03 March 2013


Apropos of the ambivalence I expressed at the end of the previous post, I found a Metafilter post by flex about privilege checking and the callout culture. It starts with Ariel Meadow Stallings' well-known, flawed, but usefully provocative piece on Liberal bullying: Privilege-checking and semantics-scolding as internet sport and follows up with a big pile of links to writing about the subject. A little nosing around in those links finds many of them a little too wobbly to cover the things I keep meaning to write on this subject, but this passage from The Unicorn Ally by Pyromaniac Harlot struck pretty close to the mark:

So, here are the contradictions as I see them. As an ally, my job is to not impose my own beliefs of what’s ‘right’, but instead amplify the voices of the oppressed people that I’m trying to be an ally for. Except that I shouldn’t bug them about educating me, because that’s not what they’re there for. And it’s my duty to talk about the issue of oppression in question, because it’s the job of all of us, rather than the oppressed people, to fix it. Except that when I talk, I shouldn’t be using my privilege to drown out the voices of the oppressed people. Also, I should get everything right, 100% of the time. Including the terminology that the oppressed people in question themselves disagree on. This is what I consider The Unicorn Ally phenomenon. The effect of these demands, for me at least, is to make me less likely to say, well, much of anything, except a) to correct other people who are clearly even more wrong than me, or b) on issues where I have direct experience of oppression.

Linked here for future reference, for when I take time to do a more thoughtful review.


Helen/Hawk said...

Certainly captures some of the dilemma of an ally

Jonathan Korman said...

Just so. One of these days I need to write something about our need for a more sophisticated ethic for allies.