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Member since: Sat Sep 15, 2012, 01:49 PM
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Can we review what is acceptable speech on DU?

I feel the need for a list. My recollection of things that we are told we cannot discuss: privilege, racism by anyone except Republicans, rape, violence against women, any issue concerning women's rights other than abortion. We aren't allowed to make any reference to white people, even when speaking about a Republican like Bill Bennett, because that makes some other white people upset. Talking about racism and sexism "divides" Democrats so it is explicitly forbidden. We can't mention MRAs because some have decided that somehow applies to all men, though I'm thinking a lot of men don't see it that way. Still the righteous indignation about making misogynists look bad ensues.

What is righteous speech that must be protected at all costs: racist, homophobic, and sexist and/or misogynistic slurs, as specified in vivid detail in another thread. Basically the most vulgar insults against anyone who isn't white male or elderly are not only acceptable, expressing them is central to liberalism. Whereas those members who suggest that those segments of society deserve respect equal to the minority white male population are just like conservatives--because we all know how much respect conservatives have for LGBT, people of color, and women. And of course insulting segments of the population based on how they are born doesn't divide Democrats. That division only occurs when feminists and people of color are allowed to speak about issues that they erroneously believe matter.

Oh, and it's not okay to suggest that someone exercise restraint and avoid bigoted slurs because it amounts to censorship, but censoring that opinion about restraint is not only acceptable, it is essential to democracy. In fact, the Republic cannot stand if people are confronted with opinions with which they disagree.

I'm sure I'm forgetting others. Please fill me in so I can conduct myself accordingly in the future. I'm told that freedom of speech requires that certain disagreements never be uttered. I hate to say the wrong thing and ruin our constitution and democracy itself.

Louis CK on black and white in America

This encapsulates a lot of what we've been talking about lately on DU, only he does it with humor. Enjoy!

The Value of Diversity

Diversity is something that has been valued by the Democratic Party and educated liberals for decades now. Democrats depend upon a diverse electorate to win office since the party's base is primarily women and people of color. In higher education and in business, it is widely understood that diversity is a benefit. People from a variety of backgrounds--whether race, gender, sexual orientation, class, region, or nationality--enhance intellectual exchange, promote greater creativity and increase business competitiveness.

But what does diversity mean? For much of the twentieth century, it meant allowing the presence of people of color and women as long as they did not act or speak in ways that diverged from the dominant culture. People thought black folk were okay (beginning in the 1960s) if they didn't seem "too black." Hispanic folk were okay if they left their "cultural baggage" and language at home. The image of the Melting Pot exemplifies this notion of America. Immigrants from around the world could melt into a single, homogenized Anglo-American culture. Henry Ford used to hold plays for his factory workers, where they would enter the stage dressed in immigrant garb, walk into the melting pot, only to emerge transformed into a "regular" American, indistinguishable from the dominant cultural idea of what it mean to look, dress, and speak American.

Historical image of the Melting Pot, with an Irish man resisting, not quite able to melt

Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, scholars critiqued the idea of a Melting Pot and suggested the idea of a mixed American salad, in which immigrant and ethnic groups would integrate into the broader culture but not shed their ethnic heritage. Rather, that heritage was seen as enriching the broader American culture. That meant America changed. Cultures, of course, always change; none are static. Recognizing the salad metaphor as a replacement for the Melting Pot did not alter the course of that change; it simply provided a more useful way of understanding it.

The salad metaphor is nothing new. Such understandings of diversity have prevailed in universities, non-profits, and even many businesses for decades. Our differing backgrounds allow us to contribute in differing ways. Many on DU, however, seem resistant to this notion. Some have a great deal of trouble recognizing that people who come from different ethnic backgrounds experience the world and politics in ways that differ from the majority demographic of this site, which does tend to be older and far whiter than American society at large. I don't think people here would object to someone based on skin color alone, but a number do seem to object to the views that come from living in that skin. Embracing diversity--which is at the very core of the Democratic Party and modern-day liberalism--requires understanding that other people's life experiences matter. Expecting that no one will discuss their experiences of racism, other than to blame Republicans, is to essentially say you don't want anyone to act "too black." If we value diversity, that means respecting diversity of opinion. It doesn't mean you need to agree, but to declare them trolls, as sowing division, or being worth less than the older white majority is to show hostility toward diversity.

The sowing division claim is particularly problematic. Duers disagree on any number of issues, from which candidate to support in an election, to gun policy, drug policy, foreign policy, and NSA surveillance. Will Rogers famous statement remains as true now as ever: "I'm not a member of any organized party. I'm a Democrat." Democrats disagree. It's what we do. That comes from critical thinking. So why are issues of race and gender unacceptably divisive when those others are not?

