Oy, this guy…

There seems to be a trendy ‘get off my lawn’ topic of late: millennial special snowflakes and PC culture are ruining our education system! I ain’t buying it. 

I *may* have ranted a bit on the Facebook about this article. And this one. In the end it was  this video by Neel Kolhatkar that made me take angry notes, and that means blog post.

When I looked over my notes what stood out was that everything that made me go into rant mode and yell at my iPad was a strawman argument:

“A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument which was not advanced by that opponent.” (Thanks Wikipedia!)

Hope you watched the video as I am now going to start quoting random crap from it…and refuting it.

“We don’t ask questions, questions are offensive”

Who the fuck says that? Just because a question you asked was offensive does not mean the person you are talking to thinks *all* questions are offensive. Reality: this thing you asked was offensive. Strawman: questions are offensive.

“Stop violating me with your different opinions”

Again, who the fuck says that? Perhaps (just perhaps) you are being called on having a terrible opinion. I personally love differing opinions, but if you sound like enough of an asshole I will stop talking to you. (As an aside, I can’t even with the violating terminology, SMH at the exaggeration) Reality: terrible opinion. Strawman: different opinion. 

“We have the right not to be offended”

Once again, who the fuck? Everyone has the right to an offensive opinion, and everyone else has the right to call them out for it. Relevant XKCD. Reality: folks have a right to call others on offensive shit. Strawman: folks have a right to not be offended.

There are a couple of overarching problems I have with “Modern Educayshun”, the false dichotomy of facts vs feelings, a fear of affirmative action going too far because of PC culture. I never *get* any of this. I find that folks bitching about oversensitive PC culture are just being pissy about not being able to say asshole things without being called on it. After all, we have (mostly) culturally decided to stop using ‘gay’ and ‘retard’ without any more ill effect than some folks being sad they can’t publicly insult others anymore. Way easier to blame the discomforts of change on special snowflake millennials than take a look at ourselves though.

Differences in terms

I keep seeing arguments about the word racism, mostly because folks have different definitions and it trips the conversation up. This is usually because folks see the world through different lenses, and racism is not the only word this happens with.

Think of the way a layman uses the word ‘theory’ (I have an idea, maybe it will work) and the way the a scientist uses the word theory (I had an idea that I called a hypothesis, I tested the shit out of it and it is now a theory). I honestly wish most of society would adapt the scientific use of the word theory and add hypothesis into the general terminology. It is so much more specific and clear!  

Racism is similar. The basic dictionary definition is prejudice based on race, although The Oxford English Dictionary adds “It is often based on a desire to dominate or a belief in the inferiority of another race”. Once power dynamics are involved in the definition things change from the basic definition, as there are obvious differences in who has power in our society. If we take this more nuanced definition for our sociological lens it becomes harder to see how any person of color could be racist, as they are lacking any power with which to dominate. Much like the word theory, I wish society would adopt the more nuanced definition of racism and add racial prejudice into the general terminology. It is so much more specific and clear…

Why I get fussed even when I am just trying to buy cranberry juice…

When in line at my awesome local market yesterday the couple in front of me was just buying a juice with a credit card. The woman behind the register pointed out a little sign stating a requested credit card minimum at which point one of the customers began loudly expounding on how that is illegal and should she pull it up on her phone to prove it blah blah blah. This *might* be a pet peeve of mine after twenty some years in retail.

I pointed out that it is not technically illegal, what it *is* is in violation of the terms of agreement between the retailer and the credit card processor. I guess by extension violating an agreement it is illegal? Anywho, the woman was visibly annoyed at me and put her juice back, despite the fact that the woman working had said she would run the card.

Being obsessive I thought about this interaction for the next hour or two. I think what got me was how misguided that attitude is. The credit card companies set up a situation where the consumer wants to use a card and it is more expensive for the store for a smaller purchase, we are all manipulated.

The folks that bitch about a minimum invariably have a smug attitude of the big bad business trying to take advantage of the poor customer, but they are taking a stand! What they are actually taking a stand for is the credit card companies’ ability to make more money off us all. So effectively while fighting for the small guy (themselves) they have actually fought for the big guy and against the small independent minority owned business. Yeah honey, you go with your bad self.

