Friday, January 27, 2017

Strange things continued.

In June of last year I wrote about some of the various aspects of how to behave and/or be in order to achieve "real" manhood...or...as Judith Butler would phrase it "perform" being male. She views gender and even sex and sexual desire as acts that we learn to perform rather than some core element(s) of our developing being that unfold as we mature.

In other words, we feel and perceive in various ways and instead of us being free to figure out how to deal with those feelings and perceptions, our culture tells us how to think about and understand those things. Heck, our culture even tells us how to exhibit (or hide) such behaviors and feelings and thoughts. And...if we don't follow the cultural "rules", lots of pressure is invoked to get us follow the "party line".

Something that I struggled with on an ongoing basis for years was my realization that I didn't particularly care to be around most men...looking back now I can see that it was mostly white men I didn't much care for but while it was going on I simply perceived it as my being rather put off by most males. I simply didn't like them very much and found their company unpleasant. I did have some male friends but there were only a very very few men that I enjoyed being around. Probably in my lifetime I've known no more than 2 or 3 white males that I actually felt comfortable with and fairly consistently enjoyed being around.

On the other hand I noticed that I more often enjoyed the company of women and found, again in general, that their company was much more pleasant and interesting to me. That enjoyment would sometimes get complicated or distorted by my being sexually attracted to a particular woman...but...there were a number of women that I wasn't particularly attracted to sexually that I found that I greatly enjoyed interacting with. Women are, on average, just niftier...to me anyway. 

Numerically, lets say, out of 100 women I would find 10 or 20 that were pleasant or interesting company...and that I felt comfortable around, out of 100 men that number would shrink to 1 or 2 who were experienced by me that way...if that many. We all differ to some degree from one another but for me...on average...women are spiffier. 

I noticed this about myself over the years and wondered about it, but not too deeply or persistently.

It really came to the front of my awareness as a result of my time in the military and then my time in graduate school. The Air Force put me in a position where I met and lived around hundreds of guys, mostly my age.

I found a few guys that I sort of enjoyed interacting with but on the whole, having to be around men all the time was stressful and unpleasant for me. Mostly it pretty much sucked. Looking back at that time from years later makes me shake my head. Then, I vaguely wondered whether maybe was something "wrong" with me. What it was...I didn't know...I just knew I felt uneasy and uncomfortable and at the same time thought my feeling that way wasn't how I was supposed to feel. Aren't guys supposed to like to hang out with guys? That's what I was taught, but that wasn't how I felt.

My discomfort and unease persisted as I aged. In elementary school and even high school I had guy friends and hung out with guys but the older I became the more uneasy I found that I was whenever I was with most guys. Not that I was fully aware of this at the time, I'm thinking and writing about it now, many decades later, and it is apparent to me now but I couldn't have clearly articulated it then...I just felt it and lived it.

A few months ago some of my confusion resolved itself. In part because some reading I have been doing of the works of various feminist authors...Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Williams, Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin and Dorothy Allison come to mind.

One of the things that popped into clarification was that women...all women no matter their race...have to live in and learn to survive in male dominated culture. That's totally true here in the U.S. where there's a core component of our society that's driven by something some call 'toxic masculinity', which refers, in part to: "...a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world."


It's creepy and scary to think about this, but the fact is that most violence among humans is male violence. For instance, this article quotes the statistic that men account for about 80% of those arrested for violent crimes in the U.S. Think of it, if we look at the total population and don't consider the children and women, then 80% of all violent crime arrests come from about 40% of the population (males are about 50% of the population and about 20% of that 50% are 14 or younger...so...about 40% of the population is male and older than 14). And, about 90% of all murders here in the U.S. are committed by males, so that 40% of the population accounts for 90% of all murders.

Toxic masculinity is harmful to men...but men are violently harmful to others.  


Men in my family rarely if ever act out violently...but...many of the stifling components of "being a man" are inflicted on the male children.

For instance, years ago, I was probably in my 30s, I was out one afternoon tossing a football around with my cousin, who's a couple of years younger than me and his young son...who was maybe 7 or 8 at the time. The youngster tried to catch the ball and it hit the end of his fingers on one of his hands and jammed them. If you've ever had that happen you know how much it hurts and the kiddo started crying because of the pain.

