Diversity terminology can be seen as a real rabbit hole, but is that a fair assessment?Is this complexity really necessary?
Let me use something I have come back into in the past week: the concept of the “squish”, to first demonstrate the layers at work here.
First, a squish is defined as a crush, but for friendship, not romance.
Second, squishes are part of the aromantic terminology, one word amongst many used to describe an intense urge to bond that isn’t part of a romantic desire, which can be difficult for some people to comprehend.
Third, this will all sound like gobbledygook to someone who’s never heard of aromantic.
Aromantic is when you don’t feel romantic desire, Many consider it part of the LGBTQUIA+ umbrella, and consider that the A stands for Aromantic/Asexual, not “Ally”.
Finally (for this example!), LGBTQUIA+ is just one of the acronyms that is used to describe the gay rights movement. There is a long complex Wikipedia page about the alternative acronyms that have been in circulation.
That’s quite a trip.
And it is understandable that for some people, it leads to frustration.
This is because the litany of new vocabulary can be difficult to keep up with if you don’t use it. If you do use it, it’s frustrating because not everyone is keeping up with it.
When a baby feminist first discovers and identifies the concept of patriarchy, the fact that she never knew the word or concept before is mind blowing. It suddenly makes the whole world make more sense. It gives form to a vague uneasy feeling when you walk at night and are female, or enter a room with only men who don’t know you. It can be an illuminating experience.
But to the outsider, who doesn’t care to learn about the concept for their own reasons, it quickly becomes grating and cliched. Hence the stereotype about feminists blaming everything on the patriarchy. Hence the straw arguments about feminists blaming men for everything, as if they were synonymous. Hence further alienation for our baby feminist…
The same effect happens with socialist critique of capitalism. A wider understanding of the word (businesses, people being reimbursed for work and buying things with money) becomes conflated with a technical and political use of the word (a system in which ownership and rents are put above people and needs) to diminish the arguments of activists who speak out against capitalism.
Racism could be the most abused and poorly agreed on social theory term. Racism in activism is used to mean a hierarchal system of advantages and oppression of one ethnic group over other ethnic groups, which is currently the “white” ethnic group. Racism in the wider public is chronically misunderstood. It means “basic bigotry based on race” and is understood as “something which dark people are the main victims of”. This wider usage is not as connected as the social justice theory is. A concept of basic bigotry based on race doesn’t explain or legitimise why darker people are more often victims. This is why it gets seen as unfair, it is why people get accused of playing the “race card”, why people fight so adamantly that white people *must* be victims of “reverse” racism and also that the “reverse” part doesn’t make sense.
Privilege overlaps all of these. Privilege, meaning a comparative lack of certain systematic obstacles, gets understood to mean wealth, full-on bigotry, active oppression or greed.This is despite the fact the use and intent is about an absence of awareness of others obstacles, so to be “accused” of privilege is to be accused of ignorance, not wealth or cruelty. The wide use and misunderstanding is what led to it becoming so prevalent in Anti-SJ memes.
For there to be any sensible discussion, in any forum or place, about sensitive topics like race, sexuality and gender, first we must realise that we aren’t all speaking the same language.
Being fluent in justice-jargon can be fantastic when you are with others who speak it, but when you are around your mainstream parents? Not so effective. Your co-workers likely won’t speak it either. You will not be able to be better understood by wishing that others could use the words you do.
You use those words because you have conceptualised inequalities and oppression enough to use them.
For other people to use or understand them, they need to first of all see what you can see.
It will need plain language. It will not need text books or glossaries. It will need to be humble and inviting, not braggish and alienating, in order to make an effect.
Big concepts need small words, and small, slow introductions. In films, impassioned speeches work. Using technical language with fluency works. In films, people are baffled and impressed and won over with brilliance, but in reality, it often goes the other way. People are put off and feel alienated and ignorant. It is easy to direct that frustration at the dumb idealist kid who doesn’t know anything and their fancy made-up words. The words become a wedge between a SJW and their prospective audience, instead of the tool they were hoped to be.
