8½ Rules of Privilege

As many beautifully-snarky people have pointed out in recent years, it’s getting harder and harder to be White, male, heterosexual, and/or cisgender in this country these days without having to occasionally think about one or more of these identities in ways that might make us uncomfortable. (Full disclosure: I am all of those things listed in the previous sentence.) I have the utmost faith that we can handle it, though, and that we will emerge better for it.

I only recently (i.e. in the past 4-5 years) came to understand the extent to which I do not have to consider how my race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. affect my daily life. Other people do not have that luxury.

I’m not talking about any great epiphany that I had. Really, the most important thing that I have come to understand and accept is this: with respect to people whose lives are not like mine, I don’t understand their daily reality, and I will never fully understand. To put it another way, I get that I don’t get it.

I’ve had numerous discussions on social media and in real life (yes, IRL conversations do still happen, even with people who live glued to a computer like me) recently about how to recognize and understand our various forms of privilege, and how it can be difficult because of the way our society tends to view most of my attributes (White, male, etc.) as the “default” setting.

As a sort of confession, I used to be of the mindset that racism, sexism, etc. were not my fault, because I never owned slaves, I hadn’t even been born when Mad Men took place, and so on. It’s a seductive view for someone who wants to be on the right side of history while keeping a perfectly clear conscience, but it’s not true. Continue reading


The Means Do Not Justify the Ends

It bears repeating, now and then, that the people (politicians, activists, etc.) who tend to bray the loudest about the need to stop abortion also tend to oppose any and all measures with an actual, proven track record of reducing the number of abortions—usually because those measures require an acknowledgment that sex is a thing that happens whether they shame people for it or not. That’s something they just cannot do, I guess.

(They also tend to oppose measures that would assist new parents in raising the children they insist those new parents have, but that’s a rant for another day.)

In the face of all this evidence of what actually works, they just keep spinning their wheels. It’s almost like stopping abortion isn’t the real objective, you know?

Or, to put it another way: Continue reading


Identity Politics and Academia

I’ve seen a number of people recently post an article published on Vox, written by an anonymous college professor*, about the threats to his career and his “academic freedom” (whatever that term means anymore) posed by today’s college students and their “identity politics” (whatever that term means anymore).

I spent quite a bit of time deconstructing the article, at least in my mind. It’s worth noting that the anonymous professor only mentions one specific incident, in which a presumably conservative student reported him to the administration for having communist sympathies or something. That incident went nowhere.

I eventually came to the conclusion that the anonymous professor has a serious problem with regard to the tenuousness of his career, but that his beef is with his university, not his students. Why are professors’ jobs so shaky, and why are universities allegedly so quick to punish professors for offending people mostly age 18 to 22 (who are supposed to be there to learn from said professors)?

One could point to the increasing corporatization of academia, or the increasing tendency to treat students as consumers. Luckily, Amanda Taub, a fellow former-lawyer-turned-writer who deserves better than to be compared to me any more than that, addressed these issues quite thoroughly in a post at Vox. She notes that not only is there a serious problem in academic employment, but that many people are all too willing to dump the problem off on a bunch of teenagers, who make an easy target, quite frankly: Continue reading


America’s First Female Lawyer

Saturday, May 23 was the birthday of Arabella Mansfield (1846-1911), who, in 1869, became the first female attorney in the United States.

Via National Women's History Museum / Facebook

Via National Women’s History Museum / Facebook

Via the National Women’s History Museum on Facebook:

In 1869 she became the first female lawyer in the United States. Mansfield passed the bar despite the fact that the test was only supposed to be administered to men at that time. She challenged the legality of the restriction in Iowa and won her appeal, making Iowa the first state to admit women to its bar.

(h/t Georgette)

From the Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys: Continue reading


About that Sansa/Ramsay “Game of Thrones” Scene

If you somehow haven’t heard about it yet (spoiler alerts and all that), last week’s Game of Thrones episode continued the general divergence from the books’ storyline by having Sansa Stark marry Ramsay Bolton (née Snow)—possibly in order to exact vengeance on Ramsay’s father, Roose Bolton, who murdered Sansa’s brother Robb and was directly involved in the murder of her mother, Catelyn. Sansa was apparently unaware of just what a bastard (pun intended) Ramsay is, as was Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, who brokered the arrangement with Roose Bolton.

The overall storyline of having Sansa marry Ramsay is definitely a huge difference from the books, but it makes sense in the context of a TV show. In the books, Sansa is currently still at the Eyrie with her cousin, Robert Arryn (Robin Arryn on the show), and Ramsay is married to Jeyne Poole, a friend of Sansa’s from Winterfell who is being passed off as Arya Stark. Littlefinger has plans to one day send Sansa back to Winterfell and reveal “Arya Stark” as an impostor, giving Sansa the opportunity to reclaim Winterfell for the Starks. What’s happening on the show fits that same overall scheme, and it does it with fewer characters and less plotting-while-sitting-around.

