Thursday, May 17, 2012

Offending Straight White Males

So recently I posted this article to facebook:  Lowest Difficulty There is

*edit:  I have come to the conclusion that the above article fails at discussing this topic unoffensively*

And I had a few straight white males react, feeling very offended.  They seemed to feel that their value, the value of their achievements, and the value of their troubles, were being devalued by the article and people who agree with it.  I answered, possibly a little long windedly, these people in different places and I'm going to try and consolidate and answer as best that I can here.

First there a bunch of things I do not believe the article is saying that I  feel like are being read into it:  The article is not saying that SWMs are not working harder than other people.  It is not saying that they are getting life handed to them.  It is not saying that SWMs are not getting picked on, or that they won't have other traits that hold them back.  It is not saying that non- SWMs are better people for having "more trouble", and it is not saying that non - SWMs are not succeeding.  It not saying that Real Life will *always*  have the odds stacked in a particular person's favor no matter what.  Also I want to stress that this article/concept should not be threatening in any way.  It is not about blaming, or wanting to take anything away from anyone.

What it is saying is that if you take two people with all things similar except for race, gender, or sexual orientation, there will be a difference, and that difference will probably, more often than not, favor the one that is more straight, white, or male.  This means that in Real Life assumptions made, laws (and yes I know there are complaints about protected classes and affirmative action, but I'll come back to this), worry about and actual violence against, and just plain psychology related to dealing with life are going to be different and often more challenging.  It is about raising awareness and paying attention to the fact that differences *do* exist and seeing when they have an effect.  You don't even have to *do* anything about it necessarily, just be more conscious when you are making choices and more conscious of how and why others make their choices.

Now I want to address the whole:  "but I was different in this other way and was picked on or held back, or had this other problem even though I'm a SWM".   There are 2 main points I'd like to make(pervasiveness and more invisible) .  First that  Orientation/Race/Gender are more pervasive than most other differences.  This does not invalidate other differences and problems arising from it.  It just means that they affect more.  Think of these things like layered templates on a character.  When you make a character, one usually decides if they are Male or Female first.  This is because there are a whole host of differences, physical, social, emotional, and otherwise that are assumed based on that choice.  These differences effect almost every area of your life and many on extremely subtle ways.

Next one probably chooses their Race.  Whether it's an elf, or an asian or mixed race of something, it means something.  People assume various backgrounds and situations and mental, physical, and social differences.  Again, it's pervasive.  It's connected to one's family, social situations, and probably while one could have any job, there are certain jobs people think of first.  If you keep thinking of it in a fantasy setting. . ask yourself, what kind of class best suits an elf, or a halfling and why?  You can start making the racial characteristics less different, and imagining them closer and closer to Real Life and you probably find that various jobs do not really stop suggesting themselves.

Speaking of job suggestions, the very fact that if I say "Hairdresser" one probably assumes he's gay, means that this job assumption thing happens with sexual orientation as well.  This also affects who one hangs out with, who you date, who can more easily persuade you by batting their eyelashes, and it's less likely that a gay guy will work for .. say the salvation army and people might assume that they know about fashion. BTW I understand that men always do better as hairdressers than women do, even though women are probably the majority of the workforce in that profession. The reverse seems to be true for massage therapists, but I think that speaks more to how people view massage and who is most likely to get them than anything else.

So as far as pervasiveness goes, my point is that as far as the level of effect that one of these 3 factors has for *most* people (there are always exceptions) they make such a huge difference that it's hard for them not to have both negative and positive effects.  When you are talking about minorities, it is almost impossible for the majority to not be favored without putting in specific protections against it.  The parts most difficult to protect against are the most subtle.

Which brings me to my next point.  It is often subtle.  The differences can be big and obvious, and those can be easy to compensate for.  Everyone knows that it's bad to treat black people like slaves, or treat women like sexual objects in the work force, and these days most people find it wrong to fire someone when they find out they are gay.   But when you are invited to a wedding and you wonder if you were not single, would you have been welcome to have a date (most weddings I've gone to probably would have, but not all I even took a female friend as a date to my sister's wedding).   Or if you have to think about how you actually talk and act different when you go from college to visiting your family (had a black friend tell me about how this happened while she was in college), or any time masculinity is seen as "good" or "acceptable" or "strong" when femininity is seen as "weak", or "less", or "bad" . . . there is a difference. and it effects everything.  Just because you don't notice it, it probably just means that you aren't feeling that effect.  If you feel like you are inclusive cause you have your one black friend, but would feel weird if you were the only white guy around a crowd of black people.. it makes a difference.    Just because you hang out with women that build houses for a living, doesn't mean that other people will always assume that your co-worker isn't a lesbian or "should be taking care of the kids".  Just cause you choose to be a stay at home dad, doesn't mean that other people don't think your wife is forcing you into something wrong.     And, just because you feel you've worked really hard for everything you've gotten, or that your high school life was hell, because you were a geek, doesn't mean it wasn't marginally easier for you than if you were black or gay or a woman.  Maybe if you woke up tomorrow with that difference (and everything was changed so that it made sense) you wouldn't notice the difference or feel you were treated differently, but I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money that you'd be pretty surprised.

I've also been asked for examples of how I've been held back, or had problems because I'm gay.  To some extent I'm a bit floored by this and feel I should just point to any state that either specifically bans or doesn't let gay marriage be legal, or any time anti-gay adoption laws are voted on.. or anytime my RIGHTS are freaking VOTED on. . . .  seriously.  the fact that that's even an option to vote on.

