Privilege and Apologies

Hey, I need to apologize. A couple of commenters recently found a two-year-old post that ended with a fucking textbook example of privileged ignorance — the kind of shit I now get on my high horse and call other people out for. I’m ashamed I ever thought that way, and I’m sorry. I really fucked up.

And as much as I’d love to let those comments fall off the front page and hope no one else ever goes back and reads that post, I think it’s worth posting about for two reasons. First, because it’s a really good example of how good intentions don’t mean shit if you don’t think about your privilege and actively try not to marinate in the ignorance that comes with it. The fact is, I have learned a hell of a lot about privilege from reading feminist and other social justice blogs in the last couple of years, and as a result I’ve become much more cognizant of my own. I simply wouldn’t say anything like that these days — but only two years ago, I would have and did. And two years from now, I will probably look back on shit I said in 2008 and cringe at how ignorant I sounded. I expect that will continue for the rest of my life. I’m constantly learning, there will always be more to learn, and of course, I will never fully be able to see my own privilege — ’cause that’s how it works.

Which brings us to reason number 2 for bringing this up now. Over the last few days, I’ve been called out for making privileged comments on a different thread. Some of it I already recognize as well-deserved, some of it I probably will recognize as well-deserved upon further reflection — and some of it actually is bullshit. (No amount of introspection is going to make me own words that were flat-out put in my mouth.) I’ve been feeling really defensive, and it’s hard to tease apart how much defensiveness is the typical response of a person being rightly called on her privilege, and how much is in response to the parts that are indeed bullshit.

But that’s something that comes with the territory of having privilege — having to sort through the lousy feelings that come up when someone tells you you’ve got a blind spot that’s leading to shitty behavior. When it’s obvious, as with that old post, it’s actually relatively simple. I feel shitty and mortified about that, but I should feel shitty and mortified, because I said an asshole thing, no two ways about it. When it’s not so clear-cut, however — when there are a few twisted words and false assumptions among the valid criticism — it’s tempting to reject the criticism wholesale.

I need to not do that. I need to reread Amp’s How Not to Be Insane post, and I need to shut up and fully process that conversation. And in the meantime, I need to apologize for being defensive and hurting people. I’m sorry.

Update: I appreciate comments attempting to defend my honor here, but as many people have pointed out, my honor is not the larger issue. Before anyone comments again — and this includes me — I’d ask that people read this post at The Angry Black Woman and this post by zvi on “tone.” (Both of which were just sent to me by a reader who is rightly concerned that this thread is getting into the territory covered by those posts, which is really unhelpful, to say the least.)

Posted in Fat

119 thoughts on “Privilege and Apologies

  1. I agree that it is unproductive to set different forms of prejudice up in competition with each other, but just so you know: that was still a great post.

  2. by which I mean: yes, you could lose those last few lines, but you can still be proud of making a stand against arseholes everywhere.

  3. I think *this* is a textbook example of a constructive way to respond when called on one’s privilege. Good work :)

  4. I had a teacher once who said, “When someone disagrees with you and forces you to rethink your position, they are not your enemy. In fact, you owe them a debt of gratitude.”

    I think it’s true; it just takes me a while to get to the ‘gratitude’ part, and I have to go through “defensive and pathologically pissy” to get there.

  5. This is very gracious, and smart. I agree it’s SO DIFFICULT to tease out privilege. I remember being aware of it as a little kid, and then as you grow up, your mind becomes filled with knee-jerk responses and assumptions.

    But I have to say, I think the commenter who called you out is kind of an asshole. I mean, finding a two year old post and announcing therein “I am done” with your blog? Sweet.

  6. It’s one of the reasons I don’t comment here or read as much as I would like to. You’re from such a different world to me that I don’t think you would understand where I’m from, in the poor, living on welfare, can’t afford decent food world.

    The term “African American” annoys me, too because it’s making an assumption on origin. Lots of black Americans are not African.

  7. I’m glad you’ve owned up to your privilege

    Deborah “But I have to say, I think the commenter who called you out is kind of an asshole. I mean, finding a two year old post and announcing therein “I am done” with your blog? Sweet.”

    I agree. Commenting on two year old posts seems a bit…rude.

  8. It’s one of the reasons I don’t comment here or read as much as I would like to. You’re from such a different world to me that I don’t think you would understand where I’m from, in the poor, living on welfare, can’t afford decent food world.

    To a certain degree, I think this is a general problem when you belong to a different group. I sometimes feel alienated by discussions in the FA movement because most people in the movement are American. I am not – and some of the issues discussed just don’t apply to me in exactly the same way as to the majority. On the other hand, there is practically no organized FA going on in my home country and in the country I live right now, so this is still a great resource for me – a resource without an alternative.

    The term “African American” annoys me, too because it’s making an assumption on origin. Lots of black Americans are not African.

    Agreed – and not only because lots of black Americans are not of African origin. The distinction between “black” and “white” is quite ridiculous also, particularly since it creates a false dichotomy – but on the other hand it is a distinction that exists in people’s heads and that has very real social consequences so it needs to be talked about in some way and for that you need vocabulary. And at least “black” and “white” don’t mix geographical/ cultural background with skin color.

  9. Okay, I read the post about four times, especially the last paragraph, and I completely missed what would be considered offensive or dense. I know people who sincerely believe that gays will wind up in eternal torment in a large lake of fire, but they keep that shit to themselves during chow and everyone gets along and enjoys their food…

    What is POC anyway? Also, ditto on the whole “African American” thing. Black is not a dirty word. Enough with the Hyphenated-American culture already, If nothing else, it’s subtle stratification. White people get to just be Americans and everyone else is American with a qualifier.

  10. I completely missed what would be considered offensive or dense.

    The assumption that just because I hadn’t witnessed it recently, there are fewer assholes who would sit next to a person of color (that’s what “POC” is) and say openly racist things than men who would sit next to a woman and say openly sexist things. If I were a POC, I would no doubt have a very different take on that, and I wasn’t thinking beyond my own limited experience. So it came off as me going for the gold in Oppression Olympics.

  11. Kate, thanks for shining the spotlight on what has to be an uncomfortable episode for you. I had to read EVERYTHING referenced here to “get it” even a little bit.

    I have learned something important today.

  12. Well I have to stand up and admit that I was not expecting this response. I was reading the other thread (the more recent one) and as I was reading a post directed at you, I really assumed you were going to become really huffy and dismissive. I have seen you do that before when it seemed like people were lecturing you or putting words into your head. I was all ready for the steam to start pouring out of some ears, and I was sad at the certain derail.

    But man that did not happen. I have learned yet another lesson and maybe one day I’ll be smart.

    You’re from such a different world to me that I don’t think you would understand where I’m from, in the poor, living on welfare, can’t afford decent food world.

    poletopolar, I am from the same world, as a black woman living in the ghetto on food stamps and a government check. And I have felt out of sorts with this blog many times. But I never feel like the minds just close here and that is very important to me.

  13. I can’t possibly believe something stupid Kate said or did two years could could invalidate all of the things she has learned in those two years, or all of the good she has done in the past two years. The wonderful thing about mistakes is that they are a prime opportunity to learn something important.

    If we are to solely judge each other, not on Who We Are Now, but Who We Were Back Then, then we will never get anywhere. Not as individuals, and not as a community. People grow and change, and to resist or deny that, or to invalidate any growth/change that has occurred, is to enforce stagnation.

    For the people who are upset with Kate for what she said two years ago? I am not trying to invalidate your feelings. However, i would ask that you go back and read everything she has written between then and now, not skipping a single comment or post, before you attempt judge even a tiny fraction of her worth as a human being. What we show each other on our blogs isn’t half of Who We Are.

  14. I agree with Lindsay on so very many points.

    If we can’t make mistakes and then be forgiven for them once we apologize, we will not only not learn from the mistakes, we will be less likely ever to admit fault. If we have to be defensive about our past admitted errors forever, that would probably just send many of us into defended holes of “not learning, not thinking” forever.

    We are human, limited to our own experiences, not omniscient. Not only that, our goal cannot be reaching omniscience, because such would be impossible. My own goal is just to think more, think harder and be forgiving of myself and others when they admit fault.

    And, to be honest, this goes not only for making crappy assumptions about other people, it also goes for my relationship with my body.

  15. I’ve been called out as a contender for the “Oppression Olympics” from time to time, too, and the “shut up and listen” part is usually the most difficult for me.

    It would have been so much easier to let the comments to that old post slide than to acknowledge what you did and to apologize. I admire you for that, Kate.

  16. Also: penalizing someone for having been ignorant, in a way that they have since corrected, is effectively saying that it is Not Okay To Learn – that the knowledge should be innate.

    At that point, we have to ask how we expect anyone to make progress, and what right we have to demand it of them. You can’t hold someone to a standard that you’ve defined as unattainable.

  17. However, i would ask that you go back and read everything she has written between then and now, not skipping a single comment or post, before you attempt judge even a tiny fraction of her worth as a human being.

    Wow, so people aren’t supposed to call out others for ignorant or privileged statements unless and until they have read every single word that person has written? That’s a ridiculous and impossible thing to expect. Also, who judged her “worth as a human being?” They saw a privileged comment and called her out on it.

    Also: penalizing someone for having been ignorant, in a way that they have since corrected, is effectively saying that it is Not Okay To Learn – that the knowledge should be innate.

    Why would you assume that they don’t think it’s okay to learn, when the comment left by “dreamy” described in detail his/her problems with the post, explaining to Kate why the end of the post was objectionable? If dreamy thought Kate was incapable of learning or correcting, I don’t think he/she would have bothered to explain.

    At that point, we have to ask how we expect anyone to make progress, and what right we have to demand it of them.

    See answer above: presumably dreamy was attempting to help Kate “make progress.” And I didn’t see dreamy demand anything.

    You can’t hold someone to a standard that you’ve defined as unattainable.

    When did anyone do that?

    Kate, I love this post, because as someone who has been blogging for more than four years, I have lots of posts in my archives that currently make me cringe. At times I’ve thought about deleting those demonstrations of my past ignorance and privilege, but I’ve decided against it. It’d be like rewriting history. I said those things, I recognize that they’re stupid things to say, and if a commenter ever stops by and calls me on it, I hope I react the way that you just did.

  18. I second RagingRed; calling someone out on privileged or oppressive remarks is not making a judgment on the kind of person they are, and to react as if it is is to miss the whole damn point of being called out. We live in a racist society; we are all (knowingly or unknowingly) complicit with racism. Learning when and how and in what ways we are complicit is way, way more important than defending whether or not we’re “good people” or not.

    Kate, thanks for this post.

  19. I guess one possible approach (not critiquing the approach you’ve taken) is to say:
    I’m trying to grow here. I think there’s evidence of that right here for the whole world to see.

    Then I think there’s sometimes a bind — asking, what would you expect an ally to do in response to this comment, as I want to be an ally, can sometime be met with the response that it’s not the POC’s responsibility to figure that out for you.

    Maybe there are some “bridge” allies who can respond and say what they’ve done when called on the carpet for earlier writing, or current writing, that has elicited that response.

    I have a feeling that I know what it feel like to read something from someone who is “nearly there” but occasionally states something that indicates that they still have a way to go. For me, it’s reading things by physicians who are basically compassionate but are seeing fat as just plain bad.

    You have created an amazing community here. I don’t always agree with you, FJ or SM but I’m so glad you do what you do, you say what you say.

    Once someone on this site responded to something I said about diabetes and prediabetes in a pretty visceral way, and I felt really bad afterwards, and I didn’t have any idea how to respond. Maybe we need to have some way to clear the air about this stuff in a less public, accusatory way. Disagreements, hurt feelings, are part of the territory. I believe the most important thing is to keep discussions going. And if someone says they are “done” it’s an expression of anger, but there are hundreds of people for hundreds of reasons who feel “done” with hundreds of web sites (probably thousands is a better range) but do so silently. Saying something is at least an opportunity to engage.

  20. So when dreamy said, “That’s it for me and SP”, that was not a form of judgment? I am earnestly asking for your opinion here, not trying to be argumentative.

    I admit i may be wrong, and if i am ignorant, i welcome the opportunity to learn.

  21. Thanks so much for this post. Among other things I’ve learned from it, it gives me a great opportunity to thank you for teaching me more than I ever knew about privilege, especially my own privilege, and I’ve been meaning to thank you for that for some time now.

    I have existed and continue to exist in a microcosm where nobody wants to talk about privilege, it’s something to be swept under the rug. So, my own privileges, biases, and what-all-else that has helped to block me from opening my mind and heart the way I’d like, went largely unexplored and unresolved. I figured from about my sophomore year in college that I was probably more of a racist/ sexist/ ageist/ etc. than I wanted to be or even thought I was, just from starting to realize how even many of my favorite people– good, kind, smart people, not some caricature of a mean and bad “othered” biased person that everybody hates, had blinders on about (what I felt were) important issues.

