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Nothing New Under The Sun - Privilege Analogy #1: Entitlement In Action
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Privilege Analogy #1: Entitlement In Action
Let's say you're at a shindig of some sort - an office holiday party, a department function, the post-lecture refreshments, a gallery opening, a con, any place where there are a lot of other people, most of whom you don't know personally or well, and a lot of milling around.

In the course of this milling around, someone steps on your foot. Someone very much larger than you, wearing big, heavy shoes. And doesn't move off. You can't pull your foot out from under theirs. They're talking to other people and don't even notice through their thick soles and distraction, what they not only have done but are continuing to do.

You go "Ahem," and "Excuse me," and "Sorry, but you're standing on my foot," in a polite if urgent tone, but they can't hear you, partly because they're too tall, partly because of the party hubbub, and partly because they're not listening to you but instead the sound of their own voice and the appreciative remarks of their friends.

Your hands are full, so you cough louder, but it doesn't get any results. At this point, you can't even feel your toes any more. In desperation, you awkwardly shuffle your drink onto your plate and tap gently on their shoulder, but they don't notice it either. (Perhaps a couple of their friends have, though, and are discreetly trying to break into the monologue, but having no luck.)

Finally, in desperation, you raise your voice and shout "EXCUSE ME!" The foot-trapper turns their head to look over their shoulder, without moving their feet, and goes "What?!?" (Perhaps they brush their elbow against your arm, making your drink splash and scattering a cheese cube or three.)

"You're standing on my foot," you point out. "Can you get off it?"

"You're rude!" says the foot-squisher. "You shouldn't interrupt people in the middle of a conversation. Now I've lost my train of thought!" or maybe "It's rude to shout at people!" (Perhaps even, "Look what you did to my coat!")

And then they turn right back to the conversation they were having, without bothering to move.

When you point this out, again, they say smugly, "If you'd asked politely, I would have."

--I started working on this analogy* a while back, encountering an older post on the DAZ forums (reg req, but free & searchable) defending the use of the word "Oriental" as a neutral, purely-directional term even when applied to people who objected to it as loaded with lots of negative cultural baggage and on the wording for this post yesterday a.m. after having been involved IRL stuff (and staying far, FAR away from HP fandom because my copy of 7 is still waiting for me at the post office (I hope!)) and have been offline since then, with a brief jump-on yesterday evening to check my email and see if there were any emergencies. The analogy, and the next one, have been in the mental works for a couple weeks, since I tend to mull things over for a long time and formulate them slowly (except when I get on a tear and just fly nonstop off the cuff until I crash again.) The fact that it's coincidentally applicable (again!) is just proof of the need to have written it.

This analogy is based on several real-life incidents, btw. Some were as a small child, and some were as a small adult. The only thing changed is the ultimate refusal to move - the indignant and wounded tone of the foot-trapper when I finally gave up hoping they'd just step off, so I wouldn't have to endure the backlash from initiating a "selfish" confrontation, and got the nerve up to yank a sleeve hard enough or shout loud enough to be paid attention to, is something I remember all too well. ("You shouldn't have been standing right behind me!" "Why didn't you say something earlier?" "Yelling at grownups is rude!" - no matter my foot was bruised for many days thereafter.)


* To make the analogy quite complete, the bystanders should join in loud agreement as to how rude it was of you to shout, and how you should be the one apologizing, for having interrupted, for having splashed your drink on the speaker's outfit, &c &c ad infinitum ad nauseum.

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acaciaonnastik From: acaciaonnastik Date: July 31st, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear, more fandom race wank.

Have the people arguing that the meaning has changed seriously ever heard the word "miscegenation" used in a modern context? Because if I'd seen it anywhere in my life except a) historical discussions and b) neo-Nazi websites, I probably wouldn't want to smack them quite so much.
fledgist From: fledgist Date: August 1st, 2007 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I've never seen them used in any other contexts. People have been speaking of interracial marriage, mixed marriage and so on for a long time.

(I have occasionally come across 'half-breed' and 'half-caste' always uttered by the the kind of person who delights in being 'politically incorrect' because, after all, good sense, good manners, and understanding are all signs of inferiority.)
acaciaonnastik From: acaciaonnastik Date: August 1st, 2007 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Ah, thanks.

Always good to hear that one's experience is not a fluke.

Yeah. More fantasy-smackage attends those who complain about "PC"ness- wow, they're using language which doesn't actively reinforce my privilege? Shock, horror...

Wait, which one of us is being oversensitive, again?
fledgist From: fledgist Date: August 1st, 2007 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ah, thanks.

That is generally a good question.
megpie71 From: megpie71 Date: August 1st, 2007 05:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I ran across it once in a Blake's 7 slash story. (Please don't hit me!) In context it was talking about how unlikely the relationship between the two characters was from the point of view of the narrator, and the next comparison was with bestiality. I wasn't positive what it meant (mainly because it isn't something that comes up regularly in Australian discourse) but gathered from context that it wasn't necessarily desirable.
acaciaonnastik From: acaciaonnastik Date: August 1st, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Whyever would I hit you?

~hides big stick~

Huh. I am not familiar with Blake's 7... who were the characters involved?
megpie71 From: megpie71 Date: August 4th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Whyever would I hit you?

Blake and Avon. (Avon's the one on the left in the icon, Blake is the bloke on the right).
lyorn From: lyorn Date: August 1st, 2007 03:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hrmpf. I know what kink they mean, though considering the Potterverse, I'd have no idea what would fall under it (though I think I know what Mrs Black would have to say about that, but Remus/Sirius has been fanon for ages, so why bother?).

