Thursday, July 18, 2013

"That's just Soandso,"- Assholes Getting Away With Their Assholery

You know what I hate? When people excuse rude, offensive, or hurtful behavior on the part of someone else because, "That's just their personality." There's a difference between something like Asperger's and just being a jerk. 

I say this because I keep seeing a lot of misogyny and racism in my Facebook and Twitter, and when it's from people I know personally, they've pretty much always had someone come to their defense for the way they act if I've brought it up in person to mutual friends (usually by saying they make me uncomfortable, not really in a "WHAT AN ASSHOLE!" way). 

"That's just how Soandso operates. You get used to it."

Fuck that noise.
No, I don't "get used to it," and you know what? I'm not sorry.

When it's "normal" for a person to make objectifying comments about women every chance they get, they're perpetuating discourses of subordination and hierarchical normative structures of power that devalue women and place men at the top- literally and figuratively.

When it's "normal" for a person to make cracks about minorities or religion as often as possible, they're perpetuating the normalization of bigotry and hatred we experience every day, not to mention echoing colonial and neo-colonial discourses asserting the supermecy of whites and western culture.

I refuse to "get used to it" because by not calling someone out on their shit, it perpetuates the status quo. And I've ranted about the status quo before. And about how harmful discourses get/are normalized all the time. 

I don't usually get it on my own posts, but I hate the way I sometimes see myself and others patronized or condescended to when pointing out the isms when we post something  of concern to us. Often stuff like, "You think being mad about this one thing is going to change the world?" or, "Yeah, and getting angry on Facebook is really going to make a difference." 

This usually comes from assholes that post women in bikinis and think stuff like this is funny in earnest, and then refuse to concede the possibility it may be supporting a harmful discourse- or don't even acknowledge  it and Schopenhauer the shit out of anyone calling them out. Or they think this picture that was in my feed the other night  is funny and refuse to listen when how sexist it is gets pointed out:

I said it's sexist (well, "So fucking sexist," actually), and the person  that posted it said it's not and I totally didn't want to get into why with them, but it actually led to a quite fruitful dialogue between the two of us- I felt pretty damn happy about the end result (of course, this is operating off the assumption he actually meant it when he seemed to be taking what I said to heart). So here's what I told him (after I accidentally got too jargony for him... sigh.. and I try so hard to avoid that shit):

"It's sexist because all they're doing is comparing her looks to Chris Farley's. Chris Farley was an actor (who yeah, I thought was friggin' hilarious, I must watch Tommy Boy at least twice a year) whose gimmicks mostly revolved around him being overweight and unattractive. Instead of discussing her conduct as a judge, they're making fun of how she looks... So they're treating her like an object by only discussing her looks, as if she's a thing to look at, rather than a whole person. It doesn't matter if she really IS a shitty judge, what matters is they aren't even saying that. Just insinuating she's ugly."

Judging (HAH) from his  reaction, the fact that he seemed genuinely remorseful and surprised, while previously had  thought it was funny, I do think  he got it. So score one for the home team, eh?

But usually it doesn't go that well. I often end up just backing down if I start getting into it, either by telling them I'm done or letting them change the subject. It's the dudes (and yes, I'm saying "dudes" categorically because I've never really had any women do this shit) that this happens with that really irk me. I've had a few close encounters with a few women, but they're often about semantics or tangents, as opposed to entirely disagreeing (like, "The title is misleading" or, "This group is also doing X that's messed up, too, let's talk about that one, while we're at it!")

I say again, it's not cool. Being sexist, classist, ableist, any-ist "just to be funny" isn't NOT the "ist" it's emulating. It very much IS that ist. One person making a racist joke isn't one person being satirical, it's one person being racist- and just because it's one person, that doesn't make it okay, either, because add up all of the one persons, and you get shit like this and this and this and this being deemed acceptable enough to be said, made, and distributed for me to find the link in the first place- and, no doubt, you'd also get the hoards of internet  assholes defending  its creation.

And if that's your sense of humor, it's not something anyone should "get used to."

Yes, I believe in free speech, which is why I'm saying this now. I'm not saying we should preemptively sensor these people, but by golly, tell them they're assholes when you see or hear them, and maybe they'll feel shamed enough to think twice. And I fundamentally believe that if enough ridicule and shame is put  on people doing this sort of thing, the beliefs causing that sort of behavior to manifest will trickle away and, in time, things like racism, ableism, sexism- they can genuinely become a thing of the past. Not in my lifetime, but  maybe  someday. I try to think that as much as I can, at least, because it gives me hope, and cause to keep at it.

There are some social norms that can be harmful, like the isms, like the hierarchies leading to subordination. But some are good, like those dictating people should be respectful of one another, that they should consider the ramifications of their words and actions. And what I wish would become a norm for other people, not just the hippie-dippie-bleeding-hearts like myself, is thinking about the power structures embedded in what we say, what we think  is funny, and  how we defend ourselves if called on our shit, and self-correcting as much as possible before opening our fat mouths.

Yes, I'm pointing the finger at myself. I know I've made racist, sexist, classist, ableist, any other "ist" you can  think of statements before, and I know I'll do them again in the future. No one is perfect, and I by no means want to seem as if I think I am. But I do my best to stop myself if I catch myself about to act in a way that upholds any status quo that subordinates anyone else.

So that's why there are people I flat-out don't associate with. Why there are people I deliberately avoid having over to my apartment. Why I sometimes skip out on social activities after seeing the guest list. Because whenever I call these people out on being racist, being sexist, being ableist, they get defended by others. And while sure, it's kind of disappointing to hear people whose judgment I value apologize for that sort of behavior, I understand  why they do it, and I don't fault them for it. Especially since they're usually the first to agree with me when I bring up some discourse of oppression in another context- whereas the people they defend  usually tell me I'm full of shit. The latter know what they're doing, and if they apologize at all (which they very rarely ever do), they don't mean it- and go on and repeat the behavior at the next moment possible. And that's why I can't stand to be around them. And that's why I try not to let them get away with their assholery. 

1 comment:

  1. Something Kris always likes to remind me of: Freedom of speech goes both ways. They have a right to say assholey things; we have a right to say that those things were assholey. Also, it is freedom of speech, not freedom from criticism.