    For example, when I first got to college, at first I didn’t really think anything of the fact that now I was around POC and exchange students from other cultures and etc. In my small-town high school, there’d been only one black family and they moved after a year. But I never thought anything of it, because I figured oh, well you just ignore the fact that a person is a different color from you and treat them the same as anybody because that’s what you learn in elementary school, right? I mean, I never even bothered to really think about it or examine it, because just thinking about it would make me racist or something? Or whatever stupid ingrained ideas I had. But I figured out pretty quickly that’s really not how it works.

    But I still didn’t really know about privilege. At first all I knew was I felt vaguely afraid I might say something stupid in front of a black friend that would hurt their feelings, but I didn’t understand the all-important WHY, and why just that fear in itself was a bullshit thing that was another way to try to keep humans all separated into stupid segregated groups and away from our true nature, which is to make connections with others, not build walls. I should have just said stupid stuff, trusted them to call me on it without dumping me as a friend, and then we could have talked about it and I could have learned something.

    Now thanks to blogs like yours and posts like this one, I’m learning all the different ways I have privilege (racially, being able-bodied, having an education and having had the opportunity for such, and so on and so forth), which is, in turn, helping me to finally come to grips with that so I can try to eradicate those tendencies in myself and grow to be a better me.

    All of which sounds cheesy and a bit embarrassing really, and was rather long winded, and ugh now you know all these uncomfy truths about me, and will think I’m such a clueless bumpkin hick from a little white-farmer town, but it’s the feeling I was trying to get across so I’m posting it, dammit.

    PS farmers rock and “bumpkin” sounds like “pumpkin” so I don’t consider the term an insult… don’t worry, I’m totally proud of my heritage AND my ten years in 4-H, even if the world I came from ain’t perfect. Not going to trade one privilege for another and pick up additional hate to direct towards my hometown. That would be silly. Oh my god, wait, I just realized I have fresh produce and locally-raised meat privilege, too (yet I’m still fat, so it must not be the magic pill after all). SEE HOW MUCH YOU TEACH ME?!

  22. MikeyT, I think that you really hit on something with your comment. Many of us have friends and family who check themselves when they suspect they might be letting their privilege get in the way, some of us have family who have racist/sexist/other -ist attitudes that they manage to stifle most of the time, etc. Because that’s our experience, we then let that influence how we think complete strangers act, how people in other cultures and classes act, and we often forget that we’re looking at things from a really limited viewpoint.

    Kate, I think your post is terrific, and you handled the issue honestly and graciously.

  23. We live in a racist society; we are all (knowingly or unknowingly) complicit with racism. Learning when and how and in what ways we are complicit is way, way more important than defending whether or not we’re “good people” or not.

    Important point. Also, dreamy’s comments were, in general, very thoughtful and well-written – not the kind of thing I associate with an Indignant Flouncer. Perhaps he or she didn’t realize that the post was 2 years old becuase it came up at the top of the…. um, monster comment thingie in the top right-hand corner. I have no idea what that’s called.

    Anyway, great post.

  24. Thank-you so much for posting this Kate. We all make mistakes! You’re human! :)

    I just started learning about white privilege myself, and sometimes it’s a challenge not to feel defensive. Seeing how maturely and honestly you dealt with this situation gives me hope that I can do better too.

  25. I was gunna post yesterday in that other thread… pointing out the time from the original post until now and pointing out how you’ve changed some since that time, Kate, at least from my readings of the posts, but then thought maybe it’d just be better to let it go.

    It did make me feel sad for Dreamy that they thought they needed to say goodbye to SP because of a post that was 2 years old and without giving Kate a chance to answer for it. After hanging around the internet since nearly the very beginning, this blog and the family around it are one of the best behaved I’ve ever seen, not only in handling the snerts, but also admitting when mistakes were made, and letting people with honest points speak their minds without making the guests here feel like they’re being persecuted or lectured, and if you think that fine line is an easy one to walk, try it for a day with screaming people on both sides, one calling you a megalomaniac board nazi, the other calling you a shrill stupid female. Been there done that, never wanna do it again thanks.

    And here today is Kate’s apology, and again it’s adult and doesn’t point fingers at anyone else like so many apologies you see today…

    Anyway, I hope Dreamy that you’ve reconsidered the leaving of the SP community, and I thank Kate and FJ and SM, for giving us this little slice of heaven where it’s ok to be one of those silly little things called human.

  26. I do feel some obligation to comment to this post, so here goes.

    Sniper is correct– for whatever reason, the post popped up in the corner of the main screen and I was attracted by its humorous title. I had no idea it was old, and as I said in that post, didn’t have much reason to believe it was. Would it be that out of character for Kate in 2008? Considering I was coming directly from a discussion with Kate about Julia’s essay, it honestly didn’t strike me as shockingly out of character, no.

    For the record, I have read dozens of posts (and all related comments) on SP– including many older posts. Perhaps 50-100 or more. I have been reading particularly closely in the past few weeks. I suppose my lack of commentary until recently could paint me as an outsider who is not “really” part of the community, and therefore my perspective dismissed. But what makes someone (who is not at a loss for words in general), decide not to become more vocal in a community?

    Is it a form of judgment that I no longer plan on reading SP? Yes. My judgment. It’s not a community I feel comfortable in. Please think about what that means and what it doesn’t. I just read the recent exchange between Julia and Substantia Jones and feel I am witnessing a similar dynamic here in these comments. Julia says “I love the idea, but I feel left out (again).” And Substantia and those defending her say, “How dare you accuse me/her of something so heinous!” Okay, then.

    Feeling embarrassed when you do something wrong is normal. Acting defensive when you feel embarrassed is normal. But when you have something to feel embarrassed about, defending it– in any respect– is illogical. And silencing. This is not about your discomfort, Kate, so I’m a bit perplexed as to why you would create a new post about it– or rather, primarily about you and your feelings– knowing, as you must, that for the most part the comments you receive will be comforting and affirming. Affirming, perhaps, even of behavior you know to be unacceptable. What does that accomplish? What is it meant to accomplish?

    For those who would throw up their hands and complain that they are d@mned if they do, d@mned if they don’t, I ask you to consider third alternatives. Kate, you could have just continued to engage in the “Bears” post, and few people would have been the wiser. If you were concerned that this was being discussed elsewhere, and wanted to preempt some sort of attack? Well, I still don’t see how this post is particularly helpful. For the most part– in my opinion– it makes it look like you are rallying your personal troops. Perhaps you could have made a general post full of helpful links about racism and privilege (books are nice, too), without drawing attention to the specific incident. There is something about self-flaggelation and linking to it that just encourages folks to rush to your “aid.” And I don’t think you need that– in fact, it feels counterproductive. If you linked to show your own human frailty– to show that even eponymous bloggers make mistakes, to use yourself as an example? Well, I guess I’d expect a deeper analysis on your part, not just “I am sorry, I am human, and anyway, I’m not sure all of the criticism of me is even justified, but I am sorry.”

    Apologies demand three things. First, that one say she is sorry. Second, that one truly understands that for which she is apologizing. And third, that one makes amends. What are your amends?

    Really, just generally, I’d expect you to focus on the actual problem– which is bigger than you. Which is not even about you. The problem is not that you made a mistake. The problem is not that you– as everyone– are still learning, and you misstep, and you feel bad, and you apologize. The problem is– and the focus should be on– why POC and anti-racist “allies” feel unwelcome in these spaces. The problem is racism. The problem is a lack of intersectional analysis of fatphobia.

    Here’s just one example: have you ever considered that fatphobia– which rose sharply around the turn of the 20th century, and particularly in the 1950′s-70s and beyond– is simply a cover for racism, sexism, classism and ablism? That this might explain why it seems “more socially acceptable” than those oppressions, at least in liberal circles? That it is a backlash to the CRM and women’s movements, etc., etc.? That since you “can’t” say “those people” are “wasting my tax dollars” by being (inherently) lazy, shiftless, etc. (although I have heard that more times than I can count), it is a convenient smokescreen to complain about fat people and their drain on the healthcare system (such as it isn’t, at least in the US). And it’s just a coincidence that fat people are disproportionately: female, POC, poor and disabled.

    Maybe people say “fatty” because they “can’t” say “n****r.”

    Maybe– just MAYBE– the fact that racial slurs are supposedly “declasse” now, or the fact that we “no longer are allowed to” overtly oppress people based on “something they can’t change?” Maybe those things, rather than being some sign of progress, actually have a lot to do with the causes of modern fatphobia, not to mention the perpetuation of other oppressions, themselves. Maybe the “fact” that you “can’t say anything racist” is not something for feminists or fat acceptance activists to aspire to. Maybe.

    And then there’s the backlash in the form of people like the “A$$holes” in your story, who get to moan about the PC police and are rewarded by the support of the majority of the public.

    Basically, maybe those things cited as “progress” in the post that inspired this one have been used to shift and obscure ideas about oppression in order to keep them and it alive. Not to mention the excuses people use to justify fatphobia– particularly the idea that you can change your weight, so it’s okay to discriminate on that basis. The idea that it’s “unfair” to discriminate based on an “inborn characteristic” (which race is arguably not, but anyway) is maybe– MAYBE– not a progressive one at all. And never was. Does it not, in part, imply that POC would be white, if only they could? So that we should take pity on them and their lack of choice? And the same applies to many other forms of oppression… Even though, in the USA for example, religion (“something you can change”) defines a protected class. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    Maybe that’s what this post should really be about. Maybe.

  27. i second that brava. it takes cojones to admit our mistakes. healthy beings are evolving beings. we can’t forgive and love others until we can forgive and love ourselves.

  28. Here’s just one example: have you ever considered that fatphobia– which rose sharply around the turn of the 20th century, and particularly in the 1950’s-70s and beyond– is simply a cover for racism, sexism, classism and ablism? That this might explain why it seems “more socially acceptable” than those oppressions, at least in liberal circles?

    Not to mention the excuses people use to justify fatphobia– particularly the idea that you can change your weight, so it’s okay to discriminate on that basis. The idea that it’s “unfair” to discriminate based on an “inborn characteristic” (which race is arguably not, but anyway) is maybe– MAYBE– not a progressive one at all. And never was. Does it not, in part, imply that POC would be white, if only they could? So that we should take pity on them and their lack of choice? And the same applies to many other forms of oppression… Even though, in the USA for example, religion (”something you can change”) defines a protected class. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    Dreamy, shit like this is why people question whether you’ve read this blog, since yes, I have not only considered all of those things but written about them. You seem to have convinced yourself that I’m utterly clueless, so at this point, I don’t really know what else I can say.

    You’re right that discussions of racism aren’t about me. But discussions of what I do and do not know and what I have and have not written are, in fact, about me. And you have put a hell of a lot of words in my mouth — and taken a hell of a lot of words away from me — in the last couple of days.

  29. dreamy, I agree with basically everything you said as far as where your ideas are. But I do want to take a hard look at this, and the points following it.

    This is not about your discomfort, Kate, so I’m a bit perplexed as to why you would create a new post about it– or rather, primarily about you and your feelings– knowing, as you must, that for the most part the comments you receive will be comforting and affirming.

    I think this is uncalled for. The reason Kate made a new post (I assume) is because she publicly fucked up. And public fuck-ups call for public apologies. That is the only proper thing to do. And I don’t think Kate expressed any sort of uncertainty as to whether to statements made in the “Bear” post were inappropriate. She seems to have made it pretty clear they were. I think it’s pretty clear that where she’s saying I’m not sure all of the criticism of me is even justified is in regards to the discussion in the comments, which is much more complex and a bit twisted.

    But anyway, I feel that public fuck-ups require public apologies. And I don’t see Kate holding back or pointing fingers in admitting she fucked up. I think trying to claim that she did so in order to get attention or pats-on-the-back is harsh and not backed up by what is in the post. In discussing her own personal fuck-ups and blindness to privilege I felt like Kate was simply making her apology, and pointing out that

    it’s a really good example of how good intentions don’t mean shit if you don’t think about your privilege and actively try not to marinate in the ignorance that comes with it.

    Which is something worth discussing on this blog.

    And as to this

    have you ever considered that fatphobia– which rose sharply around the turn of the 20th century, and particularly in the 1950’s-70s and beyond– is simply a cover for racism, sexism, classism and ablism?

    It’s Spot On as a criticism of society. But I don’t understand it as a criticism of Kate. These are ideas I have had in my head for a long time, and many of them were put there by this very blog. I think discussing the various types of prejudice and privilege out there and how they overlap is important and needed. Where homophobia meets sexism meets fatphobia meets racism meets ableism meets every other goddamn inequality out there is crucial in understanding why all of it is important. And I think this blog is one of the main places I have seen doing that.

    But, and again, I am not Kate (or am I?), I don’t understand that “have you ever considered” as a criticism of her, because I’ve always gotten the feeling from this blog that those are things she is more than willing, and even eager, to explore and discuss. She seems to link to discussions of race frequently. Race has been a huge centerpiece of many of our discussions of beauty ideals set out as a form of oppression (see our discussions of hair).

