Tuesday, October 22, 2013

on empathy, again

So this is old news, but I've been sitting on it for a while and figuring out what I have to say about it.

Some background: New York City has this stop-and-frisk policy, wherein police can target random people walking down the street and give them pat-downs, with no requirement for suspicious behavior or anything.  And whaddaya know, surprise surprise, those 'randomly' targeted for this tend to NOT be white men.  Who could've guessed?  So quite a few people are piping up to point out that this is not an okay situation, what with the enabling of racially targeted police harassment and all.

New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, had this to say, when defending the policy:

"If I had a son who was stopped, I might feel differently about it, but nevertheless..."

What we have here is a radical and blatant failing of empathy.  "Well, if I were personally affected by this issue I might care, but because of being a powerful white man I'm not, so whatevs." ???

He said this out loud.  

He knows.

He just fails to give a shit, because it doesn't actually impact his little self-bubble.

To care only about issues that affect himself, while claiming to represent a city (a city that, newsflash, contains people unlike him as well, in many different ways, because hey diversity), and implementing garbage policies that are questionable at best and then immediately abused for racial targeting, and to do nothing about that and further to not even see the problem with that?

If this man wasn't busy being actively harmful to his constituents (who are real people who really exist, by the way), I would feel sorry for him.  That's one hell of a limited existence you've got there, bub.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

homecoming, or the kids are all right

A school in Florida elected a couple with Down syndrome as homecoming royalty.

An Illinois school elected a gay homecoming king and a lesbian homecoming queen.

In New Hampshire, they have a transgender homecoming king.

As we grown-ups work to confront entrenched and shitty biases that keep people from really seeing and accepting each others, the kids are figuring this shit out too.  Not to say that social justice work is irrelevant (hardly!) but that it really does work to change the world, tiny piece by tiny piece.  Continuing to bust our asses to make the world a more accepting place has real results, and here's a lovely bit of proof.

The kids, they are okay.

Also, happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Friday, October 04, 2013

the power of ignorance

I've learned to avoid certain topics around my boss.

Politics.  Social issues.  Equality.  Really anything other than science or technology.

But occasionally I still feel compelled to try.  It seems to be an exercise in futility, but I have a really hard time believing that a fully-functional, intelligent, seemingly kind and decent human being can still have such glaringly consistent fail when it comes to thinking about any perspective other than his own.

It's a radical failure of empathy, and it's profoundly disheartening.  Like the time he took objection to my celebratory attitude over marriage equality wins, pointing out that if homosexual people can get married and adopt children, then those children will all grow up gay and then 'our' (!) population will decline into instability.  I mean really.  These thoughts can really exist in a real live human's brain?  I find that baffling.

Anyway, a while back I tried again.  I forget how the conversation started, but we wound up discussing how there are cultural pressures at work that devalue female people's accomplishments, intelligence, and capabilities while overvaluing appearance.  How this pressure results in forcing a ranking of priorities onto these people, and encourages emphasizing and working on appearance over other pursuits. How it's sad that 'performing pretty' is such a heavy-handed requirement, to the point that many female people neglect to develop other aspects of themselves because of focusing exclusively on appearance.  It's a little simplistic, but I thought it was a good conversation.  I did have to gently steer away from trajectories that would have wound up in 'dang shallow wimmens and their makeup, they ought to just knock that off' territory and stay focused on social effects and causes rather than individual blame, but it was pretty encouraging, overall.

At this point a coworker arrived, and noted my recent haircut.  I'd gotten another one over that weekend, because I like change and we all know how I feel about haircuts.   Boss-man then passive-aggressively opined that I cut my hair 'just to make him [my boss] mad.'

I really don't even.

After I was done gaping a bit in astonished silence, I calmly explained that no, I wasn't actually thinking about the effect my making choices about myself might have on my boss's preferences.  No, dude, you aren't the reason I do, well, anything that's unrelated to the performance of my job.  I wanted to add that it's conceited as fuck for him to blithely assert that he must be the center of my universe like that, but restrained myself.

While mentally preparing myself to launch into a conversation about how his policing of my appearance and attempting to apply pressure in how I had to present myself ties neatly into our immediate conversation about requirements placed on women, he dialed his sexist ignorance up to eleven.

'Well, I think women should all have long hair because it's pretty.'

What the everloving fuck?

Wait, let me say that a bit louder.


When we'd JUST, not three minutes earlier, had a whole conversation about how judging people (especially women) for their appearance is really shitty?  How enforcing one's preferences onto another's body is unconscionable?  Now you're going to assert that your personal aesthetic preference necessarily MUST dictate the behavior of everyone ever?

I realized then that we must have been having entirely different conversations at each other.  I was thrilled to discuss how artificially enforced societal expectations lead to a stifling of individuality, and wouldn't it be awesome if we could move past that and let people be people, so they could be free to express themselves in whatever way felt authentic to them.  I think he wanted to talk about how women are silly for wearing makeup because he personally didn't understand or approve of it.

Maybe someday I'll be strong enough to shoulder through these situations.  Maybe someday I'll have the patience and steely resolve to get beyond my own flabbergasted injury, to continue speaking calmly to thoughtlessly judgmental bigots and have that conversation.

But in that moment, on that day, I couldn't do it.  I lapsed into stunned silence, and went back to work.

But my heart hurt.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

damn it, George Takei

[Trigger warning for consent-ignoring rape apologia, slut-shaming, and racism]

I like George Takei a lot.  He leverages his fame to raise awareness of his causes such as gay rights and Japanese-American detainment.  I think he's done some work with autism too.  He's become something of an Internet icon for tolerance and awesomeness.  Good stuff.  Yay!

However, he's been having a lot of intersectionality fail of late.

So you may remember this, wherein George Takei, awesome human being and justice advocate and actor, posted a rather thoughtless meme that implied that strippers are bad people and/or the result of bad parenting.

Some of his followers pointed out how un-cool that was, and he apologized. That was cool, even if it didn't feel like he *quite* understood what was going on. But okay. Those who commented wanted him to know that we think so highly of him that we assume he'd like to know when he's hurting folks, and maybe that information will be acted upon. Learning is neat.

But... it hasn't stopped.  This tendency, though being keenly aware of the importance of the social justice issues by which he's personally affected, to thoughtlessly inflict harm on other oppressed categories of people.

Just in the last few days, we've had this:

And then this:

Not cool, Takei.  The first displays gross victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and callous disregard for the concept of consent all in one fell swoop.  The second... well.  Cute jokes about very real and terrifying people who terrorized and murdered people based on race with support of societal structures at large do not exist in a vacuum.  This really isn't all that hard.

I get it: intersectionality is hard.  Wearing blinders is easy.  Being aware of how your words serve to enforce oppression in a multi-dimensional kyriarchy takes work.  But George Takei, kick-ass gay rights activist, wants folks to do that work for his causes, while not bothering to do his own work to understand the issues that affect others.  I really wish he'd take a second and actually think about what he's saying, beyond whether it's a cute pun.  I'd hoped for better from someone I truly admire like George Takei.  A world full of institutionalized inequality and oppression is what social justice-aware folks confront on a daily basis, but this sort of drivel is somehow extra-disappointing and heartbreaking when it comes from supposed 'allies.'

Intersectionality is critically important.  We're all in this together.

In the immortal words of Flavia Dzodan, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit

Edited to add trigger warning because I should really remember to add those.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

awesome thing of the day: kickass six-year-old dancer

This little dancer is beyond amazing.  Holy crapmonkies, but she's six year old and kicks so much ass.  Also, she has seriously impressive poise and stage presence.  Go watch her.  Impressed you will be.  B-girl Terra, you freaking rock.