Friday, October 21, 2016

The election of a U.S. president...

will occur soon.

A while back I came to an important realization...and I assure you it didn't just float down out of the ceiling into my head. This realization was a result of the rather astonishing (hey, I sometimes can astonish myself in a good way) amount of time and effort I've put into reading and thinking and conversing and feeling and thinking some more that I've done over the past 18 to 24 months which focused on grappling with some of the ways oppression operates. That includes focusing (and often being dismayed and appalled) on my own thinking and understanding as well as what plays out in society "out there".

It is axiomatic that we (I include myself) must struggle with our own inner selves (repeatedly) even while also turning our attention to "out there". We gotta struggle with our own demons in order to accurately identify and resist those "out there" demons.

Most especially I've been trying to learn about race/racism (both "out there" and inside myself) and to a somewhat less concentrated degree about the operations of sexism (both inside myself and "out there"). But, I only have so much capacity for comprehension at any given time. I can't do everything...that doesn't mean I can't do something though.

I'm not going to write detail about my struggles with comprehending these deplorable doings in this post...I've written about a lot of it previously and I'll continue to write about it but this post is simply to offer you up a summary of what I've come to understand so far in regards to voting next month.

Look at this:

Hmmm....the above graphic shows that people of color overwhelmingly opt for Ms. Clinton as opposed to Mr. Trump and while it's a bit less overwhelming...white people, combining both men and women, opt for Mr. Trump as opposed to Ms. Clinton.

Now look at these:

Women only voting would elect Ms. Clinton and men only voting would elect Mr. Trump. So, what can we learn from these graphic representations of polling information? (note: these graphics are located on this website)

Well, if you've been following my writing here you'll already know that if you're interested in opposing or resisting oppression then you will want to align yourself with those groups who are targeted by oppression and injustice, also, people who belong to subordinated groups tend to be more knowledgeable about injustice. One useful way to think about this is to remember that the servants tend to know more about the masters than the masters know about the servants. 

Since here in the U.S.A., which is a white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalistic and heterosexist society...among the groupings of humans which are targeted for subordination and oppression are people of color and women. And...these polling results show the preferences of those groups and they overwhelmingly prefer Ms. Clinton for president.

So...there ya go...I'm with them and that's who I will vote with...what's nice about figuring out to follow the preferences of people of color and/or women is that I don't have to do anything but find out what what their choices are and I'm ready to vote.

Note...this does in no way shape or form indicate that Ms. Clinton is someone who either understands or is an effective advocate against oppression or oppressive simply means that of the choices offered by the two major parties...Ms. Clinton is overwhelmingly preferred by members of subordinated groups over Mr. Trump.

If we are ever to have candidates that "get it" in terms of comprehending and resisting oppression then we have to direct our efforts to that end and that has to happen way way before the selection process begins. That's work that has to begin at the grassroots local community level. Good stuff doesn't come from the top flows from the bottom up. There's no "magical" leader or savior out there that's going to do our work for us. We must do it ourselves.

Friday, October 14, 2016


I've noticed a couple of often used maneuvers that seem to serve to assist in keeping oppressive structures and conceptualizings in place. These doings can take place in situations which are not involved in oppressive activities...but...they sure seem to show up too often to be accidental anytime oppression is in play.

One of them (ahistorical) is stripping away the historical knowledge and events as they occurred over time in regard to concepts, things, words and even living beings. After this omitting...the de-historicized concept, thing, word or living being can then thought about or written about or interacted with in ways that can serve the function of oppression much more easily (and misleadingly) than if that lost or hidden historical information is taken into account or considered. One of the results of losing or hiding history is that mystification of the phenomena (words, things, concepts or living beings) is much more readily achieved.

In other's real easy to get real stupid (or engage in oppression) real fast when dealing with concepts, things, words or living beings if we hide or "forget" their history.

Another thing I've seen in my adventures in learning about some of the "isms" of oppression is how often the maneuvers associated with injustice engage in stripping away the context associated with concepts, things, words or living beings. A snazzy word that's used to identify that operation is decontextualize.

Part of how I think about the difference between "ahistorical" and "decontextualize" is that the first word (ahistorical) generally refers to the origins and evolution (change over time) of concepts, things, words or living beings, while the second word (decontextualize) more often refers to current or near current circumstances.

Since I've presented several links in this post to dictionaries...then dictionaries might serve as a useful example of the way in which power can be invisibly enacted via use of the handy dandy tool of stripping knowledge about the history from something.

Think about this...who do you think creates and maintains English language dictionaries (both now and in the past)? Is it men or is it women or is it a combination of equally shared power and control between men and women? Do members of marginalized groups of peoples have any input into these dictionaries or is it only white men and/or white women? (not to mention even whether any Earthlings besides humans have any input into those dictionaries)

While you're thinking about that, I'll go on and note that Julia Penelope, in her cool little book titled "Speaking Freely: Unlearning the lies of the father's tongues" tells us (p. 217) that one researcher...when looking into the compilation of "authoritative sources" that English language dictionary editors used...only those sources created by "anglo men" were consulted while works from women or other marginalized peoples were ignored and not used. Hmmm... (I wrote a little about Ms. Penelope and language in a post last year)

That tells us that, for we who use the English language, even the words and the meanings of words that are used to communicate and think are pretty much controlled by white men. Hmmm... How many of you were familiar with that little bit of context and history? See what I mean about how nifty those tools of ahistorizing and decontextualizing are for making (potentially) relevant information invisible?

But hey, as we all know, white men wouldn't ever engage in oppression or such detestable activities if they have power...right? White people (especially white men) pretty much always behave in fair and socially just ways, right?

By the way, some feminist scholars caught onto some of the problematical aspects associated with English dictionaries and created A Feminist Dictionary that, according to the Wikipedia entry, has: "...the intent of “forcing us to consider who assembles the dictionaries usually consulted and to ask how the words have been chosen.""

Ahistoricizing and decontextualizing...good stuff to know about if you're concerned with the maneuvers of oppression. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

White obliviousness.

I've been posting about manifestations of oppression that target human Earthlings lately.

Part of my motivation for doing so is that I've slowly and with a lot of struggle and difficulty come to (only) vaguely comprehend that I live in a society and nation wherein oppression directed toward various (relatively powerless) groups of living beings is a core structural component of everyday life.

For instance, if you belong to that group raced as white...then you (me...we) participate in enacting and upholding oppression directed toward groups raced differently than white and we do that routinely and mostly with no meaningful comprehension of doing so.

I live in a society and nation wherein if you're sexed as male...then you (me...we) participate in enacting and upholding oppression directed toward groups sexed differently and we do that routinely and most often with no real comprehension of doing so.

I'm going to write here about an instance of my enacting whiteness that happened recently and it disturbed me greatly (and continues to strongly bother me). My discomfort comes not only from my being oblivious to enacting discomfort also has greatly to do with the fact that I had every element of information available to me that would have allowed me to not be oblivious to my white privilege...and yet I still was able to be deplorably oblivious.

Briefly, I recently became acquainted with a young man who commutes to the town where I live so that he can attend some university classes. He drives about 30 miles or so (one way) to come here a couple of days a week. I have interacted with this man a number of times and I thought to offer him my phone number so that if he ever had any sort of difficulty or mishap in his commuting then maybe I could be of some help.

