sex, and sexual orientation are held constant. Bias is, unfortunately, still alive and well in this country.
    Finally, I would like to tell Mr. Scalzi that “Redshirts” was possibly the most thought-provoking book that I have read in over five years (the last being “Strata”, by Terry Pratchett). Please, keep blowing my mind away. It seems to come naturally to you, and it makes me a happily manic fanboy.

  90. Whoa, WAIT A MINUTE.

    Hold everything!

    That guy at the amusement park who walked right past us while we stood in line for 30 minutes? That was YOU? YOU???

    This changes everything.

  91. John, I’m curious what your perception of Darke County is? I don’t agree with your point on the straight white male being the easiest Halo setting. Nowadays I think we are all on the easy setting of life compared with previous generations regardless if you’re green, black, red, or bi-sexual.
    And as always: Arcanum beats Bradford.

  92. But I respect your opinion either way, dude. Besides we only have Matt Light and Curt Enis and Anne Get Your Gun to claim. You’re like, famous around here.

  93. Whoops forgot Lowell Thomas and the guy who crashed the zeplin in Noble County spawning an entire school to name their team the Zeps (true, google that shit).

  94. Josh, this country had very well organized private organizations that worked well on a fraction of the funds spent by the federal government

    Having worked for some of these well organized private organizations, you might be surprised on how large a percentage of their intake is from federal money.

  95. [Deleted because it's sad when people brag about their shortcomings. And I do mean short! - JS]

  96. I feel I benefit from the Straight White Male paradigm on a somewhat superficial basis. Despite being half-Latino, I have a white complexion (and not “brown” like many assume all Latinos must be), my last name is German, and I speak perfect English.

    That said, I do speak Spanish with an accent and I feel a kinship with other Latinos who appear more “obvious” than me. There are so many Latino men and women who work a lot harder than I do every day, and for whom unemployment is a lot more brutal than it is for me in my comfortable middle-class life. I hope to “Pay It Forward” to them, to show them respect and encourage others to do the same.

  97. I think Kevin Hicks way up there at 3:07 was referring to the sort of conservatives who are creating these blog nuggets. * There are plenty of kind, generous conservatives. But the poo-throwing nugget-bloggers (band name?) who are all WHARGARBL about John, white guilt, etc. are not among them.

    (Which, to continue the kitten theme, I picture as hairballs. Owl pellets on a good day.)

  98. Well, probably part of the reason for guilt is because most discussions of “privilege” use the language of Peggy McIntosh’s “invisible knapsack” paper: [people] “in Women’s Studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power” as the only means to achieve gender equality. and [men] “can’t or wont support the idea of lessening men’s” power.

    The idea of “privilege” is usually *defined* as meaning something you’re born into and can’t do anything about. But more often than not, “privilege” ends up being *argued* as something that the privileged people actively defend, actively take advantage of, actively reinforce.

    Peggy does this in the “Invisible Knapsack” papery by saying equality is about men “give up some of their power”, as if privilege were something you could give up. She then explains that men refuse to give up this power as proof that there is a problem with privilege.

    This is the problem with the “cutting in line at the amusement park” metaphor. Cutting in line is an active thing. It is something you chose to do in that story. It wasn’t something you were born into. Privilege is something you can’t give up. You can’t stop being white. You cant stop being male. You can’t stop being straight. Privilege is somethign you have no choice about.

    Cutting in line is something you have a choice in doing or not doing. And therefore has a completely different frame of morality. It is an active choice, and therefore has a completely different frame of morality. It is something you could choose NOT to do, and therefore has a completely different frame of morality.

    Privilege, if it is anything, is something you are born into, and there is nothing you can do to give it up.

    But the problem is, quite often, people discussing privilege frame privilege as if it were something that could be given up be the person refuses to give up. Or is something that people actively choose to pursue and take advantage of, rather than something that is out of their control. This is exactly how Peggy frames “privilege” in “The Invisible Knapsack”, and not surprisingly, that is exactly how people keep trying to talk about privilege even now.

    People quite often define privilege to mean being white, straight, or male, being things that a person is either born into or not. But then quite often in the very same paper or very same thread or very same discussion, that person will then discuss privilege as if it were something the person of privilege is actively choosing, actively defending, actively taking from those who are not in the privileged position. Very often “privilege” is defined with one moral frame, but then discussed with a completely different moral frame.

    The “easiest difficulty setting” in a video game isn’t something you choose. It’s just the setting you get when you fire up the game. Cutting in line at an amusement park is an active thing you choose or choose not to do. Once you start the game, you can’t change the difficulty level to make it more fair. But at the amusement park, after you cut in line, you might look at the poor mother who is holding a sleeping kid because they’ve been standing in line for an hour, and you might realize that cutting in front of them actually harms them, even if it is only a little bit, and even if it wasn’t you who made the rules that let you cut in line. And then you could choose NOT to cut in line the rest of the day. You cannot choose to stop being white.

    There is a different moral calculus involved in these two metaphors (easiest difficulty setting versus cutting in line). There is a significant difference in the level of guilt and culpability involved in these two metaphors. And that is, essentially, the problem when discussing privilege. Because a lot of people discussing privilege, all the way back to Peggy McIntosh, discuss privilege as if it were simultaneously something you are born into, something you have no choice in getting, and something you actively choose to take.

  99. This might go on a little:
    I think some of your readers need to look up the concept of a Metaphor, so here goes with another try.
    My father once said that people are like Supply Sergeants that he met in the service. He said that on the one hand, you have the guy you go to and say” Hi there, it’s raining out and miserable and I need some dry socks. The first Supply Sergeant might look at you and then look in the book and see how not only can he get you some socks, but also some new boots too. THIS IS BECAUSE HE IS WIRED IN SUCH A WAY THAT HE FEELS GOOD HELPING SOMEONE ELSE. THIS IS HIS FEEDBACK. The second guy you go to with the same issue will look in the book and find a rule so that he can tell you no, and maybe try to get you in trouble for asking. THIS IS BECAUSE THAT GUY IS WIRED IN THAT HE FEELS GOOD WHEN SOMEONE ELSE FEELS BAD OR HE CAN EXERT POWER OVER THEM.
    To get on topic, John is the first guy. Me too. It is simple. It takes a lot more work, but I can always find someone to help and feel good about it. There is no guilt here, and I do it for them and also for ME! I get goodness from it also.
    The other son of a bitch? Well, he gets his rocks off in the short term, but you know what? Karma is a bitch. Eventually you are alone because everyone around you avoids your vanperic emotional needs. YOU get to die alone and bitter.
    So keeping this on track, “I got mine, Jack” good for the short term and sure, you sit around saying “What a sucker for paying it forward!”
    Me, I’ll just keep plugging along and helping and paying it forward, backward and sideways. No guilt, just enjoying the feedback.

    Dave

  100. The thing to do when you pass Mom & Cute Little Trio is to ask if they’d like to skip to the front with you. The problem comes when the twenty-nine teenagers she was trying to chaperone want to come along. (No, that didn’t actually happen, but I was warned about that possibility.)

  101. Hm. I could see feeling a bit of guilt in some circumstances.

    Like: if I’d been in trouble with the law as a teenager, and found that another child, pretty much just like me, but African American, went to jail and ended up with a felony record, when I only had to meet with a probation officer and eventually got my record expunged.

    But guilt isn’t the appropriate feeling there. *I* didn’t do something to make my counterpart go to jail. So I can see feeling guilt, just like I can see feeling angry when a romantic partner breaks up with you – it’s not necessarily a rational feeling, but we wouldn’t call ‘em feelings if they were rational, we’d probably call ‘em thinkings.

    There should be a word for “something that makes me feel bad about an injustice, and makes me want to eradicate it,” and then say “don’t feel guilty, feel that something-that-makes-you-etc.”.

  102. Guess & KevinR (and others*), I might point you to a recent set of posts made by Ta-Nahesi Coates regarding the notion that what people keep trying to press is a kind of class or socio-economic advantage or disadvantage, is instead, still about race in ways that are traceable back to actually policy decision made over the last 100 years or so. Feel free to start Here and read forward to the most recent two posts. (And I do suggest reading before commenting, and reading the comments as well. Scalzi and TNC share the policy that the best comments are made when you take the time to actually review the material.)

    The point of acknowledging privilege (be it white, white male, straight white, straight white male, straight white female, white female, pick your category) is not to inflict guilt on the holder of the privilege, it’s to make them aware of it. No one blames straight white guys for being born SWM, any more than your parents on blamed for giving birth to [/sarcasm on] yet another SWM. [/sarcasm off]. If that’s what you are reading from the conversation that is “unpacking the privilege backpack” you need to go back and read it again.

    I’m neither straight nor male, but even I get that being born white gave me a lot of options and opportunities that people of color — of either gender — are not privvy to. But the biggest misread of the whole discussion seems to be more in the line that the “Privilege” assertion isn’t referring to each an every individual SWM out there. There are, without a doubt, Plenty of SWM who garnered little actual benefit from being born SW & M, but those individuals do not constitute a dismissal of the idea that as a representative demographic the whole idea of privilege means something. No one is accusing SWM’s of being dicks by default, unless, you know, they are being dicks. No one is accusing SWM’s as a demographic of going (to use Scalzi’s analogy) straight to the head of the line and saying screw you to the rest of the demographic sets.

    What is being said is that sometime you end up at the front of the line through no fault (or even effort) of your own and maybe, just maybe along with that gleeful “Hey, I’m at the head of the line!” you might think about why that is so and why you (or maybe not you but guys like you) seem to end up there more often than other people who are no S & W & M.

    Of course it’s also the truth of any privilege that you don’t have to think about it if you don’t want to — that’s why it’s a privilege.

    *I just want to note that I’m not trying to point or respond to anyone in particular, but the gents named above had posts that made me think of TNC’s recent columns and in the belief that they are engaging in the discussion in good faith, I thought those columns might prove interesting and an entirely different perspective.

  103. “We’re also at a stage where white men are actively being disadvantaged, being denied opportunities in favour of people less qualified, experienced, able, dare I even say deserving? It’s almost as if white men over here are now being made to pay it back rather than being encouraged to pay it forward.”

    Weeping tears of blood for ya, mate. Must be so *awful* watching the blecks getting positions because of their colour, which would never have happened during apartheid. All the white men appointed back then *earned* their status.

  104. maygra: The point of acknowledging privilege … is not to inflict guilt

    Well, it doesn’t matter what the intent was if the metaphor carries an implication of guilt or culpability. And it doesn’t matter what the “intent” was if people like McIntosh say the problem is that men won’t support the idea of giving up their power. Changing the problem from passive to active changes the level of guilt and culpability. And you can’t just wave that away.

    One of the big problems around the conversation of “privilege” is that the people talking about privilege think their intent overrides how the rest of their words actually frame the problem.. Cutting in line is an active choice. That metaphor carries with it a lot more culpability than firing up a game and finding yourself on easiest difficulty setting.

    If someone says my privilege of being straight, white, and male are like “cutting in line”, then their *point* may have been to raise awareness, but their metaphor, their framing, and the rest of their language carries with it quite a bit more culpability and guilt than their *point* intended.

  105. The difficulty I have with your argument that you shouldn’t feel guilty is that a considerable amount of your straight white male privilege is built on the active suppression of and discrimination against other people – which is why Kokkieh’s remark struck me as so tone-deaf.

    It’s one thing to say, okay, my position of privilege is based on decisions made by colonial powers hundreds of years ago. I can see why someone today may not feel any particular guilt over that. But when, as in South Africa, the suppression and discrimination – the outright heinous repression – is part of living memory…when the gender imbalance and power differentials are actually structural and being reinforced by your politicians today (as in America…and when we in the west exploit many non-white, non-male workers in developing countries with out clothing, food and technology choices….

    Why the hell wouldn’t you feel guilty? Do you need your cheap Bangladeshi-made jeans to come with brick dust and blood smears before you wonder how your ability to buy easily affordable clothing is gained? Do straight white men need to watch Tiny Tim die before their eyes because his family suffers from gender or race based poverty, before they wonder how much of their own complicity is responsible?

    I’m not saying you should walk around going ‘woe is me’ but Scalzi’s example isn’t the best analogy for the real world action of privilege. What it really looks like are the commenters here going “Nuffin’ to do wif me, guv”, because they, like, didn’t *actually* stab a poor black women to death or steal her food this morning.

  106. Greg, can you let even one of these discussions go without dragging out your McIntosh soapbox? Because you post about it at length multiple times per comment thread, and we’ve gotten it already.

  107. @Greg

    Please note, I didn’t actually use the cutting in line metaphor. And in the metaphor Scalzi used, his actual ability to cut in line was linked to having a friend – the friend was as much the privilege as the prime spot in line — more so in my read. He didn’t have the friend because his friend was a VIP at this particular park; that friendship was something he had, (one presumes) and one of the down-the-line perks was the ability to go to the head of the line. The Privilege in this case was in having that friend, the result of the privlege was getttng to go to the front of the line.

    What I’m hearing you state, is that you don’t like the language being used to describe a phenomena that you, from what I’ve read of your comments in the past, don’t actually argue is non-existent. The fact that you don’t like the way the argument is framed doesn’t mean the argument is invalid, it only means you want it framed in some other way that you find less offensive — which is really, kind of changing the argument.

    I also want to say, that despite common rhetoric, no one can make you feel guilt, or make you feel culpability for anything — not by their words, or their actions or even if they held a gun to your head and said, “feel guilty or die” if the feelings of guilt aren’t already there. You might feel a lot of things — but except in some very rare situations, people don’t feel emotions on demand. My offering to you would be that if that’s what you are getting from the conversation, it has less to do with the person speaking and more to do with your own internal dialogue, conscious or unconscious.

  108. Maybe you didn’t get a break because you were a straight, white, male–maybe you got a break because you are well educated, work hard, and became successful through your own efforts. Thus, you have the opportunity to meet some pretty cool, also accomplished, people who are happy to share their breaks with you.

  109. Robin P.:

    I’m pretty sure my friend isn’t my friend because I am a straight white male.

    I think you may need to read through the entry a little more closely, particularly the part where I note I pretty well aware of what things I get in the world through my own efforts, and what things I get that I get, regardless of what efforts I make.

  110. By the way….I REALLY hate it when smug people point to non-profits as being superior to (any) government in delivering services. It’s obvious they’ve never worked in non-profits. When non-profits get big enough, they’re every bit as inefficient as government; the law of large organizations apply to any group, profit or not, government or private. And when they’re small, they only survive because they pay their employees a pittance and it gets excused because they’re a non-profit or they’re small and struggling.

  111. Why should I keep standing in line when I see SWM after SWM being whisked past me? For all I know, there are enough SWM getting on the ride that I’ll NEVER get a shot. This line hasn’t moved in ages. Maybe I should just give up and go home.

  112. maygra — … The fact that you don’t like the way the argument is framed doesn’t mean the argument is invalid, it only means you want it framed in some other way that you find less offensive — which is really, kind of changing the argument. …

    The strategy of knowingly persisting in making an argument in a fashion that’s offensive to the audience seems to me to be intentionally ineffective, and leads me to wonder both about motives and arguments that are not being explicitly stated and about who the real audience for the offensive argument is. Even I know it’s a way to keep a group riled up and distracted. If it’s more important to keep the frame than win a supporter, the validity of the argument seems not very relevant (and the frame acquires the odor of revealed theology.)

  113. Ann: I was with you up until this way-over-the-top point:

    Why the hell wouldn’t you feel guilty? Do you need your cheap Bangladeshi-made jeans to come with brick dust and blood smears before you wonder how your ability to buy easily affordable clothing is gained?

    Straight white men are hardly the only people who wear clothing made by low-wage, mistreated Asian workers in sweatshops. That’s a pretty poor example of SWM privilege. How much well-deserved guilt do you feel about it? Enough to research every garment you buy all the way back to the factory?

    Do straight white men need to watch Tiny Tim die before their eyes because his family suffers from gender or race based poverty, before they wonder how much of their own complicity is responsible?

    This is very nearly flaming. Exactly how much guilt do you think each and every one of us should feel for the actions of other SWMs just because we’re the same gender, race, and orientation – which, by the way, we didn’t choose either? How many poor black women should I blame myself for *effectively* stabbing and stealing food from?

  114. None so blind as those who use preview and do not see … closing left slash i right , missing before “The strategy” above. (probably only the slash missing.) If it annoys you, Scalzi, thank you for fixing it.

  115. Weeping tears of blood for ya, mate. Must be so *awful* watching the blecks getting positions because of their colour, which would never have happened during apartheid. All the white men appointed back then *earned* their status.

    Yeah, but the white men back then are not necessarily the white men of today. If the principle behind pushing for women’s rights (or black rights, or gay rights) is equality of access, then that principle should guide remedies to current inequality. Saying “Your group dicked on our group back then, so we get to dick on you now” is just going to provoke even more backlash.

    I’m uneasy with reverse discrimination. My preferred option is procedural equality combined with preferential help to access the tools to participation, such as education. Given that more women are graduating university than men, the latter bit of them seems achieved, so ensuring procedural equality – gender-blind hiring and auditing for bias – seems like the way to go, IMHO.

  116. BruceT; “The problem is that not everyone can get the VIP treatment. If they do, then everyone is back in the 90 minute line.”

    If getting to be a VIP is based on an inherent advantage, such as being white, it’s not really a VIP treatment. It’s a rigged cheating system. Poor white people may have to wait in the line too, but statistically, more of them will move up the line faster than non-whites, and men faster than women, etc. In the West, the VIP’s will be almost exclusively white males who are VIP’s because they are white males helped by other white males. So it’s a broken system based on false status and cronyism. I don’t feel guilt about this system because I didn’t cause it even if I benefit from it. I feel concern about this system because it not only is hard on the folks on line, but it means the amusement park goes into a downward death spiral of decrepitude. (And yes, you can use Downward Death Spiral of Decrepitude as your rock band name.)

    The goal is not to pile more people into the broken VIP system based on false status. It’s to change the system to give equal access to being in the amusement park, being able to get in the line and having a chance to be able to move through the line. It’s about the benefits of that meaning that more people can come to the park and the park can get bigger and better with more rides so the lines get shorter for all. It’s about letting everyone who’s there contribute all their talents to the park. It’s about understanding that moving everybody through the line benefits everybody and the park itself. (It’s also about understanding that the world we’re living in isn’t really an amusement park.) And it’s about learning not to bash the folks in line who complain that you’re getting special treatment for free just for complaining and just because you can. It’s about getting rid of false status, and if your entire sense of self-worth is based on your false status, then I’m not really worried about your feelings at all, because you’re not worried about anyone else’s feelings. You’re just trying to keep a con running as long as you can.

    Kate Powers: “We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, as a species. We have to figure out a long-term energy solution; we should probably be a little smarter about where our food comes from and what goes into it; we have a whole bunch of diseases that we still haven’t cured, and my god, that Man of Steel sequel isn’t going to write itself. So all things being equal, would you rather take all the responsibility for fixing ALL this stuff yourself, or would you like some help? And, like the AT&T pitchman says, what’s better: A little help or more help?”

    Exactly. But of course, there are people who think the folk in line can never help them with anything, shouldn’t be helped in the line, and that their VIP status will keep them safe on their own private islands. It’s a basic lack of understanding of ecosystems and it’s why we have most of the messes we’re in at the moment. For those with false status but lesser incomes, the belief that the false status is all they have and has to be kept is saddening because the larger world that could be created without the false status system benefits everybody in the line.

    Maygra: “The point of acknowledging privilege (be it white, white male, straight white, straight white male, straight white female, white female, pick your category) is not to inflict guilt on the holder of the privilege, it’s to make them aware of it.”

    Again, exactly. And speaking about it is to make them aware of when they are talking with that complete lack of awareness, not to shame them but to get them to think about what it is they are saying and how people who have to live in different worlds without their false status are impacted and effected by what they are saying. But sometimes protests and shouting from those in line is the only thing that brings that awareness and a change to the system to more benefits for more people.

  117. Phoenician in a time of Romans wrote:
    “the white men back then are not necessarily the white men of today. ”

    Did you miss the bit where the commenter said he was a child of ten when apartheid ended? Unless he was actually born a poor black child, he benefited from the regime, and so did his family. That was the point I made in my next comment – this isn’t ancient history.

    “I’m uneasy with reverse discrimination.”

    Too bad. Payback is a bitch. It’s way too early to be complaining about the unfair advantages blacks now have in a system which is still fucked up from, ya know, the system which used to disadvantage them *hugely*. Also the jibe about the not being qualified as the white applicants comes right from the racist playbook, which makes me even less sympathetic to anything else a commenter might be complaining about.

