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I'm sorry, your -ism is showing

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Dec. 1st, 2010 | 09:48 pm
mood: discontentdisturbed
posted by: shade_scribbler in feminism_lives

Ah, the wonders of Facebook, you can reconnect with people you stopped talking to 10 years ago, or who you shared a geographic and pedagogical history with once upon a time...

And then you can watch them post links and comments that make you cringe.

Today I was on Facebook - I spend too much time there, it is my vice. I read a post and link by a friend from high School (that is ages 14-18 roughly, for my non-American friends). This particular link was not anti-feminist, it was anti-religion. To be specific it was mocking religion. Now I have a personal policy that when racism, or sexism, or religious prejudice happens in front of me I say something. I left a very mild rebuke - "this does not reflect well on you" and said person unfriended me, whatever.

But it got me thinking, in this mixed media age, and even in person, how do you deal with it when you are confronted with sexism, racism and what not? I have on many occasions called people on sexist remarks. I have found that the response to being called on sexism is more positive than other "-ism" issues.

I don't comment on blogs, or news stories or anything else where the trolls live, but I take things like the wall on facebook as I would a conversation happening in front of me or in earshot, after all these are people I know.

It isn't that a person doesn't agree with me, it is when they make comments that are just not respectful to other human beings, I just can't keep my mouth shut.

So I as you all, how do you handle these issues? Thoughts? Stories?

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Comments {57}

Michelle

(no subject)

from: clarisinda
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 08:58 am (UTC)
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I do not believe that religious ideas should be above questioning/criticism/mocking. Religion is not the same as ones gender/race/sexual orientation/etc because these things cannot be changed; they are charactaristics of a person. Religion is ideas, theories, beliefs. Religious beliefs do not have some special status that mean they should be protected from mockery or ridicule, despite various religious institutions trying to make that the case.

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(no subject)

from: bonsai_human
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 09:34 am (UTC)
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I agree. I think it's impolite to mock someone's religion to their face, but to express an opinion on religion, even a derisive opinion, really doesn't bother me. It certainly doesn't compare with racism, sexism, or homophobia. Some people hold ridiculous beliefs. Prince Philip is a deity to some. Need I say more?

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Secret Rebel

(no subject)

from: secretrebel
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 09:45 am (UTC)
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UK equality and diversity legislation does accord a special status to religion though, it's one of the protected categories.

Religion isn't really a question of theories (individual religious practice doesn't encourage one to theorise) although a non-religious person might describe religion itself as a 'theory' a religious person would be very unlikely to do so.

Religious belief is also about identity, about tradition, about morality and covers a wide range of religious practice (attendance of church/temple, eating habits, days of work and rest).

I'd argue as well that gender and sexual orientation can change. Also that for a committed religious person their religion is very unlikely to do so -and unlikely even if they're only a vague deist because of social/cultural pressures.

I think religion is (for a religious person) a powerful parent of who they are and that shouldn't be mocked. That's not to say that religious people are humourless or religion can't sometimes be gently mocked - but a lot of anti-religious mocking is much more what I'd call abuse than mockery.

For example, I think referring to Christians as "believing in the sky fairy" is offensive.

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M'lisilinaath Thabana

(no subject)

from: naath
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
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I think it depends on what, exactly, they are saying.

For instance I think a lot of people attack religious groups that they have been a part of, and left. Often over very legitimate grievances. On the other hand a lot of anti-Islam feelings in the West seem to be more to do with racism than a lack of belief in Allah.

Also "mocking" and "criticising" and "disagreeing with" are different things I think. Although many people seem to confuse "I don't believe in your God" with "LULZ U FICK" which I think is very strange of them; I don't assume that when my friends say "I'm a Jew" they mean to insult me, they are just stating a fact about themselves.

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Jamie Hankins

(no subject)

from: wight1984
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
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There are plenty of criticisms that I do think can be fairly directed at aspects of religion or particular religious groups. That doesn't mean that it's not possible to mock/criticise religions in a prejudiced manner.

Anyone that makes a post suggesting that all Muslims are terrorists is engaging in simple prejudice for instance and I would react poorly to seeing that on my facebook feed, whilst someone thinking that 'religion is silly' is going to be tolerated (I think that's a bit of a simplistic statement but it's not something I find offensive).

