disorder of written expression

Disorder of Written Expression is a gallimaufry of links, clips, and randomness that doesn't fit on my "real" blog, Five Dollar Radio.

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How thick is your bubble: my slightly longer response

I respect Kate as a writer, but I think there was a little subtle classism in her post. There’s a big difference in being caught in a “bubble” because you have few opportunities to escape that bubble, and being a middle or upper-middle class person who doesn’t or refuses their own sense of entitlement, another kind of bubble.

I know a lot of xoJane’s posts lack, um, a little nuance, but every once in a while someone gets it right. This comment pretty much sums up my irritation with writers declaring “Oh teh poor grammarz, they offend my delicate literary sensibilities”:

There is no quicker way to derail a valid argument than to comment on someone’s grammar. It’s a cheap trick - and an effective one. Grammar and vocabulary are often abused as class markers, too. The solution to that, I think, is not to abandon grammar but to make it accessible - and to respect that there are, in fact, many grammars. Especially because language is a living thing - I love new vocabulary words, especially slang, because it represents the inherent creativity and flexibility of language. If we don’t have words to express something, we INVENT THEM! Since we can’t communicate (I’d argue we can’t even really think about) things we don’t have words for, that’s incredibly powerful.

Marianne Kirby

I am one of the people [author Charles Murray of the book Coming Apart: The State of White America] speaks about—born, raised, and lucky to have remained upper-middle-class, with zero lived experience of poverty, rural America, or hand-roughening work. I’ve eaten at an Applebee’s recently only because my sister has kids and lives in the suburbs; I’ve walked a factory floor only because my dad was the boss; I score no points for living in an economically and educationally mixed neighborhood because I am one of the white gentrifiers. I’m friends with a few people who were raised in evangelical Christian families and communities, but they’re all atheists now. (Wait! I was just reminded that one is now a Reform Jew.) I lettered in yearbook, and the only uniform I’ve ever worn was a teal polyester skirt suit required by the bank where I worked for six weeks in 1993, before I quit in tears and admitted to my wealthy, supportive parents that yes, fine, I wanted to go back to college. I have a master’s degree, a professional husband, no kids, and a sense of entitlement a mile wide.

I’m always happy to see Kate Harding writing again, although it took me a minute to realize that I’m not the target of her post. (This is why I wish there were more bloggers on the other side of class privilege represented in the feminist blogosphere — we’re not all safely middle-class.) 

I answered “yes” to most of hers and Murray’s questions, so I guess my bubble is pretty porous. (I’ve never attended a gay wedding — not yet legal in my state.)

I think the one thing she’s missing though is you can be a well-educated white person living in a diverse urban area and still live within your own bubble. Seeing poverty around you is not the same as being directly affected by poverty — not even close.

It was not gender discrimination or sexist oppression that kept privileged women from working outside the home; it was the fact that work open to them would have been the same low-paid unskilled labor open to all women. This elite group of highly educated females stayed at the home rather than do the type of work large numbers of middle-income and working-class women were doing.
bell hooks - Where We Stand: Class Matters

All kinds of class failure going on in this thread.

The thing about accents, though, is that while it’s become pretty politically incorrect to judge someone overtly because they’re poor, it’s completely acceptable to rip apart two women on national television because of the sound of their voice, and what we think that must imply about their class background.

Gretchen Sisson

Class is much more than Marx’s definition of relationship to the means of production. Class involves your behavior, your basic assumptions, how you are taught to behave, what you expect from yourself and others, your concept of a future, how you understand problems and solve them, how you think and act.

Rita Mae Brown “The Last Straw: (via bell hooks’s Feminism is For Everybody)

I’ve been wanting to write something about how class privilege factors into the liberal blogosphere without falling into the trap of “it’s the last acceptable prejudice”, but class bias is expected, overt, and even encouraged.