My cousin...who was someone I was quite close to most of my life...started getting all over his son because he was crying. Telling him to shut up...that boys don't cry and all that crap that gets drizzled all over most little boys. I vividly remember being furious with my cousin...I can feel the anger even now as I write about it decades later.

That memory sort of epitomizes some aspects of my repulsion and rejection of that crap about being a "real man". Men don't cry...which is stupid when you think about it...why would we have tear ducts if we don't cry? I almost hated my cousin at that instant...I had always been pretty close to him but that changed it all for me. I never looked at him the same way again...ever. It's one of those moments that stay with me. It sort of summed up so many of things I'd been taught and exposed to in my life about being a "man".

I love my cousin, I had known him my whole life but that moment brought a distance into our relationship that hadn't been there. I saw him differently from there on. We still visit sometimes but I know...and he knows too...that we comprehend and view the world around us rather differently.

If you're stuck into being raised as a guy, there's little freedom to genuinely express how you feel (without fear of retaliation or ridicule or ostracism)...you have to follow the rules...men don't cry...men are "tough"...crap like that.

I was lucky in that I didn't grow up in a family where men were encouraged to be violent, but many boys aren't so lucky. Even if families don't encourage such harmful behavior, we're all exposed to movies and television and books where male violence is lauded and praised and admired and promoted....male violence is "normalized" and encouraged.

And then we're shocked and horrified when boys or men act out violence. Duh.

FYI, I work at not thinking of gender without also considering race...in the U.S. all "men" are a "race" and all who are "raced" are also assigned a gender. It's a false notion that we can clearly and accurately think about "female" (or "male') without also considering which racial group that female or male has been assigned to. Because, you'll get socialized differently based on both those factors, there will be similarities...but there will be important differences too. 

Both of those aspects of identity are (almost invariably) assigned to us from birth and we experience U.S. society from those positions simultaneously. It's misleading to think about them separately, even though that's the "norm". It's incorrect to do so. I am working on figuring out how to think and write and speak about this without sounding as if I think there's something like a "woman" without a race or a racialized human without a gender. 


So...excuse where I've failed to make this clear...I plead guilty to being unskilled at it. I've been taught to think about "women" and "men" as existing outside of racial groupings instead of viewing race/gender as being inseparable and overcoming that erroneous conditioning is an ongoing project. 

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 

Friday, January 20, 2017

You might have wondered...

why this blog has turned to focusing on issues of race/racism and other "isms" (systems of oppression). (or, maybe you haven't)

If you did wonder...well...it's because I was rudely and thoroughly awakened to the fact that many aspects of the overall vegan movement, including my local vegan organization, have some serious problems that subvert and distort the goal of moving away from doing harm.

It became dreadfully clear to me that many/most white people who live vegan and advocate for and promote an "oppression free" lifestyle are deeply oblivious to how totally U.S. society is organized around and enmeshed in systemic racism and other structures/systems of oppression.

And...that obliviousness is no accident because being unaware serves to uphold and repeatedly recreate racial domination of PoC and concurrent harm to members of other marginalized groups of humans, indeed, to all Earthlings and to mother Earth. Harming is the "norm", absence of harm is the exception. 

My orientation is that if you're not struggling to resist oppression in all its forms and manifestations...then you're subverting what is the heart of veganism (to me anyway)...which is to live in ways that do the least amount of harm.

You can't go around trying to stop harm to one group of living beings while engaging in random or "accidental" or inadvertant harm to other groups of living beings and/or mother Earth.

Well you can...obviously...but if you do that it makes you a thoroughly ineffective representative of anti-oppression,

In fact it makes you complicit in upholding and promoting harm. Not only will you be duped into doing stuff you don't want to do, you'll be oblivious to being used. 

Pattrice jones writes most excellently about this:


My experience, and the experience of many others, indicates that white obliviousness and the upholding of and re-creating of the racist structures of oppression in U.S. society is as widespread and "normalized" in white vegans as it is in any other grouping made up of white people (most especially those that aren't specifically working toward dismantling the ugliness of white racist ideology).