Anyway I think they want more personal, and probably more job related examples.  The first thing I'll point out is that society is getting better, and I'm very very lucky.    I also realize that the worst horror stories one hears about are not "the norm" but I've heard enough non "worst case" but still significantly bad stories to know that I'm still pretty lucky.  Coming out could have been way worse.  I'm fairly confident that if I married or civil unioned a guy now my parents would treat him the same as they treat my sister's husband.  But the whole coming out thing. . is not something any straight person really has to go through.  Maybe if they change religions.. but it's not really the same.  and it's getting easier, but I didn't date in high school.  I'm pretty sure my emotional/dating growth was stunted until I could admit to myself that I really preferred guys. I did have a girlfriend and we are still facebook friends.  Definitely held back as far as dating went there.  Also every time I meet new  people, or get a new job etc. . depending on how important it is to me to not make a bad impression, I do still worry a little about them finding out I'm gay.  To some extent it's become irrational, even in situations that I know it will be fine, I often will  want to do something subtleish, or naturalish to get it out of the way so I don't have to worry about it.  I once had a friend specifically tell me they didn't want to be my roommate cause they wouldn't be comfortable.  They've grown since then, but it really stuck in my head.    Sure one might always worry about making friends and whether or not people will like them. . but this is one less part of that equation straight people pretty much never even have to think about.  I've never not gotten a job because I'm gay, but even this progressive university environment, I knew I had a 6 month probation. . and I was a bit nervous about anyone finding out until after that.  Hell, after that when I finally told *one* co-worker because. . it came up in a very natural conversation, I was kinda freaked out for a few minutes even though she was not reacting badly at all.

Also it pervades even my role playing games:   every time I play a role playing character I feel I have to actually think about what orientation to play. I worry that I play gay too much, or somehow an unreasonable amount of time. course when I don't I tend to minimize the impact (heck sometimes when I do).. once I played straight that made a significant impact but he was pretty messed up romance wise. . and somehow I ended up almost dating another female PC that was played by a guy... I've been accused of playing gay all the time, or most of the time as if it was weird of bad for me to do so. And over all when it comes to playing a different gender of orientation a role playing game, I figure most people who play their own don't have to really question it or wonder if they should maybe play something different every time they make a character. Most people don't even realize they are making an orientation decision when they make characters. Obviously sometimes hey do, and the hyper aware will do so no matter their own but I generally chose to play male characters because I don't tend to believe I'd do a female character justice. I've thought about why I make a choice or think about it before also, and I look back over various games. . and it comes up. The more Role play vs. hack and slash and the more it comes up. I sometimes feel like games I'm in. . sort of gloss over these differences more than they would be in real life even, but that's mostly because no one wants to play in a game that makes the players deal with problems from these differences too much. And no one wants to make or play with PCs that are specifically abrasive to each other. That's what reality t.v. is for... oh and that reminds me. . there is a difference every time you read a book , watch a movie, or listen to a song that contains no trace of your group that you can relate to.  I'm not saying every story needs to involve gay people, but once in a while one finds themselves thinking:  I really like this love song, it would be cool if it was a guy singing it, or about a guy... or I really like this movie or book..but it seems kinda weird that with all of the love/sex/diversity in it that there are no gay people.  Especially if there is some group sexual tension dynamic that is integral to the plot.  I have never felt particularly "held back" except in a social or romantic sense really.  But these fears do permeate more than one might expect.  It certainly makes me care more about politics than I would have otherwise.

Oh, before I stop, I also want to address the affirmative action issue and the concept that it can be easier to get SWMs in trouble for harassing or offending minorities than the other way around.  I will be the first to say that the rule should just be to treat *everyone* fairly and that there is a certain amount of deference paid when one makes an all "blank" group, or organization, or that the rules about harassment, or quotas can be abused.  That being said, the reason these extra protections exist is because of the far opposite that used to and still exists today.  Even in the best case scenario, the majority in power will by default make situations that are unbalanced.  They may try but by definition it becomes harder for minorities to be heard without special protections for it.  On top of that when minorities are often actively discriminated against, it creates a need to push back enough to have a "safe space" for the minority, and to ensure that the discrimination is minimized as much as possible.  These systems are imperfect, but the fact that they exist proves that things have been and are unbalanced.  We become sensitive to offence because it happens.   Also any time someone complains about gay pride, or black entertainment television, or any other group that focuses on a minority.. look around.  when gay people can kiss in public without anyone noticing more than they would straight people, or black people can not feel like they have trouble finding people they relate to on standard T.V... then we can talk.

and I guess that's it for now. . I hope that helps.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I had a weird dream that was starting to turn into a nightmare.  I was in a large building with a bunch of people that included Mom, Angie (my cousin), some really little girl that I knew,  and I think at one point I even saw Jonathan.  Anyway.  We were in a large classroom like room and we knew it was the start of a zombie epidemic.   Also, oddly, we were all worried both about zombies spreading in the building and about aids spreading. we also had some kind of instant test for aids with microscope and it was quickly obvious if someone became a zombie.  Angie got infected with zombie and I remember finding mom and getting pretty scared when things started to get chaotic in the building.  And I realized then that I had no weapons.  and then I woke up.