I did this, in part, because I used to commute about that same distance to a town near here to teach a couple of classes and I always was a little uneasy because I didn't know anyone in the town I drove to and knew if I had car trouble or something there really was no one in that area I could call on for help or information. It would have been somewhat comforting to have known someone there I could have contacted in case I needed to do so. Sure, there are garages and mechanics around but I didn't know any of them or where they might be located and such and maybe someone who lived there would have been more tuned into what was available or whatever.

Another part of why I offered to be a contact was that this young man is raced as Black. I've worked at, over the past few years, to paying attention to the racial makeup of people I see out in public places. I live in a really "white" source indicates only about 4% of the population here is identified as Black. That means that if he had some sort of car trouble or other situation...most likely he would have to approach and/or call on some stranger to help him and that stranger would not be Black. There's a lot more to be said about all that but I'm not going into it now...this post will probably end up being too long as it is already.

So...after asking if he knew anyone here in town...and his saying no, I decided to offer to be available as a contact for him and to help him in case of some problem if I could.

Hey, I'm a nice guy, right? Well...I'm really probably not...I don't mean I'm a daily jerk or anything (that I know of) but I've lived long enough to become aware that, more often than not, if people are around me for a bit they tend to decide they don't want to have much to do with me. Sometimes they don't have to be around me very often at all to decide that I'm sort of unpleasant or uncomfortable to be around. Over the years I've been told that I was "weird", of if they were being polite they said I was "unusual", a number of times and so I just figure that the quality of "weirdness" or "unusualness" off-puts most people. So be it.

Saying all that to say that I was offering to be a contact not because I'm all warm and gooey and "nice" but for several reasons, one of them being that I'm deeply bothered by how we white people are taught to be ignorant of and oblivious to people of color and what the experiences of living are for them and I wanted to bridge that socially created gap in some small way. Also...I liked this young man and liked his demeanor and he's young enough to be my grandson and when you get old you sometimes want to help out youngsters when you can. All well and good, right? making that offer to him turned out to be something that's brought me face to face with some of my white obliviousness and that is resulting in my become a little more cognizant of how very often many of the ways I comprehend my world around me are shaped and formed and directed by my social conditioning. It has called on me to be a little more aware of how poorly I comprehend "reality" and flawed my perception is of what living life is for someone here in the U.S. who is raced as African American.

A week or two after I gave him my phone number and let him know I would help out if I could, he approached me and asked if he could talk to me. I said sure and he proceeded to tell me that he appreciated my offer and he had been thinking about it but he realized that it might not, in some instances, be useful for him because he knew that if the police stopped him and he tried to use his cell phone to call me that his reaching for his cell phone might be used as an excuse by the police to kill him...because they could interpret phone use as a "threatening" gesture.

As he told me about his thinking, awareness flooded in on me that he was perfectly accurate in his assessment of what might happen and I also was totally chagrined and dismayed that I had been completely oblivious to that truth. It never, in any meaningful way, impinged on my viewpoint that such a risk existed for him. And yet...and he spoke and I listened and understood his words I knew that I should have known that. It's not like information isn't all over the place about these obscene police killings of black people. My god, an ugly and unjustified police killing of an unarmed black man just happened in Tulsa which is only about 100 miles from here. I'm "aware" of this stuff...and just didn't register with me that he was someone who was at risk for being murdered by the police.

I've been wallowing with this ever since he spoke to me...even as I write this it almost overwhelms me to grasp how grotesque it is that I didn't consider this aspect of one of the ramifications of his calling me. I see this stunning gap in my comprehending as a manifestation of white obliviousness. I see this absence of meaningful understanding and knowing as me enacting whiteness and all the while doing so without realistically knowing what I was doing. It makes me want to weep and it also really really pisses me off. I'm not "stupid"...I'm not wholly insensitive...and yet...I often behave and view the world around me and the living beings, human and not human, in the world in just that way.

And that ignorance and obliviousness isn't accidental...nor is it because of some inherent flaw or glitch in me. I've been carefully groomed and taught this way of being in this society...has diligently and persistently taught me to not pay attention to people of color or to their experiences. It has diligently and persistently cultivated and rewarded me for being oblivious. And...I've learned my lessons well.

That results in my feeling results in really really angering me. I'm angry about my being lovingly and lyingly induced to be "stupid" and oblivious and thereby assisting in these sorts of wrongs continuing to be "normal". I'm angry at the creeps that came up with these teachings, I'm angry at my society for making those teaching "normal" for we white people and I'm angry and my own complicity in going along with them and horrendously thinking and acting as if...well...everything is just "normal" and ok.

It occurs to me as I write that that hey...if I'm going to be an ignorant a**hole...I want to know I'm being an ignorant a**hole. I don't want to act that way and not know it...I don't want to go around thinking I'm being helpful or useful or friendly or whatever and all the while being complicit and upholding of disgusting awfulness. I would like to have some choice in the matter. If I'm going to be a jerk I want it to be because I choose to be a jerk...not because it was chosen for me and I was seduced and suckered into jerkiness because I was seduced into and induced to not know what in hell was going on.

Here's one way I can think of this phenomenon that might illustrate (to me...and maybe to you) one (there are many) outrageous thing about my white obliviousness. It means that I end up behaving in ways that I would not choose to behave if I realized or comprehended that a choice was involved. If part of being "free" or having "freedom" is having choices then whenever I engage in life and do things without awareness of having a choice...then I have less freedom. Someone else made a choice for me...and taught me to be unaware or uncomprehending of their choosing for me so I wouldn't kick up a fuss about their controlling or influencing my behavior. I've been made into a puppet of some kind to further whatever their goal or desire was and that pisses me off.

Nobody asked me about it. Nobody asked me if I wanted to choose this or choose that. They chose for me...and taught me to not notice and to not be meaningfully aware and like a dork I went along with it...because I thought it was "normal" or something and then I end up operating like an oblivious a**hole.

When I do gain some awareness, I feel like a fool. And I feel sad...and I feel inadequate...because I comprehend that all the information was there in front of me and I just glided right over it and didn't put all the pieces together in a genuine and comprehending and meaningful way. I thought I was doing something positive (and don't get me wrong, I think I was, in one way, doing something worthwhile) all the while I was also doing something that might place that young man at risk if he were unaware enough of reality to act on my offer in certain situations. Thank goodness he wasn't afflicted enough with white obliviousness to not think about some of the implications of his acting on my offer. It's really frightening to think about the fact that he could have also succumbed to unawareness and maybe even have lost his life because of that unawareness.

He's been exposed to the same flimflam I have...all the same cultural messages that float around have drenched him too...but...he has black skin and because of that he has received many many other messages too. Those messages informed him that what was being presented as "normal" and such wasn't the whole story. Messages that I didn't get because of my having white skin or if I did get them I was carefully taught to minimize or deny or ignore them.

He's probably aware of the "The Negro Motorist Green Book" and the implications of the necessity of such a publication, he's probably aware of the implications of the phrase "driving while black" while I've been taught (and not clearly told I was being taught) to either be unaware of these or...if I was aware of them to just minimize or ignore or deny them.

What I'm calling white obliviousness and/or enacting whiteness is a phenomenon that victimizes...or sets up victimization situations...for people of color. Sometimes those situations can have disastrous and horrible consequences. I believe it's important for me (and for other white people)  to work at knowing this and to also realize that being oblivious does damage to white people too.