But that’s not what I really want to talk about, and I think you know that. Continue reading


The Man-Approved Feminism of the New “Mad Max” Film

(Adapted from a Facebook comment.)

I have not yet seen Mad Max: Fury Road, although I am very excited about seeing it sometime soon. I re-watched The Road Warrior over the weekend, and have thoroughly enjoyed the various retrospective pieces about the film series. Perhaps even more so, I have felt an extreme sense of Schadenfreude with regard to the way certain people of the MRA persuasion are reacting to the film, generally without even having seen it. Apparently a movie set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland in which men are not the sole focus of attention is absolutely terrifying to some people (and not for any reason having to do with the “post-apocalyptic part.”)

A piece by Breitbart writer John Nolte, as quoted and summarized by bspencer at Lawyers, Guns & Money, offers praise to the film’s view of feminism, at least as Nolte perceives it, from a presumably conservative viewpoint (it is Breitbart, after all): Continue reading


Kill All Men


The more time you spend thinking about the patriarchy, the more you’re genuinely like UGH DUDES AMIRITE. Because the thing is, patriarchal culture actively trains men to be awful. They’re not born thinking that they’re in charge of women’s bodies, or that their opinions hold more weight and should get more credit, or that orgasms are their birthright! They have to get poisoned with those ideas by steeping in a culture that uses individual men as a tool to advance male supremacy.

Part of the reason misandry jokes take off, and part of the reason men who see the patriarchy matrix are some of the most enthusiastic misandry jokers, is that men are encouraged and rewarded for behavior that is, on the face of it, downright awful. Once you see through that horrible joke that patriarchy is playing on you, individual men start hating men-as-a-group in the same way that feminists hate them — not a way that encourages automatic hostility towards members of the group, but a way where you want to see the group disbanded and its charter destroyed and cast to the winds and forgotten.


To my male friends who have complained — gently! Respectfully! But still infuriatingly — about the “misandry thing”: I do not really want to send you to an island. I do not want to light you on fire, or send you into space, or put you in a box and put the box in the ocean. I do not need to drink your tears to live.

But I do think the concept of “manliness” needs to be taken out and shot. And when (not if, but when, because this is how privilege works) you slip up and do something sexist, when you shout down a woman who knows more than you or act like her body and clothes are designed for your pleasure or just ignore the inequities around you because you can, because you were told all your life that this was okay and only learned recently that it isn’t and you have to fight to remember that and it’s hard, that’s the guy I want to banish. I want to banish That Guy so you can be the generous, just, compassionate human being you are, and one day when all of Those Guys are banished we can be human beings together.

– Jess Zimmerman, “Men, Get On Board With Misandry,” Medium, August 8, 2014 (see also)


What I’m Reading, February 23, 2015

One Woman’s New Tool to Stop Gamergate Harassment on Twitter, Taylor Wofford, Newsweek, November 29, 2014

Harper admits that Gamergate Autoblocker is more akin to a sledgehammer than a fine tool: She is willing to block out more than 9,000 Twitter users just so she doesn’t have to hear from a vocal few hundred. People who have never tweeted a single harassing thing end up blocked by nearly a thousand people, including many influential decision makers in the gaming industry. Gamergaters are worried Harper’s block list may turn into a black list, and anyone who appears on it will be persona non grata in the gaming industry. Harper attributes this fear to a quirk in her initial code. “The block list was in a file called blacklist.txt,” she says. She has since changed the file name.

Twitter is not the only place where women are harassed online. In a Pew Research poll released in October that tracked online harassment, a group of female respondents aged 18-24 reported experiencing severe harassment at disproportionately high levels: 26 percent claimed to have been stalked online, compared with 8 percent of all respondents, and 25 percent claimed to have been sexually harassed online, compared with 6 percent of all respondents.

Still Here, Part 1: A Memoir, Randi Harper, randi.io, November 16, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 20, 2015

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Harvard Business Review, August 22, 2013

There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power. Conservatives and chauvinists tend to endorse the first; liberals and feminists prefer the third; and those somewhere in the middle are usually drawn to the second. But what if they all missed the big picture?

In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.

Stop Blowhard Syndrome, Christina Xu, That’s What Xu Said, February 9, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 17, 2015

New Study on Gender and Hot Sauce Has Exceptional Conclusion, Maggie Lange, New York Magazine, February 3, 2015

Just as you hoped, a new study from Penn State researchers titled “Gender differences in the influence of personality traits on spicy food liking and intake” has important information about the ways in which men and women are entirely different sorts of creatures, and how one group might be genuinely badass taste adventurers and one group might not be.

In the study, the researchers conclude that women are more likely to seek sensation from spicy food, while men are more likely to see other extrinsic rewards like praise and admiration.

To put it another way, no one eats Guatemalan insanity peppers because they taste good.


Stop what you’re doing, and GO READ THE BUZZFEED EXPOSE OF A VOICE FOR MEN’S PAUL ELAM. (SPOILER: He’s even worse than you think), David Futrelle, We Hunted the Manmoth, February 6, 2015 Continue reading