Wordy activists.

31Oct08

While I would hardly claim to hold expertise on activism and intellectualism, there are certain words I have strong opinions on. I think a lot of activists and intellectuals use certain words without critically engaging with their context, meaning, and previous use. While I am not a credentialed expert, I am a blogger, and as we all know in Web 2.0, blogging is next to expertness.

Thus, I give you my list of words commonly abused by activists.

1. Privilege. My working definition refers to collective systems of identity that value the experiences of some and deny access to the resources of society to others. There are a vast many types of privileges: gender, racial/ethnic, sexual identity, occupation, class. What privilege isn’t is an excuse to ignore someone else’s life experience, as in, “You have privilege in this one area, so you couldn’t possibly know what you are talking about in this other area.” A frequently repeated abuse of privilege is the example of sex workers who are middle class having their experience in sex work discounted because of their class privilege. Privilege is a matrix, interlocking systems, a web, not a flat line.

2. Offensive. I tend to think of things that are offensive as things that are gross slights and slurs against groups of people. I don’t tend to think of things that are offensive as things that personally irk or piss someone off. I do thing it’s offensive to say that all sex workers are dirty whores. I don’t think it’s offensive to say that it’s important to question violence statistics about sex work. I think offensive is this fabulous buzz word people use to shut down conversations. It’s doesn’t mean, “I don’t agree with you, I’m done talking about this.”

3. Objectification. Especially in the sex work debate, this is such a hot, hot buzz word. Sex work is offensive because it objectifies women! Right? Well, objectification means literally that: to be treated as an object. And I don’t mean to be used as my table or ashtray, unless you’re into that. I mean to turn the body and experiences of another into a nameless, faceless body that produces or serves. Food service, anyone? Capitalism turns bodies into objects because, remembering back to the Comunist Manifesto, bodies are required to produce surplus capital. This word has been used to much that its meaning has evaporated. Please, pick a new one.

4. Patriarchy. I really have nothing to say about this one. I think gender privilege pretty well describes what people mean by patriarchy. Patriarchy literally refers to the dominance of male lineage and rule by the father, not the privilege of men and the male body.

I have no doubt I’ll think of more.

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One Response to “Wordy activists.”

  1. *claps loudly and wildly* OMG, YES! If I hear the word privilege one more time, I’m give them the privilege of duct tape over their mouths. Ditto with objectification and patriarchy, especially as used by feminists who want to corral women into this near-asexual mode of sexual expression but don’t see how that makes them no different from the men they claim to hate.


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