It harms differently yes...but it harms nevertheless. People of color can lose their lives because of it...that's horrendous. White people can, without desiring to or intending to, be supportive of and complicit in this stuff too. And...if you're white and you're upholding or engaging in white obliviousness then you've been damaged because your ability to choose...part of your freedom...has been taken. And you're harmed because you end up supporting or upholding monstrousness thereby making you complicit in hurting others.

This white obviousness stuff is a screw job all the way around. People of color get, by far, the worst of the screw job...but if you think the white people who wouldn't choose this crap escape wounding...well...that's not true. It's not a win/lose's a lose/lose tremendously situation.

I'm not comparing the differing results depending on which side of white obliviousness that you're positioned. I'm simply saying that it's a really ugly and destructive thing that can inflict the ultimate harm on some and lesser harm on others...but make no mistake...all are harmed. And it's all so unnecessary and disgusting.

I made reference to a question in a post back in September. The question was: "Do we really want a society that is based on dominance and control and the valuing of some lives more than other lives?"

Well...I don' stumbling around in the fog of white obliviousness means I participate in upholding and maintaining just that kind of society. And that pisses me off because that obviousness means that I'm being controlled by the a**hole fools that started this whole mess and it means I'm being controlled by all the generations after them that refined and continued this crap...and...all I can say is screw them.

I resent the hell out of being suckered into helping along their crappy and monstrous version of society. Understand...I'm not letting myself off the hook here...I'm the goofy one who swallowed their stuff and then blundered around thinking I sort of knew what I was doing. That's my responsibility and it's my job to undo it when and where I can. I can tell you this though...there's no way in hell I would have created this mess if it had been left up to me. wasn't...and I'm left with the undoing of it...and if you have white skin...guess're faced with the undoing of it too.

This all makes my head hurt...and my heart too.

I hope this makes's so disorienting and upsetting to me that I'm not sure whether it does or not. Jeez.

(any errors or omissions here are mine and go ahead and give me hell about them if you need to or correct me gently if you're so inclined, thanks)  

Friday, September 30, 2016

A movie.

Sometimes we can learn from books and movies and situations even when they have much erroneous or misleading information or depictions in them. Sometimes.

I recently re-watched a movie, The Help, which is an instance of a fictionalized account of some aspects of pre-civil rights southern life that offers many learning opportunities all the while promoting some seriously deluded and misleading notions.

In the scene from the movie above, the actress Octavia Spencer is in the foreground and Viola Davis is shown behind her. Both did phenomenal acting jobs in the movie.

I re-watched primarily because I'm a massive fan of Viola Davis (who plays a housemaid named Aibileen Clark). During the re-watching I did some more learning and you might use it for that too.

One situation that slammed me was a scene wherein a woman who had worked as a maid for decades was fired by her white employer. The employer was faced with the decision of whether to break ranks with a culture of white solidarity and to do the right thing or fire her maid (the maid, played by Cicely Tyson, was theoretically someone the employer and the employer's family "loved"). White solidarity won and in the process the employer outed some of the integrity corrupting aspects of the ideology of whiteness.

Watch the movie and the scene I described. There you'll see white racial solidarity working to damage everyone who upholds it and to deeply harm those who are targeted by it. It's a painful and ugly scene to watch.

The movie itself exemplifies a common Hollywood meme, that of the white savior, and many insightful reviews and critiques have been written about it. You can read some of them here and here and here.

I found a brief documentary that was evidently created to accompany a commemorative re-release of Gone With the Wind. The documentary was called Old South, New South. It's about 25 minutes and I would urge you to watch it...for a number of reasons.

One of them is if, like me, you attended public schools in the U.S. you were likely treated to a distorted view of the cause of the civil war and the documentary pretty much demolishes the whitewashed version of the "lost cause".

Briefly (and you see these untrue memes all over the place) the feel good version of the civil war I was taught was that the southern states instigated a war because they wanted to uphold the "right" of their states to make whatever laws they wanted to...even if those laws defied the constitution or the federal government. What this whitewashed version fails to mention is that the principle "right" they wanted to uphold was to be able to continue to legally enslave human beings. It's also noteworthy to realize that the North didn't enter into the war to "free the slaves" but rather to resist dissolving the union of the states.

From what I can gather the establishment of slavery arose because it became apparent that the North might lose the war unless they found some way to deprive the South of the benefit they got from exploiting enslaved humans and one way to do that was to declare emancipation. Initially such emancipation was only valid in southern territory that had been conquered by the north.

At this point in time my viewpoint on the onset of the civil war is that the south was fighting to uphold enslaving humans and the north was fighting to uphold the union. The abolishing of human enslavement was not anything the north was initially wanting to do and only arose, in part, as a tactic to assist in defeating the south. Watch the documentary, it's quite informative.

Also, in that documentary, the author of the book titled "The Help" (which the movie was based on) is shown in several scenes. Having read the book and also having watched the movie and having seen the author in the documentary leads me to suspect (of course I don't know that she actually thinks and/or feels) that she exemplifies a "good white person". By that I mean I suspect she's been conditioned (like most of us, especially we who have white skin) to have negative biases toward African Americans but she also knows that such notions are false and despicable so she has banished such thinking from her consciousness. But...that bias continues to operate within her (albeit out of her conscious awareness) in some form or fashion and to influence her perceiving and comprehending.

Struggling to escape the constant subtle and not so subtle racist conditioning, especially for we white people, that constantly pounds at us from all sorts of media and social sources is incredibly difficult. Part of that difficulty occurs because we are taught that if we have good intentions and think good thoughts then we're good to go. Well...that's a seriously big load of crap. Consider this, is it realistic to think that centuries of racist domination and enslavement and murder and atrocities are going to be negated and resolved by "thinking good thoughts"? Gimme a break...and I write that as someone who believed such an absurdity up until a couple of years my everlasting shame and chagrin.   

I suspect that the author, were she to take the Implicit Association Test, would get results revealing that she harbors some degree of bias toward African Americans. And...even if she didn't get such results...I still would view her with some skepticism because, as far as I know, she has used none of the money (apparently a tremendous amount, based on the popularity of her book and of the movie) she has gained to support or fund any organization that works to overcome racism here in the U.S.

I'm absolutely opposed to members of an oppressor group making money off of exploiting or writing about what has been done (and continues to be done) to victims of oppression without using those profits to resist such awfulness. Such stuff is just not ok with me. That's adding insult to injury.

Anyway...if you haven't seen the movie and want to see one with some fine acting by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (along with many other good performances) then do so. But...realize that this movie is pretty much a movie that whitewashes a lot the past (and current) ugliness of white racism. In no small part because it tries to present the notion that the problem of white racist America has been and is a function of "bad" white people instead of the truth that it is the "good white people" that uphold this deplorable and awful stuff.

The movie tries to make you feel good about "white saviors" when in truth there's really not much to feel good about...either then or now. With all of its flaws, the movie can still function as a learning'll have to work at it and you'll have to comprehend and resist much of the minimizing and distorting that's present in this film.

P.S. If you want to read a fairly well done book about "Good White People", author Shannon Sullivan's book is an ok place to start.

Living vegan is a breeze when compared to the difficulty of grappling with the racist ugliness we all swim in here in the U.S.

