Wonderful fights between narcissism and worthlessness

Words on Women, Minorities, and All Who Face Discrimination

on October 11, 2012


The formatting on this one looks weird. Time to find out how fucked it is!

Lately I’ve been in a big funk, and I’m noticing my fall into old, bad habits. I picked up the new World of Warcraft expansion, as I knew I would at some point, and it’s been legitimately fun, even if the general chat in the first expansion area two nights in a row has been full of divisive, us-vs-them political debates. Honestly, this wouldn’t be that bad if in doing so I haven’t also been avoiding Twitter and only reading cherry-picked articles on Shakesville for the news. I’ve been slow to job-hunt as well, and, as always, I have one month’s worth of bill money. Tonight is the vice-presidential debate, and I will try my best to go to Twitter jail. I’m also writing this article after a nine-day lapse in writing. As much as I’m desperately trying to stay seperate from the world (by constructing a nice, cushy bubble), I can’t let that happen.

I guess it helps that my greatest moment of sadness came last night when I brought up Joseph Gordon Levitt’s comment that hot girls aren’t funny to a vent room and got agreement… with JGL. Which was punch-in-the-gut surprising, and very sad, but it was sadder still when one person went on to state plainly that no women are funny. And that’s still not why this is sticking with me and my saddest moment all week. It’s that I just failed to counter him in the moment. Afterwards I thought of plenty; that humor is subjective; that to write off every woman based on gender, 51% of the global population, is ludicrous; that it also posits that you are convinced not only that your culture produces no funny women but that every culture also can’t come up with anything; that we can say ANYTHING about all women, as we can’t say shit about ALL men; that there are female comedians who are able to work on the road (my two examples were Tig Notaro and Sarah Silverman, which was responded to with “Your example of a funny, attractive woman is Sarah Silverman?” dismissively). Ultimately anyone saying that no women are funny can at most say “I find no women funny and trust no other women to be funny,” which says nothing about the nature of women and humor and everything about the speaker. But absolutely none of this came during the actual discussion, or after, as it just didn’t come up again.

And while I sit with all of these afterthoughts, it depresses me to know I couldn’t bring any of them up at the time of debate. Nor is this surprising; I’m rubbish in the moment at formulating ideas, even if they are my own long-held ideas. The greatest quality of writing for me is the ability for writing to be meditation on a thought. That moment when you learn something new you believed but couldn’t put to words before working towards it, or make a discovery by laying premises bare, is one of the best feelings as a writer. There are a lot of great nuggets to writing, borne out of (and making worth it) the absolute self-defeating bullshit that is part and parcel with the process (sometimes, and I’m mainly yelling at writer’s block). And I’m happy for that, because I am not a good in-the-moment debater, so at least I can take all of that and work on it later, coming to grips with my failings, my incorrectnesses, and my ideas.

Where this is complicated, for me, is Twitter. Often, debates via tweets take on the mantle of conversational, real-time debates. People are thinking quickly, typing quickly, and having a back and forth only delayed from oral debate times by seconds. Sometimes this isn’t the case; sometimes a response comes minutes, even hours later because someone needed time to digest a tweet or conversation before responding. Sometimes people work different shifts too, and conversations happen like a game of online Risk, in hours-long turns punctuated by short flurries. I’ve had all sorts of Twitter conversations, but often when debating and discussing it’s a real-time debate held over Internet connections. Sometimes this means poor word choices, less powerful retorts, confusion, trouble expressing ideas, and anything else I typically struggle with in real-time debate.

So this (part of the) convo with the creator of the Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian game…

Ben Spurr@Bendilin

@SublimeBeeEssry Several people have beat up games of them, & it certainly wasn’t “privilege” that made them mature enough to shrug them off


Timothy Clouser@SublimeBeeEssry

It’s not maturity. Privilege helps insults hurt less. Because they carry no institutional weight. A woman threatened w/ physical @Bendilin

Timothy Clouser@SublimeBeeEssry

violence is also being threatened with the fact that violence can more easily happen to her than a man. Men still get assaulted. @Bendilin

Timothy Clouser@SublimeBeeEssry

Women get assaulted more, and more easily, and have less support. @Bendilin


…led to these comments:

6 Oct Jacob@heartytruths

@SublimeBeeEssry @Bendilin That is terribly sexist of you to say.


@SublimeBeeEssry Of course I mean you, the one that implies women are more frail than men.


I’ll actually agree that I didn’t do enough to not imply women are frailer than men. With easily, I meant that women are conditioned in society to be submissive, not fight back, and worry that crimes carried out on them can escalate into violent crimes if THEY, as victim, aggravate the situation, as well as the flip side of those assumptions for male attackers, but that isn’t really implied by the term “easily”. As well, when I said women are assaulted more, it was a nod to the statistics, not an implication of frailty. However, none of that is conveyed in one word with “easily.” “Easily” leaves just as much room to take my words to mean I think women are inherently weaker than men, and are victimized more because of it, and need the protection of men like me. Which are gross, sexist ideas, but, while @heartytruths has three tweets as of this reading (the two above and one attacking Ian Miles Chong) and could easily be a bad-faith debater, someone in good faith could easily assume what they claimed to of my intent, and, as always, my actual intent isn’t fucking magic. Word choice is vastly important, and I’ve shortened words and sentences into a confusing mess before; I’ve also chosen bad words that can mean the opposite of what I’m trying to say. I need to pay more attention to my word choice.

This specific idea, that women face institutionalized discrimination and quoting cases of it can be seen as saying women are inferior, is topical, as the Supreme Court is hearing a case on Affirmative Action. As with the simplification of women’s victimization (and people who use welfare, see also: most media narratives), affirmative action is often seen (erroneously) as a policy that lets minorities into institutions and affords opportunities over more-qualified white people. There’s a whole ball of awful made up of the assumptions in that mindset, including that minorities in general can’t get opportunities by their own merits, that racism is truly over and/or in no way affects people anymore, and occasionally that minorities need affirmative action to get an equal shot because white candidates are generally superior (usually couched in less racist terms, but that’s the thought behind it).

Affirmative action isn’t a statement that black people need help because they are inferior, mentally or otherwise; it is a reaction to the fact that any person without privilege is as capable as the privileged if you take that privilege off the table, and black people still face institutionalized discrimination from birth and thus get less opportunities throughout life than their white peers. It is a statement that there is institutional racism hindering black students and not white students that needs addressing, as well as a statement that that discrimination can kick in as early as pre-natal care and still afford minorities less chances at college admissions and job and housing opportunities even if the people deciding on these things have no racial biases. Someday affirmative action will need repealing; I want to say hopefully, but I have trust that society will continue to become increasingly progressive, and that we will address and solve institutionalized discrimination against race, gender, sexual orientation, belief, all of it. Eventually. But that day where someone faces no discrimination based on their race is a tremendously long day off. Just as racism didn’t end with the fourteenth amendment, nor with the Civil Rights Act, it did not end with and has not ended due to Affirmative Action. Affirmative action remains a powerful tool for combating institutional racism, and, if anything, we need more tools, not less.


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