The Silence of Our Friends

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Anti-oppression vs the civility of polite society

Many times the reason I don't post on a topic is because I have too many thoughts and directions to go on the subject, and if I can't have some semblance of organization in my head, how will I ever manage to organize it enough to write? This is one of those times but I am forging ahead anyway. I've never been one of those "linear" thinkers anyway and make connections between apparently unrelated events and ideas all the time. Some random thoughts...

For me it almost always comes as a shock to realize that the person I am speaking/writing to doesn't see me as fully human as they see themselves. I feel the same way when I hear/read them do it to someone else. It's not that I am so stupid to think that most people are inherently good blah blah blah pie-in-the-sky platitudes... It's that the people I choose to associate with and engage my time and efforts with should know better, are expected to be allies, have a higher consciousness with regards to social justice issues etc. or I wouldn't be wasting my time and effort on them.

Words can be violence. Words can lead to physical violence on a personal level and on an institutional level. It's easy to see with hate speech, but hidden with patronizing speech. Both set up a hierarchy of humanity, both make it easier to abuse and kill the group the speech is directed towards. Be aware when either is being employed against a group of people it's a set up, or the remnants of a past set up. These are the people who are in the way, an inconvenience to the powerful and wealthy, or sometimes just the majority. Hate speech makes it easier to enlist people to the cause of neutralizing and/or eradicating the subject, patronizing speech is for those who will not actively aid in neutralizing the subject, but will turn a blind eye to what is going on.

I've learned that hate speech and ideas are very effective among those who identify as conservatives and patronizing speech and ideas are very effective among those who identify as liberals.

Democrats, liberals, and other assorted progressives should be paying close attention to blogs and other media geared towards "the dregs of society" because we are the ones predicting that this is coming your way. Some of you have been smart enough to figure out that conservatives/neocons laid the foundations for the latest "anti-terrorist" campaigns and wars in the Reagan years and beyond, but can't see what foundations they are laying now, or think they have dodged a bullet. They aren't using inflammatory language like anti-American, traitors, and terrorist lovers against you to be silly and annoying. Dodged a bullet? Politics is cyclical; the Bush administration may be losing credibility with the public, but the powerful and wealthy backing them are patient.

People are more likely to say what they really think on the internet than they would in the real world and using harsher language. Having said that, I still have a problem with some of these discussions bemoaning the lack of civility. I've been on the internet for 10 years and witnessed innumerable instances where these scenarios play out with the exact same script -
Person 1, "Conventional wisdom says that you (or your loved ones) are less than human."
Person 2, "%*@&!!!"

In the liberal blogosphere every flame war between white liberals or feminists and anti-oppression bloggers has been a magnification of this, with one bloc who believes "conventional wisdom" and the other bloc saying, "WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU???". I'd be interested if someone could name an exception or two.

If you have ever been on the side of "civility" you might want to examine that. Your conventional wisdom or commonly held beliefs that everyone-knows-is-true might be imprisoning, maiming, and killing real people.

I bet you thought this was about race, uh huh, but Ashley X and Katie Thorpe are my actual inspirations. Once again liberals and feminists have shocked, angered, and frightened me with their casual acceptance that certain groups are less than human.

Intersectionality of oppression is western societies way of saying, if I can't get you to feel hate, fear, or at least apathy for "those" people for reason A, then how about reason B?

Elle, PhD posted a letter to the progressive white blogosphere that is an excellent example of intersectionality of oppression. She links to a Wikipedia entry on Claudette Colvin. If you can't hate her for being black, then hate her for being from the poor side of town, or being sexually active and immoral. Perfection is necessary because otherwise there is always an excuse for conservative hate and liberal apathy.

I don't think many of us anti-oppression bloggers understood the magnitude of the hate, fear, and apathy towards us before we started posting online. It's because the mask slips and liberals innocently (ignorantly) and proudly reveal their bigotry which isn't bigotry to them but common sense. Everyone knows that people with disabilities are vegetables who have unnecessary messy body parts! Everyone knows that women of color are pitiable creatures who need to be saved by white women because they are too stupid to organize or solve problems themselves! Everyone knows that transwomen aren't really women but men mascarading as women so they can molest the real women in womens rest rooms, or spoil the Michigan Womens Music Festival, or infiltrate womens ranks and undermine them!

1 comment(s):

I know I'm coming to this late, but I only just found your blog, and when the whole Katie Thorpe thing started, I was only just learning about how people with disabilities are treated and viewed and what's wrong with that.

Reading that thread on Feministe now, is just painful:

* Q Grrl's attempt to justify the procedure by comparing it to sex reassignment surgery. WTF?

* The constant appeals to how society doesn't really support parents of children with disabilities, without any real examination of how society doesn't support the children. The use of these appeals to justify the parents doing whatever they feel they have to. I've read about too many cases of parents killing their children because of their disabilities, and receiving sympathy from society because of the horrible burden they had to shoulder.

* The constant reference to Katie being "mentally 18 months old." Ann McDonald was also assessed as being "Mentally three months old" until someone bothered to teach her how to communicate.

* One person saying she thought the Ashley X case was justified, but Katie is different because she has CP. Of course... Ashley has CP too, but it was called "static encephalopathy" to make it sound more ominous.

The overwhelming sense of ableism was just oppressive to me, and I'm mostly able-bodied. The sense, over and over again, that some of the posters were willing to deny people with disabilities their bodily autonomy for the convenience of their able-bodied caregivers, as if disability is defined only by how convenient it is to deal with, and also determines how much personhood someone should be granted.

By Blogger Lisa Harney, at 10/27/2007 8:10 PM  

Post a comment

<< Home

Links to this post:

Create a Link