Monday, 15 April 2013

Tweedle Dee and Tweedium

There's a story we keep seeing, on left wing blogs and on Twitter and in the 'liberal' press, and it starts like this:

A white, able-bodied, cis-gendered journalist says:

"I care deeply about social justice and I want everyone to have equal opportunities and not to face discrimination or oppression. I honestly do believe that that is what I want. But some people say that certain *words* are discriminatory, and the list of those words keeps getting longer.

"I write words for a living, and trying to keep up with which words are discriminatory is difficult, so sometimes I accidentally use words that upset people."

And then somebody else* - maybe somebody who doesn't share the able-white-cis privilege enjoyed by the journalist, says:

"Okay. Well, how about this: when you accidentally use a word that people don't like, you find out why it is they don't like it. And if the reasoning seems sound, you say 'Oops, sorry, I didn't realise, but now I do. I'll try not to do that again.'?

"And then really try not to do it again. And you might even write an article (or even better, promote one by a less-privileged person) talking about WHY certain language is seen as damaging by certain people."

And the journalist says:

"Mmmyeah, I could do that. Or I could write an article complaining about how political correctness has gone mad and you can't say anything any more."

And the other person says:

"Yes, you could do that. But that does seem more the kind of thing that Richard Littlejohn would write, rather than a self-proclaimed feminist and social justice campaigner."

And then the journalist says:

"How dare you compare me to Richard Littlejohn?! I'm on your side of the fight - and you need to stop distracting me with your irrelevant piffle about damaging language and *support* me... Like all my white media friends are doing. Can't you see? Look! Look how many famous white people agree that I'm right and you're wrong. A few of those people will have articles in the Guardian tomorrow taking my side, and you're going to look pretty silly then, arent you? You are BLOCKED, and I'm leaving!"

And the other person sighs, and shakes their head and writes a blog post about it that nobody reads. And a month later, it all happens again.


*Not me. I live at the very top of the privilege tree (apart from wearing glasses but that doesn't really count) and probably shouldn't be writing this at all. I apologise in advance if I've inadvertently used wrongwords. 

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