Also, as of 2010 it is totally legal to have up to a $10 minimum as per the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Gotta use that info next time.

Yay for new iPads!

My Dad just died. I have to say that the whole thing pretty much sucks, but I want to talk instead about getting a new iPad. A couple of things to set the scene:

I was lucky to have a really great couple of weeks on vacation in Mexico with my folks right before my dad’s stroke. The last night was a dinner party with me on ukulele for much of the night. It was lovely except for the songs where my iPad (with the chords) would crash and mid song I had to look at the group and say ‘sorry, that’s all for that one’. I lucked out when in the ICU playing for Dad it only crashed twice, but I think that for my mom it solidified my needing a new iPad (bless her face).

So, off to the Apple Store at the mall we went. It generally takes a bit to get some help there. And then of course I had not hooked my old iPad up to the cloud (on purpose, for reasons). And of course I did not have enough cloud memory and had to buy more. But first, of course, I had to change all my passwords because I have them all listed in a book at my house, where I was not. And then, of course, it takes awhile. 38 minutes.

My mom has many virtues, patience is not one of them. Distraction is the best route. Since the helpful Apple employee had sat us down at a computer I decided to read her blog posts by The Bloggess. I knew she liked her, and started reading this post. In case you did not click the link (which you should) Jenny Lawson was invited to take part in the Vaginal Fantasies Book Club where awesome women live-stream reading/discussing smut and drinking for your entertainment. The Bloggess was excited and wore an awesome vagina hat. This is what I decided to read my mom. Out loud. In public. I am not so smart.

There was a perfectly nice seeming older gentleman standing near us. He did not appreciate the phrase ‘vagina hat’ nearly as much as we did. To his credit it must have been the third time I read the word vagina out loud when he finally gave us a really dirty look and pointedly walked away. Oops.

Maybe I should have a bit more tact, but I was thankful for all the giggles (thanks Jenny!). Probably the funniest thing all week. Except maybe our insistence on calling the organ donation organization ‘Organ Reapers’ instead of the slightly cheesier ‘Gift of Life’. Yeah, probably need more tact.

Also, no more crashing, so mission accomplished.


Defining racism, again

Since the events in Ferguson I have been obsessed with all the racism problems in the good old US of A. I could write twenty posts on things that have been on my mind, but have been having conversations instead. Conversations online and in person have been difficult, and have often devolved to arguing about semantics. I thought I should clear up my definitions in order to frame the whole issue.

First, google provided definitions for things (which in recent weeks have proven more contentious than I thought):

preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

I talked about some of this (prejudice and racism) in a previous post. I am fairly comfortable adding bigotry to my Venn diagram as such:

I have an issue with the fact that none of these definitions have systematic power structures as any part of their definition. I think it is obvious that a racist or bigoted act from a white person generally has more effect than a bigoted or racist act from a black person. The English language and dictionary definitions have no words that allow for this differentiation. I have often read that racism is partially defined by systematic power structures, and I choose to run with that definition. Racial prejudice without the backing of systematic power structures in my head is bigotry.

Those are the basics for me. Apparently the more complicated one is privilege, and either it is often misunderstood or my definition is wrong. In most circles I travel in the idea if privilege is so accepted that it is assumed in any given conversation. In the wake of Ferguson I have been exposed to a wider variety of viewpoints and thought I should hone my definition and thinking.

The sticking point in most of my conversations about privilege seems to be guilt. I find this extremely odd. I see no reason to feel guilt for being lucky enough to be born into any sort of privilege. Why would one feel guilty for having sheer dumb luck? To my mind people are confusing racism and privilege. So, my definition of that difference:

Racism vs privilege
I am going to define racism as an overt act of discrimination, and privilege as benefitting from a particular situation. For example, if a cab driver and passes up a potential black customer for a white potential customer they are actively doing something racist. Privilege is being the white potential customer. The customer did nothing actively to make this situation happen.

When someone is actively racist (perpetrating an act that is racist) they should feel guilty, though often enough they do not. I can see two scenarios where an actively racist act is done. One where the perpetrator is intentionally racist and therefor unlikely to feel any remorse. The other is when someone falls for one of the many cognitive biases and social conditioning that influence us all. I have done this (most of us probably have) and when it has happened I have been embarrassed of my mistake and immediately try to rectify or apologize, or at the very least be better next time. I have no feelings of guilt for being lucky enough to be born into a fair amount of privilege, and though I feel no personal guilt I still want to do my part for equality.

