Tag Archives: language

“White Liberal Dude Privilege Syndrome”

Yup, bet this is a really hard time for YOU, bro

Yup, bet this is a really hard time for YOU, bro

My favorite thing I’ve read this week is the apology letter from David Roberts at Grist after he referred to a former Anthony Weiner intern as a “hobag” on Twitter. Read the whole thing, please, but highlights:

“This is the key first step in a bout of White Dude Privilege Syndrome, especially the specific variant of White Liberal Dude Privilege Syndrome (WLDPS). Very few bouts begin with deliberate sexism or racism or heteronormativity. We are not thinking sexist thoughts! Our intentions are pure! We love women! Some of our best friends are black! We are good people, dammit!”

“The first step in WLDPS therapy is for the sufferer to acknowledge that it does not matter what was or was not in his head, or what he “really” meant. Part of privilege is the deep conviction that one is the absolute authority on one’s own mental states and thus the dictator of one’s own meanings — no one can tell you what they are, what you think, who you are, man. You don’t know me! We privileged dudes have trouble accepting that language is a social phenomenon, a social act, and meaning is created collectively, in the spaces between and among people. When you use language that is freighted with social meaning, you are responsible for that meaning, even if you did not “intend” it.”

Man, it’s so fucking smart. When we talk about privilege, we are often referring to the very tangible–wealth, stuff–or the slightly less tangible–sense of security, education. What Roberts is pointing out is that the underlying girders of privilege are not external, but rather deeply personal, “the conviction that one is the absolute authority on one’s own mental states and thus the dictator’s of one’s own meanings.”

I'm sure this is a really tough time, Bob

I’m sure this is a really tough time, Bob

What do we mean by that? Take the case of currently beleaguered mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner. Filner’s been accused by nine women of sexual harassment and is clearly struggling with the discrepancy between how he viewed his actions (“behavior that would have been tolerated in the past”) and how they are perceived by others (inappropriate, illegal, gross.) See Stephen Colbert’s excellent “Oppressed White Male Alert.”

Similarly, Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper is trying to recover from an ugly incident in which, agitated, he yelled at a Kenny Chesney concert, “I will jump that fence and fight every n***** here, bro” [Note: Cooper is white]. His response to the appalled and upset reactions of his fans and teammates suggest that, like Filner, he’s having trouble reconciling what he knows about himself and how his actions are being received. “I’m hoping we can rally around this and my teammates will be behind me and I’ll get through this,” he said. “This is not the type of person I want to be portrayed as. This isn’t the type of person I am. I’m extremely sorry,” he added. He does not consider himself to be racist and this may be the first time in his life where his internal monologue about who Riley Cooper is is being questioned by the public. He found the edge of his privilege, and it is apparently at a gate outside a Kenny Chesney show.

As Roberts said, “When you use language that is freighted with social meaning, you are responsible for that meaning, even if you did not ‘intend’ it.”

Related Post: Do I have privilege? You bet.

Related Post: There is a hierarchy of feminist privilege

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Bitch and the Problem with Identity-Insults

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about the problem with identity-based insults. When you try to denigrate someone, the most powerful thing you can do is to tie your dislike for their behavior to something intrinsic to themselves. It’s the reason that “Jerk” or “Jackass” doesn’t feel very strong; it’s surface deep. “Bitch,” on the other hand, like the N-word or the F-word (Not that F-word, the one idiots use for gay people) carries such power is because it adds an identity tag. “You suck… and you’re a woman!” “I don’t like you… and you’re gay!”

I’m aware of the reclamation projects around most of these words (see The Vagina Monologues’ Cunt” poem), but I would suggest that the use of them as an insult is always based in identity politics not new appreciation for cultural or biological ownership. In other words, whether you’ve reclaimed the word “cunt” for yourself is irrelevant when someone levels it at you. They don’t mean it in that third-wave this-is-my-word-now! way… they are using it to cut you down to size, and they’re using that specific word because you’re female. Not okay.

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Related Post: When I wrote about insults for dudes…

Related Post: How my teenage cousins talk to each other on Facebook…

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Sunday Scraps 88

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1. SANDY: Great longform essay in the NYT, about how a private apartment complex in the Rockaways, called the Sand Castle, fared during Sandy.

2. CRAY: If you watch one video this holiday season, make it this one, of a trio of Russian gymnasts defying all laws of physics and biology.

