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Clever Explanations, Please

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Clever Explanations, Please

Post  Barefoot Bree on Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:39 am

This may be in the wrong forum, but I REALLY could NOT decide where it fit best. Please feel free to move it if needed. But since this is a school project, and it's talking about educating others on the subject in the end, I thought this might fit here.

Anyway...

I'm collecting clever, insightful, colorful, effective explanations of social privilege for a school project. I have already found John Scalzi's Lowest Difficulty Setting, and Sindelókë's Parable of Dogs and Lizards. (Sorry, I can't figure out how to linkify text here. Help?)

Do you know of any others? Any online source would be fantastic: blog posts, forum posts, articles, you name it. Offline sources good, too, but might not be accessed in my limited time.

Many, many thanks in advance! (And btw, yes, I am cross-posting this on a couple different forums. I hope that's OK, since it's a request for info.)

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  mood2 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:22 pm

hello bree Smile this is a bit of a classic and sounds like it might be the sort of thing you're after http://www.pflagwestchester.org/PrideWorks/2008_Handouts/HeterosexualQuestionnaire.pdf


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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  nullnvoid on Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:10 pm

Thanks for the link mood - I hadn't seen that one before.

bb - you can click on the link button in the menu above the text area and enter the URL in the first box and the display text in the second box then hit Ok. That should give you the basic layout if you prefer to type it in future.

I had a look at the articles you linked to:

Dogs and Lizards

I found this a pretty bad analogy - for one it seems to be making a case that privilege is related to physical and genetic characteristics of the animals, when it's more of a cultural phenomena. It also implies that Nordic people don't comprehend what it means to be cold.

I'm not dismissing the main argument - clearly males on average do not have the same concerns about sexual interest from females. However, some individual men ARE the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of women and develop fears around sexual interest. There is an inherent problem with attempting to define people into rigid identities.

This said, the article is discussing the bias resulting from being born into a particular axis of privilege and not the privilege itself.

Lowest Difficulty Setting

A better analogy, although it is somewhat of a sketchy analogy. The idea that white men have certain clear advantages within society, so long as they choose, or are allowed to accept the identity that has been thrust upon them. There are some severe disadvantages to having traits which don't fit the model - ie to be ugly, weak, sensitive or other characteristics that are applied pejoratively towards men. So perhaps at best you can say that men who fit a stereotypical model of a successful male, are on the lowest difficulty setting.

In the followup the author said something surprising in response to criticisms about class and wealth not being included in the discussion of privilege.

Scalzi wrote:Nope. Money and class are both hugely important and can definitely compensate for quite a lot, which I have of course noted in the entry itself. But they belong in the stats category because wealth and class are not an inherent part of one’s personal nature — and in the US particularly, part of our cultural sorting behavior — in the manner that race, gender and sexuality are (note “inherent” here does not necessarily mean “immutable,” but that’s a conversation I’m not going to go into great detail about right now). You can disagree, of course. But speaking as someone who has been at both the bottom and the top of the wealth and class spectrum here in the US, I think I have enough personal knowledge on the matter to say it belongs where I put it.

So, privilege only applies to physical characteristics again? I just spent the last 30 minutes and I'm finding it very hard to find a definition of privilege that doesn't consider class/wealth to be axes of privilege.



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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  mood2 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:50 pm

I can see why he's excluding class/wealth in his analogy (they're not fixed in the same way as identity), but I agree with you Null they have a huge impact.

I like the dog/lizard one too. All it's really saying is there's stuff you just don't notice if you're not directly hindered by it, to you it's just the way things are. But it can be very different for someone else, and sometimes only by listening can you grasp how your own experience, what you think of as normal, isn't universal. (You see this sometimes as women start entering a workplace and ask for more flexible work practices, there can be a reaction of 'Why do we have to change, the way we've always done it is fine').


They're just basic consciousness raising tools really, sometimes an analogy can click with someone when straightforward explanations don't work, but they'll never be perfect. The dog/lizard one works I think because it takes you outside and hopefully lets you see the situation less emotively than if it's eg talking about men and women.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  Barefoot Bree on Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:58 am

mood2 wrote:I can see why he's excluding class/wealth in his analogy (they're not fixed in the same way as identity), but I agree with you Null they have a huge impact.