  118. I suspect the reaction being asked for by pieces like “Straight White Male” isn’t so much “guilt” as “empathy”. Empathy can best be described as realising someone else is not you, and that therefore they’re not going to have the same story you do. They’re going to have different reasons for doing things in different ways, and sometimes you may think the decisions they’re making are the wrong ones (for any number of reasons that you can see from your perspective, but they maybe can’t see from theirs). Empathy isn’t something which is encouraged in Western culture (seeing someone else’s point of view is somehow seen as weakening your own) and which is particularly not encouraged for men in Western culture (or for “successful” women).

    The nearest a lot of people get to empathy is guilt. Or rather, they feel guilt because they feel they’re being expected to show empathy, but they aren’t able to achieve empathy. Then they flip straight over to resentment, because how dare someone else say something which makes them feel guilty about something they can’t do, or have an expectation they can’t meet? And then they write those long involved pieces about “liberal guilt”, because they’ve missed the point.

    Empathy isn’t easy. Learning to express it is a hard thing. Empathy involves letting someone else be the expert about their life, their experiences and their feelings (something a lot of Western culture has a lot of trouble doing) and admitting you don’t know all the answers (another thing a lot of Western culture has a lot of trouble doing). Empathy involves realising you’re not all that and a packet of chips. Empathy is a big part of the whole “paying it forward” thing too – because part of “paying it forward” is figuring out what other people need or want, rather than just giving them whatever you think might be helpful.

    The core of empathy is asking questions, and listening to the answers you get.

  119. Josh Cochran wrote:
    “Straight white men are hardly the only people who wear clothing made by low-wage, mistreated Asian workers in sweatshops. That’s a pretty poor example of SWM privilege. ”

    It wasn’t intended to be. It was intended to be an example of the kind of unexamined privilege that almost all commenters here would share, and unthinkingly too.

    “This is very nearly flaming.”

    I’m sorry you think using a fairly famous example of a Straight White Man who gained his privilege from the oppression of others is ‘flaming’.

    “How many poor black women should I blame myself for *effectively* stabbing and stealing food from?”

    I dunno. Depends on how much you personally think you benefit from a healthcare system that only the well off can really afford, from a wage imbalance that drastically favours men, from racial discrimination in a justice system that gets you a warning from a cop for smoking a joint but lands a black man in jail, or from low taxes that are built by stripping benefits from the poor.

    Scalzi knew exactly how he got whooshed past the crowds at the fun park, and why. But most white people – and especially white men – have no real idea how much the system is weighted in their favour. My hyperbolic questions were posed to ask people to think about that.

  120. Lots of emotion going on. Not a bad thing, and quite the human thing, in fact. Still, too much of it can seize a mind right up, like an infection. Pretty soon the mind is consumed in, well, emotion. Nothing but waves of the stuff, like weather gone wild. Do that long enough and you end up doing exactly what it is that got you riled up to begin with.

    We all know the best way to enact change is to change. Breaking the circle takes awareness and compassion, because the only alternative is to repeat history.

  121. This is a thread likely to sprout trolls whilst I sleep, so I’m going to go ahead and close it down for the evening. I’ll open up when I wake up in the morning. Night, all.

    (P.S. Phoenician in a time of Romans: Your comment posted after this one. I’ve taken it out of the queue for now but will put it back up in the morning.)

    Update: 8:05am 6/20: Back up.

  122. Too bad. Payback is a bitch.

    Fine. Then when the backlash starts discriminating against women (blacks, gays, etc) again, you’ll have no-one to blame but yourself for casting it as a power struggle rather than an appeal to principle. You can’t have it both ways – you can’t justify appealing against discrimination against one group on principle while being gleeful about discriminating against another group because you assume you have the power to do so.

  123. Who gives a crap about who does or doesn’t feel guilty? Guilt is cheap. You can’t live on this planet and not benefit from inequity. Who cares about recrimination? Visiting the sins of the father on the children won’t help anyone. It just keeps the cycle cycling. Life isn’t a zero sum game or an amusement park ride. The liberation of one group doesn’t require the oppression of another. Change is powered by action, not guilt. The utility of guilt begins and ends with the extent to which it motivates action. Same for religion: irrational, but if it’s the excuse someone needs to do good, then bring it on. If someone helps another person, I’m not gonna be standing on the sidelines criticizing their motives like a giant dickhead.

    Oh, so sad, all the people feeling guilty or vindictive or guilty and vindictive or some other useless emotion that pretends to be about someone else but is really always about the person feeling put upon for one reason or another. The original SWM essay was interesting, basically true in its own very limited way, not an exhaustive account of inherent privilege by any measure, and if it helped explain privilege to that cross-section of the populace that plays games, great. But all this hand-wringing across the internet doesn’t change anything. Arguing over who should or shouldn’t feel guilty accomplishes nothing. Whether I feel guilty for things I had no say in is totally irrelevant. Hell, my feelings in general are totally irrelevant, and so, quite frankly, are all of your all’s. If you live on this Earth, your responsibility to right injustice is proportional to the amount of power, wealth and other resources available to you. If you don’t fulfill at least some of that responsibility, you’re useless. The rest is sophistry.

    In other words, generically speaking, Fuck you, pay it forward.

    Also, in a more general note to the thread, let’s not make this is all about general kvetching about conservatives vs. liberals, please.

    Gawd yes! Please Mallet the team politics bullshit into the giant hole in the sun.

    @ Kevin Hicks

    I really meant my comment to point out that, much like when somebody is extremely anti-gay, they often turn out to be gay themselves…

    Or it happens statistically rarely and people latch onto the hypocrisy for a piece of schadenfreude pie.

    @Guess

    A poor kid growing up in a poor family irregardless of skin color is going to have it alot harder than a middle class or upper class kid irregardless of skin color.

    You can change your wealth. You can’t change your sex, or orientation, or the race other people arbitrarily assign you to based on contrived historical criteria.

    @Laura Resnick

    That guy at the amusement park who walked right past us while we stood in line for 30 minutes? That was YOU? YOU???

    Priceless.

    @Ann Somerville

    Payback is a bitch.

    Payback is petty, selfish and shortsighted; transgenerational payback double so. Affirmative action isn’t about payback.

  124. John:

    As I read your blogs and the blogs of your opponents, I find myself coming down somewhere in the middle. I do see an element of posturing in these constant finger-wagging posts about diversity, which strike me as somewhat forced and self-serving. You’ve cultivated an audience that eats this stuff up, and (surprise!) the majority of your regular commenters completely agree with you.

    At the same time, I don’t agree with the more extreme views of the one you call the RSHD. He also has his own cheering section, which is equally convinced of his brilliance. (And no, I am not one of his fans.)

    To some extent, my response would be “a pox on both your houses”: It seems that the SF/F world is a lot more obsessed with race, gender, and LGBT issues nowadays than with…science fiction.

    There is a time and place to debate these issues. I’m not saying that they are necessarily trivial or unimportant. Has it reached the point, however, where the SF/F world has become a bit *too* obsessed with culture war issues?

    I do grow tired of reading SF blogs about “characters of color in SF”. I grow equally tired of reading blogs about “the leftists who have taken over SF”.

    SF blogs used to actually be focused on science fiction.

    It’s natural for a writer’s politics to inform his/her fiction. However, one could make the case that the SF/F genre could benefit from a moratorium on political screeds, whether it’s Hines with his book cover obsession, you with your white privilege posts, or the RSHD with his pet theories on race.

    As a group, you folks have gotten a bit sidelined by these debates. It has even produced a major rift in the SFWA.

  125. Todd:

    We’d all love it if you could point out a single story of our host’s where his politics on white privilege or female objectification are even remotely visible. As for the rift in the SFWA, maybe a little less victim-blaming is in order, seeing as how continuing discriminatory or hurtful practices would be a good thing regardless of whose fee-fees get hurt, no? Especially if they’re RHSDs and their supporters.

  126. @ Todd:

    “[M]ajor rift”? Major rift? I call bull. The only “rift” is between intelligent people like Mr. Scalzi and Mr. Hines, and nitwits like RSHD, whose opinions don’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things. Heck, half of the sexism in SFF (that I encountered, anyway) was from dudes who just never thought to think about whether or not they were being sexist. Once the sexism was brought to their attention, a large number of them thought for a moment, said “*Oh…*”, and either apologized or shaped up their behavior.

    Also, nobody belittles Scalzi and Hines. Nobody. Not cool, man. Comparing Scalzi to RSHD is not cool at all. This is his private blog; treat it like you would his house and don’t pee on the metaphorical toilet seat.

  127. maygra: you want it framed in some other way that you find less offensive

    Look. Actively cutting in line is morally different than being born at the front of the line.

    The only reason I’m looking for something you call “less offensive” is because privilege metaphors usually try to take the state of being white, straight, or male, and turn it into an active offense when it isn’t. Presenting a group in a far worse light than they are is called “demonization”. Hyperinflating the moral responsibility of someone is demonization.

    Perfect example on this thread of demonization: Ann Sommerville’s comment: commenters here going “Nuffin’ to do wif me, guv”, because they, like, didn’t *actually* stab a poor black women to death. Being white isn’t morally equivalent to stabbing a poor black woman to death.

    Peggy McIntosh in “Invisible Knapsack” tries to frame the issue of gender inequality as “Women’s Studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power”. Look, that’s just nuts. I’m not going to have to give up any power for women to have equality. Equality isn’t a zero sum game. McIntosh also says [men] “can’t or wont support the idea of lessening men’s” power. It shifts being male into an active offense. By packaging it inside of “privilege” McIntosh forwards this notion that all men are sexist and all men oppose equality because all men would have to give up some ineffable “power” for women to have equality. It is moronic.

    Straight people aren’t going to lose any marriage rights if gays can marry. The only people who argue that are homophobic bigots. Acting as if all straights oppose gay marriage because they’ll have to give up some straight marriage rights is lumping all straight people in with homophobic bigots. It takes being straight and turns it into “actively opposing gay marriage”. Which is demonizing all straights. Which is stupid.

    White people aren’t going to lose any “privilege” if racist cops get fired and cant racially profile black drivers any more. So presenting white privilege as if all privilge is a function of actively oppressing blacks, actively opposing racial equality, is just stupid.

    But people like McIntosh use demonizing metaphors and language for a reason. It invokes the emotional judgement. People like Ann Somerville want to talk about stabbing a poor black woman to death because it demonizes people she disagrees with. Ann Sommerville invoking “Do straight white men need to watch Tiny Tim die before their eyes” because it allows her to demonize straight white men in a way she can’t if she were forced to talk about reality. Ann talks about stabbing black women and Tiny Tim dying because she can’t make her argument based on the facts. She has to change the moral calculus so that being straight, white, and male, is on par with stabbing black women to death.

    So, really, it’s not that I’m looking for a metaphor that is “less offensive” as you put it. I’m looking for a discussion on privilege that is more accurate based on the fact that it does not demonize the privilege of being white male as morally equivalent to stabbing a black woman to death. It’s stupid.

  128. Genufett:

    When I hear ideologue-speak words like “white privilege” and “female objectification” I suspect that I’m talking to someone who *supports* the current obsession on culture war issues in the SF world.

    While the RSHD clearly goes to the opposite extreme, there are a lot of SF fans who are simply sick of reading endless posts about gay marriage, race, racism, feminism, anti-feminism, alpha males vs. gamma males, etc., etc. Enough already.

    This is all starting to sound like one of those long-winded, largely pointless debates that I recall from some of my political science/sociology courses in college, where we spent endless hours debating whether or not the term “freshman” represented “the sexist oppression of the patriarchy”.

  129. Todd:

    “SF blogs used to actually be focused on science fiction.”

    Your first error is assuming this is a “science fiction blog.” It’s not. It existed before I was ever a published science fiction author, or indeed before I made the decision to actively pursue being a published novelist. This blog has never been focused on science fiction, period, end of story.

    Your second error is assuming that any blog of any science fiction (or fantasy) author is inherently supposed to be about science fiction and fantasy. An author’s blog is about whatever that author wants to write about, including backstage issues in the sf/f publishing genre and community. When we start writing science fiction and fantasy, we’re not required to sign a contract that say we are no longer allowed to talk or write about anything other than science fiction and fantasy. Don’t act like we are.

    Your third error is assuming that any blog writer is obliged to write about anything other than what they want to write about, if it’s their own personal blog. If you don’t like what’s on a blog, then stop reading the blog.

    Your fourth error is the belief that anyone’s been “sidelined” by these discussions. In my own case, I’ve published five books in the three years since I’ve been president of SFWA, not to mention working on a science fiction video game that’s currently in production and on a science fiction television show whose run went through my first year as president, not to mention a full schedule of tours and promotional events. I would like you to explain to me how that schedule somehow constitutes being “sidelined.” If you look at the production schedules of other writers, you’ll see that many of them (including Mr. Hines, whom you namecheck) have similarly productive schedules when it comes to bringing out the books.

    Todd, your complaint boils down to “you people are writing on your blogs about stuff I don’t want to read.” Then don’t read it; no one’s putting a gun to your head and forcing you to. Read the actual science fiction instead.

  130. @ Floored by Scalzi’s awesomeness:

    This *is* a private blog; I’ll cede you that point. However, John is quite influential in the current SF/F world, and his blog (along with some others) is instrumental in setting the tone for the SF/F scene.

    I think you’re also setting up a false choice: It is possible to disagree with the more extreme views of someone like the RSHD, while simultaneously taking the position that the themes of LGBT liberation, race, and feminism have become disproportionate obsessions within the community at present.

  131. @John Scalzi:

    In all fairness, I will note that I don’t detect any political bias in your novels.

  132. Todd, you should know that I am actually delighted to be talking about all the things you think the sff community is taking to much time on, so to the extent that I am influential in the genre, I suspect you should probably get used to it.

    The reason you don’t detect my political biases in my novels is that my novels take place in the future, where contemporary politics don’t apply. It would be vaguely silly to put them there.

  133. @ Kilroy:

    Given that 75% reported and 90% actual casualty rate, you could probably say that Scalzi positively *hates* the CDF. ;)

    Good joke.

  134. You also beat the living daylights out of Anatoly Kerensky and Andrew Dahl, killed Finn, gave Matthew Paulson a critical brain injury, made Jenkins kill his wife in a recursive, meta way, and killed thousands of colonists just to have John Perry fight the Consu and the Rraey. You’re a monster! ;)

  135. When I hear ideologue-speak words like “white privilege” and “female objectification” I suspect that I’m talking to someone who *supports* the current obsession on culture war issues in the SF world.

    While the RSHD clearly goes to the opposite extreme, there are a lot of SF fans who are simply sick of reading endless posts about gay marriage, race, racism, feminism, anti-feminism, alpha males vs. gamma males, etc., etc. Enough already.

    There wouldn’t be “endless posts” about all of that if the assholes didn’t keep on being homophobic, racist, anti-woman, and swaggering alpha dickholes. They’re the ones who keep on bringing it up and being racist, homophobic, sexist dipshits. Everything else is basically people saying “dude, that shit’s fucked up and here’s why.” If you’re so desperate to brush it under the rug by using the RHSD’s language and putting down people who won’t stand for that stuff to be peddled as if it was OK, then you’re going to come off less as “pox on both their houses” and more like “I think the RHSD have a worldview that should be considered acceptable, so shut up brown folk/girls/homos.”

  136. And that leads me to this brilliant idea–what would happen if the characters from “Redshirts” realized that they were in a book about the redshirts on a bad “Star Trek” ripoff? They would hunt you down, and Dahl would be able to fly through black holes left and right, because (technically speaking) he’s the protagonist of the book. Now THAT is a book that I would read, and reread, and eagerly extoll to everyone I meet, and pull all-nighters obsessively rereading, et cetera.

  137. @ Kilroy: I have, although I’m not a big Vonnegut fan. I prefer Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, Brandon Sanderson, and John Scalzi (duh).

  138. @Scalzi: You know, not to follow this down a dark off-topic alley, but your willingness to write a future that isn’t the present in disguise is one reason I enjoy your stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with future-presents, but they’re so common that a break from them is refreshing.

  139. Was it coincidental or causal that Wen Spencer’s Eight Million Gods includes the SWM Game Level observation:

    “He’s playing the reality game at the easiest setting: god level. I’m playing at the hard setting: five-foot tall female bisexual combat medic. Now, if he was playing hardcore he’d be an African-American lesbian midget Marine.”

  140. Well, if SCOTUS releases Fisher v. Texas in a couple minutes here, conversation should pick back up again since there will be a whole new issue to bring up.

  141. Todd could always become an SFF author and then run for President of the SFWA, if he wants to try changing what the community talks about.

  142. Empathy is one of those things that is missing all too often in these analyses. Going back to the game metaphor, Scalzi was describing a moment in which one of his difficulty sliders – imagine life doesn’t have one difficulty slider, but a whole bunch of semi-independent ones, keyed to race, gender, orientation, financial status, place of residence, health, and so on and so forth – anyway, one of his difficulty sliders got temporarily slid from “moderately difficult” to “dead easy”.

    It’s depressing to read about someone who epitomizes the “I got mine, fbeep you” attitude until the moment comes when someone close to him/her has his/her difficulty setting reset from “Piece of Cake” to “Nightmare”, and only then has an epiphany about being kind to the less fortunate. Especially because with a little thought and a little imagination, it’s not difficult to picture one’s own difficulty sliders shoved to the nightmare end, and from there, it’s pretty easy to imagine someone who’s playing with half a dozen sliders factory-set to “Nightmare” every day of their lives.

    I’m currently living in a society where I’m truly fortunate to have a gender and appearance that don’t attract negative attention (and around here, negative attention can be nightmarish). I’m playing life on easy mode in that regard.

    Until I open my mouth, and my accent betrays me as a foreigner. Y’see, one of my difficulty settings is region-locked; back home, it’d be set to “dead easy”, but here, it’s set to “Come Get Some” whether I like it or not. So if I want to keep playing at low difficulty, I have to keep my mouth shut as best I can … which is a lot easier than others have it, since there’s no way to follow instructions like “don’t look like a foreigner” or “don’t be a woman”.

    So yeah, my life may seem Nintendo-hard at times, but I’ve at least got one way to avoid the flaming barrels that get thrown all over the place, which many immigrants to this ancient land don’t have. (Imagine playing Donkey Kong and not being able to jump over the barrels.)

    And finding ways to make it easier for your fellow human being to play the game doesn’t have to make it more difficult for you. Player 1 doesn’t necessarily lose points because he showed Player 2 how to use the ladders and get the hammer.

    (Oh, and the real brain-bender will come if and when someone tries to make a movie or TV miniseries of Redshirts.)

  143. No DOMA, no Prop 8, no Fisher… we’ll have to wait until Monday to see how SCOTUS is going to move the easy setting around.

  144. @ Bruce K: The sheer amount of meta in that idea just melted my prefrontal cortex. And it’s a pretty good prefrontal cortex, too (meaning: I read graduate-level paleontology books for bedtime reading. Don’t ask me why. I just love the idea of chipping at rocks with dental tools for a (meager) living.).

    So yeah, having a TV show based on “Redshirts” would be a brain-bender. Especially if the characters met Mr. Scalzi AS HIMSELF. Chew on that!

  145. Paying it forward is the right thing to do, but the very act of doing it seems to be borne from a little guilt.

    No, guilt is a “you shouldn’t have done that” internalized punishment which motivates us to not repeat the actions that led to it. Guilt over things that others did, or over blind chance (like being born healthy, or over something our ancestors did) is just irrational. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but usually it has to be taught; think of the prominent examples of vicarious guilt and you’ll see a whole lot of effort invested in teaching it.

    Actually, “pay it forward” is one of the most natural mammalian behaviors you could name. How else would you describe our investments in our children, or in our clan’s children, or even in the other members of our clan? Just keep generalizing; generalized “pay it forward” is a lot closer to basic social mammal behavior than professional sports are to kittens playing.

    In my case, when I was about 18 my father took me aside and told me two things. One was that I was old enough to start to understand the huge investment that he and my mother had made in me in money, time, effort, and tears [1]. The other was that there was no way I could possibly pay it back to them [2]. Instead he was passing to me the debt that his parents had passed to him from their parents etc. and which could only be discharged by (you guessed it) paying it forward.

    So maybe I’m generalizing a bit from that, because my parents weren’t the only ones who invested in me and therefore my debt to the future goes beyond my own children. And there’s no “guilt” involved in recognizing a debt, because reciprocity is another basic behavior in social mammals.

