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A Very Special Episode of Grey Areas: Privilege Denying Dude Edition

This week, on a very special episode of Grey Areas, we’ll be talking about Privilege Denying Dude! Again! Because if there is anything we at Tiger Beatdown like to do, it is run things right into the ground!

I spent quite a great deal of time writing about PDD last week. Initially, I had concerns. Those were sandblasted out of me once I read the deluge of commentary from real life Privilege Denying Dudes who wanted this meme scrubbed completely from the Internet. Not the avalanche of racist, sexist, ableist memes that metastasize through the Internet at large: no, no, no, those are obviously free speech. But the concept that marginalized people might be using their jokes against them, OH FUCK CALL THE PRESIDENT SOMEONE NEEDS TO SHUT THE INTERNET DOWN.

This message is not from one of those dudes. This is from someone else.

Hey garland, I follow you and I love love love your tumblr. However, honestly, if I never see PDD again it won’t be soon enough. I don’t disagree with the underlying notion (i.e. that privilege exists), but it’s a divisive and, IMO, unfair tactic. I think it bootstraps a lot of shit onto a plain disagreement with said notion which could be otherwise settled through thoughtful conversation and reasoned debate. This being the internet though, it’s hard to engage in reasoned debate without calling your opponent Hitler (or whatever?). We’re all adults here, and I think if we had the advantage of physical proximity, we could all talk this through thoroughly, listen to each other, and learn something of each other’s perspectives. And for the record, this is not [Person on Tumblr who consistently reminds us that he doesn't believe in the concept of privilege.]

I knew you weren’t him once you conceded the existence of privilege.

There is a peculiar notion that pervades Social Justice activism, and it is that the task of upholding the level of discourse rests solely on our shoulders, and we are somehow failing at it. Everyone else – the trolls, the privileged assholes, the evo-psych “men are attracted to women because x and if you aren’t doing x why are you even alive” guys – they all get passes on upholding the discourse. Because the logic goes that we can’t possibly expect them to treat us any differently. We must be constantly defending our right to exist, our right to have discussions that aren’t taken over by people who don’t want there to be a discussion, and our right to set the terms of the discussion. And whenever we stop responding, stop defending our right to speak, the other side declares that our position must be indefensible. Because when they debate, they are representing their own views and opinions, but when we debate, we are supposed to be the sole representative of the movement at large.

And in the face of this dynamic which is designed to make it impossible for us to win, we are supposed to be polite and demur. We are supposed to state our case, and never get upset, and always smile. When we don’t, we’re punished for it. So, you know, fuck that shit.

In social justice, not all tactics that are divisive are effective, but all tactics that are effective are divisive. That doesn’t mean we should set our phasers to “divide,” but when a tactic is labeled as “divisive” or “radical”, there is a chance it might be one worth considering. Effective tactics are divisive because the majority is most comfortable with activism that is ineffective. If civil rights and social justice movements went a little something like this:

Minority: Hey, we’d like rights!
Majority: Here you go!
Minority: My, that was pleasant!

then I might agree that our job was to avoid kicking up dust. Calling the actions of marginalized people “unfair” leads me to employ a simple litmus test: which do I think is better in the long run: it being socially acceptable for a person to do what a marginalized person is doing, or have the privilege that action is in response to? Really think about that. Would you rather be able to use a word a marginalized group uses to describe themselves or have the rights that person is denied? Because the opposition and backlash against this meme seems to suggest that even worse than the fact that people have privilege and use it against others is the fact that marginalized people sometimes feel like commenting on that fact. This is what lead George Bush to look back upon eight years of torture, extraordinary rendition, shitty foreign and domestic policy, stunted economic growth, cronyism and class warfare against the poor and complain that Kanye West hurt his feelings.

You know, I had a slightly offended moment the first day of PDD’s existence. I scurried over to the memegenerator site to create a macro, and saw that someone had created one that said “I’m gay | So I can’t be privileged.”

INITIAL THOUGHTS:

  • Yep, that’s right. We gay men are pretty terrible.
  • We are, point in fact, the only thing keeping oppression going.
  • We’re the grease of the Kyriarchy.
  • You might even say, we aren’t even oppressed.
  • Nope.
  • Top of the totem pole.

