Turning the tables

Friend of mine sells houses. Her job involves a lot of conversation with customers, and doing her job well means conversing with them in a way that reassures them and makes them feel comfortable.

Occasionally, those conversations take a turn that makes her uncomfortable, suddenly switching into a category we might describe as white people talking to white people when they’re sure there’s no one but white people around. She’s had clients blurt out some appalling things, hateful, ignorant, infuriating statements about African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, gays … you name it. In another context, a non-work setting, their comments would likely have prompted a sharp rebuke from my friend, likely something withering, pointed and laced with just the right amount of profanity.

But that sort of response isn’t an option in the context of her work, where she’s required to keep her cool, to be unfailingly polite, friendly and cheerful. In that context, she’s developed some various other ways of responding. One trick she sometimes uses is to talk about food.

That doesn’t apply in every case, but it works pretty well, for example, for transforming the dynamic of a conversation in which some client has expressed their fear, unease, or flat-out, bald-faced, xenophobic hate in response to the number of South Asian immigrants in our area. My friend acts as though she completely missed the unambiguous animosity of her client’s comment and begins to gush, with cheerful enthusiasm, about the many excellent Indian restaurants in the area and about her one client — lovely woman, a biochemist — who gave her a family recipe for naan bread. Have you ever had naan? I mean the real stuff not store-bought it’s delicious you have to try it I could give you that recipe if you want I’ll bring it Thursday or samosas have you ever had really good samosas?

The baffled client finds himself off-balance, peppered with a series of yes-or-no questions about the wonders of South Asian cuisine as the conversation barrels on with an aggressively cheerful momentum all pointing to the undeniable fact that any true lover of good food would be much happier living around here than in some homogenous gastronomic wasteland with no access to the glorious contributions of so many different cultures. The bewildered bigot winds up unsure exactly what just happened but agreeing that, yes, he probably does owe it to himself to try the masala at the new place off the bypass.

What I like about this trick is the way it counters without confrontation, avoiding triggering the cognitive fight-or-flight impulse that cuts off any possibility of persuasion.

Confrontation can’t always be avoided, and often it should not be avoided — bigots need to regularly encounter firm arguments and condemnation as a reminder that other, truer, happier ways of seeing the world and living in it are available to them. But once we choose confrontation, they circle the wagons mentally, defensively hardening the very attitudes that need to be changed.

Direct confrontation is rarely an effective means of persuading a bigot to change his mind.

It needs to be said, though, that changing a particular bigot’s mind is often not the only priority in an encounter with bigotry, nor the most important one.

It is often more important, depending on the situation, to stand in defense of the would-be victims, to protect others by forcing bigotry to retreat and crawl back under its rock. In those cases, it’s best to pick a fight and to win it, without undue regard for whether or not winning that fight affords the optimal opportunity for the redemption of this particular bigot. In those cases the goal is not primarily to persuade, convert or redeem the person trapped in bigotry, but just to make him go away — to marginalize him and prevent his destructive, harmful views from being able to destroy and harm.

Whenever possible, though, given the option, I’d rather win a convert than win a fight. Whenever possible, I’d prefer to find some way to point out to this poor bastard imprisoned by hate that the door to his cell is unlocked and open and he’s got the option of walking away and being free if he’d only choose to do so. And that’s where nonconfrontational, elliptical approaches like the one my friend uses can be useful.

I don’t just mean her specific trick of steering the conversation toward food — although I think that’s a brilliant tactic and I wonder whether it might work in other contexts. What would happen, for instance, if one were to try that approach at an anti-immigration rally in Phoenix. Imagine wading in amongst the angry protesters and saying, “Can anyone tell me where I can get good mole around here? I don’t mean some corporate Taco-Bell knock off, I mean the authentic stuff.”

