be kind, not nice: how niceness marginalizes oppressed people and protects oppressors

This weekend, I had an experience with a dude that reminded me how much women are expected to be nice to strange men who give us no particular reason to be nice. On a hot night at a rooftop bar in Minneapolis that serves $3 vodka rail drinks (uh oh), I am sitting with four women friends when a stranger comes up to our table and starts making conversation. It is pretty clear that he is there to flirt with literally any one of us who will take him. Unfortunately, he is not especially interesting. He says nothing of importance. The onus is on us to keep the conversation moving along, and so we tease him about being boring. He calls us mean as a joke. I’m sure you can imagine how stupid the conversation is. One of my friends, who happens to be sitting across the table from the man and thus is ill-positioned to hear him in a loud bar, starts looking at her phone and talking to our friend who is sitting next to her. The man seemingly can’t take this, even though three other women are humoring his attempts at conversation politely. He says she’s being mean. He says she could just be nice. I tell him, as gently as I can, that what he’s saying is sexist and that she owes him nothing: not time, not attention, not laughter, and not conversation. He tells me I’m crazy, that he’s being nice and he just thinks someone should be nice, and that’s sexist?! In a perfect moment, another friend happens to arrive at the bar right as he’s saying this. She asks, don’t you have friends you can hang out with? He says yes. She says, then go hang out with them. The high of watching him angrily leave because he has been told to go is almost worth the low of having to listen to him talk for half an hour.

I know many other women have experienced nearly identical scenarios, perhaps with less happy endings. I also know that the expectation of niceness is put on other marginalized groups too: people of color and people with disabilities, especially. And it’s definitely required that marginalized people are nice when talking about their own oppression; being anything but nice is, in and of itself, grounds for complete and total disregard.  Continue reading be kind, not nice: how niceness marginalizes oppressed people and protects oppressors

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fuck a fake leftist

Thanks to Cosmo’s prolific readership, many of us may have already read at least one analysis of the two progressive white men who recently commented on the politics of abortion and reproductive justice, arguing that, to win elections, Democrats should back off on abortion to appeal to segments of the population that typically vote Republican. One of these men was a professor of theology* at Boston College (and is from Ireland, a notoriously anti-abortion nation); the other was Bernie Sanders (who is from America, also a notoriously anti-abortion nation) (LOL!).

But these are just a couple of misguided left wing white guys! It doesn’t mean there’s a deeper problem.

Sike!!!! Racism and sexism have been problems in leftist movements led by white men since modern leftist movements have existed.  Leftist movements were supposed to be spaces that were supposed to be more progressive than the “real world.” Unfortunately, it turned out to be impossible to leave the real world behind, especially when the power structures of that world were recreated within the movements, with white men leading and expecting people of color and women to do caring labor without credit. Identity politics were created in response to the oppression that existed within those movements.
Continue reading fuck a fake leftist

review: “get out” and the myth of interracial liberation

Nobody needs me to write about how great Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is (it’s been done, better than I could have). But holy shit, it is incredible on every level. Powerful and nuanced political messages, well-developed characters, an exciting and emotional narrative, just the right number of jump scares, gut-twisting suspense. It’s got everything. Go see it.

Beyond the obvious merits of the film, one thing that I loved was its pretty clear assertion that interracial relationships (and, implicitly, interracial mating and babies) cannot be counted upon to liberate anyone.  I think it is becoming increasingly clear that putting all hopes for an anti-racist future in interracial coupling and multiracial babies will assuredly lead to failure, but it is still a pervasive myth that having interracial relationships and giving birth to multiracial children are, in themselves, anti-racist actions.  Rates of interracial marriage are often used as a proxy for racial progress (always focused on white interracial marriage); the beauty of multiracial babies is touted as some sort of hallmark of both physical and social evolution. Continue reading review: “get out” and the myth of interracial liberation

on the importance of names and jimmy kimmel’s sweet embrace of white supremacy

I can’t count the number of times people have mispronounced my last name. (Hiyama. Hee-YAH-muh.) I’m shocked if someone says it correctly the first time. My 93-year old grandpa has pronounced it wrong on purpose for a lot of his life so he doesn’t have to constantly correct people.  It’s really not hard to say once you know how to say it, and people generally get with the program quickly, but there is still something that feels crappy about having to explain myself and how I came to be whenever my last name comes up.

Our names beget our personhood and confirm our existence.  To have a name that is consistently fucked up by other people is to always feel like you’re abnormal, other, less. You feel simultaneously conspicuous and invisible. Everyone notices the difference, but nobody sees beyond it. In the United States, family names are important, but as an unapologetically individualistic nation, our first names are even more essential to our being. So as much as I identify with that experience of people mispronouncing my last name, it is a wholly different experience to not only have people mispronounce your first name but also to make fun of it.  And while anyone can have a name that is tricky to pronounce by American English standards, names are racialized and the mockery is certainly a racialized experience. Continue reading on the importance of names and jimmy kimmel’s sweet embrace of white supremacy

resolving tensions between animal rights and human-focused social justice movements

I had a phone call with my mom the other day, and she told me she had listened to a podcast that talked about the animal rights framework and the animal welfare framework.  She said that she isn’t really on board with animal rights, if by animal rights, we mean that animals and humans are entitled to the same rights and that we should not legally or morally distinguish between animals and humans.  She wants to prioritize humans; she thinks that because we have so many problems with each other already that need to be addressed, why add a whole other axis of oppression to fight?  Continue reading resolving tensions between animal rights and human-focused social justice movements

what white people gain from racial justice

Though it is still a relatively new area of thinking, there are now many books, articles, thinkpieces, and movies about the toxicity of masculinity and the fact that men- in addition to cis women and trans and gender nonconforming folks- are also negatively impacted by sexism and misogyny.  Though I wish people with privilege were ready to commit to movements for social justice that don’t address them, it is an extremely important and powerful message that puts the responsibility for emotional, psychological, and intellectual healing from sexism on everyone, regardless of gender.  Men, in addition to those marginalized by gender, have to negotiate the harm that has been done to them by sexism, and then together, no longer victims, we will move forward into a new, better era (we hope). Continue reading what white people gain from racial justice