I got pretty nasty in my head for a few minutes. It felt like everyone was skewering this person for unrecognized privilege, and suddenly *POP* I had been excluded from the game.

Of course, I was making it about me. Have I heard gay men make an argument similar to this to justify racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, or classism? Yes I have. I went to college in a Conservative Southern University, and met a lot of gay Conservatives who could not see past the tiny aperture of their own oppression. “If it’s not about you, don’t make it about you.” Those are the rules.

When you first enter Social Justice, you have a lot of moments like this. Over time, you see WHY the rules of engagement in Social Justice spaces have to flow from the positions of least power. Because if we let [Guy who seems to derive all of his self-respect from his denial of racism and sexism] set the agenda, he will declare that privilege doesn’t exist. And if we concede concepts like “Privilege” or “Mansplaining” or “Kyriarchy” or “Rape Culture” or “Systemic Oppression” – if we let those structural concepts and theoretical matrices be taken from us, we must essentially fight every battle from scratch. We would have to treat each individual act of oppression separately, and we’d have no clue how to combat the societal forces that undergird those actions.

I understand where your desire for everyone to listen to each other comes from, and I admire it. I too would like to bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles that everyone would eat and be happy. But it isn’t realistic. It would be, if everyone had an equal stake in the matter. To quote myself:

“Privilege means you can walk away from the conversation whenever you like because the issues being raised aren’t important to you, and you can always imagine that the marginalized people you are walking away from don’t matter”

That is privilege. The ability to walk away when you aren’t winning. That’s why we avoid addressing things one at a time, that’s why we make theory instead of knocking on everyone’s door and trying to reason with them. Our argument is pretty simple: if they get their way we’re miserable and marginalized and unhappy or dead, and if we get our way, things are equal and no one need be miserable. But some people enjoy privilege, and will fight to keep it. And we cannot force them to continuing arguing until there is a clear winner, they can always walk away in a huff. So my personal rule is, either let’s get handcuffed to each other until you understand me or at least let me make my explanation public so others can read and discuss it. That’s the only way I am explaining myself to anyone.

In the end, oppression requires Power and Privilege. Privilege Denying Dudes like to imagine that simply because they are reading something they don’t agree with and can’t erase it from the surface of the earth, that is proof of power. That we’re conferred with a sort of de facto currency of marginalization, since we take care to listen to the voices of each other and not those of the privileged. But that currency is exactly like an arcade token – it only applies to these particular spaces. Seeing a marginalized person speak about their own life without regard to how the majority will feel about it can seem like great power, even if they are only asserting their humanity.

So, Beatdown, your task whether or not- OH DON’T GIVE ME THAT LOOK- is to come up with new ideas for Social Justice Memes. FOR INSTANCE: Perhaps a picture of two people appropriating Native American headdresses? Cultural Appropriation Hipsters?

If you would like to have your question answered, drop a message in my ask box.

51 Comments

  1. Crito wrote:

    The Me-Too Man. “My [white] friends call me a Mick | I know what racism feels like”

    The Big-Picture Bro. “Why are you quibbling about rape jokes when you could be mounting a national anti-rape education campaign?”

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Jasmin wrote:

    Great post.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  3. jule_b_sorry wrote:

    Omg Garland, thank you so much for this. Yesterday in a Jezebel post about the TSA gropings, I (at the end of a long post detailing specific problems affecting women in these new security methods) made the mistake of generalizing “men do x. but then turn around and tell women y”

    The only response I received was someone sort of priggishly telling me “not to generalize about all men, all men don’t do that”. I apologized, said I wrote that out of a feeling of frustration and thought of Jez as a safe place to do that, and asked what he thought of the rest of my post. The response? A prim “I think feminism is about everyone bringing people together, not in tearing men down to build women up. I was just expressing that I was aghast at your generalization”. THANKS FOR THE FEMINISIM LESSON, GUY, THAT WAS VERY HELPFUL.
    I hope he managed to unclutch his pearls eventually. Anyways, this post really helps me understand that my anger at this person wasn’t wholly irrational and that we do deserve some safe spaces to talk freely.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  4. Sharon wrote:

    Ideas for social justice memes: (I’m thinking those comic strip type memes, with a different first panel on each, but the same second panel.)