Also, this is may be the best analogy for privilege that I have seen. You go with your bad self John Scalzi.

What does it mean to be a victim?

This is a question I have been exploring in my head while reading about feminism. The term comes up a surprising amount, and often not in a way I am totally comfortable with. I read this blog post in reference to #yesallwomen which said: “Not all men are monsters and not all women choose to live as victims.”
(Although I disagree with much of this particular post, I like the blog. Check it out.).

My understanding of the word victim is that I do not get to choose if it applies to me. I sure as hell did not get a choice when someone came in my store and held a gun to my back. That experience made me a victim of robbery without my consent. So where does this idea of choosing to be a victim come from? It seems to me that the word victim is getting mixed up with victim mentality.

Merriam-Webster defines victim as:
-a person who has been attacked, injured, robbed, or killed by someone else
-a person who is cheated or fooled by someone else
-someone or something that is harmed by an unpleasant event (such as an illness or accident)

Having the victim mentality seems to be about being weak (not exactly a respected trait in our society) and has connotations of being disingenuous as well as generally being a whiny bitchy baby (that is totally the official definition).

The desire to not be weak (or a whiny bitchy baby) often eclipses the meaning of victim. ‘I am not weak, therefor I cannot possibly be a victim’.

Back to the word’s relation to feminism, and specifically the #yesallwomen phenomenon. To my thinking, if I want to refuse to be a victim due to my femaleness I have two recourses: 1) modify my behavior so as to lessen the likelihood of being victimized or 2) to try and change things that contribute to women being victimized on a regular basis. I worry about walking alone at night in a way my male counterpoints do not. I do not want to limit my options based on how I can get home. If tweeting about this brings some awareness to that inequality I am all for it. I can still make an effort to not fall for the victim mentality while railing against things that commonly make women victims in our society.

Also, googling ‘refuse to be a victim’ gave me a full page of NRA links, which was not what I was expecting…

I am a feminist!

Watching this video has prompted conversations in my life. It is really great, with all the little niggly points coming together in an awesome conclusion. I doubt my ability to sum it up well, so go watch it. Really. Here it is again.

As always I work through my thoughts by asking everyone questions, this week’s was ‘how do you define feminism?’. There was one answer I got that particularly struck me. After stating the basics of being equality focused on women he explained that most self identified feminists fall into a particular and annoying personality type. I enthusiastically raised my hand announcing myself as a self identified feminist, he shook his head indicating that I was not in the annoying category.

His point was that there is a certain personality that loudly self identifies as one and only one thing, be it feminist, atheist, lesbian, whatever. I agree with that type of one trick pony being frustrating in conversation as well as a bit boring. I am saddened that it is the first association with feminism in my friend’s head, especially since he is not anti-feminist. It is the kind of pervasive thinking keeping a negative stereotype of feminism at the front of the feminism conversation.

I am thinking today that I need to get a bit louder about my self identification. The more quantity and variety of people that vocally self identify the harder it will be to describe feminism as a crazy fringe man hating group of people.

Why can’t I think the way I want to?

I actually watched the Oscars this year with a friend (it was fun!). Everything around the Oscars seems to be built around judging, and not just the movies (think red carpet, fashion blogs the day after, etc). Both of us found ourselves saying things about the clothes/looks/weight of movie stars in ways we did not expect.

I find it frustrating that even if I educate myself on all the media manipulations and cognitive biases I still fall into the traps I am trying to avoid. Today’s focus is women and body image. Mostly because it messes with my head.

Here is the way I want to think:
–Many many body types and looks are beautiful.
The media appears to think there is more or less one ideal. I like to think of myself as someone who can see through the bullshit in media and society, but I see it have a huge effect on me nonetheless.

Examples of failure:
Clothing choices: It is easy to judge others on this, my favorite pop culture example is from ‘Hackers’: “Spandex: it’s a privilege, not a right”. Who made that rule up? If she (the hypothetical person wearing spandex) is comfortable and proud then who are we to judge? What needs to change is society’s idea of beauty, not what one woman is choosing to wear. My thinking has not stopped me from saying ‘she should not be wearing that’ in the past, or thinking it recently. I want to work on that part of myself.

