On -isms: Flip the Script

By | Thursday, May 11, 2017 Leave a Comment
One of the many things my cishetero white male privilege affords me is a lack of kickback. I've been working on these "On -isms" pieces for over three years and I have not once been called out by someone who tried to mansplain what I said back to me, or "well, actually"ed anything, or dismissed my thoughts out of hand. Now, some of that probably has to do with my generally being unable to solicit responses of ANY sort on pretty much anything I write. That's been an issue I've had going WAAAAY back to my BBS days in the mid-'80s; I would regularly post active questions to active boards and threads, and receive zero responses -- not "I don't know" or "what a dumb question", nothing at all. So I learned long ago that there's something in my writing that people look at and just kind of shrug. I'm not sure how much of the lack of responses to my "On -isms" pieces stems from that, and how much is because I'm sitting in a chair of immense privilege, but either way, I've found I can talk about race, gender, sexuality, religion -- pretty much any topic where discrimination might be involved -- with zero fear of being harassed or bullied or worse. It's a power I wish I could give to so many people with so much more influence and reach than I have.

That said, I was reminded of the two instances in the decade-plus I've been blogging where I was harassed for what I wrote. And in both cases, it came from Christians who took offense to something I said. In the first instance, in reviewing a comic, I said that the heavily Christian theme that I wasn't expecting to see in the book came across as proselytizing. Considering the book was ostensibly about fighting zombies, I said that message bothered me because it seemed subversive. If you want to try to convert people to your religion, at least have the courage to do it openly. Well, I caught all manner of crap (on my own blog, and the author's site) from Christians (or at least people who claimed to be Christians) who tried raking me through the metaphoric coals. No death threats or anything serious, but a lot of name calling and mud-slinging and generally being rude assholes.

The second instance was after I had reviewed another book. It wasn't religious, although one character was a practicing Catholic. As such, he made a Biblical reference, the understanding of which was absolutely essential to the story. However, it wasn't a Bible passage he quoted or anything like that but a kind of oblique detail without any real context. No mention of which Biblical characters or even what story he was referencing. In fact, there was so little context, I didn't even realize it was a reference to a Biblical story until I Googled it afterwards. And I said that that was bad writing, not because the author used a Biblical reference, but because he provided zero context for anyone who might be unfamiliar with that particular detail of that particular story. Without that, the very climax of the book (where the reference took place) made no sense. I was again raked over the coals by Christians (again, or people claiming to be Christians) for saying that, and how EVERYBODY knew that reference and I was clearly an idiot who never bothered to read any significant literary works. Also, atheists are pretentious, arrogant assholes and if they'd only read the Bible, it would make them good people.

(I wish I were exaggerating with some of these responses.)

(Oh, and for the record, most atheists I know have read the Bible. That's part of why we're atheists.)

I also saw one other guy who didn't harass me, but did say at his own site that I was a deluded Muslim-sympathizer because I wrote a positive review of The 99.

Needless to say, these experiences did nothing to help my opinion of people who wear Christianity on their sleeve like that. But, like I said, these are just a few very isolated incidents. If I had received more bullying like this, my opinion of these people would not only sink lower, but considering that almost all my interactions with Christianity are along these lines already, I'd eventually come to conclusion that all Christians are assholes like this. (As it is, I find it really hard to mentally separate these "Christians" from all Christians.)

And that's me, sitting in my chair of nigh-universal privilege, with only a handful of really bad personal interactions to work with.

Now imagine if you got that all the time. Because of your skin color. Or because of your sexual orientation. Or because of a disability. That's why people often throw a blanket description of "White people should stop doing this..." or "Straight people need to stop saying this..." or whatever. Sure, there are exceptions -- you don't need to tell anyone that -- but they've had enough instances to color their perception against the majority. Maybe you should instead just listen and try NOT to be the type of person they describe.
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