My guess is a few of the protesters would be so far gone as to pretend to dislike anything Mexican, but I’d also guess that many others would consider it a point of personal pride that they could recommend some great little out-of-the-way place where the cook uses his grandmother’s recipe for an amazing mole unlike any pitiful imitation folks like me could ever get up in Pennsylvania. I would guess, in other words, that just by changing the angle of the conversation slightly, we could wind up with a bunch of build-a-fence zealots bragging that Arizona is way more Mexican than my state could ever hope to be. That’s interesting. (But then the conversation probably wouldn’t go quite that way if I were Hispanic — which is also interesting, but in a sad way.)

Anyway, what I’m interested in here is other similar tactics for this general approach of responding to bigotry with a disarming approach that is somehow able to sneak past that reinforcing fight-or-flight impulse.

What approaches have worked for you? Do you have any success stories of concessions or conversions from your own encounters with people like my friend’s clients?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    No, I’d say the patron IS still wrong – you’re just not ALLOWED to inform them of that fact.

    One of many reasons I’m glad I don’t work in customer service any more.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Yep.  The resemblance between the Tea Party and the Know-Nothing Party is pretty impressive/depressing.

    “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does a lot of covers.”

  • http://lightupmy.wordpress.com Jessica

    Personally, I don’t care what Theophilus means, even if you’re able to transliterate it into Klingon first.  You’re missing the point: second order intolerance. 

    The intolerance everyone here is talking about is the intolerance of a person for *existing* (what you might call first order intolerance).  What you’re talking about is a reactionary intolerance towards that person’s idea’s and hatred/bigotry (second order intolerance). 

    That’s fine and wonderful for you to prefer your sexual ethic.  Try as I did, I couldn’t prefer to be a man, anymore than I could prefer to be straight.  Believe what you want but don’t expect surrender when you start trying to project your ethics onto the lives of others. 

    Not that you’ve said, in so many words, that you’re interested in projecting your ethics onto others’ bodies, but that’s where the knee-jerk reaction you’re seeing comes from.  The people most likely to defend first order intolerance by citing the existence of second-order intolerance are the people that are most intolerant and bigoted to begin with.  I say this as a result of people with whom I’ve come into contact.  Call it anecdata if you want, but you won’t change my mind.  Once bitten, twice shy and all…

    In a sense, no, we can’t say that every individual attitude is bigoted, but there’s a far cry between welcoming people who are not like you and merely tolerating them.  But unless you’ve ever been a member of the lone homosexual couple in a place where everyone is cisgender and straight, well, you may not have any idea of what I’m talking about.  Mind, I’m not accusing you of not welcoming people either, just having a conversation, as you put it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    Technically, Taco Bell is not “Mexican” but a Southern Californian impression of what we think Mexican food is supposed to be.

    Still, given the number of years their catchphrase was “South of the Border,” and the fact that their best-known mascot is a Spanish-speaking Chihuahua, it seems like the Mexican connection should spring readily to mind. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Where do you live and does your country have use for a paralegal student? ‘Cause I wanna move there.

    Washington State, the greater Seattle metropolitan area.  Forth grade sex ed was basic “boys have these parts and girls have these other parts” and “this is how a baby is made” information.  Middle-school level sex ed was a bit more comprehensive, focusing on things like STD transmission and prevention, and the importance of birth-control.  High school level sex ed focused on the biology of reproduction and the sociological issues surrounding things like gender identity, sexual orientation, peer pressures, body image, etc. 

    This was done at a total of three schools, split across two districts, so either the entire area has some good policies regarding sex ed, or I just happened to get lucky to be assigned to those particular schools.  This was also back in the 90s before the Bush administration made its “Abstinence Only” push, so I cannot speak for how the curriculum is today.  I hope it has not changed much though, I think it was a pretty good strategy.  It gets started early, and layers the concepts pretty well. 

  • Anonymous

    Seattle. That explains it.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    There’s also other things like body grooming, and an innate desire to fuss with women’s hair. . .