The words have to come second to the concept. They have to grow naturally into people’s terminologies. You have to build up layer by layer. There’s no point starting five levels down at working what a squish is. By the time you reach ground level again you’ve lost your audience under a tonne of subjects they don’t know, and become confusing instead.
For example, a simple visual or graphic can sometimes be very effective and accessible. This one very simply illustrates the aromantic identity:
So now I’ve explained that the complexity comes from the subject matter, and the vast differences in the understanding of sociological concepts. The language causes friction and can exacerbate those differences if not carefully avoided.
Why not do away with confusing language all together?
That is the question I hope to be answering next week, so please stay tuned.
This post kind of got away from me today, but I guess I had some strong feelings about the terminology turf wars that people have been having for so long. This might become a vein I go deeper into in the next few weeks in general, if I can keep my attention focused enough. I hope this was useful. If any of the descriptions are wrong or misleading please let me know in the comments below as they were my own interpretations and I am subject to bias and human error. I’m enjoying writing more and really hoping to build up the content on this blog this year! Thank you for reading this far! See you next week!
This post was going to be about the permanence of pollution, and how the whole world is connected and finite.
I was going to use the story from Blue Planet 2 about the dead pilot whale calf, and how it awoke many’s consciousness about pollution.
However, if you watch that clip again, you might notice that this specific calf’s cause of death is not known. It is being used to illustrate the impact that plastics could be having on sea life.
Our ethics are led by our life experiences and our values. I’m a fan of transparency, science, and facts…up to a point.
Scientism is “the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society”. I only discovered it recently, but find it incredibly apt. This describes a willingness to leave the hardest questions to science. Questions about whether to be racist, sexist, homophobic, sizest… all can be “answered” by studies of whether there is truly differences.
These topics, like global pollution, are far bigger than facts. They are about morals.
The idea that these decisions could be made with “objective” numbers alone should be repulsive to ideals of fairness and equality.
I appreciate scientific backing for more responsible plastic practises, and human action to limit climate change and CO2 emissions, but it isn’t making my decision for me. In the same way, whether this calf died from plastic pollution isn’t making my decision for me, because these decisions are subjective and depend on human values.
Science can tell us that there is a rapid increase in toxic plastic in the ocean and harmful chemicals in the air, but it is up to us as individuals to decide that this problem matters to us, and that we want to take action about it. It takes courage to own a decision made on values. Values are internal, un-provable, subjective. They entirely clash with a scientific objective approach.
Yet when we look at a life with only rules, you get into the darkest most sticky areas of philosophy. If you could live inside a perfect experience machine, would you? If you could save the world by torturing someone, would you? If you could kill one person by taking action or kill 5 through inaction, would you?
Philosophy is a soft science and doesn’t claim to have all the answers, only the logistical tools to explore these questions and values. Some of the most interesting questions I think you can ask are outside of the realms of the thought experiment; who tied these people to these trolley tracks anyway?
Similarly, in real life, dillemmas are often presented in a two dimensional way. Do you care about the planet, or don’t you? Do you want a wind farm on your island, or don’t you? Are you the enemy, or are you not?
Our ethics are deeper than that, even when they appear not. Everyone has important caveats and exceptions and explanations to their beliefs, if you aren’t afraid to explore that with them. These differences are personal, diverse, and infinitely varied. No two vegans have the same views exactly, nor two feminists, nor conservatives, nor bigots. This is often exploited as “feminists don’t agree on anything” or “the right will eat itself”, but there’s so much more depth to explore than that.
Beneath the surface level debates, in the complexities and exceptions, there are often important values being held and decisions being made. We sum them up in simple words, but these words reflect a wealth of variety. These values are what we live by. Within these complex views, there’s more room for significant nuance.
I can support ending pollution (because it seems wrong and unfair for one species over just a century to cause unprecedented damage to the Earth) and yet not feel strongly about the science that supports it either way. Others might be only feel convinced by what scientific evidence is out there, and build their views based on that. Both of us will share the same goal, and have a depth of resolve to fix this.
There is value in both approaches, and plenty of space for manoeuvre together, because our values are far deeper than we think.
