Don’t You Have More Important Issues To Think About
When you’re beginning to feel backed into a corner, you could do worse than to trot this one out. As with the best of all these techniques, this step operates on several levels. First of all, it communicates to the marginalized person that you think the entire debate is trivial and below consideration, indicating you entirely disregard their feelings and emotions. Secondly, you disown responsibility for your part in the debate and anything that you’ve said that may have been discriminatory or offensive.Finally, you reinforce your privilege by suggesting that it is privileged people’s job to set the agenda for the marginalized group. After all, how could they possibly know what issues they should prioritize for themselves, they’re far too inferior and stupid! You, with your objective, rational privileged perspective, on the other hand, know exactly what is most important and it is definitely not confronting you with your own bigotry and ignorance!
Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone
Of course, straw man arguments are critical to any successful derailing of conversation. It’s very important to discount the marginalized person experience at every available opportunity. Apart from being simply outright hurtful and demeaning, it also forces them into a constant position of defense.
If a marginalized person gives you a personal testament, then you must immediately assume they are speaking on behalf of their entire group of people and be very quick to point out that it’s wrong for them to do so. It’s a diversionary tactic, designed to get them denying your accusation and so forgetting to continue to argue their point.You will find that something very important to marginalized person is stressing the fact that they are not all the same. This is because Privileged People® have routinely lumped them all together as one great big monolithic group who all look the same, act the same, think the same, speak the same, dress the same, eat the same, feel the same – you get the idea. And, of course, all of those monolithic behaviors are “other” than those of the privileged. Othering is a process that permits Privileged People® to consider the marginalized as less than human, thereby justifying discriminating and stigmatizing behaviors against them. So naturally, it is imperative to a marginalized person to make it understood their group of people are as diverse in expression and experience as persons of privilege.
You can play on this concern by alarming and insulting them with the implication you think they are homogenizing their own group. It also works to suggest to them that their experience is worthless because it doesn’t align with everyone’s – particularly those that you’ve decided to favor That is, the experiences that, to your mind, back up your prejudices. This is belittling and offensive in the extreme as you are essentially denying their reality. People’s personal experiences are important to them, so it’s likely they will, whilst getting increasingly hurt and upset, continue to try and defend and “prove” them to your exacting measures while you can bask in the satisfaction of knowing you have caused them distress. You are well on your way to winning!
Unless You Can Prove Your Experience Is Widespread I Won’t Believe It
You’ve successfully got them in a catch-22: we have already established experience is not a monolith and just because people come from the same marginalized group does not mean they will all have the same thoughts and feelings and experiences.Yet with this one you can make it an essential proviso of your agreement that they have to PROVE what they’re claiming is definitively representative of a majority of their group of people. What is really awesome is that if, by this point, you have them so upset and frustrated that they are not carefully disclaiming their language and so say something that you can in any way distort to mean that they‘re speaking “on behalf“ of all people from their group, you can go right back up to the prior point, Your Experience Is Not Representative of Everyone, and start all over again. You can repeat these two as many times as you like! In fact, this is highly recommended as it will increase feelings of anger and frustration on their part, and then you can throw You’re Taking Things Too Personally or You’re Getting Hostile at them!
But It’s True
Simply trivialize your opponents argument by pointing out to them that whatever offensive/bigoted/ignorant/stereotyped thing you said or did that targeted a marginalized person: “but it’s true!”This is a one-size-fits-all retort that is very effective in how it redirects any argument into a never ending circular loop. You don’t have to take on any of the points the marginalized person may raise, nor do you have to concede offence and apologize – you can disavow all responsibility by simply repeating, over and over, to any counter-claim or attempted correction and reasoning: “but it’s true!”“But it’s true! Asian people DO talk funny! But it’s true! Black men are all criminals because they’re arrested more often! But it’s true! Women are irrational during their periods because of their hormones! But it’s true! But it’s true! But it’s true!”
You can even go so far as to appear exasperated with the marginalized person for denying the ‘truth’ of the situation, pretending obliviousness to why anything you have said could possibly be hurtful when “it’s true!”.
Well I Know Another Person From Your Group Who Disagrees!
This one is fantastic to bring out if you feel at all backed into a corner. If, for example, the marginalized person is making sense and you’re beginning to get the unpleasant feeling that you were wrong about something, just whip up your friend – your black friend, or your trans friend, your friend with a mental illness, or your friend who is a sex worker, and vehemently express how they completely and stridently support your opinions on these issues.Of course, you must make out as though you are entirely oblivious to internalized stigma and how your friends may have been adversely affected by discrimination wielded by the Privileged®. And, as established by the steps above, it is imperative that you discount the diversity of experience whilst seeming to support it. After all, your friend is proof that there are different opinions among this marginalized group but the fact they agree with you means you don’t have to in the least give credence to ideas alternative to your own, and certainly not from the marginalized person in question.Plus it gives you that handy progressive veneer – see, all their accusations of racism/sexism/ableism/what have you are totally groundless because you have friends who are representatives from that group which shows how open-minded and awesomely cool you really are!
You know what the best part about this step is? The friend doesn’t even have to exist! That’s right, the friend can be nothing more than a figment of your imagination, conjured up to provide you with vicarious backup in your hour of need! How is the marginalized person going to prove it, after all! They can have their suspicions but that’s hardly hard evidence. You’re definitely ahead in the game now!