    If your criticism is that she doesn’t deeply discuss the issue of race in every single post, I would say that this is a Fat Acceptance Blog written by three white chicks. Which isn’t to say that race isn’t or shouldn’t be important to the discussion, but to say that 1)they will have less direct exposure to it in their daily lives to comment on and 2)that’s not the central purpose of this particular blog (though it has been and I think will continue to be a major component of the discussions, and hopefully that part will be more and more discussed, like all of the parts of this, as time goes on – because it is important. And connected).

    If you really want to see more of that sort of discussion, and I mean this, I would be interested in more blogs like this – Start your own blog. You obviously have ideas, and many of them seem well thought out and very rooted in the reality of our current world and issues. I don’t think Kate, FJ, and SM could start an entirely race-based-blog simply because they would be making every post from the point of view of a hypothetical rather than their own truth and experience. Every blog would be “I think that IF I had *insert characteristic* THEN *insert whatev* and IF I had to experience *insert prejudice* THEN that would suck” is not nearly as powerful as “This IS what I DO experience and it DOES suck” – which is why many of their posts are about what they do experience, and being white, it’s the white experience. Which is why we need more POC bloggers (who are, admittedly, more scarce partly due to facing too knee-jerk reactions from privilegd white folks. I just don’t see that as what’s going on here. Kate’s reaction seems appropriately thought out and more than remorseful, and you are ignoring huge chunks of what has been discussed in this blog).

    I just feel like part of this seems to be you criticizing Kate not for being too inconsiderate or blind to privilege, but simply for not writing the exact blog YOU would have written about what you are experiencing in the World of Fat. And in doing so you seem to be completely ignoring the large extent to which she has written and discussed the exact things you are talking about.

    …yeah.

    *shuffles away*

  30. Oh. Kate’s comment wasn’t there when I started typing that. And is much more succinct. And her actually speaking for, you know, herself.

    So ignore me. I’ll just be getting my coat.

  31. Dear Kate,
    I can see why what dreamy wrote would evoke that response, but, as someone watching the exchange, I would say maybe take a bit of a break before responding. Dreamy made some really awesome statements in there, ones that deserve to be in big, bold print somewhere, but also, I could see why you would feel defensive.

    The part of me that hates conflict wants to run, but the part of me that yearns to understand intersectionality better, that hasn’t heard it stated as clearly as dreamy summed it up, is so so so glad this conversation is taking place, that you are hanging in there with it, that you are allowing it to take place publically.

    I think dreamy is right when she says it isn’t about you, specifically. The fact that there’s a conversation, as charged as it might be, happening here is exactly the why a blog like this needs to exist.

    If you were reading this exchange on someone else’s blog, I think you might feel the same way. There aren’t sides here, there’s a need for greater understanding all around.

  32. Dreamy,
    I would like to quote this part of what you wrote, with your permission, but not without appropriate credit.
    This is what I would like to quote:

    “have you ever considered that fatphobia– which rose sharply around the turn of the 20th century, and particularly in the 1950’s-70s and beyond– is simply a cover for racism, sexism, classism and ablism? That this might explain why it seems “more socially acceptable” than those oppressions, at least in liberal circles? That it is a backlash to the CRM and women’s movements, etc., etc.? That since you “can’t” say “those people” are “wasting my tax dollars” by being (inherently) lazy, shiftless, etc. (although I have heard that more times than I can count), it is a convenient smokescreen to complain about fat people and their drain on the healthcare system (such as it isn’t, at least in the US). And it’s just a coincidence that fat people are disproportionately: female, POC, poor and disabled.

    Maybe people say “fatty” because they “can’t” say “n****r.”

    Maybe– just MAYBE– the fact that racial slurs are supposedly “declasse” now, or the fact that we “no longer are allowed to” overtly oppress people based on “something they can’t change?” Maybe those things, rather than being some sign of progress, actually have a lot to do with the causes of modern fatphobia, not to mention the perpetuation of other oppressions, themselves. Maybe the “fact” that you “can’t say anything racist” is not something for feminists or fat acceptance activists to aspire to. Maybe.

    And then there’s the backlash in the form of people like the “A$$holes” in your story, who get to moan about the PC police and are rewarded by the support of the majority of the public.

    Basically, maybe those things cited as “progress” in the post that inspired this one have been used to shift and obscure ideas about oppression in order to keep them and it alive. Not to mention the excuses people use to justify fatphobia– particularly the idea that you can change your weight, so it’s okay to discriminate on that basis. The idea that it’s “unfair” to discriminate based on an “inborn characteristic” (which race is arguably not, but anyway) is maybe– MAYBE– not a progressive one at all. And never was. Does it not, in part, imply that POC would be white, if only they could? So that we should take pity on them and their lack of choice? And the same applies to many other forms of oppression… Even though, in the USA for example, religion (”something you can change”) defines a protected class. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    With your permission, I would like to include it in a blog post. Since you haven’t linked to a blog, I wouldn’t know how to give appropriate credit.

  33. Oh. Kate’s comment wasn’t there when I started typing that. And is much more succinct.

    It’s also much more defensive and bitchy, so I really appreciate your comment.

  34. I was just reading about the whole John Edwards thing and now this and I wanted to say:

    I think the level of perfection we expect from anyone with a public face is very counterproductive, and leads us to get the public officials, celebrities, even the bloggers that we deserve. It narrows the field of people who get to have a pulpit to those who are so whitewashed that they will never step out far enough to make any mistakes and those that are so arrogant that the do not believe they ever possibly could be mistaken.

  35. Dreamy, I had a slightly more charitable reading of Kate’s response. I don’t think she focusing on herself more than necessitated by responding to a comment that centered on a statement she made.

    You’re right that she could have made a non-connected post about intersectionality. She also, as stated above, has discussed that subject several times on this blog. I can of course see where someone who already feels excluded from a community would see exclusion in a statement where I, someone who usually does not feel excluded, would not see it.

    I am not here to interpret Kate’s post for you, by any means. I would, however, like to offer an alternate interpretation, if I can do so without putting words in Kate’s mouth. I think the message here is less “woe be my unenlightened former self,” and more “There is this attitude, and it sucks. It was drawn to my attention that I made a statement born out of that attitude. Here’s an illustration of why it sucks.”

    In short (ha, after rambling for.ev.er), she was using her post to make a point, the same way you used her post to make a point.

  36. Feeling embarrassed when you do something wrong is normal. Acting defensive when you feel embarrassed is normal. But when you have something to feel embarrassed about, defending it– in any respect– is illogical. And silencing. This is not about your discomfort, Kate, so I’m a bit perplexed as to why you would create a new post about it– or rather, primarily about you and your feelings– knowing, as you must, that for the most part the comments you receive will be comforting and affirming. Affirming, perhaps, even of behavior you know to be unacceptable. What does that accomplish? What is it meant to accomplish?

    Dreamy,

    Can I point out that this is Kate’s blog, and thus she is free to run it how ever she damn well pleases, whether others like it or not? If she wants to post an apology to readers whom she rightly fears may feel offended or marginalized, if she wants to blather on about cat weddings, if she wants to post nothing but naked photos of herself, that is her right as blog owner. It seems pretty presumptive and entitled to tell someone how to behave on her own blog.

    (Kate, please tell me to get my coat and cheese off if this is inappropriate, and I understand if it gets deleted for that reason, but the above excerpt really rubbed me the wrong way, enough to draw me out of semi-lurkerdom.)

  37. Here’s just one example: have you ever considered that fatphobia– which rose sharply around the turn of the 20th century, and particularly in the 1950’s-70s and beyond– is simply a cover for racism, sexism, classism and ablism? That this might explain why it seems “more socially acceptable” than those oppressions, at least in liberal circles?

    That’s funny, I had a post in the works about exactly that (fat hate as code) that I was going to put up next week. Many of us on the Fatosphere, including Kate, have commented on this phenomenon or posted on it on multiple occasions (I also posted about it here). Trust me, though, anyone who’s read The Obesity Myth has more than thought about that stuff. Campos has an entire chapter about it (“Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles”).

    Could many of us spend more time driving home that point? Maybe. But it’s hardly a foreign concept around here. And what we actually have here in the ‘Sphere, more than anything, is a collection of personal blogs that touch on politics; most of our blogs are not all-politics-all-the-time.

    And when you have a personal blog you’re going to write mostly about things that impact you personally. You might write about racism from time to time if you’re white, or queer issues from time to time if you’re straight, or feminist issues from time to time if you’re male, or disability issues from time to time if you’re able-bodied, or hell, even autism-spectrum issues from time to time if you’re neurotypical and have neurotypical kids, just because those subjects move you.

    But as an aspie, I’m not going to run around screaming that NTs don’t write enough about “my” issues; I’m not even going to run around screaming at people who do write about aspie stuff that they’re concentrating on kids and not on middle-aged adult women diagnosed in midlife (which is true of most of them). It’s quite likely they’re not writing about middle-aged adult female aspies not because they don’t give a shit but because whatever information they have about it, no matter how much reading and “homework” they’ve done, is going to be obtained secondhand. If you’ve never lived in my brain, that inside-out-upside-down-backwards-and-in-Martian-language brain of mine that controls every single function in my body even as I sleep, and has impacted every single thing I have ever done or tried to do in my entire life, you can only guess what it’s like.

    Personally I don’t want NT people to try to illuminate my reality. They CAN’T PHYSICALLY DO IT. They can express sympathy for the abuses and frustrations I’ve suffered, but that’s about it, and I honestly don’t expect them to drop everything they’re doing to concentrate on that. Which makes it really hard for me to understand why you want white people who write personal blogs to try to speak for you day in and day out, instead of blogging those issues yourself. White people will never understand those issues the way you do, no matter how hard we try. And Kate’s trying as hard as any white person I’ve ever known.

    Oh, and I second Time-Machine’s post. As Anne Lamott once put it, “You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it, too.”

  38. Regarding this sentence of dreamy’s which Time-Machine quoted: have you ever considered that fatphobia– which rose sharply around the turn of the 20th century, and particularly in the 1950’s-70s and beyond– is simply a cover for racism, sexism, classism and ablism?

    I see this as a direct criticism of Kate, and not of Kate herself, but as a criticism of her approach. I interpreted dreamy is saying that making an effort is well and good, but Kate’s (and this blog’s) views on fatphobia, and how to defend against fatphobia, are at odds with hir perspective and experience as a person of colour.

    To provide supporting anecedata, based on one of dreamy’s points: I’ve read Shapely Prose for a long time, and while I have seen fatphobia discussed as well as various methods of working against fatphobia and defending fat people, I have not see those specific methods (it’s genetic, it’s individual, it’s a social construct) discussed in a historical context as dreamy is doing here. Fatphobia as compare/contrast to racism and sexism and ablism and so on, yes. Have I seen those methods considered in terms of racism and racism’s history of having employed those responses in the past and their lingering effect today? No.

    I think this is an important point, one that needs to be thoroughly considered, and thank you, dreamy, for bringing up something I haven’t thought about before; and if I have misread dreamy, I apologise.

    Also, yes, i-geek, it is Kate’s blog and she can do what she likes with it; however taking that to its full extent would be detrimental to herself, her commenters, and the blog itself. It’s a delicate act, and I do admire how much thought Kate and SM and fillyjonk put into this, and Meowser is right: Kate won’t know. She will and always will be writing about it from a removed perspective.

    At the same time, I believe dreamy’s points deserve further examination.

    So how about, if dreamy and Kate&fj&SM are amenable, offering a good-faith guest post on the matter?

  39. I think this is a wonderful discussion, and I am learning a lot from it. dreamy’s posts are very well-written and thoughtful; and everyone seems to be really trying to understand each other.

    I do have a question about ableism, perhaps people could help me with? I’m one of those people, the ones who like to share the data they have with other people; and it rather took me aback to think I might have offended someone by doing this. I think I understand the point that it is patronizing to assume that the person hasn’t done at least as much on their own when they have a deeper interest than I do in the subject. I promise to try harder to step on my tongue.

  40. Oh and I think LIndra’s idea of a guest post, if all are willing, is excellent! I meant to put that in before.

  41. Several folks have been defensive in this post about SP or other FA blogs authored by white folks, saying, “Oh, but we/they have covered that issue before!”

    You cannot talk about things like race twice, ten times, or fifty times, feel like you’re “covered,” and then use those posts as your weapons of defense from folks who do not see their experiences reflected or even touched upon and who call out the privilege. It is disingenuous to claim that your blog incorporates a framework of intersectionality if you are not constantly, ceaselessly, always thinking about how many identities, especially ones as far-reaching and deeply seated in our culture as race, shape the topic at hand.

