Activist, Educate THYSELF: The Importance of the STFU&L Phase

Hey. You. Shut the fuck up...and listen.

I know it doesn't sound very nice. And it's not. But it was exactly the slap upside the head that I needed not too long ago, and I am forever indebted to Renee of Womanist Musings for saying it. I came to the blogosphere naively full of completely-unexamined privilege, discovered WM, and when one of her characteristically blunt and no-nonsense posts on whiteness prodded me right in the privilege, I flipped and argued with her, telling her it "wasn't really racism" and that she was taking things way too personally. She turned right around and told me in no uncertain terms that, as a privileged young white woman, if I wanted to be at all taken seriously, I needed to shut the fuck up and listen, for a good long time, to those who had lived the experiences she was talking about.

I felt like a puppy who had just been scolded for getting into the garbage! My pride was stung, my privilege smarting from that solid whack on the nose. I nursed my privilege for a couple of weeks, not reading her blog at all. I don't remember what it was that prompted me to return to her space. Maybe it was just the nagging guilt of "She's probably right, you know..." that I felt more vividly the more I thought about it.

But I returned. And it was probably three or four months of reading, processing, shutting the fuck up and listening, before I began to comment again. I sought out Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack list, read Womanist Musings and TransGriot and The Angry Black Woman, began to note examples of what these bloggers talked about in my daily life, and, in short...educated myself. I learned how to behave as a privileged person in the space occupied and owned by the oppressed class. I learned how not to appropriate, and how to defer to the lived experiences of those with less privilege than I when talking about what is and isn't oppression. I learned, basically, how not to be a privileged asshole.*

And right now, after another dustup on Feministing Community, wherein a man came in and put up his first post basically saying "Hi feminists! Please prove to me that harmful sexism still exists in Western cultures by telling me how you experience it." and many of us took affront at this wielding of male privilege in a feminist space, I feel the need to pass on Renee's wisdom. Shut the fuck up, dude. Shut the fuck up and LISTEN, before you start spouting off. Educate yourself by shutting up and listening to us, by seeking out reading material on your own, by LISTENING to what has already been said. Not by demanding, no matter how politely, to have your hand held and information spoon-fed to you.

I know it's less fun this way. The STFU&L phase is not over in a day. It takes time, and effort, to educate yourself on the experiences of a life you've never lived. But this is how it's done. The first step is to learn...by shutting the fuck up and listening while other people talk.

*Not that I'm any less privileged now than I was before, but I am not generally an asshole about it these days, or if I slip and am called on it, I check my privilege and listen. So still privileged, but not a privileged asshole.

Apparently, I'm A Guy

Last night I was playing with my Analytics account and seeing where I got traffic from, and ended up on a message board where someone had done a link roundup of posts about the stupid Evony ads, including my post from a few weeks ago. My post seemed to be a favorite in the discussion, and I was reading along in quiet anonymity, happy to see my words having an impact in a forum I'd never even heard of (power of blogging ftw!). And then I got to this:
... when I saw that ad (the one where the woman is enjoying "post coital bliss" as the guy put it) ...

The guy?

Wait, guy? What guy?

That sounds like my description of that ad...

Oh. Me. That person is talking about my post. I'm "the guy".

There is nothing on this site that specifically describes me as a woman. But there shouldn't have to be, to remove me from the default class of "guy". "Guy" should be the term you use for someone who positively identifies as a man, not the catchall assumed term. The poster could have said "as the blogger put it" or "as that person said" or something neutral. But instead they chose to say "the guy". Because if you're not immediately, blatantly female...you're a guy. Women are a special class of Not-Men, and everything else is Men.

Perhaps this shouldn't bother me so much. Perhaps I'm taking it too seriously. But it was physically jarring to see myself described as male by a bunch of total strangers in a forum where I wasn't able to stand up and say, Hey, I'm not actually a guy. Just so you know. A woman wrote that.

Does that get any better, easier, less infuriating at least? Or will it always feel like that when you're misgendered online?

Unpacking the Holy Knapsack

Inspired by Peggy McIntosh's seminal privilege list, "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack", and prodded by hearing quotes from several Christians yesterday who apparently feel that they are being prosecuted for their faith because the City Council of Lodi won't pray in Jesus' name anymore, I thought I would try my hand at creating a religious privilege list.