You Have An Agenda
A close relative of the tactic used above, use this one in a similar fashion, implying that the marginalized person could never be speaking from a position of integrity or with pure intent because they have “an agenda”.Popular for use in discussions about homosexuality, for example: “the gay agenda” – the claim that gay people’s fight to be recognized is simply a desire to “recruit” people into the “gay lifestyle” and turn them “against” the “wholesomeness” of heterosexuality, but it is versatile – also apply it to women’s rights, groups advocating for religious tolerance & diversity and for trans* folk!In this way you get to both undermine them as a human being and further subject them to discrimination through your paranoia and refusal to take them seriously. After all, if you characterize their struggle for acceptance and equal rights as acts worthy of a comic book super-villain you further dehumanize and demoralize them and this will strengthen your position. Ultimately, you can simply dismiss out of turn any and all of their points, no matter how valid, because you can just proclaim that they: “have an Agenda!”
You’re Just Suffering Privilege Envy
If you’re at all concerned that you haven’t been quite enough of an insensitive jackass by this point and worried your argument is suffering as a consequence, try this one on for size!Simply say to the marginalized person in question that: “it’s plain to see you’re just bitter and resentful because you’re not white/male/heterosexual/cisgendered/abled/thin etc and you’ve got a chip on your shoulder you’re taking out on me because I am! Well, I’m very sorry, but that’s not my fault. I can’t help the way I was born and neither can you. There are some things we just have to accept in life and certain realities we have to learn to acknowledge, like the differences between me as white/male/heterosexual/cisgendered/abled/thin etc and you as of color female/queer/transgendered/disabled/fat etc. You just can’t fight nature or the normal social order of things. Please stop blaming me for things that are out of my control!”Or, to summaries: “YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS!”
Not only do you get to once AGAIN avoid any personal responsibility for the the oppressive and/or discriminatory things you have said or done, not only do you once AGAIN get to undermine their emotions, experiences and arguments and treat them as though they have no validity – you ram the insult that little bit further home by basically saying the state of oppression they live in is the “natural order of things” rather than an artificial social construct based on fear and hate!
You can now move forward in the argument assured that your jackassery is well and truly established beyond all doubt!
You Have A False Consciousness
In conversation, there are few things as degrading, enraging and hurtful than to tell someone their experiences are false, or that their perception of them is.
The idea behind this one is usually that oppressed people are simply too oppressed to know they’re oppressed and therefore Privileged People® have to share their wisdom and insight with them.This one crops up a lot in issues that affect women: women who enjoy dressing in conventionally feminine ways (they’re ingrained in the patriarchal construct of femininity and therefore are incapable of making a choice), women who are kinky, regardless of the gender of the person they play with (they’re ingrained in the patriarchal construct of gender roles and therefore are incapable of making a choice) and sex workers who claim to enjoy their work and/or practice it with autonomy (they’re ingrained in the patriarchal construct of female sexuality and therefore are incapable of making a choice). But this also affects People with Disabilities who are routinely told they simply don’t understand what is best for them and need a privileged person to make decisions for them. People with Disabilities are not able to make any decisions for their own protection. Remember to stress that: it’s for your own protection.
With the trans community, you must routinely deny their gender identity by equating their experiences as having happened to someone of the gender they were designated at birth. For example, denying the reality of gender dysmorphia means you can tell a trans woman her childhood experiences happened to a little boy, because that’s how she was being raised, and so communicate your belief her reality as a little girl was false, thoroughly undermining it.
In arguments about race, it takes a slightly different form, generally in white people telling People of Color that they’re “seeing race where none exists”. You, on the other hand, are “ color blind” and we live in “post-racial” times. It’s them who are making everything about race and their experience of racism in their daily lives is simply imagined. If only they could let it go, the whole world would live in post-racial harmony!
You really want to ignore any claims the marginalized person may make about having done thorough research, deconstructing and unpacking of these issues. You also really want to deny their autonomy. There are few things so infuriating as infantilizing an adult and telling them they’re delusional about their own reality. But they need to understand that, no matter what, you know better.
You’re Not Being A Team Player
Shifting blame is very important in these matters. You don’t ever want to have to own up to any responsibility for hurt or distress caused and you most definitely do not want to admit your prejudice or bigotry. You also want that marginalized person to be continuously aware just how “on the fringes” they are, and always will be (providing you get your way – but that’s what Privilege® is for, after all!).You can achieve both these things by accusing the marginalized person of not playing fair, or of not playing with “the team” (i.e.: you and all the other Privileged People® backing you up).“C’mon”, you say, “we’re all doing our best to participate in a reasonable, impartial debate. You aren’t joining in. You’re trying to turn this into a fight. You’re ruining it for everyone else!” In other words: if you just did and said exactly everything we Privileged People® demand of you, life would be so much easier. For me. For you, well, what gave you the impression I care about you?
This tactic subtly combines several of the above points: You’re Taking Things Too Personally, You’re Arguing With Opinions, Not Fact and You Have A False Consciousness, and really makes the marginalized person feel ganged up on. It’s great to gang-up on someone, particularly someone who faces such othering every day of their lives. It reinforces their sense of isolation, which will distress and disorient them, weakening their stance. Deliver it in just the right condescending tone too, and you will really unhinge them…