Traditional feminist theory has a limited understanding of class difference and how sexuality and self are shaped by both desire and denial. The ideology implies that we are all sisters who should turn our anger and suspicion in the world outside the lesbian community. It’s easy to say the patriarchy did it, that poverty and social contempt are the products of the world of the fathers, and often I felt a need to collapse my sexual history into what I was willing to share of my class background, to pretend my life both as a lesbian and as a working-class escapee was constructed by the patriarchy or conversely, to ignore how much of my life was shaped by growing up poor and talk only about what incest did to my identity as a woman and as a lesbian. The difficulty is that I can’t ascribe everything that has been problematic about my life simply and easily to the patriarchy, or to incest, or even to the invisible and much denied class structure of our society.
Dorothy Allison from Trash
I think that we see that manifested in a lot of the FA/HAES movement. I did grow up in a rural, poor community, and the issues facing men and women there are not the result of a fat shaming society. there is, weirdly, more pressure there to eat poorly and not exercise than there is pressure to conform to mainstream standards of beauty, if that makes sense: men and women generally accept that it’s no big deal if you become obese, and that those things are generally beyond your control. (i often run and walk when i go home and people go crazy because they think it’s so weird. people stop their cars and ask if i need a ride. The response is often, too, “you weren’t athletic in high school!” in other words, active is something you are or aren’t, and it’s not something you can urge yourself to be.) that community suffers the opposite problem of upper-middle class America, and I think the FA/HAES community doesn’t see themselves as coming from a privileged place in this regard.

quadmoniker from PostBourgie

I’m almost hesitant to quote this given that the author of this quote is the same person who penned the “Fat and Health” post at Feministe last year which resulted in a shitstorm of epic proportions, but there’s a lot here that really resonates with me. I also grew up in an environment where there was a lot of disdain toward “healthy” food. Too often, it’s argued that not everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which is true, and that poor or working-class people just don’t know how to choose the right foods; ergo, we must teach them. Which is false. We know very well that broccoli is a “better choice” than a piece of candy — and yeah, I’m using scare quotes because there actually are times when calorie-laden, full-fat foods are the better choice, like, when you don’t have enough food. That these are presented as the only obstacles that prevent people from making better food choices bugs the hell out of me. The latter is unbelievably patronizing, and why should what I eat be of any concern to you in the first place?

I never got the message from my family that I needed to be thin. If anything, I got the opposite message that I was “too skinny” (I wasn’t), and needed to eat more. I have a somewhat unusual situation that one side of my family recently immigrated to the US and the other rural, poor Midwesterners. I’m not saying this to paint myself as a special snowflake, but I never feel like my experience fits the narrative, so I usually keep my mouth shut. Food was something you had the money for, or didn’t. 

Truth is, I practice sort of a HAES-like program. I don’t own a scale (I’m a tallish, sturdy person, and that number on the scale would never be “small” anyway), I try to focus on how I feel and I don’t label foods bad or good, but I feel like any criticism of HAES is anathema to being a good ally.

[…] Some of the staff had a little informal going-away party for her, and she was baffled by the card they’d all signed for her. It featured Jeff Foxworthy, the comic who made a name with his “You might be a redneck if…” schtick in the ’90s. The joke on the card was something about being a redneck if you used Hefty trash bags for luggage. But why, my mom asked hesitantly, would they give that to her? She’d never told them she liked Jeff Foxworthy; what made them think she’d want a card with him on it? And finally, in a plaintive voice that still just breaks my heart when I remember it, she asked me if it was possible they were implying she is a redneck, and that the people she thought were her friends were laughing at her.

Of course they did, and were. That doesn’t mean they didn’t genuinely like her or didn’t think she’s an excellent nurse, or that they meant to be hurtful; they probably assumed she’d get the joke, what with her accent, unusual colloquialisms, and openly-expressed awe and complete lack of irony or cynicism. But in fact, the idea that her new friends might view her as a redneck or a hick was a shock. She didn’t know what she might have done that would make other people think she’s a redneck. And I could tell she was terrified — afraid that instead of “making it” in California, she was actually a joke, and too clueless to know it.

Gwen Sharp for Sociological Images