A rant about Clay Shirky…well, not really a rant since I am not much of a ranter…a rebuttal perhaps?
When a member of a dominant group, in this case, a highly educated white guy, writes a “rant” on the reasons why a traditionally marginalized group (women) is not matching the status quo set forth by the dominant group, I take umbrage. Seemingly bereft of a critical awareness of systems of oppression, and the power structures that maintain privilege and patriarchy, Clay Shirky used his virtual pulpit to perpetuate status quo addled thinking.
Shirky argues that women should stop caring, be more arrogant, and act more like men do when it comes to securing career “opportunities.” Women are framed as being less skilled in the art of being jerks than men. Being a jerk, according to Shirky’s bizarro world view, is a good thing. In other words, women should be arrogant jerks in order to succeed. How twisted is that? What about changing systems so that no one has to be a jerk in order to succeed? Why settle for the current state of affairs? Mr. Shirky’s argument only thrives if we believe that things cannot be changed. The system, and the “rules” that currently govern it, need to be rewritten.
Shirky attempts to draw parallels to the movement amongst men to be more like women. According to Shirky, we “encourage men to be better listeners and more sensitive partners, to take more account of others’ feelings and to let out our own feelings more.” So according to Shirky, being an arrogant jerk holds the same value as listening, sensitivity and empathy. I disagree. This isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Adopting traditional patriarchal values (being aggressive / a “jerk”), from which sexism flows out of, is no where near the same as values (listening, sensitivity, empathy) that are about creating goodwill / creating community.
What if being a better listener, being more sensitive, and being empathetic were grounds for career success / opportunities?
Photo by Duncan
Tim Wise on white folks and historical memory:
There is none so dangerous as the white American who waxes nostalgic about what he or she likes to call “the good old days.” Or, alternately, those “simpler” times, or the era of so-called “innocence” remembered from their childhoods, memorialized in a Norman Rockwell painting, or via televised re-runs of the Cleaver family, or Opie Taylor casting a line down at the ol’ fishin’ hole.
None so dangerous because such persons, through their lamentations about having lost the nation they so fondly remember, disregard as if they were a mere annoyance, unworthy of consideration, the lived experiences of millions of their fellow countrymen and women: peoples of color for whom so many of those days were anything but good, far from simple, and part of an era that can only be thought of as innocent by a people utterly inured to suffering, wholly incapable of even defining innocence, let alone identifying it, and unable, for reasons of their own racial narcissism, to stare truth in the face. In this case, the truth that their recollections are the very definition of selective memory. Perhaps worse, delusion itself.
Faris responded to several of the comments on his letter to white LGBT siblings at OSU. Scroll down to number 27 for some Farisian awesomeness. I’ve excerpted a few choice sentences…
Below, I will address the claims made in the above comments.
Before I do this, though, I want to make something clear about what I wrote in this column. In the above comments I read that I called people racists or that I resorted to personal attacks. This column did no such thing. I wrote, “I believe that for a white person to host a party themed “Cowboys and Indians” is racist.” No where in this sentence does it state that I believe that someone who holds this party is racist. I wrote that the ACTION of holding this party is racist. If we break down the above sentence, the subject is “to host a party,” which is an action.
This is a subtle distinction, but one that needs to be made. I don’t believe that calling someone racist does any good, as we are all affected by institutional racism and prone to racist acts when we do not think critically about our actions.
Nor was this meant to be a personal attack: I was not attacking the personhood of who hosted this party or the people who attended. I was attacking and critiquing an ACTION. It is imperative, I believe, to keep this distinction in mind.
Continue reading Homonormativity + Dominant Paradigm pt. 2
Michael Faris, a friend, fellow Iowan, hero, and gym partner of mine has written an amazing letter – “An Open Letter to My White LGBT Siblings.” The letter was initially published in the Oregon State University student-run newspaper – The Daily Barometer. The comments on the newspaper’s website to Michael’s letter have ranged from the bizarre (saying that Faris is a homophobe is like saying that I hate Star Wars), the ridiculous (one commenter seemed to think that because Michael’s letter was well-written that he must have used a thesaurus…umm Michael’s formal training is in writing, of course his letter is at a high level of articulate awesomeness), and the banal (the trolls brought along their dusty suitcases of unoriginality for most of their comments).
Here’s a brief snippet of the letter. Feel free to travel the info pipes to Michael’s blog for the full read…
And your party, asking folks to dress up like caricatures of Native Americans, is perpetuating the historical representations of racist images created and perpetuated by white society.
I am sure that you would say your party is ironic, that you knew these representations were racist, but you did it out of absurdity. I would reply that you are refusing to deal with your white privilege.
Continue reading Homonormativity + Dominant Paradigm