Tuesday, June 1, 2010

You Might Be An Arsehole

imageThere seems to be this myth that if someone faces a marginalization, that somehow, miraculously, they can escape the label of arsehole.  At first blanche, it may seem wondrous that some liberal people are so terrified of being labelled an ist that they will ignore arsehole behaviour; however, it once again sets up a different standard of behaviour for marginalized bodies and this does not amount to equality.

No person truly interested in social justice wants to be called a racist, transphobe, homophobe, disablist etc. The truth is, that no matter how hard we try to challenge our various privileges we cannot escape them.  We have been steeped in them from birth, and we carry them with us everywhere we go.  This is not to say that we should ever stop working for change, but that we will always be imperfect.

There will be those that will seek to take advantage of this fact and refuse to admit that they are wrong.  I don’t want to label it playing the “X CARD,” however, I think that we should all just admit, that there are those that will immediately accuse you of being an ist no matter what the subject the matter is.  Disagreeing with them is enough to hear taunts of you’re an ist.  This can cause you to doubt yourself.  I agree that you should carefully examine the situation for every privilege you may have overlooked, but sometimes an arsehole is just an arsehole.

I discussed this very topic with Sparky last night, and he gave a list of rules that I think are very relevant.

In my mind there are only 3 ways you can be prejudiced by calling out a marginalised person on their arseholery

1) Excessively mentioning their marginalisation in the criticism in a way that implies that their arseholery is somehow linked to their marginalisation, or that their marginalisation is in any way relevant to their arseholery,

2) If you seem to spend a considerable amount of time commenting on the negative from that marginalised group, and never ever ever see any of the positive

3) If you criticise a marginalised person for something you wouldn't/haven't criticised the non-marginalised, or people with another marginalisation for.

It is absolutely arsehole behaviour to scream ist to silence a legitimate criticism, if an ist is not relevant to the conversation, because it only builds on the myth that marginalized bodies have an axe to grind, rather than legitimate systemic social justice issues that must be rectified.  Your marginalization does not make you above question, and it certainly does not free you from being an arsehole.

Arseholes come in every shape, size, race, gender and sexuality.  It is an equal opportunity label, and if our problem with a particular individual is the not the marginalization that they face, but their behaviour, you are damn right we should be calling that out.  Arsehole behaviour  can come in the form of a person playing Oppression Olympics, or simply just saying or doing something unconscionable.  Privilege means  that a person is seen as an individual rather than as representative of their group  -- and  while it may not seem that calling someone an arsehole is a step forward; it certainly is, because this means that you have been able to see the person rather than the marginalization.   And for the record, every single person walking the plant today, from the Dali Lama to Barack Obama has at some point engaged in arsehole behaviour.