    This has been to the frustration of at least one (bisexual) female friend of mine, who complained that the prettiest boys always seemed to be gay, how come there were so few pretty boys who were into women? 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    There’s also other things like body grooming, and an innate desire to fuss with women’s hair. . .

    This has been to the frustration of at least one (bisexual) female friend of mine, who complained that the prettiest boys always seemed to be gay, how come there were so few pretty boys who were into women? 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > My question is this, If I, a Christian, believe in a specific sexual
    ethic, and another sexual ethic comes up in culture, how am I to
    respond?

    That’s an excellent question.

    That said, I think it’s a little overspecific. I would say it’s a special case of the question: “If I endorse a practice, and my neighbor endorses a different practice, how am I to respond?”

    My suggested answer is “With compassion, and curiosity, and love, and respect, and a desire to share that which is most important to me, and a desire to share in that which is most important to my neighbor.”

  • Lori

    …given the number of years their catchphrase was “South of the Border,”  

     

    Technically they didn’t say south of which border. 

  • Anonymous

    Any chance there’s some confirmation bias going on there?  Also, does it work both ways?  Have there been men that you think are straight that turn out to be gay?

    ETA: I’m not trying to be dismissive, just interested.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Yep. The resemblance between the Tea Party and the Know-Nothing Party is pretty impressive/depressing.

    “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does a lot of covers.”

    One of the things that writer/producer Ken Lavine said about Bioshock Infinite is that the game’s themes critical of American Exceptionalism, manifest destiny and xenophobic resistance to immigration is not intended to reflect the Tea Party movment, stressing instead that it is to reflect more of the Know-Nothing movement near the turn of the century when the game takes place. 

    Of course, knowing how much the Tea Partiers are like the Know-Nothings…

  • Tonio

    I think it’s more of a “we’re all in the community and start talking
    like each other thing.” There’s also other things like body grooming,
    and an innate desire to fuss with women’s hair. . .

    That might be something worthy of a scientific study – the question of whether gays who live culturally isolated from other gays living openly have those same traits. It may be possible that it’s biological, but I’m uncomfortable with that because it’s basically a homophobic version of gender essentialism. (I think I just stated a redundancy, since those two ideologies are deeply intertwined.)

    Some form of innate sense.

    I seem to lack intuition of any sort. Does anyone else also lack it?

  • Tonio

    I think it’s more of a “we’re all in the community and start talking
    like each other thing.” There’s also other things like body grooming,
    and an innate desire to fuss with women’s hair. . .

    That might be something worthy of a scientific study – the question of whether gays who live culturally isolated from other gays living openly have those same traits. It may be possible that it’s biological, but I’m uncomfortable with that because it’s basically a homophobic version of gender essentialism. (I think I just stated a redundancy, since those two ideologies are deeply intertwined.)

    Some form of innate sense.

    I seem to lack intuition of any sort. Does anyone else also lack it?

  • joyce meech

    As I said, I can’t tell about actors.  I am always surprised that this or that actor is gay.  I guess it is a matter of proximity.  I also have no clue about lesbians, I don’t know why it doesn’t work for members of my own sex.  The only time my gaydar didn’t work was with the first gay man that I had ever met (in fact dated, for about 2 months before he came out some 38 years ago.)  To the best of my knowledge, since that time, I have never been wrong.  
    The only person I ever outed was during my college years (after the episode mentioned above) and it was quite by accident.  In my sleep one night, I told my roommate that a certain young man was gay.  I also said that if she asked me about it when I was awake that I would deny it.  I didn’t consciously know at that time that he was gay and that she had a crush on him.

  • Anonymous

    That was a reply to Theophilus (is Disqus being stupid again?).  And I thought it was pretty clear that Popper meant that one combats intolerance with argument up until the point that they start advocating the use of force.

  • Lori

      I also have no clue about lesbians, I don’t know why it doesn’t work for members of my own sex. 