I like the dog/lizard one too. All it's really saying is there's stuff you just don't notice if you're not directly hindered by it, to you it's just the way things are. But it can be very different for someone else, and sometimes only by listening can you grasp how your own experience, what you think of as normal, isn't universal. (You see this sometimes as women start entering a workplace and ask for more flexible work practices, there can be a reaction of 'Why do we have to change, the way we've always done it is fine').


They're just basic consciousness raising tools really, sometimes an analogy can click with someone when straightforward explanations don't work, but they'll never be perfect. The dog/lizard one works I think because it takes you outside and hopefully lets you see the situation less emotively than if it's eg talking about men and women.

^^ Yes, this exactly.

None of these analogies/explanations are perfect by any means; they all have problems in one way or another. But they aren't intended to be perfect. They're intended to be an entry-level introduction to the concepts, put in such a way that somebody completely new (and possibly resistant) to the idea can grasp the very basic issue, the answer to the question: "Privilege? What's that? What the heck are you talking about; I'm not Rockefeller!"

ETA: I should also probably explain: I'm not going into this subject in any great depth, either - at least, not for this school project mentioned in my OP. It's for an English composition class, so the idea is really to focus on various methods of gathering information and then writing about it, rather than focusing too much on the particular topic we chose to investigate. But I really am interested in finding ways to explain the concept.


Last edited by Barefoot Bree on Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:07 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  Barefoot Bree on Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:02 am

nullnvoid wrote:Thanks for the link mood - I hadn't seen that one before.

bb - you can click on the link button in the menu above the text area and enter the URL in the first box and the display text in the second box then hit Ok. That should give you the basic layout if you prefer to type it in future.

*headsmack* Firefox Noscript strikes again! I didn't have all the scripts set for this site yet, and was missing the top row of buttons. There they are! Embarassed Thanks for the nudge, nullnvoid.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  arpie on Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:55 am

Hi Bree, and welcome aboard. Looks like an interesting thread you've started here. Time to establish just what constitutes the much overused word privilege. Not that I don't see a lot of positives in any dialog aimed at a little cultural introspection.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  nullnvoid on Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:56 am

No analogy is perfect, sure. However if the analogy actively creates a wrong impression it should be called out.

The Dog/Lizard analogy could be improved if the vaguely racist comment about Nordic people not knowing what cold is, and if it didn't focus on how the lizard was physically inferior to the dog. Wouldn't the analogy be better if it instead focused on how the thermostat had been built to be operated by dogs rather than how tiny the lizard's hands were.

As it stands I could imagine someone new to the concept would come away with the idea that privilege is about women being inferior to men. Clearly not the author's intent.

The second analogy had better explanatory power - different levels of difficulty like a computer game is actually a pretty strong metaphor. My gripe there was actually in a separate followup where the author demonstrated his own privilege/bias by saying in effect "I didn't experience poverty as a form of privilege therefore it isn't". People who are born into generational poverty, who live in areas of high unemployment, who are born into countries that have strict class systems are absolutely unprivileged. The author made a dumb statement and should be called on it - and it was in reference to why they excluded poverty from their analogy.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  nullnvoid on Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:16 am

Barefoot Bree wrote:*headsmack* Firefox Noscript strikes again! I didn't have all the scripts set for this site yet, and was missing the top row of buttons. There they are! Embarassed Thanks for the nudge, nullnvoid.

Yep...that'll do it! Smile No need to beat yourself up tho! Smile

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  scott1328 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 4:17 pm

Since someone mentioned the Dog and Lizard allegory, I couldn't help but post this parody of it by Piginthecity

Once upon a time, there was a lizard who was, rather implausibly, living with a dog.

They were happy together, on the whole, and furnished their little cave with a variety of appliances, such as heater and air-conditioner as a result of both of them working hard and not wasting money.

On one particular day, they were bickering mildly about the air conditioner. The dog had, to be honest, been a little bit inconsiderate as dogs can be, but like all animals, both warm and cold-blooded he was capable of seeing reason and didn't really deliberately want to be a dick.

They were just about to reach a reasonable compromise over the temperature, when the komodo dragon, passing by, overheard. She caught the gist of the conversation. Being cold-blooded herself, she immediately assumed that the dog must be a hundred percent in the wrong. Smashing the door down with her tail, she burst in, seized the dog by the tail and flung him out of the house. There, she said to the lizard, you're now safe from all the harm that that warm-blooded creature could have done to you. The lizard was so terrified that [gender neutral pronoun] could only smile and nod. The Komodo Dragon went on her way, happy that she was helping to keep the forest safe.