What would be a polite or reasonalbe word in the context? The only one I can think of is "interspecies".
acaciaonnastik From: acaciaonnastik Date: August 1st, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Or at least "interracial", if they wished to include divisions within humanity. Though I could see where mushing the two together might be offensive as well...
lyorn From: lyorn Date: August 1st, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
As in Harry Potter we often don't even know the skin colour of humans, "interracial" in the common sense would be a great "duh" in the Potterverse. And with Werewolves, Animagi, Veela, Giants, House-elves, Centaurs, Goblins, Ghosts and the giant Squid around, even species is doubtful and race solely in the eye of the beholder.

It's so common, I can't even see it as a writing challenge. Unless you demand the narrator is some stuck-up pureblood or something.
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: August 1st, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

What people tried to point out was

that the mods were lumping, frex, not just Fleur/Bill but even Kingsley/Tonks, in with Harry/goat - and that this meant that the community was equating the objecting fans' own family relationships with Harry/goat, and then telling them that there was nothing insulting about saying so.

And other people point out, in those links, that they could have used the word historically-correctly as referring to the attitudes of the Death Eaters and the laws they would enact if Voldemort won, regarding Wizard/Muggle relationships, even. But that wasn't the tack the com took, unfortunately.
acaciaonnastik From: acaciaonnastik Date: August 1st, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: What people tried to point out was

Ah. See, all I'd seen was the complaining about the word itself, but putting interracial pairings in the same category as humans/nonsentient animals? Ick.
fledgist From: fledgist Date: August 1st, 2007 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Some people manage to combine a complete lack of sensitivity to others with a general incapacity to be social, but then claim that those who they hurt are the offenders. Sometimes you feel the urge to educate such people with a two-by-four.

On the other hand, when I think of that I also think of my father's proverb 'Yu put a fool inna mortar an poun him, him come out same fool'.
megpie71 From: megpie71 Date: August 1st, 2007 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)
On the gripping hand, at least you've got rid of a lot of stress and aggressive feeling in the process. So that's *some* good come out of it, anyway. ;-)

(Context: I've spent about 7 years working tech support. My current allocation of the milk of human kindness is somewhat curdled.)
fledgist From: fledgist Date: August 1st, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps, but then you're the one who gets hauled into court.

Tech support must have some ups as well as downs.
megpie71 From: megpie71 Date: August 4th, 2007 12:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, the ups are there - I've done it for about six or seven years now, and it's not something I'd get tired of. But sometimes, the temptation to take whichever user is on the other end of the phone and just bang their head against a convenient hard surface until their brain starts working does tend to overwhelm one.
fledgist From: fledgist Date: August 4th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
From the other side of the line, there have been a few tech support people whom I have wanted to throttle, mainly because they insist on procedures I know won't work (Comcast is especially bad at this -- the problem was outside the house, in the ports to which we were connected -- and which only their techs could access -- but they insisted on our turning the modem off, rebooting, disconnecting and reconnecting cables; when you've gone through the same rigmarole on four or five occasions your temper frays).
violaswamp From: violaswamp Date: August 1st, 2007 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Sucks to be a child, doesn't it? I'm reminded of Margaret Atwood's quote about how people who wax nostalgic about childhood probably don't remember it too well.

And of course, we treat many adults in less-privileged groups as children--the same utter denial of rights and experiences, the same dismissal of thoughts and feelings.
voxwoman From: voxwoman Date: August 1st, 2007 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Had I not read your footnotes, I would have simply assumed you encountered my second husband at a recent 'con. (perhaps you did, anyway... was this person a redhead by chance?)
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: August 1st, 2007 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Oh dear!

I would have simply assumed you encountered my second husband at a recent 'con. (perhaps you did, anyway... was this person a redhead by chance?)

No, it was at academic and/or family functions - I got kind of dinged up at the con I went to, but that was just the harum-scarum of lots of people charging around carrying things.

But I will be wary for my feet of big redheaded guys at cons in the future, thx!
smurasaki From: smurasaki Date: August 1st, 2007 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I swear some people have enough arrogant stupidity for entire metro-areas. How can they not grasp that you do not stop being in the wrong because you dislike the way it was pointed out? -_- And as for the literal foot-trappers, I'd go with yelling "OW!!!" when they first step on your foot (which should embarrass them) or just whacking them with something. To hell with politeness. (I know it's usually not that easy in real life, but it'd sure be nice.)
From: skyshark Date: August 1st, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Side question. What's the problem with "Oriental?" Wiki says its use to describe individuals can be insulting, but not why, and if it's okay in other ways.

I have an uncle who's Chinese, and my cousins have a distinctly Asian cast to their faces. I always thought it was safe to say Oriental features when describing that, since they've all three inherited a very classic eye shape, straight black hair, and lovely skin. If it isn't, I'll ask them how they describe it, but I'd like some background before trying to ask. :D
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: August 1st, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, what I was told by an Asian SF fan about 10 years ago

is that it's got loads of cultural baggage, from the fact that it was always used linked with negatives like "cruelty" or "cunning" or "slyness" or "treachery" as if those things were somehow uniquely or exceptionally present in people of Asian descent.

Moreover, even where you take it as an "innocent" directional, it's still intrinsically an Othering term. It's the same as the problem with using "non-white" instead of "of color." It says: we are the center of the universe, you are not yourselves, you do not have any true identity, you only exist in relation to us.

It's kind of like how "hysterical" is an intrinsically-sexist term, even if you don't realize what it means and why it was created originally.

But I'll let my Asian readers take it from here, since I may have missed something.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 14th, 2007 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Not that I can speak for all API/A folk, but I've never liked it much because I've always thought of it in regards to inanimate objects, like rugs or furniture. And, you know, I'm not a piece of furniture.

I went through a period of time when I tried to reclaim it as "hey, 'oriental' is based on 'orient' which is cool because like they used to have themselves at the top of the map and let's use it subversively!" but I got over that pretty quickly.
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