    [1] Emphasis “start.” He also warned me that I wouldn’t have more than a hint until I’d raised my own to adulthood.
    [2] so don’t even think about trying

  146. But the problem is, quite often, people discussing privilege frame privilege as if it were something that could be given up be the person refuses to give up.

    I think you’re conflating two different aspects of privilege.

    Being born with long earlobes might well confer privilege in some hypothetical society. There’s nothing to be done about the earlobes, but there is the potential for change to the society’s practise of conferring advantage to those who have them. Or, of course, defending the preference for long earlobes while going about in sackcloth and ashes bemoaning all the good things that unfairly keep forcing themselves on us.

  147. Ann Somerville:

    I dunno. Depends on how much you personally think you benefit from a healthcare system that only the well off can really afford, from a wage imbalance that drastically favours men, from racial discrimination in a justice system that gets you a warning from a cop for smoking a joint but lands a black man in jail, or from low taxes that are built by stripping benefits from the poor.

    I think the question of how guilty each person should feel is a little deeper than just how much he (in the case of SWMs) benefits from those things. I think we should also consider:

    1) How much choice did he have in creating or perpetuating those conditions. This should be big bonus points. If you’re part of the reason the system is the way it is (a healthcare CEO, a lawmaker, etc) you should get a huge helping of guilt. Of course those people seem to be completely free of human empathy, which is necessary for any feeling of guilt about the circumstances of others.

    People who had no choice either way I’d call neutral on this point only. People in those positions of power who have tried to use their positions to improve those conditions I’d give some positive credit to.

    2) Does he support the way things are? I believe people bear the moral responsibility for the result of their political beliefs. For example, those who would enact laws that would make healthcare less accessible (or keep it less accessible) for the poor, no matter what “principle” they claim (OMG tyranny!), would personally choose to keep healthcare out of the reach of others. Like the powerful people in point 1, though, these folks probably don’t care what I think they should feel guilty about.

    3) What has he personally done to change things in society as a whole? Voting for change and those who seek it is a good thing, but a very small thing. It takes little personal investment to cast a secret ballot and walk away. This is particularly true if he lives, as I do, in a place where the electoral meaninglessness of a single vote supporting change is a forgone conclusion. Giving money is better because it’s a personal sacrifice of some sort. Giving your time I think is the highest contribution most people can make. Volunteering time to actively work for change, either on your own or as part of a larger group. Putting yourself and your free time on the line to change things in a way that would lessen or remove your own privilege. Working for change as a full time occupation is something very few people would do, but it deserves a huge amount of respect for those who do it.

    4) What has he personally done to effect change in his own work/social/family/religious life? How often does he speak up about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc, when he encounters it? Does he actively seek to improve the lives and circumstances of the people he encounters? In making hiring decisions, for example, is he aware and skeptical of assumptions he may make of the candidates who apply? When crazy old Uncle Bob goes on one of his rants about “teh gayz!” at Thanksgiving, does he laugh along with the rest of the family, sit in uncomfortable silence, or say something?

    5) How much does he benefit from his privilege in the status quo? I don’t mean to minimize this one, because it’s the foundation of all else. No matter what you believe, no matter how you vote, who you give money to, or how often you speak up, you still get the benefit of privilege. Of course, feeling any guilt, responsibility, whatever, requires that you acknowledge that privilege exists and that you see it as a problem.

    Now, to evaluate my life on these standards: I’m not a Senator, Representative, or a person of power. Neutral on that one. I vote and give small amounts of money, but don’t volunteer at present. Very minor good on that one. In my own life, I tend to fume about inequality and rage about it at home, but too often allow myself to be intimidated by the sociopolitical majority where I live. I suppose I’m not making things any worse, but not doing much to make them better either. Neutral, at best.

    Have I benefited from privlege? Yes, in large, foundational ways. I’ve never been above lower middle class in my life, so I haven’t directly benefited from privilege like hiring minorities as yard workers, housekeepers, nannies, under the table below minimum wage and without benefits. I didn’t get legacy admission to an Ivy League school. The families my parents came from were poor and I’ve frequently been surrounded by poverty. I’m very, very aware of the disadvantages the poor of all races live with.

    BUT, and this is a big but, I am an SWM. I have benefited from the privileges of assumption and camouflage pretty much every day. I may not have much money but I can put on a suit and blend into a room full of people in higher economic classes without eliciting a second glance. As a kid I could dream of being a fighter pilot and not have people say, “You can’t do that because you’re a .” Growing up, people assumed I would go to college. People assumed I wouldn’t steal their car, snatch their purse, or break into their house if they saw me walking through their neighborhood. If I rode my bike down the street really fast it was because I liked going fast, not because I was running from someone. Nobody has ever questioned my citizenship.

    So that’s a lot of privilege based on an accident of birth. Basically winning the genetic lottery. And without doing much beyond believing in, voting for, and donating small amounts toward change. So I guess that entitles me to whatever the default amount of guilt is.Although I’d say “responsibility” might be a better word than “guilt” for me personally. I think, as a person with all that privilege, it’s my responsibility to not take it for granted (to the level that I’m conscious of it in daily life at all), never take advantage of it, work to change the circumstances that advantage me over everyone else for nothing I’ve done, and when possible use my privilege to advance change.

    (Sorry gang…had to get some things done this morning, so the post this is replying to maybe 50 comments back by now.)

  148. We have used the Disney guest assistance card for years (at both Disneyland and Disney World) because of my son’s situation–which legitimately qualifies us for the card and to use alternate entrances or the fastpass lanes. Doing so helps us do more rides per day than the average guest. It also helps my family enjoy the theme park more than we otherwise would. In addition, other guests do not have to experience my son acting out, which increases their enjoyment of the park. We see it as a win/win.

    My point is that it’s not just about VIPs and having more advantage as a result of such status. It’s really the opposite: Disney (and other theme parks) have designed processes to help less advantaged guests enjoy the parks more than they otherwise would. They are actively reaching out to those less advantaged and helping them by making accommodations for their special needs. I suspect the VIP treatment is much less prevalent than the access for special needs guests.

  149. The conversation has long since moved past this, but I just wanted to say that the person who posted as “Robin P.” is not me, although my last initial is also P. Just felt the need to say this since we posted close together and our Gravatars are somewhat similar, but I do not at all agree with the other poster’s statement. And because one person replied to Robin P.’s post as “Robin’s last post” when as far as I’ve seen that was the only post by that person.

  150. [Coming late to this otherwise I would have just told MRAL to be more polite, please, but there are enough comments between me seeing this and responding that I think it's better off at this point to snip it out. MRAL, be more polite in the future, please - JS]

  151. The issue for me is the constant beating of the identity politics drum.
    I will not play this game for it hurts all of us.

    I am a 43 year old white male who pines for the days where we wanted to become one and unite. The official multi-culturists have infused today’s pop culture politics with this mindset and all it serves is to divide. So the politicians do not have to work to hard for the vote.

    That is why I do not enjoy lefty politics which has take the extremes of the University teachers lounge and made it normal.
    This also takes away any responsibility from any other group.
    Well once again, I do not play that game. It is generalizing at its worst.

  152. @htom
    “If it’s more important to keep the frame than win a supporter, the validity of the argument seems not very relevant”

    And for me, htom, those who are arguing about the frame are missing the picture, and no matter how many times I change the frame, the picture remains the same and we still aren’t talking about the picture but the frame.

    Don’t misunderstand, I get Greg’s point, but I still maintain, that trying to address the way something is said as opposed to what is being said (and I’m convinced wrongly or rightly that both you and Greg do understand what’s being said even if you may not agree with all points) is tracking toward derailing an uncomfortable topic as apposed to addressing the points themselves. Acknowledging an understanding does not imply agreement, but trying to change the topic because the topic is discomfiting seems especially disingenuous.

    And given that in my personal experience (anecdotal at the very best) the number of people who actually get what’s being said without diverting the conversation to how it’s said (as is also amply evidenced in this very discussion) is high enough that I quite honestly feel the the exercising of my privilege of being able to fight battles more likely to have a mutually advantageous outcome for those involved trumps my desire to reframe the discussion every time one or two people start complaining abut how unflattering the frame is to them personally.

    @Greg – I am truly sincerely sorry that you feel the Sum total of the SWM debate is geared toward demonizing males who are white and straight. The first time I read “Invisible backpack”, my reaction to it was more along the lines of, “holy crap, I’m neither male nor straight but I can totally see how much of this pertains to me as a white woman who grew up the south”, despite my complete belief that I was neither discriminatory in my actions nor racists in my thoughts. I was pretty much wrong about myself and it’s been a a slow, often painful struggle to come to the point where I can both admit my own privileges and acknowledge that I might be a little bit racist despite my best intentions and efforts.

    I was going to say more but to be honest, you’re convinced the arguments presented are inaccurate and I don’t see anything I can say or do that will change your perception. I’m not going to argue that your perception of the essay being demonizing to a purpose is wrong; it’s your perception and you are neither a stupid man nor an intellectually lazy one. But, If you haven’t gotten past that point by now, it’s unlikely either I or anyone else will convince you (or anyone else that’s spent as much time thinking about this as you have) that their reaction to the essay’s language and perceived tone or intent might be skewing their ability to get something of worth out of it.

    That doesn’t make you a horrible person or an evil male. But in my experience of you in particular, it does make me think you are more interested in being right, than in actually discussing, much less addressing the issues the privilege debate raises.

  153. There’s a difference between guilt and remorse.

    Remorse is the feeling that you ought not have done something you did; it leads to the resolution not to do it again, and in some cases to making amends for the wrong done.

    Guilt is the feeling that having done something makes you a bad person; it leads to self-punishment and, often, to a backlash reaction where you wallow in the bad behavior.

    I’m not a fan of guilt.

    Guilt for something you ARE is just plain stupid. John didn’t DO anything to be born straight and white. (He did do things to be well-off, but nothing to feel guilt for, unless he’s been laundering money for Al Qaeda in the Scalzi compound and just never told us). I didn’t do anything to be born gay either, and yet I carried guilt about it for quite a while before getting my head put on straight right.

    One difference: I am punished for being gay in our society, while John is not punished for being straight. Society both abuses and neglects me. This creates rage in me. John has no cause to feel guilt, or even remorse (unless he beat up the gay kids in his high school, which I doubt). I don’t feel guilt for being white either; I try to de-privilege myself when possible. If a black woman and I walk up to the deli counter at the same moment, the person behind the counter will go to me first, almost always. I say “I think she was first.” I can’t, of course, do that in cases where my race and gender are favored in fiction, publishing, etc., so I’m obliged (I believe) to advocate anti-racist, anti-sexist positions, and do what I can with the talents I have to mitigate the harm done by racism and sexism.

    I think the theme-park analogy falls apart pretty quickly (people don’t spend lifetimes or generations in the line and never get to go on the ride). But of course it’s imperfect; that’s what makes it an analogy. The map is not the territory; a “map” that WAS the territory would cease to have any value as a map.

    John, I’d respectfully submit that what Todd is doing is far, far worse than just complaining that blogs are writing about things he isn’t interested in. He’s in essence saying “Who cares? It doesn’t affect ME.” Worse still, he wants all us non-straight, white, etc. people to sit down and shut up so he can enjoy his privilege in peace. SFF should just go right on being about him, and no one has any right to object because TODD DO NOT WANT, WAAAH.

    This is the Privilege Whine. Loss of privilege (even the discussion of loss of privilege) is always going to be felt as an attack by the privileged.

  154. lumbercartel: there is the potential for change to the society’s practise of conferring advantage to those who have them.

    there is no advantage conferred to straight people to marry. Rather, gay people have been put at a disadvantage in being prohibited from getting married.

    Marriage equality will be achieved by giving gays the right to marry. it will NOT be achieved by taking away from straight poeple the right to get married.

    The vast majority of real world problems of inequality stem from minorities having some right taken away that needs to be granted to them in order for equality to be achieved, rather than the poeple in the majority having some “undeserved advantage” (i.e. privilege) granted to them that must be taken away in order for equality to be achieved.

    But what the “privilege” conversation does is it bends language so that people like you talk about inequality as if the problem is some advantage conferred. Getting some underserved advantage that must be taken away for equality to be achieved??? That’s a different moral calculus than being born white.

    Scalzi’s story about cutting in line is an advantage conferred, and is an advantage that can’t possibly be extended to everyone. It is IMPOSSIBLE to have everyone “cut in line”. The only way to achieve equality in that story is to revoke the ability to cut in line to Scalzi and his friend, and make everyone wait in line, first come first served. That’s an “advantage conferred” and it is a different moral calculus than, to use a real world example, me being straight and being able to marry but gay people not beign able to marry. THere is nothing I can give up to achieve equality. I have no privilege that has to be taken away from me to achieve equality. Rather the only way tot achieve marriage equality is to give gays the right to marry.

    But the purpose of the conversation around “privilege” is to bend the language so that it is no longer about looking at people being put at a disadvantage, but rather to reframe people being put at a disadvantage AS IF it were exactly morally equivalent to people being conferred some unfair advantage that needs to be taken away or stop for equality to be achieved. And that’s nuts.

  155. Greg, the privilege of going first at the deli is a countercase to your argument. You (and I) really DO have to lose that unfair advantage in order for privilege to go away.

    But also: consider what “privileged communication” means in law (IIUC, because IANAL and TINLA): communication that is NOT subject to surveillance (in pre-9/11 America, for example) or testimony in court.

    Another one: in copyediting certain bits of writing are “privileged” in that they’re NOT subject to the same grammar correction, etc. as other text; for example, the text of a letter written by a semiliterate in a novel would be privileged; the copyeditor has to carefully determine what misspellings etc. were intended by the writer and which were not.

    A lot of privilege comes in the form of FREEDOM-FROM (as opposed to FREEDOM-TO). If the NYPD stopped privileging white people, they’d stop fewer POCs, yes, but they’d also have to stop more whites (I’ve heard many a tale of white people up to no good who were completely missed by police because white people just weren’t what they were looking for).

  156. As a SWM Preacher’s Kid raised in small towns, you don’t feel guilty about what other people think or do. You feel guilty about what you do. Sometimes taking advantage of the low difficulty setting is OK. But whining about it when you don’t get to use that setting. You just lost the argument and my attention.

  157. @an

    I am a 43 year old white male who pines for the days where we wanted to become one and unite.

    And just when the hell were these halcyon days when we all wanted to become one and unite, cause I’m pretty sure they existed only in your own head.

  158. “There wouldn’t be “endless posts” about all of that if the assholes didn’t keep on being homophobic, racist, anti-woman, and swaggering alpha dickholes. They’re the ones who keep on bringing it up and being racist, homophobic, sexist dipshits. ”

    Gen, it’s nice to see how liberals are so inclusive, respecting others point of view.

    If you want to change the status quo, this ain’t it.

  159. @rochrist That is why I never call myself a right winger or conservative. I am a “classic Liberal”.

    A dinosaur, but one nonetheless.

  160. jimbot, if you want to explain why I should respect the point of view of racist, sexist, homophobic dipshits, I’ll read your comment explaining it. But if you really argue seriously that I should, I probably won’t read anything else you write ever again, because your credibility will be zero.

    There are plenty of people with honest points of view that should be considered, if only to be refuted, and they should be treated with respect (as I am with you right now). The RSHDs of the world are not among them. Social ostracism is the way to deal with them.

    IMO, YMMV.

  161. Gen, it’s nice to see how liberals are so inclusive, respecting others point of view.

    Why in the hell should I respect the POV of racist, sexist, homophobic dipshits? What are you so excited about in hating other races, women, or GLBT people that requires them to have the same chance to destroy the rights and lives of others?

    Seriously, bro, you sound very much like one of those guys who wishes for the “good old days” when brown folk weren’t so uppity, women kept their mouths (and legs) shut, and the homos stayed in the closet where they belonged.

  162. xopher: the privilege of going first at the deli is a countercase

    I’m talking about marriage equality, racial profiling by cops, and rape culture, and your countercase is fricken deli meats??? This just proves my point that “privilege” as a concept is truly grasping for straws to justify demonizing people in the majority, while the real world situations of inequality are, for the vast majority of cases, minorities being put at a disadvantage.

    If the NYPD stopped privileging white people, they’d stop fewer POCs, yes, but they’d also have to stop more whites

    This is playing fast and loose with meanings. The goal isn’t to install reverse-racist cops to satisfy Ann Sommerville’s “payback is a bitch” mentality. The goal is to get rid of racist cops of all kinds. Which means NO ONE WILL BE RACIALLY PROFILED.

    From the Invisible Knapsack: “19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled
    out because of my race.”

    if you think white people oppose getting rid of racist cops because that means racially-fair cops will stop more white people, then you’re implying that all the white people are in fact criminals using racist cops to avoid arrest by the police. You are saying that every white person supports racial profiling by cops because every white person is in fact a criminal.

    Here’s the thing. Your arguments here are exactly in line with standard arguments about “privlege”. And those standard arguments almost always come packed with really nasty implications about every white person when talking about racism, every straight person when talking about homophobia, every man when talking about sexism. Your arguments only hold water if one assumes some really nasty morality on those you say have “privilege”.

  163. Greg, they would stop more whites because they racially profile whites now as improbable criminals.

    And your last paragraph is nonsense of such purity that I can’t even begin to address it.

  164. “Meet Matthew Fogg, a former U.S. Marshal whose exploits led him to be nicknamed ‘Batman.’ When he noticed that all of his team’s drug raids were in black areas, he suggested doing the same in the suburbs. His boss didn’t take kindly to the idea.”
    YouTube Video where he tells exactly what they said to him.

    What you don’t understand, Greg, is that the privileging of whites and the oppression of POCs are two ways of talking about the same thing. Yeah, light is a wave. It’s also a particle. Saying it’s a particle isn’t saying particles are bad.

  165. @ jimbot: Dude, you are seriously courting the Mallet there. As other people have said, why should the opinions of RSHD and his adorable thralls be respected? The best thing that those nitwits have ever done is piss off Scalzi to the point that he and his friends donated more than 50 grand to various charities. Otherwise, they have had no positive effects on the world whatsoever.

    Let me put it another way: Should we respect the opinions of neo-Nazis? Because RSHD and his minions believe pretty much the same things that Hitler and company believed, except possibly for the anti-Semitism, although RSHD is enough of a Christofascist whackadoodle that he’s effectively the same on that point, too.

    Now, let’s ignore RSHD and his flaming assclowns, and continue eagerly awaiting “The Mallet of Loving Correction”. When will it be released, by the way? I need to set my calendar.

  166. And here’s a response to those who are just tired of talking about this:

    I have an amazing friend who I go to whenever I’m totally lost of this stuff and once I said, “I just am so frustrated with talking about this shit, I am going to just NOT THINK ABOUT IT FOR A WHILE.” and he replied, “Okay, but just so you know, being able to not think about it for a while is the definition of privilege.” Oops.

    Full post here.

  167. there is no advantage conferred to straight people to marry. Rather, gay people have been put at a disadvantage in being prohibited from getting married.

    Talk about sophistry.

    I most emphatically consider the fact that I am not the object of “stop and frisk” [1] by virtue of my skin color to be an advantage. (I also consider the propensity to skin cancer to be a disadvantage — but one is artificial and subject to amendment.)

    The fact that I am not forbidden by law from marrying the woman I love is absolutely an advantage, regardless of our intentions in the matter. Or would you argue that being forbidden by law to marry is not a disadvantage?

    Since I’m sure that you’re intelligent enough to have considered these and others like them, I infer that you’re distinguishing between “advantage” and “immunity from disadvantage.” Thus, sophistry.

    [1] Or, locally, Joe Arpaio’s totally color-blind (snort!) “immigration checks.” Or the ICE checkpoint on I-25 northbound near Elephant Butte, where as soon as they see my complexion they wave me on.

  168. @ Xopher:
    I read the post on the link. I was appalled. Not by the post, but by the subject of the post. The subject of the post’s criticism reminded me of these Chinese websites that are referenced in a book on sex selection and male overpopulation that I read recently.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303657404576361691165631366.html

    Link to a review of the book.
    The websites described in the book are combination how-to guides and convenience rape supply stores for rapists. The worst part is that something so similar can happen here, too, where we have no significant gender imbalance.

    I’m off to reread “Fuzzy Nation” to clean out my brain. I’ve read enough real-life horror for today. Time for some good, honest sci-fi.