What the trope of "dividing people" along race and gender lines ignores is that those divisions already exist. American society is highly stratified, and the experience of what it means to be African American, Hispanic, or other ethnic identities varies greatly from what it means to be white. When people decry "division," what they are objecting to is being exposed to the view on the other side of the divide. They would prefer not to hear about those lives and those experiences. That is indeed unfortunate, and it is a position that is openly hostile to diversity. Diversity, you see, is not simply tolerating the presence of people with dark skin as long as they don't act "too ethnic"; it is understanding that their life experiences and voices matter. It means understanding that they will have concerns you never thought of, that may even make you uncomfortable, but in seeking to shut them down, you only shut yourself off from the modern world. America is not comprised entirely of people who think just like you, and to pretend that liberalism depends on upholding a white hegemonic view of politics that excludes anyone whose life experiences and perspectives differ from your own does yourself and this online community a great disservice.

How anti-feminism is anti-men

How often have we been told speaking about issues like rape and other violence against women amounts to "man-hating" ? Yet some of those same critics turn around and insist predatory behavior on the part of men is somehow natural, as is supposedly the case for all "great apes." This article gets at that paradox and shows how the feminist goal of including men in efforts to find solutions to sexual violence assumes a far more positive view of men.

Our colleague Cliff Leek convincingly wrote about the importance of involving men in rape prevention work. Today I want to go back to a ‘debate’ on Fox News earlier this year, in which feminist writer Zerlina Maxwell raised this issue by arguing that rape can be prevented if men learn not to rape – an idea that was shot down (no pun intended) by Fox News host Sean Hannity as an unrealistic liberal pipe dream. Rather, Hannity and Gayle Trotter of the ‘Independent Women’s Forum’ – a conservative think tank – argued that the right to carry concealed weapons is what can protect women from being raped. Although clearly being an attempt to intervene in the gun control debate by these conservative thinkers, their arguments reveal some of the underlying assumptions about sexualized violence and masculinities in mainstream discourse – assumptions that are in strong conflict with findings from research.

Earlier this year, Zerlina Maxwell made the case on Fox News that carrying guns are not the solution when it comes to protecting women from rape and sexual assault. She tried to re-frame the debate, arguing that instead of focusing on what women do (or wear, or not do), we should talk about how we can teach men not to become rapists (as Cliff Leek pointed out, there are numerous amazing initiatives working with men all over the world now). However, Hannity, Trotter and a number of conservative bloggers on the internet were quick to reject the idea of even having this debate. Even worse than that (and as if to confirm Maxwell’s call for connecting constructions of masculinity to violence against women), some corners of the internet went on to harass Maxwell for her supposedly naive, dangerous and ‘men-hating’ comments, sending her not only racist and sexist messages but even death threats.

Taking a step back and looking more closely at the content of the debate and its underlying premises, it becomes clear just how contradictory, misguided and ideologically charged the anti-feminist backlash against Zerlina Maxwell and other feminist activists is. Although Maxwell was accused as a ‘men-hater’ for drawing attention to the importance of taking men and masculinity into account when looking at gendered violence, her argument is actually one that is far more positive towards men than is the anti-feminist case: Essentially, Maxwell argued (and feminists have done so for decades) that men don’t have to be the problem but can be part of the solution – by learning and by teaching other men and boys how to reject violence and how to treat women (and other boys and men) with respect – and by asserting that men have the ability to change. In contrast to this nuanced and positive argument that sees men as potential allies, the anti-feminist solution can be summarized as: ‘Women need to shoot men’. In other words, the anti-feminist position must assume that men are always and necessarily a danger for women and there is nothing we as a society can do about it. Often, these discourses then fall back onto what Martha McCaughey calls the ‘cavemen mystique’: biologistic arguments that claim that violence and a ‘natural’ urge to rape are inherently programmed into men’s brains. In this way then, the anti-feminist view of the likes of Hannity and others is far more insulting towards men than that of the supposedly ‘men-hating’ feminists like Zerlina Maxwell, since the former must assume that all men are born potential rapists, unable to change, whereas the latter strongly and explicitly reject this assumption.

The claim that guns will protect women from rape is also revealing of the misconceptions about gendered violence on a different level. Thinking that women could protect themselves by carrying concealed weapons and shooting their assailants implicitly assumes that rapists are monstrous predators, lurking in dark corners and park, attacking women at random (an image also connected to racialized discourses of Black masculinity in the US). However, although some women are sexually assaulted by random strangers, the vast majority of rape and sexualized violence is committed by perpetrators known to the women, girls and boys they victimize (the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that less than 15% of rape victims were victimized by strangers): Rapists are far more often husbands, boyfriends, friends, acquaintances, fathers, uncles, ex-lovers or dates, coaches, priests or teachers than they are the random attacker ingrained into our popular culture. In other words, in order for firearms to be an effective solution to ending rape, women (as well as girls and boys) would have to be prepared to make use of them in their bedrooms and nurseries, at college parties, bars and in dorms, and often against people they trusted before the assault. The anti-feminist discourse has to ignore these realities and pretend that sexualized violence is the problem only of a handful of ‘sick’ men – it has supposedly nothing to do with the majority of ‘normal’ men they see themselves as. In other words: Paradoxically, the potential for violence and the urge to rape women are both inherent to men because of their ‘nature’, yet rapists are always a minority of others and sexual violence does not having anything to do with masculinity at all, the argument does. Go figure.

