When I Read. . .

. . . something like this:

Nearly every one of these oppressions can be broken down into several different kinds of suboppressions

I don’t want to continue reading the article. Not only does it sound mind-numbingly boring in a really convoluted sort of way but I’m also sure that the word “privilege” is bound to appear right after that in the text. And many times, too.

Keep scratching, my friends, keep scratching really hard. Because not everybody has been convinced just yet that all progressives are interested in is navel-gazing in the form of breaking down oppressions into suboppressions into subsubsuboppressions.

Who wants to make a bet that comments will appear soon in this thread telling me that it’s my privilege that makes me dismiss privilege?

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18 thoughts on “When I Read. . .

  1. That’s precisely why the whole “privilege” argument is a kafka trap: it refuses to allow itself the possibility of being wrong, it essentially punishes you for trying to avoid or deny the issue. “Denial is proof,” as they seem to think.

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    1. True. Look at just about any privilege checklist. How many of them actually don’t end with something like, “______ has the privilege of denying their privilege”. Its a catchall failsafe for when all other attempts at defending the misuse of privilege fails. Don’t get me wrong it has uses but frankly I think its gotten too far out of hand.

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  2. I sometimes get the feeling that more time is spent on categorizing problems than trying to come up with solutions. All that does is determine who is supposed to be affected by which problem and who is not. In other words, we are stereotyping.By defining a problem as ableist for example, you exclaim that something affects all and only people with disability. And the same applies to racism, classism, fattism(?), etc.

    Now, if you take a look around your not so immediate surroundings you surely see that milage does indeed wary from person to person. It is not that hard to find women who don’t suffer from typical misogynist problems and non-women who indeed do (Take assertiveness in a business setting for example). But by labeling something as misogynist, you cut a broad and shoddy border around something that includes people who are not affected by it and excludes people who are.

    Intersectionality tries to tackle this problem, but it basically ends up being the believe that a certain problem can have more than just one label attached to it.

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    1. I think that “more time spent” you speak of is the result of people trying to define other people’s problems. Its hard to get everyone together to work on solutions when people can’t even agree on what the problems are.

      Example: How can you address sexism against men when a good number of folks have literary redefined it so that sexism against men doesn’t even exist?

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      1. That is kind of what I meant. But would it not be easier to define problems with the help of what people do or do not do instead of what people are or are not.

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    2. You are absolutely right. I think this is a very American tendency to believe that endless quantifying, subdividing, counting and labeling will somehow address the issue and solve problems. But of course, it never does.
      Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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  3. I agree it would be easier that way Tim. Go by the what/why/how instead of just the who. But as you say people get hung up on who, I guess they like it because its easier to decide based on the who.

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  4. This kind of identity politics also has the tendency — not always, but often enough — to create a false epistemology, whereby I do not even need to speak to you to know what your moral and social status is. In fact, if I do speak to you, I may open myself up to being deceived by your devilish wiles. To stay on track, I have to avoid all forms of genuine, human interaction and engage in quantitative analysis as to what your true identity is.

    The cost of this approach is of course the dehumanisation of the relationship.

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    1. You are a very profound person, Jennifer Frances.

      I’m very glad you are participating on this blog.

      I wish I could quote this statement of yours in my next research project because it’s so brilliant. Is there something like this in your book? (Feel free to leave the link to the book).

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  5. bloggerclarissa :
    Cool! Thank you.

    My thesis actually tries very hard to attack identity politics of this sort, by setting up a shamanistic paradigm in its stead. I think my irony may take it to extremes, though, as when I conclude in my final chapter that “some men are actually women” (i.e. in terms of your right wing and left wing identity politics).

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    1. This sounds more and more interesting.

      When I read the reviews of your book on Amazon, though, they kind of put me off of wanting to read it. The main thing I noticed from the reviews was the discussion of your narrative voice as self-centered and whiny. I can’t believe from your comments on this blog that you are even capable of something like that.

      I guess, the best thing to do is just to read the book. πŸ™‚

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      1. It’s part of the identity politics thing. There’s no way of getting around it. Also Barbara, who is a great person and Internet friend, is also part of the older culture, who reads emotionality into women’s writing. So, it’s very, very difficult not to come across as self-centred and whiny from the point of view of the false epistemology of identity politics. Actually, the tone of the book is very mocking and not what the false epistemology assumes it to be. πŸ™‚

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  6. bloggerclarissa :
    Yes, it’s definitely true that we all bring ourselves to the text.

    Yes. Also I think that the subject matter is still too emotionally raw for many people — the issue of colonialism, etc. I have quite a lot of confidence that in historical retrospect it will be much easier to see that I am making fun of the ridiculous ideas of my identity that had been projected onto me, rather than quoting them because I thought they were true. It’s very, very had to see that a projection is simply a projection — including the whiny, emotional persona. Then again, there is also projective identification — which is the internalisation of such a projected persona — and there may be an element of truth to that.

    The point is that what I am depicting is the kind of identity that was socially constructed at the time. It’s not who I really am.

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    1. I think I can really understand what you are talking about. I also grew up in a colony and went with my country through the very painful process of post-colonial emancipation and all the attendant highs and lows. I only left Ukraine after I lost hope that its postcolonial struggle had a future. I came to doubt the validity of that judgment later on in life. Since then, I have studied and researched issues pertaining to identity formation.

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      1. Yes! Identity formation is really, really interesting. I studied it a great deal in my thesis, most particularly the political nature of identity formation through projective identification. I came to believe that this is the most decisive way in which our identities are formed, because it is really almost impossible to resist a particular identity if a large mass of people are projecting that identity onto you. In effect, they are requiring you to play a certain role for them — and my memoir is an exploration of this. For instance, in terms of white, Western culture, I am the dishonourable “colonial”, whom others can automatically use to mark their own superiority. For my father, who was bound to extremely antiquated and rigid standards of masculinity, I was his “emotion” and means of coping with his loss of his country. And then there are the secondary levels of interpellation and distorted interpretations, whereby my efforts to explain this situation is also seen to be a confirmatory sign that I am merely “whining”. Ah, me! There is nothing I can do to stop the tide of the onslaught. However, I am now resigned and happy that at least I understand it and that these ebbs and flows of political emotion have nothing to do with me. I ultimately disowned my subjective connection to the identity depicted in the book by means of an extreme kind of mockery of it in the last few pages. That was intended as a rupture and a break from the past through an act of destruction. (I don’t think anyone sufficiently shares my shamanistic paradigm, just yet, to grasp this.)

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