Saturday, February 15, 2014

On spirit animals, or As K. Tempest Bradford would say, her ass has been handed to her

Hi, Wil! I'm not trying to be antagonizing. You seem to be rather progressive, and really vocal on a lot of social issues. I'm bringing this up because I feel like you'd take it seriously. Using 'spirit animal' is kinda uncool. Different forms of it belong to specific cultures that are already having a hard time with erasure/delegitimization, partially through appropriation. I've heard suggestions of using 'patronus', or 'daemon' (from His Dark Materials trilogy) as alternatives. Cheers! - Doli K.:
Wil, I’m a Native American woman who grew up on a rez. I’m currently a social services caseworker who still spends a lot of time on Native lands. Somebody sent me a link to your tumblr asking for my opinion on the “spirit animal” thing. I don’t know much about you, but if I have to give you a piece of advice it would be this; don’t back down next time. These people don’t listen to things like “logic” and “reason” when they are in one of their social justice tizzies. It’s not even worth trying to be kind or polite to them.  
If I had a dollar for every time a middle class, white, lesbian with a Women’s Studies degree tried to tell ME how to appropriately respect MY OWN CULTURE AND HERITAGE, I could probably buy a goddamn reservation and turn it into a theme park.  
Mr. Wil, you aren’t disrespecting Natives like me by using the term “spirit animal”. We WANT to share our cultural heritage with white people! I gave a friend from another country a ceremonial headdress just a few months ago because he thought it was “cool”. You know what? That shit IS cool! I want everyone to know about it! 
Native Americans of all tribes pride themselves on being generous with out cultural iconography. We love having friends in our homes, of all colors! We love sharing what makes our nations so great and unique. We love giving and receiving gifts (except for blankets….you white fuckers can keep those. Ours are prettier and have less smallpox.) Yet our cultural traditions, our languages…they are all dying out. Our own children don’t want to learn Navajo. Our numbers are small and our elders are dying. Nobody wants our traditions to die with them, so we share with everyone we can! So long as somebody isn’t actively trying to make fun of us, we want to give the gift of a culture that transcends generations and skin color. In modern America, there are actually a pretty large number of “white” people who have Native blood. Their skin may not be brown like mine, but their blood is the same.  
To the social justice warriors on Tumblr. You know what’s racist? PEOPLE WHO AREN’T NATIVE AMERICAN TRYING TO WHITE KNIGHT FOR MY FUCKING CULTURE. If something offends me or “appropriates” my culture, leave it to ME to stand up for what’s right. I’m not an ignorant heathen savage who needs educated white folk to save me from OTHER white folk. For the love of God, do you not see that your bullshit tirades on Tumblr about spirit animals and hairfeathers are the SAME MOTHERFUCKING THING that Europeans tried to do to my nation YEARS AGO?  
If you are a social justice warrior, go play in traffic. I don’t want your help defending a culture you know nothing about.

15 comments:

  1. Hilarious, but I doubt it'll mean anything. 'My minority friend' is mocked and dismissed as an obvious lie, but I've never seen much evidence that the pertinent minority showing up changes much beyond them couching their dismissals in more polite language. I've even seen minorities pillared as not being a 'real x,' as race traitors or as having internalized white supremacy/patriarchy/whatever, so the bitter torrent of hatred of the SJW doesn't even spare the people it purports to defend. (Incidentally, I've never understood the immediate presumption of lying from anyone citing 'my x friend.' I'm sure people sometimes make stuff like that up but if I'm assuming my partner's dishonesty we're probably past the point of meaningful debate. I dismiss it not because it's an obvious lie but because it's irrelevant.)

    This always seems to me the problem when you privilege subjective experience of oppression. Obviously there are going to be people who don't think they're oppressed, or who regard the solutions to oppression differently. If you privilege subjective experience of oppression you can only disregard them either by claiming (1) they misidentify themselves, (2) they're being dishonest about their experience or (3) their experience is somehow invalid or deranged (which opens up a whole can of worms re: the mentally ill). The reason these discussions are universally awful is because there's no other way for them to go down. SJWs demand good faith debate, but it's impossible within the confines of their ideology. You cannot meaningfully debate when your only two options are either cowing/making the other cow or accusing bad faith.