    “You hurt my feeeeeeelings” woman. (Comment from oppressed minority in first panel, “you hurt my feeeeeeeeeelings” woman in the second panel.) [Side note: This meme is based on my reactions as a privileged white woman. :P ]

    The de-rail-inator! First panel, statement from oppressed minority. Second panel, derail statement. Third panel, locomotive crashing through a wall.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  5. Ennu wrote:

    I could get on board with Big-Picture Bro or something like it. It seems like whenever a progressive blogger of any kind takes a break from the normal heavy shit they write about to discuss something that’s not as big, someone shows up to wag their finger at them for wasting time and not discussing More Important Things. Despite how many times it’s explained to them that BOTH can be done, that person never fails to show up.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  6. DB wrote:

    Thank you.

    Srsly.

    Anyone’s being denied human rights constitutes an emergency. That calls for loud voices and extreme (non-violent) tactics.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  7. K wrote:

    I’ve been following the recent PDD discussions on tumblr, though I’ve purposely chosen not to engage — I know how I feel about the meme (it’s funny (and sad) because it’s true!) and its practical applications for social justice discourse (they are real and manifold!) & that’s enough for me.

    That said — I am interested in this discussion that the PDD meme has spawned regarding the “level” (worthwhileness?) of feminist discourse on tumblr. I’ll admit, I have followed (and then pretty quickly unfollowed) my fair share of tumblrs that self-identify as feminist because I was (for lack of a better phrase) disappointed by the level of their discourse. In the wake of PDD and the discussions about feminist discourse on tumblr, I’ve been thinking a lot about what that decision to walk away says about my own privileges and identity as a feminist blogging on tumblr.

    I feel like there are certain corners of tumblr that harbor a lot of feminist discourse that I feel uncomfortable with — the best I can do is to describe the type of feminism on tumblr that I’m uncomfortable with as “white feminism” (a la this quote.) I see a lot of feminists on tumblr post words and images that make me cringe. I find myself feeling upset and uncomfortable because their feminism (rife with proclamations of girl love, but often undergirded by unacknowledged white, cis, class, and able-bodied privileges) doesn’t mesh well with my feminism and because I feel like the feminist content of their tumblers doesn’t constitute “higher level discourse.”

    (Please bear with my snobitude, I am slowly moving toward a point, I promise!)

    What’s interesting to me about this is that I find myself in this position with feminist tumblrs only. I don’t demand “higher level discourse” from any other community on tumblr. In fact, I’m happy to accept photos of pizza and cats from the rest of tumblr with absolutely no complaints. I wonder if it is because feminism is so real, so close to the every day injustices that I experience or bear witness to, that I feel the need for it to somehow be “more.” Regardless, in many ways, it’s patently unfair of me to demand “more” of online feminist discourse as a whole when I so carefully delineate my own boundaries for engagement and often choose not to participate actively in feminist conversations on tumbler.

    I like to think that in the past I’ve done a pretty good job of owning my many privileges, but this post and my relationship to the varied feminist communities on tumblr have me considering privilege in new ways. Whether or not I like it, it is a privilege to walk away, a privilege to demand more, a privilege to say that I chose not engage in discussions of PDD or that I chose to unfollow someone without a word because I was unable to identify with their particular brand of feminism.

    Thanks for writing this post, Garland. It’s full of things I needed to hear.

    P.S. I could totally get behind @SHARON’s meme suggestion, “The De-Rail-Inator.”

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  8. Jadey wrote:

    Well, this is pretty much awesome. Thank you.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
  9. Jenny North wrote:

    I vote for a Nice Guy (TM) meme, featuring John Cusack’s image from High Fidelity.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink
  10. KittyWrangler wrote:

    Really, thank you!! I tend to use my own judgment when it comes to choosing smiling diplomacy or big ole F-U truth bombs, because y’know… it’s my CHOICE.

