(Today's post comes on the heels of yesterday's, but you don't need to read that to get this one.)
One of the things that I put on the bingo card because I hear it so much in discussions about human rights is, "You're taking this too personally" — also its variants, "You need to take a step back and examine the larger picture", or "If you stop focusing on your personal hot-button issues…".
To give you an idea, the last time I heard this was when discussing why I have not, and will not, vote for Stephen Harper or the Conservative Party of Canada. I was arguing with a white, heterosexual male, who hit every spot on yesterday's bingo card — he didn't hate women, gays, artists, scientists, First Nations people, immigrants, veterans, the elderly (it goes on), but he believed that if I took a step back and stopped focusing on my personal hot-button issues, I would come to understand that Stephen Harper best represents the interests of real Canadians. When I told him that left white, heterosexual men, he told me I was taking this personally and that I should attempt to remain constructive.
Yesterday's conversation ended on a similar note, with me being accused of adding a "personal flavour" and ruining the "constructive atmosphere" when I pointed out the irony of a man telling women sexism doesn't exist because he doesn't see it. To that I say this: a big, wet raspberry.
Talking about remaining objective and constructive and aloof in discussions of human rights is the stupidest thing I've ever heard — and, in my (lol emotional wimmin's) opinion, completely counterintuitive. If we remove ourselves from an issue, it's much easier for us to stop caring about it.
I don't know about you, but the last thing I think this world needs is more people treating AIDS in Africa as a purely hypothetical, mental exercise.
Dismissing someone by saying "you're taking this personally" is a silencing tactic, and it needs to stop. Dismissing minority issues by saying they're "personal" or "hot-button" or "too political" is a polite way of saying, "Your issues don't affect me, so I don't want to hear about it". It doesn't help that these phrases are almost always spoken by someone in favour of the status quo, and, just as likely, a status quo that disenfranchises and often harms people outright.
I don't understand how we're supposed to talk about sexism or racism or homophobia from a "constructive" (meaning, "don't force my to examine my inner prejudices") or "impersonal" and "objective" (meaning, "I don't actually care, so stop trying to make me") standpoint. When it's people's lives we're talking about — when people are being silenced, starved, beaten, killed, driven to suicide, trapped in poverty — how are we supposed to stand back and discuss this "like adults"? When did discussing things "like adults" mean we're not allowed to care? Not allowed to have passion?
I'm not sure who's to blame for this — the PC police, our grade school teachers who insisted everyone play nice all the time, a society that wants to keep the people in power the same forever, what — but we need to erase this attitude, now. In none of the aforementioned discussions did anyone say "Well, you're not allowed to talk because you're a stupid white man with a stupid white penis and I hate you". But it doesn't matter, because any "attack" (read: calling someone out on privilege blindness or bigoted behaviour) means we're just over-emotional women on our period (or fags on THEIRS, because gay guys are like GIRLS, amirite LOLLOLOLOL).
One thing's for sure: accusing someone of being non-constructive when they stop treating bigotry as hypothetical and mention its real-world applications is a big flashing sign that says "WARNING: PRIVILEGE AHEAD". Remember: privilege does not make you a bad person. Ignoring your privilege's effect while forcing it on others does.
If everyone played nice and acted "like adults" all throughout history, then women would not own property, vote, or be able to take care of their income after marriage; black people would still be barred from restaurants and public transportation; gay people would still be tossed in jail; and Amurrica, the Greatest Country on Earth, would still be drinking tea for breakfast.
Change isn't nice. Change is messy. Change is inconvenient. Change is uncomfortable. Change takes hold of everyone's tidy lives and upends them, dumping things all over the floor and rearranging them. Change is also necessary. If no one feels uncomfortable, we're not doing it right.