Reader Request Week 2020 #4: What It’s Like To Be a Cis Straight Man
Posted on May 12, 2020 Posted by John Scalzi 62 Comments
What is it like being a cisgender straight man?
I ask because I’m a trans woman who spent 50+ years living (or at least trying to live) according to the assumption that I was a man, but could never make any sense of the men around me. I couldn’t figure out why they did what they did, nor how they they related to one another. I just never “got it.”
By contrast, women have always made sense to me (even when I thought they were being cuckoo), and I find I can even relate to most trans men reasonably well.
I don’t know if you can do anything with my question, but I thought I’d throw it out there.
I can’t speak for all cis straight dudes, but I can tell you my experience of it, which is:
Being a cisgender straight man is thoughtless.
By which I don’t (necessarily) mean that being a cisgender straight man is about being “thoughtless” (i.e., a heedless jerk, unintentionally or intentionally), or that it means we cisgender straight men are all thoughtless in that manner. What I mean is that because being cisgender, and straight, and a man, are all cultural defaults, I don’t have to expend any sort of thought on being them or relating to world as those, if I choose not to.
It’s difficult to describe what it’s like to not think about these particular things. I just… don’t think about them. I don’t think about my gender expression or my sexuality or my maleness pretty much the same way I don’t think about geese, or garden hoses, or Nepal. They’re not things I have think about on a regular basis, and I don’t have a particular interest in any of them, so, yeah. What’s it like to not think about Nepal? If you can imagine that, you can imagine me not thinking about my gender expression, or sexuality, or maleness.
I mean, I can think about my cisness, and my straightness, and my maleness, just like I can think about Nepal. I could concern myself very passionately about Nepal if I wanted to, learn all about it beyond what I know now, which is mostly that it’s the place where we keep the Himalayas and Kathmandu, something something Doctor Strange and Marian Ravenswood, aaaaaand that’s about it (Oh! And it has a pennant for a national flag). If I do think about Nepal in a more than cursory manner, I might learn something, and appreciate more about the world and my place in it, and possibly become a better person with a larger understanding of others. It might behoove me to learn more about Nepal.
But, and this is the thing, there is no actual penalty for me if I don’t. I live in the US! I have no business with Nepal at all! If I don’t think about Nepal, my life does not materially or significantly change. Thinking about Nepal is optional for me. Just like thinking about my cisness, straightness and maleness. I can think about these things, or not.
So frequently I don’t! I don’t have to give much thought to my gender presentation, because my gender presentation largely follows the norm, and as a result, when I’m out in the world no one thinks of that presentation as remarkable or objectionable, and I don’t feel any internal conflict between who I am and how I present.
I don’t have to give much thought to my sexual identity, because my sexual identity also largely follows the norm, and there is, almost without exception, no penalty for being straight in our culture. I don’t have to explain it or rationalize it or defend it. It just is.
As for being a man: Well. No one’s telling me what to do with my body, or making me uncomfortable being in the world, and again with very rare exceptions I don’t have to worry about going from one place to another, or being anywhere, or how to dress or how to exist, etc. I don’t have to think about much of anything about being a dude.
When you don’t have to think about these things all the time, guess what? You don’t! I can expend my brain cycles on other things, not relating to existing in the world. Which makes existing in the world, and this life, less difficult for me than for a lot of other people. I may have touched on this before, a time or two.
In our society, the highest privilege is being able to have the option not to have to think on your privilege, or lack thereof. As a cis straight man (who is also white, and also able-bodied, and also well-off), all my privilege checking is allowed to be optional and conditional. I do check in on my privilege, and try to understand it, and try to be a decent person in navigating it. But most of the time, I’m just getting on with my life, in a world that’s designed to be largely frictionless for who I am.
What’s that like? It’s pretty great, if I think about it, which I suspect I do more than many cis straight dudes, but still not nearly as much as people who aren’t cis, or straight, or men. Most of the time, I simply take it for granted, because I can, and because I have other things I want to think about.
It would be nice if everyone had the luxury I do, to be thoughtless about who they are because there’s no reason not to be, and they won’t be materially penalized by the culture, and by other people, for who they are and how they choose to be in the world. And that, at least, is something I should be thoughtful about, and try to work toward, as I move through this life.
(There’s still time to get in questions for this year’s Reader Request Week! Go here to ask your question.)
1. I’ll be watching this comment thread carefully for being being jerks (unintentionally or otherwise) so please be on good behavior. Thank you.
2. If you’re a cis straight dude with your own story of how you were marginalized specifically for your own cisness, straightness or dudeness, it’s not that I’m unsympathetic to you, it’s that I want you to entertain the notion that your particular story does not negate the enormous systematic and cultural bias our society has toward cisness, straightness and dudeness, and if you can’t acknowledge that, I don’t know what to tell you.
3. Related, if you attempt to argue that this enormous systematic and cultural bias for cisness, straightness and dudeness doesn’t still exist in our society, I’m gonna laugh in your face and tell you to pull my other leg, and then, depending on how much of a dick you are in suggesting it, Mallet your comment.
4. I will say that by and large the most significant (and I use that term advisedly) guff I’ve gotten in recent years for my cisness, straightness and dudeness has been from right-wing/alt-right types who wish to suggest that I’m not really all that cis, or straight, or male, because they have a deep-seated neurotic horror at the idea of anyone not being those things, so to suggest I’m not these things is the gravest and most belittling insult they can imagine. And of course, there’s not a thing wrong in not being cis or straight or male, and their frantic sniggering that I’m really not these things has no actual effect on my cisness or straightness or maleness. It just makes them look pathetic and bigoted.
5. With all the above said, and intersectionality being what it is, cis straight dudes can have other vectors of social discrimination, etc. And of course, being on a lower difficulty setting doesn’t mean one’s life can’t still be difficult in a number of ways. Let’s take that as read.
I’ll add being white to my thoughtless environment.
When I hear “thoughtless,” my mind synonomizes that as “careless.” I do not believe that you are being “careless” in relation to the topic. “Careful” is much more like it, which connects to “concerned,” which signals “thoughtful.”
Word play is fun.
For me, ‘thought-free’ perhaps describes the situation better, in that you simply don’t have to think about it. I get it with being white in a majority white society, but as I am also woman and have a disability, I also have a certain amount of thinking to do to navigate both of those. I think it’s a useful tool for identifying what’s difficult in a person’s life and what’s not.
Let me expand your knowledge of Nepal. They play cricket and they’ve beaten America at it.Their domestic competition is called the Everest Premier League.
Not to discount Nepalese prowess here, but I should like to know if, as a general rule, defeating Americans at cricket is at all a significant achievement.
Wonderfully put. It’s also true that environments that are dominated by cis white men tend to be collectively “thoughtless,” which is why they stay dominated by cis white men.
“Thoughtless” is really the best description I can think of.
You’re the default. Everything is catered around that default. When you hear the advice “be who you are”, there is virtually no risk to that statement – the worst is that you do something embarrassing. Others (especially other white cis males) will feel like they can complain to YOU about every other group on the planet, especially with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge demeanor that indicates that it’s COOL because you’re in on the joke. By default.
Basically, it’s “thoughtless”. Because it requires no thought, little contemplation to survive. You can just be on autopilot and you’ll probably be fine so long as you’re not constantly making stupid decisions, and “stupid” is such a lower bar in your case that you have to really dedicate yourself to it.
It’s not all easy – being successful still requires hard work, putting in the effort, and so on. But it still requires less than it does for everyone else, and failure is relatively easy to recover from. John’s old “being a straight white male is playing on easy mode” is something I’ve referred people to repeatedly, because it’s spot on.
I am enjoying the Nepal discussion
I’ll add that, as a cis white man, my part in the evolving discourse on gender, sexuality, and identity has been focused on a.) learning when I have to be aware of my identity as a cis white man, and b.) learning how to shut off the reflexively defensive nature of being aware of said identity. It’s a much different sort of problem to those who have literally had to fight to have their identities recognized, to say nothing of their daily struggle to simply exist in the world where I’m the vanilla default.
So mine is definitely a largely-thoughtless existence, in this context, but it’s more about figuring out when I have to start thinking about it in order to not be an asshat to other people unintentionally.
I take it from your reference to having no business with Nepal that your books have not been translated into Nepali. This makes me sad for the Nepalese.
You have been gifted a magic carpet.
It will fly only if you don’t think about Nepal.
This bears repeating: “In our society, the highest privilege is being able to have the option not to have to think on your privilege, or lack thereof.” Thanks for incorporating it into this thought-full post.
Hm. Also, being a fit cis-white man allows you the luxury of not thinking about the intersection of various spheres, such as being gay or being disables and so forth. Being one of these at least glancingly influences you to think about other conditions; being society’s default allows you to think about none of these.
As a straight cis white male, I identify strongly with this sentiment. I will say that as a non-Christian living in a Christian-dominated area, I do think about that aspect of my fairly socially simple life to some extent.
noun: intersectionality; plural noun: intersectionalities
the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
usage: “through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us”
huh. brand new word / concept to this senior citizen, thanks. though to be honest still trying to get my head around it.
Well, to be honest, I’m still learning about the ins and outs of intersectionality, even though I’ve dealt with it for much of my life. Always things to learn (and that’s both good and bad, though good for the most part).
I can sum up my thought with quotes from two of the above comments:
As a cis straight man (who is also white, and also able-bodied, and also well-off), I could never make any sense of the men around me. I couldn’t figure out why they did what they did, nor how they they related to one another. I just never “got it.” By contrast, women have always made sense to me (even when I thought they were being cuckoo).
In re Cricket USA v Nepal, they’ve played two matches against each other and Nepal won both. However Nepal have played more international matches overall. It’s a tricky subject because of the different competitions in different formats and changes to the way the ICC treats what it used to call Associate Nations. In the current rankings, Nepal are 16 and USA 19 in ODI and Nepal are 15 and USA 34 in T20s
When I do think about the minority categories of non-me, then besides such respectful thought helping bring in a better world, I also bring in a better life for me personally, because education is never wasted.
The most visual example I could brainstorm for you was when I was attending community college, after serving on the adjoining army base. One day, under strong suggestion, as part of my mark in movement class, I wore a spandex full body suit instead of my limber sweat pants or combat pants. The professor noted to the class that now I would be able to do so again. Correct.
Robert Heinlein once wrote that after he noted he was unable to cry he proceeded to work on himself until he could. I admire such willingness to respect and learn.
Nepal beating US at cricket is probably very similar to US beating Nepal at baseball. Neither losing side really gives a crap.
I could become really interested in futurist fiction that explores what it would be like to have a culture where *all* identities could be “thought-free” around their identity. Is that even possible? Would we just find other dimensions of identity to a) be bigoted towards and therefore b) have to think about those instead?
sgsax: as a white female non-Christian in a really heavily Christian area (rural county, ex-Confederate state) I find that I stay ‘in the closet’ for the most part. I’m in the phone book, and people can find out where I live. But as long as I don’t say the dreaded word Atheist out loud, nobody even rattles the closet door. It helps that I was culturally immersed in Christianity all my childhood and some of my early adulthood. Certainly not a case where I don’t get the in-jokes. If I didn’t have more urban friends and online environments where I can be myself, though, it would probably be a burden.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with my uncle right after college. I’m an average sized woman, while he’s a blue-collar guy who’s “never started a fight, but he’s ended a few”.
When I got a new-to-me car, he told me to make sure to park my car away from others, so people don’t scratch it up.
I told him, “I’m a woman. I need to park near the building, or at least near a light, just in case.”
It made him stop and think, because he’s very protective of me, he just has never had to navigate the world like this. Plus, he lives in a small, rural town, while I’m in the DC suburbs with more limited parking options.
Great conversation, and it’s brought a bit more thought to my thought-less existence as a cis white middle-aged male (although I do consider my privilege and work to create equity in the world).
About three years ago I lost all the vision in my right eye, and the transition from binocular to monocular was jarring. I still have a hazy overlay which make me aware of my vision all day every day. I have limited depth perception – which usually results in missing my coffee mug and dumping sugar all over the counter – and bumping into door frames due to the lack of peripheral vision.
Becoming… well… not disabled but rather inconvenienced has been an interesting transition and has brought awareness to the fragility of health and able-bodiness. It’s something I think about all day every day as I navigate doors and weather my wife’s disapproving glare as I yet again wipe up the sugar on the counter.
Thank you for your thoughtful piece on thought-less navigation of those of use born into cultural privilege.
Such an interesting topic! As a cis white mostly-middle class female, I never thought much on these things, either, with the caveat of physical safety issues (won’t walk alone at night, etc). I understood the concept of privilege in an academic, distant manner (I teach college, so it’s an occupational hazard). Then I ended up with a foster daughter with a very different background, and one day the reality of privilege gobsmacked me right in the face.
She came home and told me about a friend who’d been walking to the store wearing a hijab, and got harassed by some jerks in a passing truck. She’d asked another person in her bio-family’s circle what she should have done. That person told her to keep her head down and walk quietly away. My reaction, hearing this, was an internal outrage: “Oh, no you don’t! You step up and defend the innocent… ”
But then I realized *I* could do that, probably safely. My foster daughter–a small, black, immigrant, Muslim, teenage girl– wouldn’t dare. And I wouldn’t want her to, because it wouldn’t be safe for her.
And that’s when the reality of all those things I never had to think about really hit me.
Thanks for both the question and the answer. Very thought*ful*!
I think the only time I’ve really thought about those things was as a teen when the concepts of manliness and the fabled “man card” were a hot topic. These were the days when people used the g-word with abandon as an all-purpose pejorative so my concern was being perceived as straight despite having interests that deviated from those of “regular guys” and “real men.” As nerd culture became more mainstream even that small amount of thought evaporated as a necessity.
I think of being a cis abled white straight man as running a submarine with a very low hotel load – I can do what my capabilities will allow me to do because I don’t have lots of overhead that other people do.
If nothing else, events keep showing (and we keep studiously ignoring) that we don’t understand or care about the limitations we either impose on others or refuse to help other deal with, because it’s much easier to think we do everything by our own capabilities and on an even playing field than that the playing field is not really very flat at all.
I think you’re wrong, as do lots of other people, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
@admiralandrea – Thanks to you, I’m down a Nepalese cricket rabbit hole. I found Lalitpur Patriots vs Bhairahawa Gladiators on YouTube. I almost understand what’s happening.
Interesting. Fortunately, society seems to be getting more accepting of people with non-standard sexual identification. I guess I am fortunate that sexual identification is not a big thing to me, let people be what they want to be.
I think those people who feel threatened by gay men or lesbians are simply showing their insecurity. Maybe that is the thing that Allison is having trouble with? Guys who act out being super masculine because that is how they think they should be.
As for being comfortable with who you are, I don’t think that is a privilege. It’s an attitude. Not having to worry about how others see you, now that might be a privilege.
In other words not so much “thoughtless,” really, as “effortless.” Because it demands no cognitive effort. Because it demands no effort, there are no possible sticking points. In yet other words, it creates no suffering (for you at least).
I’d say, speaking of someone else for whom that’s true, that it feels like freedom.
“I think you’re wrong, as do lots of other people, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.”
But, the thing is, Reminder: I don’t care what you or lots of other people think.
So, I have had this burning question because, and this is sincere, I only recently heard the word Cis, the phrase Cis gender, and Cis Straight. I am confused as to why, in my cursory research of the word, we need another word that basically describes straight. If I am wrong and, there is more to Cis that I just haven’t gleaned in my research, I would like to know.
I’m not trying to be offensive. Truly just asking a question.
There’s more to the word. Keep researching.
I’d have to say, from my point of view, John said it all in the first paragraph. I know a lot of people (not me) hate the phrase “it is what it is” but in this case, it’s apt. I think most of us just never had to think about it to know “what” (if I may use that word) we were. Yes, simple, easy, obvious.
This has nothing to do with sexuality, which is a whole other thing, obviously.
And let me agree that I dislike the term “cis” and have never used it in this context.
I’ve never sat here and thought about this, which I think speaks to my privilege and not having to put thought into it as cis straight white male. I try to be a good person and do what I can to be inclusive or check my privilege, but day to day I just live my life and don’t have to think about any of this.
Honestly, part of why I rarely think about this topic is that I don’t feel like I’m privileged. I come from a poor background, with a single Mom, and have never gone to college. And yet, I have become successful in life with a great job and I really never want for anything. I sometimes think about how if you changed another aspect of that and changed my gender, or was part of the LGTBQ community, or changed the color of my skin and that road becomes so much more difficult. Add in 2 of those and I have a hard time even fathoming how hard that road is. Like your post on the game of life I get to play it on the easiest setting possible.
This is one of my favorite questions because it, and your answer, actually made me stop and actively think about my place in the world and how it’s so much easier as a default. Doesn’t mean shitty things don’t happen, but it’s much easier to deal with them when they do because I don’t have to to also take all these things into account. Thank you and Alison for this!
I was excited to see the Nepali flag! I served 3 years in the Peace Corps there 30 years ago. It’s an amazing country, with very difficult living conditions (even before the revolution, killing of the entire royal family by the crown prince, civil war, and earthquake). But I think I am off-topic here…
Thanks for this, John.
In a time when folks on a certain difficulty setting are enraged, thoughtless, out in force and armed with guns and covid, it helps to know that someone somewhere is thinking critically about this nation’s twisted award/reward system.
And I’m sure you neither care nor need to be reminded that more people are in agreement with you than not and that your presumptuous naysayers screeches of “neener neener neener” come from a place of terror, impotence and despair.
It took me a few tries to get a workable-for-me understanding of cisgender (as a straight cis male), but this is how I think about it.
Cisgender describes how well your “mind” – your soul, your “you” – fits in your body from a biological-gender point-of-view. Think of people who *know* they’re a man, trapped in a woman’s body, and the people who have no internal reference for what that must be like. (And not all of the people on the non-cis side of the scale are able or willing to alter their body to match their mind, so it’s not as simple as trans or not.)
It doesn’t overlap with straight because you can hate being trapped in a hairy-sack-of-meat-with-externally-vulnerable-genitalia and also be attracted to the heterosexually-appropriate gender. The reason it’s easy to conflate the two is the topic of our host’s piece: because cis and straight is the default, most people never have to think past that.
PS. As I have no personal experience with this, I will defer to those who do and apologize for any errors of fact in the above.
All that John says is very true, but it doesn’t relate to what I think Allison is asking. Her question seems to me to be about the standard subculture of cis straight dudes and its rules of assumed behavior. And all I can say is that it puzzles me too, and I don’t have the escape of really being not a cis straight dude inside. The perpetual joshing and jockeying for position, the assumption that anything involving excretory functions is inherently hilarious, and so on are very strange to me. Fortunately my social circle is both well-laden with women and also has men who don’t act like that either.
Dear Jada and Jeff,
Regarding cis and straight…
I’m going into this not because it needs belaboring here — as John said, you can Google, but because there’s some nifty geek/nerd humor in there.
First, what Prophet said.
Now, t reason we need the word “cis” is for the same reason we need the word “straight” — because otherwise you’ve got the “normal” people who don’t even need to be identified and then you’ve got those “strange” folk who do.
So, if you’re okay with using straight in contrast to gay, you should be okay with using cis in contrast to trans. If you’re not, you might want to think about why.
(If you’re not okay with using either of those, well, you’ve got some work to do that I would rather not be part of, so let’s part amicably while we can.)
Now to the inherent humor:
Why cis and trans? It’s an organic chemistry joke! I don’t know who came up with it. I wish I did, but if you’re a chem geek, then “cis” OBVIOUSLY has to be the counter to “trans.”
– pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
— Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com
— Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com
I think I can illustrate “thoughtlessness” in a way that straight cis males will be able to relate to.
I was raised as a straight white cis male, and that’s how a large segment of the population perceives me (although all four of those words would be questioned by some).
For the purpose of this illustration, the relevant bits are that everyone (probably) perceives me as externally male, and that I’m queer and came of age about the time Stonewall was happening. Consequently, I’ve certain deeply ingrained feelings about what is an entirely safe way to behave in the world and what might not be a safe way, and those are never going to entirely go away. (Well, they haven’t after 50 years.)
When I’m out in public with a sweetie who the world perceives as female, I don’t think about it when we hold hands. I was about to write “I don’t think twice” but the truth is I don’t even think once. It’s just a natural way of expressing affection.
When I’m out in public with sweetie who the world perceives as male, each time I take their hand I’m aware that I’m doing something outside the default norm and the defensive sensor array turns on. It doesn’t take a lot of effort on my part and it doesn’t diminish the pleasure one ounce. But a bit of my attention is constantly monitoring how the people around me may react to the two of us holding hands. I’m in a state of (mildly) heightened alertness.
That’s the difference between having the privilege of being thoughtless and not.
This is not a reaction born of experience. I’ve been absurdly lucky in that I have never been harassed for being queer, and I live in one of the safest places for that. These feelings are simply what I grew up with — I know what’s societally normal and what isn’t. I don’t have to think about the former. I never don’t think about the latter.
– pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
— Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com
— Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com
P.S. I really wish there were an a post-posting editing function. To be clear. I don’t even think about turning on that “defensive sensor array”– it’s on automatically. I can’t not do it.
I too am a straight white cis well off man. I’ve had my struggles as has everyone who has an iota of introspection but I’m really, REALLY lucky. How was I born into this? Why don’t I have megatons of existential and societal shit to deal with?
My experiences have made me very very grateful I have what I have, and very very sorry that “others” get so much dumped on them.
I try not to dump on others. I try to call out dumping. That’s part of my responsibility.
My sister lives in British Columbia where she tells me the Supreme Court has ruled that a parent cannot interfere with a child being transgender. Times change. Back in, say, the year the twin towers fell, who thought about such innocent children? (Incidentally, I get irked when chrono-chauvinists condemn my old neighbours, just so they can feel superior)
I think Stephen King, God bless him, represented a lot of minority groups when, in his book about the time traveling school teacher, dated when the Kennedy assignation took place, the teacher tells a big strong football player something: That being an athlete does not mean he has to have a lower I.Q. or be non-artistic. I wonder how many well brought up boys and girls thought they were “s’posed to” have certain characteristics. Such as X having lower self esteem.
I guess when we think about giving some of us permission to exist, such as to wear a hijab, we give all of us more permission to be who we are.
If I fail to think, then I blindly go by my peer group. For example, call me lazy, but I usually don’t say “cellular telephone” because I copy others whom I hear saying “cell phone.” Hence I remind myself to try to lead by example for proper minority identity terms.
I kind of assumed that the Nohamapetans were originally from Nepal (because of the name of their home system).
Ok so I was born a female and identify as a female* and I am also straight. One is gender oriented the other is sexual oriented. I think I’m getting this.
* – have to say female because because John might get crusty if I say I identify as Felinesapient (Purr/Hiss) and make me go sit in Smudge’s time out corner.
@Jada It’s better to say “assigned female at birth” because for example some folks who don’t have XX chromosomes (assuming that’s the definition of female) can be assigned female at birth for various reasons. But if they subsequently identify as female, they are cisgender.
It is odd looking at this from the other side. When the government started require masks in public, I mentioned that me, a black man wearing a mask and shopping, what could go wrong? I surprised how many people were incensed and told me that racism was suspended during the pandemic and we were all in this together. I just couldn’t imagine that a) no one thought about how white people react to black people in masks, and b) how many of those essential service workers were minorities and were going to end up dead. Then, I realized that all of those nurses, postal carriers, janitors etc were invisible to a large group of people… who were not going to get the masks, ready access to Costco to stock up, and were sacrificial to get the country open.
Whatever the “racism is suspended during this pandemic” crowd is on, I want some.
On second thought, maybe I don’t.
The truth is, we are most definitely not in this together and never were.
Turns out that a black man can be targeted for beating while barefaced, just like “normal.”
That said, I’ll eat a coughed-on mask if, in the next few months, you don’t hear about the accidental murder of a suspected masked burglar, armed robber, kidnapper, or mugger at the hands of a “ concerned” and totally not racist “citizen just trying to protect his family/community/life.”
On another note, I also find it ironic that a party that stands so heavily on “choice” and “responsibility” is so quick to exculpate Trump and the elected segment of his flock from knowing complicity in what’s become of our economy, the collapse of which will definitely and disproportionally harm black and brown folks.
Democratic governors’ prolonged, aggressive and yes, economically dangerous mitigation strategies are a direct result of Trump’s refusal to act during the preparation window, as well as his determination to dismantle the house that Obama built.
The economic fallout could very well have been prevented months ago. It wasn’t, and here are the consequences.
Meanwhile, we need to prioritize the eradication of covid 19.
Throw money at the economic damage if you must (and they most definitely should) but get this super bug under control because, sooner or later, the second wave will hit and, when it does, the widespread fear, illness and death will mean the cancelation of more than just ballgames, concerts, graduation ceremonies, festivals, parties, and hair appointments.
Meanwhile, the same people will be singing the same racist, apathetic song about how “us people” are, always have been and always will be the engineers of our own destruction.
I’d been considering posting a reply for the last day or so, because in a way (a big way) this topic is a landmine of social, political and gender identity sore spots . It would be so nice if we lived in a world where we all could just live in the same sphere of social ease. Being in North America, that means being and acting male (or female) within certain cultural norms. Not the same everywhere in spite of the homogenization of modern society.
What I find irritating about the whole issue isn’t that I have to check a privilege I don’t think I’ve ever had, its the stone in a shoe feeling when around a few of my friends who are outside of those boundaries we put in gender identity. It is almost like people want to be constantly waving a banner “see, I’m different”. Its a passive-aggressive stance that I’d rather live without. I work damn hard to treat people the same regardless. So thank you for telling me which letter to put you under. I’m good either way. I guess calling me CIS is okay, but what does it really matter?
We all need to make an effort to simply let people be who they are without name calling, playground bullying and all the other social bigotry that elevates childhood immaturity into a serious problems with our peers as adults. It is not right to name call, to label, to shun or demean a person whose identity isn’t a threat to you. Why we can’t all seem to just accept people are people and some will be different is beyond me. Well actually I think it speaks of social hard wiring left over from the hunter-gatherer nature of our origins. To be different is dangerous, and dangerous is to be pushed to the margins or attacked as a threat. Recognize this anachronism and move on. Spending too much time on contemplating “am I privileged in my society or not” is a rabbit hole we probably have wasted too much time worrying about. I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter. I’ll just end with I wish we lived in a world where didn’t.
@AI Mychalus : I’m aware of my (cis-straight-white-male) privilege, and have been working on being even more thought-full about it. However, the true fear that people of color in masks have, that someone may be scared enough to call the police on them (with all the heightened likelihood of death that that entails) is something that i hadn’t even considered. Because I didn’t need to. But heck, i’m in Georgia where you can be shot for jogging while black (WITHOUT a mask), and your assassins not prosecuted if video isn’t released to the public. I, too, wish we didn’t live in that world – but it does. Maybe the way we get to that world is to help create it ourselves, by thinking about it.
Here’s some suggested reading/listening for the fatigued, put upon privileged with sore feet and crowded shoes:
It isn’t a matter of white privilege to get pulled over and checked out by the police. Several times in the last few years I’ve been pulled over for the apparent crime of driving late at night (I was coming home from gaming or a late night job). On both occasions I had committed no offense aside from a mysterious tail light being out (it wasn’t when I checked). Something in the very nature of our policing and training has changed. A coworker friend had her son pulled over so many times she eventually gave him her car. He’d painted a Chinese dragon on the side since he’d taken karate lessons, and apparently the local PD thought it was gang related. As clear a case of bad training as can be demonstrated. When I did ALICE training were simply told drop your cell phone when leaving to evacuate or you will be shot. The PD training officer said bluntly they would shoot down anybody with an object in hand, regardless what it is. Bad, bad, bad!
If this response was directed at me, I’m confused. Because I don’t think you’re wrong, and certainly was not trying to call you that.
My comment did have a typo, and should have read “as someone else” and not “of someone else.”
A I Mychalus:
Yes, it is. The fact that white people get pulled over, some of them even a lot, and/or for other reasons than race, does not mean that people of color don’t get pulled over more, a fact which has been borne out time and time again in analyses of police activity.
When an officer hears a group of Hispanic men by a broken-down car speaking Spanish, or speaking English with an accent, and asks them if they are in the country legally, but never thinks to ask the same question of a white person with an Irish accent, or a Quebecois accent, or an English accent, or a Dutch accent, or a South African accent… that’s white privilege.
About ten or twelve years ago, the Border Patrol operated a checkpoint on a nearby Interstate. They stopped plenty of cars, and some of the cars I saw stopped had local plates, but they never stopped me in my ratty old car. They would peer in at me as I approached at about ten miles an hour and wave me through. (I’m white, and visibly so from a distance, being blonde and pale.) That’s white privilege.
It’s invisible to the people receiving it, in the moment, unless they have been willing to learn to see it.
And I have never heard of anything like this happening to a white person.
I’m sick to death of privileged folks trying to cite what, for them, are irregular, inconvenient occurrences as examples of why othered and targeted groups are either whining, exaggerating or lying about their regular experiences.
When I see or hear “Nuh uh! That thing that almost always ends in death for and in your community happened once or thrice to me and one of my similarly privileged friends, “my only response is
I’m especially tired of hearing them kvetch about how uncomfortable it is to hear about those experiences.
Also, the expectation of congratulations for doing what any decent human being should be doing is very telling. The cookie they get should be the satisfaction of not being a bigot. Full stop.
Likewise, if you’re not part of the problem, why the defensiveness? If you’re not defending your own behavior, whose *are* you defending?
And I, for one, don’t care how irritating the pebbles feel in their otherwise roomy and comfortable shoes as, unlike them, I and people like me wear painfully tight shoes we don’t get to remove.
Until we do, we’ll continue to advocate for the right to do so, even if it rubs “decent” folks the wrong way.
Finally, might the change in how training and policing are done have anything to do with the experience of being targeted as a white person?
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that black people have been the targets of police violence for decades and, for them, all that’s changed is that their lynching’s get more attention than they used to.
To be clear, no one, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, should be subjected to police harassment. Every single instance of said harassment should result in decisive action so that the officer in question never does it again.
Then there’s the other difficulty setting that comes to all who make it to “eventually”: being viewed as OLD. Most Americans would assume an elderly person is NOT a sharer of their interests, sexual, entrepreneurial, highly creative, non-religious, sharp, or interested in younger people other than their relatives. No more default for you!
And John, you have one other privilege you didn’t mention. You hang out, by choice, in a lot of places where strangers recognize who you are. Of course, some of those strangers have pre-decided to dislike you, but I’m sure a large majority are pre-delighted to share space with you.
@DB : That’s just what I was thinking too. The things that men were supposed to want and not want never really made sense to me. I sort of got some of the ‘attraction to women’ ones (as I eventually found out, I’m a trans woman and a lesbian, so the ‘assumed attraction’ more or less worked out to be correct through a double-negative error), but even that seemed somehow off. On the other hand, I was never very interested in spending time with straight cis men. I gathered this was in some sense unusual, but it didn’t really click for me why that would be (after all, being a straight man would logically mean you’re interested in women, right?). Looking at it now, I’d guess it’s an ‘identification with others like yourself’ type of thing, which didn’t apply to me.
“ What I find irritating about the whole issue isn’t that I have to check a privilege I don’t think I’ve ever had,”
That you didn’t recognize. Different thing. Being called on one’s privilege is painful and inconvenient. Doesn’t mean one isn’t privileged.
@A I Mychalus: What you see as a passive-aggressive “see, I’m different” looks from here like a lot of people’s not-so-passive aggressive “everyone is the same, and that means they’re like me.”
You’re not working from “we’re all the same, I’m going to assume everyone is like me, and default to the idea that they’re bisexual,” which would be the logically consistent way for me to extend your stated approach. It’s not “everyone is like me, meaning they were raised Jewish in New York and don’t get a lot of cultural Christian messages,” It’s not “everyone is like my close friend, meaning they’re black and used to being looked looked down on and treated as suspicious by police officers, cashiers, and lots of other strangers they interact with.”
Sometimes it’s easier, in the short term, to go along with those assumptions, rather than say “what do you mean ‘we’?” or “when you say ‘we all’ are you trying to tell me I’m not part of your ‘we’?” But I have to choose between two less than ideal options, which people in those majority and/or culturally dominant groups don’t have to.