Posts Tagged ‘racism’

I think everyone should go check out this blog post by an MIT student about research on stereotype threat, and research on ways it can be countered.

In a now-famous study, psychologists at the University of Berlin falsely told participants that they had been selected to participate in a series of tests “to measure the ability to put oneself in someone else’s position” – a fabrication devised to avoid confounding factors in their real study on gender identity priming. They prepared a text describing a day in the life of a “stereotypical woman” who takes care of her family, works part time, and is insightful, helpful, and agreeable. They also prepared an equivalently-structured text outlining the activities of a stereotypical manly man who is tough, risk-taking, and does weight training after work. Subjects were randomly given one of the two texts, and then asked: “If you were the person described in the text, which adjectives would you use to describe yourself?”

Soon after participants described themselves with either the male- or female-associated traits, they were asked to take a mental rotation test presented as independent of the first part of the study, supposedly to measure their personal spatial aptitude. On this mental rotation test, women who were “primed” with the female identity scored an average of 3.86 on the exercise, compared to the female-primed males’ average of 5.14. Okay, expected. But then when primed with the male text, women scored an average of 5.49, while men scored 5.53… wait a second, what?

As it turns out, there is zero statistically significant gender difference in mental rotation ability after test-takers are asked to imagine themselves as stereotypical men for a few minutes. None. An entire standard deviation of female underperformance is negated on this condition, just as a man’s performance is slightly hindered if he instead imagines himself as a woman. (well then.) Although this study is of course not a logically definitive answer to all things “nature versus nurture,” it does add a tremendous structural asset to the growing mountain of evidence that “natural” ability differences are confounded by identity and subconscious self-stereotyping. Demographic expectations may be subtle or overt, but they are omnipresent, and they are likely much more powerful than most of us have ever considered.

There is a lot more really great info in the original post, so go over there and read the whole thing!

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Image of a potato with text saying “I’m offended by this potato”

I am so sick of hearing folks talk about how terrible it is that other people make an effort to be respectful to other people- ie, caring if something they say is offensive. And images like the potato one here being shared around social media as oh so edgy! When did intentionally being an asshole become something to brag about?

This was going to be a facebook post but I feel like this will get too wordy for a facebook status, so blog post it is!

This is actually most recently inspired by conversations I’ve seen around a free pride (alternative to the main pride which many feel is too commercialized) in Glasgow deciding against having any drag performers at the event because some felt it would be offensive to some trans people. They apparently are working on changing this policy btw.

The thing is, looking at discussions about this- I actually saw a lot of really great and thoughtful discussions about this with people talking about the role drag has had in the history of the lgbtq right movement through time, and how it has been important for many cis gay/queer people and trans and genderqueer people in being able to embrace who they are. And some trans folks spoke about why they find drag upsetting, negative experiences with drag performers, and some cis gay/queer folks talked about why they are uncomfortable with drag performances- how many performers draw on misogynistic, classist, and racist caricatures yet it’s given a pass because it’s a performance/comedy/part of queer culture.

And then other folks but in with such insightful commentary as “haha pc police going overboard!”, “the movement to not be offended is imploding on itself!”, “if you are offended by anything ever just never leave your house!” and so on.

The underlying idea behind all that of course is that the thoughtful conversations that I previously mentioned are utterly worthless. Attempting to understand where other people are coming from and find ways to be more respectful to a wide variety of people is stupid. The cool thing apparently is being an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole. If you hurt someone unintentionally and they say so, laugh at them for being a human being who has feelings- what a loser!

The thing is, there is not actually any real movement out there to never be offended. What does exist is a lot of people who have decided “hey, let’s try not to be assholes!” Who actually care to listen to what other people have to say and perhaps make changes if what they are doing is upsetting people.

I don’t think “I’m offended” is or should be the end of the discussion. And the truth is, I don’t think anyone thinks that. That may be the starting point for a larger discussion that hopefully leads to greater understanding and empathy. It is certainly not the end all, be all it is made out to be by the same people who talk about “social justice warriors” as boogie men. (Because when being an asshole is cool, social justice is bad.)

