All men Believe They Are Good
December 6, 2018 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Hannah Gadsby has had it with "good men" talking about bad men, especially in Hollywood. Previously, and on Fanfare. Via WaPo.
posted by Alensin (52 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
 
Having missed the other threads, I have to just say she is amazing and holy fuck, I’m glad she’s out there saying what need to be said. That she’s not mincing words and trying to make “good men” feel okay, cuz this is they’re fault too.

And she is so sharp.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:14 PM on December 6 [11 favorites]


I love this truth-telling woman. The hero we needed.
posted by vignettist at 8:37 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Nanette is astonishing. I've never seen anything like it before. It sounds like this is a similar moment. The hero we needed, indeed.
posted by hippybear at 8:50 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


Also, here is the full talk written about for this FPP. So you can see her doing it, rather than just reading about it.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 PM on December 6 [36 favorites]


hippybear: Thank you! I had seen the clips of the talk posted on Twitter but somehow didn't think to look for the whole thing. I was remiss.
posted by Alensin at 9:30 PM on December 6


That she’s not mincing words and trying to make “good men” feel okay, cuz this is they’re fault too.

It's broader than that, and I think the "they" in your response is part of what she is taking issue with. From the article:

“Everybody believes they are fundamentally good, and we all need to believe we are fundamentally good because believing you are fundamentally good is part of the human condition,” she said. “But if you have to believe someone else is bad in order to believe you are good, you are drawing a very dangerous line.”

It is their fault. And mine and, I would suspect, knowing SFA about you, yours, and everyone else's. Because we all redraw the line sometimes, sometimes for ourselves, sometimes for our our friends, sometimes for people who we just have a little bit of affinity with. Her point is that none of us can claim to be a good person all of the time and we need to look at our own shifting line drawing.

She has indeed taken a shot at the men that claim to be "good men", and taken the audience on that journey with her, which is a valid point to make though perhaps not the first time it's been done. But then she's whipped around and shown the audience themselves (us) in the mirror and asked if they are good people as well. And everyone thinks they are a good person. She breaks down us and them and leaves us with only them. She's is a master at this.



She's incredible and I'd love to have a cup of tea with her, as she lives about two suburbs away. Can't see why she should have to put up with a stranger's company though, to be honest.
posted by deadwax at 9:34 PM on December 6 [38 favorites]


Edmund Burke wrote "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

I don't understand. How can a man be good if he does nothing?
posted by MengerSponge at 9:41 PM on December 6 [18 favorites]


The discussion of "good men" made me think of this comment from the FPP about Laurie Penny's article on the cryptocurrency cruise. In particular: I also found that people will construct intricate architectures of fake oppression to persuade themselves that they’re still the good guys. A lot of today’s Nazis don’t know they’re Nazis, because they still think Nazis are comic-book villains from history, and they’re not alone.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:16 PM on December 6 [29 favorites]


And one wonders why more men don't advocate for the rights of women.

If you are a man and feel this level of criticism is too harsh for you to continue advocating for women to be treated as human beings, perhaps you should take a long, hard look at your motivations for advocating in the first place.
posted by Concordia at 1:09 AM on December 7 [89 favorites]


Watched the video, and encourage everyone to watch it.

My take-away is, "as a $majority_demographic, it's best to defer to the $minority_demographic's definition of the issue, since they are the ones with actual experience."

In practical terms, as a white male, I should begin by shutting the fuck up and listening to what other people are saying, so I actually understand the issue, and work within their framing.

She articulates it so well!
posted by mikelieman at 3:23 AM on December 7 [11 favorites]


Please correct me if I'm wrong; having watched the speech it appears to me that she is calling out peoples' desire to draw lines that are beneficial to themselves and their friends? Maybe let the minority draw the line?

I guess it's similar to the idea that you cannot tell another person what they should find offensive?
posted by trif at 3:26 AM on December 7 [7 favorites]


She has indeed taken a shot at the men that claim to be "good men", and taken the audience on that journey with her, which is a valid point to make though perhaps not the first time it's been done. But then she's whipped around and shown the audience themselves (us) in the mirror and asked if they are good people as well. And everyone thinks they are a good person. She breaks down us and them and leaves us with only them.

