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[personal profile] aliaras
When talking about some -ism or another, personal preferences/taste seem to come up a lot. For example, attractiveness. While I don't have a firm type, I do find some people more attractive than others, and these people will fit into a more privileged category, or at least a stereotyped one in relation to some privileged category (mmm, butch lesbians.) And so we will be talking about sexism and someone will talk about how man, it sucks that there's this beauty ideal that includes slender, toned bodies for women. We need to recognize other shapes as equally beautiful. And then someone will come in and say "maybe but...I like slender toned women, and I don't want to lie and say that really fat women are beautiful when I don't think so". When they're called out that this is sexist and fatphobic, they'll point out that hey, that's their preference, they can't change it or be expected to. Or maybe they're open to accepting all shapes, but the only people they date are slender and toned, or I don't know.

And they're right. It is their preference, and they can't change that, and I don't think anyone should pretend that that's not the case. That's not license to be a dick, of course -- you are required to treat your fellow human beings, who consist of all members of the species H. sapiens, with a certain amount of basic respect. This includes not pre-judging them and not somehow believing that one party lacks certain rights or is always trumped by some other party's rights, or that one group is inherently lesser to another.

But how did that preference get there? This is where the whatever-ism gets in. Preferences are shaped by culture, and if the culture is sexist, you're in a hard place. I mean, it makes sense. People learn from watching those around them what the expected behavior is. For a less loaded example, see different cultures' foods. There's plenty of shows about Weird Things Those Weird People Eat (okay...maybe that's still icky.) But, as those foods are edible, they're just as valid as a cheeseburger as a Thing To Put Inside Your Stomach. Whether or not you like them has a lot to do with who raised you and, if it was not the same culture that made the food, how openminded you are.

I tend to think of this kind of cultural patterning as analogous to (electric or mechanical) potential. It's socially easiest (note: may not actually be easiest time and sanity wise) to conform, much like it's physically easiest to minimize the energy you spend by moving to and staying at an area of low potential. Nonconformity is expending energy or going uphill. It takes (social) effort. Born somehow non-conforming? Well, you'll have to put more social effort in to stay that way, or put more mental effort into passing. Privilege means not having to expend that energy, a flat bike route instead of one full of dips and climbs.

Which is how I got onto this. Bike culture is pretty white and kinda hangs out with hipster culture (although plenty of cyclists also make fun of hipsters and their fixies). And I like some of that stuff, the crazy, the eccentric, the let's-put-on-random-costumes-and-have-a-mobile-party. But I know there's some shit that's underneath that layer of awesome, and I don't know if it's that that makes it so white or if it's something else, some kind of culturally influenced preference. Which is all tangled like a terrible fishing line. And I don't know how to fix or change any of it.

So. If you're still reading, thanks for "listening" to my ramblings. I'm interested in comments and thoughts -- this is just stuff I'm thinking about and developing, not any kind of formed opinions. Likewise, if my ass shows through any of this, I'd be happy to pull the metaphorical pants up.


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July 2011

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