Most of us white people (as well as some people of color) are really really messed up about all this...and I definitely include myself in the messed up group. Jeez. To resist have to be able to realize what it is when you encounter it...and this movie might assist in that task a get to watch Viola Davis. 



Friday, September 23, 2016

Quote and variations.

I recently ran across this quote that concisely explains what is meant by the phrase "social construction".

Here's the quote:
“We think we see ‘race’ when we encounter certain physical differences among people such as skin color, eye shape, and hair texture. What we actually ‘see’ (or more accurately ‘perceive’) are the social meanings that have been linked to those physical features by the ideology of race and the historical legacy it has left us.”

-- Smedley, Race in North America (xii)
I read it several times and realized that it could be tweaked a little and accurately reference other instances that we tend to think have some meaning outside of what we humans make up and apply to such ideas. For instance "gender":
We think we see ‘feminine’ or 'masculine' when we encounter certain physical or other differences among people such as size, voice timbre, clothing, behaviors and hair length and/or style. What we actually ‘see’ (or more accurately ‘perceive’) are the social meanings that have been linked to those various features by the ideology of gender and the historical legacy it has left us.”

-- Smedley, Race in North America (xii) (modified for “gender”)
It's instructive and enlightening to consider terms like "race" or  "gender" or other terms that are socially constructed...which means humans made them "explain" something and those explanations have been created via the interactions of power and culture and history and such and...they can change depending on any or all of those factors.

They aren't fixed...they morph and change to suit shifting times and circumstances...all the while upholding structures of oppression.

The problem of oppression isn't that there are differences among living beings...the problem is created by the fantasized (but purposive) meanings humans attach to those differences.

And...way way too often these human created meanings of differences (sometimes called "identities") are then used to mark which living beings are targets for oppression and policing and control and violence and which beings are considered to be "fully human" and "superior" and worthy of freedom.

For one powerful instance of human created 'meaning' go here and read about the difference between having white skin and the ideology of whiteness. Those are two different things, one is simply a description referencing skin color and the other is a human constructed system of comprehension and understanding (an ideology) designed to implement and maintain oppression. 

Having white skin is one thing...the ideology of whiteness (often attached to and conflated with having white skin) is something quite different.

For a further insightful bit of writing about these notions...go read Aph Ko's excellent article regarding the need for change in our conceptualizing about the way we understand "knowledge" and liberation.

Hmmm...when we forget history and context and relate to social constructions as if they are independent of human made meaning...well...that's when we enter the troublesome land of believing that fantasy is "true" and while that could theoretically be fun and interesting...the sad fact is that, way too often, it gets misleading and dangerous and harmful real fast.

Here's one last quote that tells us something very important:
The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you can alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change the world.

—James Baldwin
I have slowly and haltingly...oftentimes with dismay and sorrow...come to realize that things like liberation and social justice and freedom are simply out of reach without doing some arduous and frequently frightening and painful digging into my own ways of understanding the world and how I've been taught to comprehend the living beings in that world.

Think of it this way...most of the people I know seem to be good-hearted and well intentioned...I suspect most of the people you know are too. If that's the is it that we live in a social world where living beings are routinely subjected to horrendous instances of harm and oppression?

What the hell is going on?

I'm saying that maybe we're seduced and/or co-opted into...without intention or desire...being complicit in upholding and maintaining those systems of oppression.

And maybe...part of what's getting in our way of breaking out of these systems of harm has to do with our understandings. Maybe a big part of our job...if we are desirous of interrupting these to start digging into our own selves and into the understandings that were given to us by our culture and our society and figuring out which of those understandings have some actual non-harmful utility and those which primarily serve to uphold and keep the operations of oppression in place.

Maybe...if we want things to change...part of what we have to do is to engage in the work of changing ourselves by examining and revising our comprehension and our understanding.

Wallowing around with and wrestling with all this is absolutely the most difficult and painful thing I've ever undertaken in all my life. I fluctuate between astonishment and dismay and bewilderment and sorrow...sometimes...I even have moments of clarity. I must admit that clarity is rare...but it does happen on occasion. And's quite a treat when it does.

I'm dreadfully old to be engaged in something like this...most of you who read this are probably much younger than me. Don't wait, please...the longer you put off this quest the longer you (without meaning to) engage in oblivious complicity in upholding systems of harm.

I firmly believe we can do better than what we've done so far...but...we must do the work of taking apart these social constructions that we confuse with "reality" that our culture/society has presented to us. And...once we do that and gain a little more accurate understanding then we can better choose how to go about achieving social justice.

This is what I think so no way do I believe I don't have further to go. If you see obvious errors or distortions here...please...let me know what you think. Heck, it's even ok to let me know if you think this makes sense.  


Friday, September 16, 2016

James Baldwin.

One of the most insightful and talented thinkers and writers ever. The graphic below might offer you some understanding of why I make that statement.

The part of this quote, where ignorance and power are referenced and that an alliance of those two phenomena present the greatest obstacle to justice is scary true.

I'll add that we who are afflicted with whiteness (along with everyone in this society) are carefully and incessantly taught to be ignorant (but to be oblivious to that not knowing) and all the while thinking we are well informed. We all are subjected to this sort of demeaning flimflam but...those who belong to oppressed groups also are slammed with experiences that counter such social propaganda.

I have a book that contains a collection of his essays and it is just excellent. It's titled: The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings and it contains some excellent work....and his other writings are superlative too.

Notice how Mr. Baldwin is expressing (albeit in much more lyrical and powerful form) what Ruth Frankenberg has condensed into one the axioms she formulated as tools to assist in analyzing information.
Axiom Three: Those who are being harmed and/or oppressed by a system of domination are going to have the best location for detecting, apprehending and comprehending those domination activities. In other words, those who are being hurt by domination/oppression are going have the most comprehensive viewpoint. If you want to know what is going on...listen to the victims of oppression...they know more than you.
I love it when I run across things like this. If you haven't read James so.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Some humans

are spooky. I'll be more specific...some humans who are raced as white are spooky.

This morning I went on Facebook and quickly ran into a link to this story. A brief summary:...a woman (white) publishes a textbook about Mexican American heritage and makes the mind-boggling statement that "...Mexican-American scholars weren't tapped to help write the book in order to have an unbiased book." She's saying if you want a supposedly factual book about a subject you should avoid consulting those who are knowledgeable about the subject in order to be "unbiased". Hmmm...

Then I ran across this next story. It's an article about a woman (white) who has written several books but this time the author is giving a talk and in the talk she's promoting the idea that she (or anyone) should be able to write about anybody's experiences's fiction. She's arguing that since fiction is "fake" anyway then no one should object to her (or anyone) writing from the viewpoint of, for instance, a rapist (even if they are not a rapist) or a Nigerian woman (even if they're not a Nigerian woman) and on and on.

This might be an interesting question to wrestle with (whether or how you can "know" the experiences of someone different from you) but...apparently that wasn't the tenor of the talk. The speaker was primarily ridiculing the idea of anyone objecting to writing from viewpoints that the author knows little about...if they were writing fiction.

There might be something of substance to consider here...but...I suspect the substance is going to be bound up primarily in consideration of whether the speaker/writer is operating from being positioned in a group that socially dominates another group or other groups. I'm specifically referring to Ruth Frankenberg's third axiom.