  169. Subtle distinctions in meaning between “wow, lucky break, thanks!” and “I took the place of some sad, damaged soul who surely deserved it more than I.” Luck doesn’t work that way. You can’t pass it along, store against a time when you’ll need it more, or distribute it as largesse to the needy masses. It is what it is. Most of life is like that. I feel guilty for things I have intentionally done that were wrong, though I may not have realized it at the time. I am often too soon old and too late smart. But guilt because for once, the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t the headlight or an oncoming traing? Not hardly.

  170. Xopher:

    That entire post is awesome but man, does that paragraph knock it out of the park. I was just sitting here thinking that between the SFWA sexism flap, it’s nasty spinoff of RSHD’s racist remarks about N. K. Jemisin, and that Kickstarter thing yesterday, there was a lot of this crap going on lately. Then I read that paragraph…and felt like an idiot. There’s not more of this than usual. I’ve just been made more aware of it.

  171. People who experience privilege without having any active recognition of it will feel that the slow shift of that privilege turning into equality is a great wrong being done to them.

  172. maygra — And for me, htom, those who are arguing about the frame are missing the picture, and no matter how many times I change the frame, the picture remains the same and we still aren’t talking about the picture but the frame.

    It was your claim that the frame is not to be changed, it was important to retain the frame.

    If the picture is what’s important, drop the frame — drop all of the frames — and start talking about the picture.

    Framing is important. It gets people’s attention. When you keep beating someone with a frame (even though you don’t intend to hurt them with it), when they say “Ouch! Please stop.” and you do not, it is very unlikely that any other messages you try to send will be heard, no matter what those messages are about or what your intent is. You are demonstrating that either you are not hearing them or that you want to hurt them, and your actions speak much louder than your words.

    Having gotten someone’s attention, put down the frame and talk about the picture.

  173. xopher: Matthew Fogg …noticed that all of his team’s drug raids were in black areas, he suggested doing the same in the suburbs. His boss didn’t take kindly to the idea. … What you don’t understand, Greg, is that the privileging of whites and the oppression of POCs are two ways of talking about the same thing.

    What you don’t understand, xopher, is that Mathew Fogg’s boss is actively racist. Which is not the wave version of the particle thingy that says “I oppose firing racist cops because I benefit from racist cops being racist”. if I’m not a drug dealer then getting rid of Fogg’s racist boss doesn’t mean they start coming to my house.

    Is a racist cop a problem? Fuck yes.

    Do I have incentive for keeping racist cops in place? Fuck no.

    If you think I oppose racial equality just so I can be first in line at the deli counter, then that’s probably the biggest insult you’ve ever hurled my way, xopher.

    If you think I oppose racial equlaity just so Fogg won’t do a drug raid on my house, then that’s probably one of the top ten insults you’ve ever hurled at me, xopher.

    light is a wave. It’s also a particle. Saying it’s a particle isn’t saying particles are bad.

    This isn’t wave/partical duality. Privilege explainations like ” going first at the deli … You (and I) really DO have to lose that unfair advantage ” is like a “have you stopped beating your wife” nonsense.

  174. This sounds an awful lot like tone policing. For instance, oppression and discrimination in the US has always prevailed regardless of the calm speaking tone of minorities/women/GLBT people and through peaceful protesting, so it’s not them. Those white/male/straight folks actually willing to fight that oppression and discrimination have always demanded justice without their feelings being prioritized. If you aren’t willing to fight it because people aren’t coddling you, the problem is not on their end.

    Demanding civil rights and just treatment has always been about exposing the truth of disparities and demanding justice, not about making sure white/male/straight people’s feelings aren’t hurt and that they don’t feel uncomfortable about the reality of the situation. You should feel uncomfortable about the actual problem enough to do something to fix it, not complain about how we say tell you about it.

  175. No, I’m not saying you oppose racial equality! (And I don’t recall EVER having hurled any insults at you.) I’m saying you’re denying how you benefit from racial inequality through no fault of your own.

    The deli counter is just one tiny example of active-application white privilege. If you were a waiter, you’d get higher tips even from black customers than a black person would. The cops not only won’t stop-and-frisk you, they’ll be likely to believe you if you give them an excuse for doing something wrong. Juries will be more likely to believe your testimony.

    You (and I) benefit from racism. I stress again, through no fault of your own; it doesn’t make you a bad person. But you (and I) need to acknowledge that and do our part to fight it, or we play into the hands of RSHD and his gang of whiney rapey losers.

    Without the concept of privilege, it’s too easy to fall into the false belief that if you don’t do anything racist, sexist, or homophobic, your hands are clean and you can stop thinking about racism, sexism, and homophobia until someone does something racist, sexist, or homophobic in front of you; then you speak out, feel good, and go back to not thinking about it.

    That’s not good enough.

    POCs can’t ever stop thinking about racism. It’s part of the environment they live in. Women can’t stop thinking about sexism (and misogyny and rape culture), because failure to be aware of it could be lethal. I can’t ever stop thinking about homophobia, because I have to think about whether I can afford to be out in any given situation (for example, I never know what saying “my ex-boyfriend” in cancer group is going to mean to a new member, and so I don’t because I don’t want to derail the conversation).

    NOT having to think about this things is, itself, privilege. I mean not having to; thinking about them all the time doesn’t mean you don’t have the privilege, it just shows that you’re a good guy.

    Which, by the way, is what I think of you in general. You do have a tendency to get on some high horses (or high piles of horseshit, sometimes) and utterly refuse to come down from them. That hasn’t convinced me you’re a bad person, just that you have flaws.

    So let’s not start talking about hurling insults. I’m not doing that. So don’t you start either. I think the position you’re pushing right now is bullshit of the stinkiest kind, but I wouldn’t argue with you if I didn’t think you were worth it.

  176. @Xopher:

    “John, I’d respectfully submit that what Todd is doing is far, far worse than just complaining that blogs are writing about things he isn’t interested in. He’s in essence saying “Who cares? It doesn’t affect ME.” Worse still, he wants all us non-straight, white, etc. people to sit down and shut up so he can enjoy his privilege in peace. SFF should just go right on being about him, and no one has any right to object because TODD DO NOT WANT, WAAAH.”

    Xopher:

    Everything has its proper time, place and context. There are plenty of people who have nothing against gays, but have rather overdosed on this issue in recent years. I confess to being one of them.

    In recent years, gay men feel entitled to wear their sexuality on their sleeves in a way that straight men would never attempt. You’re a textbook example of this: Around 50% of your posts related to your “gayness” in one way or another.

    And I think you’re being a bit hyperbolic about society “abusing you and neglecting you”. To be pro-gay is the height of chic right now; Obama even gave the obligatory gay nod during his inauguration speech. So who’s doing the WAAH, WAAH here?

    Keep in mind, I am not attacking you for your sexual orientation, but nor is it of particular interest to me. Likewise, I don’t expect you to get excited about what I find sexually appealing.

    There is a place to discuss gay issues, but not *everything* has to be about gay issues. You will never find me in the discussion threads of The Advocate, complaining that they focus too much on gay issues.

  177. @ Todd: Dude, shut up. You sound like a total moron.

    Quoting from you:
    “””In recent years, gay men feel entitled to wear their sexuality on their sleeves in a way that straight men would never attempt. You’re a textbook example of this: Around 50% of your posts related to your “gayness” in one way or another.”””

    Fine, but how is this bad? That’s like a native american going to native american heritage groups, or referencing how their heritage influences their views and using said heritage as an example frequently. How is that wrong?

    “”‘And I think you’re being a bit hyperbolic about society “abusing you and neglecting you”. To be pro-gay is the height of chic right now; Obama even gave the obligatory gay nod during his inauguration speech. So who’s doing the WAAH, WAAH here?”””

    Bull. Shit. Have you seen or heard of Bryan Brown’s little hate group, the NOM? Or how about Fred Phelps and his cultist minions? Homophobic sentiment and activity is alive and well–hell, Faux News and its subordinates are jam-packed with homophobic dipshits like El Rushbo (I will not sully this comment thread with his actual name) and Sean Hannity. If our society really were pro-homosexual or homonormative, then SWMs would be the group that needed special protection to prevent discrimination–although children would probably be slightly better off, as several studies–that I’m too lazy to do Google searches for right now–have shown that homosexual people make better parents than heterosexuals.

    “””Keep in mind, I am not attacking you for your sexual orientation, but nor is it of particular interest to me. Likewise, I don’t expect you to get excited about what I find sexually appealing.”””

    Bull. See my counter to the first cited paragraph.

    “””There is a place to discuss gay issues, but not *everything* has to be about gay issues. You will never find me in the discussion threads of The Advocate, complaining that they focus too much on gay issues.”””

    Self-contradictory there, and you STILL come off as an insensitive, homophobic jerk. Homosexual rights and equality is one of the central issues in this country today. It is only fitting that homosexual issues are discussed everywhere, or nearly so. At least for the time being, pretty much everything is going to be about LGBT issues, just as African-American issues were central to much of the later 20th century. Suck it up and deal with it. Soon, something else will become the pressing civil rights issue in this country, and then you can go watch/read something other than bad reality shows about people who have never done anything good for society and whose only actions seem to be having lavish weddings purely for attention.

    The above was from the perspective of a SWM who is young enough to understand that, provided that one’s sexual partner is a consenting adult, one’s love life is private and may not be proscribed or regulated by anyone else.

    Mr. Scalzi, my apologies for the massively long post. I felt that it needed to be said.

  178. So I’m going to trot out my work experience – professional trainer on diversity issues. My perspective is that this is really less about individual privileges and more about systems of privilege. Here’s my example. In the trainings I do, I always create systems of everyone has a chance to speak. That doesn’t happen by accident and I don’t rely on the people who are comfortable speaking in groups to silence themselves. There are tons of structures you create – a talking stick where everyone gets a chance to talk, breaking in the pairs for people who are more comfortable with one on one interactions, voting by sticker – giving people three stickers and having them put their stickers on the options they like the best. I don’t blame the big talkers for talking big and I don’t think they should feel guilty about it. But I do hope if the big talkers are aware they are doing all the talking they would do better to listen to the small talkers. And it’s my responsibility to get the space so that everyone gets to talk.

    Here’s the other thing, when EVERYONE has a chance to participate, the conversation is awesome. The WORST group conversations is when one person or group of people dominate. Leveling the playing field benefits everyone – this works in facilitated conversations and in broader societal structures.

    What I take away from John Scalzi’s piece is that if you are the big talker in society’s conversation, it’s not about you feeling bad about talking so much, it’s about you and the meeting facilitator to create an environment that everyone feels like they have a voice.

  179. @ Floored by Scalzi’s awesomeness:

    Son, you sound like a kid trying too hard to play with the adults. Also, the name you have selected is embarrassing even to Scalzi. Your youth and callowness is painfully obvious. I’ll cut you some slack, though: Did I sound like that at 18? Probably I did.

  180. Todd – so you never talk about women? You never discuss your wife/girlfriend? You never talk about that date you went on? You never comment about a good looking woman? You never turn your head when you see an attractive woman? Because all of that? That is wearing your sexuality on your sleeve. You get to do that without fear, without worry, without societal pressure to stop. Xopher, by being gay (which is not something he chose, but something he is), has to think about all of that before he says, does or acts. It is all there in his comment that he doesn’t feel he can bring up his ex-boyfriend in a discussion group because he doesn’t know how people will act.

    Likewise – as a woman, I am often told that ‘not *everything* has to be about sexism’ Well, maybe not to you. But a large portion of my life? It is all about sexism. Passive, aggressive, latent. blatant, and every other flavor. It has been a persistent part of my life since I can really recall. I get treated to it at the grocery store, in the media, on the internet (where large swathes of 0’s and 1’s seem obsessively dedicated to it), sometimes even in my home.

    Bottom line – of course everything isn’t about gay issues – FOR YOU. Because you aren’t gay and you don’t have to worry about your everyday actions causing someone to go violently angry on you. That’s the point. You can think he is being hyperbolic, but I would wager that there are few, if any, times you have ever felt in danger for merely being straight, merely being male; but women, people of color, gays? We deal with it quite a lot.

  181. Wow, it’s tempting to see how long you’ll keep digging, Todd.

    I mention my gayness because it’s relevant to the discussion.

    In recent years, gay men feel entitled to wear their sexuality on their sleeves in a way that straight men would never attempt.

    OK, your privilege is showing (again). You don’t notice that straight male sexuality utterly pervades every aspect of our culture because it’s the air you’re used to breathing. If I followed you around for a day (gods forbid), I bet you wouldn’t go half an hour at a time without doing something blatantly heterosexual. If a woman in your office says “my husband” you don’t notice it; if I said “my husband” you’d complain that I’m “wearing my sexuality on my sleeve.”

    And I think you’re being a bit hyperbolic about society “abusing you and neglecting you”. To be pro-gay is the height of chic right now; Obama even gave the obligatory gay nod during his inauguration speech.

    Yeah, and Obama got elected POTUS, so racism is over too, right?

    How come I still can’t marry the person of my choice in the vast majority of states? How come we still have Republican leaders saying they think it should be legal to fire someone just for being gay?

    Keep in mind, I am not attacking you for your sexual orientation, but nor is it of particular interest to me. Likewise, I don’t expect you to get excited about what I find sexually appealing.

    You’re providing all these object lessons in misleading rhetoric! This one is called “parallel structure implying parallel cases.”

    Of course the cases aren’t parallel. I’m not talking about what I find sexually appealing; I’m talking about my membership in a category that’s treated unjustly. You are not a member of an oppressed group (at least as a straight man; intersectionality means you may well be in one or more oppressed categories, though frankly I doubt it from the things you say). You’re the default case, and don’t have to defend your right to exist on a daily basis.

    There is a place to discuss gay issues, but not *everything* has to be about gay issues. You will never find me in the discussion threads of The Advocate, complaining that they focus too much on gay issues.

    I talk about gay issues because it’s the only category (well, excepting religion) where I can speak as a member of a downtrodden class. In this discussion it’s just an example.

    And you’ll never find ME in the discussion threads of Maxim, complaining that they have too many pictures of women’s breasts. So what?

    If you don’t want to discuss gay issues, that’s absolutely fine with me. If you want to tell ME I shouldn’t bring them up whenever I feel they’re relevant to the discussion (hello, The Puppet Masters discussions), I will cheerfully tell you where you can put it. HINT: it won’t be getting a tan there.

  182. Guilt is the feeling that having done something makes you a bad person; it leads to self-punishment and, often, to a backlash reaction where you wallow in the bad behavior.

    I’m not a fan of guilt.

    On the other hand, having heard some comments from a friend who lived in Pakistan, there are some serious advantages of “guilt cultures” over “shame cultures”. Especially if you’re a minority.

  183. In recent years, gay men feel entitled to wear their sexuality on their sleeves in a way that straight men would never attempt.

    Personally, given all the obvious ways straight men actually do talk about their conquests and their comments about the opposite sex, I think gay men don’t go nearly far enough to EQUAL straight guys.

    But perhaps as a straight male, my perspective might be off.

  184. SIgh. Well, others covered a lot of what I was saying while I was writing. I should have refreshed.

    OTOH, then I’d’ve seen Todd’s sneering post to Floored. That might well have made it impossible for me to be as civil to Todd as I was.

    Btw, Floored: Thank you. You and others like you are my hope—all our hope—for a better future.

  185. I wonder with regard to that “sexual assault as a pickup technique” book on Kickstarter if anyone ever told that guy he shouldn’t wear his sexuality on his sleeve. I wonder if his “bros” ever say “Dude, can’t you ever quit telling me about your conquests? I’m tired of you shoving your personal life down my throat.”

  186. Phoenicnian in a time of Romans wrote:

    “Then when the backlash starts discriminating against women (blacks, gays, etc) again, you’ll have no-one to blame but yourself for casting it as a power struggle rather than an appeal to principle.”

    You make it sound like resentment against oppression is something I invented out of whole cloth, instead of being a perfectly normal and observable reaction. Do you think the poor slobs waiting in line at the fun park weren’t grinding their teeth and hoping Scalzi did a faceplant as he swanned past him? Do you think if he did it a few times, that one or two of them might not have dreamed about taking him somewhere private and teaching him a lesson?

    The privileged insist the disprivileged cope with their oppression with grace and silence. When they don’t, we get woeful crap like this:

    http://radishreviews.com/2013/06/19/how-not-to-have-a-conversation/

    The powerful not only insist, but make it almost impossible for the powerless to express their resentment – hence the frequent MRA/right wing regrets about women being given the right to voice, the active and current voting suppression measures in the USA, the disenfranchisement of convicted felons (disproportionately black by some strange coincidence) etc etc. The more brutal the repression, the more vicious the payback – witness the French Revolution, or more recent uprisings in the middle East.

    Where do you imagine that viciousness comes from? The anger? How angry are you if someone cuts in line ahead of you and is served before you? Imagine that entrenched in law and repeated hundreds, thousands of times? Are you really so saintly that you wouldn’t do something, or want something done, if the tables were suddenly reversed?

    The South African commenting above is lucky that he’s only had to deal with some (possibly imaginary) job discrimination after the end of apartheid. And no, I’m not surprised that some black people are petty and vindicative in victory. After all, the old oppressors weren’t gracious in power either. The powerful aren’t, very often. For every Bill Gates, you have a dozen Mitt Romneys and Donald Trumps. Look at your current House and Senate. Look at the way the assumed next party in power in Australia is behaving – and they only lost power for a few years.

    It is a power struggle. The old white men in the SFWA, the government, society, want to hold onto power for its own sake and because they fear the retribution that will come, almost inevitably, as a result of their own abuse of that power. The oppressed want equalty of rights and opportunity, and they need power to get it. Of course there will be those who abuse that power if the balance swings their way. That’s inevitable in revolutions.

    The best way to mitigate the resentment now, the fear and actuality of retribution later, is to act justly now. Because the oppressed are already angry. Very, very angry. Complaining from a position of privilege that the oppressed are ‘shrill’, or ‘rude’, or ‘unladylike’ or ‘reverse racist’ or ‘misandric’, just shows a complete lack of empathy and understanding of what has led to this pass.

    A couple more links:

    http://www.genevievevalentine.com/2013/06/dealing-with-it/

    http://jennyslibrary.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/ill-bet-you-think-this-post-is-about-you/

    By the way, I do think it’s amusing that on the rare occasions I post, the same one or two people become utterly obsessed with how I express myself, and froth with impotent rage at it, hoping to whip up sympathy. I take that as proof I’ve made them uncomfortable. That’s a good thing for the privileged to feel.

  187. Xopher: Without the concept of privilege, it’s too easy to fall into the false belief that if you don’t do anything racist, sexist, or homophobic, your hands are clean

    Based on this, I can’t imagine why anyone would think “privilege” would have anything to do with assigning guilt to people.

    Like you said, “it doesn’t make you a bad person.”, but at the same time, it would be a false belief to think that my “hands are clean”.

    This is where that whole wave/particle stuff completely falls apart. It’s not about being a bad person, but at the same time, your hands aren’t clean.

    Whenever people discuss “privilege”, it isn’t uncommon for them to invoke this almost schizophrenic approach. You think you’re saying the same thing just in different ways, wave/particle. I see you trying to do two completely different things in the same post: say “privilege” isn’t about blame/guilt/being bad, while at the same time saying privilege shows us that our hands aren’t clean.

    Your comment almost perfectly captures the dichotomy and the disconnect of words that people use when discussing “privilege”. It’s not about guilt, but we’re guilty. It’s not about us being bad people, but we’re bad people.

    As far as I can tell, you (and pretty much everyone like you) believes the first part while saying both first and second parts. I get that you honestly believe it isn’t about makign people wrong, but even as you say that, in the very same comment, you say our hands aren’t clean. And every time I point out when you (or someone like you) say the second part, you circle around to the first part as if you didn’t even say the other bit.

    What I’m looking for would be for someone like you to actually notice when someoen like me points out that you are indeed trying to have it both ways. You’re trying to say it isn’t about guilt while saying we’re guilty. Invariably, whenever I see conversations about privilege, people talking about privilege engage in this sort of double-speak. They say it isn’t about guilt, but at the same time they say our hands our dirty with privilege. And every time I try to point out this double-speak, folks not only refuse to acknowlege their own words, they usually accuse me of all manner of other nasty things just for trying to point out what they’re doing.

    “it doesn’t make you a bad person.”, but at the same time, it would be a false belief to think that my “hands are clean”.

    I think that captures the problem I’ve been trying to poitn out almost perfectly.

  188. Toddy said “gay men feel entitled to wear their sexuality on their sleeves in a way that straight men would never attempt. ”

    Oh thank god someone’s mentioned that. I mean, it’s fine for *normal* folk to talk about their weddings, and their spouses, and the girl they banged last night, and the tax rebates they get, and how much divorce sucks, but when those icky poofs do it, I get all, ya know, squirmy.

