My taiji teacher and I were talking about our food allergies today. She’s allergic to dairy (and maybe casein and/or whey). I am lactose intolerant (and perhaps have issues with casein and/or whey), and I have gluten sensitivities. It morphed into a discussion about why are some people assholes about food sensitivities to the point of not believing the person who says they have them. This led to a discussion about how people can be such jerks to vegetarians/vegans, and I pointed out that to be fair, there are some vegetarians/vegans who are assholes. She agreed, but pointed out that the vast majority are not. She gave the example of bikers. Yeah, there are some asshole bikers, but they would be assholes if they were drivers or pedestrians. In other words, they were just assholes in general.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and it’s actually what I wanted to write my post about today even before the discussion. I have an issue with someone who’s a minority saying, “I’m ________, therefore I am the expert on this issue. If you disagree with me, then you’re ______ist.” This might be true. It might also be that you’re an asshole and/or wrong. I have made a truism: You can be a minority AND an asshole; the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s hard for me to be coherent about this because I have many conflicting thoughts. One, it’s good to include a diversity of opinions. In the past, the automatic default of straight white bio-male meant that a lot of people were being overlooked. One example relevant to me: most medical studies in the past were done on white men. When I had trouble sleeping, my psychiatrist at the time suggested I try sleeping pills and gave me the lowest dose. I took a pill and didn’t wake up for nearly twenty-four hours. I cut it in half at her suggestion, but I still slept for far longer than I wished. I cut it into a fourth, but it still knocked me the fuck out. I gave up and stopped using them. Many years later, I learned that Asian people need a smaller dose than white people, and, of course, women in general need less than men. Had I know that at the time, I would have been lot less frustrated.
Two, experiences as a minority vary widely. Growing up Asian American in a Minnesota suburb in the eighties is very different than growing up Asian American in LA ten years ago. My experience is valid, and I’ve run into many Asian Americans around my age who grew up in similar environments and had similar experiences. However, it would be a dick move on my part to insist that my Asian American experience is the ONLY Asian American experience, and anyone who said anything different was invalidating my experience AND a racist to boot.
Three, pointing out problematic behavior/thoughts/words is the beginning of a conversation, not the end. There are some things that are definitely, say, racist. Let’s take the obvious extreme–being a Nazi/white supremacist. Oh, wait. That’s apparently not so obvious these days, but that’s beside the point. Most rational people would agree that thinking you’re a better person just because you’re white and explicitly stating this is racist, so let’s move on. The problem is, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to social issues, and not everybody agrees where the line is drawn. There’s a lot of talk about microagressions these days, but one person’s microaggression is another person’s hilarious joke.
For example: At this point in my life, someone asking me about kids is amusing to me, and not just because I’m starting perimenopause, but back when I was in my early twenties, it was aggravating as hell. Another example is that the NYT ran a story on bubble tea, the drink of my people, and the lede was something like, ‘The blobs in your tea are supposed to be there’. They also used the word ‘exotic’ in the story without any sense of irony. Here’s the thing. I was drinking bubble tea in San Francisco back in 2000, which means it’s been around in America at least since then. I would expect New York City to be about the same when it comes to trends as San Francisco, if not slightly ahead of the curve. After catching a lot of flack on social media, the NYT changed their lede to something about bubble tea aficionados, which was slightly better, but still silly.
I laughed my ass off (and I have one now thanks to taiji. Not a very big one, but it’s there) when I read this story. It was so unbelievably hackneyed and stereotype-laden, I couldn’t believe it was written this year. I tweeted something like, “They should get David Attenborough to document the bipedal bubble tea drinker. Careful not to startle her or she’ll throw her bubble tea in your face.” I know many people were indignant by it (and, yes, it’s troubling that the NYT in this day and age would resort to such tone-deaf and obvious stereotypes), but I thought it was fucking hilarious. Sometimes, you have to laugh so you don’t punch a motherfucker in the throat.