3. GAMING: ChartPorn has a graphic illustrating the evolution of video games by both genre (check out the fall of arcade-style) and by platform.

4. NEWTOWN: I had to look up “Moloch” to get this Garry Willis piece for New York Review of Booksand I will let you enjoy the same wikipedia adventure, but once I did, totally worth it.

5. LANGUAGE: Why does “doubt” have a “B” in it? Don’t you just want a TED Talk on this exact subject?

6. BOOBS: I’m a little late on the uptake with Anna March’s Salon piece, “My Shazam Boobs“, but it is as good as everyone said it was. What are boobs for, exactly? And how does that change, psychologically, as we age and combat illness or the threat of it?

Related Post: Sunday 87: Deb Perelman, Amy Hempel, Pinterest for cops?

Related Post: Sunday 86The Rumpus, Anita Sarkeesian, Emily McCombs for XOJane.

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Monday Scraps 83

1. GIFTS: After Romney’s post-election definition-of-a-sore-loser quotes about the “gifts” the President gave young people and minorities (Did you know you can buy a 24-year-old’s vote for a couple of months of contraception. TRUE FACT), Jon Stewart shared a few other “gifts.”

2. MORMON: Super excellent piece by McKay Coppins for BuzzFeed on being the sole Mormon reporter on the Romney press bus.

3. MEXICO: What happens to journalism when bribery, threats, and frequent spates of violence directed specifically at the press plague your country? Just ask reporters covering Mexico’s drug wars (NYT Book Review).

4. LANGUAGE: Which words does the NYT use too often? A new internal tool lets the paper (and curious spectators) explore the patterns of language perpetuated and created.

5. HILLARY: Gail Collins + Hillary Clinton = excellent reading. What will Hillary do next? Sleep, aparently, and exercise.

6. DENVER: This is from 2007, but I’m kind of obsessed with Katherine Boo this week, so I’m sharing it anyway. For the New Yorker, she covers the story of Denver’s superintendent and the journey of one turnaround school that couldn’t quite turnaround.

Related Post: Sunday 82: Kevin Durant and the OKC, Rachel Maddow nails it, cute MD photos

Related Post: Sunday 81: Callie Khouri, Anita Sarkeesian, sex surrogacy

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So What Do You Do Exactly? Mishmash Edition

This is kind of an unconventional addition to the So What Do You Do Exactly? interview project. Normally, I focus on the tangible content of “work” that people do, but in Leslie’s case, I think her career path is where the real meat is. From Chile to China and back, I think she epitomizes the very millennial idea of stitching together a “job” out of a wide range of passions and skills.
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Leslie lives in Santiago, Chile where she splits her time between a variety of teaching, translation, and entrepreneurial projects:
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What are you working on these days? Which pots do you have fingers in? These days, I’m teaching a social entrepreneurship course at a Chilean university, teaching English to environmental attorneys, doing some website and training projects for a consultancy in the north of Chile, and doing pitch and presentation training for a Chilean biotech startup.
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I’ve also created a free online course called How to Create Your International Career and am thinking about writing a book on this topic in the future. The mix of projects shifts around from month to month, and (as you can probably tell) I’ve been really busy lately!
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How did you decide you wanted to live and work abroad? I always knew I wanted to study abroad. My mom studied in Germany and my dad studied in Brazil. One of the reasons I chose UC Berkeley was because of its study abroad programs. I studied here in Santiago, Chile for all of 2005. This was half of my junior year and half my senior year, The history, business, and mountaineering classes I took all counted towards my degree in Latin American Studies.
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When I graduated in 2006, I didn’t know what to do. About a week after graduation, I pored through my well-worn copy of Colleen Kinder’s Delaying the Real World. This book lists about 1000 ideas of things to do after college, all of which don’t involve law school or cubicles. A section on teaching English overseas mentioned CIEE Teach in China. The program required being a native speaker with a college degree, and the deadline was one week later. I began contacting program alums who were listed as references. And a few days later I FedEx’d in my passport and application.
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I’d never studied Chinese, never visited China, and never been particularly interested in mooncakes or Mao Zedong. So I spent the summer volunteering in ESL classes and studying basic Mandarin with a listen-and-repeat Pimsleur Language Program. Less than three months later, I was on a plane to China.
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What did you do in China? At first I taught English at a university about an hour from Shanghai. Then I interned at the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. After a year and a half in China, I got homesick and decided to go back to San Francisco.
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I had major culture shock. (I found myself saying things like, “Wow, there’s free coffee at Bank of America, and you can understand exactly what I need and help me in five minutes! I fully expected to be here all afternoon” and “Wow, Trader Joe’s has so many choices. And I can read *all* the labels!”) Soon I found a job at a startup in SF and settled in. But six months later, the financial crisis hit, the company went under, and I decided to move back to China, this time to Beijing.
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In Beijing I worked in a number of fields — advertising, consulting, non-profits, etc. — and studied Chinese with a wonderful tutor and in small classes with trailing spouses from France, Thailand, and other countries. I eventually got burned out, and left China in June of 2011. I explained this decision in more detail in this letter :Dear China: It’s Not You, It’s Me. Let’s Be Friends Forever.
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What brought you back to Chile, so many years after studying there? I came to Chile as part of Start-Up Chile, a program of the Chilean government to attract world-class early-stage entrepreneurs to bootstrap their businesses in Chile. A woman I’d met when I was in Chile in 2005 emailed me in early 2011 to invite me to join her visionary solar energy project. I arrived in July. Start-Up Chile brought me in to contact with dozens of entrepreneurs from all over the world, and soon I was invited to freelance on several other projects. I did Spanish-English and Spanish-Chinese translation for meetings about iron ore investment. I did writing and editing work for a handful of startups.
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These days I’m part of a co-working space that’s filled with mostly Chilean entrepreneurs, and these friends and colleagues have given me countless opportunities to get involved in cool projects.
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How do you actually spend your time? Is there such thing as an average day?
8:00:Get up, get dressed, make tea.