Flaws in others. When I see people with a crooked smile I think it is adorable. When I saw a picture of myself with a crooked smile I freaked the fuck out. I kept thinking ‘is that what I really look like’. And then I would think ‘why is this bad on me when it is awesome on other people’. Because I hold myself up to messed up standards I have bought into after seeing them my whole life.

OMG, weight. I think I am fairly average right now, for my age and all. I could be tons better, I could exercise at least occasionally. For awhile I was super skinny. I got that way from being unable to eat after a boyfriend cheated on me (NOT healthy). When my sister sees pictures of me from back then she says I look scrawny. I think I looked great. I do not want to think I looked great, because it was not healthy. Nonetheless, I look at those pictures and see them as me at my best.

I often hear that when a woman gets a nasty look from another it is a compliment, because naturally we are all just jealous of one another. Wink wink, nudge nudge, this is just an uncomfortable truth. NO. This is one where my intention and my brain are actually on the same page. When I see a well dressed attractive woman (in my eyes) I genuinely think good things. When I see a woman give me any sort of disdainful look I wonder wtf I did.

While watching the Oscars both my friend and I called ourselves out each time something judgmental was said. I do not want to beat myself up *too* much for not being perfect, but I also want to continue learning and make an attempt at being better. Societal conventions have way more impact on me than I would like. I think the best I can do is recognize when it happens, try to understand how and why, and let that learning affect my daily doings as it will.

In the meantime I would like to ask my brain to stop thinking things I don’t want to think, let me be the person I want to be.

May the blessings be with you

Yesterday someone (my single reader for the day) found my blog by searching the term ‘if a guy tells you to have a blessed day’. I did a google search for the same and did not see my blog on the first few pages. They must have had some serious questions about that phrase if they went that far into a search is my conclusion.

I read many of the links in the first couple pages. It was an interesting mix of people (much like myself) being a wee bit fed up with hearing the phrase and others complaining about the fed up people.

What reading all that got me thinking about is how to respond. The only time I have responded with anything but a vaguely uncomfortable smile did not really turn out so well, and there is usually not time in the situations where I hear it. Also, I am not quick on my feet conversationally, so I need to think about it ahead of time. I am leaning towards one of these:

If they say it’s not my birthday, I can say I am not religious! Ok, this *may be* passive aggressive.

Because who doesn’t love a Star Wars reference? Then again, the people saying this would probably wonder who doesn’t want blessings.

Prejudice and racism

I opened Facebook the other day to this:

It made me question whether I had a solid definition for prejudice and racism. The little rant also sounded pretty racist to me, and I wanted context and explanation, neither of which I got (despite my heroic efforts). Lacking explanation and context I did what I always do, which is ask anyone willing to talk to me what their definitions are.

Most people agreed on prejudice and in the definition broke down the word to pre-judge. Google defined it as:
preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

Most people (but not all) also agreed that racism is a type of prejudice. The Venn diagram of prejudice and racism would look like this:

Dear god that graphic is large, what happened to the photo size option in my WordPress app?

Racism is the harder one to define, my goodness it is complicated and every single answer I got was different. Google says:
the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

This makes sense to me as a literal but not all encompassing definition. Take that and only that and I can see how one would end at the statement from the above Facebook comment “There are only literally thousands of ‘racists’ in this country … And most of them are black”, with which I wholeheartedly disagree.
So, what is that definition missing? I think it is both subtlety and social context.

The subtlety I see most often in microaggressions. I believe as people we all have biases and prejudices, often without seeing them in ourselves. Because microaggressions are by definition subtle, it is easy to tell oneself that engaging in the behavior is not racist. When these slip into our conversation we do not see them as racist, but to someone feeling the effects of microaggressions day in and day out it would feel racist.

The social context is mostly about power dynamics. Only one of the ten or so people I asked for definitions brought up societal power dynamics as a defining factor in racism, so though I believe this it is obviously not universally accepted. I see institutional racism in our society against minorities seeping into most aspects of our society, much of it unconscious. This is a good explanation using bricks, and a generally good read.

I think that is all my brain can take on racism, and I by no means have a definition that I am happy with. At least my Venn diagram helped me with the prejudice difference…