I'm also not sure I believe anything is above being questioned... if a person has genuine doubts, fears and problems with something like homosexuality then I'd prefer they just expressed them so the rest of us can put them right. Of course, it's essential that they are careful to be polite and do listen to people's corrections (and, in this day and age, they could probably have done a google search any be done with it anyway)

Even when someone does write something really offensive on facebook, I'm usually happy to let it slide depending on how they respond to being called on it. It's only the people who get really defensive and argumentative about it that I end up deleting. I tend to find that a lot of people get more offensive as such discussions go on...

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lazy_hoor

(no subject)

from: lazy_hoor
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 09:08 am (UTC)
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It depends on the context. I don't have a lot of time for Islam but I think sometimes attacking Islam can be a veiled sort of racism. But general piss-taking? Fair game as far as I'm concerned.

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Secret Rebel

(no subject)

from: secretrebel
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 09:49 am (UTC)
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So I ask you all, how do you handle these issues? Thoughts? Stories?

I like this Jay Smooth video about how to tell people that what they said sounded racist. It's about divorcing the act (the offensive speech) from the person.

I quite like "I'm surprised you'd say something like that" as a response to a shocking comment. Or, for outright and obvious bigotry "that's not my opinion/experience".

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1ngi

(no subject)

from: 1ngi
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 11:10 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the link - that's really helpful :)

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iRamble

(no subject)

from: redatt
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)
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I like that one. I remember watching it before and now I've saved a link to it.

Alas, I made the mistake of checking out some of the suggested videos down the side including Am I a racist?

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Calla Lily

(no subject)

from: bleedingcherub
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 11:23 am (UTC)
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this is a really cute vid. he seems cool as hell.

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Jamie Hankins

(no subject)

from: wight1984
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 11:23 am (UTC)
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If someone posts something I find offensive then I usually call them on it. This often, but not always, leads to an increasingly tense exchange where they become increasingly offensive and I delete them.

I try to keep my comments clam and measured anyway mind; I'm happy to let them portray themselves as the raving loony whilst my comments remain relatively civil :oP

I'm happy to accept a lot of mocking of religion though. If I think that they've generalised or been unfair, I'll say so. It's only politically sensitive generalisations that I'll get annoyed at enough to want to remove someone from my list (most often to do with Islam these days). It doesn't annoy me as much as other prejudices mind.

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the little creep

(no subject)

from: nyarbaggytep
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 12:02 pm (UTC)
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I try to keep my response personal to me, so I would only ever say something about my response, not make a judgment of them. So I might say, I was upset to read that, or I felt uncomfortable with you saying that. I would not say - You are a racist/bigot/whatever. I find this generally less confrontational, and people are more likely to engage with me in conversation that way.

I don't like the current vogue that it's ok to be critical and dismissive of people's religious beliefs.

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Julia

(no subject)

from: shade_scribbler
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for all the thoughts.

A few things to keep the discussion moving.

First, allow me to clarify the difference between critique/criticism/grievance of a religion and even poking fun at and mocking. To me, the difference is in tone and intention. I see no harm in critique, criticism, self expression of grievance or distaste for a particular religion, but mocking groups the people in the religion together and discounts them. It is trading in stereotypes with ill intent. To me this is the parallel to Racism and Sexism.

Second, I want to throw out there the quote that is probably to blame for my moral compulsion to speak up.

I watched an interview between Oprah and Maya Angelou during my formative years where they came to a consensus about racism: If you, a member of the dominant class, witness racism (for instance in hearing a racist joke at a party) and do nothing, say nothing, you are part of the problem.

Before reacting, think about this applied to feminism and men. Many men say they are not sexist, do not engage in sexism or violence and so feminists ought to not bother them. However, these same men will sit by while other men engage is sexist jokes, cat calls, locker room talk etc. Does their silence contribute to rape culture as a tacit sort of endorsement?

Certainly none of us want to play the politic police to our friends and loved ones - it would make for a lonely existence. But at what point does minding ones own business become tacit endorsement of the bad behavior?

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Secret Rebel

(no subject)

from: secretrebel
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)
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Beverly Daniel Tatum in her excellent book "Why are all the black kids sititng together in the cafeteria and other conversations about race" compared racism to a travellator. (One of those flat escalator things at airports.)