9:00-10:00: Teach an English class to an environmental attorney. Normally there are three but only one shows up. We talk about the many definitions of “file” and how to use the subjunctive.
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After class I go back to my apartment to make brunch and respond to a bunch of emails. Then, I take the metro and then a micro (local bus) to the university where I teach social entrepreneurship.
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2:30-4:30: My students give midterm presentations about how a social enterprise called Living Goods can partner with Nestlé or Unilever to sell healthcare products door-to-door in Uganda using the “Avon Lady” model. Half the students are business majors from Chile and the other half are exchange students from Europe. The presentations are awesome! I wish the companies were there to see it.
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6:00-9:00: I meet with a biotech startup to coach them on their pitch for the upcoming Start-Up Chile demo day. The product is a film about the amniotic membrane that can regenerate eye tissue. We revise the presentation. The new version starts with a before-and-after story of a middle-aged man named José. Before, he couldn’t see much. After his surgery, he could see kids’ faces, and even drive. I coach the team on how to explain this clearly in English, to deliver maximum impact in a 3-minute presentation. The guys order sushi. We eat together.
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10:00: I get home. Exhausted. My boyfriend made macaroni and cheese! There’s some left for me. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
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Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly?: Model UN Edition
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Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? Turkey Edition

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Sunday Scraps 75

1. MOBAMA: Many folks (including me) roll their eyes at Michelle Obama’s self-labeling as “mom-in-chief,” but Tami Winfrey Harris at Clutch explains why a black mom-in-chief is an entirely different story.

2. INK: Yesss, Mental Floss has compiled a gallery of library-themed tattoos, and I want them all.

3. COMICS: This cartoon from Explosm says it all. Gender rolls, lol.

4. HISTORY: What is the GOP position on the Revolutionary War? On slavery? On McCarthy? Jack Hitt at the New Yorker has helpfully assembled a conservative history of America.

5. WORDS: Man, English is the coolest and makes no frickin sense. I love it so much, and so does Ted McCagg, who created a bracketed contest seeking the best word ever.

6. LOVELY: Normally, xkcd is just plain clever, but last week they knocked it out of the park with this delightful, surprising, sweet exploration of everything.

Related Post: Sunday 74: Trans respect posters, Junot Diaz, Emily Dickinson photos!

Related Post: Sunday 73: My new favorite NFL player, Philip Roth vs. wikipedia, Joy of Sex illustrations

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Sunday Scraps 66

1. WORK: Great Chicago Reader essay on how the phrase “work hard, play hard” sometimes means the opposite, and how 35, single, and broke might not be the worst thing.

2. BOOKS: Troy, Michigan employed a creative campaign in reverse psychology to save their local library.

3. LGBTQ: William McGowan at Slate profiles an extortion ring that targeted closeted gay men in the 1960s.

4. CUTE: NPR reporter “interviews” his 5-year-old about why she cut her 3-year-old sister’s hair.

5. LANGUAGE: National Geographic has a slideshow of speakers of dying languages. Fun fact, a language dies every fourteen days.

