On “of course a white/cis/straight/man etc would say that”

So the thing is that if someone makes a racist/cissexist/sexist etc point, and you respond with “of course a white person/cis person/guy/etc would say that” where you’re making a guess as to who/what they are: if you guess wrong, you’re giving them a twofold cover for their stance. It’s twofold because a) you are arguing that their stance is incorrect because of what they are, something they could easily disprove, and b) because you are arguing that if they were this other thing, which they are, then their stance would hold more weight, so it does.
 
What you are has to do with the probability that you’ve had some portion of a common set of experiences, and there are a number of interpretations out there for varying portions of that set of experiences. If you are marginalized in some way you are more likely to have had a large enough number of experiences to be compelled by the argument that that marginalization is systemic and is, well, marginalizing. It doesn’t guarantee that you will be compelled by that argument. It definitely doesn’t guarantee that you will be compelled by arguments about the validity of a marginalization you don’t experience. This is how there are people of color who believe racism is over, women who believe that feminism is bad for them, and so on.
 
What if you actually know what a person is, because they established it already? Functionally you’re still reducing their interpretation down to what they are, and telling them that what they are matters more than what they think. Yeah, you probably mean that what they are has more of an influence on what they think than they know, but that’s not what they are going to hear. If you’re participating in a discussion in order to check or change their opinion, or someone’s opinion, you’re probably not going to get far by telling them that what they are makes them do/think wrong things. (If you’re trying to rile up, or drive some people out, or whatever, you may have better luck, and there are valid reasons for those things, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.) You’re probably going to have better success by exploring how what they are shapes what they think.
A cool thing is that you can approach this pretty much the same way as if you weren’t sure what they were and where they were coming from: “Why do you think that? Let’s say your perception is correct, and these other people’s perception is also correct. Is there some way that all of these perceptions can be true? What might cause you to have a different perspective than they have?” You might be able to get someone thinking a little more subjectively. There’s even a possibility they’ll start thinking a little more subjectively right there in the middle of the argument (this is extremely unlikely; it’s much more likely that they’ll have an ah hah moment in the shower the next day that starts a long slow process spanning months if not years). But again, this is all about probabilities. There are no guarantees.
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On online homework services

I understand the value to teachers of not having to spend time grading homework, but when I have a class where (math or science problem) homework is administered via a third party online service where you have to type in answers, I often spend at least as much time wrestling with the software than I spend actually completing the homework. So like, 2 hours of homework is actually 4 hours, where half that time isn’t actually about studying. It increases the likelihood that I am going to search online for help with a problem as soon as it starts to look complicated, rather than puzzle over it for a while and experiment (good for learning!), like I would do if I actually had all 4 of those hours available for doing homework.

I can’t speak strongly enough for what so many teachers have done over the ages: assign a selection of problems from the book whose answers are listed at the back, then give a checkmark or whatever to students if they at least make an attempt at a majority of the problems. The teacher doesn’t have to evaluate if the student is doing things right: that’s up to the student to ask for help if they are getting answers that don’t match the book. For classes where the homework counts for like 10% of the grade, this isn’t unreasonable and takes a minimal amount of time for the teacher: for an unreasonably large 40 student class in which all of the students actually turned something in, this should take no more than 10 minutes. Alphabetize the stack, then go through the gradebook and add a mark for each one that looks like work was done.

And it means the student isn’t stuck shelling out for the cost of this routinely crappy online service.

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Quick notes regarding triggers, social justice efforts, and the Chicago Dyke March

