Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dissent is classism

I wish I could say this argument was rare (but it isn't). That it pops up only in the luddist* dialogue of radfems and other chronically prescriptive feminists (but it comes up even in those areas I had come to think of as consisting of the "good progressives"). That it was merely an "intellectual difference" that I could address with the "detachment and objectivity" that these people believe is actually inherent in reasoned disagreement (but no, it makes me angry as all get-out, and that will be obvious).

Dissent is classism.
Knowledge is privilege.
Rational thinking is the tool of the oppressor.
Logical debate is "for white abled upper middle class folk."

Attention, anyone who has ever used any variation of this argument: Fuck you. You haven't got a goddamn clue what classism looks like, what "underprivileged" looks like. You think hunger looks like a message in your inbox you just can't 'splain away? You think having little or no access to healthcare looks like a point in a reply that wasn't as easy to address as you thought it would? You think scraping it by on welfare is equivalent to the big mean Internet person calling out your bullshit?

You think "classism" is anything requiring just enough knowledge to disprove your pet conjectures, but is, conveniently, just shy of what was needed to form them in the first place. You think "poor" means "ignorant, unquestioning, and out of sight" - there's your classism right there, douchebag. You think "less privileged" means "not able to comprehend my words, let alone prove them wrong." You clutch your pearls over rational disagreement because, lord, lord, the privileged class is here to push on you their unfairness and their - lord! help me! - "academia".

You don't know a goddamn thing about "poor" or "underprivileged". You can toss your computer and your cellphone, put down your pen, leave your university - and shut right the fuck up, because, according to you, having a voice and a clue is too goddamn privileged. You want to respect the less privileged? Give your victim complex a rest and think about the slop you're spewing. Think for a goddamn second about the rest of the world. Stop assuming that they give any less of a shit than you do, that they are any less likely to jump at the chance to learn and grow than anyone else.

The people who've got something to fucking say - something to be angry about, a need to change your mind and everyone else's, whose rationality is not grounded in some nebulous force of "academia" but systematic oppression and abuse by the essentialist thought, magical thinking, corrupt (lack of) ethics and irrationality that still runs so much of society - are as likely as not to be the "poor pathetic underprivileged people" whose opinions you believe you "safeguard" by clutching your pearls and fawning paternalistically when the discussion gets "too academic".

Are we clear?

Rationality is not the nebulous enemy, knowledge is not "for the privileged", logic is not a matter of the university classroom. These are your strongest allies. Use them. Spread them. Stop fucking around in the playpen and realize that if you have a burden, it is not to censor "academic reasoning" from the poor underprivileged who just can't take it - it is to spread the tools of thought. If knowledge is "academic", if it is "locked away in ivory towers", the cure is not to preserve that association by disowning knowledge, but to subvert that association by partaking in its spread.

*I practically made that word up, but I don't care. It's much easier to work into a sentence than "in the nature of luddites".


  1. Your so damn right on that! And I say that as someone who lives below the poverty line since age 4 and who dropped out of high school.

    I remember one argument where a woman essentially dismissed all of science logic and reason as 'male' and therfore invalid especially as a counter to any of arguments or claims she made. Ignoring it seems the women who managed to overcome oppression to contribute to the fields over human history.

  2. Hey, BBB, you're my second commenter ever (but then, I did only start this week)! woohoo!

    That's exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. I don't know where these peoples' heads are - but, fittingly, it is somewhere far removed from reality. The wholesale rejection of science will never prop anyone up - if anything, it only serves to undermine the fight for equality. That is the real "doing the patriarchy's work for it".

  3. Yes. THIS. *So* much this. You wouldn't believe how much i encounter versions of this - in fact, i think it's incredibly common for neurodiverse poor people to encounter this, because of the bizarre tangles of assumptions that seem to exist about things like accent, tone of voice, vocabulary and communication style and their supposed class implications. (I think it's gendered, too, but can't quite put the words together to explain exactly how it feels gendered to me right now.)

    You've reminded me that i need to write about neurodiversity and class, and about the really fucked-up relationship between class and anti-intellectualism that seems to exist in English-speaking countries. (I'm not sure if it exists in other countries or not, but it definitely *seems*, from what i've heard people say, not to exist anywhere near as much in many if not all non-English-speaking European countries, which leads me to suspect that there are links with how the English language evolved. I'll go properly into that when i get round to posting on it, tho...)

    I do sort of want to defend the Luddites, tho ;) They were not the anti-intellectuals that they are commonly caricatured as, but essentially working-class people fighting back against specific, strategic uses of technology by the boss class to further erode their autonomy and cement the bosses' position of power. The agit-folk band Seize The Day did a great song called "Ned Ludd" which can be found here: http://www.seizetheday.org/music.cfm?albumID=2&trackID=17

  4. I'll admit, my use of "luddite" is based more in the convenience of the association than a grounded knowledge of luddite history! I'll rethink my terminology, but it *is* hard to think of a word with the same connotations...

    As far as english-speaking countries and anti-intellectualism, I'll bet this has more to do with the way our institutions of higher learning function. Learning in the general sense is oft-derided - the way we learn is heavily geared towards application in the workplace, so knowledge is packaged into discrete boxes. The scientific reasoning that enabled that knowledge is glossed over or ignored. Many can go through the "entire" learning process - from kindergarten to university - with no appreciation of the "why" and "how" of what they learn. Without an appreciation for the connections between knowledge, one has no reason not to throw entire areas of learning out the window.

    I think I'm going somewhere with that thought, but I don't know - I'll have to think about it.

    I've gotten both sides of the assumptions about vocabulary - being assumed to be one of the big dark forces of "academia" when I am able to express myself in text, but assumed unintellectual in the world of meat for my inability to remember discrete facts (like addresses, directions, dates, phone #s) and reluctant/poor verbalization.

  5. "I've gotten both sides of the assumptions about vocabulary - being assumed to be one of the big dark forces of "academia" when I am able to express myself in text, but assumed unintellectual in the world of meat for my inability to remember discrete facts (like addresses, directions, dates, phone #s) and reluctant/poor verbalization."

    Oh yes, very much same here. I think this is an extremely common experience for people on the autistic spectrum, and possibly for disabled people in general (though in different ways for different impairment groups). Reminds me, as have several posts recently, that i really ought to write about the relationship between impairment/disability and percieved class...


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