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    1. What I love about this is the testimony's not second-hand. I lived for a while next to an Ojibwe reservation, and I can't imagine any of the people I knew making SJW objections, but I know how lame it would sound to cite them. I can only name one identitarian Indian, a blogger who obviously learned her rhetoric at a university. I could also name two Wah-na-be SJWs who would be laughed at on any rez, but I'd rather not embarrass them further.

      I doubt that anyone makes up an "x friend" because it's so easily checked. But maybe a few do.

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  2. K. Tempest Bradford may have overreached this time. She calls herself "famous on the Internet," but with that she flatters herself. Most people have never heard of her, on the Internet or off of it, and Wil Wheaton has actual fans.

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    1. I do feel sorry for her. She just wants to be famous and do good, but dear God did she choose an asshole way to do either.

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    2. Being obnoxious on the Internet doesn't seem like a very good way to become famous. There's too much competition.

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    3. The problem is SJWs are obnoxious in identical ways. They all use the same mocking cliches ('lol x tears'), the same dismissive gifs, the same affected outrage, the same impotent celebrations of violence ('die cis scum'), the same tired catchphrases ('my x will be intersectional or it will be bullshit') and the same links to the same ideologically-correct sources ('you better educate yourself on Derailing for Dummies'). If you want to get internet-famous for being obnoxious, you at least need to be obnoxious in your own unique way.

      (Also, I seriously find it hard to imagine someone surviving relative fame within the SJW world very long. People are going to take just as much joy denouncing them as they did denouncing others.)

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    4. Yup. Young wolves are always watching for the chance to take down the leader.

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  3. I do try to see other points of view, but I find myself on the other side of a divide from a lot of the sjw positions that have been churned up recently. In this case, I'm strongly in opposition. What they call "appropriation", I call cross-pollination and regard it as a GOOD thing. It's how cultures grow and become enriched. It would seem these people have ever heard of hybrid vigor. Personally, I think "E Pluribus Unum" is a fine motto for all of us mongrels.

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    1. Full agreement. I had been thinking trans people fit oddly in the identitarian model, but you've made me see that multiracial people do too: either they're going to appropriate from dad's culture or mom's, and the lucky ones will appropriate from both.

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    2. I amuse myself by thinking about the irony of people complaining about appropriation... in English. Of all the mongrel languages...

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    3. The usual story is that someone in a less privileged identity group can use elements from another identity group without it being appropriation, but not vice-versa. So I guess a half-black/half-white person who passes can eat mayonnaise but not enjoy rap music.

      'Appropriation' always struck me as a reasonable observation/complaint made ridiculous – and, given the segregationist implications, dangerous – by being elevated to an explicit rule of cultural interaction. I've seen SJWs who realize the segregationist implications of the idea trying to blunt it by adding the caveat that it's only appropriation if done for crassly commercial purposes. This is a bit silly – as if what matters is how the individuals involved FEEL about it – but does give me some hope they'll discover in this the germs of anticapitalism, rather than just demanding it accommodate various identity groups.

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    4. Heck, most of the SJW issues, maybe even all of them, were reasonable observations made ridiculous. I agree with all of their concerns—there ain't an ism on their usual lists that I'm for.

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  4. I can see very limited circumstances where "cultural appropriation" might be a bad thing e.g. big corporation starts making "ethnic" products and puts traditional producers out of business, but beyond that it's just a way for people to get self-righteous (usually on behalf of others).

    It also makes a lot of unspoken assumptions about what culture is, how it relates to other cultures and who, if anyone, it belongs to.

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    1. I think sincerity has a lot to do with it (and have been told as much when asking about whether a particular use of religious trappings was troublesome or not) -- if you can't bother to show actual cultural interest, then you should probably steer clear (e.g. the corporation in the example given.) But really, that's just courtesy and we already have a word for that.

      Fretting about "erasure" in the same breath as suggesting you never mention anything specific to a culture is... brain-hurty.

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