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Stuff Allies Like

September 8, 2011 8 comments

I just read yet another blog post by a straight white cisgendered male (SWCM) that goes on at length about how SWCMs need to “shut up and listen.”

To paraphrase Ed Lin, “c’mon white people!”

Now, I don’t read much sci-fi so I don’t know much about John Scalzi, and so this isn’t about his intellect or the quality of his writing which I’m sure are considerable. But I did notice that his post is chock-full of stuff allies like me like to read and write:

  • Getting cookies. Since we’re enlightened enough to know that nobody’s going to give us any cookies for exemplary service as an ally, we use posts like these to bake them for ourselves.
  • Hogging the mike. Scalzi makes no effort to lend a voice in support of the people who lack his privilege. There’s not a single mention of a book or website or blog entry by, say, a woman of color or anyone queer.
  • Dipping a toe into the oppression olympics kiddie pool. Scalzi mentions that he grew up poor. Perhaps to underscore that he really “gets it” and maybe to dull the sharp edge of his own privilege just a little. If we try hard enough, we can all come up with a disability or disadvantage that we can use to demonstrate our understanding of intersectionality.
  • Receiving applause. The comments feature a parade of SWCMs who chime in at length about how they get it too.
  • Maintaining control. In the comments, his degree of “getting it” gives him a higher ground from which to wield his mighty discussion-ending hammer, like when someone has the nerve to point out that ‘the people yelling the loudest to “shut up and listen” are some of the most in need to practice it.’

Now, just because John Scalzi is a privileged SWCM like me, that doesn’t make him a bad person. But as friends of mine know, one of my mantras is that “everyone wants to be the hero in their own story.”

When we SWCMs are forced to confront our own privilege, one story we tell ourselves is that by educating other similarly privileged people we are fighting oppression. When in reality we have done nothing to save the life of a trans woman, or find a job for a person of color, or get an equal wage for a woman, or enact marriage equality for a gay couple, or keep an immigrant family together, or provide affordable health care to anyone, or give even a token of attention to any person who might actually have lived the experience of oppression we so eloquently and grandly denounce.

Oh, I know it’s supposed to be a good thing for us SWCMs to “get it” and to have a privileged space in which to talk with other privileged people about our Privileged People’s Problems. And yet every time I read one of these self-congratulatory “I get it” pieces (which I confess I’ve written as well) I want to gouge my eyes out with an icepick.

Updated: It’s one thing to say “my sandbox, my rules” but if you’re trying to position yourself as an ally who listens to marginalized people, then deleting the comment of someone with an icon that sure looks like a woman of color and identifies as a “Black, Jewish, Queer, Fat, Disabled Chick” is doing it wrong. At the very least it deserves a click on the gravatar. Also, I suggest perusing Derailing for Dummies. The section You’ve Lost Your Temper So I Don’t Have To Listen To You Anymore seems particularly appropriate.

Categories: Essays Tags: , ,

Nappertunity knocks — very, very softly

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Taking the nappertunityOne of the things I miss about my youth and young adulthood is the chance to close my eyes for a few minutes in the middle of the day… seizing the “nappertunity” as it were. I still love to spend an hour or two in the early afternoon lying on a hammock in the sun or under a bright reading light, either reading a book or doing something relaxing like a crossword puzzle or sudoku, and letting my eyes slowly blink closed.

Babies and toddlers are of course allowed, encouraged and even cajoled to nap. But in our American society, naps are something you’re apparently supposed to outgrow as you get older. I learned this hard way when I was on my first job.

As with most things I accomplish, I’d worked my way into full-time employment slowly. As a grad student TA, I held office hours right after my 8:30 morning class, and didn’t have my own class until after 3 pm, so I had a few uninterrupted hours to eat lunch, watch the Carrier Dome get built and put my feet up and contemplate the human condition.

I didn’t easily adjust to the lack of nappertunities in the working world. I continued to put my feet up and “read” after lunch, until the day I looked up from my reading to see my boss’ boss smiling down at me. Oops. Like a grown-up Cookie Monster, I had to make my naps a sometimes treat.

It wasn’t until the birth of my first child that I truly discovered the joy of nappertunities. Sleep deprivation had been taking a harsh toll, as I’d been using the kid’s sleep time for my “me” time. Bad move. The best advice I ever got as a new parent, and the only parenting advice I ever give, is to sleep when the baby sleeps. Naps are restorative for the adult caregiver as was well as the child.

With kids all moved out, and as I age and naturally sleep less at night, I find myself more open to nappertunity than I have been in a long time. I do still occasionally nod off at my monitor at work, but mainly I look forward to lying down for a few minutes when I get home, NPR droning in the background. And for me, the best part of taking a vacation is being able to indulge in the twisted twin pleasures of staying up all night and napping through the day.

How and when do you like to nap? On your back, belly or sitting? On a bad, on the grass, in a train or bus? Morning, afternoon or night?

Categories: Essays Tags: , , ,