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09 January 2012

My Group Isn't Special

I don't blog a lot about feminism, LGBT issues, racism, and the like, for several reasons.

First of all, as a beardy white dude*, my opinions on those subjects are likely to be less nuanced than those of others. Second, the more I learn about these issues, the more I'm forced to come to terms with the fact that I used to be an ignorant dick. I've been meaning to write a post in my "Stuff I Used to Believe" miniseries about the distorted perspective that I used to have on the subject of feminism, but with everything that has happened in the community lately the post has simultaneously grown and shrunk in scope.

There's so much to talk about, but there are so many others who are so much more qualified to discuss it. So if you want to know what I think about any given feminist issue, I recommend consulting Greta Christina, Rebecca Watson, Jen McCreight. Not because I "toe the line", but because I consistently find them to be insightful and thought-provoking, and where we disagree on topics of equality (which is rare enough that I don't care to rack my brains searching for an example) I usually later discover that I am in error.

But there was something that I heard on the most recent episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else that I couldn't let stand. Robert Shindler echoed a sentiment that I hear not infrequently (and often from men) in our group: that our group is special; that we don't have a sexism problem (and perhaps by extent any problem with equality). I've even said it myself.

Maybe it's true. I won't pretend to know. But that sort of sentiment can be harmful. If you think that your group is somehow special, it's easy to be blind to any problems that may occur. The biggest problem with privilege is how easy it is to be blind to it.

I am proud to be the organiser of the Winnipeg Skeptics, and I'm glad that we have relatively strong female and LGBT representation in our group. We could perhaps be better when it comes to racial equality, and I frankly have little idea what to do about that. As aware as I try to be of my own privilege, I'm sure that I still make my share of mistakes—and I hope that my fellow skeptics will do me the favour of calling me out if I slip.

I'm not trying to come down on Robert or anyone who has remarked that we don't have that woman problem that other groups have. Try not to hold your own group beyond reproach, because it may blind you to real issues that may arise. I'm not perfect, and we're not perfect. Our group may be better than most, but let's not get cocky! I'm sure that we still all have a lot to learn.

So instead of reading "Stuff I Used to Believe: Feminists Just Hate Men" (which I'll probably never write), go read Rebecca Watson's "The Privilege Delusion", Heina's "Beyond Jokes and Pick-Up Lines", and Greta Christina's "Why 'Yes, But' Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny".

And learn something. That's what skepticism is all about!

* (who also happens to be straight, cis-gendered, and fairly well-off)

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, Gem. I'm so glad you wrote this. I'm guessing I've undergone a similar transition to you, and I hate how often I see the "our group is different" argument in skeptic circles. Thanks for recognizing what should be obvious.