Institutional racism carries everyone forward on the travellator, making everyone more unconsciously racist. If you walk forward and embrace racist sentiments you become racist faster. If you stand still and do nothing, you are still drawn into more racist attitudes.

To become a person who rejects racist you must turn around and walk backwards on the travellator - not just that, you must walk backwards faster than the speed with which it carries you forward.

That's the image in keep in my mind when it comes for standing up against any form of societal or institutional or otherwise widespread prejudice.

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jules

(no subject)

from: perfectfigure
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
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Calling out religion for not making sense and being full of misogyny, racism, calls to violence, and a bunch of other nasty things no worthwhile person would take part in is NOT an "ism." The religious don't care about my feelings, and I certainly don't care about theirs -- if they can't handle the reality of their beliefs, maybe they should find new ones.

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Secret Rebel

(no subject)

from: secretrebel
date: Dec. 2nd, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
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I think there's a difference between the doctrine of an organised religion and the people who practice that religion.

I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here and assuming you don't mean to imply that no worthwhile person is religious. But I think your comment is edging close to breaching our community guideline of being respectful of others.

I don't wish to censor your feelings and your beliefs but it seems like a huge blanket statement that you're making there about religious people. And given how much of the world (and this community) is made up of religious people I wonder if you'd like to expand on or rephrase your comment?

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Julia

(no subject)

from: shade_scribbler
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 06:35 am (UTC)
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I have thought about whether to write anymore or not - as the topic of religion seems to have elicited a lot of strong emotional responses.

So what I have decided to do is share an anecdote. I have a classmate who is a truly amazing woman, and we have spoken at length about feminism and gender studies. She is woman of color and she has spoken to me very eloquently about that, but her biggest beef with feminism, and academics,isn't the issues she faces trying to get people to understand the intersection of race and gender - it is trying to get her fellow feminists to respect her religion. She is a member of the Mormon faith. She doesn't try to get anyone to be part of her religion or even treat it with kid gloves. She is very respectful of other people's beliefs, religious or otherwise. And she deals with comments about her religion with a grace I would not be capable of. She has told me of sitting in women's studies classes while her religion is lampooned, while the other members of the class spoke of the stupidity of people who follow her religion, and while they have spoken of bulldozing her place of worship. When she told me of this the sadness on her face was palpable and the way this forced her to bifurcate her being in order to have both her selves respected was palpable.

All I can say is that I am not religious, never have been. I am an agnostic in the classic philosophic sense, and I have had plenty of preachy people tell me I am going to hell, but I still feel that to respect myself I should respect their beliefs, even if they don't respect mine.

I doubt this is something we can tease out in this setting, but it has made it even more clear to me that this is an issue in feminism.



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Calla Lily

(no subject)

from: bleedingcherub
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 11:31 am (UTC)
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I get what you're saying, and agree. A key part of our feminist approach is respecting lived experience and protecting each other's right to safety in our experience-expression. If your friend is a Mormon and gets shit all over by her own feminist community instead of having her voice heard as an especially unique feminist voice that we need to make room for-- well, that's just uncool.

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Calla Lily

(no subject)

from: bleedingcherub
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 11:28 am (UTC)
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Setting the religious question aside and focusing on the fact that you're hearing shit you think it's wrong for them to be saying:

I say stuff or don't depending on how well I know them. If it's not someone that I've talked to IRL I consider it more of an overheard conversation that's none of my business and not worth my time. If it were between people that would not be surprised if I talked to them IRL, like the casualest of friends on up, I leave a morally-neutral-sounding but inquiring comment like "yo, why do you think that stuff about black people? i haven't had that experience at all and honestly this seems wack to me." and let the convo go on from there. Even if I consider someone to be a straight-up racist or whatever-ist it's my policy to genuinely listen to their point of view in exchange for hearing mine. So that's how I do it :)

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Jessie

(no subject)

from: jessiehl
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
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I think it's reasonable to say something like "I understand you wanted to make a point that [whatever point the person was trying to make, but reworded to be respectful], but when you make these attacks, it comes off as prejudiced and mean-spirited because of [reasons]."

Of course, this is meant for someone with whom you want to maintain a good relationship or have a good-faith discussion, and also assumes that there was a valid point that they were trying to make underneath the bigotry.