Further Reading: Doomsday Scenarios are as bad as Climate Change Denial: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/doomsday-scenarios-are-as-harmful-as-climate-change-denial/2017/07/12/880ed002-6714-11e7-a1d7-9a32c91c6f40_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fbd851b7ff44
In the last few weeks and months, Brexit has been unavoidable in the UK. The debate about who is right and how to go forward has raged on so long that for many people, it’s burned them out, yet still emotions are strong enough on both sides that it can’t be easily resolved.
It is ironic I think that the process of leaving a bureaucratic, often seemingly un-democratic, large and cumbersome member organisation has resulted in such a bureaucratic, debatably-democratic and cumbersome process in the UK parliament itself.
A common demand was to “take back control” and regain pride as a sovereign state, yet somehow it is more complicated than many expected.
There are treaties and agreements and political ties that are complicated and tiring to undo and seperate. Even as politicians talk of seperating from the union, they make plans to re-connect through new trade and labour agreements with the UK’s closest neighbours.
To someone who voted Remain this could easily appear farcical. In fact I find it depressingly predictable. There was never any “control” for the country to take back; that was a myth peddled by Euroskeptics with either a naive or wilfully ignorant understanding of how power works. Power works between people and groups. Power has limits, it can’t be bought, it isn’t simple. Control is about power, and in an inter-connected world, it simply can’t achieved on your own. There will always be other people, other parties, with interests different to your own.
It is immature and naive to think that other people’s power will disappear in favour of your own. It is a mistake to underestimate the interests of other people by prioritising your own.
The mistake has been echoed in the parliamentary process again and again; people will not vote with you and for you just because it is what you want or demand.
Everyone’s interests deserve to be heard. Everyone’s interests as far as possible should aim to be met. The only interest that will be impossible to please? Self-interest. It is an oxymoron. Any organisation that aims to be democratic could not legitimately succeed in supporting the concept of favouritism, or self-serving nationalism, because by definition, those goals deny other people’s importance, and undermine the democracy they uneasily stand on.
The only way for democracy to move forward is with everyone’s interests at the table. Anything less would be simple hypocracy, and the lowest form of “control”.
I’ve been growing as a person. I got my autism diagnosis, which I barely believed would actually happen until it did. I’ve been seeing a therapist, which I barely thought would be worth it until it was. I’ve been focusing on myself, which wasn’t worth it…until it was.
I want to unpack the question of the awkwardness around homelessness.
First, there is a legal definition of homeless, and a social/moral one.
The legal definition includes not having a permanent home or place of residence. Within homeless there’s a spectrum ranging from hotel to hostel to the street. Charities work at all levels; providing emergency hostels, soup kitchens at one end, and employment and legal advice on the other.
The archetypal awkward homelessness situation is specifically about a homeless person, on the street, asking for change. It is a very familiar situation to a lot of people.
People who have begged/panhandled for money routinely say how difficult and emotionally draining it is. Conversations tend to focus on the impact of giving cash; is it beneficial? Answers fall into two camps. The official line from most charities and from the police force is that cash is dangerous, exploitable, and doesn’t address the route of the problem.
If you care about mental health and suicide prevention; read this right now.
“It’s as though we’ve seen someone having a heart attack, but we start asking what they had for dinner the night before, or kicking ourselves for not offering them aspirin that morning.”
As both a suicide attempt and loss survivor, I need to climb up onto my soapbox for a minute.
Suicide attempts, from a “preventative” standpoint, are rarely, if ever, as easily prevented as calling a hotline or a loved one. “Reaching out” — while incredibly important — is not the be-all-end-all of preventative strategies.
Especially considering the fact that many of us have a history of asking for help, and not getting the care that we needed.
Unfortunately, Kika’s been having a few problems recently, coping with the hot weather – so Amit writes about his experiences below, and adds some tips for keeping your dog cool in the summer heat.
We can’t control the weather
As a Guide Dog owner, I know full well that the weather is one of those things that you cannot control and can really throw your routine out of the window. Extreme weather is challenging, whether it’s really hot or really cold, it will have an impact on your dog and how they work. But you can prepare for it.
In winter, there is the constant worry of grit getting in a dogs paws (the salt can burn them) and snow covering the ground means that a Guide Dog…