Words to Ignore

Have I mentioned how much I love Rosie of Make Me a Sammich?  Last week, I reblogged one of Rosie’s posts about   how to change behavior in a social setting.

This post is also fabulous; it reminds you that you can be an ally, an activist.  These words are silencing mechanisms, not actual criticisms of what you’re saying.  This post was intended for women and feminists especially, but there are many other brands of activism that are silenced by shaming words.

Words that other readers suggested include

  • Sexist
  • Intolerant
  • Misandrist
  • You’re taking this too personally!
  • Slut/Whore
  • Whiny
  • Any diminutive word for women, (Princess, pet, love)
  • Typical
  • White Knighting

Non-gendered silencing words include

  • Bleeding heart liberal
  • White guilt
  • Stereotypical
  • Reverse Racism
  • Virgin
  • Neckbeard
  • Naiive
  • Loser
  • Do-gooder

Are there any other words that are used as silencing mechanisms rather than attempts to discuss problems?

List the ones you’ve heard in the comments.


Motivational Monday-Kids off the Block

This woman is amazing….

She provides kids in Chicago with a place to stay, an adult to talk to, and someone who trusts them.  She is a lifeline for kids who don’t have one.

She has done nothing more than open her home to kids who need a place to go.  She hasn’t asked for cookies, rewards, or praise.  She just helps people out by simply treating them like human beings.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, take a page out of her book, and treat everyone like a full human being worthy of dignity and respect.  Don’t assume anything about them, and ask them about their stories, hopes and dreams.  

That’s your challenge for the week.  If you learn something new or hear a cool story, email me at cafeaulait0913@gmail.com and I’ll publish it.

Readers, are there any other everyday heroes you would like to acknowledge?  Honor them in the comments.

From the Readers-Solving Problems

Reader Maurice Barry of Duck?  Starfish?…23 commented under an older piece about advice for the men in our lives.  In his comment, he reminded me not to stereotype all men, and that he  appreciated the reminder to mind his manners.

He has actually written a related piece, in an effort to comment about male and female friendships, familial loyalty, and men’s tendency to problem solve.

The post begins with

“One of the things that women find most annoying about men is our desire to fix things that, maybe, do not need to be fixed.”
and includes
“Because we [men] often obtain our ‘power’ from our ability to effect change we figure that is the best response, namely to actually do something; to fix whatever is wrong. What we fail to realize is that what is sought is not a solution. Frequently the solution is known and other times one is not required. What is needed instead is support and understanding.”
This is simple and beautiful.  I love that Maurice understands this, and I’m glad that he posted it where other men can learn from his wisdom.

Here is the link to the rest of the post.  Check it out.  It involves Ireland, the War, and some awesome relatives.

Motivational Monday-Stop -splaining and Start Listening

For People Who Like to Explain Things

I’m particularly fond of the word priv-splaining.  It is a useful term describing a wide variety of communication problems.  In short, it means someone with privilege speaking to someone with less privilege, and they assume the other person ignorant.

I have been guilty of priv-splaining, to a boyfriend.  I’ve probably priv-splained more than I can remember, but this particular incident stays in mind.  We were at an awards ceremony and I assumed that he didn’t know about classical music.  I told him something that turned out to be wrong, and I found out when he revealed that he knew more than I did.  Oops.  I felt weird at the time, but I couldn’t put a finger on what I had done wrong.  I priv-splained.

So, that’s why I found this checklist particularly useful.

1. Do you know how much the other person knows about the subject?

If you don’t know how much they know about the topic, you should find out first.

2. Are you using your supposed expertise to prove something?

If you’re out to prove something, find a more subtle way to talk about the subject without turning into a college lecturer.

3. Are you actually listening to what the other person is saying, or are you already formulating your response?

You have to listen to the other person and then figure out what you’re going to say.  Or else you’ll miss information.

4. Are you talking about your own experience, or are you universalizing about how everyone feels? Are you explaining an experience of theirs to them?  

  Actually listen to the other person’s words, and don’t explain their experiences to them.  They have no doubt thought of your very insightful criticism before.

5. And most importantly: Do you actually know what you’re talking about?

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you shouldn’t pretend you do.

So here you go.  Simple guidelines for having a polite, productive, and positive conversation.

Just a Stereotypical Liberal?

Before starting this blog, I debated the merits of publicizing thoughts on feminism and social policy, especially in an  uncertain job market.  So I started posting anonymously, and I loved it.  I felt safe, like I could post anything, argue for what I believed in, and have a meaningful dialogue.  I knew the dangers of blogging about feminism under your real name; I saw what happened to Rebecca Watson, and Anita Sarkeesian.  Therefore, I decided to blog under cafeaulait, instead of my real name.

But in my youthful blog enthusiasm, I told a few friends that I had a blog and showed it to them.  When I showed a friend who works on Wall Street, he laughed.  He pointed out that the Ghandi quotation is overused to the point of cliche.  He’s right, but his valid criticism stung, and made me feel like a walking stereotype.

The truth is that I do believe in social justice.  And that involves believing in people, believing in their innate goodness, and believing that you can make a difference.  I believe in social justice because I have seen it work.

I have seen health clinics manifest from nothing out of sheer determination and hard work.  I have seen the offering of video games available expand to more female-friendly games.  I believe that one broke college graduate can change the perception of teaching in the United States, starting with nothing but a tiny apartment and a big idea, like Wendy Kopp, the CEO of TFA.But to those who don’t see the world like I do, I’m just an idealistic fool.

I am a latte liberal because I believe in social justice and because I have seen it work.  Not because I’m still too young or too naive to know better.

His words inspired a moment of doubt, and then a realization.  Speaking like I would to like-minded friends is not going to change conservative hearts.  My liberal roommate and my liberal coworkers will be inspired by the Ghandi quotation.  Unfortunately, those who don’t believe in the power of activism will dismiss the quotation as trite, overplayed pretty words.

He reminded me that portraying myself as a stereotypical latte-drinking liberal isn’t helping me spread the message that social justice matters.

I learned through my friend’s assessment, that I need to improve my communication skills.  Because he is happy with the status quo, and I believe that things can and should be better, I have to take the responsibility to learn how to better communicate with him and others like him.  After all, if I want change, I have to work for it, or else I’m not living up to my own mantras.

For now, I will try to reach to those who think similarly.   I will continue to blog as cafeaulait, and I will separate my blog life and my personal life.  In the meantime, I will work on improving my ability to communicate the importance of social justice and activism to more conservative family and friends, sharing techniques along the way.

If you have any advice on how to communicate with more conservative family and friends, leave tips in the comments!