    I don’t know if this already exists, but a WASP lady actually clutching her pearls (or pearl-clutching WASP guy would be kinda awesome too) could provide a lot of fodder. Or even a two-panel meme where in the first one she expresses gleeful “concern,” while in the second one she clutches pearls. such as, “women receive invasive pat-downs for years”=concerned WASP, then in the next panel “ZOMG men’s junk is in danger of a pat-down!”=pearl-clutching.
    I would also personally enjoy a guy saying all the well-meaning offensive lines people use when flirting. You know, “You’re so EXOTIC…” or “Wow, you passed my test for girls I like… and I’m picky!” or my favorite, “wow, it’s so rare you meet smart girls.”

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  11. rosmar wrote:

    You are totally right that divisive is essential as long as there are people who are benefiting unfairly from the status quo and willing to fight to keep that unfair benefit.

    On the other hand, as you allude, divisiveness for its own sake probably only gives more ammunition to those people. So I don’t feel guilty about holding my own communities to a higher standard: it isn’t fair, but we aren’t a fair situation. We have to acknowledge that the people fighting to protect the status quo have more resources, more ability to spin the media in their favor, etc. So we have to be cunning.

    Some of the Privilege Denying Dude images are cunning, though–they can sneak through at least some people’s defenses.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
  12. KittyWrangler wrote:

    Oh yeah and I loved Sharon’s de-rail-en-ator, Jenny North’s Nice Guy (TM) meme, and Crito & Ennu’s Big Picture guy.
    A simple Mansplainer could be great as well.
    @K I feel the same way sometimes about feminist blogs; other times it’s more of a live-and-let-live situation. I have yet to figure out why.
    Oh yeah and I’ll admit that while reading PDD (I got addicted) I encountered a few sentiments that I didn’t know were even issues before. That’s privilege, right there.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  13. ksoda wrote:

    @KittyWrangler

    The Mansplainer could be a picture of Kanye West: “You may already know this, and I’m gonna let you finish, but I need to explain this to you.”

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  14. Garland Grey wrote:

    This might be slightly obscure, but “The Anecdotalist”? Also, the De-rail-inator is all I’ve ever wanted from life.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  15. Meddlingkid wrote:

    Nice White Ladies would be my vote for a new meme. Plenty of material!

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink
  16. Sharon wrote:

    I like the pearls-clutching woman idea (@kittywrangler) better than my “you hurt my feeeelings” woman. Promptly after I typed that, I wondered if some people might interpret “feelings” woman as a dig at the stereotypical emotional lady, rather than a comment on a certain kind of privilege. Pearls would make it much better, particularly clutched ones.

    @K: When you say you ask for _more_ from feminist tumblrs, do you mean you expect them to post on more serious issues, or do you mean you expect them tread them more carefully around issues of privilege? I will admit that I am frustrated by blogs (I don’t hang out on tumblr) so much that make what I think of as “intro-level” mistakes (see here, sigh.) I think, in my case, this resentment stems from the fact that I, as a middle-class white person, have had to radically adjust my thinking — and often get humble real fast — since starting to read social justice blogs of various sorts.

    Also I made a test de-rail-inator here. I’m not sorry if it’s not funny; I was trying to think of a suitable comment/derail quickly and may have gotten it wrong. . .

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink
  17. Sharon wrote:

    also, I love “the Anecdotalist.” My idea for de-rail-inator #1 came from here.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  18. Ouyang Dan wrote:

    It had its moments, true, and I am sort of sorry to see PDD go, but the “discourse” it lead to didn’t lead to anything really productive when the memegenerator produced images with quotes like “it’s not appropriation, I’m 1/64th Cherokee”. We had a long discussion about how harmful using numbers are, where actual Native people, myself included, pointed out how the same point could have been made without using the numbers (“I’m part Cherokee on my mother’s side” or something like that), and the NEXT DAY I saw the same thing with a different number. The generator was using hurtful and racist tropes, which, even used as a “joke” to make a “point” isn’t very productive. PDD missed to point for me after that, and I didn’t see anyone fixing or adjusting, even when it was discussed or pointed out as, well, racist.

