The Dangers of Word Policing and Blind Inclusivity (pt. 2)

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b7477ee79604ddf04c918f19cf807722This post is going to cover what I’m calling, “blind inclusivity” and it’s the second part of a larger article but it’s pretty stand alone, so it’s okay if you didn’t read the previous post on “word policing.”

It has become fashionable to say that you don’t “see” a difference or that there is no difference between groups of people, and that therefore they will all be treated equally. It is a fallacy that makes it easy to hide prejudice.






tumblr_n1s2karXUK1tucgl1o1_1280Let’s take the term “color blind,” for example. When I was younger I used to proudly say that I was “color blind” and that all people were equal in my eyes. I had good intentions. I meant to say that I was not racist, but the ultimate expression of those intentions was naive. I was not colorblind and I shouldn’t be color blind, because to insist that I don’t “see” color is to take away a huge part of a POC’s identity. At the time, Amber made some points about color blindness that eventually made me see the error of my view. It wasn’t immediate, but eventually I realized I was being stupid and I corrected myself.

She was nice enough to provide a quote for this article on the topic of color blindness:

“I feel that when one says they are “color blind”, they are inherently stating that my color is a problem and not worth seeing and acknowledging. As if my color creates a conundrum that can’t be solved or understood, therefore I am being done a favor by ignoring it, purposefully.”

This is why I say that “sameness” does not mean “equality.” Denying someone’s story is the path to denying them equality, because nothing will ever be equal if you don’t acknowledge the obstacles that people face for different reasons. It’s not so simple as to say, “Ivy League schools applications are open to anyone, therefore anyone has the chance to get in.” Just being able to apply is not enough because acceptance standards are such that many minority and poor students don’t ever have a chance. How can you compete when other students are 50 steps ahead by default?

It’s not enough to say, “I don’t differentiate between a rich student and a poor student,” because if that is the case, the rich student will always win out just because he has more resources available.

There’s such an obsession with being “included” that nobody stops to think about whether it’s actually helpful or just another way to divert from real issues.

Here are some real conversations from Twitter that I’ve seen over the last few weeks:

“You can’t discuss breastfeeding without also talking about mothers who can’t breastfeed.” – Why? If they can’t breastfeed, the breastfeeding conversation just doesn’t apply to them.

“Saying that vaginas are associated with women makes you transphobic.” – Why? Don’t MOST women have vaginas? When a large population shares a physical trait, that physical trait is associated with them. It doesn’t imply exclusivity (only women have vaginas) but a likelihood.

“Having a conversation about adopted black children is offensive because it excludes my adopted Asian children.” – Honestly I wouldn’t even know how to respond to this one.

“People opposed a doctor’s use of the word “vagina” when speaking about childbirth.” Now this one really baffled me, because penises can’t birth children so I’m confused as to what organ should be referred to.

Everyone does not need to be included in everything. SAY IT WITH ME. Everyone does not need to be included in everything!!!

There are certainly topics in which every person should be included. Everyone deserves access to good health care, to equal rights under the law, to respect, to a voice, to a stable job and the ability to support themselves financially. All people should be included in those things and other important, overarching societal issues.

However, there are certain issues that are specific to a certain group and THAT IS OKAY. What do you accomplish by diverting an important conversation to complain that it doesn’t pertain to you?

For example, if you’re a transgender woman who is a mother, what do you accomplish by diverting a conversation about breastfeeding? You can’t do it, but maybe you can learn something from the conversation. You also face your own set of obstacles and issues that need to be discussed. You can create your own conversations, not INSTEAD of those of cisgender mothers, but IN ADDITION. You don’t need to silence other important conversations because you are not included in that particular one.

For example, if you’re a white woman who is a feminist, what do you accomplish by diverting a conversation about feminists of color? You are not a feminist of color, but maybe you can learn something from the conversation. You also have your own issues, but they also have a time and place. Blah blah blah.

My problem is the double standard within minority groups. Omni-inclusivity is considered important only when it is convenient. Feminists of color scream for inclusivity in conversations about breastfeeding, but in the same breath say they need their own conversations and their own spaces because white feminists could not possibly understand their particular issues.