I can meld the messages together coming from these two women (white) and they seem to be saying that they should be able to present anything they want...without anyone objecting...and that ignorance about the topics is actually a strength. If the writing is supposedly factual then ignorance is a strength because it is "unbiased" and if the mode of writing is fiction then ignorance is a strength because it is an exercise of "freedom".

Notice that both are apparently upholding and lauding and maintaining that ignorance indicates some kind of strength or positive thing.

I couldn't help but think that, in some form or fashion, both of these women (white) seem to be confirming some of Dr. Mills' conceptualizations about an epistemology of ignorance.

He wrote about the substitution of ignorance for "knowledge" in regard to race but he also made mention (as does Cori Wong) that maybe there is an epistemology of ignorance for each manifestation of group dominance/subordination.

There's ignorance (masquerading as "knowledge") associated with white people vs people of color, there's an ignorance associated with men vs women, there's an ignorance associated with heterosexuals vs non-heterosexuals and on and on.

In each configuration of social domination directed toward a subordinated group noted in this post, the members of the more powerful group claim that they don't have to "know" that which they don't "know" and that their their "unknowing" is actually a good thing...either because it is "unbiased" or it is an exercise of "freedom".

There's something sort of Orwellian (think doublespeak) about all I said...spooky. Humans sort of frighten me vis a vis their attitudes and behaviors toward Earthlings not identified as humans.

And, even more unsettling (spooky) maybe, is the fact that more and more I am rather frightened by white people.

Notice that I am situated as being in each of these groups (human,, jeez, I'm also situated as male and cisgendered and heterosexual)...and that is deeply uncomfortable to me. Because...each/all of those groups are situated as dominant and there seems to be a pervasive epidemic of unfounded prideful superiority coupled with a serious and persistent embracing of ignorance among all of them.

Also note...even though both the folks referenced in the articles I'm writing about are situated as women (a subordinated group) they are raced as white (a dominant group). Their dominant ways of viewing the world are apparently obscuring or suppressing the possible knowings they might have access to as a result of their belonging to a subordinated group. Is this a situation where the bad pushes out the good or power makes you deficient in awareness? 

These two articles made me think about the notion of not knowing what we don't know. It's very unlikely that we'll be able to find out about our not knowing that which we don't know if we maintain the position that our lack of knowing (or our lack of knowing that which we don't know) is a positive or laudable condition. That seems very much like saying "I'm ignorant and proud of it" or "I'm ignorant about being ignorant and I'm proud of it". Mr. Orwell said...ignorance is strength.

Like I said...some humans (especially those who are raced as white) are spooky.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Dr. Johnson wrote

this in his book:
…the basic features that define patriarchy as a type of society have barely budged, and the women’s movement has stalled in much the same way that the civil rights movement stalled after the hard-won gains of the 1960s.
Thus far, the mainstream women’s movement has concentrated on the relatively less threatening aspects of the liberal agenda. The primary goal has been to allow women to do what men do in the ways that men do it, whether in science, the professions, business, or government. The more serious challenges to patriarchy have been silenced, maligned, and misunderstood for reasons that aren’t hard to fathom. As difficult as it is to change overtly sexist sensibilities and behavior, it is much harder to raise critical questions about how sexism is embedded in major institutions such as the economy, politics, religion, and the family. It is easier to allow women to assimilate into patriarchal society than to question society itself. It is easier to allow a few women to occupy positions of authority and dominance than to question whether social life should be organized around principles of hierarchy, control, and dominance at all, to allow a few women to reach the heights of the corporate hierarchy rather than question whether people’s needs should depend on an economic system based on dominance, control, and competition. It is easier to allow women to practice law than to question adversarial conflict as a mode for resolving disputes and achieving justice. It has even been easier to admit women to military combat roles than to question the acceptability of warfare and its attendant images of patriarchal masculine power and heroism as instruments of national policy. And it has been easier to elevate and applaud a few women than to confront the cultural misogyny that is never far off, waiting in the wings and available for anyone who wants to use it to bring women down and put them in their place.

From The Gender Knot, 1997, Allan G. Johnson, page 13. (I have an older version of the currently is available in a 3rd edition)

The hierarchies we are all squeezed into (and uphold by our knowing and/or oblivious actions and/or silent complicity) rarely are challenged by the excellent question he asks: "Do we really want a society that is based on dominance and control and the valuing of some lives more than other lives?"

Dr. Johnson doesn't live vegan (from what I've learned about him so far) yet that question he poses is one that addresses the functioning of every system of oppression...including speciesism.

From what I've been able to grasp over the past couple of years is that a tremendous amount of identifying and theorizing and conceptualizing of systems of domination has been accomplished...mostly by black feminists and anti-racist advocates. These systems...which involve all of us, sometimes as oppressors and sometimes as oppressed, are often "normalized"  (e.g., 'Tradition') and made invisible.

One of the purposes of normalizing and/or invisibling is to decrease the possibility that these systems are recognized and understood and discussed and debated...and maybe interrupted or dismantled. Heck...if you don't know about something and it is not comprehended (as oppressive) then the likelihood that you'll do anything about it is pretty low. 

I was recently in a setting where folks were assigned to groups of four and each group was asked to draw a line representing a continuum and place the various racial groups on that continuum ranging from least valued/powerful to most valued/powerful. All the groups placed black folks on the least powerful side of the line and white folks on the most powerful side with other racial groupings somewhere in between those two extremes.

The most interesting part of the exercise came when a young Native American woman talked about how doing the exercise was very uncomfortable. The discussion revealed that the discomfort came from making visible that which everyone knew (all groups placed blacks on the least powerful side and whites on the most powerful side) but everyone was uneasy with being open about this and talking about it. Breaking the silence triggered discomfort.

That phenomenon of everyone knowing something but not making that knowing open and talking about it exemplifies invisibling. The discomfort of being open and overt about what "everyone knows" is one of the forces used to maintain invisibility and invisibility is one of the prime ways that "everyday" or "normal" oppression maintains its power.

You could do the same sort of exercise by using groups such as sexual orientation or gender or species or ability or age's likely that most of you could predict how those group members would be placed on a continuum of least to most powerful/valued's likely that doing those exercises would result in discomfort or unease.'re breaking the're interrupting the power of invisibility.

Interesting, eh? We all "know" that certain groups of humans (gender, race, age, etc) are valued less than others and we all "know" that various groups of living beings (humans or other Earthlings) are denied rights and/or restricted in their freedom...or are discouraged or prevented from accessing societal resources and on and on.

We all know these things but we tend to avoid talking about it...discouraged either by our own sense of discomfort and unease or...if we persist in trying to discuss such stuff...we'll often find ourselves discouraged from talking about such shared knowings by other people.That's how invisibility works.

If you're a white person, try talking to another white person about race/racism. I suspect that if your own sense of discomfort doesn't get in your're likely to be end up being encouraged to shut up by the other person. That which we all know but participate in silencing are usually the very aspects of our social structure that are the most odious and harmful.

Whew...invisibling is insidiously and amazingly effective. Of course oppressive structures are much more complex than I've addressed here and there are other factors that maintain them in addition to invisibility...but invisibling is something that most of us engage in and therefore we can access it and challenge it ourselves...if we so choose.

Do be aware though...that oppression is potent stuff and when it is challenged strongly enough it will reveal itself in all its awfulness.