Replace "audience" with "congregation" and this is how the best sermons work.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:25 AM on December 7 [9 favorites]


It's very clever to demonstrate privilege without using the word privilege, which gets a lot of people's backs up. But that's exactly what being able to move the line is. I haven't watched the full video so maybe she uses that word at some point but it doesn't appear in the article. I'm super intrigued and will watch it as soon as I have a chance.
posted by wellred at 5:11 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


Well, not "all men" believe they are good (it only takes a single counterexample), but there is evidence that people *in general* believe they're moral and virtuous.
posted by phenylphenol at 5:40 AM on December 7


I wish there were more social acceptance of admitting that one is a bad/worthless person. I try to be moderately up-front with that fact about myself, and people frequently crawl up the walls over it. Oh nooooo don't say thaaaat! Everyone is a special flower! Your parents were "emotionally abusive" for calling out your worthlessness as a kid (making them be "bad" so I can be "good", bingo!).

I mean, we know it's OK to call Ted Cruz a swarm of cockroaches in a human suit, and it has nothing to do with his odious policies. We can just smell his wrongness.

Yet there's no socially acceptable route within the zero-sum, all-competition-all-the-time world of patriarchy to admit that you're just inherently trash. All those garbage dudes keep moving the line because what else do you do, admit that you don't deserve to live, and get labeled as mentally ill? Let me tell you, that does not help, because the stigma means that people won't take you seriously.

I don't mean to excuse their garbageness. But while "shut up forever" is good advice and the right thing to do, it's hard to execute in daily life. The only way to shut up forever is to take a vow of silence or die, and those are not supported by our culture right now.
posted by cage and aquarium at 5:44 AM on December 7 [7 favorites]


I think it's more complicated. No, I don't think I'm a "good" person. I have better days and worse. I *do* know enough about myself to see (some, not all; denial is something to always struggle against) "bad" parts that raise their slinky heads and sniff the breeze from time to time.

:shrug:

It's part of being a people, you deal. I like to think of it more like that "I contain multitudes" thing. Though parhaps not in the original sense of that remark. You learn how you "work" over a life, both the good and the bad parts. And hopefully you start noticing (and figuring out) those patterns.

After that, it's all about choices. And, hopefully, self-aware choices.
posted by aleph at 6:28 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


Not all men, lol.

But cage and aquarium, it's not shut up forever on every topic. It's shut up forever with your opinions on people with less power than you.
posted by wellred at 6:29 AM on December 7 [6 favorites]


My understanding is not that men can't be advocates, or that white people can't be advocates. It's mainly about realizing when your best act of advocacy is passing the microphone instead of taking up space sharing your thoughts on what another group needs. It about putting the voices of the people you claim to be advocating for at the forefront of what you share, if you're going to advocate direct people to the direct words of people in that situation, lift up their voices, amplify their videos, amplify their works and speeches, because people in that group are already talking but instead people are listening to the already privileged give a much more diluted or even wrong message about what the actual people you're advocating for really want.

As a self identified woman, I am DELIGHTED when people who identify as men stand up for women. Particular when they do that by reading and listening more to women's experiences and all the brilliant women theorists and activists who have been writing and creating to share their wisdom to an audience that would rather a man give their take. When John Oliver brings Anita Hill on his show and admits he is still learning- I am glad. We don't need John Oliver's take, we need Anita Hill's take. I am also glad that Jon Stewart stepped down and passed his platform. Anyone in a position of privilege, if they are in charge of describing how to make the changes, their bias and guilt and denial of guilt and acceptance of status quo and participation in that status quo is going to make them the worst deciders of what is or is not progress. All movements work better when they are intersectional and we all have positions of power that have misused or failed to see. We all have an opportunity to use our platform to lift up those who are not being listened to. We are all needed to help lift each other up. And we all have to grapple with the fact that we are the ones standing on someone's toes right this very minute and excusing it and making up reasons why it's ok and we can't change because SURELY that kind of change is too hard.


Surely backing off from profiting of sweatshop labor is too hard, I can't be held accountable for that, I have no choice. Surely backing off from destruction of indigenous lands that is happening to provide me with eh goods I buy daily is something I can't be held accountable. That kind of change is too hard. The people who own the companies are bad, but I'm not bad, because my line is drawn such that it's only company owners at fault. It's not my fault that my neighborhood or school is majority white so the fact that I don't do anything to fix it and continue to profit from that imbalance isn't my fault. I'm not bad. It's going too far to ask white people to actively engage in redistributing their personal power and access to resources that are damaging others. It's going to far to ask USians to actively engage in return native lands to those whose lands were stolen, lands which are legally still owned by many of the tribes or were never freely given. That's too far, because I deem it too far. I get to set the line at an occasional donation to some cause and whatever I deem fit is therefore where the line should be. If I can have a lovely Christmas meal and a bunch of people can't, can't even have access to a decent meal on any given day, it doesn't make me a bad person that I'm not working more to change this. Right?

