( – promoted by buhdydharma )
The other day I ventured into an essay. God forbid that I read an essay here.
Dude, I read almost all of the essays here. Telling me I should just not read them I think misses the point of the whole exercise.
And I observed something written by someone trying to write about identity politics, someone with whom I have had extreme disagreements about the exact same subject in the past. I might have actually read the whole thing through at once, but I got trapped pretty close to the beginning because, like he has a habit of doing, the author assumed a power-over position. So I stopped before finishing to address it.
He didn’t intend to do so. At least I’ll give him that benefit of the doubt. The power-over position is so natural to some folks that they assume it without a thought most of the time. In what I thought was a crude attempt at humor, he decided that the alternative to use to the set of men and women, out of all the words available to him, was “hermaphrodites.”
I made a cultural faux pas at that point. I assumed a position of equality in order to point out that he was invoking his power and presumed to try to educate him about his choice of words. He spent the rest of our discussion trying to deny me that position of equality, to reassert his manhood and restore order in the universe.
Mind you, this is only my view, from the position as a member of a traditionally powerless group.
Next day, another essay is authored, one which accepted the first author’s description of the first incident as fact and proceeded to explain how the power-over position was, in fact, the way things should be if we were going to win an election. Moreover, there was the statement that I’ve heard all too often in my life that I was going to have to be twice as good to be taken half as seriously.
And them I was told that none of the discussion had anything to do with me and I was being self-obsessed to think it was. And that hurt very much. All acts of dismissal do hurt to someone who has spent a lifetime mostly being rejected. That it was someone I considered a friend reinforcing my powerlessness hurt a whole lot.
And someone else said that people in the traditionally powerless position just needed to toughen up.
I could have left right there. But buhdy wrote something that tried to explain what we should have been talking about. And the first author eventually said that if he wasn’t going to be able to exert the power-over position that was his birthright, then he was out of here.
Then, from my perspective, it got worse. Author #2 posted an “apology,” such as it was, to some other people who she had been arguing with for weeks. As for me, I got a slap in the face. She quoted author #1and applauded that quote, which included this little bit:
So instead of actually discussing the idea I am trying to articulate, … moral advantage (is sought) by harping on my terminology. Basically, the ‘OMG! I can’t believe he said that!’ approach.
So his vision of me as someone “seeking moral advantage” by claiming the temerity of addressing him as an equal is accepted as a fait accompli and spread even further among the blog members, many of whom no doubt accepted that as fact.
That’s where powerlessness comes from. That is how it is maintained.
And someone else said that people in the traditionally powerless position just needed to toughen up. Because it is very easy to “toughen up” if you wake up every morning with the culture assigning you the power to do so.
The piece goes on…and on and on…as did her piece from before, changing the subject to banning words, something which was never suggested. But that’s an easy way to avoid talking about the power. And no matter how much I tried, I could not return the discussion to the initial one. Because that is what happens when someone cannot invoke power-over. We’ll talk about what you deign worthy of talking about instead of what we think is important.
And I should mention the red herrings of context and intent. I may as well address them while I am here.
Does intent matter? Of course it matters. But it is not a Get Out of Jail Free card. If you hurt someone with the words you use to express your thoughts, you still hurt them. “I didn’t mean it” doesn’t take away the sting. Acknowledging that there was hurt caused by the words is soothing. Defensiveness pours salt in the wounds. If someone tells me I hurt them with what I said, I listen. I certainly don’t tell them they shouldn’t feel hurt.
And that context thing? That thing where I am supposed to completely understand the context in which you use your words, that context being your life and how you see things and what you were thinking about when you said them? Here’s a question: as a reader, am I supposed to disregard the context of my life? Is it unimportant? Is this another way of asserting power-over? Is the writer in no way obligated to read what is written from the point of view of those who may be in the audience?
Sigh. I said this morning this was going to be a ramble. I write my Sunday pieces on Sunday morning so don’t take as much time on them as I do the pieces I write for Fridays, the ones I write to illuminate my point of view to the potential authors here, in the hopes that maybe it will have some affect on things like thoughts and language choices. On Sunday it’s more just stream of consciousness, prose written like my poems, which I spend an embarrassingly little time writing.
Even wandering has to stop somewhere, so I’ll end it soon.
I think pushing the personal buttons was just a freebee, something I have to live with because I do write about myself. By telling people so much about me, I also tell what my buttons are and how they are so easily pushed.
I write autobiography. I thought people knew that when I came here. I write about ideals and concepts and progressive issues through the only lens I’m allowed to use within the constraint of our “common” language, which is the lens of my life.
Or common language does not acknowledge that I exist. If we are not allowed to negotiate language, I am…we are…denied the chance to change the society into something that will accept me/us.
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
Some people find the master’s tools sacrosanct, in the name of Freedom of Speech. Your freedom to say anything debasing about me that you wish is codified in law.
Am I even allowed, on my part, to ask you why you would want to?
Ah, gees, there I went on, just talking about me. Self-obsession is a hardy foe.
But the thing is, I’m not writing to express my moral advantage. I’m rather hoping to establish yours. I always have hoped that and I always will.