    So, I guess my point is, what good did all that discussion do, when no change was made? Nothing productive came of it, and that is not worth the effort in my mind. I work too hard, and I think that PDD just became the fun outlet that everyone wanted to defend, no matter who it hurt.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink
  19. KittyWrangler wrote:

    @Ksoda Haha! I would love that. But then the meme would just be, “crazy Kanye,” not “mansplainer.” I feel that ridiculing Kanye West, while entertaining, would not further social justice per se. You know how in Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal tells What’s Her Name that he prefers the world with her in it? That’s how I feel about Kanye.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  20. RGR wrote:

    I don’t understand why everyone is always cooling down social justice arguments with, “jeez, it’s just a disagreement. Let’s share our opinions!” Cool! It’s just a disagreement about my humanity! Please, let me respect and listen to your opinion on whether or not I have humanity/was born this way/am biologically inferior/was actually raped/et cetera, et cetera, into eternity.

    Not to mention, how are we supposed to have an equal conversation wherein we exchange opinions when the foundation of your opinion hinges on my not having full humanity, and therefore anything I say couldn’t possibly be as right as what you have to say because you are 100% a person and I am not so much. I mean, I guess, if I had that much privilege I would walk away from the conversation, too: because I know I’d always win.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink
  21. I think if we had the advantage of physical proximity, we could all talk this through thoroughly, listen to each other, and learn something of each other’s perspectives

    You know, I honestly used to believe this too – and yet, after three or four years of trying it, I’ve only gotten ONE white dude to the level of Getting It. And it’s absolutely related to the privilege of being able to walk away – if not literally, physically, then deploying the “well let’s just agree to disagree” bomb and refusing to continue talking about it.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink
  22. Emily wrote:

    It’s Just a Joke! (because sexism/racism/otherisms is OK if it has a punchline)

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Permalink
  23. Casie wrote:

    what about a false feminist meme, like sarah palin, who think feminism and and tje stray from gender roles are oppressing women? or females who bag on women to look good in front of all their misogynist male friends. or (and this is kind of horrible) a meme for the male version of all the female stereotypes out there. we have bridezilla, MILF, cougar, dumb blonde, virgin, whore, cocktease, yoko ono. it’s horrible to create stereotypes of people, but at the same time it might show how ridiculous all the female stereotypes are when they are attributed to men. clit-tease, groomzilla would never happen.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 1:46 am | Permalink
  24. Jess wrote:

    Just wanted to say that Jenny North’s Nice Guy (TM) is genius. As was this Very Special Episode of Grey Areas. Thanks to all for blowing my mind on a regular basis.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 1:59 am | Permalink
  25. Casie wrote:

    I just thought of the first male version of a female stereotype meme: The Ugly Angry Masculinist…He’s probably just gay.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 2:19 am | Permalink
  26. Helen wrote:

    Here’s a good pearl clutching photo, at Tildology.com, which the Hoydens about Town have used on occasion.

    I also found quite a few actual pearl clutches.

    …And a hi hat clutch for a Pearl drum kit. Oh the wonders of Google.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 3:48 am | Permalink
  27. Erin wrote:

    @RGR: “Cool! It’s just a disagreement about my humanity! Please, let me respect and listen to your opinion on whether or not I have humanity/was born this way/am biologically inferior/was actually raped/et cetera, et cetera, into eternity.”

    THIS. We need more outrage (genuine outrage, not fake outrage masked hatred & prejudice a la Right). Being polite never changed the world. Even Gandhi pi$$ed people off!

    The great thing about the Mansplainer is that there are endless permutations – the Whitesplainer, the Straightsplainer, etc etc. I LOVE it when people tell me how I feel or what my experiences have been.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  28. Elise wrote:

    I like the idea of a “Mansplainer” or a “Whitesplainer” (to make sure that racial oppression is not minimized) and “De-rail-inator” meme. Or . . . you could combine them: the “Whitemansplainer” or some such, for more hilarity.

