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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

March 19, 2010
You Got My Support. But.

I support equality and decent treatment of fellow human beings, regardless of gender, age, physical ability/disability, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, or political affiliation or almost any -ism you might be able to think of. (There are exceptions.)

But? If you're going to post rants about how this person dissed you for having brown skin or that person dissed you for having boobs or some other person dissed you because you're gay, you have got to provide some level of detail explaining why you think you were dissed for that reason.

I'm not saying you have to prove it--we all know this shit happens.

I'm saying that if you're not able to say some guy in the grocery story cut in front of you in line because you were in a chair or some guy didn't offer you a job you felt you were perfectly suited for because he could tell you were gay, or some guy was talking too loudly about boobies in public because he wanted to hassle you--if you can't provide some level of justification for connecting the cause and effect you claim you see, then it's awfully hard for those of us who would like to gather together and help put a stop to that behavior to know precisely what it is that identifies that behavior in your eye.

Because, honestly, I've been dissed a million times--in grocery stores, on buses, on airplanes, in restaurants, in interviews, and walking down the street. Mostly I was dissed because the person dissing me was a jackass and not because I was female, young (or, later, not so young), differently able-ed (even when I was on crutches), or anything else. There are a lot of people on this planet. A surprisingly large percentage of them are jackasses.*

This is a continue source of frustration for me. I believe racial and gender stereotypes and age-ism and sexuality and religious slurs happen in our society. All too often. But, when I want to speak out against them, I go and read anecdote after anecdote and almost never find any reason stated why the person who was dissed was, in fact, dissed for the reasons they believe.

That's an old saying. "What gets measured, gets done." It's mostly for business and reflects the reality that people do what they know someone else will be monitoring results for, but it works in this arena as well. If you can tell us what someone did, something quantifiable, then we can try to stop that kind of behavior--through education or whatever. We cannot--I am sorry, but this is as true for the Left as it is for rightwingnuts and others--we cannot measure or change "he was looking at me funny."

People look at all of us funny every day.

99.99% of the time--again, I apologize if I'm about to hurt your feelings--they aren't seeing us. Everyone is the center of their own universe and their own reality and 99.99% of the time, they are thinking about themselves. We just happened to get between their eyes and the horizon.

People do not "look through you" or "fail to see you" because your skin is brown or you've in a wheelchair or you're overweight or for any of those reasons. They do it because they are not thinking about you.

When the case is otherwise, when people are, in fact, being dissed for things I don't think people should be dissed for** then I want to step up to the plate and help do something about it. But I can't. When I read various stories online, all I find is people assuming some jackass would not have been a jackass if they had not been tall/brown/short/gay/heavy/etc.

A jackass is a jackass. You could be anyone, from the Virgin Mary to the Pope and that person would still act like a jackass.

Having said that, I want to make it clear that I do know that many jackasses feel free to be extra jackassy toward people they perceive as vulnerable. This can include women, especially women of color, the physically challenged, older people, and/or people whose appearance in some other way makes them stand out from the herd of sheep.

digression

The question that makes me scratch my head is how to uproot and weed out that biologically ingrained instinct to attack "the other" that we all evolved with? Because that's a lot of what I think motivates this behavior. There's a wariness--a fear of "the other" that was part of what helped us survive long enough to evolve. That same instinct can been seen in a lot of other animal species.

Today, it's not PC, it's not socially acceptable to judge on the basis of appearance, but how much can fifty years of incomplete "social re-training" combat a million years of evolution?

I happen to think the answer to that is, "quite a lot" but the solution is found in education and familiarity and that makes me realize I'm in danger of wandering far from my original rant theme.

/digression

I'm just saying. Those of us who have the privilege of being sheeply enough not to trigger the jackass-reflex in those less-evolved types have an obligation to join in smacking down the jackass population, yes, but we cannot make them not be jackasses. (Note that I do not argue that it is not our responsibility to try.)

All I'm saying is, it would be useful if you could point us to a specific word and/or behavior or two--some kind of starting point for our smackdowns.

Thank you.


____________

* Being dissed by a jackass is a compliment. It means he looked at you and decided you were not like him. Jackassery being what it is, that essentially means he saw someone superior to himself and got snippy about it.

** The list is long. It does not include wanton or willful stupidity. Or jackassery.

__________________________________

Having posted this rant, the truth about why I was so irritated finally wafted through my brain. I am not a brave person--I am not the one who takes a stand in a public place, risking physical attack, in defense of a principle.

Pondering many of the stories I've read--I realized that I'm not certain that, if I'd witnessed these incidents and interpreted them the way these people interpreted them, I'd have had the courage to speak up.

So, you know, I'm taking it out on the victims to cover up my own inadequacies. Which makes me not really any better than the jackasses.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:37 PM


Comments

Thank you for this wonderful reminder of why I love your writing so much.

I don't know that you're irritated because of perceived cowardice. I think you - and I, and many of us - are simply overwhelmed. We're a socially interactive society, we're socialized to view interaction as a positive thing, so when it isn't we're inevitably let down and that kind of escalates.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at March 19, 2010 11:18 PM

I'm glad to hear you say that--that you understood what it was I was trying to say. (I was worried when I posted this one.)

I must disagree, though. I'm pretty sure my outrageous irritation was at myself.

Posted by: Anne at March 22, 2010 09:38 AM

Occam's Razor is a wonderful thing.

We're dealing with something vaguely similar with the Little Anachronism, who's starting to realize that some people -- including people in nominal positions of authority -- are jackasses, and sometimes you have to live with that. L.A. takes jackassery very personally, which is charming, but not a sustainable position: learning to attribute jackassery to the jackass instead of internalizing the problem and then avoiding things that are worthwhile.... well, that's a life skill.

Posted by: Ahistoricality at March 23, 2010 07:09 AM