This post contains swearing

So this is something of an addendumto yesterday’s post, and it’s written because every now and then I see people I really like get in trouble because they don’t yet grasp the realities of white male privilege until it’s too late. I had this conversation with a friend the last time this issue raised its head, but I don’t think I ever put it together as a complete post, so I figured I may as well have it handy. Be warned that I’m going to swear a lot. Be warned that you’re probably not going to like hearing it, especially because it flies in the face of the way we wish the internet could be.

Call it the two-word rule you need to wrap your head around before you launch into a discussion of feminsim online as a white male.

It goes a little something like this: Fuck civility.

I say this as someone who’s a fan of civility, who dislikes confrontation, and who comes pre-loaded with all the privilege that being a university educated white male delivers in contemporary Western culture. Lets face it, I can be an articulate and moderately well-read guy when I put my mind to it. My first response when confronted with an internet flame-war is to recoil in horror at the chaos and raw emotion on display. On 99% of topics, I’m all for calming down and having a civilized argument.

But for the purposes of talking about feminism, or racism, or any other kind of ism that exists as a barrier to equality in contemporary culture, fuck civility. The moment you insist on the civilized discussion of the issues you are a fucking arsehole who deserves everything you get, and I will come along and revel in the schadenfreude of watching people kick your virtual corpse to the curb. I will literally sit down at my computer with a large slice of cake and laugh at your fucking misfortune. The moment you call for civility, or close down the argument because it’s getting too heated, there’s pretty good odds you’ve lost. Why?

‘Cause the moment you bust that sort of phrase out, you are an arsehole whose part of the problem.

When you get right down to it, civility is a means of oppression. It’s a means of taking someone’s voice away because they don’t articulate on a particular level. Civility was the tool of the white male upper class, based on the assumptions of individual responsibility and rhetoric, and it was a way of demonizing those who didn’t meet the standards of eloquence and education that made one white, male, and upper class. Handily, they could do this because the White, Male and Upper Class had a death grip on those standards, which means the call for civilized discourse is one of the most fucking cowardly abuses of white male privilege that you can get.

“We’ll talk about this when you’re less hysterical,” is one of the classic put-downs of the angry female voice for a reason. It reinforces the cultural divide that male privilege is built on, whereupon men are the rational and educated and the concerns of women come from an emotional place that isn’t to be engaged with for it’s icky and unfounded in logic. The message here is simple – until you can talk about this like an educated and rational man, your voice and opinion isn’t really valid.

Fuck civility.

And for that matter, fuck your desire to debate things one on one. Fuck your rhetoric about people being unfair because they swarmed over your half-baked and ill-conceived arguments like rabid ants. Fuck the desire to argue things without the issue getting headed and devolving in a mob. Fuck your bullshit about wanting a rational discussion of the issues, because you don’t – you want to wield your privilege like a fucking club and feel superior to the “bullies” who embody all that traits once associated with the lumpenproletariat – the weight of numbers, the use of force over intellect, the collectivism that seems abhorrent in a culture that idealises the singular.

There’s nothing particular smart about decrying “group-think” and “massive mobs”, ’cause it’s really fucking easy to make the side with the superior numbers look like the bad guy in western culture.; We want to believe in the myth of the brilliant individual. We like the idea of the singular genius. And we like these myths because said “brilliant individuals” were often white, male, upper-class fuckers rather than the swarming masses of uneducated labor who actually got shit done. And it’s not like this shit is a new concept, it’s been kicking around since Marx put together the first communist manifesto, and if you can’t wrap your head around the concept it’s time to admit you don’t have a place in this discussion until you’ve done your fucking research and actually attempted to be half as “civil” and engaged in “intelligent discourse” as you’re claiming you’d like the discussion to be.

And honestly, we still get back to the same thought: fuck civility.

It isn’t exactly a secret why the holders of white male privilege fear groups. I mean, the privilege is the result of the myths inherited from educated upper class, and those fuckers got themselves beheaded in France when the uneducated masses got their shit together and stormed the Bastille. Complaining about group-think and bullying is largely just falling back into classist bullshit, trying to take away the one weapon the underclasses had as a means of confronting their oppressors – weight of numbers. Therefor, all your calls for civilized one-on-one discourse is just another means of asserting control.

Fuck civility.