The mother in the adoptive kids example screams for inclusivity in conversations about little black boys and girls who are adopted, but I doubt she would have a problem with a conversation about Asian children who are adopted because I’m sure she feels her children are special angels who deserve recognition.

That little douchebag at Princeton diverts a conversation about white male privilege by saying his great grandparents were Jewish and so he knows exactly what minorities in the US are going through and doesn’t have any privilege. Instead of just listening and learning.

The self-centered need to place yourself in every situation has got to stop. I’m a Puerto Rican bisexual woman. I have a lot of privilege: skin color privilege (because I look white), educational privilege, cisgender privilege, etc. But I also face a lot of disadvantages: I grew up poor, I’m a woman, I’m an immigrant, I’m not straight, I’m overweight, etc. I DAILY see conversations about topics that don’t involve me. I see conversations from Hispanics of color talking about the prejudices they face. I see conversations from gay men. I see conversations about lesbians. I see conversations about transgender people. I see conversations about disabled people or people battling with diseases.

My first response when I see these conversations is to shut the fuck up and listen. I am a Hispanic woman who has no pigment, but I don’t complain that people are “ignoring” my plight. I am not gay or a lesbian, but I don’t complain that people are leaving bisexuals out. I have health problems but I don’t complain that I’m not included in certain health conversations. Why? Because my complaints would take away from an important conversation, and I’m not so self involved as to think that I need to be included in every single thing.

The other dimension to blind inclusivity is the pressure from activists to be 100% politically or socially correct at all moments.

All the conversations I mentioned above did not involve me initially. However, I was the one who relayed the “vaginas are associated with women” conversation to someone else after the fact. Someone saw what I said and came into my mentions talking about how I was transphobic because I believed only women have vaginas. Nowhere did I say that. NOWHERE.

I was called transphobic because I said that vaginas are associated with women. I didn’t say only women have vaginas. I didn’t say you have to have a vagina to identify as a woman. I didn’t say that because you have a vagina that you must identify as a woman. I said that vaginas are associated with women. I stated a fact. And because I stated this fact out loud, I was deemed “transphobic.”

I wasn’t transphobic because I was actively discriminating against trans people. I wasn’t transphobic because I used a slur. I wasn’t transphobic because I believed any particular bad thing about trans people. I was transphobic because I stated a fact. (This person also said I must be a cisgendered heterosexual person. Talk about running with an assumption.) This is a problem.

When I was in high school my drama teacher used to say that if you played everything at the height of drama, your performance would never be believed. Similarly, if your first reaction is to call a person transphobic/homophobic/misogynist/racist no matter how small their transgression, nobody is going to take you seriously. You’re going to be the person who blows the smallest things out of proportion. Not to mention the fact that in this particular situation the person added a context that appeared nowhere in my statements.

So what was the purpose of these two long posts? To warn you of the dangers of extremes.

Certain words are slurs for a reason. They should not be used, they are derogatory. To extend the net of offense wider and wider into general language is to push moderate people further and further away from your cause.

Certain issues are exclusive for a reason. Exclusivity is not automatically bad. Acknowledging differences is the first step towards understanding. Erasing differences also erases the unique identities and disadvantages of many groups of people. Hounding people for making inconsequential general statements is not only useless and unproductive, but it also turns them away from you. It turns them away from learning and reinforces negative stereotypes.

What do I mean by inconsequential general statements? I mean things like “vaginas are associated with women” or another story I heard, of a woman who went to a women’s group meeting and said, “Hey ladies!” and then was chastised for using the word “ladies.” This is so extreme I can’t even describe to you how useless it is. Like with word policing, before you get up in arms, get away from your biases and look at what is really happening, because when you let your biases take over you often see not only wrong intentions, but WORDS that are not there.

I know that no matter how balanced I tried to be in this article there will be people who take offense. Those people are going to be living miserable lives if they are really that bothered every time someone expresses a dissenting opinion, and that’s their own problem, not mine, because at the end of the day there will always be a person who disagrees with you.

There are many other things I could’ve talked about in this post, but this is a blog post, not a book, so I’ll leave you now with (hopefully) new things to think about.