It is true that having a line between bad and good people is often just used to let ourselves off the hook. I'm not saying holding people accountable for wrong doing isn't part of the changes we need to make, but holding up a mirror and realizing that we need to change- we need to radically change how we interact with our fellow humans, with the earth's resources, with how we profit from exploitation of each other and the earth, with how we step up, or avoid steping up. And the same excuses we give for why we haven't fixed all those things we haven't fixed in our behavior are frequently the exact same excuses people we label bad guys are using for their behaviors.

This is why I continually come back to harm reduction as a tool for behavior reform, when we focus on labelling people or even behaviors as bad baddy bad people behavior we get stuck in avoiding admitting we are doing something harmful or becoming so depressed we realize we are harmful and BAD that we just abandon efforts to change because we know change is a long uphill battle that waxes and wanes and we physically can't change everything at once even if we want to. Small incremental steps matter. Finding ways to have empathy for our shared humanity even when we mess up is also part of helping ourselves and others grow and change. It doesn't mean erasing accountability measures to protect the vulnerable, but if our goal is "destroy the bad people" rather than to protect the vulnerable and challenge those in power to change or pass their positions to those more worthy even if they don't want to- we are more likely to simply eat ourselves alive than to protect anyone. Who will be good enough to protect if the goal is a kind of perfection at intersectionally understanding any and every privilege you have and using it for good every step of the way? Who has done this? Of living without ever causing harm in a system that is dependent on causing harm? Even as a woman I bought into the bullshit told me about sexism at certain points of my life, and I'm still undoing that shit in my head. And that's something that would BENEFIT me to not believe. This is a challenge for all of us, it's just grosser when we see people avoiding challenging the status quo because they benefit from it. And it should be and I think it's good that at present the ideal includes being willing to look hard at behaviors that need to change. The way we really succeed at that is to make sure we hold up the mirror to ourselves along the way and not just point at the other and think we're done.
posted by xarnop at 6:31 AM on December 7 [28 favorites]


I think that's actually an extremely unhelpful way of looking at it, cage and aquarium. Because yeah, there's the occasionally Ted-Cruz-like dude whose wrongness is clear to anyone who has ever been within ten feet of him and most people who haven't. It's easy to spot him as a bad guy, because he seems off. But that's not true of every man who sexually harasses or assaults women, just as it's not true of every person who does racist or homophobic stuff or who behaves in a misogynistic way that has nothing to do with sex. Those people are often charming. They are often fun to be around, unless you're their current target. They can often point to instances when they treated women (or insert other marginalized group) with respect, and they often have friends who have witnessed them treating women (or insert other marginalized group) with respect. There are often women (or insert other marginalized groups) who have positive experiences with them. They are not self-evidently bad guys. And yet they can still do harm, and they still need to be held accountable for the harm they do.

I think this is closely related to Jay Smooth's point in his famous "How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist" video: this is not about who you are. Nobody knows what's in your heart. It's about what you did.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:38 AM on December 7 [13 favorites]


I wish there were more social acceptance of admitting that one is a bad/worthless person. I try to be moderately up-front with that fact about myself, and people frequently crawl up the walls over it. Oh nooooo don't say thaaaat! Everyone is a special flower! Your parents were "emotionally abusive" for calling out your worthlessness as a kid (making them be "bad" so I can be "good", bingo!).

You don't have to live your life this way, and it is not a virtuous thing to let your parents continue abusing you within your own head now that they don't do it firsthand. I don't even know you, and the way you consistently create these black-and-white false dichotomies to explain why you're a worthless person and don't deserve any of the things that could make you feel better makes me concerned for your safety and well-being.

It's not a shameful thing to be mentally ill, ever, but in your case, this is straight up an injury that your parents' abuse inflicted on you, as surely as if they had physically abused you so bad that they broke bones. You do have worth, and you do deserve better.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:10 AM on December 7 [18 favorites]


I look forward to the day when everyone, regardless of their color, sexual preferences or biological makeup, treats everyone else, and is treated, as an equal. A day of equal respect, of equal humanity and opportunity, of recognition that we all must follow the best path we can find in our relationships.