     

    My theory is that we tend to subconsciously tune in to what matters to us. If you’re a straight woman who is not asexual men are of sexual interest to you, at least in a general way, so you learn to pay attention to cues about whether or not they’re potentially in your dating pool. If you’re not sexually interested in women then for you it doesn’t matter whether they’re straight or not so you have no need to tune in to them on that level. They’re just not your target audience. Since actors & other people you’ve never met or talked with aren’t realistically part of your dating pool you have no need to learn those kinds of long distance cues either. 

  • Rikalous

    One of the things that writer/producer Ken Lavine said about Bioshock Infinite is that the game’s themes critical of American Exceptionalism, manifest destiny and xenophobic resistance to immigration
    is not intended to reflect the Tea Party movment, stressing instead
    that it is to reflect more of the Know-Nothing movement near the turn of
    the century when the game takes place. 

    Of course, knowing how much the Tea Partiers are like the Know-Nothings…

    There is no way he’s satirizing an nineteenth century political movement. People don’t satirize dead viewpoints, that’d be like armwrestling a corpse. He’s just trying to minimize the shitstorm.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That is what I assumed.  I mean, the original Bioshock was practically a deconstruction of Atlas Shrugged, and Lavine stressed that he was not trying to ridicule Objectivists, just utopian fiction in general. 

    More to whit, he thinks that the problem with any ideology proporting to be utopian is that it only works if the people who comrpise it are themselves paragons.  But people are not paragons, people are flawed, and any attempt to build a society around a purity of ideal is doomed from the outset because it has to deal with the realities of people. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/kent.reniche Kent Reniche

    It always helps to build connections. Humans are by nature, gregarious. If we didn’t work together, we would be some other animal’s lunch.

  • P J Evans

    ‘Mole’ is just a word meaning sauce, so it doesn’t have to be mole Poblano with the (not very much) chocolate.
    You might be able to freak her out even more with the recipe in ‘How to Cook Everything’ that’s lobster with a sauce that includes vanilla. Not planning to make it anytime soon (lobster, for one thing), and there’s a zillion ingredients and a lot of time involved.

  • P J Evans

     Yeah, but at the time – this was in the 70s – there weren’t a lot of Mexican restaurants around. Or drive-thrus, either.
    I grew up in a town where our total fast-food experience was a Foster freeze and an A&W that was only open six months a year. No Mexican, one Chinese-American (which is still there), and I don’t remember any place else to eat out, really. Italian was as ethnic as you were likely to get.

  • P J Evans

     I was in Phoenix lo-these-many-years ago, and went out with a group to a place that served Sonoran food. It wasn’t what I’d met before (which was home-made enchiladas or tacos), but I still remember how tasty it was. Couldn’t have told you the name of the place even while I was inside it.
    (Tell me about LA and Mexican food. I work downtown, and some mornings there’s a guy on the street in the next block, selling tamales from an insulated box. And there’s the burrito place at 5th and Broadway, about two doors from the corner going both east and north.)

  • P J Evans

     I was in Phoenix lo-these-many-years ago, and went out with a group to a place that served Sonoran food. It wasn’t what I’d met before (which was home-made enchiladas or tacos), but I still remember how tasty it was. Couldn’t have told you the name of the place even while I was inside it.
    (Tell me about LA and Mexican food. I work downtown, and some mornings there’s a guy on the street in the next block, selling tamales from an insulated box. And there’s the burrito place at 5th and Broadway, about two doors from the corner going both east and north.)

  • P J Evans

    Rowen, try putting a small can of diced green chiles – Ortegas, not hot chiles – in your next batch of brownies. If you want your chocolate hotter, use a 7-ounce can. It’s very tasty.
    (This suggestion is originally from ‘The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American’. Just so the credit gets spread properly.)