I didn't become vegan to have a "cause". I became vegan because my awareness expanded and I realized I was participating in routinized and "normalized" horror. I was complicit in inflicting suffering and and deprivation and loss of freedom and death on groups of beings who had little or no social power.

Using/harming others and their lives for my gratification and/or pleasure and/or enrichment is nothing I want to participate in.

But...I live in the United States and this nation was founded by harmers and thoroughly structured by racism and sexism and profit above life...it was built to cater to wealthy white men (especially) but to pay lip service to the idea of being "the land of the free". (mainly because they knew being honest about what they were doing probably wouldn't get very far).

And...the ways of thinking and perceiving that we are all taught here are designed to uphold and implement these enactments of oppression. Our culture is structured on dominance and subordination and it works hard to teach you to not grasp this and/or be aware of this.

And...especially for white people (most especially white men)...this absence of comprehension is thoroughly effective and widespread.

Resisting injustice means working to comprehend and make visible these thinking/perceiving modes that serve to uphold harm. Heck, if we don't do that comprehending work, then our attempts to resist will mostly serve to recreate that which we think we're fighting against.

Read Sistah Vegan, read Aph Ko, read pattrice jones...begin moving away from habits of feeling and thinking that serve to (inadvertently) uphold oppression. Ok?

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The racist/anti-racist binary.

In the meaningful book “Is Everyone Really Equal”, the authors point out that focusing on this false binary instead of on racism as an all-encompassing system interferes with the necessary personal, interpersonal, cultural, historical and structural analysis that is needed to challenge it.

Americans are taught to focus attention on individual racist acting out (individual horrid acts by “bad” people) and to believe if we don’t think, do or say such awful stuff then race/racism isn’t our problem. While individual racist acts of emotionally disturbed white people are deplorable, they are not the core issue with race in U.S. society.

Think of the phenomenal cognitive and emotional distorting of understanding and comprehension involved for members of a group (the group raced as "white") that historically engaged in genocide and land theft from Native Americans and in the human enslavement of kidnapped Africans to be able to manage to perceive themselves (white people) to be not only innocent, but, indeed, good and supporters of "equality and liberty and justice for all". That's beyond ridiculous.

Think of the massive self-deluding necessary for the ancestors of such criminals, who benefit from past and current domination and harm (healthcare disparities, housing discrimination, educational disparities, criminal justice discrimination, disparities in job acquisition and pay and on and on) to marginalized groups, to perceive themselves with such incredible unfounded regard that they believe themselves and their nation to be "exceptional" and admirable.  

The depth and breadth of the disregard for reality is astonishing. And yet...this is "reality" for most white Americans.

I participated in this fantasy for decades and continue to struggle to extract myself from such distorting. We are incessantly encouraged to remain unaware and oblivious. And most of us succumb to this tide of unreality. We're rewarded for embracing distortion and penalized and even punished for seeking truth and reality.

And we wonder how we end up with the "leaders" we have?    

Friday, January 6, 2017

There's work for you (and me) to do.

The history of the U.S. is incomprehensible without understanding that our society/culture was (and remains so) thoroughly influenced and structured by slavery/race/racism. It's like Dr. john powell says: "you can't understand this country without understanding the institution of slavery."

Most of us people who are raced as white (indeed, all Americans) have (and continue to be) carefully and persistently taught (by the media and public institutions) to be oblivious to and/or dismissive of this deplorable and terrible truth. (In part, that's how the systems of oppression keep on keeping on, your ignorance (and mine) is vital to this continuation of awful.)

We are well “educated” into subscribing to an epistemology of ignorance wherein we are taught to: “see the world wrongly, but with the assurance that this set of mistaken perceptions will be validated by white epistemic authority.”

Most Americans are unaware that: “Enslaved African Americans built the modern United States, and indeed the entire modern world, in ways both obvious and hidden.” (The Half Has Never Been Told).