Because we're human, that's an ideal which may never be fully realized, but it's one to grow toward.

Thoughtful and genuine discussion leading in that direction is needed, and it has been and will be a long road. To the extent that any group of us is singled out for finger-pointing, or for blame, growth suffers. If the result of discussion is division, growth suffers. Let him that is without sin among you first cast the stone.
posted by Twang at 7:44 AM on December 7


Thoughtful and genuine discussion leading in that direction is needed, and it has been and will be a long road. To the extent that any group of us is singled out for finger-pointing, or for blame, growth suffers.

I'm not sure what this means?
posted by Think_Long at 7:49 AM on December 7 [3 favorites]


It's difficult. I definitely very much do not want the Jimmys of the world to stop calling out the bad behaviour of other men, even if they're not fully consistent and even if they sometimes fall prey to common emotional biases. Obviously, it would be bad if only men were allowed to define what constitutes bad behaviour towards women, but that's not my read of the current situation at all.

It's true that as a member of a privileged group it's always a good idea to step back and reflect on whether you're dominating a conversation that should be led by people who are more directly affected. However, that shouldn't mean stepping out of the conversation altogether. I very much do not want men to feel unwelcome or silenced in feminist spaces -- gender equality should be a common and uplifting cause for people of all genders. If that means some people get cookies who do not 100% deserve them, then that's fine. Cookies are not in short supply.

Anyhow, I'm reminded of this Slate Star Codex post on The Economic Perspective on Moral Standards. Each of us could always be doing more, but it's useful to set achievable standards for what it means to be a "good person". If the standard is unachievable, it ceases to be motivational. Personally, I think “makes room for marginalized voices to be heard and takes their expertise seriously” is a good and achievable standard.
posted by Kilter at 8:11 AM on December 7 [5 favorites]


“Guess what happens when only good men get to draw that line? This world,” Gadsby said. “A world full of good men who do very bad things and still believe in their heart of hearts that they are good men because they have not crossed the line. Because they moved the line for their own good. Women should be in control of that line, no question."

Hell yeah.
posted by agregoli at 8:17 AM on December 7 [8 favorites]


hey so thanks for that comment, cage & aquarium. you’re getting at some stuff that I’ve been wrestling with too, and I think maybe you’ve steered the conversation in a useful direction.

I think it’s important to draw a distinction between where one draws the line for oneself and where one draws the line for one’s friends. Because although we don’t have anything like total control over our actions, and although we don’t have a total lack of control over our friends’ actions, it’s nevertheless true that we have more decision-making power, day to day, over what sort of person we are than we do over what sort of people others are. What Gadsby is getting at when she talks about where we draw the line for our friends is that it’s a cop-out and a crime for us to make excuses for our friends when they’re being hideous; by doing so, we ourselves perform an act of badness.

By excusing badness, and thereby enabling the people who do bad, we introduce more badness into the world.

And I guess that’s why it’s not particularly good praxis or whatever to declare oneself bad. Because, well, in a sense when you do that you’re taking your eye off the ball. No one particularly cares if you are inherently good or bad. No, really, no one cares. And they’re right not to care; it doesn’t matter one bit whether deep down inside you’re a mustache-twirling villain or a cherubic saint or whatever. What matters is the set of actions you take in the world. do you make others suffer unnecessarily? do you help ease the suffering of others? Do you affirm the humanity of the people you interact with in your day to day, or do you deny their humanity? Do you make the world better, or do you make the world worse?

And here’s the deal: regardless of whether you are (and regardless of whether I am) fundamentally good or fundamentally evil, does identifying oneself as fundamentally evil help one do good in the world? It may be absolutely positively true that although the line between good and evil slices through us all, your portion of evil is greater than your portion of good. And it may nevertheless be likewise true that identifying yourself as evil is a bad idea.

In a sense, identifying oneself as bad — even when you’re really honestly bad! — can be a line-shifting copout just as much as identifying your friends as good can be a line-shifting copout. Because identifying oneself as bad can become an excuse, a sort of comfortable couch to lay on. It is a way to deny that what matters is less what you are and more what you do.

