Sunday, May 03, 2015

More on Privilege

I have an opera today, and need to start getting ready in half an hour. But I can begin another post...

As I mentioned previously, I got a really nasty note from Wiscon programming, after suggesting an admittedly explosive panel topic. I wanted to discuss whether identity politics was the best way to talk about social injustice.

The note started with my privilege as a white woman and went on to give me a kindergarten lecture on prejudice and the suffering of minorities. It's so nice when contemporary white people discover this is a racist society. I knew it in 1950.

Anyway, I sat on the nasty note for several months, too shocked to act. I finally complained to Wiscon and got an apology and a plan of action: the person who wrote the note would be Talked To and told to stay away from me. Other people would handle my Wiscon programming. That made me mostly happy. So I went to the Wiscon website and picked out several panel ideas, including two on aging. I then mentioned on facebook that I was not going to do political panels at Wiscon, except two on aging. Elders were the only group that didn't have advocates in fandom, so this left room for me.

I then got a comment from a member of Wiscon's Con Comm, who is a facebook friend of mine:
BL: Are you not in the fan community?

EA: Yes, of course I am. I meant I hadn't noticed anyone else, which leaves me room.
I then listed a few facts about aging -- one third of retired folks rely on Social Secuity for 90% + of their income, and the average Social Security payment is around $13,000 a year. And I added that elders were the only group about whom pundits said: die and get out of the way.

BL: No, This is also said to the disabled.

EA: Yes, of course you are right. The line between elders and the disabled is fuzzy, because the elderly are often disabled.
BL then pointed out that GLBT are also told to die and get out of the way, which is true -- but not usually by pundits, who are columnists in the Washington Post and the New York Times and people with cushy jobs at think tanks. Pundits focus their dislike on the poor.

A former governor of Colorado famously told the old to die and get out of the way. I don't think he would have said the same to people of color or GLBT people.

Another facebook friend, also a member of the Wiscon Con Comm, said her experience was that fandom overvalued the elderly, to the detriment of young people.

So the way I read this is: I am trying to say that elders have problems, and my argument is being cut down. Granted, I may not have expressed myself well.

The main problem with getting old is -- no matter how healthy you are, you are facing sickness and death in the comparatively near future. If you are a typical elder in the US, you don't have a hell of a lot of money, and your family network is likely to be weak. Since I have no children, my network is weaker than many. I consider this a serious problem, and reminding me that other people have problems is no help.

I really do not like hierarchies of suffering. As Patrick just said, people don't show up at cancer websites saying, "There are other diseases."


Blogger Foxessa said...

Perfect post to point at when asked why I left this field.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Karen B. said...

Yes, going for hierarchies of suffering/oppression only detract from the, y'know, actuall issues.

I love Patrick's comment! Though now that you've put the idea out there, I wouldn't put it past one person, somewhere, to do that very thing.

As for WisCon, I apologize for the crap treatment you receive from anyone. Mind, I'm just another concom member and not in charge or anything.

Sadly some of the new concom folks see it as more of a generation gap than anything else. To me, it feels more like a culture clash, but I haven't been able to figure out any further detail. And of course, there's also an element of people in their twenties behaving like people in their twenties.

I look forward to maybe making progress on understanding at the convention. Maybe we can find some good paths forward for more than one fannish community, then.

7:47 AM  
Blogger MFE said...

The behaviour of those WisCon people is so embarassing. "My pain (or that of my preferred group) is worse than yours, and that means I'm the first among victims (and/or defendants of that special group, whose cause I have for unknown reasons made mine)." It is also stupid.

It is exactly that attitude that allows guys like Vox Day to point at the bigotry among these identity politics groups and have a field day with it. Same here, across the Atlantic. A stupid and heartless "Leftie" or "SJW" is the best friend of a Nazi or any reactionary.

4:01 AM  

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