Tuesday, January 3, 2012

4 AM at the Privilege Cafe

The blogosphere got the most fascinating New Year's present: Glenn Greenwald taking a rape analogy seriously instead of dismissing it as being too extreme a means to insult Obama supporters. To add to the joy of the season, John Cole defended him for it the next day by constructing a straw man. Imani of Angry Black Lady was the target of the initial insult, so I will point to her summary of events. I for one decided I'd had enough of Cole and walked way from Balloon Juice as well. I was an occasional commenter, so it's not like I'm a major loss. But I just could not hang anymore.

There's a larger point to all of this, though. The problem of privilege. And there are multiple privileges that come into play here. The original rape analogizer (DrDawg on Twitter), Greenwald, and Cole are all male. And for sure, two of them are white. I'd gamble on the third man also being white, but that's not guaranteed. The fact he dared go there with an analogy of a black man raping a nun on national TV is why I say that. At best, DrDawg wound up seeing a rerun of Two Mules for Sister Sara recently and got way ahead of himself.

I'll focus on the gender privilege. But rest assured, I noticed "black man as rapist" was in there, too. And that's another thing that all three men had best check themselves on. This is white-to-white speaking: cut the crap and get over the 60's.

I could echo those who've discussed how explaining privilege is like telling fish about water. Or I could bring up the house shared by a Siberian husky and a gecko. But I feel like being visual and giving Tatsuya Ishida of Sinfest some props while I'm at it.

Because the moment at least some of us have when we realize we're surrounded by messages that tell us how to behave that the culture endorses and encourages? Feels just like this:

Direct link: http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4049

Direct link: http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4050

And after that red pill is swallowed, we know. And we can't escape knowing. So when someone tries to tell us it's not there because they can't see it or act as if it doesn't apply in a situation where it does, we get cognitive dissonance.

Denying that Greenwald failed to act appropriately when given that rape analogy is ignoring the truth. Attacking those of us who called him out on it or were hurt by its use is cooperating with those who want people to take the blue pill.

Ishida's analogy also applies to other forms of privilege, of course. But his first reason for using it applies here. Imani and her friends and supporters have taken the red pill. Cole claims to have taken the red pill, such as when he puts a rapid kibosh on people using "cunt" as an insult in his blog, but in this instance he acted like he took the blue one again.

And that's what really hurts. When someone who has acted like an ally in the past circles the wagons to protect the offenders in this situation, it's a betrayal. I almost expected Greenwald to permit the analogy to exist and even double down on it. Cole fell down on the job as an ally. He didn't have to defend Imani. But if he didn't want to do that, he should've just stayed out of it.

I've been the one who blew it before. I have made amends as I could when called on it. Cole doubled down. That is his real offense.

I'm not even close to being the blogger Imani is. But this hedgehog has her back.


  1. I don't even feel competent to comment here, but I've read quite a few blog posts about what transpired & this post explains it the best, at least for my brain. Or perhaps its that you've put what I think about this in writing, and that helps. Regardless of the reason, excellent post!

  2. Thank you very kindly. I'm always glad to know what I said resonated.