Tal Fortgang’s uninformed screed “Why I’ll Never Apologize for My White Male Privilege” has been making the rounds on social media this past week and apparently causing quite the furore. There already have been several well informedtake-downs that articulately dissect and refute his arguments much more clearly and directly than I ever could. But there’s one aspect of Tal’s piece that I’d like to address that I think has been largely glossed over or just not delved into.
You see, Tal isn’t white.
Now before I clarify, let me just assure you that I’m in no way trying to claim that Tal doesn’t benefit from white privilege. Or male privilege. Or any privileges. He does. So do I. He’s just clearly very confused about the concept of “whiteness” and how he fits in to it.
Tal, I hear you bro. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. Well, not Princeton. But I’ve been in a place where I didn’t understand what “whiteness” was and how that affected me. I didn’t understand the concept of race and had trouble navigating the conflicting messages I was bombarded with in culture, media, and academia. You see, Tal, just like you, I’m also Jewish. And just like you, my skin is pretty white looking. In the summer it gets a little more olive, but stick me in a room full of white people, and I’ll blend right in (more on that later).
Being Jewish can be confusing. We’re told it’s a race. It’s also a religion. “White” is also a race. And we’re also told that we’re white. Until we’re not. We’re told a lot of conflicting things. We’re caught between our understanding of identity and our historical and present oppression. Continue reading →
TO THE STRAIGHT WHITE DUDE WHO THINKS IT’S HARD TO BE A MALE FEMINIST, WHO THINKS WOMEN SHOULD BE NICER ABOUT FEMINISM, WHO THINKS WOMEN ARE TOO ANGRY:
I can’t oppress a group in power. Oppression is prejudice+power. There’s no reverse racism, there’s no misandry. There’s no oppressive, systematic, institutionalized force against white, straight dudes.
No one is trying to subjugate men. Like, seriously. We’re trying to get them to listen, for fucking once, instead of getting butthurt when they do something offensive and for once someone calls them on it.
Bro, you’ve had the entire world at your feet; so yeah, admit you might have fucked up, deal with the fact that we’re angry, and move on. Instead of going ‘omg don’t get mad at me’ try going ‘well, shit. why are you mad at me? hm. i’ll think about that.’ Continue reading →
So it’s taken engaging in a lot of dialogue on the subject Quebec’s proposed Charter of Secularism to word this cogently.
The charter is racist, and I’ll give you a deeper analysis of why that is. BUT I am seeing an unhealthy trend of Anglophones co-opting the threat of oppression to religious minorities and using it as a platform to espouse bigotry towards Francophones.
YOU’RE NOT HELPING ANYONE. STOP IT.
More bigotry isn’t going to solve bigotry. Religious minorities need your solidarity, not your hypocrisy.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I think I can move on and address more than just my frustration with the Anglophone rhetoric. It’s been a really stressful time for myself and some of my friends in Quebec, and I can only imagine the stress that devoutly religious people are under right now. When we’re so used to major issues being split into two camps of discussion, being caught between two groups that are yelling at each other who are both wrong can make you want to throw up.
There’s a conversation that’s been brewing lately. I’m not sure if it’s a conversation that’s been been getting louder and reaching a tipping point, or if I’m just getting better at listening and being more aware. The conversation is about street harassment.
On a near daily basis, I hear stories from friends about inappropriate comments and catcalls from passersby. These friends are invariably angry, upset, scared, or fed up with this perpetual demeaning treatment. These friends are exclusively women. The cat-callers are exclusively men.
When these stories come up, in the ensuing discussions, women share their similar experiences, show empathy, and discuss potential strategies for combating street harassment and improving their general safety.
If you’re interested in, or moderately aware of, issues of social justice, then it can be excruciatingly difficult to watch even some well crafted shows without suffering from rage-inducing cringeworthiness.
I’ve managed to enjoy 3 seasons of Game of Thrones while only occasionally puking at Daenerys Targaryen’s overt Stockholm-syndrome as she tries to learn to be a better rape victim, gratuitous and imbalanced female nudity, or the female characters (including the ones portrayed as strong) constantly being put in situations where they are rescued by men.
Brezhnev took Afghanistan
Begin took Beirut
Galtieri took the Union Jack
And Maggie over lunch one day
Took a cruiser with all hands
Apparently to make him give it back
– Roger Waters (on Pink Floyd’s “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert”)
Such animosity is understandable given the context of Thatcher’s role in the bloody battle of Orgreave, a violent conflict between police and unionised miners. But that does not excuse targeting Thatcher for her gender or labelling her with gendered profanities. Fortunately, amid the white noise, there is one voice of reason that stands out balancing the hardships and woes of Thatcherism with the advancement of women to positions of power in global politics. That one voice is Morrissey:
“Iron? No. Barbaric? Yes. She hated feminists even though it was largely due to the progression of the women’s movement that the British people allowed themselves to accept that a Prime Minister could actually be female. But because of Thatcher, there will never again be another woman in power in British politics, and rather than opening that particular door for other women, she closed it.”
It’s been over a decade since I finished high school, and my teachers from that time are still handing me reading assignments. Such was the case when this rambling diatribe was sent my way. It’s a piece discussing media coverage of Sheryl Sandberg‘s new book and what we can interpret from it.
One point that I agree with the writer on is the inherent consumerist nature of magazines. I'll take it one step further and say that magazines are mostly advertising and their content is driven by the needs of the advertisers and not vis versa. So I think it would be a fair assessment to see who's being plugged in Cosmo Careers or Time to see what their target demographic is, and how Sandberg's narrative fits in to that. I'm not so sure that covering her ring is really telling of anything, but her posture in both pics indicates a genuine discomfort with having her picture taken (which is pretty normal, mind you).
From what I understand of Sandberg's book, she is really advocating that women take a more assertive role in the advancement of their careers. Simple for some, but it's reliant on a certain amount of privilege. And it's advice that certainly would not be successful if applied universally. It's still a strong message, though, and has merit.
I think the narrative surrounding how her success is being presented in other media is likely far more damaging than her book (which, per the NPR review, apart from being boring, has some very positive messages). It is often spun as "well, Sandberg did it, so can you" which is tantamount to victim blaming, or "the poor are poor because they don't work hard enough" logic, and does little to underline the structural problems that ensure there are not more Sandberg's in the world.