Yesterday morning I saw a twitter exchange between Dr. Brittney Cooper and somebody-else that incorporated the hashtag #AskAWhiteFeminist. Cooper told somebody-else to #AskAWhiteFeminist about the problems with a white feminist’s speech at the Oscar awards ceremony Sunday night. And then somebody-else went on a name-calling rampage – bigot, hater… – towards Cooper.
[Addendum, Jan 11: Based on the nature of the critiques against me on the post I cite below, there seems to be some confusion on the relationship between this post and my comments there. To clarify, this post is not an expansion on the arguments in my comments. On the contrary, it is something I decided not to address in my comments (with the exception of a brief question, as a separate paragraph, in the first comment), both because they were long enough already and because (rightly or wrongly) I saw this point on privilege discourse as relatively tangential to the main thrust of the post.]
The discourse of white privilege is one topic that a recent discussion over at Ortus Memoria has touched on. A fellow commenter has well-articulated one of the general claims about privilege discourse: “that leftist white people [having] the capacity to call themselves out on their privilege does not do enough to fundamentally dismantle the structures of white supremacy from which they benefit.”
I agree with this argument. People recognizing themselves as privileged, on its own, does not accomplish anything. However, I disagree with a supposedly consequent claim (made directly by the original poster, but not by the commenter): that this means that the discourse of privilege has failed. This is because I understand privilege discourse as an effective tool for introducing people to problematic power dynamics. At the same time, I do not think it is useful on its own for effecting a transformation of society; this is not what it is made for or how it is supposed to be used. Continue reading On the discourse of privilege
Let’s be honest: Zizek is a strange dude, but wow is he an amazing philosopher!
“The inherent obverse of ‘Be your true Self!’ is… the injunction to cultivate permanent refashioning, in accordance with the postmodern postulate of the subject’s indefinite plasticity… in short, extreme individualism reverts to its opposite, leading to the ultimate identity crisis: subjects experience themselves as radically unsure, with no ‘proper face’, changing from one imposed mask to another, since what is behind that mask is ultimately nothing, a horrifying void they are frantically trying to fill in with their compulsive activity.”
Page 373 — Zizek, Slavoj. The Ticklish Subject: the Absent Centre of Political Ontology. London: Verso, 1999.