This is perhaps more ranty and less humorous than other Grumpy Badger Guides. Hopefully there are still some lols to be had….
Recently I have had some experiences with people who I believed were friends that have given me pause. By given me pause, I mean upset me almost to the point of tears. Not because they were trying to upset me. Quite the opposite, but because their refusal to acknowledge their own privilege when it comes to the experience of others is incredibly frustrating. I am able to ‘pass’. I don’t come over as a minority of any sort, and as such, people think they can say what they want, to or in front of me. That is more upsetting than if they knew who I was, because it shows what they think of me, without knowing it’s me they’re talking about. It can be quite enlightening in many ways, but you have to develop some thick skin, and I don’t think I’m there yet.
My experiences have been with men. I am not saying that these points are exclusive to men, so don’t jump all over me saying women do it too, they might, but this is my experience, which leads me to my first point.
Don’t invalidate someone else’s experience.
Just because you haven’t experienced something, doesn’t make someone else’s experience less valid. For example, if a woman says she’s experiences sexism, don’t say ‘I haven’t’. First off, if you are a man, that’s probably why. Unless it’s really overt you wouldn’t notice it if it was against someone else, why would you? This doesn’t make their feelings less valid. By saying ‘I haven’t’, you’re basically implying that the complainant is overreacting or imagining it. You are invalidating them, making them feel that their voice isn’t worth being heard, that their feelings are somehow less. It only happened to them. This is why the #MeToo movement is so important. It has shown people that it isn’t just them, and that it’s OK to speak. It is OK to speak, they are valid, and so are their experiences. When you are thinking about about whether you want to respond to someone’s complaint, try and make it more extreme. What if, someone said they had been sexually assaulted by a person or group of people? Would your reaction to that also be ‘well, that wasn’t my experience’? If you are a straight white male, it is very unlikely to be your experience. Does that mean it can’t be someone else’s? Just because you haven’t experienced racism, is that not a thing either? Do you even know how stupid that sounds?
Also, don’t assume that because women are involved, it isn’t sexism. Sexism is endemic of a male dominated society. Women have been brought up to believe that the patriarchy is the correct authority, and they are compliant and fall into line with it. If a woman doesn’t call out sexism, it could be because she is so numb to it she doesn’t notice, that she perceives it as normal, or she is embarrassed to say something, or she’s just too tired of being shouted down. Don’t use one woman being ‘OK’ with it as an excuse to say it’s OK. Instead, if one person is not OK with it, ask yourself why not. Harassment is defined by the victim, not the culprit.
You don’t need an opinion on EVERYTHING
It is not your entitlement for your voice to be heard. If someone is complaining about abuse, or mistreatment, which you haven’t experienced, and you don’t feel you can empathise, why not just, I don’t know, not speak? No-one is making you join the conversation. It is your white male privilege that gives to the automatic assumption that your opinion is both necessary and valid in this situation. It’s almost certainly not, and if your thoughts bring nothing to the table other than to belittle or invalidate someone else’s experience, why not keep them to yourself, eh?
Which brings me nicely on to mansplaining. There, I said it. I’ll quickly define mansplaining to you. It is when a person (usually, and exclusively in my experience, a man) tries to explain something to someone (usually, and again exclusively for me, a woman), who almost certainly knows the same amount, or sometimes more than them about the given topic. Before you start saying mansplaining is a sexist term, think about how it came about, and ask yourself if you are explaining sexism to a woman, are you mansplaining?
If you are a straight white male, no matter how you paint it, explaining how gender and sexuality is fluid, so bisexuality is not a valid identity to a group of bisexuals is definitely mansplaining. If you are called out on mansplaining, don’t use the term to take offence and cry sexism. Instead, think about what you are saying, and whether your erasure of the people you are talking to, whether intentional or not, is actually really hurting or upsetting them. Also, as a straight white male, have you ever been attracted to another male? If not, sexuality isn’t that f***ing fluid, is it? Maybe some people are just bisexual, ever think of that whilst you were lecturing people about whether their existence was valid?
Don’t self congratulate
If someone from a minority community posts something about how to include, write about, support or otherwise empower said community, don’t post saying ‘I do that already’ or give an example of how you do that. What do you want? A pat on the head? Chances are, if you feel the need to justify yourself there are ways you could improve. Instead of self congratulating, think about how you might improve your representation/communication.
If you’ve been called out on any of the above, don’t sulk about it. Show what an open and well rounded individual you are, apologise and try to do better next time. Sulking is not going to work for you in this situation. It’s childish and even more douchey than the original behaviour. You think you’re modern and open minded? Prove it. Take on board the criticism and try to do better. Don’t sulk, or hide. The fact people took the time to call you out, rather than ignore your douchiness means they care, or believe you’ll listen to other opinions. Don’t prove them wrong by sulking like a big baby.
Don’t be afraid to ask
I feel I’ve been particularly grumpy for this grumpy badger guide, so let’s finish on a positive note. If you feel like you might be doing, or have done any of these things, ask. No-one will mind you asking, they’ll probably be pleased you’ve taken the time to be sensitive ore try to improve. Use your privilege for good rather than evil, and don’t be a douche.
If you enjoyed this Grumpy Badger Guide, and have a topic you would like Badger to cover, pop it in the comments.