  • P J Evans

    Rowen, try putting a small can of diced green chiles – Ortegas, not hot chiles – in your next batch of brownies. If you want your chocolate hotter, use a 7-ounce can. It’s very tasty.
    (This suggestion is originally from ‘The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American’. Just so the credit gets spread properly.)

  • P J Evans

    Just for amusement, there’s one taco truck in Los Angeles that does genuinely kosher tacos. (Beef brisket.) I’ve seen it: the sign over the windshield says ‘What makes this taco different from all other tacos?’

  • P J Evans

     I don’t think the Know-Nothings were really dead, they just were an undergound movement for a long time. Clearly the ideas survived and have resurfaced. (Really, you could do a search-and-replace on some of their stuff and it wouldn’t be noticeably different from the tea party’s stuff.)

  • Rikalous

    Terry Pratchett’s had great fun with the illogicality of “immigrants are
    lazy parasites and they’re taking all our jobs” in one or two of his
    books; I’ve forgotten which, but I think Fred Colon was the person
    expressing the opinion and Nobby Nobbs pointed out that there was
    something about it he didn’t quite understand.

    It wasn’t about immigrants so much as foreigners they would shortly be at war with, but that sounds like a conversation from Jingo that is relevant to the original post.

    Nobby: Looks like we’re going to be in a fight, Sarge.

    Colon: Won’t last long. Lot of cowards, the Klatchians. The moment they taste a bit of cold steel they’re legging it away over the sand.

    Nobby: Shouldn’ be any trouble to sort out, then?

    Colon: And o’course, they’re not the same color as we are. Well…as me, anyway. [Nobby has to carry a little piece of paper certifying him as very probably human.]

    Nobby: Constable Visit’s pretty brown. I never seen him run away. If there’s a chance of giving someone a religious pamphlet, ole Washpot’s after them like a terrier.

    Colon: Ah, but Omnians are more like us. Bit weird but, basic’ly, just the same underneath.

    [The conversation goes off on an irrelevant tangent.]

    Colon: And of course, they’re all mad for fighting. Vicious buggers with all those curvy swords of theirs.

    Nobby: You mean, like…they viciously attack you while cowardly running away after tasting cold steel?

    Colon: You can’t trust them, like I said. And they burp hugely after meals.

    Nobby: Well…so do you, sarge.

    Colon: Yes, but I don’t pretend it’s polite, Nobby.

    Nobby: Well, it’s certainly a good job there’s you around to explain things, sarge. It’s amazing the stuff you know.

    Colon: I surprise myself, sometimes.

  • Patricksauncy

    I’m convinced that one trip to Güero Canelo in Tucson would change the most hardened anti-Mexican bigot into a Mexican-flag-waving pro-amnesty librul. Oh my god, the carne asada caramelo…

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    Mark Z, thanks for taking the time to substantively respond to my questions and points. I found your thoughts very helpful. The distinction between bigotry being against people and not against beliefs is what I was trying to hint at. I’m new to this blog so I may have wandered into an extended conversation with ideas already discussed, but my intention is to always encourage moderation, grace and patience when engaging beliefs you vehemently disagree with, in case your disagreement with the belief becomes hatred of the believer. I have noticed at several points in this conversation an almost eager willingness on the part of some conversants to force their views on others in a way that can only be called deeply hypocritical.

    As an evangelical Christian I try to be a voice of moderation to keep conversations going, rather than polarizing. They only way forward is together and the sooner we realize it the better.

    If you don’t believe me take a look at my blog http://psalmsinpurgatory.com.

    peace

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    Thanks Daughter for a real conversation.  My question, respectfully, would be this. Do you believe it is possible for an individual to have conservative sexual ethics, and speak about these beliefs in a public forum, and not be a bigot?

    I’m curious to hear you thoughts and those of anyone else.

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    Railing against intent is a two edged sword. Certainly it can be a shroud to hide or explain away some seriously heinous crap. But it’s not worthless to consider either. You can call me privileged all day long, which is easy because you don’t know me. And you could say that I’m not worth your attention.