    I read above from at least two people the really disappointing argument that one has to be of an identity to care about it deeply and to be knowledgeable about it enough to discuss it. I am lucky enough to have several fierce white allies in my life who have made it a priority to think about race in really critical ways and who fuck up from time to time, but also continue to recommit themselves to being better allies. I myself strive for this as an ally to people who are marginalized in ways that I am not.

    And again, this is bigger than me and bigger than Kate or Shapely Prose. It is a constant failing of the largely white FA movement to take all oppressions as seriously as they do fat oppression.

    I also want to state that I agree with Dreamy about the fact that public apology posts can often be counterproductive to the amends that the apologizer is attempting to make. If I say something hurtful to my partner, I don’t say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but some of what you said is bullshit. Promise I’ll do better next time!” That is a non-apology apology. And saying that sort of thing is a passive-aggressive way of publicly inviting your readers to both thank you for your graciousness and also affirm whatever they too thought was bullshit. To be honest, the post reminded me of the Seal Press non-apology apology post. Maybe not as blatant, but still the same tactic. Kate, of course you are allowed to feel that some of what Dreamy or I said was “bullshit,” but please don’t try to sandwich that little dig in between what then feels like an apology with your middle finger halfway up in the air.

  42. Lindsay, I really think this falls into a very problematic response to be called out on racism. It sounds far to much like we should ignore racism white people say, or calling them out should involve hand holding and head patting, because they are still good people. And what about all the good they do? (which being an anti-racist ally should not get you brownie points, it’s something a person should do and strive for because it’s the right thing.) And it sounds a bit like he typical women/feminist, fat people/FA activists, gay people/gay rights activists et cetera should get more leeway with their privilege and participation in other oppressions because they are oppressed in another area too/work to end another oppression. Most of this blog is not blatantly about race. In this sense I can kind of understand why someone would consider something said 2 years ago, when the comments on racism are quite a bit farther between than on fat acceptance or sexism. I don’t know specifically how many posts between then and now have been posted by Kate here regarding race, so maybe there was a lot more to go on. But at the same time too, until now that comment was still there with no indication given that she feels differently. Yes people change. Yes people grow in our understanding of our privileges and hopefully stop saying as many oppressive things. But without us saying anything on that regard, such as Kat is doing now, to say “wow, I did say this, it was wrong, I see that now, I’m sorry, I don’t think that way anymore”, I think it’s unfair to expect people to just give us the benefit of doubt that we have indeed learned about those mistakes and don’t still think that way.

    This kind of reaction puts the emphasis to much on white people and white people’s feelings about being called on their racism, instead on the very real affects of that racism on people of color. And so with the focus on white people and white people’s feeling, yeah, that harsh. But the focus needs to be kept on the affects of that racism, and, in my opinion- obviously- it seems much less harsh and unjustified considering how harmful such statements are.

    I don’t know a whole lot about a lot of the commenters here, but I also think, as a general response, to nobody in particular, that it is important to be mindful of what the make up of commenters here is. I am just assuming right now, but I would assume that a good majority of commenters are white and middle class+. There have been a few comments here already about not being able to relate so well because of race and class. I’m white, so I have no trouble relating on the basis of race. But even being somewhat low income (no longer on government assistance, probably about lower-middle-class right now) I know I have trouble relating at times on the basis of class and there are times I’m tempted to stop reading because I just feel this doesn’t relate to me, and because of the way I feel when I feel like the outsider because of class, who doesn’t really matter (that may not make sense to anyone, but at 1:15am with the little bit of sleep I’ve gotten recently, that’s the best I can do at describing it right now). But if my assumptions are right, I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind in terms of who one is getting feedback from.

    I help moderate a community elsewhere on the internet which has had a big problem with the way it is dominated by white feminists, focused on white women’s concerns and has been a hostile place to women of color, and we are working on that, but one of the challenges in that is that because of the racism and hostility that women of color experienced, many have not felt comfortable staying in the community for long and those in the community often have not felt comfortable approaching the, until very recently all white, mod team with their concerns regarding racism, or do not feel that in the end it is worth all the energy and emotional investment it takes them to do so. And so the input we get is usually from white members. And we try to be responsive to member input, but (and this is sort of where I was trying to go with this) as a white person myself it’s hard to always know in what ways to interpret such skewed input. This caused a big problem recently when members of the mod team ended up making many women of color feel very unwelcomed in the space with comments about race, which were based on input from others, some white, on the problems with the way racism was being framed.

    I still don’t know exactly how to move forward in an anti-racist direction when still dealing with the effects of racism which contribute to the continuation of it, but I do feel it is vital to be aware when the input one is getting is coming primarily from others with that privilege.

    Dreamy,
    “The idea that it’s “unfair” to discriminate based on an “inborn characteristic” (which race is arguably not, but anyway) is maybe– MAYBE– not a progressive one at all. And never was. Does it not, in part, imply that POC would be white, if only they could? So that we should take pity on them and their lack of choice?”

    I just wanted to say thank you for saying this, and everything else really. That makes perfect sense and seems so common sense reading it, and yet I’ve never really thought that kind of comment through that way before.

  43. In defense of Ms. Harding, she’s said time and time again that different prejudices cannot be accurately compared, nor should they be. She also makes a notable effort to stop/denounce other forms of perceived unfair discrimination on her blog.

    To be short. Her PC little heart is in the right place, she was simply not aware of the implications of her words in her “Bears” rant. Especially since she had done something she would later go on to criticize.

    The only thing to point out is that she HAD done something dissonant with what she claims to believe. She gracefully noted that she made this error.

    Of course, when sharks smell blood an acknowledged apology is rarely enough to stem the feeding.

    I vote to leave her alone on this one, especially considering all the other comically flawed material she posts here on a daily basis. :-)

  44. I was just mentioning to friends this weekend that one of the biggest things I’ve been learning here, even more important than the FA, is how to deal with conflict and being called on your shit without defensiveness but without also just disengaging. I’ve watched you all put your theory into practise, over and over, and I really want to be as mature and thoughtful as this post is when I grow up.

    Working on it. Not as there as I want to be.

  45. Dreamy’s comments have helped to broaden perspectives (including mine), and I’m grateful for that. At the same time, I’m think I’m seeing something discordant and circular there, and I’m not sure if I’m misinterpreting or not.

    Here’s the thing: criticizing Kate’s perspective isn’t going to create social justice and change the world we live in. It can, quite possibly, make other white readers think about our own privilege and what it means. But that in itself feels like a Catch-22, because when Kate says she’s listening and working on her privilege issues, it seems to me like the response is, ‘nah, you still don’t get it.’ I’m paraphrasing now, but it just seems like, how is telling someone she doesn’t get it because the issue is bigger than her experience (and it is) really addressing that bigger problem? And what are Dreamy’s comments *for*, if they’re not intended to speak to Kate’s perspective and (mis?)understandings? To bring out a POV that has been silenced? Surely there are more effective ways to do that than to critique Shapely Prose?

    I really like the idea of a guest post, and I’d like to read a blog that focused on various forms of oppression and how they interrelate. I don’t know that Shapely Prose is that blog (though it does obviously touch on those issues quite a bit, but it does otherstuff too)…and I think that has to be okay. Kate’s blog is what it is and obviously a bunch of us do find something here that speaks to us, or we wouldn’t be here.

    I guess, for me, intent means something. If Dreamy’s intent is to help the blog to grow, to help the world to be better, then I celebrate it. If her intent is to put Kate down, then I just don’t think it’s productive. And at this point, I can’t really tell what the intent is.

  46. Christi, your posts crystallizes a lot of thoughts that have been floating around in my head.

    I guess I don’t fully understand dreamy’s and Tara’s intent, either. Perhaps it is not for me to fully understand, but SP seems like as good as blog as any for a true, critical, introspective, intense dialogue on race, fat, intersectionality, and culture/society.

    If Kate isn’t doing it well enough, she’s certainly trying. I don’t think she’s merely giving lip service here nor do I think she’s discussed race in the past just to have a convenient out when she is taken to task on something that’s complex and not neatly wrapped up in one, ten, or fifty blog entries.

  47. Of course, when sharks smell blood an acknowledged apology is rarely enough to stem the feeding.

    Ehm… what!? I won’t be getting involved into this discussion, because I do have a different perspective of things (I am not American for one, and while racism certainly exists in my country it takes different forms). But honestly… “sharks”?

    Actually I’d say race is a pretty inborn characteristic.

    If you are talking about the shade of your skin, certain facial features, etc. But those things are not reliable markers of your ethnic background (nor are they biologically very meaningful), nor do they come in clearly defined categories although we certainly behave often enough as if they do. There are no “white” and “black” people – most do fall on a continuum somewhere inbetween. And why are people with a mixed background usually seen as black except if their skin/ their features get “light enough”? Plus, what about people with Asian, Native American or Latin American background (to name examples)? They are grouped under “people of color”, but while they are also disadvantaged in American society, their disadvantages they face and the stereotypes people have about them are quite different as compared to African Americans.

  48. The idea that it’s “unfair” to discriminate based on an “inborn characteristic” (which race is arguably not, but anyway) is maybe– MAYBE– not a progressive one at all. And never was. Does it not, in part, imply that POC would be white, if only they could? So that we should take pity on them and their lack of choice?

    tangenting slightly – I’ve seen this issue also come up when talking about gay rights. Some people are very opposed to research into the “gay gene” or any proof that people are born that way because if it is inborn and “not their fault they were born that way”, then that phrasing of “fault” says that it is, in fact, a bad thing, just one that they should be pitied for rather than blamed for.

    (On the other hand, I still feel the born-that-way evidence is useful when dealing with people who are approaching homophobia from an entirely religious perspective, because “God made me that way” seems like a reasonable rebuttal to “It’s against God!”)

    It’s not that it’s unfair to disciminate against someone for an inborn characteristic, it’s that it’s stupid to form a discriminatory opinion of someone based on one piece of data that the discriminator THINKS is associated with some other negative characteristic.

  49. The Talmud says, “You are not required to complete the task [of perfecting the world], neither are you free to desist from it.”

    Kate is not desisting from the task. Stop bullying her for not completing it. No one person can.

  50. AR, thank you for your feedback. I was not aware that my comments came off in that way. I know there is a lot about this that i just do not understand – and that in some ways, i will never truly be able to understand them. Still, i welcome the opportunity to learn more.

  51. I don’t have time to read all the comments — I got about halfway. But I wanted to say: remember, when you are called out for something, what you would think if you were the one doing the calling-out. Privilege means getting to decide whether to accept criticism or not based on the tone in which it was given. But when we are on the other side, unprivileged, we insist (rightly, I think) that “tone” is not a justification for dismissal, and that it’s totally fair if the people on the unprivileged side decide to call you an asshole about it. They have the right to get angry, they have the right to express it without shame, they have the right to dismiss you altogether. And what matters in the ensuing events is not your feelings, or even your character growth because of it. What matters is something got fucked up. And in time (say, two years!) you may come to a point where you are no longer contributing to that particular specialized branch of the kyriarchy (whatever the issue was in particular) but helping to deconstruct it. But in the now, there is honestly nothing you can do to make it better. Nothing.

    That is REALLY HARD to accept, as a privileged person. Really really hard. And your emotions going through all this *are* perfectly valid. It is really tough to go through. It’s just that on the whole, what should matter more is how tough it is to have privileged persons, intentionally or un-, contribute to the power structure that harms them in very real ways.

    I hear you on not being able to sort out, in the moment, what is defensive reaction and what is just legitimate return-criticism. It all gets mingled together and sometimes when we try to pull it out it starts to get sticky. That’s emotion, unfortunately ;) It complicates things.

    You are working on things and from my standpoint (the only one I can evaluate from with a degree of honesty), you have been pretty good. I appreciate the writing and work you and SM&fj do here very much. I hope those who felt alienated are able to find a comfortable place here, or else able to make a clean cut and find somewhere else to set up a comfortable place. And we all keep working.

  52. I think that when a couple of vocal detractors decide that they know what somebody is or is not thinking (which is what I’ve seen above), that the opportunity for reasonable discussion has passed us by.

    I think that Kate is very gracious to allow people to use her own platform to provide some negative feedback, and further utilize it for discussion on the topic. There comes a limit, though, after which one must realize, that if you are part of a minority of readership who doesn’t like what’s being said here, the right thing to do, instead of attempting to correct it, is to leave. It’s time to realize that you’ve wandered into the wrong party.

    It’s always amazed me how much free and open discussion Kate allows in comments here. On my blog, on any of my blogs, the naysayers would get maybe one comment approved, and then never again. After all, it’s my pulpit, my press. The point of it is for me to get my ideas out, not argue endlessly about them with people who disagree.

    Kate’s a lot kinder than I am.

  53. Al, thanks, but I want to refine this point:

    There comes a limit, though, after which one must realize, that if you are part of a minority of readership who doesn’t like what’s being said here, the right thing to do, instead of attempting to correct it, is to leave. It’s time to realize that you’ve wandered into the wrong party.

    In general, I absolutely agree with this — see the comments policy. But when I’m being hurtful and furthering racism, I certainly want to be corrected.