Tangentially...I agree that prejudice against the religious should be called out, as prejudice against women or people of color should. But it's not quite the same situation - in US society (which both of us live in), women and people of color are non-dominant groups, while religious people are dominant/privileged.

On that note, if I was somewhat close to someone who was expressing anti-theist prejudice, I might want to talk to them in more detail about their experiences with religion. It's possible that their prejudice is a reaction to bigotry or abuse from theists, and that they could be helped to get past it.

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anthrokeight

(no subject)

from: anthrokeight
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
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see comment below, if you're feeling the urge for comment-riffic ness.

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anthrokeight

(no subject)

from: anthrokeight
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
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And (see comment re: Sahlins and Obeyesekere)... I will often say something. Or unfriend them without bringing why up. It depends on the situation and the person. What I say: It might be nice, it might be direct, it might be funny, or outright angry, but I want to create safe spaces in my world, and these things matter.

Also, re: PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN GOD ARE DUM! AND ALSO ATHEISTS ARE TOTALLY MARGINALIZED BY JUDEO CHRISTIAN SOCIETY SO I CAN TOTALLY SAY WHATEVER I WANT ABOUT RELIGION...

Just. No. And, also, yes.

On the and yes front: if you live in America, one need only look at G-Dubya Bush to see how the power of Christian people to wreak major major havoc. Christian ideology can suck moldy toenails sometimes. Says the Church Going Catholic Who Works With Nuns.

But I also think it's an act of appalling privilege for athevangelists to assume that because one religious ideology is infringing on their rights that all religious ideologies are fair game.

I'd really, really, like Richard Dawkins (who, if you ask me, is one of the most privileged people in the world- white, male, wealthy, educated, at Oxford) to tell, say, a Crow Indian that they're being irrational about Sun Dances or the Tobacco Society or whatever. A white European atheist telling them they are wrong and bad and crazy looks an awful lot like a white European Pentacostal Protestant telling them they are wrong and bad and crazy. And it looks that way for a reason.

Since the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was put in place in 1978, religious grounds have been, along with treaty rights, among the most crucial ways Native peoples in America have been able to ensure cultural survival.

To dismiss the validity of these things by ending the conversations about religion with "it is silly the end ps also religiousness is irrational" is just... oh my god. It's colonialism. It is rhetoric that has worked when people wanted to deploy it in order to oppress the marginalized. I don't mean to say it is like that all the time, or that is what people intend. But that is one outcome of what happens when people go that route.

So. Do I think everyone has to be all lovey dovey about other people's beliefs? No. Of course not. But I would much rather people not be dismissive about them. And I have zero problem saying so if it seems warranted.

[ETA: I guess what I want to get at is, what looks like a religion issue can actually be a religion/race intersectionality issue, among other things. And sometimes in the pursuit of criticizing religion, it's easy to end up making really racist comments. Especially since, in a Native worldview, spirituality/ sacredness is... I dunno... soaked into everything. It's not a thing that can be separated from other things. So to say "believing in the supernatural is ridiculous" is the same as saying "being a Dakota Indian is ridiculous." Which, if you know much about American History, isn't too far off the historical pathways.]



Edited at 2010-12-03 08:18 pm (UTC)

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Jessie

(no subject)

from: jessiehl
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
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But I also think it's an act of appalling privilege for athevangelists to assume that because one religious ideology is infringing on their rights that all religious ideologies are fair game.

Is that privilege, or just dickishness? I guess it could be either or both depending on circumstances.

There's a lot in your comment that I agree with (I keep getting pissed at white fellow atheists who spout raging Islamophobia and/or anti-Arab sentiment without, apparently, realizing that that's what they are doing). OTOH, I'm reluctant to intertwine race and religion/ethnicity to the extent that you do in your final paragraph. There are Native American atheists (possibly the most famous being Dan Barker of the Lenape tribe) - isn't it sort of erasing them to suggest that believing in the supernatural is inherent or necessary to being Native American?

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Julia

(no subject)

from: shade_scribbler
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
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@anthrokeight

Thank you, you have articulated a lot of my concerns far better than I have managed to.

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Julia

(no subject)

from: shade_scribbler
date: Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
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I have to thank you all, because as much contention and there has been this has also been a very productive discussion - which is what i had hoped for in the original situation. I am really grateful for all the feedback, and the space to suss out these sorts of thoughts :)

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