    But my *intent* in all this is not to rile you and make it look like you started the argument. My intent, if you’re willing to believe it, is to further a conversation about bringing seriously differing opinions into a conversation, and life while we’re at it, with respect and moderation.

    Reverse prejudice is a real thing, and it behooves us to be mindful of it.

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    You make good points Jessica about first and second order intolerance.

     “The people most likely to defend first order intolerance by citing the
    existence of second-order intolerance are the people that are most
    intolerant and bigoted to begin with.”

    I agree with you there. My only intention is to encourage people to always keep in mind whether their methods of arguing and arguments are meant to edify or injure.

    Thanks.
    And I explained my name because someone gave me crap for not putting my real name up, which I am not alone in I see.

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    Very well said. I agree.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    My question, respectfully, would be this. Do you believe it is possible for an individual to have conservative sexual ethics, and speak about these beliefs in a public forum, and not be a bigot?

    I believe so.  What you choose to do and not to do with your partner(s) is your choice, and no considerate person will condemn you for that or try to force you to do practices that you would be uncomfortable with.  But by that same token, they ask in turn that you extend the same to them, and respect the sexual choices that they may make. 

    Now, if you were to attempt to affect legislation to restrict other’s choices of what they do with their partner(s) so that it matches up with your own choices, they would see that as being an unfair imposition on their freedom, and then they would start grumbling against you.  I think it does cross into genuine “bigot” territory though if you were to express a belief that people who do not share your choices are Bad People by virtue of not sharing your sexual values. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m only “railing against intent” because you said “To disagree with someone about issues fundamental to living life, even
    passionately, is not bigotry if there is no malice. If it is bigotry
    than bigotry is so universal that the word loses its meaning and becomes
    wasted syllables.” ‘If there is no malice’ = ‘if there is no intent to harm’.

    Trouble with that is, there’s not a malicious bone in my mother’s body, never has been. She doesn’t mean to hurt anyone when she talks down same-sex marriage. But I’m bisexual, I’d like to get married someday, odds favor me falling for another woman, and I’d like Mom to be there at my wedding–and I don’t think that’s possible. And you don’t get issues much more fundamental to living life than who marries whom.

    Like it or not, my mother’s a bigot.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    A friend of mine was once planning to drop a stink bomb behind a street preacher. I think he chickened out in the end. Or was overcome by his better nature. (There wasn’t a point to this: he was just a mischevious kid.)

    TRiG.

  • Rowen

    Tonio, I know lots of gay men who don’t join in the “gay community” who don’t end up exhibiting those traits. I know some who were born in a small town who basically came out of the womb in a pair of tap shoes belting Anything Goes.

    Here’s my educated guess. The gay community seemed to grow out of those of us who couldn’t “pass.” The ones who were very much not macho and couldn’t just get a wife and sleep around on the side. I think from that, as you had younger men joining the community, some of them were still unable to “pass” and some of them just started to “fit in” either through a conscious effort to conform to this subsociety’s norm or an unconscious one. (Basically I’ve seen some guys who were very . . . whatever you want to call it, macho, and then come out, and start hanging out in the gay community and became much more. . . flamboyant? whatever, something.) So, it’s a big mix of things.

    As for it being “innate,” some people I know seem to get a sense and are right A LOT. Some people don’t have a feeling. Some make guesses and aren’t right that much. . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I’m done.  You want to fight, go ahead — have fun.  But I’m not playing.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    “I don’t think the Know-Nothings were really dead, they just were an undergound movement for a long time. Clearly the ideas survived and have resurfaced. (Really, you could do a search-and-replace on some of their stuff and it wouldn’t be noticeably different from the tea party’s stuff.)”
     
    I’ve done this.  Find/replace “Irish” with “Mexican”, sent result to a racist relative, and he agreed and forwarded to all of his friends (including me)… only to have me “reply to all” with the original, 1850′s version.
     