    Attempting to correct racism and a lack of intersectionality on the blog and in the movement is welcome here. As Amandaw said, people have a right to be angry, express themselves without shame, and dismiss me altogether. What they don’t have a right to do, per the comments policy, is distort the truth or act like bullies — which is exactly why I mentioned the bullshit in the post.

    I was well aware of the risk of looking like I’m giving a non-apology apology, but frankly, this is the only honest apology I can give right now. If, as Tara said, it looks like my middle finger’s halfway in the air, that’s because I figured that was better than apologizing with my fingers crossed behind my back.

    I absolutely agree that discussing these subjects is more important than whether my feefees get hurt. But racism and my feefees aren’t the only two things at play here. There’s also the quality of discourse on the blog, which I’m responsible for maintaining. Trying to do that while trying not to be defensive about valid criticism is a difficult balancing act, and I’m not going to know how much I fucked up until I get some distance from this. But I’m simply not going to give up calling out bullshit on my own blog in service of the greater good. And if people can’t handle that, then yeah, maybe it is time for them to move on to other blogs.

    Anger is not bullshit. Disagreement is not bullshit. Frustration with people who don’t seem to get a really important point is not bullshit. But strawman arguments and flat-out lies are, by definition, bullshit. And those will never fly here, period.

  54. To be constructive, how do we (as commenters) and Kate/FJ/SM (as bloggers) make this blog better? What are positive steps that can be taken to be more receptive to intersectionality and POC? It is not too late to address these issues and make it better, but we need to have the participation of all manner of voices.

  55. I’m gonna be honest here.
    I am a fat, black woman, and I fail to see where Kate has committed a huge offense. I read the whole “Bears” post, yes, especially that last paragraph that sparked this whole debate- and I understand that yes, she did make a statement that may have toned down the impact of open racism vs. blatant feminism. But seriously, it wasn’t until I read dreamy’s comment that I even considered it to be the big issue that she made it out to be. I have to say, her comment had a few points to it, but it came off a little nasty and sarcastic And that’s what killed her comment for me.
    What kills me even more is that dreamy came back to Kate’s apology post and essentially tried to make it seem like Kate was “rallying sympathy troops” instead of actually trying to put forth an effort to make amends by admitting that she did something wrong. Excuse me but, what? Judging from her latest comment, I’ll assume that she really didn’t want an apology post, she wanted a “I’m Gonna Get My Shit Together, And Do Something About POC Exclusion In Fat Politics ASAP!!” Dreamy, please correct me if I’m wrong. If that was the case, could you have just said that instead of practically nailing Kate’s ass to the wall for saying she’s sorry?
    Dreamy (and Tara!) let me put it plain: If you want somebody to get their priorities right, you won’t get much progress from telling people to grovel and kiss your ass in the process, and then suck your teeth at them when they ask for some help. Oh, please. If you want to be hardcore about it, and tell people to figure it out themselves I understand where that could work in some instances. Tone down the evil. and more people might actually listen. If that’s your style, have at it. It’s not my cup of tea.
    BTW, yes, I’m being rather blunt here, but I’m sorry, I don’t feel like talking out of a dictionary right now.
    And to Kate, SM, and FJ: feel free to ban this comment and me if you wish, it’s your blog. I just had to say this, that’s all. Something about this whole thing rubs me wrong.

  56. Quiwi, I’m certainly not going to ban you, but I just updated the post with a point about how criticizing the “tone” of people’s complaints is often used as a silencing tactic. (Which Amandaw also brought up.)

    I realize that my own comments might read as an objection to tone, and I apologize for that. Whether you can catch more flies with honey really isn’t the point here — but I’m having so much trouble making the points I want to make, I think I just need to take a break from this thread instead of digging any further.

  57. I’d like to echo what others have said and thank you for this post. You turned your own learning experience into a learning experience for people like me who are just now realizing their own privilege and trying to understand it and the forces that created it. When I first started reading the fatosphere, I didn’t expect to learn about feminism, racism, social justice, privilege, and all these other issues besides body image and fat. But I have, and I owe a huge thanks to you and many other bloggers and commenters in the fatosphere for it. I’m slowly evolving from a Well-Meaning White Chick(TM) whose default response to criticism is defensiveness, into someone who actually understands a fraction of how the world works for people who are Not Me. At least I hope I will reach that point someday.

    Then again, the fact that I’m thanking you, Kate, before thanking you, dreamy, says something about where my head is currently at and whose position I relate to the most. I’m showing my privilege again, I suppose. But I definitely owe thanks to dreamy for his/her criticisms and perspective. I do agree, however, with the commenters who have said there are some perspectives Kate can’t offer because she has not experienced them. Discussing racism and intersectionality from an intellectual or conceptual POV is not the same as having personal experience at the short end of the stick. Dreamy, if you don’t already have a blog, I would sincerely be interested in reading one by you in which you discuss these issues (or any blog on the subject that you would like to recommend). Some of your comments have raised my hackles, and I don’t think everything you’ve said about Kate personally is fair, but I appreciate your perspective and ideas on the bigger issues at work here.

  58. One blog cannot be everything. I used to compare blogs and message boards to bars: some bars my friends love and i just hate. But they love it, so they hang out there, while I drop in for a drink from time to time.
    Another bar, I love, but I hate this one guy that hangs out there. So, again, I drop in from time to time, but it’s not my local.
    And other places you love and feel at home and your favorite songs are on the jukebox and the bartender is awesome and gives you a ton of buybacks and it’s TOTALLY your place.
    But this friend of yours just hates it.

    Doesn’t make you right and the other people wrong, it’s just individual preference.

    Here’s what I am reading, as someone who once ran a website with 50k visitors a month about something NOT important like FA: people get really upset when you aren’t doing what they think you should be doing. I was always up front and said “i can’t possibly do that and no I don’t want to extend my site so that YOU can do that because I’ve got enough to deal with and you should totally start your own site about that and I will link to you, promote you, and send you traffic”

    i also get perplexed about apologies. Apparently there is some book about how to give a proper apology that I’ve never read. there was a time where I did something stupid online, in public. I dropped out for about six weeks after I did it, because I just couldn’t deal. I didn’t just drop out, I went away, where I wouldn’t have the temptation of being online all day everyday (and before you tell me I’m full of it, try Cambodia and the Thai islands 8 years ago).

    When I came back, I apologized for what I did. I explained what happened, that I went away, and that I was sorry, and why.

    But that wasn’t enough. Oh, no. Apparently apologies must happen within 48 hours of the trangression taking place or they’re not sincere. And they can’t be written, they hvae to be in person or by phone. Really subjective things that had nothing to do with the content of the apology. Someone finally said, “No one wanted you to actually apologize. They wanted to have the high moral ground to continue to be angry at you. A sincere apology ruined all of that.” In some cases it was subconscious. In other cases deliberate.

    I don’t mean to devalue Kate’s apology here, just that just because it doesn’t meet your criteria of what an apology should be, doesn’t mean that it isn’t sincere.

  59. Dreamy “have you ever considered that fatphobia– which rose sharply around the turn of the 20th century, and particularly in the 1950’s-70s and beyond– is simply a cover for racism, sexism, classism and ablism? That this might explain why it seems “more socially acceptable” than those oppressions, at least in liberal circles? That it is a backlash to the CRM and women’s movements, etc., etc.?”
    That makes just so much sense I can feel synapses going off all over my brain. I had sort of got to the realisation that fat-hatred can mask hatred and suspicion of poor people and a desire to regulate their tastes and preferences “for their own good,” but while cultural ideas and language shift, power relations, unfortunately, don’t yield as readily. This would make an awesome post, if you haven’t done so already, may I suggest (with respect) that an invitation to be a guest blogger on this site would not go astray. (Sizzle, sizzle – synapse about to explode)… (sorry, that’s as far as I’ve read, so I’ll go back now, apologies if I’ve repeated anything anyone else said.

  60. After reading all the comments last night, I wrote a bit of a comment and then left it, and walked away. My problem is disengagement when confronted: rather than stepping on toes, I flee. But that’s minimizing, too.

    So, here I’m going to try.

    Kate’s post is about her, and specifically about her being white and having privilege and learning lessons about that.

    A challenge that says this is about white people being white is fair and accurate. It is most definitely NOT about being a woman of colour nor a fat woman of colour; it does no analysis of the struggles of women of colour and it doesn’t situate fat in the history of racism, all of which desperately need to be done.

    Any complete FA movement will include and listen to those analyses, and I would both welcome a guest post by you, Dreamy, or regularly visit a FA blog addition as written by you. I found your analysis to be eye opening and interesting, and I had several lightbulb moments.

    However, the other thing allies need to do is to deal with their own shit without asking for handholding from persons who don’t have the same privileges. I believe this is an example of that work – work that’s attempting to make for good allies, rather than white girl being othering. In this post, Kate is talking about white people slowly noticing they’re not the centre of the known universe, and what kinds of missteps white people are likely to make.

    That’s insufficient an answer from allies over the course of a movement or a lifetime, but it is important work. I believe that white people – and the skinny, the straight, those without physical or mental challenge, those with money – all need to learn how to first see our privilege, then pry our fingers away from it as some central construction of the world and our entitlement, and then to apologize for being douches when we misstep due to that entitlement, and do that without it crippling our ability to communicate and be genuine.

    Which is why post to me is instructive. It is privilege speaking to privilege, and saying “this is my process in learning to deal with my shit; my missteps and my stumbles”. I am watching Kate be both apologetic and honest; to try to maintain room for other experiences without invalidating her own.

    Which is why I lay thanks down. And I totally get it’s because I am white. I similarly think, if I were male, it may help to have another guy talk me through the process of what it was like for him to lay misogyny down. That’s still about Teh Menz, but hopefully it makes for saner allies in the long run.

    However, this does make it a White Person writing about being White, and another White Person deriving value from it. I can totally see how that’s distancing from a POC – I’m not trying to oppression olympics, just trying to get a similar analogue, and I HAVE been in a room of guys talking about misogyny in culture and it was a head-f*ck to say the least. Because, hey, I’m right the fuck here, dudes; and yet I’m also not ALL women, and suddenly we’re a class of people. So I get that white people posts are distancing too. Similarly, straight people talking about their experience of gay culture, etc.

    So I am in an odd position of both seeing an issue here AND feeling like we’ve got to have some way for privileged people to challenge and document what dealing with that privileged looks like. I think this work that Kate’s doing is fundamentally about being a better ally and is the growth of that. Even though it’s also exclusionary by being about privilege documenting privilege.

    I’m not sure what the answer is. However, I don’t know if it’s disengagement, which feels like where both you and Kate are going and where I’ve been.

    Can we trust each other? Can allies be engaged without blowing each other apart? I don’t know; I hope so. I’ve watched a bunch of blown apart stuff online with feminists not doing their work, and I don’t know how to be better. I left a number of communities because I felt that issues of race weren’t being dealt with honestly by white folks; but I don’t have a better solution.

    It was in this light I fretted over my comment to Julia on that post about her experience of being fat and black and on a university campus. I loved that post and was thankful for on personal, analytical, and political levels. I’m white, I come from white experience, but I’m also poor and from a particular Canadian cultural divide – I’m an english speaking woman from poor, Catholic, French-Canadian roots. My family has an experience of “passing”, trying to be/look/behave WASP, and in that story identify with the recognition of that care taking of “wild” appearance, working to blend and ending up looking more Anglo- than Anglo-.

    But to have any sense that white Canadian girl shares (African?)-American experience is so fraught with distance and internet and the bloody horrific history of white people and people of colour and making it about me is the last thing I want to do. I’m wary to sympathize with a shared experience without fear of co-opting and misinterpreting. Yet I think there is shared experience in some ways, and shared experience – even through very rough analogues – is the basic system of dialogue and connection between women in my life. It’s how I make friends IRL. IRL that includes all sorts of people of different backgrounds, but we’re all at least Canadian and can see each other’s body language and likely were attracted to one another for a reason. Plus, we’re not a Movement, an Activist Group – we’re a self-selecting group that bonds for fun and emotional support with “you’re like that? Me too!” That’s different work, but it’s my default way of engaging.

    Similarly, feelings I felt, (Awesome! Thank you! Fucking Brilliant!) when given the brutal history of racism, and my lack of really knowing Julia, could look like entitlement or worse, patronizing tokenism. So I disengaged where I wouldn’t with a white girl, which is unfair to Julia, not to mention ends me back at making race based decisions about engagement with intellectual ideas.

    Which, frankly, I feel like shit about.

    What Kate has done here is shown me how to wade in and say and be wrong and be called on it without getting too defensive.