It may be the case that you know you must avoid certain situations because you cannot realistically trust yourself to act decently in then — you know that if you find yourself in those situations, you will hurt others. It is perfectly fine for you to be honest about that limitation, that constraint on your capacity to do good. But that does not spare you from the obligation to nonetheless strive to ease the suffering of others. Because, well, this planet, this crappy world we’re on, is a goddamned veil of tears, and the only way life here can be worth living is if we strive to make it suck less.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:27 AM on December 7 [15 favorites]


My only disagreement with the many wise insights in this conversation is the usefulness of using the "good [person]/bad [person]" dichotomy at all. Of what benefit is judging and labeling anyone once, for all time, and/or entirely as "good" or "bad"? No one should draw a line and say "you belong over here, and you belong over there." Better to say "this behavior is bad, so don't engage in it; that behavior is good, so I encourage you to do more of it." Hate the sin, not the sinner. I contain multitudes. Etc.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:31 AM on December 7 [7 favorites]


I wish there were more social acceptance of admitting that one is a bad/worthless person.

Bad-old-days Christianity had a knack for that. I was raised to believe that I was a sinner in need of repentance, just like everybody else. I'm frankly astonished to see statistical evidence that most people believe themselves to be morally good. Here I've been assuming that others are more humble than I am.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:33 AM on December 7 [5 favorites]


The entire point of this is men saying, "What I/he did is not that bad, therefore, we are good." The usefulness of those words good and bad aside, can we engage with the actual world here? The point IS that people make those distinctions about their behavior, and yes, it's entirely useless, especially when men are moving the line to include themselves on the right side of it.
posted by agregoli at 8:34 AM on December 7 [7 favorites]


"I look forward to the day when everyone, regardless of their color, sexual preferences or biological makeup, treats everyone else, and is treated, as an equal. A day of equal respect, of equal humanity and opportunity, of recognition that we all must follow the best path we can find in our relationships."

I'm not sure of this. You speak as if it is ignorance of the way people should see it. Or as opinion that can be changed. I think there is a *lot* of that that can be done but I worry more is needed.

I worry that (an unknown, but large proportion) people do much of that not from simple ignorance but from "simplifications" they make on the World/Reality. I worry that Racism and other *isms are fueled by builtin people limitations. Though I think most people choose a lot of their simplifications.

I think we'll have to draw some lines in the sand that say "no, no matter what you feel about it, this far and no farther" in distressingly too many cases. We'll have to work for those agreements.
posted by aleph at 8:37 AM on December 7


I agree with you, agrgoli. Beyond that, though, I am asking the (yes, probably naive) question if we might get more [people] to see and then admit their mistakes - yes yes yes, as defined by the wronged, not by them - if they didn't feel it would be a totalizing admission.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:39 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


I really don't think men that do this can be helped in that way, they are oblivious that they made any mistakes at all. They are moving the line so they don't have to admit fault. Because they are "good guys," see?
posted by agregoli at 8:42 AM on December 7


(And what would that look like, we should go easy on the dudes that admit harassing women so that more will admit it? Again, of dubious value.)
posted by agregoli at 8:43 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


This comment below the Washington Post article struck me from among the dross, because this is the reflective inner work I'd hope we all could do when confronted with our privileges, especially when they're used against others in selfish and predatory ways:
Her work tastes very similar to Ta Nehisi Coates. With both I find myself getting defensive. This is how I deal with it. I listen carefully to what they are trying to say, then I form arguments in my head to either counter them or why they don't apply to me. Then I ask myself why these arguments feel so legitimate to me and if they are just smoke screens to keep up my feeling of superiority/ worthiness. Its very, very uncomfortable. I've discovered though that, at the root of my discomfort, is this sense that I have a huge debt out there, silently accruing interest, and if it ever comes due, I'll never be able to pay it off.

Perhaps, that's the truth many of us fear. Accountability. The revelation that the status one has isn't earned but inherited from ancestors who also didn't earn it but rather stole it by force. Maybe what most triggers a person's defensiveness is having the machine behind our hierarchy ripped open and exposed as a fraud.
posted by droplet at 9:04 AM on December 7 [53 favorites]


Bad-old-days Christianity had a knack for that. I was raised to believe that I was a sinner in need of repentance, just like everybody else.

That's vaguely-respectable Christianity. Evangelicals basically function as if, having accepted God once, they are good people forever and ever. Repentance is for other people. (They were fine with Trump saying out loud that he'd never repented for anything.) Nothing like the iterative process you see in Catholicism, Anglicanism, etc.

As a general rule, I try to avoid the good/bad person dichotomy, because then your morality becomes a matter of identity rather than actions, and that really ups the pressure to rationalize your bad behavior in some manner. (Or, on the contrary, when you think you're a fundamentally bad person, you can sink into despair.) But it's a general rule. Sometimes it breaks down.