The dog landed with a bump on the dusty track outside the cave. Just as he came to, a scorpion said "You could have landed on my feet doing that !, you didn't, but you could have !. You warm blooded animals just think that you can do as you please". The dog was about to apologise and say he'd been thrown there by the KD, and didn't really have agency in the matter.
" But ...".
"Mansplainer !"
interupted the scorpion and stung him on the paw.

The dog hobbled away to dip his paw into the pond to ease the pain. He knew that the friendly fish in the pond welcomed all kinds* of animals, big or small, vertebrate and invertebrate, carnovore or herbivore, wise and wonderful, pandas or people, feathers, beaks and wings. They made a special point about it. They just didn't care. Anybody was welcome. Anybody. No exceptions. Even plants. Plants couldn't get to the pond, because they can't move. But if they could they'd be welcome. Definitely.

The friendly fish welcomed the dog and chatted happily to him as he held his paw in the water.

"Why is there heat emanating from your paw ?" Asked one of the friendly fish in a friendly fashion.

"Well, I'm a warm blooded mammal" Said the dog in a gentle voice so as not to frighten the friendly fish.

"He's intruding on our safety !" Whispered one of the friendly fish to another.

"What do you want Here ?" Shouted a friendly fish.

"What do you want Here ?" Echoed all the other friendly fishes

Except for one, who was new to that part of the pond and said "Intent is not Magic !" because she hadn't yet learned which slogan was appropriate in which situation. Her sisters soon corrected her, though, and she promised to get it right next time.

A passing school of piranhas heard the commotion, pulled the dog into the water and stripped the flesh from his bones, turning the water red as his squeals of agony echoed around the friendly pool. So without the nasty dog, who caused all the trouble in the first place, to oppress them, all the cold-blooded animals lived happily ever after.

THE END

* For definition of this term see videos by R.Comfort on YouTube.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  nullnvoid on Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:39 pm

Yep...there are still some raw nerves around here about having arguments dismissed with "check your privilege" and various forms of "'splaining" accusations. People can be use a lot of different precepts to be dicks.

But the concept of privilege itself is worth discussing IMHO.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  mood2 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:56 pm

A Cautionary Tail.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  mood2 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:02 pm

bree have you come across the spoons one yet? http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

Another one that's become a meme and horribly over-used in some sj circles imo.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  mood2 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:59 pm

null -

I think of Privilege as related to inbuilt systemic advantages and hurdles which have become institutionalised over time and may have become almost invisible because they're seen as the norm. (eg it's not surprising that as the public sphere has largely been run by men for milennia, what has come to be considered normative is in fact what is normative for men)

I think both analogies are sorta variations on Rawls' Veil of Ignorance. Simply put, if you don't know which position you'd be in, you'd want as fair and equal as system as poss, without inbuilt hurdles which affect only some. Because you could be one of the some. I think they work OK on that level.

Excluding class/wealth does make sense if you're thinking in terms of how the system works to reward (with wealth) those who it's run by and for. But in reality you're right, we don't all start on an even footing with the same resouces, and the system is run by and for the wealthy too. A young white male born in a sink estate with high unemployment and a crap school and few positive role models is hardly advantaged by the system. That's very different to somebody with a good education, feels like they have a stake in the system and motivation/expectations, who's temporarily skint. Which I agree is what the computer bloke isn't getting.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  Barefoot Bree on Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:17 am

I wonder if Scalzi's leaving economics out of his matrix is representative of his own privilege - and therefore his blind spot - in that area?

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  Barefoot Bree on Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:30 am

Yes, mood2, I've seen the Spoons theory. I agree that it's a bit of an overworked meme, but in that respect, it just strikes me as the latest buzzword, like "extreme".

Doesn't quite work as an analogy of privilege, though, which is what I'm after here.

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  arpie on Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:21 pm

Curios about your project Bree. What's new?

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Re: Clever Explanations, Please

Post  Barefoot Bree on Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:06 pm

Not much, Arpie. It's a slow project, going to last the whole semester. I did say it was for college, right? English 102. So the emphasis is really on methods of inquiry and writing, not the subject matter itself. Nor will the final product reach any audience wider than my few classmates - although if anyone wants a copy, feel free to ask.

Although....

If any readers here have any anecdotes they would like to share about either reading one of the parables/explanations for themselves and how it affected them, or using one of them to try to explain privilege to somebody new to the concept, and how well that worked or didn't, I'd be very grateful.

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