  61. KH -”If I were a POC, I would no doubt have a very different take on that, and I wasn’t thinking beyond my own limited experience. So it came off as me going for the gold in Oppression Olympics.” Just to address a different aspect of this discussion. “Thinking beyond our … experience” is all we CAN do, as human beings. Our experience doesn’t define us, but it does shape us…but maybe we can make our experience a bit less limited by listening as hard as we can… I don’t think you can expect to respond to anything except by relying on your experience, hopefully enlarged as much as possible by engaging in encounters like this. For what it’s worth, though, I don’t think YOU came accross as someone “going for gold in the oppression Olympics” – you came across as trying to supply an analogy to illustrate your point. Whether is was well chosen or not, is another issue…and, more to the point, two years on you’re willing to apologise and question that – and that is impressive.

  62. Or rather, what Kate has done is shown me ONE way to wade in and say and be wrong and be called on it without getting to defensive, but I’m not joking when I say this blog is my first real world experience of seeing activists trying to be intersectional, fucking it up, and not simply being dismissive or walking away.

  63. Meowser – oh, I just got that. NT = neurotypical. Fancy that! Thanks. I do find all these initialled words difficult, as if I’ve just jumped in on the tail end of a conversation and missed the key word. I’ll have to start a glossary – still haven’t figured out WMMV (I think).

  64. I’m catching up because I was away since Thursday…

    You know, I continue to be amazed at the ease with which I can lapse into measuring every phenomenon in the universe in terms of how well it improves white female self-esteem. Which is PRECISELY what I was doing, in my mind, as I read the threads in question. Which I then realized thanks to those who were brave enough to call white privilege.

    Also, for what it’s worth, sometimes I tell myself, “Well, I’m just trying not to take up too much conversational space as a white person,” when what I’m really doing is flying under the radar so I don’t get called on shit. And sometimes I tell myself, “Well, I’m just being transparent so that I’m in a position to be called out on my privilege,” when what I’m really doing is enjoying taking up conversational space.

    Likewise, sometimes I tell myself, “I’m making sure I’m in relationships of accountability to people of color” when what I’m really doing is unfairly foisting upon them the burden of making sure I’m less racist. And likewise I think sometimes I tell myself, “I’m just making sure that I’m not asking people of color to police my conscience” when what I’m really doing is retreating to a white enclave where I won’t be challenged.

    It’s so hard to know which is which, particularly when it’s precisely that very same privilege that’s made me a bad judge. So it’s sort of like trying to yank yourself out of quicksand by pulling on your own hair.

    And I realize none of that is anything like being, you know, ACTUALLY OPPRESSED by racism rather than assisted and buoyed up by racism like I’ve been my whole life.

  65. Since it keeps coming up, let me state that I will not invite Dreamy to guest post here.

    I am, however, definitely interested in more guest posts by women of color, and I will seek them out.

  66. Thanks, A Sarah, that perfectly encapsulates where I’m at. I know I’m a bad judge, and yet that same bad judgment is brought by my own privilege.

    Scotlyn – YMMV == Your Mileage May Vary.

  67. While I think a public apology was called for, the first thing I thought when I clicked on the comments thread was “Oh god, it’s going to be a lot of people congratulating Kate on her bravery, as if that’s the point.”

    As uncomfortable as the topic always is (and I’m really only commenting because Arwen and A. Sarah have convinced me that it’s cowardly to not engage on this topic) sometimes the discomfort kind of has to stand a little bit. I forget what post it was, or even where it was posted (maaaaybe shakesville?) but it was about people being damn tired of privileged people saying “But I’m trying!” and acting like that’s the end of it and then everyone rushes to make everyone else feel better. (To be clear, I’m not saying that’s what kate was saying in this post, but it kind of ended up being my impression of the comments thread generally.)

    A lot of what dreamy said was important, which Kate said too, and it would be a shame if that got lost in a rush to make Kate feel better, especially when she didn’t ask for that sort of help.

  68. While I agree that “I’m trying,” can’t be done in lieu of an apology, there’s a certain amount of that which has to be accepted for what it is. No matter what I do, no matter how I try to acknowledge and overcome the privilege I experience, I will never be a POC (nor will I be perceived as one). There are a lot of things I am not and am unlikely to ever be. If I’m going to function in a world with people who have those characteristics, I do my best to put myself in their shoes – or listen when they tell me how those shoes may look cute but they kinda pinch in the toes. But I can’t wear the shoes… so even in a perfect world, if I’m a perfect person, I’m gonna miss the mark sometimes. And I think most of us will acknowledge we’re far from perfect. I think this is what Kate has done… she’s admitted she’s not perfect, and she’s admitted she missed the mark a couple years ago, but she continues to listen and continues to learn. No offense, but it’s when someone stops listening and stops learning that I think it really becomes an issue.

    As far as the “oppression Olympics” is concerned… Arwen mentioned something I’ve been considering for a while. People naturally want to commiserate… they want to create similarities of understanding. “Dude, I really feel for you that your dog died… I remember last year when my goldfish died, how awful I felt!” Now, you can call the person out for not just holding your hand about the dog… or that dogs aren’t goldfish… or trying to upstage your grief… but the bottom line is they’re trying to build a bridge to you, not belittle what you’ve said. Admittedly, not every instance involving racism or sexism or ageism or ableism is intended that way or works that way… but I do think in a world where we’re trying to educate and still get along, efforts to build bridges deserve acknowledgment.

    Finally, I will say that there are times I’m not 100% on board with the things people say – on here and on other blogs. And when I start to get myself into a lather about it, I have to remind myself of a few things: it’s their blog, for starters. They can say the sky looks purple to them, and I can’t say different. If my view is that the sky is green, then I can argue (which get us each nowhere), or I can shut up, or I can start my own blog. Also, I remind myself that unless the person blogging is my sibling (and sometimes not even then), there’s no way our experiences in the world are precisely the same. And since everything we experience affects our view, OF COURSE Kate Harding has a different view than Dreamy has… than SM has… than fj has… than I have. You take what you need and you leave the rest. Whether what you take just ferments in your brain or becomes a kernel of something that starts a whole new movement is immaterial.

    None of us is perfect. We screw up. We apologize when we can. We try to make it better. We owe it to ourselves and the people to whom we’re apologizing not to say we’re sorry unless we really mean it… because otherwise it means nothing.

    ::climbing off soapbox::

  69. Actually, SM and I were discussing the other night how we’d love to eventually have a co-blogger who’s a woman of color. SM knows a lot about disability issues (though she isn’t disabled herself), and Kate knows all about fat, and I know all about not blogging at all because I’m so fucking mega-stressed, and we’re all huge honking feminists, but we don’t have anyone who can write about race, class, or disability from a personal perspective. If people are going to expect this blog to be All Fat Things to All Fat People, which by the way it isn’t and was never intended to be, we might someday have to take on more writers.

    But I’m thinking the race issues expert wouldn’t be Dreamy, because I think it would make more sense if it were a POC.

  70. Actually, SM and I were discussing the other night how we’d love to eventually have a co-blogger who’s a woman of color.

    I wasn’t there for that convo, but absolutely, that would rock. (And yes, someone who is actually a POC would clearly be preferable.) The problem is finding the right person for the blog — which means both someone I’m comfortable handing the blog-keys over to AND someone who’s willing to wade in here when it’s currently not a super POC-friendly space. That could take some time.

  71. I know, I wish you had been there for it! We got drunk and solved feminism!

    But yes, this was sort of the “SP hundred-year plan.”

  72. Amandaw: Just wanted to say thank you for the link to your blog post on sixteen maneuvers. I really appreciated how you formulated some of this stuff, e.g. here:
    “The fact that you think you get to escape that system, just by saying the right things, is, frankly, an insult to the people who struggle against that system every day.”

  73. Again I only read Al’s and Kate’s comment the other night but didn’t have time to reply –

    I made the mistake of not being specific, because what I was responding to wrt: anger vs bullshit was a few of the general comments but mostly just the air that these sorts of discussions tend to have.

    I am really bad sometimes about riffing but ending up looking like I’m replying, if that makes any sense.

    I’m sorry that I made it look like I was coming down hard on you, Kate — I am a huge fan of this blog and a lot of the people on it, so I don’t want to come across as too harsh.

  74. I’m sorry that I made it look like I was coming down hard on you, Kate

    Not at all, amandaw! I didn’t take it as harsh at all — I thought you were fair and smart as usual.

  75. Incidentally, I’m really sorry if what I wrote came across in any way as, “Watch your tone, missy.” I didn’t mean for it to sound that way. I think people have a perfect right to open a can of whoopass when somebody says something schmucky.

    I guess what I’m having problems understanding is why it’s okay to keep opening a can of whoopass on them after they’ve already apologized for the schmucky statement and detailed their efforts not to repeat the error. Especially when said schmucky statement was actually made two years ago.

    And Tara:
    I read above from at least two people the really disappointing argument that one has to be of an identity to care about it deeply and to be knowledgeable about it enough to discuss it.

    Not to discuss it at all. To discuss it on a daily basis, from the inside, on the basis of lived experience, as on a blog, yes. With qualifications; please see below.

    I am lucky enough to have several fierce white allies in my life who have made it a priority to think about race in really critical ways and who fuck up from time to time, but also continue to recommit themselves to being better allies. I myself strive for this as an ally to people who are marginalized in ways that I am not.

    Do you and they blog about those “ally” issues every single day, though, before you all get to anything else? That seems to be what you’re asking Kate et al to be doing.

    The fact that there are thin people in fat acceptance is kind of a red herring here, because fat hate screws directly with people of all sizes; in effect, almost no one is “thin enough” or is virtually guaranteed to remain so. (There are a few exceptions like Glenn Gaesser, who has a professional interest in HAES as an exercise physiologist.)

    So once again I’ll use autism-spectrum issues for illustration of the ally issue here, since that’s something that, being relatively newly diagnosed, I’ve been exploring a lot. (I’ll also try to do it in less than 5000 words so I don’t fry people’s browsers. Wish me luck.)

    When I said I didn’t want neurotypical people to write about a/A (autism spectrum) issues, and that most NTs wouldn’t have an interest or any real expertise in writing about it, of course I did gloss over some exceptions. There are NT people who have a keen interest either professionally (therapist, teacher) or personally (parent, partner) in a/A’s, and as long as they haven’t swallowed the Curbie-Aid they can have some interesting and moving things to say. (I especially like this, although from the author’s self-description she might well be what’s known as an AC, or autistic cousin — i.e. someone who’s not diagnosed as a/A but has some overlapping issues.)

    But note that they are writing as NTs, for NTs; understandable, since they are NTs and so is over 99% of the public. Again, I am not going to write that off because there are too many people who really do not have clue one about it, and there are way too many ridiculous stereotypes and unwarranted assumptions floating around out there. But for the most part they’re not really writing for me and other a/A’s. That makes what they are doing adjunctive from my own perspective in trying to navigate the world; it’s not a substitute for reading about the lived experience of the a/A.

    (And am I thinking about blogging about a/A issues myself? You bet I am. Though probably not at Fat Fu.)

  76. But I’m thinking the race issues expert wouldn’t be Dreamy, because I think it would make more sense if it were a POC.

    The ironing is delicious.

    And, yes, I’d love to see someone posting here about the intersection of FA and race/ethnicity/language rights activism.

  77. Do you and they blog about those “ally” issues every single day, though, before you all get to anything else? That seems to be what you’re asking Kate et al to be doing.

    While, and I think this is important, we also write about fat every day.

    Is it reasonable to expect Kate and the rest of us, as white women who are interested in social justice, to be aware of race when it comes up, to be on the right side of racial issues, to decline to exercise our privilege to ignore race when the choice is obvious to us (for instance, when SM talked recently about not wanting to link something because of the can of worms it would open, but did it anyway), and to be open-minded when called on privilege? Sure. We try very hard not to act like the particular issue we blog about is independent from, or more important than, other social justice issues; we try to nip shit in the bud when someone does make that assumption, and we try to make this a welcoming place for people of color, though we’re working against heavy odds. (Not least of which is the fact that we’re all white.)

    But we can’t unpack race first and foremost every time we blog. If we did, this would be a blog about race, and we’re uniquely unqualified to write that blog. We can make it a priority, but we can’t make it the priority. And because we are white women, and because we are writing a fat blog that’s trying not to be exclusive rather than a social justice blog that focuses on fat, we are going to miss some stuff. It’s not unreasonable to expect us to make our considerations of race educated, open-minded, and humble. It may not be unreasonable, but is far more difficult to expect us to consider the ramifications of race in everything we blog about.

  78. P.S. What I just wrote may have nothing to do with anything Tara said, because I’ve been out of town and not reading a damn thing. I am riffing off of what Meowser said, which I appreciate as a defense but which I honestly think doesn’t hold our feet to the fire sufficiently.

  79. I’m mostly dropping this link here because it is new to me (via comments on Shakesville) and I want it to be on our SP roster of Things We Link To A Lot: How to Tell People They Sound Racist. It’s also a good corrective to the impulse that people have to instantly come to the rescue of someone who’s been accused of saying something racist.

  80. [delurks from this with trepidation]

    “But I’m thinking the race issues expert wouldn’t be Dreamy, because I think it would make more sense if it were a POC.”

