Monday, December 05, 2011

The value of Microaggressions, e-mail response.

An e-mail response to the Microaggressions post, by Dani. She can be found @thequeengeek, and on her own blog, A Geeky View on Life.

I'm not looking to start a flame war as much as a discussion back and forth about what I see as an interesting and multifaceted issue.

Some disclaimers: I'm a white, cissgender, college educated woman. I was raised in a low income, working class home, and have spent a large portion of my adult life in pretty precarious poverty, but I have to acknowledge my privilege where it lies. I also have never seen that website till your blog post, so I can't speak about it from a place of expertise.

I think my issue with the post is that you seem to dismiss any positive outcome of recognizing the daily small events that highlight our institutionalized racism, sexism, ableism, cissgenderism, classism, homophobia, etc. I think there is some inherent value in pointing out that certain games, shows, magazines, websites, etc are geared to one gender, age, sexual orientation, et al. Akin to consciousness raising groups in the late 60s and early 70s, it helps people be able to identify where the ingrained and societal biases lie, so that the battle ground is clear.

On the other hand, I do take issue with the idea that changing language alone can end oppression. I think there is some validity to the idea that the way we speak about ourselves can change attitudes about certain things, BUT, I don't think that by changing language, all the biases of the world will magically melt away.  

If people are feeling marginalized by language, though (ie, Gentlemen start your engines), perhaps it is a symptom of an illness. The individuals feel excluded, pushed out and unwelcome in the community (in this case, gaming), but can only find physical proof in the words and packaging of the institution. Does that make sense? I know, for example, when I worked in a gaming section of a retailer, the men did not take me seriously as an expert. But only once did one say to me "Can I speak to a dude?" I felt he put his finger on what I was feeling through non-direct actions to be true-- that men would rather talk to a man about gaming, because they assumd I knew nothing based on gender. That one incident should not have been as offensive as it was, but it was an illustration for a greater feeling.

Then there's the argument that people who feel marginalized and slighted should be able to have a voice and a place to express it. That the internet gives people facing oppression the ability to speak out about how they feel, and how certain things make them feel. That it's a fine line to draw, saying what is a big enough deal to express publicly, and feeds into a stereotype of minorities being whiners and wanting special treatment because they can't man up and take it, etc.

I don't know. I think you're right in some aspects, too, but these difficulties came to mind. All the issues are super tough, and I'm just looking for people who want to sit down and talk them through, because even if we never agree, the discussion is stronger than anything. I totally respect what you do, and think you do a good job doing it.