    If he never speaks to me again, I’ll call it a win.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    “I don’t think the Know-Nothings were really dead, they just were an undergound movement for a long time. Clearly the ideas survived and have resurfaced. (Really, you could do a search-and-replace on some of their stuff and it wouldn’t be noticeably different from the tea party’s stuff.)”
     
    I’ve done this.  Find/replace “Irish” with “Mexican”, sent result to a racist relative, and he agreed and forwarded to all of his friends (including me)… only to have me “reply to all” with the original, 1850′s version.
     
    If he never speaks to me again, I’ll call it a win.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    “I don’t think the Know-Nothings were really dead, they just were an undergound movement for a long time. Clearly the ideas survived and have resurfaced. (Really, you could do a search-and-replace on some of their stuff and it wouldn’t be noticeably different from the tea party’s stuff.)”
     
    I’ve done this.  Find/replace “Irish” with “Mexican”, sent result to a racist relative, and he agreed and forwarded to all of his friends (including me)… only to have me “reply to all” with the original, 1850′s version.
     
    If he never speaks to me again, I’ll call it a win.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, here.  I read your blog, and you really don’t understand what “safe space” means.  It’s not just sake from physical violence, but also from insult, shunning and, really, anything other than welcoming.

    Try and think of a place where you’d be less than welcome.  Even if you were physically safe, would you consider that a “safe space”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I was in Phoenix lo-these-many-years ago, and went out with a group to a place that served Sonoran food.

    I **think** Sonoran and New Mexican are similar, if not the same.  It’s been ages since I’ve been in New Mexico, so I could easily be mistaken.

  • Rikalous

    Reverse prejudice is a real thing, and it behooves us to be mindful of it.

    Nitpick: There’s no such thing as “reverse prejudice.” There’s just prejudice, whoever it’s directed at.

  • Tonio

    What you choose to do and not to do with your partner(s) is your choice,
    and no considerate person will condemn you for that or try to force you
    to do practices that you would be uncomfortable with.  But by that same
    token, they ask in turn that you extend the same to them, and respect
    the sexual choices that they may make.

    The importance of that cannot be overstated. I’m confused by the term “conservative sexual ethics. Every self-identified social conservative I’ve ever encountered or read about takes the stance that homosexuality is objectively wrong for everyone. (That wouldn’t apply to gay conservatives, but in my experience these tend to be conservative on fiscal and defense matters, and there may be some social conservatives who have no problem with homosexuality.) That position makes no sense to me since homosexuality isn’t intrinsically harmful to straights. I suggested elsewhere that whether to act on one’s romantic and sexual attractions to the same sex is a matter of individual conscience, like whether or not to eat meat, and some conservatives reacted to that like I was from Mars. I guess I’m confused because I don’t know what reasoning some conservatives use to oppose homosexuality. It’s like they’re defining morality as about something other than the principles of help and harm.

  • Tonio

    A simpler version of my argument – if homosexuality does cause harm, that argues against it being a matter of personal ethics and for it being a matter of universal ethics. And if homosexuality doesn’t cause harm, then why claim that it’s unethical in the first place?

  • Tonio

    Thanks for the background. Part of my point is that many homophobes seem to assume that being gay or lesbian automatically means having certain personality traits or behaviors, or belonging to a certain culture. That’s merely a variant of “homosexuality is a choice” falsehood. No, sexual orientation is about one’s romantic and sexual attractions, even if one never acts on them. When homophobes confuse cultural and personality traits with sexual orientation, they’re making the same mistake as the gender essentialists, treating sex (which is biological) as though it’s indistinguishable from gender (which is cultural). And as I pointed out earlier, the homophobes and the gender essentialists are often the same people.

  • Anonymous

    Treating sex as indistinguishable from gender is a problem, but not the same problem as treating sexuality as indistinguishable from gender presentation.


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