And man, yeah, it’s tempting to bust the calls for rationalism out when people start threatening your privilege. It’s easy to be afraid of the large mob of angry people who appear. I say this as a man who has used civility as a club in the past. I’ve done it in arguments, I’ve done it in relationships, I’ve done in day-to-day life. And odds are I’m going to keep doing it, because I’m white and male and I have the luxury of doing so. I know exactly how fucking easy it is to use, exactly how bad you cab make someone feel, and exactly how good it can be to think of yourself as the rational one, the civilized one, the respectable one. In fact, right now I’m acutely aware of how good it feels, ’cause this post post is me doing exactly that. I spent years at university teaching undergraduate courses that touched on issues of race, gender and class. I argued this this sort of thing for a living, and I feel no real compunctions about busting out the clue-stick every now and then.

If you’re serious about engaging in the discussion, resist that urge to call for civility. If you’re not, you deserve the pounding your going to get.

Fuck civility. It has no place in these discussions.

If you’re seriously interested in having a debate, in proving yourself to be an intelligent being of the modern world, then learn to control your impulse to decry the emotional, the mob, the bullying, the inarticulate responses. Don’t dismiss anger, try to understand where it’s coming from. Try to hear the voice of the mob rather than reeling in horror at its presence. And, most importantly, try and resist the impulse to be all “let them eat cake”, ‘cause even though that was just propaganda during the French revolution, I’ve seen people be just that fucking stupid in arguments about feminism and the like.

Fuck civility. It doesn’t make you better than the people your arguing with, it just makes you a fuck-knuckle who refuses to accept that the world doesn’t just belong to the rational white male gentlemen anymore. ” Civilization” was one of those ideas old white fuckers used as an excuse to dominate the rest of th world.

There’s no simpler way to say it: Fuck civility. ‘Cause if you really want to be civilized about things and engage with the issues, you’d leave your club at the door before the discussion got started. If you’re not willing to do that, it’s time to step the fuck away and accept that you’re part of the problem. ‘Cause, more often than not, the discussion of feminism I see online are actually a) articulate, b) intelligent, and c) full of diverse opinions, at least until some fucker with the chip of privilege on his shoulder starts wading in and bullying people with the call for “civil” discussion.

  6 comments for “This post contains swearing

  1. 21/10/2010 at 11:41 PM

    Wow Peter, who'd have thought you had that much anger in you. Nice one.

    Speaking as someone that threatened to cut off certain parts of my hubbies anatomy if he ever said "I can't talk to you while you're crying", I can very definitely agree with your conclusions. Discounting the emotions severs so much of the real issue that it becomes a farce. Even if the anger seems misplaced and unwarranted; if it is there, it is warranted to them and needs to be included into the conversation. Emotion is one of the facts of the issue and leaving it out is totally irrational.

    Emotional Quotient – EQ, has been touted as the new management tool for many years, but it is still low on the totem pole. We need to move it up to the top. More has been done by the emotionally savy than the intelligent IQ's.

    What's in it for me – WIIFM, is an incredibly useful viewpoint in Marketing and Management and it should flow over into every part of our lives (ofcourse I am biased here as a marketer and manager). Walking a mile in someone else's shoes, the Golden Rule, and a range of others, all boil down to – be prepared to see it from the other person's point of view before making a judgement. Then your judgements are much more likely to be effective.

  2. 22/10/2010 at 12:20 AM

    Ants can't get rabies. Otherwise, I agree. 🙂

  3. 22/10/2010 at 9:05 PM

    Peter (and Karen too) – thanks.

    This has helped make things even clearer for me. I've learnt a lot over the past couple of years – about how in thinking that I didn't need to be a feminist because my life was just fine and no one was stopping me from what I was doing, I didn't see how the inequality didn't let me see what I could REALLY be doing.

    The whole thing about civility hit home – I've got a definite compass point within me that if I can't say something nice, or not get too emotional about it, then there's something wrong with me and I shouldn't say anything until I can. Be a nice girl, in otherwords.

    I need to say – fuck that. This is me, this is how I feel, live with it or leave.

    Thanks

  4. 22/10/2010 at 9:20 PM

    Peter, you are fucking awesome for saying this and even more fucking awesome for thinking it and believing it (and maybe that should be the other way around, but fuck it)

    I hate how grateful I feel when a guy gets it, and explains it with clarity, and I hate that there are many people in the world who will take more away from what you say than they would if someone who was not a white male was saying it, but me feeling that way does not make this any less awesome.

    *This* is what being a good ally looks like.

  5. 23/10/2010 at 6:17 AM

    I LOVE THIS POST.

    Sorry, it requires all caps. Not my fault. Really.

  6. Jessica
    25/10/2010 at 6:33 PM

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks, again.

    One of the best responses to a spot of feminist-bashing within White Male Privileged rationality was demonstrated at a cafeteria by a maori activist Donna Awatere (who had a breast fed baby at the time) . She whipped out a breast and sprayed him full in the face with breastmilk across the table. Surprisingly, he had nothing more to say after that.

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