If someone tells me something is offensive to them and why I like to hope that I would consider the point they are making. I would certainly not keep doing/saying the same thing for the sole purpose of hurting them, because I’m not a sociopath. I recognize that other people are human beings with feelings, and I try to be respectful of that. If I have a reason to say something that I feel is important though, I will say it. Take for example “queer”. A lot of people, especially in my experience older people, in the lgbt community find the term offensive. If I know someone who find it offensive I will not purposefully refer to them as queer to upset them, in fact I will do my best to use their preferred identity to refer to them specifically. I won’t stop using queer in general though, because it’s still the term I feel best fits my identification and I’m not ok with being told how I’m allowed to identified. There is actually nuance to these things. And there is a huge difference between using a term because it has important meaning to you, and using a term just to upset other people or because you can’t be bothered to be considerate of the fact that other people exist and have feelings.

In contrast to my use of the word queer, many years back a friend called me out on my usage of the word “retarded” as a generic negative. And while my immediate reaction was actually rather defensive at the time, over the next few days I considered the point she made and realized she was right, and there was really no good reason for me to keep using that word. It took awhile to get out of the habit of using it, but at the end of the day there was no good reason for me to use that word. Whether I agree with people being upset by it or not isn’t even relevant, they are and it’s a word I have no good reason to need to use, so why not make an effort to be respectful? It’s not that hard.

And yet, for some reason instead of recognizing the nuance and purpose behind these discussion, there is a large portion of people who want very much to reduce this all to “haha, you’re a person who has feelings!” and cries about “pc police”.

This morning on my facebook newfeed I came across this image:

Image Description: A flyer says "Check Your Privilege Gender - Man (+50) -Woman (-50) -Genderqueer (-75) -Intersex (-100) Transgender (-300) Race -White (+100) -Asian (-50) -Latino (-50) -Black (-100) -Middle Eastern (-150) -Other (-100) Religion -Christian (+50) -Non-Religious (-10) -Jewish (-20) -Muslim (-50) -Other (-20) Disability  -Able-Bodied (+25) -Disease (-30) -Immobile (-50) -Deaf or Blind (-50) -Autistic (-200) Sexual Orientation -Heterosexual (+50) -Bisexual (-50) -Pansexual (-50) -Asexual (-50) -Homosexual (-150) Status -Plutocrat (+100) -Wealthy (+50) -Middle (+25) -Poor (-25) -Homeless (-250) Appearance -Average Body (+10) -Overweight (-20) -Underweight (-5) -Disfigured (-40) -Tall (+10) -Short (-10) Very Priveleged: 100+ Priveleged: 50-100 Non-Priveleged: -100-0 Very Dis-privelege: >-100

Image Description: A flyer says “Check Your Privilege
Gender
– Man (+50)
-Woman (-50)
-Genderqueer (-75)
-Intersex (-100)
Transgender (-300)
Race
-White (+100)
-Asian (-50)
-Latino (-50)
-Black (-100)
-Middle Eastern (-150)
-Other (-100)
Religion
-Christian (+50)
-Non-Religious (-10)
-Jewish (-20)
-Muslim (-50)
-Other (-20)
Disability
-Able-Bodied (+25)
-Disease (-30)
-Immobile (-50)
-Deaf or Blind (-50)
-Autistic (-200)
Sexual Orientation
-Heterosexual (+50)
-Bisexual (-50)
-Pansexual (-50)
-Asexual (-50)
-Homosexual (-150)
Status
-Plutocrat (+100)
-Wealthy (+50)
-Middle (+25)
-Poor (-25)
-Homeless (-250)
Appearance
-Average Body (+10)
-Overweight (-20)
-Underweight (-5)
-Disfigured (-40)
-Tall (+10)
-Short (-10)
Very Priveleged: 100+
Priveleged: 50-100
Non-Priveleged: -100-0
Very Dis-privelege: >-100”

The more I look at this or think about it the more wrong with it I notice, including the misspelling of privilege. I can’t make out anything on the flyer that indicates who created it. I’m sure they had good intentions to help make people aware of their privileges with it. Though I am skeptical of whether this is even effective for that.