    So glad the voice of straight people has stood up against heterophobic gays.

  189. Phoenician, I’m trying on a formula where shaming is an external attempt to instill the internal emotion of guilt (as well as to frighten others into behaving). Not sure I like it yet.

    gwangung: Thanks. Yes, exactly.

    One time I worked in an office with a lot of young males. Nearly every one of them had a screensaver featuring scantily clad females (swimsuit models, not porn stars). I didn’t say anything; I just made a screensaver with a lot of shirtless (but SFW) pics of Adam Rickitt (Todd, don’t click on that link; it will frighten you). I explained the point to HR when she* came to talk to me. All the pinup screensavers, including mine, were taken down within a week.

    *Why yes, it WAS a very small company; why do you ask?

  190. Oh, Greg.

    Let’s walk it back a bit. How about “and you think that you’ve done all you’re obliged to do.” I say it’s not enough.

    Yeah, I was referring to a Sweet Honey in the Rock song that talked about clothing being made by slave labor in the third world, and ended with all of these black women asking “Are my hands clean?”

  191. @Xopher:

    “One time I worked in an office with a lot of young males. Nearly every one of them had a screensaver featuring scantily clad females (swimsuit models, not porn stars). I didn’t say anything; I just made a screensaver with a lot of shirtless (but SFW) pics of Adam Rickitt (Todd, don’t click on that link; it will frighten you). I explained the point to HR when she* came to talk to me. All the pinup screensavers, including mine, were taken down within a week.”

    Thanks for warning me about the link, Xopher. ;) Adam Rickett doesn’t do anything for me, but I do wish I had his abs.

    Part of our difference in perspective on this may be shaped by our workplace experiences.

    I have spent most of my career in a very large Fortune 500 company that has a gay employee group, and constant diversity/anti-sexual harassment training. More than 50% of the managers are female.

    So when I apply the whole “privilege” thing to my own situation, I do see some contradictions between my own experiences and what is presented in John’s original post.

    In my workplace sexually provocative screensavers (either hetero or gay) are banned outright. And I think this is the norm in most companies nowadays. This sounds like an example from the 1980s/early 1990s.

  192. Yep, that’s a good thing about big companies. And it was a while ago, but not THAT long ago…but then I was always looking up at 4:20 and discovering that the office was deserted. They’d be back by 4:30, in a mellow but unproductive mood.

    I never joined them in this daily ritual, and I have to confess it rather shocked me. I’d just come from working for a major bank.

    So yeah, hippie company.

  193. Guilt, obviously, is about the choices that you make. I didn’t choose my skin color, my sexual orientation, or my sex chromosomes.

    Growing up I was taught that all people are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that a society based on liberty and justice for all is what we should strive for. Obviously a social system is subject to ongoing improvement; like any other system we use, if it’s not delivering intended results, the thing to do is fix it, not to embrace its flaws.

    I don’t want “privilege”. Privilege can be taken away, and makes one beholden to whatever authority is granting it. I just want rights, equal rights that everyone supports and protects. Call it pay-it-forward if you like, though to me it’s simply a matter of maintaining and correcting the present. It’s not about doing good for others, it’s just a matter of sustainable collective mutual interest (i.e. self-interest). I would not trust a system that depended on keeping certain groups disadvantaged, even if I happened to be a beneficiary in the short term.

  194. You don’t notice that straight male sexuality utterly pervades every aspect of our culture because it’s the air you’re used to breathing.

    It doesn’t even take much to bring this home. Whenever I refer to $HERSELF in conversation, I run up against the fact that our language has troubles even with something as common as two heterosexual adults shacking up. (verbal fumble, fumble, explain, derail.)

    Now stretch the empathy sense and try to grasp how much more difficult our social institutions make it for people who are much less conforming. You won’t make it, of course, but the effort will do us all good.

  195. Xopher: Let’s walk it back a bit.

    Before we walk it back, do you get how “it doesn’t make you a bad person” and “hands” are not “clean” aren’t really wave/particle? Do you see this perfect example of it’s not about guilt but you’re guilty that I’m pointing at?

    How about “and you think that you’ve done all you’re obliged to do.”

    I never said anything about what I think I’m obliged to do, so I don’t know if you’re talkign to me or someone else.

  196. In my workplace sexually provocative screensavers (either hetero or gay) are banned outright. And I think this is the norm in most companies nowadays.

    You have no evidence to move from the first sentence to the second. Ten seconds with Google will convince you otherwise:

    http://www.twoharborsmn.com/event/article/id/25030/

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-06-03/news/os-lk-fruitland-park-sexual-suit-settled-20130603_1_city-manager-ralph-bowers-mayor-chris-bell-city-employee

    etc.

  197. Yes, Greg, I see. I see that you took me too literally. I can see that the metaphor was ill chosen. That’s why I proposed another way of expressing the same thought.

    Which you then also took literally. I mean “without the concept of privilege, it’s too easy to think that one has done all one must, when in fact one’s actions are not actually morally adequate.” And if you find a hostile way to misconstrue that, I really give up.

    Lurkertype: you’re very welcome! If you just Google his name and hit Images, you will see lots of pics of him, including some where he’s stark naked with, you know, the carefully positioned object. I chose a very tame one for my example.

    Wow, the Lurkertypes support me right in the comment thread now. We’ve come a long way!

  198. “The point is a Boeing flying 35k feet over your head.”

    Feel free to point out what exactly I’m missing, then. It’s always enlightening to be lectured on privilege by the privileged

  199. “If you just Google his name and hit Images, you will see lots of pics of him, including some where he’s stark naked with, you know, the carefully positioned object.”

    Honestly, will you *please* stop oppressing us by *thrusting* hot sweaty pretty blond men in states of undress and suggestive positions down our throats?

    I don’t think I’ll ever recover :)

  200. Well, all right, Ann. I’ll keep them to thrust down my OWN throat from now on!

  201. ” I’ll keep them to thrust down my OWN throat from now on!”

    Huh, typical behaviour of the privileged gay man, hogging all the pretty guys for himself!

  202. Feel free to point out what exactly I’m missing, then. It’s always enlightening to be lectured on privilege by the privileged

    Well, since you clearly aren’t interested in listening to anything I have to say (being one of those nebulous “privileged”, whatever that means) I don’t think I’ll waste my time.

  203. You make it sound like resentment against oppression is something I invented out of whole cloth, instead of being a perfectly normal and observable reaction.

    I didn’t say it wasn’t.

    What I said is that if you’re going to act on the principle of “Now that I have the power, you lot get to suffer”, then you’re going to find yourself on the receiving end of others in the hegemonic group who feel that way – without (and this is crucial), without the support of those in that group who would otherwise see the justice of your cause.

    I don’t like the oppression or repression of women. I’m more than willing to stand against it, and to stand with those others, male or female, who object. But i have absolutely no desire to replace that with the oppression or repression of men as an alternative – your “payback”.

    What I want is a world of equality. What you seem to be hoping for is a world where the situation is reversed and you get to be on top. It’s an understandable reaction to oppression – but unless you’re like Carrie at the prom and have a monopoly on effective power, it’s not going to get anywhere.

  204. MRAL, I have an absolutely devastating point that will completely blow your mind, but I’m not going to waste my time explaining it. So nyah nyah.

    What’s that you say? “Well, she started it”?

    How about we all take a deep breath (yes, ONE breath all together!) and go back to discoursing like adults. Ann, it may not be a lecture. May not even be mansplaining.

    Let’s hear it and find out.

  205. Xopher, the point I was going to make was that, of course, affirmative action or whatever isn’t about “payback”, it’s about righting past wrongs. Now you can (and people do) argue over its effectiveness in that regard, but the idea of “payback” is a non sequitur. If it ever actually becomes about “payback” it’s not something I’m interested in.

  206. Actually I think the idea of “payback” is worse than a non-sequitur: it’s another excuse to oppose AA, which is really needed to get some kind of reasonable balance restored. So many people believe in the concept of “reverse discrimination.”

    AA in its pure form was going out and recruiting qualified applicants of underrepresented groups. But that was too much work, so some institutions fell back on the lazy solution of just having lower standards for the underrepresented. Now the anti-AA forces tag all AA programs with that same tar, even though not all of them do it.

  207. Xopher — … go back to discoursing like adults …

    Scalzi and you and … there are times when I think you two are the only adults here.

  208. Why thank you, htom. I blush.

    Especially since it’s far from the case that I never lose my temper and say something…regrettable.

  209. Xopher, yes, I agree. It’s easy to portray poorly-managed AA programs as effective “payback” or reverse discrimination or whatever, even if that’s not the case. Which I think makes it especially important for people in favor of AA programs to take care to avoid speaking in those terms. You might dismiss me as a “tone troll”, but well, then I think “tone trolling” has its time and place.

    But again, I can’t see myself being much of a contributor to the thread beyond this, so I’m going to leave.

  210. Heading to bed just a little early, and so turning off the thread again until morning. See you then!

    Update: comments back on. Everyone play nicely, please.

  211. One last word on guilt. If you’re more concerned with how much guilt others have than your own, you’re probably projecting.

    @Xopher Halftongue

    Loss of privilege (even the discussion of loss of privilege) is always going to be felt as an attack by the privileged.

    I respectfully disagree. It’s entirely the choice of the privileged whether to feel attacked, and that’s their problem. Perhaps you meant there will always be those with privilege who will feel attacked, and with that I’d agree, insofar as anything about the future can be predicted.

    However, I would argue that the road to justice is paved by extending privilege until it’s no longer privilege, not by cutting all the trees down to ground level. The latter will always result in a smaller group of elites to lord it over the rest, because you cannot have oppression without oppressors.

    What you don’t understand, Greg, is that the privileging of whites and the oppression of POCs are two ways of talking about the same thing.

    You’re not entirely wrong. Clearly, drug enforcement focusing on disproportionately demographically black urban areas means less resources to police illicit drugs in suburban areas. But here’s where you’re partially wrong: The entire War on Drugs is a sham. The solution isn’t equal enforcement. The solution is to end the prohibition that’s used as a red herring to lock up “offenders” for victimless crimes to the political and financial benefit of a few wealthy elites at great cost to society in safety, liberty and wealth. The argument that the way to end prohibition is through equal oppression is deeply flawed. It’s like saying the way to end the “papers, please” mentality minorities face is to have cops check everyone for documentation equally. Racists aren’t enforcing the law; they’re enforcing racism. Law enforcement isn’t some irreducible quantity that we must use up by targeting someone. There’s no conservation of unjust laws that says we cannot repeal one without creating another. There is no quantum injustice principle that insists you can only have so much justice for groups A and B combined. Assholes aren’t some force of nature that must be loosed upon someone.

    Even at the deli counter, what does it really cost you to use your privilege to make sure someone without it isn’t treated as a second-class citizen? Is that very minor inconvenience that you may have to wait a few minutes for your sandwich or study a bit harder for your entrance exams really more cost than the benefit you gain by society giving everyone an opportunity to contribute productively to its collective wealth, material and otherwise? Of course not. Only if you accept the pyramid scheme of shortsighted returns can you believe you suffer a net loss by extending privilege, and a net gain by jealously guarding it.

    Wow, the Lurkertypes support me right in the comment thread now.

    Comedy gold.

    @Floored

    Because RSHD and his minions believe pretty much the same things that Hitler and company believed, except possibly for the anti-Semitism, although RSHD is enough of a Christofascist whackadoodle that he’s effectively the same on that point, too.

    Respectfully, please to not conflate Zionism with Judaism. My views on Israel are not simple, but no state speaks for an entire ethnicity or religion (not even the Vatican).

    If our society really were pro-homosexual or homonormative, then SWMs would be the group that needed special protection to prevent discrimination–although children would probably be slightly better off, as several studies–that I’m too lazy to do Google searches for right now–have shown that homosexual people make better parents than heterosexuals.

    No one appreciates pointless theoretical pissing contests. Don’t play the game the homophobes want you to play. It’s a distraction.

    @Todd

    In recent years, gay men feel entitled to wear their sexuality on their sleeves in a way that straight men would never attempt.

    And this infringes on your liberty how? Don’t bother answering; the question is rhetorical, and the answer is it doesn’t. No one puts a gun to your head and makes you read Scalzi’s blog, or anything else. What you really mean is that you’re tired of not being able to come into other people’s domains and have the discussion focus only on what you want it to. Tough. Welcome to private property. If you’re unsatisfied, you can go set up somewhere where you’re the proprietor and try to convince people to gather there.

    Pro tip: Ad hominem arguments make you appear desperate and anything else you say suspect. Condescension is immature.

    @Phoenician in a Time of Romans

    On the other hand, having heard some comments from a friend who lived in Pakistan, there are some serious advantages of “guilt cultures” over “shame cultures”. Especially if you’re a minority.

    The argument that one thing sucks less than another is never a valid argument against doing neither.

    @Ann Somerville

    The more brutal the repression, the more vicious the payback – witness the French Revolution, or more recent uprisings in the middle East.

    Don’t make me guillotine you? Really?

    The South African commenting above is lucky that he’s only had to deal with some (possibly imaginary) job discrimination after the end of apartheid. And no, I’m not surprised that some black people are petty and vindicative in victory. After all, the old oppressors weren’t gracious in power either. The powerful aren’t, very often.

    And how does that ever make it okay? Seriously, you can’t justify one wrong by pointing to another wrong as precedent.

    Huh, typical behaviour of the privileged gay man, hogging all the pretty guys for himself!

    Hey! We are not just trophies to be screen…savoured! We’re abs people with feelings.

    @Lurkertype

    As a SWF, I would like to thank Xopher for his link to Adam Rickett, who I had not previously heard of. What a fine-looking young man.

    I don’t get why people think body-appreciation need be sexual. Adam Rickett, who I’d also never heard of, isn’t sexually appealing to me, but I still appreciate his self-sculpted effort the same way I appreciate Michelangelo’s David.

    @MRAL

    But again, I can’t see myself being much of a contributor to the thread beyond this, so I’m going to leave.

    Now, I agree with you that affirmative action isn’t about payback, and that individuals who treat it as such are being selfish at the expense of good programs. But if you say you’re going to leave, you should leave. If you’re not, then don’t say you are. Otherwise it sounds like fishing for other people to tell you whether you should stay or leave, even if that’s not what you’re actually doing. “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

  212. @ Xopher: Thank you for the compliment! I sure hope that my generation’s leaders do better than our current crop of corrupt incompetents, power-hungry dirtbags who let human rights go hang, and gibbering assclowns. Seriously–I come up with better gun laws, equality bills, and economic plans in my *sleep* than those Congressroaches come up with in years of fighting.

    Also, those pictures were…well, interesting. I’m not gay, but I know that if I were gay, I would have been *impressed*. I wish I had those abs…*makes note to self to work out more this summer*

    @ Todd: Nice ad hominem. Please stop assuming that young people have nothing to say. I get that crap from adults ALL. THE. TIME. And it pisses me off to no end, especially because I am usually considerably more intelligent and knowledgeable than the dismissive adult in question. I will ignore you now, as you have nothing to add that will not piss me off.

    @ Ann Somerville: I feel the same way about lesbians. Why do they get all of the hottest women? ;)

    @ Scalzi: Do you know where I can get the release date (if it has been determined) for “The Mallet of Loving Correction”?

    Off to re-read “The Android’s Dream”. I love summer vacation.

  213. The argument that the way to end prohibition is through equal oppression is deeply flawed.

    That doesn’t follow from Xopher’s argument, though. It’s perfectly possible to solve the problem by aiming to eliminate oppression for everyone, rather than establishing universal “papers please.” The equivalent from John Scalzi’s story would be to commit enough resources to the amusement park rides so that no one has to wait, rather than forcing everyone into the 90 minute line.

  214. The solution isn’t equal enforcement. The solution is to end the prohibition that’s used as a red herring to lock up “offenders” for victimless crimes to the political and financial benefit of a few wealthy elites at great cost to society in safety, liberty and wealth.

    Yes and no. Equal enforcement may be the most practical way to get the popular support for ending unjust laws. Crap that happens to someone else is “law and order” but when it happens to me it’s an unjust law that needs to be repealed.

    Bringing this back around to privilege and addressing it, that’s in serious part the “secret” to reducing the heteronormative privilege: LGBT Americans come out, and as a result the disadvantages we impose on them become the disadvantage unjustly imposed on my friend/cousin/neighbor Kim. And that makes it much more personal.

  215. @DAVID

    That doesn’t follow from Xopher’s argument, though. It’s perfectly possible to solve the problem by aiming to eliminate oppression for everyone, rather than establishing universal “papers please.”

    I should have been more specific. I was responding to a suggestion made in the video, to which Xopher linked, that the way to end prohibition would be to target suburban neighborhoods, where the targets would be likely to have more political leverage. This misses the point. The political classes would merely fire the law enforcement and promote or hire enforcers that wouldn’t enforce the laws uniformly, quite possibly before they had to sacrifice any politically connected lambs to public opprobrium, because the more politically connected, the more likely they would be to get a tip about investigations. The only people who would actually go down in any significant numbers would be the politically powerless people who also live in the suburbs. You cannot fight injustice by spreading it. If you buy into unjust laws, you lend them credibility and undermine your own moral authority to oppose them.

    The equivalent from John Scalzi’s story would be to commit enough resources to the amusement park rides so that no one has to wait, rather than forcing everyone into the 90 minute line.

    You’re absolutely correct, and a big part of how you do that is to allow more people to contribute to the park. It’s not a hand out; it’s a joint effort.

    @lumbercartel

    Bringing this back around to privilege and addressing it, that’s in serious part the “secret” to reducing the heteronormative privilege: LGBT Americans come out, and as a result the disadvantages we impose on them become the disadvantage unjustly imposed on my friend/cousin/neighbor Kim. And that makes it much more personal.

    But how does that reduce your privilege? What do you loose? What you’re actually doing is extending that privilege. And still justice demands that you extend it to transfolk, and still then to anyone else, until it is no longer a privilege, not because it was taken away from you, but because it is now the right, liberty, duty and responsibility of all to all.

  216. Xopher: And if you find a hostile way to misconstrue that, I really give up.

    Hostile? Misconstrue?

    This was a thread about “privilege” and “guilt”. I pointed out several examples where people are talking about privilege in a way that assigns guilt to being white, straight, and/or male. McIntosh did it. Sommerville can’t stop doing it. And your “hands are clean” reference did it as well. I didn’t misconstrue what you said. blood on your hands and idioms like that point to guilt.

    If you didn’t mean to assign guilt, OK, but it was packed in the words you originally said and pointing it out shouldn’t be considered hostile or misconstrue.

    AA in its pure form was going out and recruiting qualified applicants of underrepresented groups. But that was too much work, so some institutions fell back on the lazy solution

    Well, any time you create quantifiable measures for a process to see if you’re following some principle, you will have some people who ignore the principle and simply game the numbers and measures. Pay programmers based on the lines of code they produce and you’ll see code with lots of whitespace, steps broken up needlessly, and so on.

    Affirmative Action makes sense from the point of view of correcting current systemic imbalances. Because the problem is ultimately a hawk/dove problem in game theory. You can’t possibly find all the indiviudal bigots (hawks) so that everyone else (doves) can get along and do their thing. So instead of trying to find each individual bigot, you measure things at a systemic level and require proportionate hiring, proportionate pay, etc. Once the workforce is in proportion to the population of applicants and the pay is similar regardless of race, gender, orientation, etc, then Affirmative Action isn’t needed.

    Some folks (Ann “Payback is a bitch” Sommerville is probably one of them) see affirmative action as a form of retribution for historical inequalities. If anything, I think people like that are the very reason that its difficult to keep programs like affirmative action in place.

  217. Gulliver, I meant the privileged as a class. Obviously some individuals will vary.

    The reason it’s always going to be true of the privileged class in general is that part of the privilege is being unaware that it is one, so when something basic is taken away it feels like an attack. Because I believe most people really don’t want to benefit from injustice, I also believe that when the majority of a privileged class become aware of it as privilege, it will start to fade.

    But I’m feeling optimistic today.

    As for extending the oppression to everyone…when the people in power suffer to the same degree as the powerless, the oppression will go away, because the people in power won’t tolerate it and have the power to change it. Admittedly, I also feel confident in predicting that when everyone is treated equally rainbow-farting unicorns will trim our lawns, because I won’t ever be proved wrong.

    That being the case, extending the oppression to everyone isn’t, as DAVID points out, what I would argue. I’ve been known to argue for extending the privilege to everyone (where possible).