    On a less humorous note, thanks for the post Garland. I’ve shared this with some of my friends, and more than one of them (sigh) had to have privilege and why it works a certain way explained to them. Some still don’t believe me – but that’s because, for me (and a lot of others) who only experience one form of oppression, its really easy to dismiss all others as irrelevant and/or subservient to the one you experience. I’m working on that personally, and trying to show my friends the truth of that currently – but it is hard, especially when they minimize the oppression (gender-based) that I face.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  29. Kathy wrote:

    @K I’m willing to accept that acknowledging and breaking down those privileges is a process, and not everyone is at the same place in that process, but sometimes it feels like shouting down a well. Too often I see straight, white, middle-class feminist bloggers present their experiences as universal, and it takes a lot of will not to say, “Hey wait there a minute. It’s not like that for everyone.” I never really saw that — the opting out — as a privilege until now, even though I recently wrote a post about being afraid to comment with any frequency in the feminist blogoshpere.

    @OUYANG DAN The “1/64 Cherokee” meme gave me pause, too. Actually, that one hits a little too close to home because I grew up with “Oh, you’re x-percentage Native American on your grandpa’s side.” I understand where they were going with it (excusing cultural appropriation by having a measurable quantity of Native American blood), but in the end, it was just wrong and racist itself.

    @Garland Grey I’d love to see an “Anecdotalist.”

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink
  30. Shelley wrote:

    Thank you Garland!

    I especially liked “the task of upholding the level of discourse rests solely on our shoulders” because I was struggling (against a mansplainer) with this only minutes prior to reading your post, and it was really bothering me.

    So I feel better now! Only, not “better,” better, because these issues never really seem to go away.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  31. Spiffy McBang wrote:

    I don’t want to derail anything, but this confused me and I can’t even guess how I would google an answer. (I tried, but found nothing close.)

    “…We had a long discussion about how harmful using numbers are, where actual Native people, myself included, pointed out how the same point could have been made without using the numbers (“I’m part Cherokee on my mother’s side” or something like that)…”

    What makes the numerical breakdown racist? From the outside, PDDs saying “I’m 1/64th Cherokee” and “my great-great-great-great grandmother was Cherokee” don’t sound any different apart from the specificity (which isn’t really needed for the joke).

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  32. RGR wrote:

    Don’t worry, guys. New Meme has been created for us.

    http://jezebel.com/5691871/american-guy-in-paris-freed-from-the-idea-of-consent

    Meet Edward Pasteck.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  33. kristinc wrote:

    It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s THE DE-RAIL-IN-ATOR! Dum da da dummmmm!

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  34. kristinc wrote:

    … By which I mean to say, in my dorky fashion, that I think the De-rail-in-ator needs a swoopy, impressive, faux-3D sort of superhero-type logo. (If only comics could come with whooshing sound effects.)

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  35. N'Awlins Contrarian wrote:

    re: “Being polite never changed the world. Even Gandhi pi$$ed people off!”

    To me, this statement kind of highlights an issue (bordering on a problem) with much of this discussion. Being polite and pissing people off are two different, only slightly related, and certainly not mutually-exclusive things. Being polite is how you behave, at least in part relative to how a reasonable, fair-minded person (I know: define and give three examples!) would perceive your behavior. Getting pissed off is someone else’s reaction, which says at least as much about them as it does about your behavior, and may or may not be a reasonable or even predictable reaction.

    Sometimes the truth stings, but speaking the truth is not (generally / usually) wrong. Speaking the truth as clearly and calmly as practicable is almost always good.

    As to whether to be polite or be confrontational, well, sometimes you react, but to the extent you can control your reactions, those are tactics. Sometimes one is better and sometimes the other. Sometimes using both, simultaneous, by people acting together (‘good-cop / bad-cop’) can be effective. Some people are better at one or the other. Sometimes being polite is just too difficult. And I can’t condemn anyone for acting in what is truly self-defense.

    But I tend to think that, on the whole, empirically, being polite has achieved more. That’s not because being polite to people who hate (or have contempt for) you is more likely to change their minds than confronting them is. That is because being polite even to people who hate you is more likely to get those who are basically spectators to listen to you.