Four, words can have several meanings. One meaning doesn’t always take precedence over another. Corollary: just because one person is offended by a word, it doesn’t mean everyone is. I will admit my bias here. I love words. I don’t like the idea that certain words should never be said. For example, stupid. It’s become verboten in some circles to call anything or anyone stupid. Now, while I can see the reasons for not calling someone stupid (though I don’t necessarily agree), I draw the line at never using the word. Recently, I was driving, and the train bell started ringing. The arm began to come down, and I raced across the tracks and barely beat it. This was a stupid thing for me to do. It simply was. I’m also not one who calls herself fluffy or well-rounded or zaftig or whatever. I’m fat. Ain’t no getting around that. And, yes, I understand using words as pejoratives against people, but I don’t think we should throw away the baby with the bath water.
I also believe in naming things as they are. Donald Trump is stupid, ignorant, and a raging narcissist. I don’t think we’re helping matters by studiously not naming these aspects of his personality. I understand not wanting to stigmatize mental illnesses, but I don’t think glossing over them is the answer, either. I think it’s sad that mental illnesses are only brought up whenever a tragic or horrific event occurs, but pretending that someone who’s a jerk/criminal/whatever doesn’t have a mental illness when they do doesn’t help.
Five, there are some things that people who haven’t gone through simply cannot get. An example. Almost every woman has experienced a creepy guy who won’t take no for an answer, but who gives himself enough plausible deniability that if you call him on it, he can righteously say you think way too highly of yourself, bitch. For me, the example that sticks out is once I was flying, and there were two dudes sitting next to me. One was a quiet sort who, quite frankly, was pretty cute. The other was your stereotypical aging frat boy with way more confidence than he should have had, and you can probably guess that he thought he was god’s gift to women. He told me he was going to whenever to look at a Camaro or something. He insisted on showing it to me on his laptop, and I was all, “Uh, huh.” After he wouldn’t shut up, I pulled out my book to read. Two minutes later, he TOOK THE BOOK OUT OF MY HANDS and said–
Forget what he said. He took the book out of my hands. Seriously. My face when he did that:
He showed me his book (also a mystery) and then read a few paragraphs of my book and started babbling about how dark my book was. I don’t remember what I actually said to him, but I’m pretty sure it was terse. His friend finally told him to leave me alone as I was reading. When it was time to leave, the friend apologized to me. I wanted to say, “You’re not the one who should apologize. Also, you’re cute. He’s not”, but I just accepted his apology and left. Now, for you dudes out there wondering why I still remember this event, let me spell it out for you. if a chick is leaning away from you, she’s not interested. If she’s giving you short answers and not asking questions in return, she’s not interested. If she pulls out a book and starts reading, she’s not interested, AND DON’T TAKE THE FUCKING BOOK OUT OF HER HANDS.
Nowadays, I’d probably just say, “Hey, I’m not interesting in talking”, but it’s not easy to do, especially in an enclosed space. We don’t know how the guy is going to react, and most of us are trained to be nice. It feels rude to tell someone you don’t want to talk to him, but it can help to remind yourself that no one is owed your time.
Guys, when your female friends tell you that a guy is creepy, don’t dismiss it with, “Oh, he’s just awkward”, especially if it’s several of your female friends. Your guy friend isn’t going to treat you the same way he treats women, which means you’re not necessarily going to see him in the same light. In addition, awkward people do the same awkward behavior around ALL people, not just around the people they want to bang. In my example above, can you imagine this guy taking a book out of another guy’s hands just to continue talking to him? In these cases, trust what your female friends are telling you.
Back to assholes being asshole. Back in the day, Suey Park was very hot on social media. She was the face of standing up to racism, and she was heartily embraced by many prominent black women on Twitter, but I didn’t want any part of her. I agreed with her on several issues, but I didn’t care for her way of dealing with the problems. When I articulated why, I had several men of color tell me I should support Suey because we were both Asian American women.
Let that sink in. Oh, the irony. Men telling me as an Asian American woman how I should feel about another Asian American woman. In addition, there was a prominent black female Twitter activist who chastised those of us who believe in building bridges for being too meek. She essentially called us Uncle Toms, and I had to laugh at the hypocrisy. She is very much a ‘I’m a black woman, so anything I say about black issues is automatically correct’, and she has the audacity to tell Asian Americans how we should deal with our issues.
She’s a raging narcissist, and being a black woman doesn’t automatically make that disappear. Most of us have a hard time seeing our own flaws and when we’re being hypocrites. Projection is real, yo, and I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t have any neat way to tie this up in one coherent thought. I’ll just have to keep muddling through.