Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Lack of privilege isn't a virtue

Nick Cohen explains the problem with equating marginalization with virtue:
You can argue about whether to call our culture post-modern, multicultural or politically correct. But its fatal contradictions ought to be beyond dispute. It was driven by the notion that a “rainbow coalition” of groups marginalised by straight white men deserved to be championed: women, gays, ethnic minorities. The alert among you will have noticed the first problem. There is no mention of class. An unemployed ex-miner coughing his guts up in a South Yorkshire council flat may be white, male and straight, but he is not more privileged than a female CEO, let alone a kleptomaniac politician in a post-colonial African state. Yet both the capitalist and the dictator can pose as victims and enjoy a global narrative that casts the sick old man as an oppressor.
I always welcome his critiques of authoritarian leftism, and I do think the exclusion of class in social justice circles is a huge problem. (If one explained by the transient nature of class. The same can be said for age-- something else generally ignored by online activists. Though if most online activists are young and middle-class, those biases exist anyway.) But it's not CEOs and dictators claiming victimhood, it's those with some "privilege" but no real power to speak of finding themselves in a community that prizes suffering. No one wants to be an oppressor, so the only option is to identify as oppressed in some way.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Quoted:Judith Schlesinger on the dangers of romanticizing mental illness

[Kay Redfield] Jamison’s autobiography about her bipolar disorder, An Unquiet Mind, has a self-congratulatory tone that has irked any number of readers, including one who said the book should be called “manic-depression for the charmed life.” Jamison’s money and connections insulated her from the horrific repercussions typically associated with this diagnosis. And since she was safely tenured at Johns Hopkins, her public disclosure did not create occupational suicide – it actually became her career, a prolific fount of interviews and writings that cemented the alleged link between bipolar disorder and genius in the public mind. — Judith Schlesinger on Creative Genius and the Insanity Hoax
Harsh, but not inaccurate. I like Kay Redfield Jamison’s books, but she’s been deeply influential in spreading the mad-genius myth. The entire interview is worth a read.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

On self-diagnosis

A handful of posts have popped up on my Tumblr dashboard criticizing the current trend (is it a trend?) of self-diagnosis. What's missing, I think, is a critique of a culture, and by which I'm talking about the culture of Tumblr, not society at large (Tumblr is bizarro world), that prizes suffering and places everything and everyone along axes of power. When I was blogging at a women's site that was never overtly political, but mostly left-leaning, I first encountered the concept of allyship, and I've noticed in few short years being an ally has lost its power. Now, it often seems, you're either an oppressor, or oppressed, and no good liberals wants to be an oppressor. How does this factor into self-diagnosis? In an environment where "identity" rules, something like mental illness, which often goes "unseen" in the way physical disability can't (and things like anxiety, depression, and ADHD are common), it's an easy way to absolve oneself of responsibility. I'm not saying every self-diagnosed person is using mental illness as a get out of privilege free card, but when the one in the most pain wins, it's comparatively easy to do. And, I should point out, people with actual, doctor-confirmed diagnosis can do the same.

Now this is a very specific thing I'm talking about, and in the world beyond online activism, this isn't happening. Actual reasons someone might resist getting a diagnosis? Fear. Fear of being labeled ill, fear of unemployment. Lack of resources. Lack of a general knowledge of mental health. Shame. Lots of shame.

Somewhat tangentially related, Nick Cohen wrote a lengthy piece about the presumed virtuousness of marginalized classes for Standpoint Magazine. It doesn't exactly touch on what I'm talking about, but it's all part of the same culture.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Links & Bits: 4/29/16

A former trans man reports on  the current state of queer culture

Melissa Click thinks she was fired for being white

This person wants you to know that mourning (possible problematic person) Prince is maybe triggering for some, so she wrote an entire post about it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Unfortunately this isn't a rarity anymore

This is incredibly sad:
Anyway, time went on and the rhetoric continued to escalate, and certain ideas came to the fore that my gut and my rational brain told me were no good. But I resisted questioning them. I told myself that the reason I didn’t like them was unconscious sexism/racism etc., and to resist those questions was the right thing for a man to do in order to fight the “patriarchy.” The right thing for me to do was feel guilty for the color of my skin and the fact that I’m a guy; the right thing to do was shut up and fall in line. Needless to say, these feelings were nothing but fodder for my depression. By the end of 2014 I was genuinely convinced that my ceasing to exist would be beneficial to the world in some way. I was never directly harassed on tumblr, but the environment had proven itself toxic regardless. December 2014 was my nadir; trudging home from the metro in a daze, I wandered through several busy intersections with no concerns for my own safety. On some level I was hoping to get hit. Then something interesting happened. I heard a voice in my head; my voice, telling me that this was not the end, that I am stronger than this, that I would not be beaten. That moment, the fa├žade of the SJW ideology began to crack, and I began to claw my way out of that dark place with some newfound clarity. 
If you're prone to self-doubt, the social justice internet is a minefield. I'm old and have a pretty good bullshit detector, and I'm certainly not immune to it. Theories of structural privilege lose their effectiveness when applied to individuals and  personalities, even those -- sometimes especially those -- with the most "privilege."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Camp NaNo: Week Four

I passed my word goal of 25,000 and decided to continue writing despite not needing another draft to pick at for the next three years. I got... inspired and frenetically added more to a character who started out as not much and ended up being a major player, so much that I think I should scrap the rest and make it about her instead.