I notice a few key reactions from smart, well-intentioned guys as they reach the fork in the road determining “greater wisdom” and “becoming a douche” by bashing heads with a seasoned activist. These things usually happen to men who have a self-image as a good and intelligent person with sound judgment. So, for the edification of guys who may recognize some of these defense mechanisms and for the affirmation of activists who are SO TIRED of seeing them over and over again, here is a list of observed responses when intelligent new age guys are called out on privilege:
1. Upping their “civil conversations” quota. When you kind of realize maybe you were an ass in an argument, there’s a great temptation to go have as many productive, impersonal debates about “important topics” as possible with other people to prove that you are, in fact, a good arguer with many salient points. You need to prove that the fact you got dissed, got yelled at, got schooled, or lost a friend over your shit is in fact because the other person was overreacting, taking things personally, or just didn’t get you. Not because you were kind of a shit who stuck your foot in your mouth.
2. Figuring “it will all blow over” when they stop being so emotional. Somebody just rain down some righteous justice on you? Do you figure everything will be ok again when they calm down? Plaster over that shit and make sure you studiously ignore that they don’t want to stand too close to you, don’t invite you to things with their gay friends any more, and put the rosiest possible spin on the fact that they do not speak to you about this topic again. That is obviously because they realized the error of their ways, not because you proved you don’t care about being an ass to the people around you. It is not because they have silently accepted eating shit rather than ruining the afternoon. Again.
3. Co-opting victim status by claiming “oh, I take this personally too, I’m SO sensitive.” If you ever find yourself inflating your own experience in order to “compete” with a victim’s voice, please just stop.
4. Making it all about their own apologies. Showy apologies that are all about how sad and remorseful you feel and your martyrdom to the gods of Very Sensitive People. It still doesn’t count as actually listening. You have to shut up for a bit to do that.
5. Blaming the medium. Complaining that people misinterpret them in text/in writing/over chat because of the medium, not because they’re saying horrible stuff to people who know damn well how to read words and how powerful words are. “Why does everyone jump down my throat when I say racist shit? People are misinterpreting my WORDS. I’m not racist!” – person with a fundamental misunderstanding of how racism works.
Redeemable? Maybe. Eye-rollingly familiar? Definitely.