The Humiliation of Sexism

I just noticed this post at Alas! a blog.  While it’s focussed on racism rather than sexism, I think the poster’s point four speaks to a lot of my frustrations with certain feminist statements regarding privilege:

4) Let Occasional Unfair Accusations Roll Off Your Back. Sometimes, even after you’ve given it serious thought, you’ll come to the conclusion that a criticism was unfair. Great! Now please let it go. Don’t insist that everyone agree with you. Don’t enlist the people of color in the room to certify you as Officially Non-Racist. Don’t bring it up again and again, weeks or months after everyone else has forgotten about the original discussion. In other words, see point #3.

My one caveat is that while you ought to let it go on an individual level, it’s useful to remember and collect unfair accusations as a way of identifying trends.  The point of that is to place feminism in an intellectual context, noting both its strengths and flaws.

Also, with regards to this: 

For the first ten or twenty seconds any response you make will probably come from your defensiveness, not from your brain, so probably you shouldn’t say whatever first comes to your mind.

 I think we can go a little deeper, and acknowledge that the defensiveness comes from a feeling of humiliation.  Of course, being wrong is embarassing in and of itself, which is why I think trying to rationalize evidence of our mistakes away comes so naturally.  But with the emphasis modern society has placed on being open-minded, tolerant, and not discriminatory, ever, as part of a conception of goodness, being called out on racism or sexism is especially embarassing, as it’s not only evidence of an error, but also evidence of a moral failing.  In other words, it’s a source of shame.  Which explains, I think, the difficulty with dealing with such accusations.

Perhaps one solution might be an ad campaign to reduce this feeling of humiliation and personal attack?  It would have to be done with a careful touch of course; we wouldn’t want a “sexism isn’t a big deal” message, for instance.  Maybe something like, “everybody makes mistakes?”

Obviously, I have no future in advertising.


~ by arkhilokhus on April 6, 2008.

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