You are not immune

One of the most frustrating things about fandom is how unwilling people are to look at how race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, etc. impact the way we respond to arts and entertainment.

It’s bad enough when it comes from people who flat-out deny that racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc. are real. But it’s a whole other ball of What The Fuck when we (and I’m including myself here) act like we are somehow immune to the toxic shit that saturates our lives. Yes, even those of us who are aware of oppression, have an anti-oppression analysis, and even work for social justice. How quickly we forget that internalized racism, internalized misogyny, internalized homophobia, etc. includes us too. So if I call a female/queer/Black character I don’t like or understand evil, crazy, stupid or whatever, misogyny or homophobia or racism suddenly have nothing to do with it. Because I am queer Black woman, and I know this and that and the other about oppression and how it functions, I cannot possibly be an agent of oppression or have unexamined shit I need to figure out.

Riiiiiiiiight.

I mean, let’s be real: it’s easier to talk about how fucked up everybody else is than to face our own shit and work on that. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of fucked up shit that we need to call out. What I want to see more of, though, is honest self-examination. I want to see us including ourselves when we talk about the ways people perpetuate shitty patterns with race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. I want more of us to start saying, “This is what I understand, but this where I’m still struggling.”

Aside from being more honest, it also puts us at our growing edge so we can see where we need to grow and work on that instead of bumbling along and hoping we don’t show our ass.

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10 thoughts on “You are not immune

  1. Definitely an aspect of the work that I and the groups I’m part of need to work on. Willful ignorance is especially frustrating when it’s from people who should know better.

  2. When raised in a fucked up society, everyone’s going to be fucked up. One does not remove the fuckery so easily. I sometimes still catch myself having shitty thoughts but it’s like… I don’t think that I believe in it but those messages are around all the time and it’s very easy to default to them unless you consciously combat it. Or something like that. Not really sure how to explain it.

    And in another form, I know I have appropriated the experience of other oppressed groups before when in an argument as recent as a year ago. I thought I was trying to invoke solidarity but really, I had no business doing that. I’ve tried to be more careful now although I am pretty sure there are still things I wouldn’t see unless someone calls me out.

    I like to thing of spaces such as this as a place where not only marginalised people can safely discuss our experiences, but also where we can learn to unlearn fuckery we were taught about both ourselves and others.

  3. Fanpoodling and low expectations trip me up all the damn time. If I like something, I look for excuses, any excuses, for the fuckery.

    And low expectations? so often. “Oh look they’ve included one token! DIVERSITY ACHIEVED!” “Person was there and didn’t die VICTORY!”

    • I know what you mean.

      Something that got brought up on Tumblr was how, because representation is so lacking, we cling to any example of anybody who is not the cishet white guy even if, ordinarily, we would not even find that person remotely interesting.

      Case in point: Tamara in ABC’s “Once Upon A Time.”

      “Another woman of color who has a name and speaks! Thank God!”

      Case in point: Cersei Lannister on “Game of Thrones.”

      “Damn, why is Cersei such a– waitaminute. There are lots of characters who are far worse.”

      • Exactly. Take Revolution – i had a glee moment because a dystopian FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGED GBLT PEOPLE EXIST after 14 episodes. An implied lesbian couple (because overt is just impossible), one a WOC, who must now be sacrificed… yeah, once the excitement faded there was a crash. It was “YAAAY AT LAST WE HAVE… oh… oh dear. oh.”

  4. This all also plays into how, as someone who is marginalized on several axes, I sometimes feel secondhand embarrassment when a marginalized person acts a damn fool or doesn’t have it all together.

    Now, I don’t watch “Scandal,” but lots of folks on Tumblr do, so I catch some of the stuff that’s happening on the show, and it’s like, “Olivia, your life is a hot mess. You’re making Black women look bad. Can you please stop?”

    And the thing of it is, I know that, if I watched the show and really saw what happened, I’m fairly certain that there’s a lot more shit going around than what she’s doing, yet I’m holding her up to this standard where she has to be a paragon of virtue rather than just a human being with human frailties and limitations. It’s like Viola Davis said to Tavis Smiley, “Do we always have to be noble?”

    And it makes me wonder if perhaps I carry with me this thing where a marginalized person, particularly women of color (and especially Black women) need to be exceptionally capable or virtuous in order to view and relate to them as human beings.

    • Oh I look at some of my fellows all the time and want to scream – you’re praising this?! THIS FETID CRAP?! REALLY? REALLY?! Are our expectations so low? Are we so desperate for crumbs!?

      And sometimes I stand by that, I think we do tend to over praise. The opposite is there is a sense of “these characters must be paragons of awesome or they don’t count!” I’m working hard on purging the idea that a character must be perfect and good to be representative – while still rejecting stereotyped bullshit. Which is hard, especially since predatory villain is stereotyped bullshit.

      It’s difficult because minorities don’t have to be perfect, wonderful people in every role – yet it also feels like if you give so much as an inch to the writers they’ll have you and yours playing villains predators at the drop of a hat.

      Which is another thing – especially as media commentators – the number of people we see who are LOOKING for an excuse for bigoted bullshit makes me very very VERY reluctant to extend benefit of the doubt or give an inch

  5. Yeah, I am always wary of myself in how I say what I say and in understanding issues and what issues to stay out of as well as always stating that I’m learning and unlearning the fuckery that society instilled in us in different ways.

    And I HATE it when I see stuff that’s supposed to be ‘good’ for straight white guys, like it’s a majour achievement… like Superbad and Scott Pilgrim, I’ve had people tell me and read people talk about just how GREAT it was that the guys were so good when in fact both of those examples are garbage and feature nothing more than the same old straight, white, privileged assholes as always.

  6. Fear of doing this is why my intended time-travel story about people adopting an attitude of ‘We can uplift the savage past’ in terms of the US Civil War (which would deconstruct tropes going back to The Guns of the South, if not a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) remains in abeyance. I don’t want to portray the slaves as a stereotypical mixture of racial stereotypes, which means I need to do much more research on how slaves and freedmen would have been living and acting in 1864 Virginia.

    While the story features the modern Brian Griffin variety of racist progressivism as a plot point to illustrate how that is definitely not helping anything and instead makes things worse, I also want to portray that kind of shallow mentality without coming across as endorsing it, and instead showing that from the POV of the slaves the Uptimers are no different than any other white people who wish to tell them what they should think and do when they don’t want any part of it. I am not sure my storytelling skills are up to it as yet, but I am aware that these potential issues could impair what I want to do (and I remember all too well what happened to The Iron Dream and refuse to allow that to happen to one of my own works).

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