May 25, 2010

So I screwed up (again), in my writing on gender. And that’s not okay.

Been thinking about it a lot, and I’ve actually been working on a post all about that for the last couple days . . . that keeps getting longer, and longer, and LONGER, and LONGER . . .

I actually think it’s a pretty good post. (*1) But it just won’t end. It started with me calling myself out and taking responsibility for my f— up, but somehow that extended into an analysis of how we learn, the ideal classroom dynamic, teaching . . . All in the name of finding solutions and keeping myself from continuing to make these mistakes without just quitting and/or only learning not to do something stupid after I do it and piss people off.

I’m going to have to go in there and chop it up, make it into a couple different posts. All while I still have a couple "Science of Oppression" posts that I think are important and want to get to. Oh – and I’m heading back to the States (just for the summer) in a week, and I have to do all sorts of things to get ready for that . . .

Point being – I’ve got a lot to say on my poor writing on gender, and I want to very clearly address that. And I don’t want to let all that I have to say on it keep me from ever getting around to saying it (in terms of me never finishing this post).

So this is the quick and dirty version:

It made no sense (at all) for me to ask females, specifically, to help me with my "non-violent" metaphor. In asking that, it assumes that all women are these "peaceful," gentle creatures that think so very differently from men and have no violent or aggressive tendencies. And that is very obviously not the case (and I, of all people, should really be aware of that). It also plays into the – "women are there to nurture and help teach men" to curb our violent tendencies, or whatever else. And – it also ignores the fact that there are plenty of men out there who do not think violently, and are perfectly capable of coming up with a non-violent metaphor, as well.

Even worse than all that, though, is something that commenters haven’t brought up. I could be glad and just let it go, so nobody sees it, but if I’m really going to take responsibility, I’m going to do so for everything – whether I was "caught" or not. What did I do? Well – I specifically addressed the female readers because I thought that that would make up for pissing them off the last time. (*2) I almost didn’t – but I chose to do so as a sort of patronizing means to say, "See? I’m really acknowledging you now – isn’t that great?"

Was it as bad as all that in my mind? Of course not. But – ultimately – that’s what it was. The CVT pulling the same trick that pisses him off when white people do it to people of color – specifically calling on the oppressed people to speak, pretending that I’m really-deeply listening, while patting myself on the back for "caring" and thinking that that’s an indication of "progress" or ally-ship, as opposed to condescension, and/or an alternative to doing real self-work.

And, sadly, it took getting called out to go back and catch all that in what I did. My intentions were so different than the end-result. But as I’ve said a million times – intentions mean nothing when it comes to oppression – because our actions are what feed the system. My actions this time? Sexist bullsh–. And "sorry" isn’t enough.

As far as the next step goes – that’s what is contributing to my current, never-ending post, so it won’t come here. But let’s just say that – through this – I’ve found my metaphor (although it’s more concrete than that), and I’m working on using it to come up with a better way for people (including myself) to learn to be allies than our current state of trial-and-error.

Ultimately – this is just a blog. It’s me writing and spouting off. But to all those who call me on my sh– (or help contribute to the dialogue and my growth in other ways) – realize that I’ve got A WHOLE LOT going on outside the web that contributes to the anti-oppressive cause, and all the learning I do here (thanks to you) keeps me from making mistakes out there. And I’ve got nothing but appreciation for all the help you’ve given me.

Criticize me, challenge me, virtually punch me in the face – I welcome it all and am committed to using every instance as nutrients for growth.

Next Up: I don’t even know. So much I want to write with so little time to do it in . . . I’ll try to get y’all something worthwhile soon.

(*1) And it’s not what y’all are probably thinking – there’s not a single justification, defense, or other "explanation" for my fail in there; it’s more an analysis on how we learn to do (and/or STOP doing) these kinds of things.

(*2) I’m cringing as I write that, just waiting to get tore up some more now.



  1. I’m going to have to disagree with you again, I think it’s not only okay to screw up, it’s essential. Sometimes you need to blurt before you can tell whether something you think is stupid or not. Quite often you can tell just seconds before it comes out in public.

    Anyway, it was a good post aside from that bit, it made me think about the way I relate to violence, because come to think of it, I extremely rarely fantasize about giving people a good going-over, but I use the language a heck of a lot, saying stuff like ‘so and so deserves a good punch in the face’, as a rhetorical device. I tend to think more in terms of defeating them in a contest of strength – like, carrying their bags or opening a heavy door or something. What that says about me, I have no idea… on the other hand, my temper is a lot more violent (though rare) than a lot of people I know. And a friend who taught me a few karate moves told me I’d be a terrifying fighter, because I tend to remain mostly expressionless. So,I think there’s a lot more to violence than meets the eye.

    Anyway, thanks for making me think, and good luck with your travelling and all.

  2. @ Jen –
    Late response on my part, but I’ve been caught up.

    Anyway – thanks for your words. I – as a teacher – obviously agree that mistakes are necessary for learning, but I also believe that offensive mistakes are still not “okay.” In a safe, contained learning space (sort of like you all reading my blog), it’s not hugely terrible, but still not “okay” in terms of me not having to make up for it. That’s all I meant on that one. I definitely use you all (readers) as “guinea pigs” of sorts – in terms of calling me out and helping me adjust before I take these thoughts to my kids or staff or whatever . . .

    I really like that idea of “battling it out” through contests of strength . .. if only we could settle things by opening heavy doors instead of breaking noses . . . Siiiigh.

    Again, though – thanks for reading and dialoguing, and I hope you stick around.

  3. You know, one thing I find really amusing is the use of the expression ‘not okay’. I agree that you don’t want to be saying offensive stuff all over the place. But does anyone ever do anything because they think it’s okay? I’ve just seen that applied in so many circumstances: jaywalking is not okay; bombing the crap out of a small nation state is not okay… I could go on. In the scheme of things, your post was pretty okay in terms of its less commendable parts. You pretty transparently grappled with whether it was a good idea to ask the ladies about nonviolence while writing the piece.

    I really like that idea of “battling it out” through contests of strength . .. if only we could settle things by opening heavy doors instead of breaking noses . . . Siiiigh.

    I dunno, that could get pretty passive aggressive (you don’t know how many female friends I’ve offended by helping them open almost rusted-shut bolts on barn doors when they couldn’t) (yeah, you grow up in a village in Alsace, you’ll be seeing a lot of rusty barn doors). At least a punch in the nose is direct – if there’s anything I’ve learned from being a woman for 32 years it’s that passive aggression is at least as bad as active aggression.

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