    On the other hand, what lumbercartel said.

  218. Once the workforce is in proportion to the population of applicants and the pay is similar regardless of race, gender, orientation, etc, then Affirmative Action isn’t needed.

    Almost. When the workforce is in proportion to the general population, AA isn’t needed. Because we have systemic problems that keep people from applying, keep POCs from becoming qualified, even institutions that do things to discourage POCs and women from applying so that they can talk about their “pool of applicants.”

    Also, you can’t just cancel the AA program the minute the workforce proportions reach the desired ones, because your workforce will snap right back. Have to ease off on them as society changes, so that eventually you get the same result with no AA as you got with it. But that’s strictly theoretical in America today, and probably in our lifetime.

  219. The political classes would merely fire the law enforcement and promote or hire enforcers that wouldn’t enforce the laws uniformly, quite possibly before they had to sacrifice any politically connected lambs to public opprobrium, because the more politically connected, the more likely they would be to get a tip about investigations

    Possibly. It’s also possible that the effect would be to lead to the appeal of the unjust laws because the people complaining about them would have more political leverage.

  220. Catching up: Non-SWM talk about these issues a lot (shout from the line) because they have to deal with them constantly and in particular in SFFH with regards to their careers. And because if they don’t talk, yell, complain, nothing changes about those problems and they remain stuck in the line. Women (and other non-SWM) authors don’t get as many reviews, as much promotional attention from publishers, opportunities in magazines and anthologies, opportunities for awards, media attention, academic and writing grants, tenure at universities and equal pay at their day jobs, because of this discrimination, being kept artificially in the line, and this detrimentally effects their careers. Authors working with publishers have no control over their book covers and female authors having their covers with sexualized women and “female” treatments or authors getting white people on their covers when they have a non-white protagonist — this effects their sales and careers. Women authors having their books mistakenly labeled romance or erotica or black authors as African American fiction only by publishers and booksellers, and them being marketed that way cuts them off from their intended readers, male and female, all ethnicities, which effects their sales and careers. Being able to function at a convention, not be touched against their will, be treated professionally on panels and express thoughts about their families, work and lives as freely as SWM’s do all effects their careers. Women editors being regarded by fans or male authors as a threat by virtue of being female, accused of ruining SFFH, being called bitches, having their contributions ignored or eviscerated, not being promoted to top positions as often as the men — all effects their career. Women and non-SWM’s having their history and involvement in SFFH ignored or dismissed (in preference to their appearance in a bathing suit,) effects their current careers.

    And authors like Scalzi and Hines understand that these issues effect their careers negatively too, because authors help each other sell and bring in readers. When the paperback wholesale market collapsed, one of the few areas of fiction that minimized the damage was fantasy. Why? A major reason was because fantasy had gotten a huge increase in female readers in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and because female authors were able to get more opportunities in fantasy, despite strong attempts by males to keep them out. SF, which had relied on Hollywood in the past to help it, was in a rougher spot. It had a lot less diversity going on; it was dominated by SWMs writing about SWMs, which got kind of boring even to SWM readers. The field was in the 1990’s deeply anti-woman, regarding them as too present, too disruptive and declaring them incompetent at SF. All of this did not help SF rebound. Now, SF, including hard SF, is on the rebound, thanks in part to reader drift from fantasy, horror and other fiction, renewed Hollywood interest, thanks to the YA market’s hunger for material, and thanks to more diverse authors coming in and getting attention, like The Hunger Games and Wind-Up Girl. And the increased interest in fiction with gay protagonists helps too, as does the increase in world SF and global connectivity in the market. These authors bring new readers, media attention, school interest, and stability and growth to the market through diversity that also helps SWM authors sell their books too. The discrimination and biases in the field that keep non-SWMs in the line hurts the field and shrinks it.

    So why aren’t we talking about science fiction? We are talking about science fiction. We are talking about having a less diverse, less rich, less successful, less noticeable field dominated by a few folks trying to shut everybody else out, or, you know, not. We are talking about the future of SF and how all sectors can prosper instead of all sectors dying off. When an attempt is made to silence discussion about this by claiming that the non-SWM contingent is too strident, not civil enough, would get somewhere if they just stop talking about it so much, is overreacting — that is folks involuntarily and voluntarily wanting the whole field to decline. When it’s accompanied by the “advice” (threat) that the authors will ruin their careers if they keep talking, as if this sort of threat was a new thing, it’s just the usual status quo trying to kill authors’ careers by exclusion and bias — which limits everyone’s careers, including the SWMs, and weakens the market.

    Take Todd’s Fortune 500 company. It has 50% female managers supposedly. Those female managers are disproportionately pooled in the lower levels of management, as females make up only 4% of the CEO’s and about 16% of the top positions in these corporations. It has sensitivity training, a gay employee advocacy group, etc. Why does it have these things? Because women, gays and non-whites talked, endlessly, challenging their absence from these companies and their hiring and promotion practices, their office behavior, their biases, about unequal pay, glass ceilings, unequal employee benefits, being fired for being pregnant, etc. They were told to shut up, accept discriminating and shameful treatment if they wanted to get ahead (and then were blocked from getting ahead,) that they were overreacting, that it was a pain to have things like sensitivity training, that things were so much better in the past, without them and when they were silent and secretaries. But they didn’t shut up, they kept talking, and so now Todd’s company has a staff that makes it not only richer, but more stable, more able to work and grow with its client base. It has probably benefits that Todd gets to have too, like parental leave, because the gay people and the women and the non-pale people wouldn’t shut up. But Todd’s company still has a lot of work to go in terms of rampant discrimination and bias in favor of SWMs including Todd’s that he’s offered to us here. And so the gays, women and non-pale people at work keep talking, just like they do in SFFH, to combat the problems there. Problems that actually effect everybody, including Todd, and whose inclusive solutions benefit everybody, including Todd.

    And Todd’s response is to complain that we are irritating him with all this talking. And to come on Scalzi’s blog and insist that Scalzi is not doing his blog right to entertain Todd significantly. And try a dominance move with Floored, as if that would actually shut Floored up. The essence of privilege is those SWMs (and others with one dominating interstice too,) who think that threatening others, scolding others, urging others not to talk so much about the thing that most effects their lives, families and careers, is not something we don’t already hear twenty times a day and that it will suddenly, this time, have a magical effect on us to make us go away, shut up or concede that of course, dominance boy, you are so very right and we should just continue to be discriminated against and talk only when you say and how you say. Sometimes it does still work because it is forced on us in work, society, survival. But it’s working less and less, inch by sensitivity training inch. And it definitely does not work much on the Internet, despite the insults and the death and rape threats. The conversation will go on in the Webworld because we aren’t there yet, and you don’t have to join it or listen to it, but if you demand that it stops or that it be done in a certain way to your liking, you’re basically pissing in your VIP wind.

  221. @DAVID

    It’s also possible that the effect would be to lead to the appeal of the unjust laws because the people complaining about them would have more political leverage.

    But if you’re wrong, and I strongly suspect that you are, you’ll have given up the moral authority to oppose the unjust law, practice or custom by throwing support behind it, after which you’ll no longer be viewed as a credible opponent of the injustice. History gives me great confidence in the ability of the powerful to avoid being subject to the full force of the law. It does not give me confidence that any good can come from supporting something you know is unjust. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

  222. I just want to happily state that in today’s western world we live in the least misogynist, homophobic and racist time ever!
    Smiles all around?

  223. @ Kat Goodwin: Wow. That was just about everything that I felt that I couldn’t articulate. If Scalzi ever needs someone to take over Whatever for a few days, I vote for you.

    Am I the only person here who feels that that comment hit the nail right on the head?

  224. But if you’re wrong, and I strongly suspect that you are, you’ll have given up the moral authority to oppose the unjust law, practice or custom by throwing support behind it, after which you’ll no longer be viewed as a credible opponent of the injustice.

    Uh, why? “I supported the extension of [insert law here] to be universally enforced because then we could work on figuring out an equitable balance to [whatever issue the law is addressing]. That has not worked, and it is time to get rid of the [insert law here] law altogether.”

    Or, to poach John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

    History gives me great confidence in the ability of the powerful to avoid being subject to the full force of the law

    History is substantially more complicated than you think.

  225. @Floored: If you stick around, as we hope you will, you’ll find that adding articulately to discussions is not out of character for her.

  226. @DAVID:

    Uh, why?

    Because you’ve become an accomplice to the injustice.

    I supported the extension of [insert law here] to be universally enforced because then we could work on figuring out an equitable balance to [whatever issue the law is addressing].

    You should fight an injustice, law or otherwise, from the start.

    It’s one thing to say that all laws should be enforced equally, which they certainly should, and another thing to advocate spreading injustice to rouse opposition to it.

  227. Xopher: Also, you can’t just cancel the AA program the minute the workforce proportions reach the desired ones, because your workforce will snap right back.

    But that’s a perfect example of the whole “privilege” means “guilt” or “bad” or “evil” talking. It assume the source of the issue is that there are Franklin M. Hart Jr. type people at every level of a company from the mailroom up to the CEO. And we need government enforcement to keep those assholes in line.

    I think a large chunk of measurable inequality that could be fixed by affirmative action comes from historical inertia, rather than rampant active bigotry (i.e. guilty parties). For example, minorities are underrepresented partially because of an economic feedback loop of poor->no college->no well paying job->poor->no college->no well paying jobs. So, we need some programs to help minorities into college, so they can get better jobs, make more money, and then they can afford to send their kids to college. That’s something that could take a couple generations to fix.

    But once that feedback loop is fixed, there is no need to keep that part of the program around, unless you feel *guilty* about having historical “privilege” that isn’t there anymore (so supporting a program that isn’t needed is a form of self penance), or you think privileged people are “guilty” and “bad” and need government regulation to keep their naturally bigotted tendancies in check (so supporting a program that isn’t needed is a form of punishment for anyone who is “privileged”).

    This is why people see “privilge” => “guilty” and “privilege”=>”evil” in conversations about privilege. It invariably comes packed with assumptions about people who are “privileged”, people who are straight, white, or male, that they need keeping in line simply because they are privileged. Simply because they are straight, or white, or male.

    When the day comes that the objective measures say statistically speaking blacks make as much money as whites, then there is no longer a need for a government program to enforce that. Saying it will “snap right back” is assuming everyone who is privilged is also a bigot, and needs to be kept an eye on. You, xopher, are speaking a presumption about people who are privileged that they need to be kept in line.

  228. @Floored — Hit the nail so hard that it was driven through the plank and left a hole that’s leaking. Someone will have to patch that lest we sink.

    @Kat — You seem to think that the changes you want come about only because of the shouting. You shout, change happens. Sometimes this is the case. Sometimes it’s post hoc ergo propter hoc, Sometimes the shouting slows or even prevents the changes. I’ve put in place changes you’d prefer, and have had them rolled back by higher management because they didn’t want to be seen as surrendering to demands.

    Life isn’t fair. I used to say that the only way we’d all be equal would be that we were all dead. Someone replied that in many religions, some are better off in the after-life than others. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to make other’s lives better. We will never make them perfect, just as mine isn’t.

    There are days, patching holes in the planking, that I wish the hole-makers had to patch the holes they’d made. Life isn’t fair.

  229. Oh, I keep forgetting this:

    Todd: In my workplace sexually provocative screensavers (either hetero or gay) are banned outright. And I think this is the norm in most companies nowadays. This sounds like an example from the 1980s/early 1990s.

    The companies I’ve worked at have, for the last couple decades, required everyone to take anti-harrassment training, usually on a yearly basis. sexy screen savers, sexy posters, sexy calendars? All of that is right out. Every place I’ve worked at for the last 20 years or so has anti-harrassment policies in place, regular employee training, and so on.

    I too assumed Xopher’s story was from the 1980’s or something.

    Then again, I’ve never worked at a place where everyone went out at 3:30 to get high. So, milage may vary.

  230. Greg, it was 4:20. The time is significant.

    And you’re assuming that once the workforce gets to just proportions, the same forces that caused the imbalance in the first place are gone. This is nonsense. AA is needed as long as it’s fighting something. It may not be the evoll executives at the top, but damn right there are still plenty of them who would just as soon have an all-white workforce and an all-male executive.

    I worked at that place around the turn of the century (I love saying that). They were young and it was a dot-com during the dot-com boom. The philosophy was “let them do whatever they want and we’ll profit from it eventually,” remember that?

  231. Because you’ve become an accomplice to the injustice.

    People are accomplices in all kinds of injustices that they later turn around and fight. Serving in and being the president of a segregated military (and the credibility loss you would have from that) didn’t stop Harry Truman from desegregating the military. Participating in and supporting Jim Crow laws in Texas when he was a young politician (with attendant credibility loss) didn’t stop Lyndon Baines Johnson from working to pass and signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Perhaps they weren’t credible opponents of those injustices, but they sure were effective ones.

  232. I love the line jumping at Disneyland analogy, in no small part because Fast Passes demonstrate how this dynamic actually works when VIP passes are given out in large scale. When you are talking about these kinds of numbers, it is possible to give out lots of of Fast Passes, but still have that number be small enough in comparison to the crowd overall that it significantly cuts down on the Fast Passers wait time.*

    Also! the thing about fast Passes is that having one for one ride doesn’t mean you don’t have to wait in line elsewhere, so it doesn’t feel like the VIP treatment, because it’s not. In fact, since Disneyland gives everyone the same chance to get one, you aren’t really getting a leg up over everyone else.

    (Not that Disneyland Fast Passes are completely equal – we locals know how to game the system and get much more use out of them than tourists do.)

    But life’s Fast Passes are not given out quite so fairly as Disneyland’s, thus the problem. This is how you can have lots of people disadvantaged by others cutting, while the people with the advantages are often getting perks that are just small enough that the trip is still tiring hot, and full of lines – leaving them perplexed when other people call them privileged.

    *What’s interesting too is that by giving them out as fairly as possible, and by leaving the choices up to the guests, the Fast Passes makes guests visits more pleasant. I don’t know that it’s cut how much time I spend in lines, or if it’s made the time in lines longer overall! But it has changed how I view the time I’ve spent in lines at Disneyland.

  233. @David

    Serving in and being the president of a segregated military (and the credibility loss you would have from that) didn’t stop Harry Truman from desegregating the military.

    Once he had the power to, he changed the policy.

    Participating in and supporting Jim Crow laws in Texas when he was a young politician (with attendant credibility loss) didn’t stop Lyndon Baines Johnson from working to pass and signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    But did he say in 1964 that he was right to support Jim Crow laws? Surely you’ll agree that there’s a moral difference between withdrawing support for something you’ve come to believe is unjust, and supporting something you already believe is unjust. That’s the whole problem with strict utilitarianism, the idea that the ends justify the means. When means don’t deliver the ends you expected, all you’ve done is compromised your ethical integrity.

  234. “You seem to think that the changes you want come about only because of the shouting.”

    No, we know you usually only notice us when we are shouting, and are oblivious to all the times we don’t shout. Not only because of fatigue, but for strategy. We also know you like to pretend we only shout from lack of control rather than, again, for strategy. So we generally ignore you when you tell us our strategy isn’t working. Especially since you don’t always seem to understand what the goals are.

  235. Xopher: it was 4:20. The time is significant.

    I’m a square who doesn’t inhale, so I don’t know what the significance of that time is.

    And you’re assuming that once the workforce gets to just proportions, the same forces that caused the imbalance in the first place are gone. This is nonsense. AA is needed as long as it’s fighting something.

    Yeah, but you’re fighting something immeasurable, whihc means you never know when you’re done fighting. I said that if all the objective measures say that blacks are getting paid same as whites, then we don’t need the program anymore. You called that objective, measured-based approach “nonsense”.

    What is the alternative?

    Fight evil even if all the objective measures say there is no evil that can be fought? That’s like the US government fighting the never-ending war on terror because there might always be some terrorist out there somewhere. And then we end up with the people telling us we need to continue the war on terror because of some double-secret-probation information tells us therre are still terrorists out there, and we get people telling us that we need to torture because we found bin laden through torture just trust us, and we get people telling us in essence, trust us, there are terrorists out there, and telling us we can’t use the objective information we have, we have to use trust they are using the secret information correctly.

    You are simply reinforcing the notion that “privilege” conversations are based on an assumption of “guilt”. If all objective measures say blacks are getting paid teh same as whites, then whatever affirmative action program put in place to achieve that equality should be ended. There is no objective reason to keep it in place.

    Actually, the way people talk about privilege reminds me of the way people talk about “original sin”. You can never get out from under original sin. You are born into mankind already a sinner, and only by the grace of god can you get into heaven. People who discuss “privilege” quite often relate to it in a similar vein as “original sin”. It’s not about any kind of objective measure. Its not a matter of how you live your life. It’s a function of being white. And you can never escape that. If you’re born white, you’re born a sinner, and there’s no way to get out from under that. It doesn’t matter what you do.

    So, yeah. This is what I keep pointing at.

  236. Once he had the power to, he changed the policy.

    No, he didn’t. Truman waited until 1948, three years after he became President, to do it.

    When means don’t deliver the ends you expected, all you’ve done is compromised your ethical integrity

    Or, alternatively, you’ve managed to make your way to the Presidency through the racial fever swamp of southern politics and thus effect change. In fact, LBJ is a perfect counter-example to your argument: if he hadn’t been pro-Jim Crow early on (whatever his personal feelings) he never would have had a chance at getting elected at all, let alone to the Senate and Vice-Presidency. If he had remained pure and un-compromised, he would have, in fact, NOT been in a position to work for passage of the Civil Rights Act. He wouldn’t have been ethically compromised, but he also wouldn’t have been President.

  237. jennygadget — If a nerve is sufficiently stimulated, it stops responding. “The things we know, that are not so.” Perhaps more communication would occur with fewer preconceptions. On both sides. One of thing things I’ve learned over the years is that people who are shouting are usually not listening to others, and conversation with them is difficult, at best. At worst, it’s a pain-filled waste of time for me, and I suspect for them (sadists exempted.)

  238. John, you’re strawmanning your opponents here. Steelman them.

    I doubt that many of your opponents are saying that all guilt is weak. Maybe there are a few men around who fancy themselves Nietzschean supermen who would think that, but it’s a miniscule minority. What I expect your opponents think is that being guilty about things you didn’t do is weak. In fact there’s an additional step in there, that we should acknowledge. Feeling guilt about things not your fault is somewhat neutral. It’s weird, granted. But people do it sometimes (typically via faulty models of causation), and what can you do? Humans. However, letting other people impose guilt on you about things you would not and should not otherwise feel guilty about — that is, IMO, mental weakness. And this is what I expect your interlocutors feel about “straight white male guilt”. Imagine if I started hectoring you that your amusement park line-cutting showed your own cluelessness and thoughtlessness about how much you’d hurt people, and you started to feel guilty about it only because you thought that you’d lost status with me because of it. That would indeed be weak.

    What of the actual assertion, that you feel quilty? You say you don’t. Noted.

    But you also state that “What I would have guilt about is if, as a Straight White Male, with all the advantages I have, earned and unearned, I wasn’t [doing actions X/Y/Z]. If I weren’t doing that I would feel very guilty indeed.” (my emph) In other words, you are asserting that being a Straight White Male is a reason to feel guilty. It is only by your good deeds — actions X/Y/Z — that you avoid feelings of guilt. By extension, then, you are implying that Straight White Males who do not do anything extra should feel guilty. Of course you have not said that. You may feel that other Straight White Males should have different ideas about guilt than you do. Or, you may feel that your own (averted) guilt is irrational. But it seems a pretty solid implication of what you’ve just said. You should not wonder that people are reading you as saying this when you imply it so strongly. It is not because they are stupid.

    One other way your statement may have been mistaken is you may be vastly overprojecting your own hypothetical guilt. I think that if you did much less X/Y/Z, you’d discover that you still didn’t actually feel guilty. This strikes me as normal. It is IMO what you are reporting in analogical form in your anecdote of Unrepentant Amusement Park Privilege. You took full advantage of a privilege, and it’s great, and you don’t feel guilty at all. (I would quibble that in fact you deserved it — friends don’t just happen.)

    As for “liberal guilt” being an ancient and Republican construct, I’d invite the fair-minded reader to google “I feel guilty” privilege and see for himself how modern the google-liked results are, and what is the general political attitude overwhelmingly evinced by the various authors.

  239. @Leonard: Your comment breaks down into two parts:

    1. A part where you decide (based on no evidence) that JS’s critics aren’t doing what he says they are, but something different, something you can find sympathetic.