Oppression is, in the end, maintained by violence or threat of violence and challenging it always carries the potential to evoke that usually hidden aspect. Breaking silence around those who are invested in maintaining oppression can be risky in ways that go beyond personal discomfort. It can be dangerous because it might be met with ostracism, avoidance the ultimate extreme...physical violence. 

Dr. Johnson is writing about the oppressive structure called patriarchy and it is especially difficult to grapple part because of the aspect of it that's shown in this graphic.

That intimate association makes disentangling the factors involved in patriarchy (and sexism) really really confusing and tricky.

The graphic below lets us know that intimate association isn't the only aspect of patriarchal oppression that is convoluted and complex.

One of the ways to lose yourself when trying to comprehend oppression is to not consider historical factors and/or identity aspects. Each group targeted by oppression has its own unique history and...none of these groups are that I mean each member of a particular group will have their own unique experience of how oppression plays out in their life and among the factors that will influence how they experience that oppression will be their ethnic and/or racial grouping. 

There is no woman who exists who is not also assigned to a racial group...just like there is no member of a racial group who isn't assigned to some sex group...(as well as being in some class and being of a certain age and some particular ability level, etc.) can be profoundly misleading to think about oppression as a single factor sort of thing (think intersectionality).

Now...there's no way in hell I have the capacity to keep all these factors in mind simultaneously, therefore I often think in shortcuts or by using words like "woman" that actually always encompass other aspects of lived experience (like race, age, class, history, etc.). But...if I lose sight of the fact that I'm using a shortcut word that collapses together lots of other important factors...that's when confusion and lousy thinking sits in. And...I do plenty of that...but...hopefully less than I used to.

This sort of "forgetting" is something that happened to what is sometimes called the 2nd wave of the feminist movement. It "forgot" some factors and inadvertently fell into mostly only theorizing about and advocating for...white middle class heterosexual women. It was trying to oppose oppression and stumbled into being a source of oppression silencing and ignoring the experiences of women who weren't raced as white and/or who weren't middle class and/or who weren't heterosexual.

What is called Black Feminism challenged 2nd wave feminism and triggered a tremendous amount of re-thinking and re-conceptualizing about the various ways that oppression works. It is within the Black Feminist tradition that the notion of intersectionality arose and intersectionality is probably one of the most potent theoretical tools ever in terms of being able to make visible many of the dynamics of the operation of oppression. If you want to become more familiar with the one of the origins of the Black Feminist can read the most excellent Combahee River Collective Statement here.

See what I mean about this stuff being complex?

But...the great thing about all this is that it might make my head hurt to try to wrap my mind around it...yet it doesn't injure my fact it often lifts and liberates that part of me. That's totally different than what oppression everyone...oppression injures the spirits of both those who oppress and it injures the spirits (and often the bodies too) of those who are targeted by oppression. It isn't good for anyone even though it might be seductive to think so (thinking that it is good for the oppressors is one of the seriously insidious and dangerous aspects of it).

And you thought this was simple, right? All ya gotta do is save the animals, right?

Nope, sorry, it's a lot tougher than that. Oppression has been operating in a whole bunch of ways for a whole bunch of centuries...that's not an accident. This stuff called oppression is tough to figure it out and to effectively stop it...we gotta figure it out.

I'll end this thing (I didn't intend to write this much) by quoting a wonderful dedication I ran across in a book about feminism. The title of the book is "We Were Feminists Once" by Andi Zeisler. 

The dedication reads: "To my sweet Harvey -- May your generation be the one that finally figures this shit out."

Is that not nifty? I hope Harvey's generation gets it the meantime it is incumbent on all of us to struggle with trying to figure it out and to interrupt oppression where we can...while being aware that oppression has persisted, in part, because often efforts to oppose it resulted in recreating oppression elsewhere. This is really really nasty and insidious stuff.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I saw on facebook

this entry by Christian Sebastian and thought it was terrific. He wrote:
PSA: Shaming don't work. It didn't work in 1642 for Hester Prynne and it don't work now. Humiliation diminishes. Humiliation fosters defensiveness. And most importantly, humiliation causes people to deny responsibility. How much of your animal activism is rooted in punishment versus creating change? Now be honest.
(Note: PSA is an acronym for public service announcement) 

I have wrestled with aspects of this over a number of years. By that I mean I have gotten angry and upset and said (and thought) negative things to or about people who dismiss or reject or ridicule veganism. And...that's really a piss poor way to go about getting humans to convert to a vegan lifestyle. I've never had anyone that I behaved poorly toward fall down and say I'm sorry and convert to veganism.

Whereas I've been fortunate enough to have several people over the years be open to listening to my non-shaming, non-attacking message about the harms associated with not living vegan and eventually they opted to live vegan too.

It's vitally important for me (and for you too) to remember that all the people who don't live vegan are going to have to eventually come to living vegan if we are to end systematic human harming of our sister/brother Earthlings.'s unlikely to further that goal if we attack or shame or humiliate them. They are potential allies in the quest to stopping the harming of Earthlings who don't happen to be human and beating up on them isn't very wise or effective.

Most of us, at one time, were not living vegan and it's important to remember that too.

I would not have wanted someone who was vegan to have attacked or shamed or humiliated me when I was gripped with obliviousness to the harm I was doing...and no one else wants that either.

The fact is...when we approach people that way they almost always focus on defending themselves...not on listening to the message that might be being conveyed. I'm not saying they'll necessarily listen if you don't attack or shame them...but I am saying they are much more likely to be open to an approach that isn't humiliating toward them.

So...don't. Ok?

If you can...pretend that the message you're conveying is being directed to you...if it would offend you then probably someone else would be offended too. Offense usually evokes defense...not receptivity or careful listening.

Christopher said it a lot more concisely and eloquently than I can.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Help and reward

yourself with a stay on the beach (maybe). If you purchase entries in this raffle. But hurry...the last day to get a ticket is September 2nd.

The link goes to the Heartland Rabbit Rescue website where there is information about contributing to Midnite's surgery fund by entering a raffle that offers...among other rewards...the grand prize of a seven night stay at an ocean side condo in Myrtle Beach, Florida. If you don't want to enter the can contribute without buying tickets too.

Help out this charming and handsome fellow (more info about his troubles can be found if you follow the link) and maybe win a stay on the well as a chance at some other excellent rewards...that's pretty snazzy.

Information can be found on the Heartland facebook page and also in this graphic.

The cutoff date for getting your chance(s) is September 2nd...hurry...and please help and thank you.

Midnite (the magnificent)

Midnite thanks you too. 

Friday, August 19, 2016


Over at the So I'm Thinking of Going Vegan blog there was a post back in July that featured this image from

The image creators said they were inspired to make it because: "This is a version of those cute little "All I want to do is drink wine, take naps and cuddle puppies" t-shirts for people who really want to make a positive change in the world."
All well and good, right?

Not so fast...if you want to take the time to look at the original offering of the image you can scroll through some of the comments and find that...whoa...a number of people apparently got all riled up over various aspects of the image...which you will note is just a statement that someone wants to end the oppression of the marginalized groups identified as women, people of color (not that separating 'race' and 'gender' is really possible) and animals. What is there to object to? Apparently a lot, judging from some of the comments.

