Before I even begin to address his actual argument, let’s look at some of the things he accused me of when I was making fun of him.
“You know this how? Because I disagreed with your logically flawed argument? Because I did not resort to petty emotions and butthurt?
These are not tears of sadness being wept, these are tears of blood being wept in disgust and loathing at your utter lack of intelligence.
Okay, so, funnily enough, when I replied to this with “yes”, I didn’t literally mean that he was literally correct. What I was doing, as was obvious to all the readers with half a brain, was asserting that the form of his argument was suggestive of someone coming into the argument with a particular perspective.
“How do you know I’m [white/male/whatever]” is a common tactic from people in this sort of argument. The goal is to deny the validity of their opposition’s subjectivity, that is: to undermine a minority’s description of their own life circumstances as evidence by saying that their own opinions and circumstances could arise just as easily for a person of that sort of background. This sort of argument overlooks the very real fact that people of different social and cultural backgrounds necessarily have different perspectives. This isn’t a controversial, SJW stuff. This is pretty much universally accepted in every field that deals with textual analysis (sociology, history, literary studies, etc, etc).
The sad fact is that when people express the sorts of opinions that white men typically make (and yes, there are, in a very broad sense, typologies of arguments that are more common among white men than other demographic groups) and people mention that these opinions are typical of that social class of people, a white man will tend to go “how do you know I’m a white man?” rather than just saying “I’m not a white man”. This is what we call a “safe bet”. The latter assertion would be more difficult to defend: the guy in question doesn’t have the lived experience to present a realistic portrayal of the minority’s experiences, but merely generating doubt as to his identity works just as well for his rhetorical purposes.
I’m obviously not claiming that only white men can use logic. If we’re sticking to our example of glacialthaumaturge as the archetypical white man, that would be kind of a logical stretch.
Okay now let’s address his original post. Because why not?
Okay so GT is arguing that this graph is sexist and racist against people who are just trying to treat minorities equally. The most important thing to set out here at the beginning is that there’s more than one kind of racism and sexism, and that’s kind of what the infographic was trying to explain. On the one hand, there’s personal racism and sexism. This is how mainstream discourse likes to paint these problems. They’re a function of individuals discriminating against other individuals. But you’re a good person, right? You do not, personally, discriminate. You see everyone as equals. Good for you!
The problem is that society is more than a sum of individuals. Society is a system of interlocking institutions. And a society can be institutionally racist or sexist even when a lot of the individual people involves are not. How can that be? Well, a lot of words have been written on this subject, but to express it simply: people in a dominant position in society directly benefit from that dominant position, and will generally act in a self-interested way to preserve it, even if they’re not aware of their position.
Think about this example. You enjoy cheap clothes, and consumer electronics right? Of course, you’re a cool teen. But those cheap consumer goods are the product of third world sweatshops in most cases. That’s what keeps the price low: the companies that produce these products are able to pay an extremely low wage, and the low cost of production is reflected in the final price of the product. I don’t want to get into the ways that first world nations act to keep the third world poor right now, it’s enough to realise that if the third world nations were NOT poor, and their workforces could command higher wages, stuff wouldn’t be as cheap. This is a direct example of how oppression benefits a dominant social institution.
Well within the first world, there are a lot of ways that ethnic minorities and women having a harder time benefits white people and men. White people often raise a stink about affirmative action for universities, for example. But think for a second about why they’re complaining. Without affirmative action, the overwhelming majority of college students are white. White people tend to be more economically advantaged in our societies than ethnic minorities, and so two things happen: white people can afford to go to college at higher rates than ethnic minorities, and middle class parents (most of whom are white) can provide more resources to their high school aged kids so that they can get good grades and qualify for better colleges.
But still people complain. They say that it isn’t fair, that people should be allowed to succeed or fail on their own merits. But since there clearly ISN’T an even playing field, this has worrying implications. Are they suggesting that ethnic minorities are inherently less capable, or that their culture is anti-education? Probably most would like to say no, because both of those things are pretty fucking racist. So where does that leave us, in terms of an explanation for this behaviour? Well, there’s self-interest! It benefits white people individually if universities institutionally favour them. They are directly benefiting from the oppression of ethnic minorities here.
And this is just one example. There are hundreds. Implying that people who have a worse time in our society are seeking revenge for their ancestors when they’re still not equal now is disingenuous. The anti-racist and feminist programs seek broad social change because they recognize that change can’t happen on the level of individuals. Because institutions don’t have a human face. They can persist despite the best intentions of the people involved. And if you’re white, or male, or straight, or whatever, you benefit from these systems of power whether you want to or not. There is no way to opt out, just be being a good person.
That’s what the infographic is trying to explain. When a woman says “I hate men”, she isn’t stereotyping men in the same way that men stereotype her when they say, “I hate women”. When men do that they are making her into an other, reducing her to just “woman” and denying her humanity. When a woman does it to a man, she doesn’t have that power. She can try, but it doesn’t matter. Feelings are hurt, but no one loses their job, or gets raped, or any number of other MATERIAL consequences, consequences that can easily arise when men hate women.
“I hate men”, “I hate white people”, these are acts of protest. They are an expression of frustration at a system of power that renders them powerless. They are not an act of revenge, and they are not an attempt to become superior. They literally cannot be this.