When I catch myself being very defensive while listening to a member to a marginalized group, I take it as an indication that they're hitting something sensitive and important and I try to throttle it back. Again, don't always succeed. And sometimes I end up not agreeing anyways--but it's definitely a cue to hold my tongue a little longer and listen harder.
posted by praemunire at 9:13 AM on December 7 [10 favorites]


I think there is a difference between how people are using "good person/bad person" here and how Gadsby talks about "good men/bad men". I think that difference comes from the power of the patriarchy. And I think arguing about the definition of "good person/bad person" is letting men get away from thinking about their complicity in the patriarchy. Fundamentally, her writing is talking about drawing a line between good men and bad men in how you (mis)treat women.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:24 AM on December 7 [7 favorites]


Yet there's no socially acceptable route within the zero-sum, all-competition-all-the-time world of patriarchy to admit that you're just inherently trash.

The overwhelming majority of my experience with people who state that they are "just inherently trash" is that they use it as an excuse to absolve themselves of any responsibility to ever try to be better. A belief that everything you do is bad is absolutely just as unhelpful as a belief that everything you do is good, when the goal should be to continuously work towards self-improvement.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:55 AM on December 7 [18 favorites]


I mean, we know it's OK to call Ted Cruz a swarm of cockroaches in a human suit, and it has nothing to do with his odious policies. We can just smell his wrongness.

wait, what?? no!! you have this completely backwards! the only thing that makes the dehumanizing jokes about Ted Cruz even sort of okay is that his policies are the absolute fucking worst, and even then, I know I'm being kind of a dick when I make skinsuit jokes about him.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:08 AM on December 7 [24 favorites]


These are apparently good men who simply misread the rules. Garden variety consent dyslexics. They have the rule book, but they just skimmed it, you know?"

Gods this. I want a sea-change HERE. The men who are not terrible people, but they can only be bothered to listen up to a certain amount. There's a corollary to the above of "Look I tried but I can't keep up with these new rules about what to call people or what's supposedly offensive these days. I can't win. Fuckit."

And then they do "their best" but that means only what's convenient.
posted by desuetude at 10:52 AM on December 7 [28 favorites]


I think turning this into an exercise in global self-evaluation is actually one of the problems. If you need to resolve whether or not you're a good person, it tempts you to either try to find ways to excuse bad behavior or to despair and self-flagellate and retreat. Either way, being stuck on this question takes you further into your own mind and away from actually thinking about what needs to be done and then doing it. I read Gadsby as saying that drawing this type of difference between "bad" and "good" men is mostly useful just for the egos of the men involved, is harmful to society, and distracts from the actual project of fighting misogyny, racism, etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:28 AM on December 7 [24 favorites]


Don't be good, just do good.

It feels like such a corny thing to say but people get their priorities in this regard wrong a lot.
posted by atoxyl at 2:15 PM on December 7 [7 favorites]


I believe that everything I am is bad.... what you ARE matters a lot. That's what unpacking privilege is about

This... this is most assuredly not what unpacking privilege is about. It's not about treating gender or race as a form of Original Sin. And when we imply or assert that it is, we make it that much harder to undo societal wrongs, frankly, since most humans don't function terribly well with this set of beliefs to motivate them. I don't think anyone here is equipped to argue you personally out of this idea, cage and aquarium, but really, this belief set hurts you and helps no one. Your suffering doesn't improve anyone else's lives. Trying to find ways to mentally oppress yourself does not reduce the oppression that others experience.
posted by halation at 2:48 PM on December 7 [23 favorites]


I actually like to think of things such as sexism and racism as a kind of Original Sin. It's not something *you* did, it's something you were born into and should try to deal with as best you can.
posted by uosuaq at 2:53 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


I actually like to think of things such as sexism and racism as a kind of Original Sin. It's not something *you* did, it's something you were born into and should try to deal with as best you can.