Societies structured around oppression and oppressive practices almost invariably promote the denial and distorting of history and the stripping away of context in order to uphold and maintain a positive view of themselves and to minimize resistance to their oppressive practices. If bad stuff isn’t seen or understood, then it’s less likely to be interrupted or fought against. (invisibling)

The European colonial enterprise has enveloped and warped us all in our thinking and understanding and behaving…and damaged everyone…some horribly... materially and bodily and psychologically via atrocities and violence…and some, were damaged, not bodily, but psychologically and epistemologically. Those who received that latter damage had it masked and hidden, in part, by being given material benefits obtained by threat or violence from the colonized and/or the enslaved.

Begin to educate yourself and to resist by reading The Half Has Never Been Told, read The New Jim Crow, read Slavery By Another Name, read Ebony and Ivory, read Birth of a White Nation, read Is Everyone Really Equal?, read Custer Died For Your Sins.

Read with an open heart and mind, read with the awareness that your cultural conditioning will urge you to deny and minimize and distort what you’re learning (especially if you’re raced as white).

Read with the awareness that you will be made uncomfortable by what you’re reading. Read with the knowledge that if you’re not uncomfortable…then you’re not “getting it”.

Read knowing you’ll try to find ways that exonerate you or your ancestors (if you’re white)…and…if you think you’ve found those ways then you’ve failed to comprehend. We are all immersed in this dismal swamp of oppression, we all participate, whether we want to or not. The greater clarity and understanding of what's going on that we achieve, then the better equipped we are to work to interrupt these damaging practices.

This reading and thinking and comprehending will be hard and painful work. Thank your ancestors for this. It was hard for them too…and they wilted and did not do their work. They opted to turn away from hard truths and painful realities and chose to embrace a lie and they passed that lie on to you.

Read knowing that if you even read one, just one, of those books that I listed, you'll then be more knowledgeable about the reality of the history of the United States than are 99.4% of all white Americans. (I made up that percentage, but it will be very very close to accurate...and that's very sad)  

Don't want to read books? Well, I can direct you to some blog posts by Abagond that will disrupt your obliviousness if you prefer short and snappy wreckings of your learned ways of thinking.

Here's a brief history of White America, here's a post about some of the thinking of Vine Deloria, Jr., here's a post about the way colonialism obliterates (physically and historically) Indigenous peoples and their cultures, and here Abagond writes about what he was not taught about American history. (if you're raced as white and live in the U.S., I can almost guarantee that reading Abagond's blog will cause you distress...so be forewarned)

To struggle against (as best you can) white obliviousness will mean hard work and discomfort and much thinking. Mainstream cultural narratives will encourage you to avoid gaining a more accurate view of the way this nation operates by offering a myriad of paths that support denial and/or ignorance.

Our culture/nation is not organized around truth and equality for all...it is based on upholding structural oppression for the benefit of a few...and on obscuring and hiding and denying its own reality.

 Racism and these structures of oppression have had centuries to evolve and hone and morph their justifications and obfuscations. You will have to work to fight through these confusions and evasions…and even then...they’ll often win anyway. “Good intentions” aren’t enough. Being a "good person" is not enough. This stuff hasn't persisted for centuries because it is easy to defeat. It would have disappeared long ago if that were true.

Either you fight it or you uphold it, there is no third option…your ancestors made sure of that. If they had done their work, you wouldn’t be faced with doing it now…but they didn’t. Now it’s on you (and me).

Part of the way this stuff keeps going is by keeping us obliviousness to the necessity to fight it.

Living vegan isn't enough to lead a life of minimal harm to others. In the U.S. we all were born into or moved into a horrid system that routinely harms its less socially powerful citizens, either you are struggling to understand and to refrain from harm to them...or...you're participating in harming them (or benefiting from harm to them). There is no opting out of these systemic oppressions.

If you want to be angry at anyone…be angry at your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and generations before that. Your fore-mothers and your fore-fathers failed to interrupt and transform this society of oppression…it’s your turn (and mine) to struggle with the task. If we don't work to oppose it...we are upholding it. (I choose to struggle against it because I find it repugnant and disgusting. What about you?)