I tend to not engage with (committed) naysayers because I have this (absolutely personal and not empirically confirmed...not systematically anyway) notion (hypothesis) that if someone has a strong enough negative reaction to statements about ending racism and/or patriarchy and/or and/ be willing to openly and forcefully state their objections then "engaging" with them is pretty much an exercise in futility that almost invariably causes me much more upset and/or dismay than any gain there might be in jousting with such potent certainty. I've rarely had anything worthwhile (that I was aware of) come out of doing any back and forth with such folks.

Some people seem to enjoy that sort of stuff...I don't. I tend to end up feeling sad and beat-up as a result of such exchanges. When I was younger and a bit less jaded (?) than I am now, I sometimes would get into it with such folks but not so much anymore.

Notice that I'm not saying I'm unwilling to dialogue with someone who might disagree with these sentiments...I'm saying I'm unwilling to engage with those who disagree (resist?) and are so certain of the validity of their objections that they're willing to strongly assert their displeasure in some sort of public or open forum. The important thing isn't the disavowal or skepticism (although that's troubling)...the big factor here is the power of the motivation and the certainty behind those dismissals.

My speculation is that when a strong pushback like that is is most likely driven by great fear and/or pain and dealing with such stuff is not likely to be resolved in any kind of online doings. Very often when you encounter strong anger or outrage the underlying factors include a great deal of fear/threat/pain. Folks who attempt to deal with those personal factors by angry attacking or dismissal of what scares them usually aren't inclined to do much exploring and/or thinking. They're interested in obliterating that which disturbs them...not in exploring issues and/or experiences.  

Glancing over some of the comments associated with the image above shows that there are a number of folks who figure that they know all they need to know and exposing them to some broader picture about manifestations of oppression is unwanted and even offensive to upsets them and they're motivated to attack/destroy that which bothers them. That might mean attacking the notions that spook might mean attacking whomever offered such notions.

I'm reminded of the phrase "often wrong...but always certain" when I read some of those comments.

I am frequently uncomfortable when I feel tentative and uncertain about what I think I know...however that discomfort seems a small price to pay for striving to not be oblivious to the amazingly devious and subtle ways that oppression permeates western European societies and manifests itself here in the USA.

It seems astonishingly obvious to me, now anyway, that resisting and interrupting harm to those with little or less social power is an often difficult and complex task. I didn't used to be aware of that...which, by the way, is exactly how societies drenched in oppression want you to think. Nope...I don't think that way anymore but that doesn't mean I don't get fooled by subtle (or obvious) presentations of oppression...I do...and often...but...hopefully not as much as previously. That's an improvement...I think.

Tell ya what...go read the excellent blog post and then go poke around in the comments about the image and see what you think.

I've come to accept that striving to decrease and/or end my harming of other living beings is a difficult and demanding journey and anytime I think I've "arrived"...that's when I'm most likely to be full of crap. I know for sure though that I really don't want to be as obtuse and filled with fear driven oblivious certainty as some of those commenters seem to be.

It's unlikely any of them would don white robes and burn crosses and/or assault women...but...those who reject the pervasiveness of oppression in this society are exhibiting and participating in the core of obliviousness that supports and upholds such awfulness and perpetuates the "normal" systemic and institutional oppression and harming of living beings who are are identified as members of marginalized groups.

Such denial facilitates and is complicit in harm...whether intended or not...and that's just not ok.

We are all in this together no matter how much we might pretend we are not and harming others is both unnecessary and repugnant...and...because we've been socialized to not notice it or recognize's often disgustingly difficult to detect and comprehend.

We can do better than that. I know that to be true simply because my understanding has expanded over the past couple of years...and...if a really old white man can become more aware (and hopefully less inadvertently hurtful)...then so can we all.       


Friday, August 12, 2016

The Women's Resource Center

is a community based (not government associated) organization that provides: "...specialized services catered to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking,..." for the Cleveland County (Norman, Oklahoma) community. All their services are provided at no cost to those who seek them.
I've been attending training there for the past few weeks so I could serve as a volunteer for them. I was the only male (shocker) out of a group of 11 or 12 people who were wanting to volunteer. (I'm basing that notion of 11 females and 1 male on external appearances only)

I was a little apprehensive about doing this mainly because I figured that few men volunteered. My apprehension partially had to do with the "real men don't do this sort of thing" nonsense. Sadly, just because I have some limited awareness about societal messages about masculinity doesn't mean I'm not still influenced by them. That's one of the paradoxes (whee) of recognizing some of the goofy and harmful socialization messages we get...I see that they're crap but they still can make me shaky or uncomfortable or apprehensive. Jeez.

And...I'm also aware that this is a shelter/organization for victims who are almost always females who have almost always been harmed by...guess who...males.

So...I was, in part, reluctant to attempt to help because I am conscious of being a member of the group (males) who are almost always the source of the violence that harms those who seek help there and I didn't want my presence to create or invoke fear or discomfort from victims.

The training is finished now and I think we've figured out some ways that I can sometimes assist WRC as well as avoid making folks who use their services be uncomfortable. (and those ways of assisting appeal to me)

A number of things from this effort has helped my comprehension. Most especially is some increased awareness that we all swim in a rather nasty ocean of what is called the "rape culture". I hope you'll take the time to read about it if you're unfamiliar with what's meant by that phrase.

If you do some investigating you'll notice that it (rape culture) has to do, in part, with "normalizing" violence toward and domination of a less powerful group. Does that sound familiar?

I'm going to summarize something here and in doing so I'm cognizant that summarizing a number of ways...risky and misleading (maybe it even can be thought of as violent). Because when we summarize something we obliterate the end...the details are pretty much everything.

Think of it like forest and trees. The old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees has to do with getting so focused on the details (trees) that we don't see a bigger picture (forest)...well that works the other way too...we can get so focused on the bigger picture (forest) that we neglect to comprehend that it is the details (trees) that are the sole makeup of the forest. Always remember (and I'm reminding myself here too) that you can have details without a bigger picture but you can never have a bigger picture that doesn't consist of details.

Sorry for the pedantic sounding digression (I probably was a teacher for too long) but I wanted to give some context before I made a summary.

The summary is this...our culture (the USA) is structured...and very much so...maybe even almost totally...on the dominance of various less powerful groups by other more powerful groups. And we all participate in this stuff in one way or another...but...since being aware of this ugliness would be upsetting and uncomfortable (and maybe awareness would result in change so dominance depends in part on not being comprehended) we are all socialized to see this dominance/subordination as "normal" or to not see it at all because it has been made invisible.

This "normalizing" or "invisiblizing" of dominance (and the violence or threat of violence that supports and upholds it) is a necessary part of maintaining all this stuff because (in part)...we don't want to see ourselves as a**holes. We all want to believe we're "good people" and good people don't hurt others or dominate others or harm others or threaten to harm others. So...we hide truth from ourselves...we "normalize" violence...we make it invisible. And..."rape culture" is a way of naming and identifying an aspect of that "normalized" violence.

Part of the training for WRC included screening a documentary called "Tough Guise 2". It was a painful and enlightening look at the fact that most human originated violence is generated by...guess who...males (mostly white, cisgendered heterosexual males). We have a problem...and the problem touches all of us...some more hurtfully than others and quite differently depending on whether we're positioned as victims or perpetrators...but make no mistake...we all get harmed.

