Analogies can be handy.
Linking to this article by John Scalzi provoked interesting responses:
Don Blais (@Waldolio) lashed out defensively, as many do when it is suggested that they might have some advantages in life: “@MetaGrrrl Living on easy mode. Sure. Go fuck yourself.”
I responded “As the article says, it’s totally possible to have a rough time playing & even lose on easiest setting. Read it again.” Noting his interest in Magic the Gathering in his bio, I added, “in MtG terms, point is being white/male/straight is like owning more cards. Yeah, ya still gotta make a good deck & draw w/ luck.”
My loooong time web pal Neale (yes, that Neale) retweeted my link to the article and we got a response to us both from Kenneth B (@ipadMTG): “@MetaGrrrl @wrongwaygoback This doesn’t happen too often, but I’ve missed the point of this article.”
That launched us into a long and lovely conversation on Twitter with Kenneth and I trading messages with Neale copied.
I replied, “It’s often easier to perceive that one has had advantages with wealth, supportive family, height, looks (e.g.) than to realize advantage provided by being white, straight &/or male. Don’t assume others had all same chances. The outcome of that realization being an awareness of hurdles others face. Empathy reduces oblivious asshattery.”
Kenneth responded, “To summarize, white guys have it easier than everyone else? Generalizing, but to the point.”
I said, “Not quite. Straight white guys, all other factors being equal, will probably face fewer setbacks than others. Not having faced a setback can blind one to possibility that others do, leading to inept ‘why don’t you just…’ [statements]. That blind spot matters in assessment of accomplishment. Undervaluing by not knowing the current worked against.”
He queried, “I might need to read [that] article again, but what setbacks would minorities face that SWM’s wouldn’t? or people that weren’t SWM’s”
Neale interjected, “Can we coin the term ‘SWiMmers’?” When I said that was deliciously apt, he said (tongue firmly in cheek, I believe), “It’s no ‘blogosphere’ but I’ll take it.”
I replied to Kenneth’s question, “SWMs may only perceive the currents pushing them back & be unaware of others, often as strong, pushing non-SWMs. Which is of course where a lot of the angry responses come from in discussions of privilege. ‘How can you say I have it easy? I had to work against poverty/health/dysfunctional family/etc’ The comment thread on Scalzi’s post exposes a lot of different perspectives including many of those challenges. And of course provides a certain amount of entertainment as he bashes trolls & the stupid with the admin hammer.”
I said, “Loving @wrongwaygoback’s coining of “SWiMmers” for straight, white males who don’t necessarily know there’s a harder current others overcome”
Kenneth said, “So me and my friends face a current that SWM’s don’t even see? (apologies for the generalizations) 140 chars etc.” Adding, “And I’m not disagreeing with you, just trying to see a different POV from apparently the same side of the fence. Understandably twitter is not the best discussion area, but I’m curious what those challenges are.”
At that point I had to leave, but now we have a much less constrained environment in the comment thread here to continue the conversation if desired.
(Note to anyone joining in: Please read Scalzi’s post before commenting. At least skimming the comment thread on that post would also be a good way to see some of the issues, kneejerk reactions, reactions to those reactions, and new perspectives that this discussion can raise.)
RT @TransFeminism: @janetmock A friend (@avanavana) wisely points out, “the ones who get chosen to play ‘easy’ get to create the other difficulty settings”