Unpacking the Holy Knapsack: Manifestations of Christian Privilege in America
As a Christian, you can be assured:
1. Nearly everyone you meet will have heard of your religion
2. You will not have to sit down and explain your religion every time the subject comes up
3. If you want to take the day off work to celebrate your religious holidays, your boss will likely understand A: which holiday, B: why you want to celebrate it, and C: will give it to you with little issue.
4. You can wear jewelry with your holy symbol on it and nobody will ask you what it means
4A. You can wear jewelry with your holy symbol on it, without fearing persecution or repercussions when people see it.  (h/t Michelle, in comments)
5. You are not generally asked to speak for all Christians
6. People understand that there are multiple denominations within Christianity, and will not assume that just because you and someone else are both Christian, you will automatically get along or have religious beliefs in common.
7. If you are young and Christian, people will not assure you that it's "just a phase".
8. When you tell people what your religion is, they will not ask you if you are actually worshiping a manifestation of Evil.
9. Few people will question you if you choose to raise your children to practice your faith.
10. You can assume that most people know the creation myths of your faith
11. Your religion is most often portrayed in media as a positive trait
11A. When your religion is portrayed negatively, it is clearly shown that such cases are the exception, not the rule.
12. If you appear clean-cut and mainstream, nobody will exclaim "But you don't look like a Christian!"
12A. If you "come out" to people who didn't know of your religious beliefs, they won't say "But you seemed so normal!"
13. If a public prayer is offered at some gathering or government event, you can be reasonably sure it will be offered to your particular Deity.
14. If you are pulled over while driving a car with bumper stickers pertaining to your religion, you don't wonder if the cop pulled you over because of them.
15. In a hospital or airport with a public worship space, if there are accoutrements of any particular religion in the space, they will be for your religion.
16. If you stay in a hotel, the holy book in the bedside table will be the book of your religion.
17. Public libraries carry copies of not only your main holy book, but inspirational works by other authors pertaining to your religion.
17A. When a public library chooses to carry books about your religion, they do not fear public outcry.
18. No school district or county library association has attempted to censor books about your religion.
19. If a person of your religion commits a violent crime, it will not be seen as reflecting on the entirety of your religion's validity.
20. If you are unsuccessful in some endeavor, it will not be seen as reflecting on the entirety of your religion's validity.
21. In discussions on the history of civilization, your religion will be shown to play a prominent positive role.
22. When you travel, you can be sure of finding a place of worship similar to your preferences at home.
23. It is easy to find grave markers in the shape of your holy symbol
23A. If you put up a grave marker with your holy symbol on it, people will understand what it means and nobody will look askance at it.
24. If you wish to get a tattoo of a symbol of your religion, you can be assured most tattoo artists will be willing to give you what you want.

Suggested Additions from Commenters:
25. A candidate for public office may profess your faith while maintaining a realistic hope of election.
25A. A candidate for national-level public office must profess some variant of your faith in order to be considered a viable candidate.
26. When there's a discussion of the role of religion in the public sphere/education, you can assume that your religion is the one being discussed.
27.  If an intoxicating substance is part of your central sacrament, you will not be accused of using your religion as a cover for drug abuse, nor will it render your spiritual experiences invalid in the eyes of others.
28.  Explicitly listing your religion in your social networking profiles is considered normal, not a "statement", and is unlikely to invite controversy from friends and/or family.

These are just the things that occurred to me in thinking about it this morning. Most of them, I have experienced personally, such as the tattoo artist who only did my triquetra tattoo for me because she thought it was a Christian trinity symbol; while I was there, I saw her turn away a girl asking for a zodiac symbol because "We don't do that devil-worship stuff here." Or the coworkers at a temporary job I took working for my mom, when they found out from her that I'm pagan (after I'd already quit), saying "But she's so...normal!"

What can anyone else think of to add? Let me know in comments!

Poor, Persecuted Christians

I am not a fan of religious influences in government. The persuasive speech I had to give for my public speaking class (I got a 90%, yay!), I did on why the National Day of Prayer should be abolished. "America is a Christian nation" is one of my most hated phrases. The tradition of opening government meetings, sessions of Congress and the like, with prayer, annoys me.

But if a city council must do so, a policy like the one adopted by the city of Lodi, California, is the least offensive option. I couldn't find a copy of the bylaws online, but it is quoted in multiple other sources as requiring that opening prayers be "non-sectarian and non-denominational". In other words, no "In Jesus' name" or any other particular deity. Simple, right?

Apparently not. According to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, out of 55 archived videos of Lodi City Council (LCC) meetings, 39 of the opening prayers specifically included references to Jesus. For "non-sectarian" prayers, that's an awful lot of Jesus! So FFRF asked the LCC to actually, y'know, enforce their policy on prayers at the meetings, under threat of litigation.

And that, apparently, was a terrible! affront! to an organization of self-righteous religious fuckwits known as the the Pray In Jesus' Name Project (be warned: there is enough spin on that site to leave you dizzy for a month). So they protested outside the LCC meeting this Wednesday, singing hymns and praying. Because somehow, refusing to use the name of their particular holy dude is persecution, according to several of the protestors (via):
"It's becoming harder and harder for the Christians."
"Christians are the silent majority and eventually we have to stop being silent and stand up for our faith."

Oh, you poor, poor things, having 75% of the country identify as your religion, having most of your holy days as government-mandated national holidays, having a President at all times who shares some flavor of your religion! That must be absolutely terrible! How dare we uppity non-Christians (and reasonable Christians) try to say you can't force a secular government body to pray to your particular holy dude! It must be so awful for you, having to consider that there may be people around you who don't believe what you do. So it's getting harder to...what, exactly? It's getting harder to impose your religious beliefs without challenge and with the backing of the government? You are so, so oppressed.

If that's oppression, well...we should all be so oppressed.

No Body Part Is Safe...

So it seems that no part of a woman's body is safe from scrutiny, disapproval, and the Need! to Fix! It!!

I've seen this infomercial a few times. And every time, my response is a resounding WTF??? Are beauty companies really THAT hard-up for ways to make women feel insecure? Or are they just that greedy, that they need to manufacture a new kind of "workout" for a totally un-work-out-able body part in order to sell women one more bit of shit we don't need to "fix" our bodies a little more?

Oh, for fuck's sake. Why am I surprised? Women can never be perfect enough. This is just one more way to capitalize on that, and the free market never misses an opportunity to profit from misogyny.


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