My last blog post touched on the fact that little boys get harmed and that harming often shapes them into adults who then tend to harm others. makes my head hurt to try to wrap it around all this...but slowly slowly I do think it is becoming more clear to me. Somewhat anyway. Maybe. isn't a pretty picture. One thing that is of utmost importance...and...that is I must always retain awareness of is that seeing the "bigger" picture is only a tool and only useful if it can help in interrupting this stuff. And the interrupting of it always has to do with reducing or eliminating harm to members of marginalized groups...and most importantly...without doing harm to different marginalized groups.

Maybe that's the useful thing that trying to get a bigger picture view allows is that it can sometimes assist in avoiding or stopping harmful stuff without inadvertently or accidental recreating harm. Hmmm...maybe that's a useful way to think of it...big picture stuff helps not recreate oppression and attending to the "details" means consulting victims and following their lead in terms of how to reduce and/or stop harm to them.

PETA serves as a wonderful example of how not to do activism because PETA often opposes harm by recreating harm. Routinely they oppose harming animals but their efforts often include making women into sex objects which in turn upholds aspects of rape culture or their efforts sometimes uphold racist notions. They seem to see the trees (they seemingly try to stop harm to victims) but are often oblivious to the forest (shifting harm to other groups of victims).

We can do better than that, I think.'s often not easy because we've all been thoroughly and totally socialized to not think this way. We see harm to living beings who have little power and we want to make it stop...but...way too often our efforts to stop the harming often simply shifts harming to a different group of victims. It's a trees and forest sort of problem and too often we leave out one factor or the other when that's exactly the way to not do it.

Here's where I console myself with something that seems really hopeful...and that is...we humans created this oppressively structured culture and that means we have the power to change it...we don't have to operate this didn't just fall out of the sky onto us. We humans made it this way and that means we humans can unmake it.

I'm trying to get some useful (and accurate) comprehension of this stuff...if you can help...please chime in.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

I thought this statement

by bell hooks was pretty accurate. It certainly corresponds with a number of experiences I had when I was growing up and and also after adulthood. It also reminded me that I had made up some rules for myself as I went along in life that served to guide me in my behavior and I created those rules because of my fear of what might happen to me if I didn't behave and speak in certain ways...or avoid behaving or speaking in certain ways.

What I hadn't thought much about was the violence (or threat of violence) associated with those rules. But once I read this I remembered that hints or threats of it were always sort of floating around as these "acts of psychic self-mutilation" were taught.

When I began the journey of learning to do psychotherapy I ran smack into one of those rules and had a big struggle...that continues, from time to time, to this day.

That's the rule that "men don't cry". Guess can't do psychotherapy effectively unless you can cry...because to be able to authentically cry you must be in touch with your feelings...and there's no way to effectively perform psychotherapy unless you're in touch with your own feelings.

Patriarchy (USA style) has to first be violent or threaten violence toward those little children called "boys" in order to train/create the adults who enact and perpetuate that patriarchy. Mostly (but not always) that violence (or threat of violence) comes from adults called "men" and is directed toward young humans who are called "boys".

In addition...and this is not a small thing...the rules of patriarchy are often also taught by women. Which means that little boys (I'm writing from my perspective as a white man who was once a little white I'm only able to have experienced being taught the rules of "being a man" from the perspective of being white) often have no adults around them who aren't encouraging and/or teaching and/or enforcing the rules of patriarchy (I'm specifically referring to USA type white patriarchy here).

It's pretty insidious when you think about it...the enactors (who are ones who primarily benefit from patriarchy) have helpers who also teach/enforce the rules of patriarchy and those helpers are the victims of that system...women. Human children really don't have much of a chance to break out of patriarchy since almost all of the adults they encounter are teachers/enforcers of the rules of patriarchy.

Think of all the wars that are instigated and fought by men...all the violence that comes from men...does this have anything to do with the "psychic self-mutilation" that little boys do to themselves in their attempts to follow the rules of patriarchy? Hmmm....

Friday, July 29, 2016

Further thoughts about "real" men...

In a recent post I did some speculating about socially constructed identities. I've been thinking about such stuff off and on since then and something occurred to me that was right in front of me but also quite invisible.

I recently ran across a graphic that triggered some of my thoughts about this "real man" stuff.

What's nifty about this graphic is that it addresses veganism as well as the socially constructed notion of "real men".

It seems to me that applying the adjective "real" to a living being is often a clue that you're dealing with a socially constructed phenomenon.

Weirdly enough, back in 2010, I wrote a little about John Wayne, who is looked up to (especially by many older white men) as exemplifying the essence of a "real man" and it turns out that some aspects of the image versus the actual reality are rather different.

One way to think of the idea of "socially constructed" is that it means something that was made up by humans (usually white men) and that it was made up because those folks (again, usually white men) thought it benefited them or it promoted some notion that was positive for them or upheld their power in some way. (P.S. I'm not so much picking on white men so much as I'm pointing to the reality that U.S. culture or western European culture has (and is) essentially controlled by white men both currently and for all the centuries since its inception. Which, by the way, we're encouraged to not notice or see because that would serve to make that control not invisible...and that might mess up the control.)

Now that I consider if further...maybe it's a good idea to always realize that whenever the "real" adjective is stuck in front of a reference to a living being that's a signal that the opposite is probably the case. "Real" doesn't have anything to do with the essence of a has to do with how well or skillfully they're enacting a script or playing a role...and that script or role is socially constructed.

In other words, if "real" is stuck in front of a word used to designate an Earthling it almost invariably means "skillfully fake". It tells us that we're dealing with with ways of behaving that are made up or artificial (socially constructed).

Hence..."real man" signals "fake or artificial man" or "person performing a man act". Judith Butler (a philosopher and gender theorist) takes this idea further in her thinking. She maintains that all gender roles are constructed (made up) by societies...her term is that gender roles are "performed".

Here's a quote from a website that writes about Judith Butler's thinking about gender roles:
 Butler underscores gender's constructed nature in order to fight for the rights of oppressed identities, those identities that do not conform to the artificial—though strictly enforced—rules that govern normative heterosexuality. If those rules are not natural or essential, Butler argues, then they do not have any claim to justice or necessity. Since those rules are historical and rely on their continual citation or enactment by subjects, then they can also be challenged and changed through alternative performative acts. As Butler puts it, "If the 'reality' of gender is constituted by the performance itself, then there is no recourse to an essential and unrealized 'sex' or 'gender' which gender performances ostensibly express" ("Performative" 278). For this reason, "the transvestite's gender is as fully real as anyone whose performance complies with social expectations" ("Performative" 278).  

She's arguing that ways of "performing" the roles of "man" or "woman" are rules that are imposed on us by others (via history and convention) and she doesn't need the adjective "real" to signal that they are artificial or fake or made up.

Thinking about all this was (is) rather mind blowing for me...and interesting...very interesting. "Performing" gender...considering that notion expands your ways of conceptualizing this stuff, eh?

Just to further complicate your might want to consider how (at least here in the U.S). it's not possible to realistically consider the roles of "woman" or "man" without also considering other socially constructed notions like "race".

Kimberle Crenshaw notes this in her writings about intersectionality. She points out that gender roles and race (among other factors) are not separate and mutually exclusive but rather that they overlap and always occur together. Hmmm....

Once you start pulling some notions apart, like "woman" or "man", and looking at them in detail...what might seem simple and easily understood rapidly becomes amazingly complex and much more difficult to comprehend.