Recently I was having a conversation about how delicate society has become over the years. We’re hypersensitive to bullying, discrimination, constructive criticism, petty criticism, differing opinions, choices people make for themselves, genuine ignorance and so on. If you breathe too heavily someone has an opinion or issue with what you’re doing. People just want to be outraged these days and with social media, they’re never disappointed. In the Autobiography of Malcolm X, he said one day a young White college girl approached him and asked what she could do to help, his response was “nothing”. Years later he expressed regret for that incident. Clearly I’ve never spoken to him, but I would imagine the regret was because he later recognized a valuable teaching moment had gone to waste.
For years I referred to myself as a “male feminist of sorts”. Not that there were areas of feminism that I took issue with; I agree with all the equity and equality aspects of feminism, but I was never a fan of the male bashing energy that came from a few feminists. So, my “of sorts” was an attempt to own the equality but not the bashing. I had a conversation several years ago with a relatively hardcore feminist about pay inequality. I agreed with the facts because well, they’re facts, but each time she decided to hammer it home, she did so with a negative comment about men in general. She confidently said men just don’t get it, men are so full of themselves, if men had to deal with what we deal with and so on…as if I’m not a man.
Equally as ridiculous, I was coming out of the subway in DC one day with my homie and current business partner and we were greeted with some weird stuff to say the least. The first sound I heard was like a one-sided argument, broadcast over a megaphone. We turn the corner to see about 6 Black dudes dressed like war lords from some dystopian future movie. They’re yelling about White people being devils and throwing insults as if it were a celebrity roast. My homie, who is White by the way, in no way embodies the things these guys are yelling. Their experiences, and/or 2nd hand experiences with White people is negative, so they’re painting all White people with the same brush, and much like the feminists I encountered, it lumps the allies in with the enemies with little regard for sensible thought.
Not to be outdone, I used to work with a guy that was transitioning, but real time I had no idea what he was doing. I’d get on the elevator with him and say good morning every day with no response. My feelings weren’t hurt, but I thought he was a bit rude as a result. After about 6 months of this, he showed up on a Monday with makeup and women’s clothing on. I greeted him the same way I usually did and kept it moving, likewise, he skipped responding like he usually did. A few months went by, and I hadn’t seen him nor was I looking for him, just noticed that I hadn’t seen him around. One day I got on the elevator and he rushed on after me with makeup, a dress, heels, bra the whole 9. At this point, I took the hint that “he” was now “she” whether the surgery was accomplished or not…didn’t change my demeanor toward her at all. I still said good morning and she still ignored me. I was later told by someone who knew her that it’s because straight Black males are typically judgmental of gay people. Imagine that. A straight Black male, actively showing kindness.
Own The Problem
Guards are up and many folks have turned common sense mode off. There are a lot of things outsiders of marginalized groups genuinely don’t know about those groups. As the outsider, If you don’t understand something, ask questions, listen to answers, move accordingly. If you are a member, understand there’s a lot about these topics people don’t understand, answer questions with care, instead of condescension.
People aren’t complaining about injustices just to make noise outside. “Black lives matter” didn’t come from the post-racial America folks said we were in because Barack Obama was elected. It’s a product of the real experiences that have been going on since the 1600’s. Gender discrimination, much like racial discrimination is very real. Women aren’t leery of guys just because they have penises. The LGBTQ community has faced discrimination coming and going from family and random assholes on the street. At the end of the day, we all want our proper respect and right to be ourselves, free of judgment.
That said, members of marginalized groups need to communicate better as well. I guess humanity really needs to do better on all sides. Ignoring issues, dismissing folks simply because they ask a question you feel they should know, should not come with cancel ______. If there is information to be given or common sense questions that are misunderstood, just provide a realistic common sense answer without the stank on it. Not always easy. I find myself being shocked when people don’t know really common stuff. I’m still a work in progress there as well.
Stating the Obvious
-For my female feminists, penises aren’t your enemy, it’s the archaic thinking that women are less qualified for certain roles by virtue of their gender. Sadly, these views are held by men and women.
-Folks seeking racial justice, it’s super easy to just say “White people did it”, but that omits a lot of the hate and ignorance held by familiar faces, and it ignores the contributions by White people that see these injustices the same as we do, despite not having experienced them first hand.
-LGBT community, relax with trying to cancel everyone. There’s a lot that people don’t know about the various movements within the greater LGBT movement. There are some things that make no sense from the outside looking in. If you want people to understand these things, inform them.
Two pronouns are enough to create WE. You and I.Atmaja Bandyopadhyay
I Respectfully Don’t Understand
I’m not on an island with this next thought, but I’ve never understood the pronoun game from a grammatical perspective. Years ago, a friend of mine, who is gay but pretended like I didn’t know, was talking about relationship problems he was having. He kept referring to the person he was in a dispute with as “they”. He was telling me about this “person” cheating on him with some guy, but then kept saying “they” were getting loud trying to publicly embarrass him. Imagine following along with a story with multiple characters on the same side of it, but only one of the characters is being called “they”. When he kept doing it, I let him know it’s confusing as hell, but let him finish the story. In my mind, calling a single person “they or them” is disrespectful, as it implies that the person believes they are both male and female to the point of being two actual people. That said, even though I don’t get it, I don’t hate on them for saying it.
However, along the lines of pronouns, I think it’s odd that everyone is now being forced to identify as their pronouns ahead of time. Queue the collective gasps and claims of ignorance…and even if you aren’t up in arms by that, you likely thought “this dude is trying to get cancelled”. Transgender people have a different gender expression than the sex assigned at birth. As such, many express themselves as the gender they feel inside. Women that feel like men, often dress in masculine clothes and do as much as possible to present as male. The opposite holds true for guys trying to present as female. I am a male, born with the exact same gender identity as my assigned sex at birth. If I walk out clearly expressing my male gender, why do I need to state that I am a male? Furthermore, on this quest for equality, why does that even matter?
Civility vs. Respect
When we focus on our differences, then demand civility from the people who are not that different gender, race, sexual identity or whatever, what follows is usually not respect. It’s certainly not society evolving. We’re now hyper focused on the things that should not matter, drawing attention to the benign. Meanwhile, women are still on average making 80% of what men make, racial minorities are still being murdered by the authorities, LGBT children are twice as likely to commit suicide, but we all have civil rights so to speak.
There is no malicious intent with any of this. I don’t say that as a caveat, rather a recognition of the hypersensitive, sound bite, typical disregard for context era in which I’m writing in. I genuinely respect people at a human level regardless of what you present to me. I won’t respect you more if you’re rich or less if you’re poor. I won’t love you more if you’re “straight” or less if you’re not. None of those things matter more than the character of the person, but we’ve devolved to a point where we are highlighting these things because genuine love and respect seem to be too much to ask for, so we choose hypersensitivity over sensible dialogue which makes matters worse honestly.
Be The Change
Recently I asked someone to explain to me from her perspective the intent behind “they/them” and instead of giving me an actual answer, she tried to shame me for being ignorant. At no point did she ever answer the question either. The whole time though, she claimed she’s fighting for acceptance, and trying to rid the world of this ignorance. Sounds good, but the actions don’t match the intent. She may never have the realization Malcolm X had, and if she does we’ll likely never know. If we sincerely want to advance civilization with acceptance and not just tolerance, we have to start with communication. True acceptance comes with mutual respect and to some extent understanding, which will only be achieved with honest communication.