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 →
Molly Alexander is the candidate with Quebec Solidaire in my local riding of Saint-Henri Sainte-Anne, running for a seat in the National Assembly in the upcoming Quebec election. If you share these views, I encourage you to write a letter to your own candidate, or feel free to use this one as a template.
Friday, April 4, 2014
Dear Ms. Alexander,
I am a constituent in the riding in which you are running as a candidate representing Quebec Solidaire, and I am writing to share my views with you on an issue that is of importance to me.
I would like to begin by stating that I am glad to have a candidate on my ballot whose views and politics so closely resemble mine, and who is both open to feedback and informed on matters that concern the advancement of our society. You are very much a progressive and a critical thinker – two qualities that I value in political representatives – and there isn’t a candidate who I would rather see represent me and my fellow constituents in the National Assembly.
Regretfully, your party has adopted a policy which is of grave concern to me. Following the recommendations of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, Quebec Solidaire’s platform includes a proposal to ban the wearing of religious icons of civil servants in positions of coercive authority (this would include police). I understand that this was the topic of heated debate, and the decision reached by the party is not supported unanimously. However, religious expression is a fundamental freedom and I consider it to be extremely troubling that the party would even consider that this is something that can be voted on. Continue reading →
On August 4th, 2013, the salivating masses of fanatical Whovians tuned in to the much anticipated unveiling of the Twelfth Doctor. The announcement came in the form of a live broadcast televised special hosted by Zoë Ball. I, like many salivating fanatical Whovians, tuned in with equal measures of excitement and apprehention. You see, I’ve been a dovoted fan for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of watching Tom Baker episodes at my grandmother’s house (she had cable). And as a devoted fan, the revival of the series in 2005 has sparked a resurgence in my obsessive fandom. So you get the excitement. But then there’s the apprehension.
Steven Moffat is an undeniably talented writer. His episode “Blink” is one of my favourite episodes of any series, and an accomplished stand-alone horror film in its own right. Weeping Angels creep me the heck out, to the point that, as I will include a picture of one in this post, I will never look at this post again after it’s published. Go ahead, laugh at me. Then send me a picture of a Weeping Angel just to freak me out. You won’t be the first. So we know that Moffat is capable of great writing. He’s also capable of very problematic writing.
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.
Here are my thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness which I just saw this afternoon. (I know, I’m late to the party)
I predicted that I’d enjoy it but that I’d find parts problematic. This is exactly what happened.
There are some aspects of J.J. Abrams interpretation that can only be described as “masterful”. There are areas where he entirely captured what Star Trek is. Beyond the look and feel, which were utterly flawless, the parts that captured the essence and spirit of Star Trek were fleeting. And some areas, entirelymissed.
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.