The first issue with this is that privilege and oppression cannot simply be added. My experiences as a queer woman are not simply sexism + heterosexism. Rather the way I experience sexism is as someone who is queer and the way I experience heterosexism is as a woman. Or to put that another way: I don’t experience sexism as straight women do + heterosexism as gay men do. This goes the same for areas of privilege. The way I experience sexism is also impacted by my white privilege as much as by queer oppression.

This is also one reason I’m skeptical of this doing much good for helping people be aware of their privilege as this suggests that my being gay somehow cancels out my white privilege (and then some). That’s not how it works. When it comes to race my privilege is not less just because I lack privilege in things not related to race.

Next up is that a lot of the numbers relatively are off. The first that stood out to me was sexual orientation, bi and pan represent 1/3 the lack of privilege of being gay which is just bullshit. bi and pan folks experience heterosexism/homophobia just like gay folks. Passing privilege is a thing, but not one specific to bi and pan folks- it’s neither inherent to those identities nor limited to them. As a single queer/gay/lesbian* woman I often have an easier time passing as straight if I want than a bi woman in a relationship with another woman. I’m never outed by talking about a current significant other or just being with them.

*I prefer queer as an identifier but will also use gay or lesbian. On a spectrum I fall somewhere closer to totally gay than middle of the road bi. On a kinsey scale about a 5.

And then that being bi or pan is equal to asexual that I personally do not think belongs there at all. Heteroromantic asexual people (those who have/desire hetero relationships but do not desire sex) are not oppressed imo. This also reminds me of the recent Daily Show segment showing past reports from correspondent Jason Jones where he is talking to a man who says that (gay) people shouldn’t have special rights just because of the kind of sex they have. The thing is, sexual orientation is not about the type of sex one has! At most it give you an idea of the gender of people I have sex with. It is a common question of how two women have sex, but the reality is the answer is all sorts of ways! There are many different acts that two women may or may not engage in, they may have very vanilla sex, or very kinky sex. And if it’s kinky, my sexual orientation tells you nothing of if I’m a domme or sub or a switch. It doesn’t tell you what my kinks are or aren’t. Gay sex shouldn’t be extra taboo imo, but being queer is about far more than sex and it’s effect on our lives goes far beyond the bedroom.

Other categories have weird hierarchies int hem as well. Autism is the most oppressed of all disabilities? Who decided that being middle eastern is the most oppressed racial group?

There are also issues with terminology. First off I don’t get the categorization for class, I don’t see anyone identifing as a plutocrat, and wealthy folks will just think they are middle class anyways.

“immobile”, “disease”, “disfigured”- many of these seem like they were chosen by people who are not part of that group. Even though I have diseases, in context I would prefer “chronic illness”, since I think of myself as “ill” not “diseased”- there is definitely a negative connotation to that. I’m not even sure who all is supposed to fall under these categories. There are definitely disabilities that don’t fit any of them.

Then there are the cross group issues. I’d rather speak to those that apply to me, so let me talk about those. First off, short? I’m short at 5’0″ but I am not oppressed by that shortness. Even within the appearance category, it is not comparable to being fat. And fat is nearly equivalent to being poor? I don’t think so. And for me I feel being a woman is a bigger factor in oppression that being queer, though I’m not sure where I’d rank everything. But socio-economic class needs to be higher up there. Of course the problem with ranking is it is personal! To me being a woman feels like it should rate a bigger negative score than being queer but that does not mean another queer woman won’t feel differently from her experiences. And much of this goes as well to the fact that we all typically experience varying degrees/aspects of oppression. My experience being queer is different than someone who was disowned by their family when they came out. My experience being fat is different than someone who has difficulty with chairs in public spaces accommodating their size. Experience with disability varies so fucking widely I wouldn’t even know where to start there. And socio-economic status is incredibly complicated in how we define it and where one falls. By income level I am poor. But that is to some extent ameliorated by other aspects of class privilege like education.

All in all, it’s just kind of a mess. Which tends to be the result whenever anyone tries to quantify or compare privilege.