6. WORDS: Think you read a lot? Think again. Nancy Pelosi is interviewed on her reading habits by the Atlantic Wire.

Related Post: Saturday 65: Nicki Minaj on double standards, Margaret Atwood on Twitter, lady scientists

Related Post: Sunday 64: Word games, comic strips, Genevieve Bell

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Word of the Day: Anomie

You know how when you study for a test, you reach a point where you just cannot cram another fact or figure or strategy or whatnot into your brain without forcing some previously committed idea out your other ear? It means you’ve hit your capacity.

I have reached that point with the news. Not all of the news, mind you, just the lady-bashing news. It’s not that I don’t care, or that I don’t want to be informed. It’s just that the weight of the horribleness has just crushed any ability I have to care about a specific issue. I see “birth control” or “transvaginal” or “conscience clause” in the headline of an article, or in the outraged tweet of a friend or colleague, and I just cannot bring myself to click. I know what it will say, horrible things, and I know how I will feel, powerless.

This week Argentina decided to allow rape victims access to abortions. Yay? Is this really the kind of verdict I’m supposed to get excited for? Should I feel encouraged? It’s like we are climbing out of a deep hole, and while we scramble and scrape our way out, Rick Santorum is at the bottom of it digging us closer to the molten core of the Earth.

My friend Lori Day wrote an essay for the Huffington Post called “The Loneliness of Being Female in 2012.” She writes, “What is at stake is women’s ability to have authentic and freely chosen lives — nothing less….I sometimes write about anomie. It’s one of my favorite words, acquired in college Sociology 101, describing the moral disconnect one can feel between his or her own personal values, and the values and laws thrust upon the individual by society. I am writhing in anomie these days, and it is a very lonely place.”

I couldn’t agree more, so props to Lori for putting the word out there for all the other lonely people to rally around.

Related Post: The fundamental differences are just too much.

Related Post: Who would think that “age-appropriate” and “medically accurate” are word you wouldn’t want associated with sex-education?

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Sunday Scraps 51

1. WANTON: Frank Bruni at the New York Times does a great job explaining the double standard sexual talk that has become all the rage. I guess it’s been around for awhile, but it suddenly seems much louder.

2. BASEBALL: There’s no crying in baseball. Great piece by Fit and Feminist about the 20th anniversary of A League of Their Own.

3. GRANNY: The Raging Grannies have been around since 1987, but this “Viagra Review Board” photo just kills me.

4. JARGON: Forbes March Madnesses the hell out of terrible corporate jargon. “Core competency” takes on “Buy in” in the first round, while “Hard stop” battles “Best practices.”

5. INSPIRATION: Do you need some? This kid just learned to ride a bike, and he has words of wisdom for us all.

6. GLORIA: NYT piece on Gloria Steinem and why such a singular iconic figure hasn’t emerged to represent in our current feminist battles. Also, it quotes Christine Stansell, one of my favorite college professors!

Related Post: Sunday 50 = “Slut” frequency, xkcd on pick-up, and March Madness for The Wire.

Related Post: Sunday 49 = Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, raunchy mom-lit, 1938 dating advice.

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Filed under Body Image, Guest Posts, Hollywood, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex, Sports

Sunday Scraps 50

1. LAW: The New Yorker has a fascinating piece on the true story behind the Lawrence vs. Texas case. Who was Lawrence, and who was the other guy, and what was actually going on? Hint: It’s not what you think.

2. TELEVISION: In the midst of 8 gazillion March Madness style tournements, Grantland is running one pitting characters from The Wire against one another. My money’s on Obama’s #1 seed.

3. POLITICS: Alternet has helpfully curated a list of the 11 dumbest things Republicans have said about women (recently).

4. DATING: xkcd tackles pick-up culture and hits the nail on the head. Gentlemen, we know what you’re up to.

5. LANGUAGE: From Buzzfeed, a chart tracking the usage of the word “slut” in recent years.

6. WORLD: Does four years with an American president feel like a long time? The Economist compares the average tenure of our leaders to the rest of the world.

Related Post: Last Sunday, we had a Lena Dunham interview, 1938 dating advice and 6 houses in Chicago.

Related Post: Two Sundays ago, Zilla marches, feminist pornographers, and Jonathan Lethem on copyright.

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