    2. A part where you decide that the implication of something JS says is more meaningful than what he actually says.

    Neither of those parts are actually related to the post except in the most tangential way and are particularly ironic in a comment that starts with a warning against straw manning.

  240. Oh, good, David has pointed out the potholes in that particular comment of Leonard’s, which means I don’t have to. I’d add to that the suggestion that just because one wishes to suggest someone else is asserting something doesn’t mean that it’s so, particularly when one is attempting to use special case referent to infer a general statement. But otherwise, yeah.

  241. @ Scalzi: What, no Mallet? I was holding off on my big rant because I was sure that you would Mallet the troll into next week!

  242. jennygadget — If a nerve is sufficiently stimulated, it stops responding.

    This suggest modifying behavior on the part of the listener and reacting earlier.

  243. Floored:

    If you’re talking about Leonard, he didn’t troll. He made an argument and did so without being rude to others, being phobic in his assertions or presentation, or exhibiting behavior that suggested he was intentionally trying to provoke anger. I don’t Mallet people simply for suggesting I’m wrong.

  244. I don’t Mallet people simply for suggesting I’m wrong.

    Be pretty quiet around here if you did. Not to mention boring. And every now and then, who knows? Maybe you’d miss being caught out. Dunno ’bout you, but I always like it when someone nails me — I learn more. Not that I want to make it easy, mind …

  245. @htom: Kat said “talking”, not “shouting”. You’re also engaging in the same Golden Mean fallacy as Todd: I’m in the middle, there are two “sides” that are equally right/wrong and are mirror images of each other, and if y’all just were nice and reasonable, like me, everything would turn out fine.

    People are not nerves. People who say “I would totally have been your ally if you only asked me nicely” are liars. Sorry, but that’s how it is.

  246. MRAL said “being one of those nebulous “privileged”, whatever that means”

    Scalzi has spent several posts explaining the concept of privilege. Did you not follow any of them?

    Phoenician in a time of Romans said:

    “What you seem to be hoping for is a world where the situation is reversed and you get to be on top.”

    I have expressed no such hope, and do not possess such a hope. Any society dominated by a single interest group is inevitably unjust and unrepresentative, and it matters little what that single interest is.

    You’ve mistaken description for proscription.

    I was unsympathetic to kokkieh’s comment because of his general lack of interest in the historical setting for his claim of unjust favouritism towards black applicants, and the fact that such frankly racist claims of unfair advantages supposedly given to minorities are a standard resort by white men who think they’re losing a grip on privilege – not just in South Africa.

    I was merely pointing out that even *if* (a big IF) such claims are true, it’s hardly surprising given the nature of revolutions and the reaction of the long-oppressed to being released from oppression. My comment that ‘Payback is a bitch’ was not to promote payback as a strategy or a goal, but merely an observation that it is, indeed, a bitch – and predictable, given history.

    At no point did I say this was admirable. I simply said that this is what *happens*. Human beings are not perfect, and expecting a greater degree of grace or perfection from the oppressed than from the oppressor is both ridiculous and a sign of privilege in itself.

    I know of no feminists, myself included, who want more than equality. I know of no anti-racists, myself included, who do. I know of no anti-homophobia activists who want more than LGBT people to be treated with equal dignity and rights.

    But many privileged people are also aware that retribution is possible, even likely, in however small a manner, for their actual contribution to oppression. This is why the worst of those hanging onto their positions with teeth and claws, are hyperalert to any possibility of it happening, even though they are still very much in control. Thus the claims from straight white Christian males that they are the real victims of religious discrimination and racism. Thus the screams of misandry from the MRAs. And so on.

    And thus also the whines from the likes of kokkieh that they are totally being oppressed because they no longer get to dominate the positions of power and privilege in a society where they are no longer the empowered minority rulers. In fact, Nelson Mandela’s government and the Truth and Reconciliation commission he set up were shining examples of how to handle transitions of power from oppressor to oppressed, and it’s thanks to these that kokkieh and his white kinfolk weren’t all shot or guilottined or kicked out wholesale. (Note – I don’t say that would have been right at all. But it’s what’s happened in other revolutions.)

    If you have privilege, working to mitigate the effect a lack of privilege has on those without it is simply the right thing to do. Inequality creates weak societies full of fear, poverty, and dysfunctional interactions. That’s *my* motivation for seeking change even when I don’t directly benefit (eg on the marriage equality issue.)

    But if an appeal to morality and justice won’t convince some people in power, the fact that the longer injustice and inequality prevails, the more likely it is that the overthrow of the elite will be violent and vengeful, might encourage change out of sheer self-interest. After all, it’s only the loss of the 2012 USA election which has forced Republicans to contemplate immigration reform and acceptance of equal marriage, in however grudging a manner.

  247. @Kat Goodwin, I like the cut of your jib.

    @Ann Somerville, It’s Friday. Let’s you, me, and Xopher go out looking for pretty blond men to get naked and sweaty with.

  248. htom: “You seem to think that the changes you want come about only because of the shouting.”

    That’s what you want me to have said; it’s just not what I said. Notice that the only thing you had any interest in from my long-winded post on how this discrimination greatly effects authors’ careers is policing my tone and advising women and others to modulate our tones in deference to the people accidentally and/or deliberately enforcing the discrimination. You are scolding as if we are kids whose temperament and manners needs to be corrected and if we behave the way those oppressing us like, they might give us a sweet if they feel like it. History shows otherwise. Those with the sweets have very little interest in giving them to the people they are deliberately denying sweets — and adult, equal status. We have heard these same scolds constantly from the people who say we can’t have our rights and shouldn’t object to this and that. It’s not an empty threat, but it’s not a new one. If we buckle under it, we get nothing changed. If we object, challenge, often at great risk to our lives, history shows that we accomplish change, if slowly and usually with numerous setbacks.

    What I actually said was: “And because if they don’t talk, yell, complain, nothing changes about those problems and they remain stuck in the line.” You ignored the word talk, and the word complain, and went right for the word yell, because that’s an easy way to paint me as an extremist who is overreacting and causing problems (sinking a boat.) Which is again what the people in line who complain about the line continually get called every day just for talking. Even if we just talk, if we stand silent in protest, that for people trying to police our tone as a way of controlling our behavior call yelling. But the process involves, as jenny pointed out, different strategies. Sometimes the strategy is not to get the VIPs to end the discrimination of locking up the line because we know they won’t while in power, but is instead to get media attention and public attention to the problem, to increase awareness of the injustice. And then keep pushing so that the people in power enforcing the bias are forced to concede or are removed — but more importantly, what was abnormal by their bias — us having our rights — becomes normal.

    You found this out yourself. You implemented change — because people challenged, objected, asked for, kept talking about those changes. No one would have bothered to make those changes without the impetus for change. Management rolled them back because they feel threatened, because they wanted to control, because they don’t yet see any reasons and bad consequences to not roll them back. This is something that would happen even if the people challenging and asking for the changes were very meek — the rationale would have simply been different (costs too much, etc.) Your management is hurting your company since then they can’t get good people without those changes, they’re less competitive and have less resources. But the people in management don’t care because they think they’re not in an ecosystem and are protecting their VIP castle. But the changes did get in and nearly through. The conversation is out there. The upset, hurt feelings of employees and potential employees and changes in business are out there, which will increase the consequences of management’s repression stance. And if efforts continue to be made to get those changes, at your company and elsewhere, then the changes have a shot at coming into being. If there is no challenge, no talking, well then again, I would not have the right to vote now.

    Which is why a man telling a woman that life isn’t fair as if it is news is pretty funny. Women know far better than men that life isn’t fair because it’s been rigged to be unfair to them and they have to deal with it every day, in every aspect of their lives. Again, we aren’t kids, though we continually get treated and talked to as children, and we live not only with the risks, but with the penalties.

    Today, the Texas state legislation tried to ram through an omnibus of bills aimed at taking away women’s civil rights and legal status as human beings and healthcare to poor women. 700 people stormed the session for a “people’s filibuster.” They stopped the bills from advancing. Will that stop the bills completely? Probably not for the Republicans because they fear the consequences from their backers more. There will need to be more protests, court cases, etc. But it did, in purpling Texas, put them in a spot, got national media attention, increased public awareness, gave others a strategy — a shouting strategy — that will and is being increasingly used, and helps send the politicians’ ratings downward.

    There’s a quote attributed to Ghandi which he didn’t actually say, but it paraphrases what he did say. We’ve brought it up in these discussions before: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. All of those theys are in response to “you” shouting, TALKING, challenging, showing feelings of anger and hurt, sharing our experiences, declaring it not okay or normal or right. Sometimes we don’t “win” or only win very little for a long time. But if we were quiet and accepted the bias and discrimination without challenge, half the folk wouldn’t know it was there and nothing would change (which also happens.) I take talking and potential change over not talking and no change.

  249. gwanguon —

    jennygadget — If a nerve is sufficiently stimulated, it stops responding.

    This suggest modifying behavior on the part of the listener and reacting earlier.

    Demanding that others change to conform to your desires rarely works.

    The listener doesn’t usually notice their diminished responses until permanent damage is done. The speaker yells louder. When the listener finally — if ever — hears, he asks “Why are you yelling?”

    Loud noise exposure, I put on my hearing protection. If I’d done so earlier (figuratively), it might have saved me from leaving a few jobs. Some higher management really doesn’t like having their status quo disturbed in ways you’d prefer. The lesson my co-workers and subordinates took: they (mostly) decided not to challenge the powers-that-be. Modifying behavior and reacting earlier, but I don’t think that’s the modification and reaction you want.

    Lead people to want to change; they will and they will stay changed.

    Annoy them, they will grudgingly change and change back as soon as they can.

  250. Gulliver wrote: “Seriously, you can’t justify one wrong by pointing to another wrong as precedent”

    Explanation is not justification. Do you think I made up the historical examples or invented human nature?

    All the privileged people complaining about my words here seem to think they can (a) demand there is no blowback on them for anything they do or have done and (b) that they will get to dictate the level of civility in the event of an actual revolution.

    I’m sorry to tell you that never happens in reality.

    The aim of the privileged should be that power and rights are equalised in a sane, timely, just manner – not just because that’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the least disruptive and harmful way to do it.

    Bitching about the *fact* that angry humans rarely stop to care about the feelings of those who made them so angry, won’t make it less of a fact.

    I don’t think I can make myself any clearer than I have done. Any more claims I am *asking* for retribution can be attributed to wilful misreading.

  251. It’s Friday. Let’s you, me, and Xopher go out looking for pretty blond men to get naked and sweaty with.

    Be careful- many of those pretty men are going to be horrible straight white males. I wouldn’t think you’d want to associate with such scum.

  252. @ MRAL: Dude, please stop trolling. It’s not nearly as clever or amusing as you seem to think it is.

  253. “I wouldn’t think you’d want to associate with such scum.”

    Considering I’m married to a Straight White Man, I think I can probably force myself to spend time in good company appreciating the pleasures of male beauty.

    Unfortunately it’s actually Saturday morning here, I’m eating porridge and reading Whatever. My personal SWM is reading the BBC. So I missed my chance.

    And your snideness is irrelevant to my actual life.

  254. Kat Godwin said ” Notice that the only thing you had any interest in from my long-winded post on how this discrimination greatly effects authors’ careers is policing my tone and advising women and others to modulate our tones in deference to the people accidentally and/or deliberately enforcing the discrimination.”

    Dear dog I love you.

  255. Floored:

    As a general rule, it’s best to leave to me who is trolling here and who isn’t. I suspect MRAL was aiming for humorous effect there as much as anything. Whether it’s successful if so is in the eye of the beholder, but again, I doubt that trolling was the intent.

  256. M.K.Ghandi

    Unfortunately for His Excellency the movement is likely to grow with ridicule as it is certain to flourish on repression. No vital movement can be killed except by the impatience, ignorance or laziness of its authors. A movement cannot be ‘insane’ that is conducted by men of action as I claim the members of the Non-co-operation Committee are….Ridicule is like repression. Both give place to respect when they fail to produce the intended effect….It will be admitted that non-co-operation has passed the stage ridicule. Whether it will now be met by repression or respect remains to be seen.….But the testing time has now arrived. In a civilized country when ridicule fails to kill a movement it begins to command respect…

    — Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Freedom’s Battle, 2nd edition, by Mahatma Gandhi, 1922 http://www.gutenberg.net/1/0/3/6/10366/10366-h/10366-h.htm

    From WikiQuote, the best source for that saying I’ve seen. He wrote so much in so many languages, he might have said that exactly, but it seems too pithy to be a real quote in English.

    @Kat, others — Yell all you want. It bothers me only in that I think it’s currently ineffective, perhaps anti-effective, in furthering what I hoped were your goals. I can be wrong about either or both, of course.

    Fairer is a realistic goal. Fairness (between all humans) is impossible. Aim for the stars, hit the moon; aim for Heaven, crash and burn.

  257. David, (1) I did not “decide” anything about Scalzi’s critics. Rather, I suggested a few things, based on what I know of human nature, including how humans (or at least Westerners, who I think we can agree would be the straw bloggers being discussed here), generally reason about guilt, and also, I read the comments on this post and “Straight White Male” and its followups. This is, in fact, evidence.

    John, it is true that suggesting someone said something does not mean it is so. On the other hand, you know, evidence. We have a particular case in point here. Do you really have a “blog nugget” in which your interlocutor makes clear that he thinks that all guilt is weakness? If so, I must stand corrected on this point.

    (John outfoxed me on this small point. I inferred from the very fact that he blogged about this that he said that the argument which he is rebutting is relatively common. Common enough to be worth publicly rebutting. However, if you read his post carefully you can see that he never said a single word about the frequency of the argument he is rebutting. It might have happened only once, or even never. So I am standing on a weak plank here.)

    So we come to the “burden of proof” game. Aw, what fun! I say to Scalzi, “your construction of your alleged critics is implausible.”. Scalzi says to me, “Nope.” Or maybe he links a single crazed wingnut Nietzschean, and I have to walk back and say “but you implied it was a lot of guys!”

    (2) I did not “decide” anything. I pointed out the literal words Scalzi wrote. They are as clear as they can be. “If I weren’t doing [X] I would feel very guilty indeed.” There is no wiggle room here, as a logical matter. Being straight/white/male is a reason to feel guilt — “very guilty indeed”. That guilt is absolved by good works, specifically, “Pay it Forward” in an affirmative-actiony sort of way.

    Now, again I will confirm that I did in fact read and believe Scalzi saying he has no guilt whatsoever about having exploited his many advantages.

    My point, to be clear, is that Scalzi’s critics are not anywhere near as ridiculous as he is portraying them. They have correctly divined his attitude about straight/white/male guilt, even though he does not say a thing about guilt (of any kind) in the original “Lowest Difficulty Setting” post. This shows real insight. They are mistaken only in not realizing that he feels absolved from this guilt due to his good actions. If I may conjecture, this is probably because in their cramped ideology, they do not imagine that “paying it forward” is morally relevant. In any case, while this is indeed a mistake for Scalzi’s interlocutors to make, it is not an absurd, ridiculous one. It is just ignorance, but nobody should be expected to try to find out every opinion of the author of an argument on the net before essaying a reply.

    (3) as for the “irony” of me decrying strawmanning, really? You think that when Scalzi writes “because, oh, I don’t know, if you feel guilt then you are weak, and if you are weak then your arguments aren’t good because SHUT UP YOU PATHETIC WEAKLING I LAUGH AS YOU MEWL IN THE DIRT STOMP STOMP STOMP or something along that line”, that he is trying to fairly present the argument of his opponent? I hope not. In any case, taking this argument seriously, my counter is (1).

  258. So let’s see, Leonard: you made stuff up (“suggested”) about the people criticizing JS, you decided to take a sideways implication as stronger than what he was actually saying, and then you finger waggled about straw-manning?

    The 600+ words you just hand-waved your way through isn’t helping.

  259. Once again, David’s largely correct. I suspect I will continue to outsource responses to Leonard to him.

    However, Leonard’s no doubt lengthy response will have to keep until tomorrow, because once again I’m turning the comments off whilst I sleep. Have a good night!

    Edit: Comments are back on.

  260. @DAVID

    No, he didn’t. Truman waited until 1948, three years after he became President, to do it.

    Executive Order 9808 established the President’s Committee on Civil Rights on December 5, 1946. I find little evidence that Truman supported segregation prior.

    Or, alternatively, you’ve managed to make your way to the Presidency through the racial fever swamp of southern politics and thus effect change. In fact, LBJ is a perfect counter-example to your argument: if he hadn’t been pro-Jim Crow early on (whatever his personal feelings) he never would have had a chance at getting elected at all, let alone to the Senate and Vice-Presidency.

    So we should adopt the level of moral integrity required to survive in the U.S. Congress through an election process that encourages dissembling? Well, I’ve always said I’d make a lackluster politician.

    @Ann Somerville

    Human beings are not perfect, and expecting a greater degree of grace or perfection from the oppressed than from the oppressor is both ridiculous and a sign of privilege in itself.

    Now, see, that sounds like apologizing for the imperfection. Like saying men are imperfect, so it’s no wonder they do inexcusable things to women who dress so and so. Yes, the statement says it’s inexcusable, but it’s still recognizable as apologizing for the injustice because human nature. X is lucky that’s all he had to deal with is more of the same. I agree with you about kokkieh’s initial comment – about it being tone-deaf, not about guilt for buying cheap jeans – but the apologizing is what it is.

    In general, if I don’t address a comment at all, it’s because I think someone else has already said anything I would’ve said about it, or I have nothing to say about it at all. But if I address only part of a comment, it’s because I agree (or at least do not disagree) with the rest of it.

    Explanation is not justification.

    No, it’s not. But people don’t ordinarily use the colloquialism payback is a bitch as a mere explanation, particularly not when the words preceding it are too bad. And it’s not payback if it’s against everyone who also happens to have light skin or some other arbitrary criteria, sufficient to the people who so group people, to get lobbed in with those actively supporting oppression. Race (and gender) is a social construction. It’s not about your “kinfolk” (your word); it’s about what racists decide to see you as, what role they decide to try to shoehorn you into, whether to give or deny you privilege.

    Payback is when person B gets retribution for actions against person A. It’s not when everyone who kind of looks like person B gets retribution for what was done against everyone who kind of looks like person A, regardless of whether they were actually the people who did it. In the likely event that my partner and I decide to have children, they’ll be able to claim blood ancestry from Mestizo and Prussian forebears. I intend to do everything I can to leave them, and everyone else’s children, a world where they don’t have to worry about which arbitrary category racist shitheads lump them into and where “payback” is not the gold standard of human behavior.

    One of the consequences of institutional racism is that it becomes everyone’s responsibility, not just the people who kind of look like person B. And if you’re in any position to fight it, it’s both your civic duty and in your enlightened self-interest to do so.

    …demand there is no blowback on them for anything they do or have done…

    Privilege isn’t something you do; it’s something you get. And because it’s not fair that others are denied it, and a fairer society is a better society, you should work for equal access to those same privileges for everyone, until they’re no longer a privilege, and then work to keep it that way.

    What have you done to LGBTI peoples for which you expect payback, or blowback?

    …that they will get to dictate the level of civility in the event of an actual revolution…

    That rather depends on the kind of revolution you have in mind. If a bloody revolution is on the agenda, you can count me out. I personally do hold people to a higher standard than that. The Reign of Terror wasn’t mere human nature rearing it’s head. It was a few strategically positioned opportunists taking advantage of a power vacuum to do exactly what their predecessors did, exploit people. If you’ll pardon my French, putain non!

    Bitching about the *fact* that angry humans rarely stop to care about the feelings of those who made them so angry, won’t make it less of a fact.

    Who’s bitching? I apparently have a higher opinion of people than you do. That’s not meant as an insult. It’s even understandable. Maybe my high opinion is misplaced.

    I don’t think I can make myself any clearer than I have done. Any more claims I am *asking* for retribution can be attributed to wilful misreading.

    I don’t think you’re asking for it; I think you’re apologizing for it, or at least that is how Too bad. Payback is a bitch certainly comes off.

    By the way, I do think it’s amusing that on the rare occasions I post, the same one or two people become utterly obsessed with how I express myself, and froth with impotent rage at it, hoping to whip up sympathy.

    Disagree ≠ froth with impotent rage. No frothing. No rage. I try not to lecture anyone, but, if I do, then I apologize for doing so. My goal is to exchange understanding, not patronize. And if the attempt to have a two-way discussion falls on deaf ears, perhaps others will be less dismissive. However, you do, at the very least, bring intelligent replies to the table, even if it’s a foregone conclusion for you that the people disagreeing with you have nothing of value to say back.