Yes, and the article is asking you to deal with it by thinking about which behaviors you condemn in "bad men" and which behaviors you consider can't be true misogyny because they are things done by "good men" and how you draw those lines differently depending on where you are and who is in the room and who might hear about it.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:08 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


I’ve never thought to compare privilege to the concept of original sin, but it rings very true for me as a white Canadian. I remember as a kid, hearing about the way settlers took the land from the First Nations, and feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the wrong committed. To steal a whole country?! And that my entire life and community was predicated on this. For me, there is an irresistible urge to look away and forget, it’s too much.
One strategy with redrawing that line is to put us all on one side. we’re all sinners, we (that is, me and other straight, cis, white men) are all guilty, and that’s that. And we can ignore guilt in a personal level.
Though I didn’t take the land or the apple, there are day to day fuckups where I propagate racism, colonialism, and misogyny passively or actively. I have so much to work on, and to focus on systemic wrongs to the exclusion of personal, (good man?) wrongs is a cop-out.
posted by LRAD_der at 5:30 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


[Deleted a couple that were derailing into one poster's personal issues.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:30 PM on December 7


Oh... is that what original sin is about? I'd never understood it but this parallel makes sense to me.
posted by pompomtom at 4:01 AM on December 8


The problems with original sin as a belief framework parallel those we see with the [X Demographic]-are-trash-who-cannot-be-redeemed framework, in that it's inherently unsustainable and not particularly motivating. Even if it doesn't become an excuse, it motivates people to withdraw into a shell of self-loathing, not to work with others, and is a surefire way to confuse and alienate people who don't already have sufficient levels of self-loathing from other sources. More self-loathing is not really the change I want to see in the world, personally.

And to clarify, calling it "not particularly motivating" is not the same as advocating for Ally Cookies And Headpats for any tiny action (or just a lack of actively harmful behaviour) -- but, come on, "nothing I can possibly do will ever make my existing in this world a net positive, or even neutral, and I am an inherently bad person forever" is the worst possible formula for personal or social change.
posted by halation at 9:29 AM on December 8 [5 favorites]


Don't be good, just do good.

It feels like such a corny thing to say but people get their priorities in this regard wrong a lot.


years ago, I can't remember the specific situation, a younger friend made some career related decision that clearly went against their stated values, then turned to me and said, "Don't worry. I promise to feel guilty about it."

It was said in self-deprecating ironic jest, of course, so I probably smiled along. But it was one of those moments that cut right through for me -- such a clear illustration of how things go horribly wrong. A "good" person making a consciously "bad" choice. Except of course, you're not good if you make the choice, are you? What you are is somebody who knows better choosing an easier, more personally profitable road. There is nothing good about that.
posted by philip-random at 9:32 AM on December 8 [5 favorites]


I actually like to think of things such as sexism and racism as a kind of Original Sin. It's not something *you* did, it's something you were born into and should try to deal with as best you can.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God: Romans 3:23.

I think about this a lot in terms of social justice, and not mockingly, either. There is no way to reject some complicity in oppression. Christianity offered forgiveness through the blood of the Lord. Social justice requires something harder and more complicated, but it offers the promise of something real in our lifetime.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:45 AM on December 8


Oh... is that what original sin is about?

as an old liberal Christian friend once put it. Maybe we are all born perfectly innocent, but the world immediately gets busy taking care of that. It starts with our family, our parents, the ingrained stuff that they can't help but pass on, various prejudices, unconscious or otherwise, and then it all just grows from there. So if you're born rich, then yeah those privileges are immediately shaping you, the various past crimes that allowed those riches to accrue are marking you -- and all before you're even conscious that you are being formed.

The thing is to become conscious of all this, it can be done, and in time, when you have autonomy, to act accordingly. Does this mean that your postal code determines that you must be a horrible person and thus you must sever all ties with everything and everyone that formed you? No. Just don't get in the way of societal and/or political attempts to rectify past evils. Of course, you're not a vile racist just because your great granddaddy owned slaves. But you start to be if you refuse changes that may threaten your personal wealth, power, privilege
posted by philip-random at 9:47 AM on December 8 [7 favorites]


Yes, this. *And* the fact that we have builtin "original sin" by the builtin biases of how our brains and senses work. I do believe Racism (and others) has some builtin "hardware" support in people's brains.

Which we are slowly overcoming by the same process of "become conscious of all this". Of course, some of us more than others. And others are convinced, for one reason or another, that this whole process is a bad thing.

Given all that, it's a wonder sometimes that we have made it as far as we have.
posted by aleph at 6:02 AM on December 9


Edmund Burke wrote "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

I don't understand. How can a man be good if he does nothing?

posted by MengerSponge at 9:41 PM on December 6 [16 favorites +] Favorite removed! [!]


Not so much a statement of fact as an exhortation. He was saying you're not good if you do nothing, so do something in the face of evil.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:43 AM on December 9 [1 favorite]


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