The inherent contradictions of the conservative case against connecting masculinity and violence as well as the ignorance towards the reality of rape and sexual assault found by numerous studies show that only a feminist analysis of gender and violence can move us forward towards eliminating rape and gendered violence. Clearly, the majority of men never become rapists and would strongly reject the notion that they would sexually assault another individual even if they could get away with it – disproving the anti-feminist argument that rape is simply part of ‘male human nature’. At the same time and as pointed out, data shows that rape is not a problem of only a handful of perpetrators, either. Rather than pretending that carrying firearms or telling women what to do or wear can be the solution to gendered violence, Zerlina Maxwell’s suggestion that we should figure out how toxic constructions of masculinity result in (some, but still way too many) men becoming perpetrators of sexual violence and creating educational tools to address this connection of masculinity and violence is well called-for.


I was recently shamed for talking about sex

I responded to a question about intercourse with a discussion of my own perceptions of sex based on my own experiences. Someone who has accused me and other members of this group of "pathologizing male sexuality," being a "prude" and "sex-negative," responded by telling me I had given "way, way, way TMI." I was in a subthread discussing with another woman the issue of PIV sex, and we were exchanging our different views on the subject. (I am for it). This man felt compelled to enter the thread and tell me he wasn't interested in my "sexcapades." I had not asked him to be interested. I was discussing a topic about human sexuality, so naturally my post included a discussion of sex. I spoke in general terms and saw no reason to pretend I did not have or enjoy sex.

I felt his lecture that I had spoken inappropriately about my "sexcapades" was an effort to shame me. I found it ironic that I have so often been accused of not liking sex because of my concerns about objectification of women in the media and violent porn. I have been told I simply can't bear the fact that people are attracted to one another and having sex. That point is of course absurd, as members of this group well know, but to them have a person who has made those very charges turn around and scold me for my "sexcapades" showed me that my entire sexuality is a rhetorical target.

While people often speak of "slut shaming," the fact is women can be shamed for any sexual choice or the perception that our views are linked to our sexual choices. Calling someone a prude, or sex-negative when they have not identified themselves as such, is part of the same process of shaming women for enjoying sex. Advancing feminist positions that certain men dislike means that they may target our sexuality as defective, either excessive or inadequate. Women's sexuality is a subject of attack at all points: when she turns a man down for a date, chooses not to have sex with him, has sex with someone besides him, or challenges him on the idea that misandry is pervasive opens her up to scorn and shaming. The term "slut shaming" is not adequate to describe the phenomenon because we can be simultaneously called prudes and sluts. What is under attack is our womanhood. Expressing ideas or behaving in ways some men don't approve renders us sexually defective, as less than full women.

Add to that other rhetorical practices, using the c word, associating weakness with the vagina through the word "pussy," and the far too common online practice of threatening women with rape. For some men, a woman's purpose is to provide sex. Any deviation from what they see as acceptable behavior for a woman renders her defective, a slut or a prude. In targeting our sexuality, those men who find our feminist ideas so objectionable attack our very womanhood, indeed our personhood. I realize I have been shamed for my sexuality all along, since I was called a prude when I first raised concerns about objectification. This was simply a continuation of that shaming process. Whether a prude or someone who discusses "sexcapades," I was defective. Daring to speak my mind pathologized my sexuality and ruined my value as a woman, as a person.

. . .

It has a collection of folks with a particular outlook on life that he might appreciate.

"We are all responsible for equality"

A simple but powerful statement from an artist and LGBT activist. http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=4961698

Her words, I believe, extend to all forms of discrimination and equality. Rather than arguing about terminology, perhaps we might think of it as this: What can I do to further equality (race, gender, sexuality, etc. ..)? What can I do to make sure I don't worsen inequality? How can I listen to members of historically and currently oppressed groups to understand the ways in which discrimination affects their lives and try to make sure I'm not part of the problem?

Your version of unity is one that ignores an already existing divide

I wrote this in another thread.

The divide already exists.
As 1strongblackman explained in another thread. http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=4925485

What you don't want is to hear about the view on the other side of that divide.

Moreover, Democrats argue on every issue under the sun, from Snowden to Obamacare, Hillary Clinton, and everything else. Yet some members single out the voices of people of color and feminists to denounce as too "divisive."

First people argue Democrats all already on racism anyway. It's an already settled issue. Then you say you don't like to see Democrats divided. These arguments contradict each other. They do not hold up to scrutiny since there are scores of others subjects around which people agree and disagree that you don't object to.

This strikes me as a demonstration of entitlement: if it's not about white men, they don't think is important or legitimate. Every time someone tells people of color, feminists, and members of other subaltern groups that there concerns are illegitimate or too divisive to be discussed, they only deepen that divide you want to pretend doesn't exist.

See this on the Irish. http://www.amazon.com/Irish-Became-White-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415963095

"Separate but equal" hawt, ethnic babes.

For the Plessy Ferguson Champagne Suite of Caucasian Corner.
Only the best will do for DU.

Hold on. I've got something here

Please, proceed, governor.
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