    Ok, experienced peoples:
    Does this change the conversation completely? I was “hearing” the whole thing as a POC calling out Kate for not listening or understanding something basic. If it’s white people discussing how to talk about non-white people, well, I know how it changes for me, but I’m not sure how to judge my own impressions. If there is something clueless/obvious about this comment, please excuse me. I’ve learned a hell of a lot in some months of reading this blog (esp. for thinking I used to know a lot).

  81. There is a very common narrative that plays out; that is, mainstream dominant-culture person calls out mainstream dominant-culture person for something P1 thinks is offensive or oppressive toward minority people, BUT! P1 is making a fuss over something that the minority persons might not think important, fair or right at all, and P1 is also using this fuss as a means to position hirself as the more righteous of the two dominant people.

    Which is why it is very, very important that we keep our ears tuned toward actual poc (and other minority groups): we don’t want to distract and detract from their fight against those things they feel most harmful by making the mainstream conversation about race all about This Thing They Don’t Care About, and using it as a social positioning tool for white people, thereby erasing poc and their actual concerns from the conversation altogether.

    I think dreamy had a fair crit of the argument in Kate’s post insofar as sie said, well, you don’t get to say whether racism is not expressed openly today and that fat hatred is more acceptable than racism. Beyond that, if sie is actually white, it could be a little bit “I shall feign outrage over this issue to pad my creds as a Race Aware White Person” going on. Even when it is a cause shared by poc, sometimes, we fall into that narrative, bc it is all we have seen in our mainstream lives.

  82. @ChiaraG
    No it does not change the conversation entirely. Good anti-racist ally behavior includes not making PoC always shoulder the burden of talking about race. Dreamy never said she was a PoC. Also, her comments/concerns were shared by more than one PoC.

    @MarySue
    The desire/expectation for a gold star/cookie when a privileged member talks about oppression is a problem. Should one really get a gold star for not being racist? Isn’t that supposed to be how we all act?
    http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/no-cookie/

  83. So. Things.

    First I’d point out that SP bloggers have indicated they are concerned with the whiteness (perceived or otherwise) of FA movement. Second, claiming that PoC want Kate and others to blog about ally issues all the time is a straw man. Please note that no one has said that. I would also point out that SP does blog about race all the time. The race they blog about most is white. The race whose experiences are universalized is white.

    Next. I see people in comments being upset that Kate’s apology didn’t “fix” things because Dreamy and others are still upset. An apology is not a get out of jail free card. A good apology states what mistake you made, why it was a mistake, and what you will do to avoid that mistake in the future (and/or offer amends if appropriate). The person you’re aplogizing to doesn’t have to accept the apology, forgive you, or forget the offense. Sometimes an apology isn’t enough, or it’s too little too late.

    Also, here is the biggest thing I can say about being an ally. You will fuck up. You will fuck up and do something horrible and offensive, quite possibly in public. That experience is awful. What answers the question of “are you a good ally” is how you respond to it. Recently in a trans community, I posted a comment I thought was helpful. It was pointed out to me that actually it came off as negative, hurtful and transphobic. I felt humiliated. I was apalled I had just been that bone headed. I felt defensive. And then I apologized. Repeatedly. And not everyone accepted my apologies. Which is going to happen. I can’t say I’m happy that I offended some people that badly, but I did and I need to suck it up and deal. I don’t deserve a cookie for apologizing.

    Kate, I know you and other SP have asked why there aren’t more POC voices in FA blogs/community. These last few posts give a good summary of why. I was super excited that my essay about uplift was linked on SP. Then I started reading comments and my head almost exploded with anger, irritation and upset. Comments were made that were filled with white privilege, entitlement, and racism.

    Would I send a fat PoC to read SP? Possibly. If I did, it would be with the serious caveat to be careful reading comments and the reminder that it is their responsibility to do anti-racism 101.

    I recognize that doesn’t feel good to Shapelings. It doesn’t feel good to me either.

    What are some things I think SP could do to change this? Call people out on their offensive remarks. Yes every time. What you want to do is have an environment where regular comments, not just blog authors, do the calling out. Include information on racism in required reading (i.e. http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/required-reading/).
    Also, accept that you will make mistakes and try to deal with them as calmly as possible. No one is asking you to never make another mistake. Some people are asking you to recognize when a mistake was made, and try not to do it again.

    “People of color talking about race with white folks never know when a potentially normal, seemingly nice, apparently not bigoted white person will bust out with racist bullshit. If you’ve ever lived in a state of fearful anticipation that a person you care about and trust could turn at any moment, you know how exhausting, degrading, and downright toxic living like that can be.”
    http://hederahelix.livejournal.com/310906.html

  84. I don’t know much about fighting racism and cookies, but I know about inappropriate cookies that feel wrong. My husband’s uncle died recently (at 95), but had lived with us for the ten years prior to his death. During all of those years his mobility became increasingly less, and the last 4 of those he suffered with Alzheimer’s. I can’t remember the number of times people said to me – “aren’t you GOOD to look after him like that.” And every time I thought, I’m not GOOD, not at all. First, it is just about family and how family ought to be, and second, I hope it is how family will still be working around here when it is me needing the care. All of the implications behind this kind of cookie are uncomfortable – why should we not have higher expectations of ourselves and others?

  85. Julia [I] I was super excited that my essay about uplift was linked on SP. Then I started reading comments and my head almost exploded with anger, irritation and upset. Comments were made that were filled with white privilege, entitlement, and racism.[I/]

    That probably included comments made by me, for which I am sorry. Thanks for links, will shut up now and go read. Take care.

  86. Ditto for me. And if my not commenting here any more will mean this will be a more welcoming space for POC, I am willing to stay off. And if you want to delete my comments in this thread, that’s okay too. I’m very sorry if I offended anyone.

  87. And if my not commenting here any more will mean this will be a more welcoming space for POC, I am willing to stay off.

    Nuh-uh. If you can live with being called out as necessary, you will always be welcome here, Meowser. I want this to be a space that’s safe and welcoming for everyone who cares about the subject and makes valuable contributions.

  88. Thanks, Kate. I realize that my talking about aspie issues will sound like overprivileged white whine to a lot of people. (I’m also starting to discover that a/A’s are WAY underdiagnosed in POC communities, both because of limited diagnostic and treatment resources in many areas and also because of lingering cultural prejudice that “our/their people don’t have THAT problem.”)

    But it’s been a bombshell, finding out that all the problems I’ve had in my life are not a matter of individual pathology but of lingering bias against a/A’s — it’s a double whammy for me that the techniques I learned over the years to mask my condition with acquaintances, that I was heavily pressured to learn because it’s not okay for girls to be like that, probably prevented me from getting a diagnosis until last year. I haven’t felt like, “Goodness, I’ve just had buckets of privilege dumped in my lap,” not at all. I’ve felt robbed, like for all these years I had a third eye that everyone could see when they looked at me but never showed up in my mirror, and instead of telling me, “You have a third eye, you should get it checked out,” they screamed, “EEEEEWWW!” and ran away. And it probably does affect how I’m able to handle ally issues to some degree. “You think YOUR problems are bad? At least people TALK about them! Nobody wants to talk about MY problems!”

    Time will probably take care of a lot of that. I doubt I’m going to run around in a state of bitterness and outraged about being ignored forever; I can’t afford to. If I come off as entitlebitch because of it, I really am sorry.

  89. The fix is not for people to stop commenting. The fix is for people to work on not making racist comments, to call others out when they see skanky race issues, and to listen to what people of color have to say.

    This means people need to educate themselves about race and racism. This will also mean letting go of some ideas (being colorblind is both impossible and incredibly unhelpful in terms of racism) and dealing with some difficult issues. I know when I started getting interested in disability rights, I kept on getting blindsided by discovering new negative beliefs I had about people with disabilities. No one likes to think of oneself as prejudiced. They’re not prejudices, they’re carefully thought out logical thoughts! Or positive stereotypes. Or something. Recognizing internalized bigotry sucks. What sucks more is perpetuating the bigotry by denying it exists.

    And to the last part, as you all know people of color do not have one voice, opinion, or set of beliefs. What is meant by “shut up and listen to PoC” is that, in discussions of race, it is very common for white people to make it all about them. To which I say “cut it out.”

    Where to start?
    http://delicious.com/starkeymonster/forcluelesswhitepeople
    http://delicious.com/ibarw

    Also @Meowser, I sincerely believe that 1) there is no hierachy of oppression 2) None of us will be free while one of us is oppressed. Emotionally, it may feel like other oppressed groups have it easier, or X oppression is the most important, those are false dichotimies. What is most important is doing our best to end oppression. Not just the types we personally suffer from, but those that affect others.

    (link to Audre Lourde on “There is no Hierachy of Oppression” http://www.fuuse.com/article.php?story=20050719163038398)

  90. Thanks for those links, Julia. I just want to add that people with privilege saying “Fine, I’ll just never talk then” is a common tactic of again making the conversation all about them. There’s a difference between shutting up in order to listen to someone else, and shutting up in order to say “See, I’m shutting up now!” (aka Flouncing). I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing, Meowser — just that declarations of silence can be another conversational gambit that is used to derail conversations, so we need to be wary of using that tactic.

  91. I have a question. There are many times when I contemplate contributing my perspective on a subject and that contribution will include touching on racism and classism. But many times I feel like this is a derail. Perhaps I have ingrained “don’t play the race card” and “don’t alienate people with this irrelevant stuff that will make them uncomfortable”. Perhaps this is common when one is in a position of less privilege with regard to a particular subject. I know the privileged person isn’t going to bring the issues up because they can afford not to see it. But I can’t help but to be turned off and feel like an outsider, so I don’t say anything and go somewhere where it is safe to have the conversation.

    As an example, SweetMachine’s post “Elsewhere in Beauty Standards” includes some wonderful links from the “Women of Color and Beauty Carnival” but no one in the thread has commented on them at all. Now I thought about commenting on them because some of the issues raised in the posts really resonated with me, but it feels like those issues don’t matter to anyone else who bothered to comment on the post so I just left it alone. I hate being in the position of lecturer; teaching people about “my experiences”. It’s just not my thing, I’d much rather commiserate and share experiences. How do you just break into a thread like that without bogarting the conversation to make it about “poc and their issues”, rather than everyone’s issue?

  92. Hey, danlinpa, that’s a great question. FWIW, that happens a lot in multi-link posts — the convo becomes all about one link. Which means one thing we really ought to do as bloggers is not bury posts about women of color in link farms. Lesson learned, so thanks very much for pointing that out.

    I can tell you that in theory, you are always welcome to bring up the issues you want to discuss here, even if they make other people uncomfortable — but of course the theory doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how it feels for you to make that leap. So the only other thing I can tell you is that there are definitely other people reading who will care. A whole lot of people read this blog who never comment, so even if a comment of yours doesn’t get a good conversation started right away, it might very well resonate with WoC who usually lurk but might be more inclined to jump in next time, because they know that at least you’re out there, too.

    You don’t have to take on that responsibility, of course. But please, do not worry about “bogarting the conversation to make it about ‘poc and their issues.’ The bloggers and a lot of the readers here would love to hear from you.

    Per Julia’s suggestions above (and others we’ve gotten privately), we’re going to try in the future to watch threads about race like hawks and be a lot more heavy-handed with moderation in those threads. (That doesn’t solve the problem of ME being the one who acts like an idiot and derails the thread, but it’s a start.) So if you want to jump into a thread but are nervous about the reaction you’ll get, one thing you could do is e-mail us and give us a heads-up that it’s there. (We check pretty frequently most days, but we miss stuff.) We’ll monitor it and, if nothing else, try to make sure you’re not put on the defensive or in the position of lecturer.

    Do you have other ideas about what we could do to make starting a conversation easier for you?

  93. just that declarations of silence can be another conversational gambit that is used to derail conversations, so we need to be wary of using that tactic.

    Hugo Schwyzer had a nice piece about men’s tendency to preface comments with “Don’t hurt me” (or similar comments) when speaking to women about women was really a diversionary tactic designed to defuse feminist anger; I think a lot of the “I just won’t comment” or “I guess I’ll have to tiptoe here” comments can act the same way, in discussions about sexism or racism or any other -ism. I wish people would stop making them.

    How do you just break into a thread like that without bogarting the conversation to make it about “poc and their issues”, rather than everyone’s issue?

    daniinpa, I’m white, but I often feel the same way on this blog — to me, the more “meaty” links are often the ones about intersectionality, and I also see them getting ignored in the comments (esp. if they’re about PoC). Though I obviously can’t speak for the blog as a whole, I would love some more in-depth commenting about those sorts of links here. I don’t think it would at all be a derail; in fact, I can’t imagine how commenting on the given links would in any way constitute a derail, nor would I imagine that anyone other than an idiot would construe adding an experience as a PoC into a thread that’s lacking it as a derail.