    I take that as proof I’ve made them uncomfortable.

    Uncomfortable would be if there were no one in disagreement with myself or others. Echo chambers are boring and pointless. Fortunately, this is not one of them.

    @Leonard

    I did not “decide” anything. I pointed out the literal words Scalzi wrote. They are as clear as they can be. ”If I weren’t doing [X] I would feel very guilty indeed.” There is no wiggle room here, as a logical matter. Being straight/white/male is a reason to feel guilt — “very guilty indeed”. That guilt is absolved by good works, specifically, “Pay it Forward” in an affirmative-actiony sort of way.

    Let’s talk about logic, shall we? Scalzi points to the maxim that power brings responsibility. Failure to fulfill at least some of that responsibility would be cause, in his personal code, for guilt. The inference that the power itself is the cause for guilt does not follow.

    I’ve read exactly one of the supposedly multitudinous rebuttals to the SWM piece. If that’s the one Scalzi is referring to, then I suspect he’s misunderstanding the rebuttal. I also think the rebuttal misunderstood both Scalzi’s motives and the extent to which the SWM was intended to be comprehensive. But, most salient to this reply, I’m fairly certain that you have misunderstood both Scalzi’s reply to the rebuttal(s), and, at least in the case of the one I’ve read, the rebuttal itself.

  261. ” They are as clear as they can be. “If I weren’t doing [X] I would feel very guilty indeed.” There is no wiggle room here, as a logical matter. Being straight/white/male is a reason to feel guilt — “very guilty indeed”.”

    Nope.

    I am a big, strong guy. This is an advantage. If I see a little old lady struggle to change her tire, a situtation where my advantage would be helpful, and don’t, I will probably feel guilty about it. But that doesn’t mean my advantage is something that I should or do feel guilty about. The guilt is from not helping when I could.

  262. Leonard, IF Scalzi’s statements meant what you interpreted them to mean, the second part of your argument might hold up. But here’s where I think your house of cards falls down: It’s built on a faulty premise.

    Let’s say I get to work by driving on a highway that’s built in such a way that it’s not pedestrian friendly but makes it easy for me in my car to get to work fast. I’m aware that there are pedestrians who have to walk along that highway or cross it to get to their jobs or to shop because of the way low-income housing is situated and the way shopping areas are located. I know that there are at least a handful of accidents each year in which pedestrians are killed or injured walking along or crossing that highway to go to work or shop or do other ordinary everyday things. I can imagine that even though most pedestrians make it to work or the store and back without being killed or injured, that highway is risky for them every day.

    Let’s say I find this troubling and wrong. I think it’s important that all the places in the area be accessible to pedestrians and car drivers alike and that pedestrians should not have to put their lives in danger to go about their everyday lives. I think provision should be made for (1) many more traffic lights and crosswalks, even though that would inconvenience drivers a bit, and/or (2) a lot more pedestrian overpasses at places that make sense for the pedestrians (as opposed to the way they have been built so far: at wide and random intervals that make the pedestrians’ trips longer), even though that would mean higher taxes for me.

    Therefore, given my beliefs (that access for all is important and that there are ways to make the highway more pedestrian friendly) and the fact that I have the ability to use my free time (which I have more of than I would if I had to drive a slow route to work and back) to make phone calls to elected officials and the highway department, write letters to same and to local newspapers, attend meetings, talk to my neighbors, and help drum up support for changes, I would feel guilty if I just drove that highway to work and back every day and hoped someone else would do something about the pedestrians while I myself did nothing to help.

    That does NOT mean that I feel guilty about the existence of the highway or about driving on the highway (though Leonard would disagree if he used the same logic here as above). It DOES mean that I would feel guilty if I did not live up to my beliefs and do something to alleviate the problems of pedestrians related to that highway.

    The important factors are my beliefs (that all should have access, that I am a part of the community and have the responsibility to participate in making it better) and my ability to contribute to a solution. The fact that the highway makes my life more convenient just because I drive a car, not through any achievement of my own, is a fact of my life but not the basis of any feelings of guilt. Any guilty feelings relate strictly to the extent to which I live up to my own moral standards.

  263. Executive Order 9808 established the President’s Committee on Civil Rights on December 5, 1946. I find little evidence that Truman supported segregation prior.

    Executive Orders 9980 and 9981, which actually desegregated the federal work force and the armed services, came in July 1948. Committees are wonderful things; they grow like kudzu and almost never do anything useful.

    I find little evidence that Truman supported segregation prior.

    Hah!

    Harry Truman, 1911:

    “I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a nigger or a Chinaman. Uncle Will says that the Lord made a white man from dust, a nigger from mud, then He threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman.”

    “(Uncle Will) does hate Chinese and Japs,” Truman continued. “So do I. It is race prejudice, I guess. But I am strongly of the opinion Negroes ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia and white men in Europe and America.”

    He was also a member of the KKK as a youth.

    Harry Truman in the 1930s:

    “[In the 1930s] Truman, then a U.S. senator from Missouri, wrote a letter to his daughter describing waiters at The White House as “an army of coons.” In a letter to his wife in 1939 he referred to “nigger picnic day.”‘

    http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19911103&slug=1314805

    It is to his credit that he changed, but don’t whitewash his earlier beliefs.

    So we should adopt the level of moral integrity required to survive in the U.S. Congress through an election process that encourages dissembling? Well, I’ve always said I’d make a lackluster politician.

    Apparently, yes. That will make you a purer person; it will also make sure you never do anything remotely as useful as LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act.

  264. @DAVID

    It is to his credit that he changed, but don’t whitewash his earlier beliefs.

    You clearly know Truman’s biography far better than I. Do those statements, let alone his personal family correspondence, indicate to you a man who was a closet desegregationist just waiting for the chance to act? Because to me it looks like a man who came to understand how wrong he was, and that is indeed to his credit.

    That will make you a purer person; it will also make sure you never do anything remotely as useful as LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act.

    Maybe pretending to support injustice is one way to bring about positive change, but I refuse to believe that the only way to effect positive change is to pretend to support injustice. I’ll also never escalate a war that decimates two foreign countries and bleeds ours dry. Politicians can be useful, they can even be good people, but politics is the essence of sleaze.

  265. @mythago: Fair point, I appreciate your honesty. I should have said all laws should be equally enforced, and left it at that. My argumentativeness got the better of me. How to circumvent racist and classist politics in order to make sure equal enforcement actually happens, I don’t know. I really do think the problems are systemic to the political system. But if locking up more suburban drug users ends the futile, wasteful War on Drugs, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

    @David: I’ll never support the War on Drugs, but I unconditionally support equal enforcement of the law.

  266. Damn, Gulliver. That’s a *lot* of words to say ‘I don’t like your tone, little lady.’

    You’re putting straw words into my mouth, setting fire to them and claiming you are just so terribly reasonable in your tender appreciation of the wonder that is humanity.

    Did you expend even a tenth of this energy chiding Bryan Thomas Schmidt or Andrew Fox for explicitly threatening to put complainants about the recent SWFA debacles on blacklists for being so unmannerly?

    No? I wonder why.

    “Disagree ≠ froth with impotent rage. No frothing. No rage.”

    I think you’ll find my comment predates any of yours by a good number of hours, even days.

    “I try not to lecture anyone”

    ::cough:: It is to laugh

    “My goal is to exchange understanding, not patronize.”

    And yet you write this *fine* bit of condescension here:

    “And if the attempt to have a two-way discussion falls on deaf ears, perhaps others will be less dismissive. However, you do, at the very least, bring intelligent replies to the table, even if it’s a foregone conclusion for you that the people disagreeing with you have nothing of value to say back.”

    You have said nothing of value to me, it’s true. But that doesn’t mean anyone disagreeing with me does. It just means that you, sir, in endlessly rehashing the tone argument and arguing with things I did not say and did not mean, offer nothing for me to engage with, and no good faith to expect better.

  267. @Ann Somerville

    Did you expend even a tenth of this energy chiding Bryan Thomas Schmidt or Andrew Fox for explicitly threatening to put complainants about the recent SWFA debacles on blacklists for being so unmannerly?

    I have no idea who that is. Sounds like assholes. I’m not a SWFA member or even, for that matter, a professional author. The inner workings of SWFA might as well be the Hanseatic League as far as I will ever know them.

    It just means that you, sir, in endlessly rehashing the tone argument and arguing with things I did not say and did not mean, offer nothing for me to engage with, and no good faith to expect better.

    Tone aside, your words apparently meant something other than what I think they did and, if tone could change the meaning of what you said, then that is beyond me. Since we don’t even share a common perception of too bad, payback is a bitch, we must being using the English language in ways too different for me to understand what you did mean. Or possibly I’m simply too dim to grasp what you really meant by it.

    You have said nothing of value to me, it’s true.

    Well, in that case, I’m sorry I failed to hold up my end of the conversation. I won’t waste anymore of your time. Have a wonderful rest of your winter.

  268. Demanding that others change to conform to your desires rarely works.

    Which is exactly what women/minorities/QUILTBAG folks are saying when they get the tone argument. When they get told that the way they express themselves is wrong. When they’re told their rights might be granted if only they weren’t so angry/uppity/shoving down throats.

    Irony. You’re soaking in it.

    @BW, your freeway metaphor is better than the amusement park one! Last time I was on a freeway, I saw they were building a new pedestrian overpass in an actually useful place, connecting people and shopping. I will never use this overpass. I will probably never know anyone who does. But I think it’s a fine thing and am happy to help pay for it.

    @Ann: well, sometime me and my SWM, you and your SWM, and Xopher and his whoever shall meet for drinks somewhere someday.

  269. Catching up again and going long because Scalzi keeps turning off the comments before I can manage to get on. (Not that I begrudge him sleep.) I’m focusing on htom, but some of it is relevant to other discussion threads here to my mind, (Gulliver, m’dear, pointing out something is a historical fact by saying, tough luck, payback is a bitch, equivalent to htom’s life isn’t fair, is quite clearly not a call for vengeance. It’s a good thing you didn’t try that one out on me.)

    htom: “Demanding that others change to conform to your desires rarely works.”
    So why are you demanding that we conform to yours or to those in power and expecting that to work with us as an argument?

    “The listener doesn’t usually notice their diminished responses until permanent damage is done. The speaker yells louder. When the listener finally — if ever — hears, he asks “Why are you yelling?””

    The listener says why are you yelling because the listener doesn’t want to have to face what the other person is saying. And that listener doesn’t want to listen to it if the person speaks in dulcet tones either. The listener wants the other person to be quiet and go away. You’re making the argument that change only occurs if the listener beneficiently agrees to grant it because the listener has been pleased. But that’s not the only way or even the main way that change happens in the world. Nor is it a right that the listener actually has; it’s a right that the listener has stolen and often tries to enforce. So naturally the listener doesn’t like that stolen right challenged, especially if the listener has simply never thought about it before.

    The defensiveness of the listener is the least of the threats that we face daily and it is not actually caused by how we say it, but that we’re raising the topic at all. You’re insisting on a correlation, that the listener is reacting to our presentation. But that’s not, in the vast experience of history, what the listener is reacting to at all. The listener is reacting to the change in viewpoint. Calling the speaker strident, angry, uncivil, etc. is just an attempt to deflect the change in viewpoint, and happens to us regularly no matter how we talk. Seriously, every woman, every non-white person, every gay person can give you a dozen or more personal experiences of talking in dulcet tones and being told we’re unreasonable bitches. So sometimes we will talk one way and sometimes we will talk another, depending on strategy and who else may be listening. But we get to choose and to risk in the choosing. It’s not the listener’s choice. The listener can choose to listen or not.

    “Some higher management really doesn’t like having their status quo disturbed in ways you’d prefer.”

    No? Really? Who would have thunk it. Seriously, we deal with this on a daily basis, htom. You don’t have to tell us what actually happens in our lives, to our lives.

    “The lesson my co-workers and subordinates took: they (mostly) decided not to challenge the powers-that-be.”

    And so there was no change. But others in other companies, other employees, organizations like the NAACP (known to some of our conservative friends here as Satan Inc.,) and trade unions (Satan Jr.) have lobbied, talked and sometimes yelled, and gotten some changes, and, according to Todd, a different atmosphere. And yes, there are backlashes that can erase those changes very easily. We live with that over our heads all the time. The bills in Texas were that backlash. But that happens whether we challenge or not and if we do not challenge, there is no change and no lasting change. I can see the lasting change on my generation and my daughter’s from the women who challenged the men and managers and ministers and other women and police on not being allowed to vote. The men who didn’t want us to vote or were sympathetic but thought it unlikely that we’d get to vote said the exact same things that you are saying now. It’s a script that’s on repeat. And if we listen to it, that’s when the boat sinks.

    “Lead people to want to change; they will and they will stay changed.”

    How are we supposed to lead them if we stay silent and do what they say? If we speak to them in dulcet tones, for the majority, they will still not want to change. I don’t think the Freedom Riders in Selma really are going to buy the idea that if they had just talked nicely to the police (and actually they often did,) they wouldn’t have had the dogs and firehoses sicked on them. Or if they hadn’t gotten on those buses at all. But they did, they challenged, they defied in protest, and the world saw it. And that rolled the ball for lasting change. We lead by example, we lead by risk, we lead by painting a picture of the future that others say is unrealistic and then marching towards it. We lead by not shutting up unless we must to survive (and sometimes with brave souls, not even then.)

    “Annoy them, they will grudgingly change and change back as soon as they can.”

    It’s more complicated than that. They will not want to change whether they are annoyed or not. And when they are annoyed, it’s not necessarily from our behavior or our voice — it’s from our existence. If they can get or hold on to the levers of power, then many will certainly try to keep us in line or reinvent the line, but the society changes and so their power changes or is lost. We won’t change those who aren’t willing to change, but we can change the society with effort, much of it annoying. And when we do, there is path dependence — it’s easier to stick with the change than go back for the majority. The change becomes normal.

    That’s why we have gay pride parades — they annoy people and they created change, and we still have pride parades and gay people are getting closer to equality in the West than they have ever been before. This is exactly what homophobes are deathly afraid of — that gays will be seen as normal and equal in the society. Gays are very aware of the backlash and how quickly gains can be taken away, but if they did not do what they did, they would be in jail. There will always be people who want to put them in jail, or beat them or kill them. Xopher lives with the threat of death every day, no matter what he does, because he exists. Your admonishment to be nice or they’ll cut you is therefore nonsensical to him and the rest of us in discriminated groups. They’ll cut him anyway — unless we can keep making change. Life isn’t fair and no one, no manager, is going to let us have our rights. We have to go get them and try to keep them. Sometimes that means in your face annoyance and outrage. And historically, it’s often worked over time.

    “Yell all you want.”

    Again, you go right to the yelling and try to make that portrait of me as extreme and ignore that we’re talking about talking. I haven’t been yelling at you. I’m not even saying you’ve done nothing to help — clearly you tried. But you are telling me that the world isn’t fair and at the same time arguing that the best strategy is that if we’re nice, they’ll be nice to us — they’ll be fair, which has been proved wrong again and again and by your own assertions. They aren’t going to be fair. They may not even know how to be fair, so ingrained and unthinking is the discrimination. We may be nice but we also may get angry and yell and often that is the more effective strategy. Dr. King had a lovely yelling voice.

    “Fairer is a realistic goal. Fairness (between all humans) is impossible. Aim for the stars, hit the moon; aim for Heaven, crash and burn.”

    In other words, you’ll never get equal rights so give up and enjoy what your ancestors gave up their lives to get you so far. That’s what they said too when women wanted to be able to vote. That’s what they said about having a black president in the U.S. And so that happened. The reality is, we aim for all of them — the stars, the moon, the Heavens, and we see which ones we can manage for the day. And if we’ll be alive to see it further. Against that mountain, grumbles on the Internet are nothing.

    Anne Sommerville: “Dear dog I love you.” Thank you. You are pithier than me, though, which is better.

  270. @Lurkertype @Kat Goodwin, I like the cut of your jib.

    And so I says, I go you’d better – it’s the only jib she’s got, baby!

  271. I don’t think I can make myself any clearer than I have done. Any more claims I am *asking* for retribution can be attributed to wilful misreading.

    Actually, looking back, sure, I’ll concede I did misread you. My bad, but not completely, because it all becomes pretty unclear when you’re saying stuff like

    I was unsympathetic to kokkieh’s comment because of his general lack of interest in the historical setting for his claim of unjust favouritism towards black applicants, and the fact that such frankly racist claims of unfair advantages supposedly given to minorities are a standard resort by white men who think they’re losing a grip on privilege – not just in South Africa.

    I have no idea if kokkieh’s claims are true, but it is true that South Africa is one of the very few places in the world in which a level of systemic discrimination (and even violence) against white people is fairly well-documented. There’s debate and disagreement, of course, but it’s certainly not some wildly unrealistic claim that’s he’s making here. You might want to try doing a little background research. Although even if you did, I doubt you’d be sympathetic to the oppressed group in this particular situation, because you go on to say

    It’s way too early to be complaining about the unfair advantages blacks now have in a system which is still fucked up from, ya know, the system which used to disadvantage them *hugely*.

    So you sneer at (the prospect of) injustice because it doesn’t quite fit standard parameters. Practically, this is tantamount to approval, which doesn’t square so well with your assertion that Any society dominated by a single interest group is inevitably unjust and unrepresentative, and it matters little what that single interest is.

    I could cite similar comments you’ve made in this thread, but I’m bored and I think that’s sufficient. Point is, I might argue that your “predictions” do in fact come across as somewhat gleeful, whether or not that that’s your intention. But that’s just me, tone trolling.

  272. @Kat Goodwin

    Gulliver, m’dear, pointing out something is a historical fact by saying, tough luck, payback is a bitch, equivalent to htom’s life isn’t fair, is quite clearly not a call for vengeance. It’s a good thing you didn’t try that one out on me.

    I accept that it wasn’t intended that way. My problem was never with how Ann said it, but that I took to be the meaning of those words. But since two people (Ann and yourself) have now told me it’s clearly not what those words mean, then their meaning to me must be much less universal than I thought. Either way, I said the only thing of substance in my first brief reply to her, and I should have just left it at that. I need to work on my compulsion to argue in circles, and I am genuinely sorry I wasted both her’s and my time doing so. I have a very bad habit of losing sight of the reason for arguments and getting obsessed – Ann was on point with that even though, as she said, she said that some while before we got into it – with the back-and-forth.

    FWIW, I disagree with htom’s argument that people need to pipe down to be heard. I’ll listen to what someone says even if their shouting, and I think any committed rationalist will also, but I do not believe Ann or anyone else in this thread (who escaped Malleting) has been anything other than polite. Some people really are uncivil to each other (as I know not least because I’ve done it myself), and that never reflects well on anyone, but it’s no good reason, IMO, for ignoring the content of what the person is saying, especially if the listener sticks around. And really, if someone is loosing their cool, more often than not in my experience, it’s because they’re legitimately stressed out, and I’d rather give people a break and let them vent. For example, the aforementioned bills making their way through the legislature here in my home state induce in me a level of anger I don’t think I could control if I began discussing it, but that anger might be what gets some sense through the ******* trying to make these abhorrent laws.

    @MRAL

    So you sneer at (the prospect of) injustice because it doesn’t quite fit standard parameters.

    Not that it’s really relevant to the content of what she said, but I haven’t once seen Ann do anything that I would describe as sneering. She’s been quite nice to the people disagreeing with her. Whatever my disagreements with her over semantics, her “tone” has been quite civil.

  273. @Gulliver- “Dismissive”, then, might be a better adjective. Anyway, I should note that I don’t really have that much of a problem with Ann Somerville’s politics or whatever; I did misread her posts as prescriptive and I’ve admitted as much. I just find this accusation of willful misreading to be disingenuous.

  274. @MRAL: Well, I misread her first post as apologizing for what she was not, so you have some company. As for willful misreading, I try not to do it myself, but it does happen. In my own anecdotal experience, people who misread me usually come by it honestly. But I, outspoken though I am, don’t have to deal with the level of crap that an outspoken woman does, either here or in Australia or South Africa or anywhere else, so my experience is hardly representative of hers, and I can’t honestly say that she doesn’t get willfully misread a lot more than I do, so a certain suspicion might not be disingenuous after all. YMMV.

  275. Closing up the thread again for the evening. Have a good night, all.

    Update 6/23, 9:15pm: How weird — I unlocked the thread this morning and it doesn’t appear the unlock took. How odd. Ah, well. I’ll unlock it again tomorrow morning (Monday). Sorry —

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