Quick reminders/thoughts related to the whole Chicago Dyke March evicting Jewish marchers thing. None of this should be taken as establishing what went down, this is just intended to challenge some of the ways I’m seeing people respond to some of the information getting reported.
  • people have the right to be triggered by anything; there isn’t a list of acceptable things to be triggered by, an application process, etc
  • people have the right to self determine whether something is a trigger, without requirement of formal diagnosis from a profession which historically treats marginalized people as mentally ill for refusing to comply with their marginalization
  • people are responsible for figuring out how they manage their triggers and their space needs related to those triggers
  • just because something is an important concept for social justice and people’s wellbeing does not prevent people from using that concept to harm individuals and communities; patterns of behavior should shape how we view one off occurrences
  • no space is responsible for or even capable of removing every possible trigger in that space
  • many spaces are highly capable of providing resources to support people in that space with common triggers, including but definitely not limited to trigger warnings, as well as uncommon and therefore unlistable triggers, including but not limited to having mental health support staff on hand
  • taking care of people most at risk due to marginalization and resisting the divide-and-conquer methodology of kyriarchy are common goals, even though the steps toward those goals may often appear to conflict
  • how much can those steps conflict without actually working at odds with each other? Context matters always
  • adhering strictly to simplistic arguments for social justice purposes allows you to act quickly, and it also gives people easy tools to dismantle your efforts. Allowing for complexity slows you down, and it also gives you the ability to work with people who would otherwise aim to dismantle your efforts. Both simplicity and complexity can be used toward the same goals even when they appear to conflict.
This is a test, this is only a test.

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Asking gender on surveys

Frequently, when people set up surveys, they ask for gender. This question is often included out of habit, but it still is often a relevant question, even if the only contribution of the question is to show that gender doesn’t have a significant influence on other responses. In modern efforts to be more friendly to gender minorities, the gender question is often updated. And it’s often updated in silly ways.

Here’s the two most common “inclusive” ways I have seen the gender question presented over the last few years:

a) What is your gender?
* Male
* Female
* Transgender
* Prefer not to say

b) What is your gender?
* Male
* Female
* Other

There are minor language variations, such as sometimes using “transgendered” instead of “transgender”, but this is the gist. So, what’s wrong with these? Continue reading

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If something says “please copy and paste to share”

If you see something presented as information (as opposed to opinion, fictional story, joke etc) along with “please copy and paste”, ask yourself: what is served by copy and pasting, thus erasing the source?

There are valid reasons for asking people to copy and paste before sharing to obscure the sources of some things. Some common reasons include:

  • Managing distribution of information about protests and similar activities where the source can become a target of law enforcement, but many copy and pasted sources are more than law enforcement can do anything productive with.
  • Minimizing spectator influx when something on Facebook gets shared beyond the sphere of people you’re up for interacting with.
  • Getting past the shared-with-friends wall set by the poster of something you’d like to share.

The first of these is likely to include information that, by its nature, can’t easily be confirmed. The latter two have no reason not to have sources. Included sources. Continue reading

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On being an ally to friends, enemies, and strangers who make choices we don’t understand

Being an ally is not the same thing as being a friend. This may seem obvious, or it may seem baffling, and hopefully this can be relevant reading either way.

You can be someone’s friend while also marginalizing them, either through microaggressions (such as being a cis person telling a trans person that they don’t look trans) or outright aggressions (such as being a white person calling a person of color a racist slur). They may or may not perceive what you’ve done as marginalizing. They may have gotten really good at finding internal ways to manage that marginalization (such as apologizing for your behavior for you, or agreeing with your behavior and its implications about them) in the interest of maintaining the friendship, or maintaining jobs, family, housing, whatever. They’ve likely lost any or all of those things before when advocating for themself about that thing. Yes, your friendship with someone can matter enough that they would rather put up with being repeatedly hurt by than risk losing yet another damn thing in their life.

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Resource list for challenging exclusion of trans women from women’s sports

This is a brief list of resources addressing the question of if trans women have a physical advantage over cis women in sports. (Spoiler: no.) Exclusion of trans women from women’s sports due to supposed physical advantage is often considered scientifically valid and therefore not transphobic. These links demonstrate the lack of scientific evidence that trans women have a physical advantage over cis women, and explore the history of developing policies of both trans exclusion and inclusion in sports. These are intended to meet the needs of people who are potentially open to this type of proof for trans inclusion, or at least who claim to be interested in science, but lack the interest, resources, time, and/or energy to seek out and interpret information which challenges familiar ciscentric standards. Allies, take this stuff to your cis friends!

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