    Which doesn’t mean it’s always easy to take the conversation there, I realize, but I will certainly vow to pay attention, if you or others do. I suspect there are at least a couple other commenters (if not dozens more) who will as well.

  94. Do you have other ideas about what we could do to make starting a conversation easier for you?

    I’ll have to think a lot more about it. I do really love this blog, you don’t know how much. When I first started reading this blog a year ago I identified as conservative, and I was a years-long member of FreeRepublic, very religious (some would say fundamentalist), anti-liberal, and determined anti-feminist. But also fat and mad about fatphobia. And black and always stymied about racism (even when I wouldn’t admit it). And poor and very depressed about it. And a woman who thought I hated women when what I really hate is the “ideal woman” as defined by white male-oriented society. What I didn’t understand was how it all tied together. There is a lot I have had to unpack and continue to unpack and I’ve read so much now, and observed so many of these conversations, that my life has changed in many ways and I feel like I am more of a whole person than I was before. But my introduction to feminism was through fatphobia, because that I got right away. I don’t know why that was my thing, but it was. The deeper I go the more I see how everything is linked together. And it makes me angry and hopeless sometimes and I don’t know how to respond. But I love this blog so I have to find a way.

    But I just thought of something….

    daniinpa, I’m white, but I often feel the same way on this blog — to me, the more “meaty” links are often the ones about intersectionality, and I also see them getting ignored in the comments (esp. if they’re about PoC).

    Occhiblu, “intersectionality” is major, it’s part of why I have become so much more cognizant of the real world as opposed to the ideal world I thought existed. All of the *isms are part of the system. But I didn’t see including those links as an expression of intersectionality. I don’t think we’re there yet. Perhaps my suggestion would be more posts on intersectionality itself. More posts actually making the links and displaying the interconnectedness. I think that while the bloggers here might have intersectionality in mind already, that doesn’t translate to the audience just yet. When I look at that post without a lens already informed by intersectionality, I see “here’s some stuff people of color are talking about” and “here’s some stuff anti-sexists are talking about” but the link isn’t necessarily there between them. We just happen to have a lot of self-identified feminists here already so that second topic is easy to discuss. It falls upon people of color to try to discuss the first topic and why bother when we can just go to the livejournal and other “safe” spaces and talk about them there? I don’t see it as a big problem with Sweet Machine’s phrasing, I just think maybe it’s a little too advanced, if that makes sense.

    It’s that realization of how it’s all connected and experiencing empathy with other human beings, that’s what has to happen for the audience of commenters and it’s up to the bloggers who moderate the comments to reinforce that spirit. It is also up to commenters like me to just speak up but I have to accept that I can do that here and know I’ll be backed up by the people who set the tone for the blog.

  95. But I didn’t see including those links as an expression of intersectionality. I don’t think we’re there yet.

    Yeah, I think you’re right. I think I have a slightly skewed view, because I always look at Shapely Prose and Shakesville back-to-back, so I just kind of take the intersectionality thing for granted, but I do notice that awareness seems to be lacking in the comments here.

    I see it in the posts, though.

    So I’m not sure what needs to happen. I like Kate’s suggestion that posts about PoC not get buried among other links; I suspect that would help mark anti-racism as a top-level concern here, not just a “something else we kind of care about.” And I think that you’re right, that some basic “Oppression 101: Why you should care about all of it” posts might help make the connection explicit, clear, and important.

    I do often see a disconnect between the posts and comments here that confuses me, because the quality of writing and thinking here tends to be so high, among both the bloggers and the commenters. A couple people replied to dreamy’s comments with “Aha! Suddenly things click!” and I was kind of thinking, “Well, duh, isn’t that intersection obvious?” but I guess it’s not. Maybe Kate, Sweet Machine, and fillyjonk (or guest bloggers) need to do more of the Oppression 101 posts to make those connections for everyone.

    (And I’m worried that I’m being very blunt and prescriptive here; I know it’s not my blog, and obviously any choices on content are not mine to make. But I have been thinking a lot lately about why Shakesville seems to have people who really get it (except sometimes about issues of FA) and Shapely Prose has people who kind of don’t (except about issues of FA) and why that global awareness exists there but not here; I think mainly it’s because Melissa goes out of her way to say “This is fucked up” about *any and all* oppressions. Which maybe is not what Shapely Prose should be in the long run, but stealing some element of that might be helpful in the short term.)

  96. daniinpa, thanks so much for your comments and for elaborating your thoughts on these issues. I definitely have noticed the fact that people tend to comment less on posts that deal with issues of race, and it does concern me. I would love it if you or anyone else jump-started the conversation, but I want to echo Kate’s statement that though we welcome that, we also totally understand if you don’t want to feel obligated. Ideally, other commenters wouldn’t then treat you as The Number One Expert Who Must Answer All My Questions, but I’ve seen it happen too often here and at other places to let myself believe that that wouldn’t happen in some ways. We definitely welcome your comments, and absolutely feel free to email us if you have concerns or questions about a particular thread.

    The only thing I want to add about the post with the carnival links is that I think that linking to a carnival in general ends up not generating much discussion, because people have to go elsewhere, read a variety of posts, and then return here. I’m hoping that even if people aren’t commenting here on what they’ve read in the carnival, they are at least *reading* it… but that may be putting too much faith in the power of linking. When I posted that particular link, I had just found out about the carnival but not read many entries myself, so I didn’t frame the post as a conversation about it but as a “check it out” post — next time I’ll try doing it the other way around.

  97. The only thing I want to add about the post with the carnival links is that I think that linking to a carnival in general ends up not generating much discussion, because people have to go elsewhere, read a variety of posts, and then return here.

    I was going to say the same thing as well, but I got distracted.

    There’s actually a post from the carnival that I’ve got bookmarked to highlight here, though, which I’ll probably do Monday. So maybe we can get some discussion going then.

  98. I’ve been following this discussion with interest and, as a white person, a certain amount of discomfort and chagrin about myself and the issues that POC face on this and other blogs. I feel the need to explain at this point—since the issue of “race” issues not garnering comments has come up—that I don’t feel qualified to comment on POC issues but am sitting back and trying to learn. I have started comments several times, both here and on Shakeville, and I always abandon them. I don’t want to offend anyone or start a conflict or otherwise display that I’ve fallen into those unconscious privilege traps that are being brought up, and so I stay quiet. Even saying that, I realize, might sound like I’m pulling out some privileged “okay, then, I’ll just be quiet” kind of thing. I’m not. I’m just delurking on this issue to explain that it’s not that I don’t care.

  99. occhiblu: “I do often see a disconnect between the posts and comments here that confuses me, because the quality of writing and thinking here tends to be so high, among both the bloggers and the commenters. A couple people replied to dreamy’s comments with “Aha! Suddenly things click!” and I was kind of thinking, “Well, duh, isn’t that intersection obvious?””

    This last exchange has become both very thoughtful and very interesting. It has been my experience that what used to be called “consciousness raising,” in my day, begins with personal experience, but needs a constant bridge-building effort. No human being can suddenly KNOW, as opposed to parroting words, what any other human being has gone through, or how such experiences shape another’s perceptions. But through a willing attempt to suspend one’s own personal biases and a willing attempt to engage in empathy we can build some bridges to the “intersectional” (this generation’s interesting new word) experiences of the oppressions/privileges of others and connect them into a better/broader understanding of the world.

    In that context, Daniinpa, your description of your journey, “When I first started reading this blog a year ago I identified as conservative, and I was a years-long member of FreeRepublic, very religious (some would say fundamentalist), anti-liberal, and determined anti-feminist. But also fat and mad about fatphobia. And black and always stymied about racism (even when I wouldn’t admit it). And poor and very depressed about it. And a woman who thought I hated women when what I really hate is the “ideal woman” as defined by white male-oriented society. What I didn’t understand was how it all tied together.” is so engaging.

    I do have many bridges to build yet in terms of my understanding of racism in particular, my role within it, my unacknowledged privileges, etc, but this does not diminish either my interest in seeing the subject discussed at length, nor my sense of how important it is. I hope you will continue talking about your own experience, because it really sounds like a fascinating journey.

    Personally, I am also interested in the religious angle. I myself grew up in a fundamentalist evangelical home, and as such, am incredibly familiar with that territory of human consciousness known as guilt and shame. And it seems to me that these feelings have effortlessly jumped from the area of sexuality to the area of appetite/hunger – with themes of sin and punishment and self-control in the present in the hope of future rewards. Maybe you would understand what I’m talking about here? Maybe your experience of fundamentalist Christianity is different to mine? (I have to tell you that, although it is many years since I have darkened the door of a church, I still thrill to the bone when I hear good Gospel music).

    And I am curious to know if you still identify as conservative?
    Anyway, the conversation you have raised is one I certainly would love to have, so I hope you come back here over the next few days.

  100. @Julia – thanks for the link to Audre Lorde.
    She says:
    “I simply do not believe that one aspect of myself can possibly profit from the oppression of any other part of my identity. I know that my people cannot possibly profit from the oppression of any other group which seeks the right to peaceful existence. Rather, we diminish ourselves by denying to others what we have shed blood to obtain for our children. And those children need to learn that they do not have to become like each other in order to work together for a future they will all share.”
    I heart Audre Lorde!

  101. I’m thinking a lot about the whole “not commenting to avoid anger” thing, since this is a problem I have. I have a whole long contribution, and I hope it is of some use. It is specifically about caretaking of self, which – when said by a white woman in a discussion of anger around racial issues – may appear to be making it about white people. However, I do think this affects some women of colour, too, in these discussions, and I am hoping to offer to everyone.
    ———–
    Avoidance of discussions of privilege, especially to avoid hearing the anger of someone less privileged, shuts down a necessary conversation. This goes the other way too: when someone without privilege can’t challenge someone they love with privilege because they’re afraid of dismissal or anger. I neither want to belittle or diminish that in this space.

    I want to acknowlege that’s what I’m doing, when I walk away or cringe, and I own that clearly as something I’m working on to overcome.

    On a personal level, in my life, I’m conflict avoidant. And part of that is in my particular experience of being female: that is, in some way, and intersecting issue here, and I wonder if female dominated spaces don’t have slightly more of “run away from a point of contention!” going on in the readership. (Not by the bloggers, who in order to run a major blog need to be somewhat comfortable handling things like anger, just in troll control alone.)

    (So my hypothesis would be that in female dominated blog spaces, threads that may contain more heated contention between regular readers would have fewer commenters than in male dominated spaces.)

    In my own examination of myself and my understanding of gender, my avoidance isn’t limited to issues of race or my privilege. It’s why I was anorexic, has been a problem in relationships, and it’s why I don’t link to my blog. I’m working on sorting this and am I lot better at getting pissed of, and having people pissed at me, as I get older. But I’m in my thirties. It’s been awhile.

    So while it is true that I’m a white woman avoiding the anger of women of colour when I walk away from commenting, it is also true that I have put myself in six kinds of prison to avoid anger in ways that have nothing specific to do with my internalized racism.

    The fact that this damage of mine affects women of colour I completely agree.

    It is, however, interesting to me how this trait, which I have found more common in women than in men, might specifically be affecting the dialogue between white women and women of colour.

    No one’s responsible for my own emotional shit, and I want to affirm and support the real right, validity, and importance of this anger. I am trying to find more of it in me and for me; it’s something I admire.

    I’m still more *kneejerk* likely to try to look like an airhead martyr saint and smile and nod and make it go away: this is a basic coping strategy of my life.

    Oh crap. This is awfully personal. Onward! Bravery!

    At most of the popular activist blogs, what the bloggers provide is an elegant, or humorous, or cutting, or brilliant, way of framing their anger. Many of us, as readers, are here to use that in ourselves. Obviously, other people find activist blogs with righteous anger already in place, but I also hear people like me — “oh, I could be angry? (will me being angry destroy the planet?”) The articulated anger of the blogger is a tool to help voice what we wish we could say. But that’s for learning anger going out, not for learning to process anger coming in, which is the other half of the battle.

    SO.

    I’m in this place where I want to support those with anger, because it’s why we all show up, but also I have a lot of empathy for all the people who include a verbal flinch or get afraid of engaging. And I want to offer that support and understanding, if it’s useful – to anyone who’s walked away rather than engaging something painful.

    It’s can be hard to step outside our comfort zones on anger, a brave act for (women?) those of us socialized or otherwise taught to be very afraid of anger.

    It’s also necessary.

    For both being an ally, and for being able to do all we need to do in the world. I encourage us all to try it, in little and big ways.

  102. Arwen, that’s a really good point. I think there are ways in which women are socialized that makes offending people a horrendous transgression, which probably does complicate discussions of racism and privelege.

  103. Arwen — ” The articulated anger of the blogger is a tool to help voice what we wish we could say. But that’s for learning anger going out, not for learning to process anger coming in, which is the other half of the battle.”

    That was an excellent point, and nicely made – thanks.

Comments are closed.