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  • Beffa

    Man look Zuly wrote the hell out of this!

    second paragraph and I’m waving a church fan

    “It has become fashionable to say that you don’t “see” a difference or that there is no difference between groups of people, and that therefore they will all be treated equally. It is a fallacy that makes it easy to hide prejudice.”

  • notconvincedgranny

    I would add this: these days, so many people feel powerless in their own lives, so they look for external reasons to be outraged. There is no discussion with them because that would circumvent their nouveau pseudo-militant mindset and force them to confront the maelstrom that is their own existence. They will scream, as if volume gives their non-rationale substance; ultimately, they will turn away, feeling righteous and bloodied for the cause. But still, at the core, they are impotent.

    • Omelette!

      Yes, I think many people feel totally impotent and disenfranchised from a political system which largely ignores them because it has no real use for them, so they initially resort to semantic terrorism, while others, elsewhere in the world, are swept up in abuses fueled more by theology than ideology. Understanding is not really the goal; you have to choose sides. The weapons each type of fanatic shares and deploys are the ownership of, conferring and, most dangerous, the denial of, an authentic voice and identity; aggressive semantics matter because they are the overture to action. From the pages of Jezebel to the Sahel, the Middle East to the Ukraine, it’s just a matter of scale; in the beginning was the word…

    • cake_and_pies

      There will always be a group of people looking for Gold medals in the Oppression Olympics. They are tiring, add nothing to move the discussion along (they actually constipate it), and run on those long ass soliloquies that are only tangent to the topic. I stopped commenting and visiting several sites because of the rage porn addicts.

  • DameloSuave

    “My first response when I see these conversations is to shut the f**k up and listen. … Why? Because my complaints would take away from an important conversation, and I’m not so self involved as to think that I need to be included in every single thing.”

    And

    “I feel that when one says they are “color blind”, they are inherently stating that my color is a problem and not worth seeing and acknowledging. As if my color creates a conundrum that can’t be solved or understood, therefore I am being done a favor by ignoring it, purposefully.”

    There it is.

  • Omelette!

    I’ve enjoyed these posts. I’ve largely stopped participating in online dialogues because of the forces you’ve identified – it’s just intellectually constipated, electively stupid, why waste time?

    • notconvincedgranny

      I’m trying to figure out how to vote this up this 100 times.

      • Omelette!

        But it’s not just those who respond, it’s the cynicism of the sites which post, they post to incite, clicks matter so they draft click-bait (Jezebel, etc.) Equally, given the adolescent nature (and is there a group more prone to absolutes?), of the extreme stances struck in the comments, I frequently wonder if I’m dealing with a fourteen year old, there’s no way of knowing if you’re engaging with a peer (on so many levels), or a troll. Combine editorial cynicism with adolescent umbrage, season with undergraduate literality and the articulate stupid, and you’re dealing with a heady brew. If I were inclined to conspiracy theories, I’d suspect there are organised activist groups who shut down debate with nonsense, hold up, that’s not a theory…

  • Les

    I’m upset that I just got to read part 2… both of these posts are 100% truth. I am so glad you wrote them. I just wish this was something you could force millions to read as well.

    • notconvincedgranny

      The ones who are in greatest need are the most likely to pass.

  • Zuly

    Now that I wrote this article I feel like I’m seeing extremists everywhere.

    “I’m from Texas” turned into “She’s a Mexican from the valley who has a convervative Mexican husband who doesn’t like to use condoms and she’s afraid of being abused.”

    And a burn victim on a magazine cover illicited a, “It bothers me that ordinary women aren’t featured on magazine covers.” WOMP.

    • Omelette!

      Tweet philosophy is not going to be sophisticated. The stupid now have a voice and it’s catered to because it now has a (clicks counted), financial value. Incitement is profitable so choose your battles carefully.

  • The Lurkasaurus Rex

    Zuly, my hat is off to you.

    You have taken a difficult and emotionally-charged issue and broken it down to its baser elements, which should be easy to understand (except for, you know, feelings).

    Thank you for daring to speak with clarity in a way that adults should appreciate. Please know that you will be liberally quoted because A) what you said is the Gospel Truth, and B) people should know when genius is in their midst.

    Seriously, thanks for the Real Talk.

I dunno what i'm putting here yet. It'll be something ignorant though.
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