    But all of that is just my own $0.02—YMMV.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  36. Casey wrote:

    @RGR

    HOLY SHIIIIIIIIT.
    How was that guy allowed to write an article for Jezebel!?

    Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 4:19 am | Permalink
  37. Ouyang Dan wrote:

    @Kathy: Exactly. I had this discussion over the meme the other day, and like I said then, the point/joke can be made while leaving the numbers right out of it. Fight appropriation and don’t be racist!

    @Spiffy McBang: I don’t want to derail a whole bunch, so start here, and just know that the government forcing Natives to keep track of how “pure” their blood is has become damaging and is a racist practice meant to keep Natives/First Nations People in check. Using numbers in memes like that is racist. That is why it is a straw argument in a discussion about appropriation.

    Friday, November 26, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  38. Ashley wrote:

    Different social justice spaces are for different things. PDD is for making us laugh. There is a place for that in social justice work–it stops us from falling into despair. There are also spaces for 101 education that works very hard to use the best pedagogy to reach resistant people. And there are spaces for nuanced discussion by people who don’t deny privilege but have different ideas about how to address oppression. These are different spaces. Tumblr is not the place for “Nuanced Discussion of Complex Topics Dude.” That’s fine. Social justice folks are idealists, which is wonderful until we start thinking every action for social justice has to be perfect, and accomplish everything all at once. That shit is paralyzing.

    Friday, November 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  39. Victoria wrote:

    The notion that we can all sit down and talk calmly and come to some sort of mutual respect, if not agreement, is premised on the flawed notion that all opinions and perspectives are equal.

    They’re not. When my position denies your humanity, I’m wrong, period. If you choose to address it calmly, that’s your choice, but you are under no obligation to do so because my essential wrongness is not as valid or worthwhile as your humanity, no matter how loudly I might shout.

    Friday, November 26, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink
  40. Michelle wrote:

    “being polite even to people who hate you is more likely to get those who are basically spectators to listen to you”

    Not always true. I have stirred by the passion of many an angry person writing on topics of oppression far more than any calm (read: frustrating) discussion with another person who Doesn’t Get It. Show me you’re angry, show me why something’s bad because it’s hurting real people. Anger shows you take an issue seriously. There’s a time and a place, sure, but being calm about an enraging topic makes me think either the issue isn’t serious or you don’t think it’s serious.

    That’s my view as a spectator.

    Saturday, November 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink
  41. Ellie wrote:

    Sharon @ 16:

    Are you saying that you wrote that Feministe article you linked to?

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  42. Suzers wrote:

    Garland, your writing on privilege continues to blow my mind with awesomeness. When I started learning about feminism (in the real, intense, gritty, inclusive, uncompromising, third-wave-intersectionality-focused sense) I had so much the same reaction: I’m a WOMAN. I’m OPPRESSED. This *can’t* be me! But it is. I need to take responsibility for that, I need to deconstruct it, I need to STFU and listen… It’s such an important and difficult balancing act, to speak and tell your story as a marginalized person where your voice is needed, and sit down and promote other voices where your experience doesn’t apply.

    I am totally into the De-rail-inator. Hilarious.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  43. Spiffy McBang wrote:

    @Ouyang Dan: Blood quantums. That’s the search term I needed. Thanks.

    @Michelle: It’s absolutely true that people can be roused by passionate speech or writing, but I would be incredibly hesitant to say anger shows you take something seriously. Or, perhaps more correctly, to imply that such anger is meaningful. I suppose you could say all the screaming heads on cable news care about their topics of choice, but it’s laughable to suggest more than a handful can be counted on for good information.

    And if you want more than a fleeting influence, unless you have the money permanently propagandize an entire country (hi Fox!), good information is how you have to do it. You can be loud and inspire righteous anger, or calm and constantly counter-attack poor arguments, but more than anything you have to be right.

    As an aside, I can only guess at what you and NC have in mind in terms of “calm” or “polite”, but IMO the critical point there is that you can’t be demure. People who try to talk down an angry blowhard invariably look like the weaker party, which often badly damages how they’re perceived by spectators. But you can give no quarter without raising your voice. If two people are debating, the visceral impressiveness of one’s rage soon gives way to the other’s calmness, which signifies confidence in his/her knowledge. Given a relatively neutral crowd, this holds as long as the calm one is a) more correct and b) gives no appearance of backing down. That’s my experience, anyway.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  44. Sharon wrote:

    @ Ellie: No, I didn’t write it. This was an article that made me sad because it was featured on a site that is usually very careful to be inclusive of many different viewpoints/intersections of oppressions, but it contained a lot of fat-shaming (which, as I am overweight, I am more sensitive to than some other kinds of ignorance.)

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  45. snobographer wrote:

    Have you all seen the counter-meme Privilege Denying Tumblr Girl? Obviously she was created by real-life PDDs, and I’ve scrolled through a lot of the uploads, and haven’t seen any in which she denies any real privilege. It’s all just snarky comments about Darfur and kombucha. The photo is of a Beauty2K-compliant white woman, so there’s opportunity there to talk about Eurocentric beauty standards and gender compliance, but none of that seems to have occurred to anybody captioning her.
    Even Privilege Denying Woman, another countermeme based on a photo of a black woman, could have some captions denying able-bodied or heterosexual or cissexual privilege if you assume the woman in the photo has these privileges, which she may or may not, just as the white guys in the PDD photos may or may not have them. Instead, of course, all her captions are about “misandry” and “anti-white racism.”
    There’s also “privilege-denying homeless man,” who, ironically, is begging for money to buy a hooker.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink
  46. Eivind wrote:

    I’m pretty much the epitome of priviledge, and I’d like a lot less of it please.

    I’m white. I’m adult, but not old. I’m male. I’m university-educated. I’m married. I’ve got a university-educated wife. We own a house. We’re both upper-quartile-earners. In the second-richest country on earth (and Luxemburg is faking it!) I’m heterosexual. I’m healthy.

    I used to think, this is the normal state of affairs. Nothing special.

    Then the Internet happened.

    And smashed my priviledge into my face forcefully. You have to know the alternative, to realize how fucky lucky you where in the lottery of life.

    My (female) friend in Iran, daydreams of being allowed to play the guitar, or ride a bike. My friend in Kenya wishes he’ll be able to pay the rent this month. Those who’re gay and American, -still- can’t marry whenever and wherever and whomever they want to.

    I think the best cure for being priviledged-and-unaware is actually getting to know a diverse bunch of people. You notice that, infact, what you’ve taken for granted, isn’t something that 99.9% of humanity gets to enjoy, and infact many of them would give a leg and if need be an arm too, to have it.

    Monday, November 29, 2010 at 1:48 am | Permalink
  47. Joy wrote:

    So much love for yet another amazing TBD post. If I had words for the love I have for TBD, I’d speak their name from the mountaintops.

    Several of the meme-plorations suggested are awesome, and I have but one idea to add: we should all just go about tagging anything that needs it with “mansplaining”, “ableist”, “privilege-dening dude”, “pearl-clutcher”, and so on.

    Perhaps a good list could be created so we can start tagging like crazy, with consistency of course. Sure many tags will be deleted, but consider it a form of Social Justice Trolling.

    Liberate Trolling from shitty-only Trolls! Trolls, they’re not just horrible, triggering douchebags! Ok, I’ve taken this too far, but it’s funny in my head.

    Monday, November 29, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink
  48. backspace wrote:

    Regarding The Derailinator: I’ve done some preliminary work on making this happen, is there still interest in such a thing? Too much potential for disaster? Please email me (letter B at chromatin.ca) for a link so I can get input.

    Monday, November 29, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  49. backspace wrote:

    Also, maybe this is the wrong place, but when I view this in Google Chrome 7.0.517.44, all the main content is squeezed into a tiny column on the right side. I looked at the document structure; it appears that some weirdness around the inclusion of the BlogHer advertisements is happening. I’m willing to check into this further if the proprietors are interested?

    Monday, November 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
  50. Absotively wrote:

    Backspace: maybe try the advice given here?

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 12:14 am | Permalink
  51. backspace wrote:

    Yeah, I figured that out shortly after posting. Thanks.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink